It is nearly Christmas, the winter has well and truly arrived and the world seems to be hibernating. So, at this time of year, we thought that we would have a bit of fun by looking at the different types of snow shelter that, give enough snow, you could practice making. If you do get round to trying any of these out then it is a good idea to have someone close by – mostly to be impressed by your skills but also to dig you out if needs be. As always feel free to skip to the section that interests you the most by using the links below.

Quinzee  

Snow shelter

The Quinzee type of shelter is best used on flat areas of ground and can be built using soft snow.  It is essentially a mound of snow with the middle hollowed out and an entrance bug out. The easiest way to build a quinzee is to pile your gear, particularly if you are in a group, into the intended centre of your shelter and then pile snow over the top – this will then allow you to easily hollow out your shelter by removing your gear.  The pile of snow should be around 7-8 feet high (just over two metres) so that it forms a dome. The snow should then be left to harden for around 90 minutes after which an entrance can be dug out and the inside hollowed out. Be sure to bring a bothy bag or equivalent to keep warm in while you wait for the snow to harden.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A
WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER

 

Snow grave


A snow grave is an easily constructed snow shelter, typically used in an emergency. Snow graves can be easily constructed using an ice axe and are best constructed on flat areas of ground. Simply in their construction, they simply involve digging out an area that is slightly wider and deeper than your body. After the hollow has been dug cut some slabs to put over the top of the grave to further shelter you from the elements. Make sure that everything, apart from your warm clothes and sleeping bag – obviously – are placed below you in order to further insulate your body from the ground.

 

TREAT SOMEONE TO A
WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER

Igloo

snow shelters

Due to their association with Eskimos Igloos are, by many, considered the quintessential snow shelter. In order to construct an igloo, you need harden, packed snow which can be cut into slabs. The maximum dimensions for an igloo need to be less than around ten feet (3.4 metres) in diameter, anything bigger than this becomes almost impossible to construct in the field. Cut blocks of snow and arrange them in a circle formation which spirals upwards to the roof. Remember to pack the snow down on each block so that it is as hard as it can be.

 

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.

 

TREAT SOMEONE TO A
WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER

After a hard day walking in winter conditions, there is nothing better than a hot brew. That’s why, in this blog, we will be looking at how to make the most of your stove in winter conditions. When we’re looking at winter conditions we are looking at those in places of the UK such as the Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor, and the South West in general. We will not be considering winter conditions in mountainous regions or Scotland where winter conditions can be equivalent to the Arctic. Read on to learn more about maximising your stove use in winter.

 

Key considerations 

Making the most of your stove in winter


This blog is simply an overview of the different types of stoves and their effectiveness in winter. It does not compare stove types nor the enormous number of variations which can impact on the stove’s effectiveness. These variations include things such as, the altitude that the stove is being used at, the type of windshield being used, the temperature of the fuel beforehand, the wind speed/direction and of course the experience of the person using it. 

 

Solid fuel stoves 

Solid fuel stoves use either fuel blocks, such as ‘hex’ blocks or alcohol gels. One of the main drawbacks with these types of stoves is that the fuel is not readily available in your local camping store, nor can you control the heat output of the stove. The fuel is unlikely to be affected by winter temperatures but is obviously prey to the conditions that affect all stoves in winter.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Unpressurised liquid stoves

Unpressurised liquid stoves, such as the Trangia, typically run on a methanol, parrafin, or kerosene fuels. Typically these have a lower burning temperature than gas or multi-fuel stoves and, once again, the temperature can be hard to regulate. They can be impacted badly by cold weather although there are several things that you can do to improve their performance in winter. These include, insulating the stove from the ground, using more fuel to heat the stove first, keeping the fuel insulated and warm while carrying it and while at camp.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

Gas Stoves

Gas stoves light instantly, without the need for priming, and are largely maintenance free. The fuel for gas stoves is generally widely available and can typically be found in local hardware stores as well as camping shops. Their performance in winter is more to do with the fuel that is being used than the stove itself.  

