When it comes to bushcraft, two things can be said for sure – all beginners ask a lot of questions like: what kind of bushcraft knife? What bushcraft shoes? What hammock for bushcraft? However, all recognized authorities say: the more you know, the less you carry.
Who’s got right? Probably true is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps those who say that it is supposed to be comfortable above all are right. And we must also take into account the realities in which we operate, e.g. in Polish forests, the law prohibits burning fire. That is why the bushcraft toolkit must contain everything that is needed to build a shelter.
Below you will find a list of items that will allow you to start your adventure with bushcraft. I do not list brands and models from one simple reason: there is no universal equipment that is good for everyone. Everyone has their own financial possibilities and requirements.
Going to the forest, for a walk or a night sleeping, you must have appropriate clothing, adapted to the weather conditions. There is nothing more unpleasant than freezing at night or in the morning. Bushcraft clothing must be comfortable and functional. However, they do not have to be top-shelf gore-tex in fancy camouflage. Many bushcraft enthusiasts appreciate the simplicity or even old-fashionedness, a return to the good old days, when you went camping with a blanket and a palaka (e.g. polish lavvu), and you had a sweater and a windbreaker on your back. And you know – long pants protect against ticks better than short ones.
Bushcraft boots seem to be extremely crucial, even fundamental. When choosing boots, it may be helpful to answer the question: what weather conditions do you want to be ready for? If you do not plan to camp in the rain or winter, you do not plan to travel long distances, maybe you don’t really need very fancy footwear. Sometimes it is more fun to be a bit under-prepared than over-prepared. There is one Australian who goes camping in flip-flops. Certainly people look at him with more admiration than at tactical commandos running through Polish forests in GSG9.
On the one hand, it is known – nobody will forbid the rich. On the other – if the lack of appropriate footwear is to be an excuse, it is probably better to wear sneakers?
You can say a lot about the backpack. Of course, it is known that the more compartments, fastening tapes, modules etc. it has. the better. I personally use a 100 liter duffle bag and I am not complaining.
The most controversial thing, for some incomprehensible reason, evoking the most emotions. There is a Swedish company on the “M” that makes decent, cheap knives that work great for recreational bushcraft. For some reason, there are also a lot of people who think that if bushcraft is your passion, you shouldn’t save money on it. Or something like that. I will leave this issue for personal consideration.
Most people who start their adventure with bushcraft think they need a knife that will be universal, good for everything. Statistically, the activity for which a knife is most often used on a camping site is probably slicing onions. And it is very bad to do this with a knife with too thick, massive blade. The best knives, custom made by exquisite knife cutters, often resemble the most ordinary cookers. This should be food for thought.
Folding knife or fixed?
It is commonly believed that a better knife for bushcraft use will be the one with a fixed blade preferably the full-tang. This means that the blade and the core hidden in the handle are one solid piece of metal. A blade that ends after 2 centimeters of the handle or a tang that narrows (a rat’s tail, often used, for example, in Mora knives), may break when carrying out heavy work.
Most of the camp work, which most often comes down to kitchen activities, does not require very high endurance. You can successfully use a simple pocket knife or a classic Opinel knife.
Grinding and blade profile
For typical camp (kitchen) applications, knives similar to traditional kitchen knives will be best. Although due to the great popularity of the Mora and other Scandinavian knives, you can often see the Scandinavian cut at camping. It is a high grind that allows the cutting edge to be kept in good condition for a long time, and at the same time helps to maintain the correct sharpening angle.
Other types of blades, e.g. tanto, will only depend on our fantasy.
The choice of steel determines how the knife will behave, how long it will be usable, and how much work will be put into bringing it to good condition. Steel, which should be rather avoided, is steel described as stainless steel, i.e. an undefined stainless steel. There is nothing wrong with stainless steel, but the Inox steel used by Victorinox will certainly be a row higher than the anonymous Chinese stainless steel – we know it for sure.
