In this week’s blog, we’re going to be taking a look at camping in the winter. Specifically, we are going to be looking at camping in the winter in the lower areas of England, such as the Brecon Beacons and the South West. We won’t be looking at winter camping in the higher areas, such as the lakes or in Scotland where winter conditions approach the positively Arctic. This blog will focus on camping in a normal backpacking tent, e.g. not a heated tent. Read on to learn about camping in the winter. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Kit for winter camping

Winter camping considerations


When it comes to camping in the winter then a lot of the discussion revolves around the kit. The kit for winter camping runs along the same principles as the kit for camping in the summer. As long as the basic principles are followed then there is no need to spend a fortune on the kit.

Sleeping bag

A sleeping bag for winter in the parts of England that we are talking about needs to be rated down to the minus numbers. While certain people might sleep hot while others feel the cold there is, generally speaking, no need to splash out on anything rated below – 10. The down vs synthetic debate will rumble on, but generally speaking down is lighter weight for fill power whereas synthetic is better in damp conditions. When you’re considering purchasing a sleeping bag you should look for one that is rated along the lines of the EN13537 standards. When looking at the different ratings, you need to focus on the comfort rating, not the extreme or the limit rating. The ‘extreme’ rating is the “temperature at which the average woman can remain for six hours without risk of DEATH from hypothermia – but can still sustain cold injuries” (source: Alpkit). 

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Work with your sleeping bag

No matter what the rating of your sleeping bag you do need to work with your bag to help it to achieve the maximum possible rating. If possible, don’t compress it to its smallest size when putting it in your bag but instead put it in a larger bag in order to allow the sleeping bag to retain its loft. Keep the bag dry at all times and consider carrying it in a dry bag in order to protect it. Consider wearing thermals inside your bag to boost its rating and never wear your wet day clothes inside the bag.

Sleeping mat

A decent sleeping mat is essential for a good night’s sleep. Your sleeping mat keeps you insulated away from the cold, wet ground. The more insulated from the ground you are then the warmer you are likely to be. Sleeping mats that have large chambers filled with air are likely to be comfortable but may be colder in winter conditions, whereas closed cell mats, like the classic Karrimat, are likely to be warm but uncomfortable. Perhaps it is best to consider a combination of the two types of mats.

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Organisation 

 

When it comes to winter camping then a good level of organisation is key to enjoying yourself. Winter conditions in the parts of the UK that we are looking at are likely to be wet, snowy and generally quite grim.  With weather like that, it is important to keep organised, keep your wet and dry kit separate at all times. Store essential items that can be damaged by cold weather, such as phones or water filters, wrapped in something warm, like socks, or stored on or about your person. 

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Tent management

 

Winter camping involves a good deal of tent management. Consider opening ventilation flaps in all but the worst of weather in order to reduce condensation and prevent your sleeping bag getting damp. We will look at how to make the most of your stove in winter in a blog post later this month. If snowfall is heavy then you may need to get up in the night to clear snow off your tent, less it weighs on the fabric and damages it. 

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Recap 

When it comes to winter camping it is essential to upgrade your sleeping kit so that it is suitable for use in lower temperatures. Don’t just focus on the sleeping bag but also consider the quality of your sleeping mat and thermals. Organisation is also vitally important when it comes to winter camping. You need to keep your wet and dry kit separate and items that can be damaged by the cold wrapped up somewhere warm or on your person. Look after your tent, be careful of mounting snow on the side of the tent and try to pitch it with the end into the wind so as to reduce its impact on the tent. 

 

Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year. 

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Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them. 

 

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Autumn and winter in the UK can seem like a time of inactivity in the woods. For those who know where to look and what to look for there are plenty of things going on. In this blog, we’re going to take a short look at a few of the plants that make an appearance during autumn and winter in the UK.

Read on to learn more or click on the links below to skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Lesser celandine

Plants for autumn and winter

Ficaria verna, commonly known as lesser celandine

Lesser celandine is related to the buttercup family. It’s yellow flowers, which resemble stars, bloom from late February into May. Look for lesser celandine carpeting the woodland floors as winter begins to relax its hold on the earth. It is one of the plants that is used to provide an indication of the passing of seasonal events, for this reason, the flowering of lesser celandine is seen as a sign of spring. The flowers of lesser celandine provide an important source of nectar for bumblebees and other insects that begin to emerge in early spring.

