Bushcraft Clothing, what to buy and use?

steve nwb

Steven J Taylor here in December and his winter layers, note the boots are Columbia bugaboots, Fjallraven pants, Ridgeline smock and a fur trapers hat.

Now let’s look at bushcraft clothing and I am going to start with advising you on layers, its vital and you need them.

Layering means we can remove clothing when we are hot rather than been cold and not having a layer to add. Layering normaly has 3 parts a base layer, mid layer and outer layer.

We have some basic material types for layering and for me I know what works. First I don’t use any Gortex, plastic rubbish as these kinds of materials will make you sweat and often even when they say they are breathable they are not. Understand, breathable is key to comfort in the outdoors.

base layer 2

100% Polyester base layer, long johns for bushcraft. Cost around £24.99 for the set.

Polyester –  polyester is a man made synthetic material that is an ideal base layer, it moves sweat from your body and pushes it away from the skin keeping you dry and stop chaffing, rubbing and blisters. Its fast to dry but can be flammable and often has chemical that stops odours and stains.

Cotton –  has a term that goes with it and that is “cotton kills” and the reason that is said is that cotton like jeans, T shirts, boxer shorts, vest tops etc hold moister so when you sweat they stay wet, take a long time to dry or don’t dry at all, they are poor insulation when wet and rub when wet causing issues like chaffing and blisters, sometimes you will get a blend of polyester and cotton and if I choose this option for a t shirt I will make sure it’s at least 80% polyester.

Wool – Wool is an epic amazing material, 100% wool shirts like you can get from Swandri are ideal as even when wet they keep you warm, they make an outstanding layer and wool is breathable but can be itchy so I always use under armour which we will cover in a moment.

Fleece – this can be blend of many materials but can be super warm, some of the best fleece products on the market are made by Ridgeline and I own a few of their items as they work.

My layering system is rather expensive but that’s due to me spending all my time outdoors so I need the best so I can do the best job I can and I believe investing in your clothing is a good investment as the kit I buy will last years and mean like 10 years for a pair of G1000 Fjalraven pants!

First let’s start with lower body!

Fjallraven Barents Trouser

Fjallraven bushcraft pants are by far the best i have ever used all over the world.

  • Feet/socks, I use 2 sets of socks in spring, autumn and winter and sometimes in the summer depending on weather. I use a layering system. My first layer or base layer is a polyester thin sock stops blistering and allows my feet to move as my next layer or mid layer is a 100% wool sock which is breathable and super warm and even when wet keeps my feet warm. Then I have my boots which is my outer layer but I will cover boots later as this is one of the hardest things to buy!
  • Legs base layer 1 / Underwear – I use Nike 100% polyester under armour for my boxer shorts, they are designed for runners so moves sweat away from the groin area keeping you dry and comfy all day. DO NOT USE COTTON UNDERWEAR!
  • Legs mid layer 2 – I use a 100% polyester under armour long john pants that again move moister away from my legs, keeping me warm and stops chaffing and rubbing.
  • Legs outer layer 3 – Fjallraven Barents pro trousers, there made of a comfy canvas material called G1000, these are so amazing and hardwearing it’s unreal how good these pants are, I could spend all the money on the world buying many pants in 10 years or just bite the bullet and pay £70+ on one pair that will last, up to 10 years and still look new! I have around 4 pairs of these now and it’s the only pants I use all year round in all weather in any country.

Next let’s look at upper body!

steve snow 2

Steve in -16c weather in Norway, his Ridgeline smock keeps him warm, under that his Swandri wool shirt and base layers along with Fjallraven trousers, Columbia boots rated down to -30c and a warm fur trapers hat.

