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.

Storage

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

Shadow stick

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.

Watch method

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.

Night navigation

Stars

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.

Moon

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.

Come and join us for an adventure out in the woods on our of our bushcraft courses. Visit our courses page for more details or get in touch.

 

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.

Preparation

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.

 

Learn more bushcraft skills on our weekend
bushcraft course. 

Click here to learn more and book your space.

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.

Family Bushcraft CourseKnife 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.

 

Learn more about knife safety, children and bushcraft by joining our
family bushcraft course.
Click here to learn more

It’s half-term coming up and there are lots of fantastic bushcraft activities the children can get stuck into, come rain or shine. Here are just a few ideas:

Build a campfire

Fire is a key component in bushcraft and survival. It keeps you warm, provides light and you can cook your food over it. But a campfire is Firealso a great way of getting people together and enjoying each other’s company without ‘modern’ distractions. With a little preparation, lighting a fire is simple. While the actual fire lighting should be left to an adult, children can enjoy helping to gather all the materials.

Build a shelter

Children always enjoying building a den. Working together and using a little imagination, you can together create a lovely natural shelter that will keep you warm and dry. You don’t even need to venture out into the woods to do this. You can always build a shelter in your back garden. Once built, where better to play games, eat a meal and just enjoy being outside.

Foraging

It is simply amazing what delicious things you can find to eat outdoors. Foraging is a great activity for all the family and can be extremely rewarding. By law, you are allowed to forage for fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi. You can do this anywhere, but you must have the right or permission to be on the land.

Things to forage:

  • Nettles
  • Dandelion
  • Wood sorrel
  • Elderflower
  • Blackberries
  • Plantain
  • Ramsons
  • Mushrooms

One of the most important rules with foraging, is if you aren’t 100 per cent sure what it is, then DO NOT eat it. If in doubt, leave it out.

Cooking in the great outdoors

There is something extra special about preparing and eating food outdoors. The fresh air and woodsmoke seem to add a wonderful extra flavour to the dish and it is a great way of getting everyone to work together. Cooking over a fire is pretty easy and there are so many tasty and fun things you can cook, including:pot

  • Marshmallows
  • Twist bread
  • Popcorn
  • Stews and soups
  • Steak

Animal tracking

Animal tracking uses footprints, trails, feathers, kills, scratching posts, drag marks, smells, and behaviour exhibited by other animals, to identify an animal. It’s a great way to learn more about the landscape and sharpen the senses. Have a go trying to track some deer, badgers, wild rabbits or even wild boar.

Natural navigation

You can practice this anywhere. Use the sun, a shadow stick, tree and moss growth or the watch method to help you. A compass is a great tool to help you experiment with natural navigation and easy to use. Just remember that the big red arrow always points north.

Simple carving

There is something quite wonderful about spending time outdoors making something beautiful and practical that will last a long time. For children it is just as satisfying and carving a tent peg, is a great way to get them started with using a knife. As their confidence and skills grow, they can move on to making a pot hanger, spoon or even a cup. Children should of course only use sharp tools under supervision, and it is important that they understand how to use a knife safely before they get started.

Important to remember

  • Knife law: Whatever bushcraft fun you have planned for the half term, it’s important that you know the law on carrying and using knives.
  • Leave no trace: Once you have finished your activities it is essential that you leave no trace that you have ever been to that area. The key essence of Bushcraft is respecting the environment and other people that may also use that area.

For more family bushcraft fun, sign up to our next Family Bushcraft course which the whole bushcraft a family guidefamily can enjoy. You can also get your hands on a copy of  Bushcraft: A Family Guide, a fantastic resource full of ideas and guides on how to enjoy the great outdoors with your friends and family. Get your copy from Amazon and all good book shops.

Being able to safely use a knife for bushcraft and survival tasks is absolutely essential. Even if you are an experienced knife user, you must never become complacent with using a knife. Here are our tips for using a knife safely for bushcraft.

Keep it sharp

A safe knife is a sharp knife. It will always cut as you expect and won’t need excessive pressure.

Always keep the knife in its sheath

Whenever your knife is not being used, return it to the sheath, it is the safest place for it. Don’t ever just leave it out somewhere, even for a brief moment.