The more noble ones will perform better: 440A, B or C, 8Cr13MoV, 154 CM, S30V or S60V. In addition, there are tool steels (eg D2) and carbon steels (they rust without proper maintenance). Additionally, there are laminates on the market containing more than one type of steel, eg San Mai III or Damascus steel.
For most users who use knives for camping tasks, a slightly more noble stainless steel will be quite sufficient. For the more advanced who know how to care for a knife, carbon steel can be an interesting option.
Carbon steel knife and maintenance
A carbon steel knife, unlike a stainless steel knife, it will rust. Of course, this will only happen if we don’t care for it properly. The greatest enemy of carbon steel is moisture, so the key to keeping the knife in good condition is: cleaning the knife after each wet use (wiping it dry) and making sure that there is no moisture in the sheath (do not insert a wet knife into the scabbard).
It is also worth monitoring where this knife is kept, when it is not used, e.g. in a car, it can get wet. It is also worthwhile to grease it with oil during sharpening or once in a while (if you use a knife for culinary purposes, then with ordinary cooking oil).
Despite these grooming treatments, carbon steel knives can catch discoloration. That’s their charm. What we get is a cutting edge, which in theory keeps the sharpness longer, and at the same time it is easier to bring this edge to a state of satisfactory sharpness.
People are very often looking for a saw or axe for bushcraft. This is perfectly understandable. In many countries, these tools are used to cut firewood. In Poland – let me remind you – you cannot smoke fire. You can’t even get wood from the forest. And even if you decide to illegally light a small fire inside a wood-burning stove (even that is not allowed), there are sticks that can be broken with your hands.
There are iconic saws and there are iconic hatchets. If someone likes to swing heavy equipment unnecessarily, that’s not for me to judge.
As I mentioned before, if you want to spend the night in the forest, in Polish conditions, you should rather have the equipment for one of the following configurations.
Hammock + tarp
The hammock + tarp configuration is very nice because it is light, mobile and offers a lot of possibilities when it comes to setting up. You can spend little or a lot of money to buy this setup. Of course, the question of convenience is not insignificant. And here it is worth spending some time on it – it’s hard to sleep in a hammock if we make mistakes. One of them is the lack of insulation under your back. Even in summer, it can be cold in a hammock, as we cling to the canvas with all our weight, pumping out the air from it, thus completely shedding the insulation. The sleeping mat is the basis.
The tarp can also be used in a ground configuration, with the den on the ground.
Today, technology has made great progress. You can buy really small, compact, lightweight single tents that are super comfortable. They eliminate the negative factor such as vermin, mosquitoes etc. A tent made of tarp or sticks – this is a place worthy of a real man!
A thing more and more difficult to access and more and more expensive, because the whole world pounced on it. At the same time, I heard that no one has ever slept well under the palatka before. Palatka it is definitely a solution that is worth considering.
Due to the fact that in Polish forests you cannot make fire, if you want to camp in accordance with the law, we only have a few options: do not cook, use flameless heaters or camp in zones designated under the program “Stay in the forest” of the Polish State Forests, in which the use of gas stoves is allowed. A small gas stove will solve most of your problems. In recent years, extremely cheap butane cookers have made a sensation.
You can’t go without it. Some people can’t camp without a kuksa. In fact, it can be any mug, although steel is better than, for example, porcelain, because the latter may break. And we will be without a cup.
It’s fun to have a water filter and drink river or lake water. But a bottle of water is enough for a one-day camping. Or couple of beers.
Certainly, you can take many more things with you, such as an oil lamp (illegal) or a flashlight (legal). A shovel and toilet paper may come in handy. And a pillow, something for mosquitoes, and many, many other things … But I think that the most necessary accessory is good will. So that we just genuinely wanted to pass time in such a way. Because there is nothing worse than struggling against your will, for the sake of fashion, for the show off, for your friends.
I would forget… it’s hard to put up any shelter if you don’t have a rope. The popular paracord, which can be purchased at any paracord store, will work here. If someone is lazy and does not want to learn knots, they can use bungee bands.