  • My base layer is the top to my long johns, again 100% polyester long sleeves as I can always roll them up or down.
  • My mid layer is either a shirt or t shirt, once again a breathable shirt, polyester cotton blend
  • Next in winter I will have my Swandri bush shirt, this is 100% New Zealand wool and I can’t stress how good these shirts are but they are very roomy, I am a XXL but I have a Large shirt that works fine as a outer or mid layer. It won’t catch easy like plastic or gortex on a fire and it hides odours well along with keeping you warm when wet. The downside of these shirts is that once wet they take time to dry, need hand washing but are well worth the effort.
  • My final layer is my Ridgeline Smock, I use a smock for sitting on as it’s a longer garment and protects my rear when sitting on wet logs, keeps my vital areas warm and protected, it’s extremely warm and hardwearing, see my review on this item to find out more.
  • My neck area, I use a buff to keep out the cold, I do have cotton military scarf but I find it stays wet and I tend not to use it in the cold, only in the summer. I will also sleep in my buff.
  • My head, well I use different hats for different seasons, in winter I will use a fur trappers hat, most other times a 100% wool hat or a bush hat or bandanna in the summer. I also sleep in a wool hat when I go to bed to keep my head warm.
  • I also have a set of hardwearing sunglasses which are vital in snowy conditions or sunny days.
  • Gloves – I have a Karimor base layer glove and a outer set of waterproof gloves for winter and a set of hunters mitts with folding fingers for other seasons.
steve fire meat

Steven J Taylor bushcrafter using the Swandri bush shirt by the fire on a wet night with air temps down to 2c in high winds.

Now the hardest part is boots, boots are bushcrafters nightmare as there is not one boot that does everything you need. II have a few pairs of boots.

bugaboot

Columbia Bugaboot, rated down to -30c. These are a snow boot but i use them alkl year round.

The main pair of boots I use are my Columbi bugerboot, I paid like £280 now you cna get them for about £50, there rated down to -30c and water proof but breathable. I use these in snow and all year.

On hot days I have a set of standard Miltec desert boots that are breathable not water proof but resistant and I use these in hot summers.

Next I have a set of leather Karimor hiking boots for normal days, clear but cold weather, water resistant and ideal for hiking.

I have a set of Hunter wellingtons which work fine for me, ideal for fishing or really wet days

Now that is all I use, I have money and many years of experience tied up in my clothing and I know for me what works for what I do, but as long as the materials match the blends advised you should be fine.

Note: I always keep 2 sets of boxer shorts, socks in my pack for overnights but we will cover overnight kit in our next blog.

To learn more about bushcraft clothing, visit the Durham bushmoot to learn about kit and share skills. Visit us, click here!

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Beginner Bushcraft Kit, what to buy? What do I need? Where do I go?

Beginner Bushcraft Kit, what to buy? What do I need? Where do I go?

tools

Bushcraft tools and kit, axes, knives and saws. What kit do you need to start with?

Stepping in to Bushcraft and is a fascinating journey when done right, straight of the bat I will advise any bushcrafter who is just getting in to bushcraft as a hobby to take part in a course ran by professionals like ourselves and it’s not just us wanting your cash but it comes down to woodland dangers, fires and fines, UK knife law, foraging, fishing and licences, trapping and hunting, not to mention access and wild camping, buying the wrong kit, accidently trashing woodland sites often people fail and end up in bad situations, hypothermic or bleeding out in the middle of nowhere, fined or even shot at. Sometimes it’s the simplest mistake such as using the wrong kind of rock around your fire and it explodes and hurts someone or yourself.

Don’t rush out in to the wild just yet; learn in your back garden first, where you’re safe and close to help and on your own land.

Doing this can be good fun, making an area that you can work in and learn in before heading out is good fun, it’s kind of your own space to learn and practice in.

I would recommend using an area where you can cut out some grass, away from anything flammable. I would dig down and figure out what’s below the ground, such as gas lines etc or you could just use a fire pit but make a burning area for fire craft, have a wood cutting area, whittling area, green craft area where you can forage for wood and bring it back to work on or store. You could just simply do these things in the woodlands but I would advise new bushcrafters to start somewhere safe.

But once you are ready to head out there are a multitude of public footpaths and bridleways criss-crossing England and Wales that should not be ignored if you want to head out. They give access to outstanding landscapes and unique habitats. These public rights of way are marked clearly on Ordnance Survey maps. On the 1:50,000 Land ranger series, footpaths and bridleways are marked in red; on the 1:25,000 Explorer series they are marked in green, you also have the Right Of Way Act, 2000 established areas of open access land where access by foot is permitted. These areas are clearly marked – shaded a light yellow – on recent OS 1:25,000 maps as well as a set of definitive maps being available online at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/

Ok first before we go in to kit I think I should give your some basic rules of bushcraft for beginners.

  1. Respect
  2. Plan
  3. Prepare
  4. Check
  5. Leave as you find it, clean and clear

Rule 1 RESPECT: Ok sounds simple but it’s not that easy, respecting the land, animals, land owners, fire, knife use and axe use, mother nature. They all need a huge amount of respect as each can lead to issues.