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Mistletoe 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is so much more than just a plant for awkwardly kissing under at Christmas.  This parasitic plant typically grows on plants such as hawthorn, blackthorn, and rowan. The white berries of mistletoe appear in winter while the plant itself flowers in at some point between February and April. Many animals depend upon mistletoe throughout the winter and it forms a key part of the surrounding ecosystem.  The plant has associations with fertility and vitality in western medieval culture. 

 

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Primrose

 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Primrose

 

Primroses typically flower between late December and early May and are often found in woodland clearings. They are found throughout Europe, stretching in distribution from the tip of North Africa to Norway. The flowers and leaves of primroses are both edible and can be used in soups and stews. 

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Dog’s Mercury 

 

Plants for autumn and winter in the UK

Mercurialis perennis, commonly known as dog’s mercury

Dog’s Mercury is common throughout the UK, most often found carpeting the floor of ancient woodlands.  It often spreads to such an extent that it crowds out species such as Oxlip, shading woodland floors. Dog’s Mercury flowers in February through to April, although it bears leaves throughout the year. It is also, and most importantly, very highly poisonous. Eating Dog’s Mercury can lead to vomiting, the victim falling into a coma and then death.  

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Kit

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

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When it comes to bushcraft in the UK there are several additional considerations that you need to be aware of before building a shelter in autumn. Not only will it be colder at night and in the morning, additionally, there will also be less green foliage around to use and it is likely to be damper. Read on to discover some key considerations when building a bushcraft shelter in autumn and winter.

Type of shelter 

shelter autumn


Shelter building can be a long and time-consuming task. It needs to be completed alongside other essentials camp tasks such as creating a fire, stockpiling firewood and sourcing water. In autumn and winter, with daylight hours being limited, it is important to build the shelter that uses energy and resources most economically. One of the shelters best suited to bushcraft in autumn and winter is the lean-to.  This type of shelter, along with the correct type of fire, can provide comfort in cold and even sub-zero temperatures.

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Location and resources

Shelter autumn

Choosing a suitable location is a cornerstone of any successful bushcraft shelter building exercise, this is even truer in the autumn and winter when materials might be in short supply. A lean-to shelter can require a lot of resources; small trees will need to be felled and split into suitable lengths and more wood will need to be gathered for the fire. While there is the adage ‘wood will warm you twice, once when you collect it and again when you burn it’; you need to be careful not to exhaust yourself as this could have serious consequences, especially in colder weather where hypothermia is a risk. Look for a location that is rich in trees, such as pine or birch and close to a source of water. The dense tree cover of a UK woodland will keep your lean-to shelter relatively free from snowdrift.

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Tools

Shelter autumn

As we previously mentioned lean-to shelters are resource heavy, needing either the felling of several small trees of the cutting to size of fallen dead wood. For these purposes, you’re going to need both a reasonable size bushcraft axe and a hand-held saw, such as a Silky saw or a laplander.

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Fire 

Shelter autumn

 

The construction of a lean-to shelter in autumn and winter conditions also requires the construction of an appropriate fire.  For warmth in a lean-to shelter, it is hard to beat a long-log fire. The logs that you are using for this fire (once it has been started) should be of a fair size, akin to the thickness of a telegraph pole,  so that they will burn through all night. Finding logs of this size will most likely require the felling of standing dead wood. We will be showing you how to build a long log fire in more detail later in the year.

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Environmental considerations 

One of the often overlooked considerations of building a bushcraft shelter in the autumn, or at any time of the year, is the environmental impact of your shelter. Of course, in a genuine survival situation then this should slide down your list of considerations, however, bushcraft is not about survival. Rather, it is about living in harmony with nature in a relaxed and enjoyable manner. The proficient bushcraft person is at home in the woods, working without haste or panic and in harmony with their materials.

 

Use what is readily available

With the above in mind, you should consider the environmental impact of building your shelter. Do you need to fell trees or can you use what is to hand? Is there a natural feature which can help you in constructing your shelter? Is the location of your shelter close to any wild flowers or plants that it might damage? Look around you and see the woods as a whole, use what is easily available to help you to achieve your aims.

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Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year.

