What does bushcraft mean to you? For me, it’s pretty simple. Trim the fat, all the Gucci gear and roll with just the basics for survival. When you talk basics, you know you have to cover your shelter, fire, water and food. That’s it, anything more in regards to gear is not essential.
When you cut out all the nice to have items, one is then forced to improvise and use what they can from their surrounding environment. Instead of carrying tent stakes, you can make your own. In place of paracord, you can make cordage from plants such as the cattail or the dogbane. Even water filters can be made from a mix of gravel, sand and charcoal.
The main goal is to build a solid foundation of knowledge, learning what nature can give back to you. Of course you can take that concept to the extreme and find yourself naked on TV with just a bag and a knife, wandering the plains in Africa. Even at that point, people can still survive, it’s just not a pretty picture.
I like to figure that my baseline gear gives me a few extras over the people on Naked and Afraid, without getting too comfortable. The idea of bushcraft isn’t exactly rocket science, by the time you look at your gear and take out all redundancy, you’ll end up with just the basics.
It’s the K.I.S.S concept in action, so keeping that in mind, let’s talk about the pack. The first thing you might do is jump on Google and search for bushcraft pack or some similar term. Odds are you’ll find prices ranging from $75 and up to $200 and beyond for a pack.
It’s been proven by multiple studies that if you put the word bushcraft in front of any product, it instantly increases in value. Since the pack is usually one of the most expensive purchases, let’s forget about bushcraft for a minute and think about cheap, reliable and simple. The Russians cornered that market back in 1947. Along with the AK-47, the Russians also issued the Veshmeshok, which is basically a large bag with a pocket on it. There are two straps on the back that wrap around the top of the pack to keep it closed by it’s own weight. It’s simple and effective. The material is tough and there are two compression straps on each side. Everything you need in a pack and nothing more.
Arguably the best feature of the Veshmeshok is the price, last time I checked, they go for around $25 shipped from Europe, even cheaper if you can find them stateside.
Next key purchase is the knife. You can go low on the price and get a basic Morakniv which is going to be a good fit for any tasks in the field. I decided to go with a larger blade in the Ontario RAT-5. Aside from the finish chipping on the blade, it’s a great knife for the price, retailing at about $75 shipped.
Of course you need shelter unless you want to go full on primitive and make your own. I like to have the option, so the third addition is a Vietnam issue poncho. It’s made of a thick nylon twill and is large enough to serve as a shelter or drop clothe. Price typically ranges from $25-$40 depending on quality.
Hydration is an obvious concern so I carry an old WWII issue stainless steel canteen and cup. When I need to boil water, it’s as easy as setting the canteen next to the fire and waiting for about 5 minutes. That’s the biggest advantage from using stainless steel over plastic canteens. I admit I cheated a little and threw in some Aquamira Water Purification tabs in case I don’t feel like making a fire just to boil water. They take up literally no space in the pack so why not?
When it comes to food, there’s still a fair amount of wild edibles in my area, but since I do enjoy a hot meal, I added a two serving packet of Wise Foods Chili Mac.
Finally, I throw in my poncho liner for a blanket, a spoon, a folding saw, extra skivvy shirt and a pair of socks.
Total weight for all these items is just under 20lbs. Compared to my typical gear loadout, it feels like nothing. Going lightweight means I can move easier through the forest and much quieter, just another advantage to consider.
What’s the Price?
If you don’t concern yourself with looking for “bushcraft” tagged products, you’ll find some good deals. The total cost for me was about $150 since I was able to get some of it used or free. Odds are, you probably have the majority of this covered already, grab what you don’t have from the links below:
SS Canteen & Cup: http://amzn.to/1Fack3a
Aquamira Water Tabs: http://amzn.to/1LEe5dD
Ontario RAT-5: http://amzn.to/1FacQhv
Silky Pocket Boy: http://amzn.to/1Jv0HYp
CRKT Eat N Tool: http://amzn.to/1X34yTE
Of course you can save on money and get a Bahco Laplander for less $20 or swap out the poncho for larger shelter setup like the Polish Lavvru or Russian Palatka. Both the Lavvu and Palatka are very versatile pieces of kit, quick and easy to setup and durable as hell. This video shows the classic tepee configuration for the Lavvu and some more info on the pros/cons of the poncho/shelter half.
You can pick up either the Lavvu or Palatka for about $30, the only downside is going to be the extra weight, but it’s worth it for the winter season.
Polish Lavvu Poncho Shelter – An Overview
Soviet Plash Palatka – Overview & Setup
There’s lots of ways to configure a bare bones kit. Some of it depends on your budget, some on the season and the rest depends on your style.
Either way you go, keeping your gear slim is going to be a great chance to learn and use the natural resources around you. I like to focus on one skillset each time I go out, such as making my own cordage, feather sticks or other survival specific skills.
Here’s a short list of skills you can work on next time you head out to the forest.
DIY Water Filter: http://ultimatesurvivaltips.com/diy-portable-water-filter/
Survival Cordage: http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/cordage/men79/index.html