Backcountry Lessons: Edition 1

Backcountry Lessons: Edition 1

Recently, I was tapped by a friend on our Instagram feed to elaborate on #3bushskills that I’ve learned over the last few years. I thought about it a bit, and finally decided on three things that are of great importance while traversing pretty much any terrain in the World. Not all may be atypically associated with the idea of “bushcraft”, but they are definitely three things that I have come to value for their importance while in the backcountry. They have also been learned by me through experience (sometimes without mercy.)

I’m hoping to make this a multi-part entry, as there is still so much to be learned and outdoor skills can’t possibly be summed-up into only three sub-categories.

FIRECRAFT:

Birch BarkChoosing and using the right materials for making fire. Found, natural items like birch bark, pine resin, dry tinder and locating dry wood have all been pushed up the ladder of importance. It’s now second “nature” when hiking to a basecamp to gather along the trail in preparation of firecraft at camp. I’ve also graduated from lighting fires with lighters and matches to using a firesteel exclusively with the natural materials listed above.

Next step; learn about/practice friction fire.

PROPER KNIFE/AXE USE:

Choose a good quality axe and/or knife and keep it sharp.

No one wants a preventable emergency or “accident” to occur when situated remotely. I’ve taken great care in ensuring the safe handling of my knife and axe and make sure everyone in my camp is just as cautious. From chopping wood when you’re tired, to wet hands slipping on a blade; bad things can happen when you’re not situationally aware. In addition, a sharp knife or axe is a safe one. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you. Everything is a lot easier when your tools are on good working order.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLOTHING:

Fjallraven Vidda Pro TrousersThis doesn’t get a lot of emphasis by most, but it’s the most important aspect of survival next to food, water and fire. Considered your first layer of defence against the elements, this is even more important than shelter. It IS your ‘base shelter’. Proper clothing in the bush can mean the difference between being miserable and even ill, or being comfortable, warm and dry. It can be made of animal hide or the most technical synthetic fabric, but your clothing needs to be able to withstand the elements, keeping you dry, warm and properly insulated.

Layering (and removing layers when physically exerting yourself), is also key in the backcountry. Never underestimate the importance of keeping yourself dry – especially during rains or colder temperatures. Staying cool in the warmer months is also very important, and clothing/shelter is your first ally. Another note on clothing, is to keep your hands protected while doing bushcraft tasks. I’ve seen too many friends injured or debilitated (and even made mistakes myself) to not go into the bush without a good pair of leather or protective synthetic gloves.

We also suggest socks (preferably a merino wool) and good waterproof or water-resistant boots are also key. Try to avoid Gore-Tex as nothing stays waterproof forever and if it does get wet, you’ll have a very difficult time drying that material out.

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