Tarps are a lightweight and extremely versatile alternative to tents. In this blog, we look at setting up a tarp for the solo camper, tarp set-ups for couples and hammock camping for individuals and groups. Read on to find out more.
Organising your camp, whether you’re practising bushcraft, wild camping or even just at a campsite, is essential for keeping your food safe, morale up and your fire burning throughout the night. Read this week’s blog post to find out more or just skip straight to the section that you’re most interested in.
How to choose the best place to build a shelter? What makes a good wild camping spot? How can I choose a good campsite pitch? These are all questions that are answered in our latest blog. Read on to find out more.
Our next big expedition of 2017 will be the River Spey Bushcraft Canoe adventure in May.
Travelling from Loch Insh to Spey Bay on the East Coast, this five-day journey will provide ample opportunity to encounter some of Scotland’s resident birds and beasts. Here’s just some of the wildlife you might bump into on a Wildway expedition;
Renowned for its fishing, the River Spey is the ultimate destination for many returning Atlantic Salmon.
Hatching from eggs in the cool tributaries of the highlands, the juvenile Salmon known as ‘parr’ then travel downstream to the coast. The growing fish typically spend one to four years at sea, often travelling to an area just off West Greenland in search of food. On reaching maturity, the Salmon will then return to their river of origin to spawn. Unlike certain Pacific species, Atlantic Salmon do not routinely die after breeding, meaning that some fishmay undertake multiple migrations in their lifetime.
As you paddle your way down the Spey, you might be fortunate enough to spot the agile Osprey in action. Returning from their overwintering grounds in southern Europe and North Africa, these striking black and white birds are specialist fish-eaters, plunging talon-first into the water to capture their prey. Reaching a metre and a half wingspan, Ospreys hold Amber Status on the RSPB’s Red List, making them a rare but beautiful sight on UK rivers.
Take a walk along the riverbank during one of our wild camps and you might spot signs of one of the UK’s most elusive animals, the Eurasian Otter.
Persecuted almost to extinction in England, Scotland has long been a stronghold for these enchanting animals. Feeding predominantly on fish, Otters are strongly territorial, coming together only during the mating season. Cubs remain with their mother until 13 months old, learning the skills necessary to go it alone in the waterways of Scotland.
Drawing closer to the estuary of the River Spey, you’re likely to come under the scrutiny of the local Grey Seals. Equally comfortable in salt and brackish water, Grey Seals are the UK’s largest carnivore, weighing up to 310kg. Though bulls can occasionally be aggressive, most seals are cautiously inquisitive, with some friendly enough to attempt a lift on passing kayaks!
As you near the end of your canoe bushcraft adventure, you’ll reach the coast at Spey Bay, home to the world’s largest Bottlenose Dolphins.
Attracted by the Spey’s wealth of Atlantic Salmon, Bottlenose Dolphins are gregarious and intelligent, living in family pods of up to thirty individuals. The most common oceanic dolphin species, the Spey Bay pod are well known for showing off their acrobatic skills.
Should you wish to learn more about these remarkable animals, the Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay offers talks, tours and a unique audio-visual installation (www.wdcs.org).
Interested in encountering wild Scotland by Canoe? Find more details of our River Spey Canoe Bushcraft Expedition here; If you need to know what we take away with us on these trips check this post out.
Now, I have been guilty of a never ending collection of bushcraft kit- a bag for this, a knife for that, more axes than I could ever use, and as for billy cans, why do I need so many pots and pans?
So I thought I would sit down with a brew and try to help others avoid the same pitfalls.
Now there is nothing wrong with buying bushcraft kit and equipment if you want, it’s nice to have new things but not as nice as having well loved solid “go to” items that you know work, so here are my top 10 items that I take with me on every trip;
Knife- a good knife is a must but a good knife does not mean an expensive knife. A Mora Knife will see you through every job you could want to do out on your trips to the wild. At around £12 it’s a no brainer, it’s simple and a joy to use. If you want to fork outmore money then you can find some very nice knives being hand made by some very talented makers out there. If you’re going to buy an expensive knife, I would suggest one with a full tang and a Scandi grind to ensure it lasts a life time.
Saw- a small folding saw makes life so much easier in the woods. Not only is it more efficient but it’s kinder on the tree if you’recutting green wood. I use a Baco Laplander, they are around £15 and I have never had a problem with mine. They come in woodland green and black so I tie some orange Paracord on to mine so it’s easier to find should I drop it or place it down on the ground.