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Butane/Propane

Pure butane is a poor fuel for use in stoves in winter as it stops vapourising (e.g. the gas will remain liquid) at around – 1 degrees celcius. Propane, on the other hand, can be used at temperatures down to – 42 degrees Celcius, making it an ideal choice. However, it is extremely difficult to manufacture pure propane canisters that are suitable for camping. This leaves us with a butane/propane mix, typically canisters of this type will use a 70/30 butane/propane mix.  Even using this mix, however, effectiveness can be reduced in cold weather as the stove empties.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Pressurised liquid/multi-fuel stoves

Stoves of this type, such as the MSR Whisperlite, are excellent performers in all but the most extreme conditions.  These stoves can be used with both gas canisters and a liquid fuel known as ‘white gas’, a pure form of gasoline. These stoves, however, can be difficult to use for novices as they typically require priming and can be prone to flare-ups, making them less than ideal for using inside one’s tent.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Fires

Cooking on a fire in winter


Provided that you are able to light a fire in winter (have a look at our blogs
here and here) then they can be a great source of heat, light and can be easy to cook on.  However, you do need to be mindful of the environment in which you are having a fire. Provided that you are not in a genuine survival situation where anything goes then you need to consider if you have permission, the environmental impact of having a fire and, of course, how you can have a fire without leaving any trace. 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

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.

 

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

In this week’s blog, we will be looking at clothing to keep you warm in winter. There are a huge number of manufacturers out there, each offering a vast, and often confusing, array of garments for winter. With this in mind we will not be looking at specific clothing brands, but rather at one tried and tested principle behind keeping warm in the winter. Read on to learn more of skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

 

What is the layering system? 

Clothing for winter camping


The layering system is nothing new. From the days of itchy vests and seal skin clothing explorers of colder climates and mountainous reaches have been piling clothes on top of each other in an effort to keep warm. There is, however, a lot more to it than just putting on all your jumpers and hoping for the best. 

 

How the layering system works

The layering system is, in essence, comprised of a base layer next to the skin, insulating mid-layer or layers and then a protective outer layer which should be waterproof, windproof etc. While the minimum amount of layers that you want to be wearing is three you can add more mid-layers depending upon the situation. While clothing choice is personal and each one of us will have our preferred brands the principle remains the same regardless of who makes the clothing.

 

Base layers 

Clothing winter camping


A base layer is simply a layer that will sit next to the skin and should be as close fitting as possible. The purpose of a base layer is to wick, or take, the sweat away from the skin. For this reason, it should not be made of cotton – cotton retains moisture and will hold the sweat close to the skin. Typically, base layers are made from Merino wool or synthetic materials, both of which have certain anti-bacterial properties which will prevent one from smelling too much when they return from the wilds.

While it might be tempting to go for thicker base layers in the depths of winter it is important to balance warmth with a risk of overheating. For this reason, it is best to experiment and find the right base layer for you. Read on to learn about mid layers. 

 

What to look for in a mid layer 

A mid layer, or mid layers are essential for keeping one warm when walking or camping in winter. The mid layer acts as the main source of insulation between the base layer and the outer layer. By trapping the heat from your body within your clothes the mid layer keeps you warm. Typical mid layers are made of fleece, which retains its properties when wet, and synthetic materials. Occasionally, in very cold winter conditions a down (or synthetic) jacket can also be worn. A wind and mid layer may help to keep you at an ambient temperature until the rain and the snow really begin coming in, at which point your outer layer can be added. 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

What to look for in an outer layer

Clothes for winter camping

Your outer layer is the main source of protection against the elements. They need to be waterproof, windproof and ideally breathable, a combination of qualities that can be hard to come by.  Additionally, this outer layer should come with a hood, one that can be worn over a wooly hat, and provide protection from the elements for your head.  