Rule 2 PLAN: So maybe you’re a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy or girl. Well bad news your will fail. One thing you need to learn is take your time, plan and plan more. Even on the day you’re out, take your time, reserve energy and don’t exhaust yourself. But a good plan will always work well and a backup plan even better.

I would recommend braking down what you goal is for the day you plan on heading out, let’s say I plan on practicing camp craft skills.

So first I would plan and research camp craft skills online or via my books, looking at items and ideas that could help me in the future. I would note during my research the types of woods, clays they use or seasons and weather related items that the skill relates too and what tools is needed to be able to carry out the job.

Next I would plan a date and time, time I plan on arriving and what I need to do once I arrive and where I am going. Sometimes your plan gets thrown out the window as you may end up just exploring the whole day or come across something unexpected like wild boar or a damaged bridge.

I always make sure I have plenty of time especially during the winter as darkness sets in fast and low temperatures even faster. So make sure you have time to get to where you are going and back before night time sets in. Most people that become unstuck in the wild are people that only planned on going for a day, they don’t have the right kit and can end up stuck, lost or stranded and then your challenge is to survive.

Next I would check the weather leading up to my day and on the day, I check a few different weather reports and even swell reports for surfing as they tell way more about what’s going on  out at sea and what’s coming in land and in the UK we are never far from the coast.

Next I plan my clothing around the season and weather and I plan for things like ticks, mosquitoes and midges whether or not I need layers and been in the UK normally I always have layers, it’s like my old friend David Alan, 22 years SAS always says, it’s better to have and take off rather than not be able to add layers when you need them most.

Se our post on bushcraft clothing for the right kind of clothing for the job.

Bushcraft kit and what you need!

You will have heard of the term “all the gear, no idea” well we see that allot and I strongly advise learning first before buying kit, its easier said than done but most of what’s on the market is tat and the more you know the less you carry and this is true.

Well each task is different such as camp craft will incorporate a hand saw, bow saw or chainsaw, axe etc but works just as good with a folding handsaw from ASDA for about £3, no need to spend anymore unless you’re going out weekly and want in to invest in long term kit.

kit1

In this kit i take on overnights and day time bushcraft days. You can see the Mora knife, a folding saw, my Hultafors axe, aq small multi tool in the brown sheath, the rest are items i take on overnight stays/

A basic core kit for all round bushcraft would be:

  • A full tang knife – See our blog on full tang blades.
  • A folding saw
  • A fire lighting kit See our blog on fire lighting kits
  • A water bottle and cup set that can be boiled (Avoid alloy as it leaches chemicals that are harmful) I use stainless steel cup and 1000ml stainless steel water bottle.
  • A dump bag and inside it I have, para-cord, brew kit, small spoon/ folding spoon
  • I have an axe loop on my belt with a Hultafors classic hunting axe see our video on that axe and why we use it.

When it comes to knives people starting may use a Hultafors utility knife, cost of around £8 or a Mora knife at around £13. Both are amazing bushcraft knives for beginners and cheap to buy. They are NOT full tang but a good learning tool.

That’s it, it’s all I take with me and fits on my belt, I dress for the weather. If I am taking my back pack, for a day I will take a 35lr pack or less, inside that pack I will have:

  • A first aid kit, I use an explorer’s kit by Karimor but any first aid kit will work. You can see my kit in the photo above.
  • A set of working gloves, like gardening gloves for all work and handling hot items
  • My poncho/tarp for days I need a shelter
  • Waterproof blanket roll for sitting on, laying on and chilling out
  • My food, I take dry food in a zip lock bag, often pot noodles and pepperoni, it’s cheap and light and fast to cook and loaded with energy. Nuts etc. Not the most healthy but I am looking at carbs and protean, fat while I am out, slow burning energy foods but I avoid chocolate as it’s a quick high and fast drop, instead I make my own mint cake from birch sap each spring
  • 2lr of water
  • My Zebra Billy can for boiling, cooking etc
  • I have a small leather pouch, in that I have a sharpening stone, rag, pig fat I use for maintenance on my knife and axe and that’s my extended day kit

I may then take items I need for that day, such as wood whittling tools, fire lighting tools I want to test along with cameras, tripods or books for research, maybe a note pad and pen etc.