First Aid Kit– where my knife goes so does my “ouch pouch!” Often over looked, this should be one of the first things you pack. Mine contains plasters, cleaning wipes, Compeed blister plasters and the like. There are some good ones of the shelf you can buy but it will be cheaper to make one that suits your needs. The most important thing is you have one with you.
Tarp’- I use a light weight DD 3×3, which packs down really small and fits in to my day sack. I always take it with me in case of heavy rain and can be put up in a couple of minutes. I attach about 4 m of Paracord to each corner and then shank it up so it’s tidy and out of the way. Top Tip- take a stuff sack so you can keep the rest of your kit dry if putting a wet tarp away into your kit bag.
DC4– my little sharpening stone is a must take item. It is perfect for touching up my knife’s edge whilst in the woods. I really have not found anything else that does the job as well.
Billy Can– I use a 12cm Zebra Billy Can, with this I can cook in it and eat out it of but most importantly I can boil water for my brew, I don’t do well with out tea!
Fire Steel– my main way to start fires when I am out and about, I have used lots of fire steels in the past and with out a doubt the best one I have ever come across, and still use today, is the Light My Fire Army version. I have found that it just works the best out of every one I have tried. This is one bit of bushcraft kit I just want to work, it’s that simple.
Whistle– I always pack a whistle, it’s a simple thing but I won’t head out on a trip without one. It’s a great way of gaining attention should I find myself in an emergency situation and need to get help. My bushcraft kit always has a spare tucked away.
Tinder– just because you can find tinder in the wild, does not mean you should use it every time you need to light a fire. The UK is a small place so I don’t like to use up natural resources unnecessarily so I always carry some pre sourced tinder. Be it cotton wool or Birch bark, or a bit of fat wood, it’s just sensible to have some dry “go to” tinder all ready when you need it.
Brew Kit– last and by no means least, TEA, SUGAR and COFFEE MATE. I need tea to survive. I am part Zombie without a good brew in the morning!
Like I said at the start, this is my top 10 “never leave for a trip without” list. You will able to add to this, but the most important thing is to enjoy the wild places you visit and learn and have fun. Right, kettle has boiled, so I am off!
It isn’t just enough to have the right tools for bushcraft, looking after them is extremely important too. At times an axe can be more valuable than a knife, so it’s worth caring for it correctly.
You can easily protect your axe by oiling it after each use and making sure that you never put it away when it is wet.
Here are our simple tips for caring for your axe.
Avoid getting it wet
Some good quality axes have heads made of non-stainless steel. If the head gets wet and is allowed to stay damp for a while, it can quite easily rust and shorten the life of the axe. So it is best to avoid using soap and water to clean the axe, especially as this can also remove much of the oils and wax that you will be using to protect it.
The axe head
Sometimes bits of residue from chopped wood will be left on the bit of the axe and can be tricky to remove. So to clean it, all you need to do is take a knife and scrape off the debris.
Cleaning the head can be done with a good coat of Vaseline rubbed in then wiped off. This helps to remove the dirt without damaging the axe.
You can protect the axe head by using oil. Any oil will do. Gun oils are good for creating a dry finish on the axe head. Apply a thin layer of oil all over the metal of the axe head and then remove any excess with a cloth. Allow the oil to dry off as much as possible.
The axe handle
Most traditional-style axes are made of wood. To preserve and maintain the finish of the handle, you can apply a coat of boiled linseed oil now and again. Before using the oil, make sure the handle is clean, then apply boiled linseed oil to the handle with a rag or a small paint brush. Make sure you coat the top and bottom of the handle as this is often where water can get in.
Once the handle has been completely coated in the oil, take a cloth and remove the excess and leave the handle to dry. This process will provide a layer of protection to the axe. As you continue to add layers, you will build up a good, resilient layer of finish on the handle. The handle will eventually darken over time, but that isn’t a problem and won’t affect the axe’s use. To remove the dark colouring you can give it a light sanding, but make sure you oil and wax the handle afterwards.
Like with the head, you need to keep the handle away from moisture. If the handle is allowed to be wet then it will start to rot. But you also must make sure that the handle doesn’t dry out either, as this will cause the handle to shrink and could cause the head to become loose.
Your axe should be stored in a cool, dry place. Between 5 and 20 °C or 40-70 °F) is ideal. Not storing your axe properly or allowing your axe to get repeatedly wet, can cause the handle to loosen and result in the axe becoming unsafe.
