Over the coming months I will be writing about many different topics here in this blog. Some will be developed into a series of posts on the same topic and others will be random musings on whatever is currently keeping me occupied that week. I am really trying to refrain from structuring and formalizing these into a progressive series of articles as this is how I would approach designing a course or how to’s; Take a subject, break it down into its elements, find a logical progression and design a fluid way to impart to students. I’m hoping this will be a more freeform space, to have a bit of fun with it all and just share some more of the things I get up to and ideas I have.
One thing I love doing is looking at all the various bits of kit and tools I use and trying to provide them for myself. When you go to areas of the world where primitive living skills are used on a daily basis, people don’t have fancy labels on their clothes and their knives don’t cost €300 - they work with what they’ve got. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with spending money on kit but I feel it’s what you do with your kit and not the kit that you have that’s important. Just because you have spent lots of cash doesn’t necessarily mean you can do things better. I also have seen many people over the years who felt they couldn’t get out bushcrafting or couldn’t do things well because they didn’t have the fancy gear, as well as people who thought they were the shiznit because they had spent a fortune on gear but had spent very little time learning how to use it properly. I would much rather be out in the woods in a tent from Lidl than sitting at home because I didn’t have €500 to get the Hilberg tent I saw rated in a YouTube video as a ‘must have’ piece of kit.
What I’m trying to say is if you’re starting out, or if you don’t have lots of money to spend on the latest kit all the time, don’t worry - just get out and enjoy yourself WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT! It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got a Custom handmade knife - a €16 Mora companion will work perfectly well. Start off slowly building your kit to your own requirements. Try things out over time. You will see what works for you and you will get a better understanding of where you are best putting your money, be it a nice axe or some good merino thermals etc. your own experience and interests will dictate to you what is important. As well as this you will gain a much better understanding of what works personally for you and your particular requirements.
Sometimes people rush out and spend €150 on a knife because it looks good or they heard a good review, but in practical terms it doesn’t suit them, and now they are stuck working with something that doesn’t do what they want it to do well. Or worse, they baby this precious tool that must forever stay pristine and never be marked, which means it will never be used properly and the poor tool leads a shallow existence, gets depressed and weeps because it never gets to fulfil its true destiny.
Personally I always look for the cheapest option possible, yes I am a cheapskate, but this also falls into my philosophy of ‘conservation of resources’. Now the cheapest option doesn’t necessarily mean the least expensive; you need to take into account the price against the expected life span of the product. Then this also needs to be weighed against what you intend putting the piece of kit through, as well as your wallet. Unfortunately just because something has a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a better product or do a better job. You can spend a lot extra on looks and labels, so it’s worth spending time learning about what provides the requirements you need fulfilled by that particular item. For example, a ¾ tang or rat tail tang knife might suffice perfectly well for general bushcrafting or say spoon carving, but if you plan on putting yourself in a situation that your life might depend on the quality of your knife, choosing anything less than a well built full tang knife would probably be unwise.
As I said I love making my own kit, one of my goals is to be able to provide whatever piece of kit I’m working on to a standard and quality as good as or better than the equivalent shop bought item. Now that might sound like a lofty goal, which it is and I don’t always achieve it, but it keeps me motivated and progressing forward. Take for example the video I did recently on how to make a wool hat. This is something I use daily this time of year and I’m more than happy with their performance in all conditions. It’s also a simple piece of kit that can be achieved by anyone. And using something you have made for yourself on a daily basis brings a nice warming sense of satisfaction.
Now when I started, I began by looking at what I wanted to provide, a hat. How is it made? Knitting. How is this done? Needles, crochet, ahhhh loom knitting, nice and easy gives great results. Ok, how do I make the loom? Done, now what’s the hat made of? Wool, right, get wool, oh wools pricey how can I make it? Spinning, hmmm how does that work? Right we have drop spindles, kick spindles and spinning wheels. How do I make these and where do I get fleece from so I can learn to spin? Oooohhh sheeeep right, they’re tasty mmmmmm, I wonder are they hard to keep? Now I’ve just arrived at farming and homesteading as I’m not really into becoming a nomadic Shepherd at the minute. I haven’t got as far as a nice wee flock of Jacob’s just yet, but don’t be surprised if you see photos popping up at some stage. This brings back up my point from my last blog post of removing or blurring what is perceived as the boundaries of bushcraft, for me it’s about following where my heart leads and what inspires me.
In its essence bushcraft speaks of being self-reliant so learning to provide these Items for yourself develops another layer of independence for you and brings you more in tune with and aware of the environment you live in and the life you live in it.