Really the only way to find out is to head out and once you’re out there you will realise that something you don’t have may be a good idea for next time and then items you have you will leave in the house.

I should mention that I also have a small magnifying glass on a leather cord around my neck and a neck knife.

That’s it, learn each subject one at a time and practice each subject.

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Bushcraft Backpack/ Rucksack Packing and what to pack!

I thought I would do a blog on what a carry in my backpack as so many people ask me about it. I wil do a follow up blog on my summer pack, then a further blog about what I carry on my belt and my belt setup as so many people ask about my rig.

The age old motto “The more you know the less you carry” really plays part in the kit you take but we as humans are inherently lazy and end up taking more than we need to make life easier and I am guilty of this. It’s not due to a lack of knowledge but it is down to doing it every other day, after while making toothpaste from charcoal, mint and pine needle mouth wash tends to get a bit old after a while.

steve nwb

Steven J Taylor here in December and his winter layers, note the boots are Columbia bugaboots, Fjallraven pants, Ridgeline smock and a fur trapers hat.

So in this blog I am going to address some of the overlooked areas in the bushcraft backpack issues.

Ok first let’s look at backpacks or rucksacks whatever you wish to call them, the first thing I would like to address is that this blog post is aimed at a bushcrafter going out solo in to the woods to spend a day or two in the forest wild camping, I am not looking at super lightweight backpacking but I do like lighter the better..

Also I should mention that each person feels the weather differently so if you get cold easy you may need warmer items but I am from the frozen north so for me I don’t feel the cold unless it’s down in to the minuses but even then I tend to get hot in my sleeping kit bag and end up sleeping with it open at -5c.

Each person has their own needs and wants from a backpack, for me it’s more of an exploring backpack, long term pack that can be used to also hold some of my teaching kit and used on my land which totals over 5 miles of wild woodlands and fields and rivers so hiking in that terrain plays a part in my pack and stability of the backpack as well as weight and water resistant’s.

I also like to have items I may or may not want to use such as wood whittling tools or different forms of making fire, extra clothing and so on.

As I am a instructor and guide I have a 35lr backpack that I use and I find this for me works well but in the coming months I am actually going to make my own backpack but that’s a different post and video.

So my 35lr pack needs to me able to hold every item I need, I first went about looking at my kit and what I needed and did not need and guys there is no way of getting past this but you will need to do at least 3 camping trips before you figure out what you do need and don’t need. There is nothing quite like spending 2 – 3 days in the woods to really open your eyes to your limitations and what you need and don’t need, have and don’t have with you , so I would advise not wandering to far from home, it’s better to figure out your limitations and skills in your back yard rather than in the wilderness.

One of my main pains is sleeping comfy, it’s so important to get a good sleep in so let’s look at my sleeping kit, I am hammock guy but I always carry a lightweight bivi bag just in case, the mat I can make in the wild but I choose to make a bed from hazel or pine or whatever I can find.

summer sleeping

Summer hammock setup, a rain poncho and a TW hammock, total cost around £28, on the tree a 25lr back pack and sleeping bag.

My winter sleeping kit consists of..

kit6

Hammock camping kit. I use all DD hammock kit as i find it the best.

  1. DD frontline hammock, one of the best on the market, it is condensation free where Andy our senior assistant has the DD jungle hammock, he wakes up in pools of water from the condensation which you need and must avoid.
  2. I then use a DD 3 meter by 3 meter tarp which I can use for ground dwelling and hammock camping and many other uses
  3. I have the XL DD Jura 2 the 2015 model which is massive and super warm, by far the best sleeping bag I have ever had. It is perfect for all camping experiences.
  4. Next I have my DD under blanket which keeps me toasty and warm all night long as sleeping without one now, is not an option
  5. Then I have my one thing I could probably do without but I like it, it weighs nothing and it’s cheap. I have a small pillow from IKEA that cost the grand some of £1.50 and for me makes all the difference in a good night’s sleep.
  6. I use a 550 American para cord in a bright red with florescent strip that I can see the guy ropes at night and my setup. I always carry lads of this stuff, it’s cheap, 100ft for £6.99 and I use it all around camp. I could simply use natural materials and sometimes I do.
  7. I also have 3 climbing karabiners for setting up my hammock and hanging extra kit off my pack.

That’s is my sleeping kit, as you see its easy to take quite a bit but I like to be able to be warm or cool down, I like comfort and sleep is good so I don’t cheap out on my sleeping kit and I recommend buying the best first as in the long-term it will save you money.