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Choosing your trousers 

When it comes to winter camping and walking then choosing your trousers is as important as choosing your top layer. Follow the same principles as those you use for choosing your top layers, pick a good pair of thermals for your base layer, soft yet hard wearing walking trousers for a mid layer and tough, breathable waterproof trousers for your outer layer. Also consider wearing gaiters in winter in order to keep the snow, and general muck, out of your boots and off your trousers.  

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Headwear and gloves 

Headwear in winter can consist of a warm, wooly hat, or a balaclava in extreme conditions. In instances where there is likely to be a lot of snow, such as in the Scottish mountains, then you might also consider goggles. Gloves are also an essential consideration in winter. Remember to carry several pairs, should you lose one, and use a system of thin, warm gloves under thicker fleece gloves. Waterproof or water resistant gloves should be carried or waterproof mitts can be worn over a pair of warm fleece gloves.

 

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.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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). 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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. 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

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. 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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. 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

Further Reading 

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

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




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. 

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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. 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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.  

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Kit

 

Further Reading 

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

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

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.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

There’s no doubt about it, winter is well on its way and summer a distant memory. Winter in the United Kingdom, as with everywhere else, brings with it wonderful changes in the natural world. One of the most dramatic changes occurs to trees. As leaves fall and they take on a totally different character making it much harder to identify deciduous trees in the winter. Keen students of bushcraft should be able to identify trees in winter as well as summer. This skill is a foundation of bushcraft on which all further skills are built; after all, you can’t make a bow drill if you can’t identify the most appropriate type of wood to use.

Read on to learn about five trees that you can practice identifying this winter

Common Ash

Bark of the ash tree

Bark of the ash tree.


Ash or Common Ash or, if you would prefer the Latin Fraxinus excelsior is a tree found throughout Europe.  It is native to the United Kingdom and, in the right conditions, can 
live for up to 400 years. Fully grown ash trees can reach a height of around 35 meters (around 115 feet).  Ash trees are dioecious, this means that male and female flowers normally grow on different trees, although in some cases male and female flowers can grow on the same tree, although on different branches.

Identifying Ash in the winter

In the winter months, after the leaves have fallen, ash trees can be identified by its bark which is either grey or a greyish-brown. With older trees, the bark can grow to feature deep ridges.  The tree’s distinctive black buds are also a key feature for identifying ash trees.

Bushcraft uses for ash

Ash has a great number of uses in UK bushcraft.  Dead, standing wood from the ash tree makes for great firewood, and it is also a favoured tree for making bows.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

Silver Birch

Silver Birch Bark trees


The Silver Birch or Betula pendula is native to Europe and the UK.  
The presence of silver birch trees can often help improve the soil quality, helping other surrounding plants to grow. This is because the roots of the tree go deep into the earth, drawing up otherwise inaccessible nutrients to the tree, these nutrients are then recycled on the surface when the leaves fall from the trees.

 

Identifying Silver Birch in the winter

Silver birch is one of the easiest trees to identify. Its white, or silver, bark remains that colour all year round, in addition, the tree can be identified in winter through its twigs which are rough to the touch.

Bushcraft uses for Silver Birch

Silver birch is one of the most useful trees when it comes to bushcraft. Most importantly, in winter, its bark can be used in fire lighting. To learn more about how the bark from the silver birch can be used in fire lighting watch our video below.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Elder 

Bark of an Elder Tree


Elder, Sambucus nigra in Latin, is native to the UK and throughout much of Europe. Apparently, the name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’ which means fire, due to the fact that the
hollow stems are used as bellows to blow air into the centre of a fire.  

 

Identifying elder in the winter

In winter elder can be identified through its green and distinctive smelling twigs and ragged buds which often have leaves showing through the bud scales.

