I get tremendous personal satisfaction from learning, practicing, and using my outdoor skills when I go hiking, and it’s become an integral part of every day hike or backpacking trip I take. But there are so many outdoor skills that I am unfamiliar with covered in Mors Kochanski’s classic “Bushcraft”, that I could easily spend the rest of my life becoming proficient in them.
Who the heck is Mors Kochanski, you’re wondering? Considered by many to be a grandmaster of wilderness survival and primitive skills, Mors Kochanski is credited with popularizing the term ‘bushcraft’ and coining the phrase “the more you know, the less you carry.”
If you mainly hike well blazed trails, you may never need any of the skills described in Kochanski’s Bushcraft. But if you hike, canoe, ski, camp, fish or hunt in less-traveled areas, where self-sufficiency is the rule, you’ll immediately see why the skills covered in this book are so valuable.
Covering firecraft, axecraft, knifecraft, sawcraft, bindcraft, and sheltercraft, Kochanski provides a wealth of information and rich illustrations about each technique along with a variety of applications that you can practice on your own. There are also three chapters that cover the major tree species of the Northern Canadian Forest (birches, conifers, and willows) that illustrate many applications that they can be used from basket making to homeopathic medicines.
For example, I learned more about axes, their design, use, maintenance, safety precautions and tree felling in one chapter of Bushcraft, than the combined knowledge about them that I’ve gleaned from other sources. Having read it, I also now realize how dangerous an axe is in untrained hands and the need for hands-on instruction.
The same holds for firecraft, even though I’m no slouch in that department. For example, I learned how to construct a parallel firelay, which is a fire that will burn all night, and keep you warm from head to toe. Instead of a teepee or pyramid style fire, you cut two bigger logs, about head-height, and stack them on top of one another, lengthwise and parallel to the wind, to keep the smoke from blowing out at you. Once lit, you lay down lengthwise next to the fire and it will keep you warm while you sleep. While I wouldn’t use a fire like this except in an emergency, it does help eliminate the need to feed a fire all night because it’s intended to be slow burning.
Mors Kochanski’s Bushcraft is chock full of useful techniques like this and a gold mine for anyone interested in acquiring more backcountry skills. I’ve already reread my copy several times and plan to reference it for years to come.
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased this book with his own funds.