I in this photo below, on that day and night the wind picked up to 80mph with driving rain and the air temp was down to -2c and i was warm and dry. December 2015 storms..

sleep system 2

Steven J Taylor bushcrafter and his sleep system by DD hammocks at base camp in the Finchale woodland. Note the steup and the 35lr back pack.

Now let’s look at cooking and eating items

  1. kit4

    Bushcraft cooking and drinking, food cleaning kit. Note: a Zebra billy can, small bowl insert, lit, heavy working gloves for hot stuff, cleaning items, folding wash bowl, Kuksa cup, salt & pepper, oxo cubes. Inside i have oats, hot chocky mix.

    I use a zebra Billy can; mid size can that has an internal bowl, its sturdy and robust, stainless steel construction. Down side of this item is it has plastic lid clips to keep the lid in place and they melt fast so I now use some old 550 dark paracord that hides the black soot and keep the lid on my Billy can.

  2. Inside the can I have a small cleaning pad/spong, small cloth for drying and some random bits like oxo cubes salt and pepper, chilli sauce packets.
  3. I also have a medium size lightweight plate which I can cook in, eat from etc.
  4. I then have a small spoon, knife and fork and I could probably ditch them all but the spoon but they come in handy when you’re cooking.
  5. I use a medium size waterproof drawstring bag to keep that small kit inside of, it keeps the soot covered Billy can off my other kit.
  6. I then have a kuksa cup for drinking from, its ideal when the weather is ice cold as the wood won’t stick to your lips like metal will.
  7. A set of heavey duty gardening gloves for fire use, wood cutting and dealing with heavy work.
  8. Folding washing up bowl for cleaning and washing in, holds water too. I split hazel sticks and place them inside then rest hot rocks in the water, this boils the water.
cooking

Above: Basic camping plate, lightweight used to roast chestnuts, handle made from hazel On the hazel spit we have a wild honey glaze ham been oak smoked and slow roasted.

Then I have my drinking kit

  1. A 1000ml stainless steel water bottle
  2. A tatonka 500ml stainless steel cup
  3. A water pouch/bag which has extra pockets and carries my full kit
  4. A spare 2lr of water in a plastic bottle which I carry in a separate food bag, I always have plenty of water as I drink lots of water.
  5. A 2000lr water filter kit down to 1 micron for long term survival use.

My toilet, medical and cleaning kit

kit5

My basic wash kit and toilet kit, along with its small bag. I wrap my loo role in a plastic food bag to keep it dry. In an area with bears dont use ant soaps or sprays that smell

  1. I have a full toilet role with the centre removed inside a food bag to keep it dry
  2. I also have a pack of baby wipes or facial wipes for a quick clean
  3. A tube of hand sanitizer which can be used for fire lighting and keeping your hands clean when there is no water around.
  4. A small set of cleaning items like a Dove shower gel, Dove min deodorant, mini toothbrush, mini toothpaste
  5. A small digging shovel for digging a toilet hole
  6. A small zipper bag off the side of an old backpack with molly loops, I keep all my kit inside this, it’s my toiletries bag. Allot of the above I could do without, such as toothpaste as I can make that along with soap but first thing in the morning it’s nice to just have easy access to the basics and there not exactly heavey
  7. Karimor expedition medical kit
kit9

Bushcraft kit for an overnight or longer, it all fits in and outside a 35lr backpack. Note: the pack in the photo is an old 75lr pack that i dont use, its there to show that i can get 75lr kit in to a 35lr pack.

My tool kit in my bag

kit1

In this kit i take on overnights and day time bushcraft days. You can see the Mora knife, a folding saw, my Hultafors axe, a small multi tool in the brown sheath, the rest are items i take on overnight stays like torches, head lamp, spoon knife etc.