If you take the time to properly look after your axe, then it will continue to stay in great condition and you will be able to enjoy many years’ worth of use from it.
To really get to grips with using your bushcraft axe, join our bushcraft axe skills and charcoal making weekend course, ideal for anyone who wants to become skilled with using an axe.
These days we tend to rely on using maps and technology to help us get around, but believe it or not, it is possible to find your way around without modern gizmos. It is a skill you can practice anywhere.
A compass can help you test out your natural navigation skills and is a useful back-up if you do get lost. Just make sure that the big red arrow is always pointing north.
Different types of natural navigation
By using a long stick, you can find your direction using the shadow cast from the sun. Place a straight stick about one metre long into the ground. The sun will now cast the shadow of the stick. Mark the end of the shadow and this becomes your west point. Wait 15 to 30 minutes and as the earth rotates around the sun, the shadow will move.
Mark the shadow again and this will become your east point. You will now have your east-west line. If you stand on your east-west line with west on your left and east on your right, you are looking north.
Tree and moss growth
Where trees tend to grow upwards towards the sunny south, moss prefers the cold damp north. Find a lone tree out in the open. It is generally thought that the side of the tree with the most growth indicates south. The north side will have less growth and what growth is there will be pushing upwards towards the sun.
You will be able to find your north-south line and once you know that you can then work out the east-west line. The more trees you find leaning towards the sun and the more moss patches hidden in the shade of the tree, the more chance you will have of finding a good indicator of north and south.
For this method, you need an analogue watch, which will act as a compass. If you are in the northern hemisphere, lay the watch flat and face up in your palm, making sure the face is parallel with the ground. Point the hour hand in the direction of the sun. It does not matter what the time is as long as it is accurate. Now all you need to do is divide the angle between the 12 o’clock mark and the hour hand. This will give you the south-north line. In the southern hemisphere, you will need to point the 12 o’clock mark at the sun rather than the hour hand. This will give you a north-south line.
For this method, all you need is a clear night sky and to be able to identify the Plough. The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper, consists of seven stars and looks like a large pan. It is part of the Ursa Major (Great Bear) constellation. Once you have identified the Plough, locate the last two stars that form the pan section (furthest away from the ‘handle’) and follow them upwards in a straight line by four times their own distance and you will have found the Polaris, or the North Star. The star sits directly over the North Pole, so if you walk towards it, then you are heading north.
This method only works with a crescent moon. Draw a straight line down from the top part of the crescent to the bottom point and follow that line to the horizon. Where you meet the horizon is south.
You can check whether you have got these methods right by using a compass, or the compass app on your phone. Once you have developed good navigation skills, you can confidently roam freely whilst enjoying the great outdoors.
When you are out in the woods, you cannot rely on there being toilets close enough for you to use. It is inevitable, especially when camping for at least a couple of days, that at some point you will have to go to the toilet in the woods.
Before you head out to the woods, if it is likely that you will need the toilet while you are there, consider your diet in the days running up to your camping trip. A diet rich in fibre and staying well hydrated for at least two days before you set off is recommended.
When you arrive at the campsite, think about where would be best for you to go to the toilet. Have a look around and when you find a suitable area, you might want to dig your hole now before it gets dark later on. You must make sure that the toilet site you choose is also a good distance from footpaths and water sources.
Going to the toilet
Weeing in the woods is quite straightforward. All you need to have to do is walk at least 20 steps from where you are camping and find a tree or bush to wee against or behind. If you intend to use a toilet site often, you might want to select an area further away from your camp.
Going to the toilet outdoors has now been made a little easier for women, thanks to the arrival of female urinals. They come in a variety of different shapes and styles and have become increasing popular with women for camping.
Pooing in the woods is a little more complex and often worries people. Some people think that it is really important to carry everything you brought into the woods, back out again with you, especially if the area is used by many people. In reality, this means bagging and storing poo until you get back to civilisation. This can be done with a combination of dog poo bags or nappy sacks and also good quality freezer bags which work well for this job too.
Some people prefer to take a trowel with them and dig a small but deep hole to relieve themselves into. Poo in the hole, then bury everything under a good layer of earth. However some people think that buried poo and toilet paper will decompose, so you might prefer to cover up the poo with a good thick clump of leaves when you have finished.
When you are all done, you can burn the dirty toilet paper with a gas lighter or some matches.