Taking a knife out of its sheath

You can easily cut yourself just by removing a knife from its sheath, so it’s important to keep fingers away from the sharp edge. When it isn’t attached to you, pull gently on it and then remove the sheath from the knife. If the knife is attached to you, then pull on the knife gently and pull it out slowly.

Make some space

Always ensure there is plenty of space around you when you are using a knife. If there are people in close proximity to you, then ask them to move back or find a new location. You must never try to use your knife in badly lit, confined or awkward spaces.

Using the knife

  1. Always concentrate on what you are doing. Cuts often happen because of a lack of concentration or distractions. If it isn’t the right time, put the knife away until it is.
  2. Hold the knife securely in full-hand grip, with your fingers safely away from the edge. Always cut away from your body and be aware of where your free hand is and be careful you don’t cut towards it.
  3. Even if your knife is sharp, only shave off small amounts with every cut. Trying to remove too much will mean you need to use excess force and reduces your control.
  4. Keep your elbows on your knees, especially while carving sitting down. This stops the knife from getting too close to your leg.

Passing it to another person

When handing a knife to someone else, always do so with great care. Using the forehand grip, swivel it in your hand and let the other person take the knife by the handle. Always be careful to keep your fingers out of the way as you hand over the knife. Make sure the point and sharp edge is away from both hands.

First aid kit

If you regularly use a knife, then there is a good chance that you may end up giving yourself the occasional nick. Always have a first aid kit with you, just in case.

See you in the woods

You can improve your knife skills at one of our bushcraft courses this year. Get in touch to find out more. We hope to see you out in the woods with us very soon.

 

Learn more bushcraft skills on our weekend
bushcraft course. 

Click here to learn more and book your space.

Animal tracking is a fascinating way to study wildlife and a great bushcraft and survival skill. It can be done out on in your local woods or even on the pavement. Along with other signs, tracking can give a better understanding of the animal who has left the track and also the wider landscape.

What is animal tracking?

Tracking uses footprints, trails, feathers, kills, scratching posts, drag marks, smells, habitat cues and the behaviour exhibited by other animals in the area, to identify the animal. It is possible to discern these clues and recreate what happened and make predictions about the animal. You can predict the current location of the animal and follow their trail to where they are.

Understanding wildlife

Before you begin tracking, you need to spend time closely observing the wildlife. Watch how certain animals respond to their environment, how they move and deal with obstacles. When tracking animals, you need to be able to picture how the animal was moving around. Knowledge of the landscape and animal behaviour allows you to predict the animal’s movements and can save valuable time.

Reading signs and tracks

A footprint does not just reveal the identity of the animal that made it, but the details and position of it can also tell you the speed of the animal and even its intentions. You may find that you only have partial tracks to follow, or even just very small hints that the animal was there. But in some places, you will find clear footprints that will allow you to identify the species and even the age and sex. The longer you follow a trail, the more detail you can discover.

Droppings

A key skill when animal tracking is being able to interpret droppings. You need to consider the colour, shape, smell texture and location. Don’t be precious about animal poo. Pick it up and study it, it hides many useful clues.

  • Deer – The droppings of female fallow deer have a rounded base, but it is indented in males.
  • Otter – These often contain fish bones and can be watery with a musky sweet smell. You might find them on rocks near water or on riverbanks.
  • Fox – Along with containing rabbit and rodent hair, the colour of fox droppings often reflects their diet. During the summer it will be whitish-grey when their diet is full of calcium from bones.
  • Hedgehog – These are often found on garden lawns and are black and shiny.

Animals to track

Deer show where they have been sleeping by the depressions left in leaves on the forest floor, often under trees. Deer hair is very brittle and the animals moult between their winter and summer coats so you will be able to find some if you look carefully enough.

Badgers often leave their long, strong hair on wire fences where it has been snagged. Badgers leave a wide trail of footprints behind them that are very distinctive, thanks to their long claws on the front feet.

Wild boar walk with their weight on their heels, so their dewclaws touch the ground and leave distinctive prints. Look for signs of them at muddy wallows and disturbed areas where they have been looking for buried food.

Animal tracking takes a lot of patience, determination and a passion for the great outdoors. It is a great way to sharpen your senses. To learn more about animal tracking and other bushcraft and survival skills, join us on one of our courses or get in touch.