  1. Hultafors classic hunting axe, in my opinion the best on the market. Its size is perfect for big jobs like felling a tree and small jobs like carving, razor shaving sharp, nice weight and outstanding build quality.
  2. Mora clipper for clean work, like cutting meat, cooking etc
  3. Fallkniven f1 as my spare bushcraft knife (I only take this on long expeditions)
  4. Folding saw from ASDA for £2.95
  5. Small scalpel style craft knife for mushrooms, fine cutting etc
  6. Spoon knife for kuksa and spoon carving
  7. DC4 sharpening stone for my knives
  8. Sharpening puck for my axe
  9. A small tube of gun oil for maintaining my tools
  10. Small rag for cleaning my tools
  11. Compass for navigation
  12. Map case and map
  13. LED Head torch, 250 lumens plus spare batteries
  14. LED Hand torch 2000 lumens plus spare batteries
  15. A LED basic lamp for camp use

My spare clothing. With my clothing I use layering but also with my gloves down to my socks, I always make sure I have the right kit for the job.

kit3

My spare clothing, the only item missing is my wool hat, but you can see the simple kit i take!

  1. Real wool hat, keeps me warm even when wet
  2. Basic cap for sunny days, low winter sun
  3. Hunting mits/fingerless gloves for light work
  4. Wool glove liners for use when sleeping or relaxing around the fire
  5. Waterproof gloves for wet weather use and snow
  6. Wicking t shirt, which I change in to when working, likes of building etc, it moves moisture away from my skin and keeps me dry, I use this when it is raining and I need to set up a camp etc, keeps my other clothing dry
  7. 1 – 2 spare sets of wool socks
  8. Shemagh which has a so many uses, I have made a bush chair out of it, used it for water filtering, keeping warm etc.
  9. Poncho tarp as I don’t use waterproof layers and this is all I need on rainy days
kit8

My 35lr pack from Militery Mart, cost all of £20 and i can get 75lrs of kit inside it!

So that’s what I have in my pack, I also my find myself carrying extra items for teaching with but I fit that in to a 35lr rucksack, with some room to spare. I can actually trim it down to a 20lr pack in the warmer weather and if I want to go really light I can just go with what’s on my belt but that’s a different blog for a different time.

kit7

My food bag is ideal, and i can get a weeks worth of food and 2lrs of water in this pack. I also use this as a day pack.

The next thing I have is a food bag, as food is often forgotten about, some use ration packs but if you do enough research you can buy one week’s worth of food for the same price as a 24 hour ration pack. My food bag is a canvas satchel bag that I can fit 7 days worth of food in, plus 2lr of water. I tend to use dry foods like noodles, pre crushed in food bags and then I take peperami’s for my meat substitute, along with any other bits I need, I still have room in my pack for things like sugar free energy drinks as I don’t drink coffee, a bottle of whisky maybe vacuum packed meats. But each to their own. I keep my food well away from my kit, even in the UK I place my kit up a tree away from wild animals as I have had a camp ransacked by wild boar looking for food.

kit2

My food for 3 days in the wild, i take a pot noodle or any noodle with flavoring and use zip lock bags, next i have peanuts for a snack, meat sticks i add to my noodles or eat as they are, a energy drink and water. I may add more such as eggs, if i add eggs i coat them in oil to keep them fresh, any other food i can catch like Phesant.

Now the pack, I have had many packs I am currently using a 35lr LK Swedish backpack I found on Military Mart for £19.99, it’s a simple pack, made in Sweden, it’s quility ex army and waterproof.

My pack also has added D rings which I have a mini compass and a temperature gauge attached to it.

kit10

My added clips and and extras with an axe holding strap.

Each person has their own way of packing, just make sure it’s comfy on your shoulders and lower back, don’t over pack. The items I have highlighted red are items I could just leave behind and still be comfy outdoors. But the best advice is make sure you are warm, dry and can sleep well, make sure you have food, water and something to keep you clean, but learn about water filtering, collecting, fire and fire lighting, shelter building and understand warmth and layering clothing.

If you would like to know more, then ask us or visit our main website and book a course. Head out with us and we can go over kit, how to pack your rucksack and much more. Visit www.northernwilderness.co.uk 

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Bushcraft Knives, Knives for Survival and Woodlore, what should I buy?

Above: The ideal bushcraft knife, full tang, no weak points, scandi grind, small piont, 5mm thick, finger stop! 

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We get asked many times about our knives and what we use and recommend.

I personally think that the knife you choose speaks volumes about its owner but the knife that you do buy will be the most important buy you will make in your hobby or in your life or as a bushcrafter.

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There are hundreds of thousand knives on the market but I decided to give you the most plain and simple advice I could as not all knives are good, some can lead to prison and others to a failed survival situation where you life could be on the line.

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Ok I am basing this article on the fact that you are a bushcrafter, survivalist or outdoor person that may need a knife for working with, in the UK.

