A lot of us pride ourselves on having a lightweight backpacking gear list coupled and the advanced hiking skills that make it possible to replace extra gear with experience and know how.
But how far are you willing to push the gear vs. know-how trade-off? Would you be willing to bring a lightweight saw and more robust knife on your backcountry trips if it meant you could leave even more gear at home and make what you need to survive in the field instead?
It’s an intriguing question, certainly, but I think it comes down to your priorities and the environmental conditions you are likely to face on your journey. If you’re more interested in hiking high mileage days along a well-developed hiking trails,you’ll probably opt to carry more high-tech, ultralight backpacking gear so you can maximize the time you spend hiking. But for longer extended journeys, especially those off-the-grid in wilderness areas that have no hiking trail infrastructure, it may make sense to carry less and make what you need without carrying it in with you.
If you’ve ever considered trying to push the self-sufficiency envelope and pick up a few bushcraft skills or you are curious about what the bushcrafting craze is all about, I recommend you pick up a copy of Dave Canterbury’s Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival. It provides a surprisingly readable tour of the fundamental tools and skills used in bushcraft, including the best overview of knife grinds (shapes), what they’re good for, and knife safety I’ve ever read anywhere.
Gearing Up and In the Bush
Bushcraft 101 is segmented into two parts:
- “Gearing up” for bushcrafting,which explains the tools one carries into the field and how to create and manufacture more with them such as packs, shelters, cooking systems, cordage, and firestarters.
- “In the bush” skills that bushcrafters (and any other outdoors-person) should probably learn, from campsite selection and off-trail navigation techniques to fishing, trapping, and basic food processing techniques
The distinction between these two bodies of knowledge is very useful because anyone can benefit from the bushcraft skills that Canterbury describes, even ultralight backpackers who opt to carry in high-tech tools rather than making their own from trees and other local resources.
If you’re at all interested in off-trail or wilderness travel, Canterbury’s Bushcraft 101 provides an excellent introduction to the breadth of bushcraft skills you can teach yourself or seek expert instruction on. Who knows, maybe it will even help you lighten your gear list.
Disclosure: Philip Werner received a free reviewer’s copy of Bushcraft 101 and enjoyed reading it.
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