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

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As autumn draws in around us and thoughts turn to winter our bushcraft practices adapt and change with the seasons. Though we might not have as much snow this year as we did at the start of 2018 there still might be enough to practice one of the most essential winter bushcraft techniques; lighting a fire on snow. In this blog, we will briefly recap the basics of fire lighting and then discuss some techniques for lighting a fire on snow. Read on to learn more or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Fire lighting essentials

Lighting a fire on snow
We’ve covered the basics of fire lighting in detail here, but essentially it comes down to correctly gathering and preparing your materials, not rushing or skipping any stage of the process and ensuring that you have all of the materials that you will need before lighting your fire.


If you are interested in more advanced fire lighting techniques then why not join us on our one-day friction fire lighting course or our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Is it worth the effort?

Before starting to attempt to light a fire on snow it is worth asking yourself it is worth the effort. If you are already cold, tired and wet, in short, if it is coming close to a survival situation, then you need to be sure attempting to light a fire will not exhaust your remaining energy reserves. You will need to judge each situation on its own merits and make your own decisions based upon the situation and your confidence in your skills.

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Lighting a fire on snow

When it comes to lighting a fire on snow the key thing to remember is that it melts. This means that building a fire directly onto the snow itself will not only get your tinder wet but will also, should you manage to get it lit, melt the snow beneath it and disappear into it.

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Building a platform

One of the easiest ways to construct a fire on snow is to build a platform, either consisting of split logs or stones and place your tinder on top of it. This will give you a dry and firm base on which to light your fire.

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Digging down

If the snow is of a reasonably shallow depth, like the kind that we might experience in the south of the UK in winter, then it is a better idea to dig down. Removing the snow until you have reached the level of the earth and then constructing a base on this earth (so as to keep the moisture out) will not only insulate the fire but will also ensure that it doesn’t melt the snow.

Preparation for lighting a fire in the snow

Lighting a fire on snow

Successful fire lighting depends on good preparation, in any weather, however, this goes double when there is snow on the ground. Ensure that you have plenty of dry tinder with you, and ideally keep it in your clothes where it can’t get damp, and plenty of firewood to keep the fire going throughout the night.

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Kit 

Lighting a fire on snow

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when lighting a fire. Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!

 

Further Reading

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate.

Practicing bushcraft in the UK can be a fantastic activity to introduce to your children and wider family. Not only is it an enjoyable and practical skill for children to learn it can also have wider learning applications, teaching skills such as a greater respect for nature and each other as well as giving them the ability to make decisions independently.

Here are our top tips for introducing your family to bushcraft, as always feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most. Remember, the best way to perfect these skills is on a bushcraft course. Find out more about our family bushcraft course here.

 

Start small

Family bushcraft course


When it comes to introducing your family to bushcraft it is best to start small. Don’t try and load everything that you know on to children or, if you are also starting your bushcraft journey, don’t expect others journeys to take the same path as yours.  It is best to start small, pick a skill that can be easily practiced and work on it together. Skills such as tree and plant identification (although remember never to eat anything you’ve not 100% identified), knots or animal prints. 

 

Shelter building

Shelter building family bushcraft
Children love dens and teaching them how to build shelters is a great way of introducing them to bushcraft. Depending on the age of the children you might not want to introduce them to the knife or axe skills required for shelter building. What you can do though, however, is pre-cut the wood and then practice shelter building with them. Or, if you are not confident using an axe or knife, why not just try making shelters with the materials that you have to hand, or just get used to sleeping out under a tarp with your family.

 

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Fire lighting 

Fire lighting family bushcraft course

When it comes to fire lighting one of the best things that you can teach children is to respect the fire. Teaching respect of the fire when getting into bushcraft as a family will mean that, as your children become more involved with different aspects of fire lighting they are less likely to mess about and hurt themselves. Other than that a good method of fire lighting that can be taught is with a steel striker and a ball of cotton wool used as tinder. For more information on fire lighting tips and tricks have a look at our blog post here

 

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Tool use

family bushcraft course

If you and your family are starting your bushcraft journey, or if you are already on your journey and you want to teach your family, then tool use is a great place to start. Teaching the correct way to use a knife and, if children are old enough, and axe can be a great way of increasing independence and teaching responsibility. It should go without saying though that it’s best not to let children use knives and axes unsupervised.

What to expect on our family bushcraft course

Family bushcraft course

Our family bushcraft course costs £100 per adult or £80 for those under 18. The course is aimed at the whole family and is designed to allow children to explore and learn new skills in a safe but fun environment. As a family, you will learn to build your own shelter, track woodland animals, make fires, cook over an open fire, find safe walking drinking water and lots more.