 

Bushcraft uses for elder

Elder has several uses in UK bushcraft. It typically grows near rabbit warrens, providing a good indication of a source of food, the flowers can be used to make wine, cordial or tea. The berries, while mildly poisonous, can be eaten if they are cooked first.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Hazel

Hazel Trees

 

Corylus avellana or hazel, is native to the United Kingdom. Hazel trees can live for up to eighty years and reach a height of 12 meters.  Hazel trees are associated with doormice, doormice fatten themselves up for winter by feasting on the hazelnuts and, in the spring, doormice eat caterpillars that are found on the leaves of the hazel tree.  Hazel trees are also associated with magic or myth and has been thought to ward of rheumatism, to encourage fertility and was considered the ‘tree of knowledge’ in Ireland.

 

Identifying hazel in the winter

Hazel Trees


Hazel is best identified in winter by the small nuts that are held in short leafy husks which cover about three-quarters of the nut. In autumn it is likely that the tree will bear small catkins, though these are not likely to be found in winter.

Bushcraft uses for hazel

Hazel is perhaps best known for its flexibility, this makes it an ideal material for shelter building. It is also a favoured wood for being used in bow drills. Hazelnuts, of course, are also an excellent source of nutrition, containing over 600 calories per 100 grams

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Beech

Beech Trees


The beech tree, or
Fagus sylvatica, is native to southern England and South Wales.  Beech trees are also found across Europe from southern Sweden to northern Sicily. They can live for hundreds of years, some coppiced trees can even live for around 1,000 years. The tree has a long-standing association with femininity and is considered the ‘queen’  of British trees. Historically, it was thought that beech trees have medicinal properties.

 

Identifying beech trees in the winter

Beech trees can be identified in winter by its sharply pointed leafy buds. See the image below for an example of these buds.

Bushcraft uses for beech trees

Beech trees are notorious for dropping their branches, often called widow makers, hence never camp under a beech tree! Dry beech leaves can be used for tinder and the wood can be burned, although it doesn’t burn as well as ash.

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.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

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.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

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.

Hypothermia can be a killer out on the trail. It arises when the body’s core temperature drops too far below its normal temperature of 37 degrees.

In this blog post, we’re going to be looking at how to prevent hypothermia, what the signs of hypothermia are and what you can do when you’re out in the hills to keep your party safe.  


Sign-up for our weekend bushcraft course and learn all about water sourcing, shelter building, and knife skills.

 

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

 

What exactly is hypothermia?

People have a core temperature of 37 degrees, which needs to be maintained in order to survive. Hypothermia is what happens when a person’s core temperature drops progressively causing, in the worst case scenario, unconsciousness, cardiac or respiratory failure or even death.  Typically, in the UK, hypothermia is caused by a combination of the cold, wind chill and physical exhaustion.

Avoiding hypothermia in the winter

Causes of hypothermia

The causes of hypothermia can broadly be divided into those that are environmental and those that are caused personal factors such as a lack of suitable clothing. Environmental factors include windchill and wet environments.

Windchill

Windchill can be the most dangerous at lower speeds, though high-speed winds should also be taken into consideration and treated with respect – particularly given that walking against high winds can often lead to physical exhaustion.

Wet and cold

The other consideration to look out for is the wet and cold. Walking in the hills or mountains requires a breathable outer-shell layer that will protect you from the elements while keeping you dry.

Poor clothing

Your clothing should be based on a layering system (as we looked at in our blog ‘Suntan lotion or raincoats – how to read the UK weather. With a base layer that wicks the sweat away from your body, a middle layer that keeps you insulated and an outer shell which protects you from the wind and the rain.

Physical exhaustion

Physical exhaustion means that not only is the body unable to find any further reserves of energy to go on, but even enough energy to maintain its core temperature.

Sign-up for our weekend bushcraft course and learn all about water sourcing, shelter building, and knife skills.

 

How to spot the signs and what you can do

Keeping an eye out for the signs of hypothermia can help you to prevent it from developing further. By recognising the symptoms of mild hypothermia you can treat the casualty before the symptoms get worse and the casualty declines.