After the harshness of winter, spring provides a welcome change. Nature suddenly burst into life with lots of animal activity and plant growth, so there is no better time to be outside. If your bushcraft kit has been gathering dust over winter, get yourself back out into the woods. Enjoy the start of this new season, by practicing some basic bushcraft skills to get yourself ready for the year. Practice putting up a tent or tarp, see what plants and trees you can identify, test out your axe skills, or do some foraging.

Flowers are in bloom and leaves are spreading. It is the perfect time to explore and gather some of nature’s bounty. Many wild edible spring plants have restorative properties and nutrients, often so welcomed after the sluggishness of winter. We teach about foraging on our Wildway Bushcraft courses and how to gather, prepare and cook the food you find.

If you venture out in early spring time, you may find the pickings to be slim. But as the shoots start to appear, there are some spring greens you can collect. Be warned though, some early spring plants contain toxins. Snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells contain poisonous substances. It is important to make sure you can always positively identify any plant that you are planning to eat. If you are at all unsure, just leave it well alone – it’s not worth the risk.

An important rule of foraging is to only take what you need. The area might be bursting with bounty, but you do not need to take it all. Be careful not to damage the rest of the plant or the surrounding area while you are gathering.

Just a few things you could forage this spring include:

Stinging nettles

These have heart-shaped and jagged leaves. The leaves and stems are covered with stinging hairs. The nettles can be found on waste ground and in woodland and are tasty and very nutritious. Using gloves, pick the top four to six leaves of the young plant up to around June. Cook them in boiling water, drain and squeeze well before chopping. They can be used similar to spinach in curries and stews. Try them in omelettes, risotto, pies and even on pizza.

Primoses

A pretty flower that can be used as an attractive garnish for salad. The flowers can be used raw, with the leaves fried in oil until crisp.

Dandelions

These can be found pretty much everywhere. Wear gloves to avoid getting stained hands, as they contain a milky sap when they are cut. Dandelion leaves are quite bitter, and taste rather like chicory. Very young, spring leaves are less bitter. They can be used like salad leaves or spinach. You can even make tasty fritters with the flower buds, you just need to coat them in a light batter before frying.

Before you prepare and cook anything you forage, make sure you check for bugs that may be hiding in plants and flowers.

You can find out more about all things bushcraft by joining us on our bushcraft courses. We hope to see you out in the woods very soon.

One of the most important skills of bushcraft, is to leave no trace that you have ever been to that area after you’ve left. Bushcraft is about respecting the environment and others that use the area. Leaving no trace is key to being a responsible bushcrafter.

The importance of leaving no trace

If you have a camp fire, you should make sure that the area is left safe, clean and as you would hope to find it.You need to make sure that the camp fire site is safe from fire before you leave. Make sure the fire is completely out and dead by thoroughly dousing the site with water. We recommend you choose a site that is quite close to water, or you take extra water with you. You will need quite a lot to ensure the ground is cooled down enough and safe to leave.

If you choose to set up your fire at a site where there is already an established fire circle, you still should not leave it with inflammable rubbish and burned logs. Even if the site has not been tidied before you, you should make sure that all traces of your fire have gone.

Along with clearing away all remnants of the fire, you must also take away everything you used in cooking, like packaging, foil and tin cans.

Here are some important ‘no trace’ rules to remember when you are out bushcrafting:

Plan ahead 

  • Consider what type of fuel and how much you will need – it will primarily be used for cooking and keeping warm.
  • How long will you be camping for? You may want to practice judging your fuel so there are only ashes left by the time you finish your camp.
  • Will you be camping near a water source? You may choose to take water with you, but you need to make sure you pack enough and remember you will have to carry it to the site.

Shelter

Natural shelters should only be built using dead material, to avoiding making any impact to the local area. Before you leave, remove all of your shelter and take it away with you. Leaving a shelter up spoils the area and could also be dangerous for the local wildlife and future visitors. Using a tarp or a tent is a much better option.

 Take all rubbish with you

When you have finished, pack away all your rubbish and debris and dispose of it away from the site. As you leave the site for the last time, look back and give the whole area another look around. It’s always worth checking a final time to make sure you haven’t left anything.

Bushcraft is all about respecting the environment and wildlife, while enjoying the great outdoors. If you join us on one of our Wildway Bushcraft courses, we will show you how it is possible to enjoy bushcraft without impacting on the local environment. To find out more about us and our courses, just get in touch.