It’s what you make of it

Our family bushcraft weekend can be as adventurous as you make it. You can choose to sleep in a hammock, under a tarp, or in the shelter that you made as a family.  Of course, if you would rather you’re welcome to bring your own tent.

 

Kit mentions 

Here is some kit that you might find useful when learning bushcraft with your family. 

 

A bushcraft axe can be one of the most important tools that you can take out into the woods with you. In our previous blog, we looked at how to choose a bushcraft axe. Now in this blog, we’re going to look at how you can keep your axe sharp while in the field. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Equipment for sharpening your axe

how to sharpen an axe

Keeping your bushcraft axe sharp is an essential skill. A blunt axe is not only difficult to use it can also be dangerous it becomes cannot easily split wood. Here are our tips on how to sharpen an axe in the field.  

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    • Inspect the edge or ‘bit’
      Inspect the edge of the axe blade, this is also known as the ‘bit’. If the edge is nicked or damaged then any nicks need to be removed using a bastard file.

    • Find the bevel
      Use a sharpie, or marker pen, to mark the edge of the axe. This will help you to keep an even and consistent bevel. Place the axe between your knees with the head of the axe facing away from you. Place the sharpener against the edge of one side of the axe, holding it at the correct angle for the bevel start the sharpening process. Remember to push away from the edge and not pull into it. Once a rough edge has been established it is time to move on to the puck.
    • Using the puck
      Start with the coarsest edge of the puck, match the bevel angles, and use small circular motions along the whole length of the edge. Count the number of strokes that you use on edge side and then repeat the same number on the other side.  Make sure that the axe is sharp enough to cut paper before turning the puck over.
    • Finishing off the axe
      Using the finer side of the puck, repeat the step outlined above. This will help you to establish a really sharp and consistent edge.

Sharpen your bushcraft axe

How to test the sharpness of an axe

It is important to test the sharpness of your bushcraft axe before finishing the sharpening process. The sharpness of your bushcraft axe can be tested by trying to shave off thin pieces of wood, the same way as you would if you were making fire sticks.

How to sharpen an axe in the field

Keeping your bushcraft axe sharp is an essential skill. A blunt axe is not only difficult to use it can also be dangerous. Here are our tips on how to sharpen an axe in the field.

Sharpen your bushcraft axe

Kit list

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.
Please note that Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

Further reading

Sharpening a bushcraft axe

Have a look at these related blogs.

 

 

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A bushcraft axe is one of the most useful tools that you can have in the woods. Probably even more useful than a knife. In this blog, we’re going to discuss the different types of axes available, how to choose the right axe for the right job and what, in our opinion, is the best all-round bushcraft axe.

As always, please feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Choosing a bushcraft axe


Key considerations

Not all axes are created equal and likewise, not all jobs are the same. At the end of the day choosing a bushcraft axe is a personal matter. It comes down to what you want to use it for, chopping, carving, splitting or general duty, the extra weight that you are prepared to carry, how you want to carry it and even your height. Those that are taller will probably find that an axe with a longer handle is easier to use than one with a short handle. Remember, an axe is a key element of your bushcraft kit. It needs to feel comfortable in your hands. So before rushing out and buying the first one you come across, spend some time with it and decide if it feels like the axe for you.

 

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Understanding different bushcraft axes

Choosinga bushcraft axe


There are many different types of axes for many different jobs. In theory, you should use different axes for different tasks, but the reality of the situation is that when out in the woods practicing bushcraft you are only ever going to be able to carry one, or possibly at a push, two
bushcraft axes with you. Read on to learn more about the different types of bushcraft axes.

  • General bushcraft axesThese are the types of axes that you want to be looking for if you’re only going to take one out with you. General bushcraft axes, also known as forest axes, are designed to be used for everything from felling trees to splitting small logs. Forest axes, such as those from Gransfors Bruk are designed to cut across the grain, this is useful for felling and limbing trees.
  • Splitting axes

    Splitting axes are designed, as you might have guessed, to split wood. They have a large and heavy head with a relatively thin edge on the end of a concave wedge. They are designed to cut along the grain, as opposed to general bushcraft axes. With splitting axes the edge is designed to go straight into the wood while the broader section pushes into the wood, splitting it.
  • HatchetsHatchets are, essentially, small axes that are used for smaller jobs. They have a much shorter handle than axes and can, at a push, be used for splitting and chopping – though this is much harder with a hatchet than with a small bushcraft axe.