Categories of hypothermia

The International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) has outlined the following formula to categorise stages of hypothermia. These are as follows:

Stage I – Patient alert and shivering (core temperature of casualty around 35-32℃)
II – Patient drowsy and not shivering (core temp 32 -28℃)
III – Patient unconscious, but vital signs present (core temp 28 -24℃)
IV  – Absent vital signs, apparent death (core temp 24-13℃)
V – Death.

Learn how you can avoid hypothermia
What can you do?

Treatment of hypothermia should begin with prevention. However, should the first sign present itself, then immediate treatment is paramount before the symptoms escalate.

Treatment of Stage I

Ensure that the casualty is moved out of the wind, rain, and cold. The casualty should then be given a hot and sugary drinks or food. Provided that there is no injury (aside from the signs presenting in stage I) then the casualty should be encouraged to exercise and, once warmed up, can continue their journey.

Stage II

The casualty in stage II needs to be treated very carefully as they could be suffering from life-threatening heartbeats in not handled gently. Provided that there is no possibility of spinal damage then the casualty should be placed in the recovery position and should be given hot food and drink if there is no risk of choking – evacuation to a hospital should be conducted as quickly as possible.

Stage III/IV  

At this stage, the patient will have a reduced level of consciousness and could be on the verge of fatal dysrhythmia. Prevention of further heat loss is normally impossible at this stage. In stage IV it could be advisable to begin CPR, however, this must be continued until a hospital is reached.

 

Sign-up for our weekend bushcraft course and learn all about water sourcing, shelter building and knife skills.

 

Preventing hypothermia when out on the trail

Rather than finding yourself having to treat Stage II hypothermia, it is preferable to prevent Stage I hypothermia taking place in the first place.  


Ensure that your wearing the correct clothing

Wearing the correct clothing is vital to preventing hypothermia. As we discussed at the start of this blog, when going out in the hills you should adopt a layering system of a base layer, mid layer, and outer or shell layer.  

Take advantage of the layering system

The layering system traps warm air between each of the layers. Wear waterproof trousers and a hat to prevent heat loss through the head and legs.  Wearing the correct clothing also means removing layers as you see fit. Overexertion will lead to sweating which can lead to a lowering of the body temperature. Avoiding sweating in cold temperatures should be a priority.

Check the forecast

It might sound obvious but check the weather forecast before you go out.  Remember, deciding to wait until conditions have improved doesn’t mean that you’ve given up – more that you’re exercising judgment.

Eat well

Physical exhaustion, one of the key elements that can, out in the mountains, bring on hypothermia. The food that you’re consuming should replace the energy that you have expounded on your journey. When working out the amount of food that you will need you also need to take into account the distance that you’re covering, the conditions in which you’re covering it and the level of fitness of your party.  A 20km walk, covering a thousand metres climb (in total across the walk) will expand about 6000 kilocalories.

Learn how to prevent hypothermia this winter

Hypothermia – a recap

Always look at hypothermia with an eye on prevention. Make sure that your party is well dressed and carrying adequate food.  If anyone in the party starts shivering then you should seek shelter from the elements and prepare a hot sweet drink and food if at all possible.

 

Learn more about looking after yourself in the elements by taking part in our weekend bushcraft course – learn more here.
Learn more about bushcraft with weekend bushcraft courses in the UK from Wildway Bushcraft

In this week’s blog post we will be looking at plant and tree identification in the UK in winter.  

As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, being able to identify the plants and trees of the British isles becomes increasingly difficult – many will have lost their distinctive leaves and berries which aid identification in other times of the year. In this week’s blog post we will be looking at how to identify trees in winter, key pointers that you can put into practice and provide you with a list of commonly found trees that you can practice identifying at this time of the year.

As always, please feel free to read our entire blog or skip to the part that interests you the most.

Difference between tree identification in winter and other seasons

The most notable difference in trees in the winter is the effect that the season has on the leaves. While Evergreen conifers are trees that retain their leaves throughout the year, deciduous trees drop their leaves in the autumn/winter and flower again in spring.

