Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why Bushcraft? My journey so far...

"Knowledge is the key to survival and the best thing about that is; it doesn't weigh anything." -Ray Mears

Being a that I am from Canada, it might not be such a surprise to see me take an interest in the outdoors . Canada has one of the largest expanses of uninterrupted wild forests in the world, and the country was literally born out of the trade of furs. The Boreal forest blankets the country all the way from Newfoundland to British Columbia, and even with all of this, my exposure to the bush really is only limited to the past few years.

The truth is, I've lived in an urban environment all my life. Growing up I was exposed to stories about the rugged Canadian wilderness and the romance of it all was intoxicating. I read the book "Lost in the barrens" when I was 10, and it made me want to explore the wilds. I never had the opportunity and didn't really know where to start; no one in my family had any experience outdoors.

I put it out of my mind. I mean, I didn't even know where to begin. It wasn't until years later that I stumbled onto a TV show where an unshaven Canadian with a dirty bandanna on his head demonstrated to viewers at home how to survive 7 days with nothing but the items in his pockets.

Doesn't sleep in hotels, or drink his own urine

All of a sudden the wilderness seemed romantic again. "I want to do that" I naively thought to myself! Ok, maybe not exactly like that, but I knew that I had pushed off wilderness survival long enough. So how do you break into something like that? Where do you start? I mean, I didn't even know how to start a proper fire WITH a lighter! And so I turned to what I could read, or view demonstrations on the internet. Do a search on survival and you'll find thousands of hits, so to say that the information out there is extensive is an understatement. Most novice people always start out at the same place-

"if I get lost in the woods, how will I get food?"

and naturally, the typical newbie answer is to hunt game. Regardless of the fact that food is the last thing on the priority list, and that hunting is a skill that takes years to perfect it always seems to be that people want to learn how to make a bow and arrow, and I was the same. While looking for examples of how to make a survival bow I came across a fellow who did a very good job of explaining himself. Moreover, he had a lot of videos of explaining all facets of survival.

This guy can hunt deer if he needed to. You probably can't.

One message that he kept emphasizing was that these "self reliance" skills weren't something that you could learn for watching. Sounds obvious, but when people become overwhelmed they tend to shield themselves a false sense of security where they feel like they've seen it enough that they don't need to try it out to know they can do it when they need to. Real life doesn't work that way I'm afraid, and I was guilty of that myself. This new guy encouraged people to go out and try things, even if they didn't work. In failing, you'll learn how to do things the right way and you'll be doing so in a controlled environment where you life wasn't at risk (in many ways a good lesson to take into other aspects of life).

The thing with learning something like this, is that it's a journey. Every time you learn something, you learn that there are 100 more things you don't know. As a result my interest, which started in camping, grew to survival, which grew into how to sustain myself if I needed to in the bush. Running it's natural course has led me to where I am now, which is learning bushcraft skills. Ray Mears puts it best I think, when he says

"Bushcraft is what you carry in your mind and your muscles."

Which I think is a very elegant way of summing it up.


  1. That second pic looks cool. Very green (y).

  2. You've got so much passion for bushcraft, it's like you wrote a sonnet to it.

    I espeically agree with your last paragraph about learning. Everyone should have a hobby, or something that they're learning, as part of their life "journey".