 

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Bushcraft axes that we recommend

 

Choosing a bushcraft axe

At Wildway Bushcraft we use a variety of axes on our courses where we teach people how to use them safely and for a wide variety of jobs.  For personal usage, we carry the Gransfors Bruk’s Small Forest Axe. This axe has a 49 cm wooden handle and weighs less than a kilo. It’s small enough to fit into a rucksack but it still provides enough chopping power for most bushcraft jobs.

Kit list

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.
Please note that Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe

Bushcraft axe

Copyright Gransfors Bruk
https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/


                             Wildway Bushcraft uses a small forest axe from Gransfors Bruk. You can find out more information about Gransfors Bruk via the link below.
https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/ 

 

Further reading

Read these following blogs. Use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

 

 

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“You’re only as sharp as your bushcraft knife” might not be exactly true, but it does have an element of logic to it. When out in the woods looking after your knife and maintaining its edge can make the difference between and enjoyable and miserable experience. In a survival situation looking after your bushcraft knife becomes an even more serious affair.  In this blog, we’re going to look at what we mean by ‘bushcraft knife’, and how to keep it sharp at home and in the field. As always, feel free to read the entire blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Before we go any further though, take a look at our blog on knife law in the UK.

What do we mean by bushcraft knife

Bushcraft knife Bear Blades

At Wildway Bushcraft we look at knives like tools. Provided they do the job that they are intended for then we’re happy. We don’t fetishise knives and we believe that the best bushcraft knife is the one that does the best job.  It is also about skills, in the hands of a knowledgeable woodsman more can be achieved with a penknife than with a machete in the hands of an amateur. When we talk about bushcraft knives in this blog we’re talking about knives such as the Morakniv Heavy Duty Companion. This will only set you back about £25 and is all you need to get started in Bushcraft.

 

What do we use? 

We’ll cover the kit that we use at Wildway Bushcraft at the end of this blog but we use knives from Bear Blades. If you’re interested in one of these knives, let us know and we will see what we can do. 

 


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Equipment needed to sharpen your knife in the field

Bushcraft course from Wildway Bushcraft

It is most likely that you will need to sharpen your knife in the field, especially if you are out in the woods for an extended period of time. In order to sharpen your bushcraft knife in the field, you will need, apart from a knife obviously, a small sharpening stone. The one that we would recommend is the DC4 from Fallkniven. This small sharpening stone easily fits in the pocket, doesn’t weigh much at all and is perfect for sharpening your knife in the field.  

 

Sharpening your knife in the field 

Alder trees for bushcraft

The principle of sharpening your knife in the field is the same as to sharpening your bushcraft knife at home. The knife should be placed on the sharpening stone so that the bevel is flat against the stone. In the case of using the DC4 in the field hold up the knife, place the sharpening stone against it, so that the bevel of the knife is flat against it. Then move the sharpening stone in small circular motions on the blade of the knife. Be sure to swap sides so that both sides are sharpened equally. One tip to help is to draw along the point of the blade with a marker pen. Once the marker pen has been erased you will have sharpened the blade equally.

Sharpening your knife at home

sharpening your bushcraft knife 

The same principles used when sharpening your knife in the field applies when sharpening your knife at home. The primary difference is in the sharpening stones. Without taking into account weight considerations when sharpening your knife at home you can use water stones. We suggest waterstones such as the Ice Bear Waterstones , choose two of different grits, for example, the 1000 and 6000. Before using the waterstones they should be submerged and filled with water. Again, place the bushcraft knife on the stone, with the bevel flat against it, push the knife away from you in smooth strokes. It is easiest to sharpen your knife in strokes of eight, eight on one side, eight on the other. For a more practical demonstration watch our video in the section below.

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A video demonstration

The video below is taken from our series of Facebook live videos. If you would like to vote on the topics of our live Facebook videos then join our Wildway Bushcraft Facebook group here.

Posted by Wildway Bushcraft on Wednesday, 31 January 2018

 

How often to sharpen your bushcraft knife

Sharpening your bushcraft knife

When it comes to how often you should sharpen your bushcraft knife the simple answer is, as often as it needs it. You should always check your equipment before heading out into the field and keep in maintained to the highest possible standard while out there.  

 

Kit list

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.
Please note that, with the exception of Bear Blades, Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

Further reading

You might also be interested in the following blogs. Use the small arrows to navigate.

 

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