Coniferous trees identifying trees in winter



Why identify trees in winter?

Identifying trees in winter can provide you with an added depth to your winter walks. It can also provide you with access to a variety of bushcraft tools – enabling you to access the same natural materials that you would be able to access in the spring – for example; being able to identify trees in winter will enable you to find the correct wood for making a bow drill.  

Key pointers to keep in mind when identifying trees in the winter

When it comes to identifying deciduous trees in the winter the leaves are not there to help us, for this reason, we need to look to the bark, the buds, and their general shape. Tree buds, though they flower in spring, lie dormant in the winter giving clues as to the tree in which they sit. Tree shapes provide an additional clue as to their identification, field maples will, for example, have rounder profiles whereas ash trees are rather slim. Combining the characteristics of the bark and the buds in winter is a great method of identifying the tree.

Characteristics of bark and buds

Combining the key characteristics of bark and buds in a table is a great way of identifying trees in winter – see Collins Gem ‘Trees’ for a more detailed explanation of winter tree identification.  Here are a few examples below:

 

      • Hazel: Brown buds/flaking and peeling bark
      • Horse chestnut: Red and orange/brown buds and flaking or peeling bark
      • Beech: Brown/grey/black buds and cracked or scarred barks
      • Crab apples: Red/orange/brown buds and cracked or scarred bark and.

 

Why not try your hand at tree identification, foraging, shelter building, knife skills and many more aspects of bushcraft on our weekend bushcraft course – click here for more information

Several key trees to identify in the winter

Below are a few examples of key trees that you can practice identifying this winter.

Hazel (Corylus avellana):

Look for brown buds, flaking and/or peeling bark.

Hazel bark identifying trees in winter

Hazel bark

 

Hazel bud identifying trees in winter

Hazel bud


Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum):

When it comes to the horse chestnut keep an eye out for reddy -orange/brown buds and flaking or peeling bark.

 

Horse chestnut bark identifying trees in winter

Horse chestnut bark

Horse chestnut bud helping you to identify trees in winter

Horse chestnut bud



Beech (Fagus sylvatica):

Beech trees can, in the winter, be identified by their own/grey/black buds and cracked or scarred barks.

 

Beech bark how to identify trees in Winter

Beech bark

 

Beech bud

Beech bud

 

Crab apple (Malus sylvestris):

Crab apples can be identified by their cracked or scarred bark and red/orange/brown buds.

Crab apple bark

Crab apple bark

Trees in winter Crab apple bud

Crab apple bud

Foraging in winter

Though it might seem like the forager’s patch is sparse in winter, the cold season can offer up a variety of treats for those that know where to look.

Beech nuts  

Beech nuts can make for a tasty nibble when you’re out in the woods. Simply scrape off the brown skin on the inside and eat the edible triangular seeds inside.

Chestnuts  

Chestnuts are perhaps the epitome of winter foraging. Found over most woodland floors, chestnuts can be opened up and removed from their green spikey cases ready to eat once cooked over a fire.

Pine nuts

Pine cones, the open ones at least, can be opened up and shaken to remove the pine nuts within. These can be eaten raw or toasted. For pine cones that are closed, simply put them near a fire for a few days and they should open up.

 

Give foraging a try on our weekend bushcraft course – click here for more information


Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard, also known as ‘jack-by-the-hedge’, is most often found in shady places such as the edges of hedgerows. Its heart-shaped leaves are smooth and hairless – like nettles – when the leaves are crushed they smell of garlic.

The colder season can also be a great time of the year for foraging for shellfish, read more about seashore foraging in our blog here.

Remember  – never eat anything that you have not positively identified.

 

Try your hand at foraging, learn the art of shelter building, campfire cooking and discover how to safely source water on our weekend bushcraft course.

Learn more about bushcraft with weekend bushcraft courses in the UK from Wildway Bushcraft