Leave no trace
As we always say, after you’ve been enjoying the great outdoors, always make sure you leave no trace that you have been there. The key thing to remember is that other people will no doubt be using the area that you have been using. So make sure the area is clear and any areas that you have used for toileting are clear of any poo or it has all been well covered.
Could you survive out in the woods without any gadgets? What would you do if your mobile phone or GPS stopped working?
An Australian outback survival expert claims that our dependence on gadgets is actually putting our lives in danger in remote areas and is urging a more back to basics approach to bushcraft.
Australian authorities have seen a significant increase in the number of people that end up stranded or lost in remote parts of the country. Bob Cooper, a bushcraft expert with decades of experience under his belt, says that we are too reliant on technology and as a result we are losing our bushcraft skills, along with our common sense. He points out that using GPS is great for when you are out in remote locations, but what if it stops working and your mobile phone is out of range?
Going out in the great outdoors without any gadgets is a real test of your bushcraft and survival skills. It means that you really have to understand the landscape, the environment where you are and to have the confidence to trust your own knowledge and instincts.
At Wildway Bushcraft we would always say that anyone taking part in any bushcraft activity must put safety first. That may mean that you still have those gadgets with you, but they are to only be used in an emergency. Your ability to stay fed and watered, warm, dry and to be able to safely move from one place to another, should not all be reliant on your gadgets and gizmos that could so easily go wrong. Electronic items are fragile and can easily become out of range, run out of charge or just simply break. They should only be there to complement your bushcraft skills, not replace them.
Western Australia Police has reported a significant rise in the cases of bushcrafters going missing. Last year they led around 230 searches for people that were lost. Police said that the most common situations people found themselves in were vehicles breaking down or stuck and then of course those people that simply got lost. The Australian authorities’ advice is for people to always stay with their vehicle if something goes wrong, carry water and an EPIRB – an emergency position indicating radio beacon, used to alert search and rescue services.
But bushcraft and survival experts like Bob say that the priority should be improving people’s skills to be able to survive on their own out in the bush. He says that it doesn’t need to be an ‘us versus nature’ approach, but instead, bushcraft experts should teach people to respect the environment and learn how to survive in it.
That’s what we do on our courses at Wildway Bushcraft. We teach key bushcraft skills to help you get the most from being out in the great outdoors safely. For more information about us and our courses, just get in touch.
As a rule knives and children don’t mix. But a knife is an important tool for bushcraft, so it is good to get children understanding the importance of how to handle a knife properly and safely from an early age.
If you are going to let your child use a knife for bushcraft, then they must be old enough to understand the responsibility that comes with handling a knife. They must know how to use it safely and be prepared to follow the instructions and ‘rules’ they are given. A knife is not a toy or an accessory, but a key bushcraft tool.
If children are well supervised and taught about knife safety, then there shouldn’t be many problems.
Choosing the right knife
- The knife should be well-made and robust. The handle should not be slippery but have a good grip and be well secured around the blade. The sheath must be strong and hold the knife securely.
- The best knife for practicing bushcraft is a simple fixed-blade knife with a sheath. This type of knife can be used for a range of different tasks and allow the user to make effective and controlled cuts.
- The knife should fit the size of their hand and the blade shouldn’t be any longer than the width of their palm, so they have good control over it.
Teaching knife safety to children
Spend time explaining the serious responsibility of handling a knife. Being able to handle and use a knife properly takes patience, dedication, and maturity.
- Give them clear instructions of what is acceptable and safe behaviour for using a knife.
- They must understand the dangers and how they can protect themselves from injury and know what to do if something happens. They should have their own first aid kit and know how to use it. A basic understanding of first aid and being able to treat a cut is essential.
- Always set a good example in front of your child. This includes not taking any risks, always use the right knife for the right job and always have your first aid kit with you.
- Teach them to be aware of their hands when cutting towards themselves or their gripping hand and not to move around when holding a knife.
- They must know never to point a knife at someone.
- If they need to pass a knife to someone else, teach them to do safely, by offering the other person the handle and keep all fingers away from the blade.
- They must always be focused when using the knife. If tired or distracted, put the knife away safely for another time.
Anyone using a knife, whatever their age, needs to understand the law on carrying knives and where they can use one.
Getting a child started with a knife
Encourage children to practice carving for short periods, to help them get used to handling the knife and to avoid blistering. You can get them started with a simple and practical task like making pegs.
Knife safety is one of many skills we teach on our Family Bushcraft Course. All the family can learn some great practical bushcraft skills which they can use when they are out in the woods. Get in touch to find out more.