I am also basing this article on Bushcrafting tasks in woodlands and the wild and not urban or inner city survival.

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The kind of tasks you will use a knife for vary from cutting rope to splitting wood, carving and making tinder, cutting food, skinning, building making camp craft items and even fixing things.

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For instance, let’s say you want to split wood, such as making kindling or fire sticks/ feather sticks. If you use a part tang, stick tang, folding or locking knife these will at some point break. That’s not what we need; we need a strong solid knife that could live through the end of the world.

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  • Ok what is a tang?

Above image: A hidden of stock tang and a bad full tang, designed to make it light but also weak!

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Tang is the length of the back of the blade of spine from the cutting tip to the knife butt. Some say just the handle part of the knife.

A full tang knife is the best knife for bushcraft, woodlore and survival (NOTE: Only get a full tang that has a whole handle with only the fixing hols drilled out. If the knife blank has oval cut outs, large areas missing, or even a hole in the blade then this knife will have weak points and can snap on you when you need it most.

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  • Ok first the bad knives!

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Rambo knives! Simply NO!! Don’t do it. First they break easy, hollow handle and no weight, they are a killing tool and that it, a gimmick knife that makes the owner look like a joke, ok for? Well.. Not much!

SPACE

Any folding and locking knives, some love Openel some hate them, they make good whittling knives but this style of knife can lead to prison as a locking blade is illegal in the UK. Buck knives make some nice folding blades but no folding knife is recommended for what we are looking for.

SPACE

My reasons are simple, any folding, flicking or mechanical or friction knife will fail, snap or send you to prison. I wouldn’t even waste my cash although you will end up with a few in your collection but for an actual tool in the wild I would not recommend these knives.

SPACE

Part tang or half tang, once again this is ok for light work, but not for heavy duty work. A part tang is as it suggests. It’s not a full tang knife. This can lead to the handle snapping.

Stick Tang, this is can be ain a full tang length but it’s once again a weak design and can snap easy. Mkaing handles for them is a pain in the ass too.

SPACE

  • Ok, now the good knives.

SPACE

First the steel, we recommend 1095 or harder on a carbon steel blade. 1095 is a hard steel, one of the best on the market and once you make it a carbon based steel then it will throw a spark very well. But it can rust, where stainless will not but the carbon is my choice for an all round bushcraft knife. But I would not recommend this if you are costal, in very wet or wintery conditions as it will rust.

SPACE

Stainless steel is better for wet climates, jungles, arctic and sea but the stainless tends not to throw a spark very well. However I do use a steel Mora clipper knife for food, coastal days etc as its stainless and ideal for wet areas.

SPACE

  • I like a thick blade for wood splitting and weight is a big deal, I like a good weight in my knife. I would not get a knife that’s thinner than 3mm thick on the spine.
  • I like a knife that the has scales either side as if a scale or handle breaks it’s easy to make another handle in the wild or I can just wrap it in cord and still have a good knife.

SPACE

But if a half or stick tang handle breaks I can’t use it again, handles are hard to make, need drilling and in the wild we don’t see many drills lying around.

SPACE

Also be aware of length, width, point and grind.

SPACE

Too long a knife the easier to break or it keeps getting caught and in the way. The wider the stronger, the longer the point the finer the work but the easier it is to break so a mid or small point is better for most tasks.

SPACE

So the best knife for bushcraft in my opinion is:

• Carbon steel blade 1095 of stronger, K720 Carbon Tool Steel is ideal

• 3mm thick as a minimum but ideally 5mm is the best

• 4 3/8″ (110mm) length blade

• 4 3/4″ (120mm) length handle

• Scandinavian grind

• Full handle tang

• Easy to replace handles or scales

 SPACE

If you can tick these boxes then you will have one hell of a bushcraft knife.

Visit www.northernwilderness.co.uk for knife making courses and Woodlre courses in County Durham.

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Alliaria Petiolata or Garlic mustard aka Jack-by-the-hedge

  • Introduction

Close up of the leaves and flower – Photo by Andy Hall

Garlic mustard is one of the oldest discovered spices to be used in cooking in Europe. Evidence of its use has been found from archeological remains found in the Baltic, dating back to 6100-5750 BP.

This vegetable is loved and hated by many, known as weed that kills out fungi, damages the eco systems and attracts the much hated midges but its mighty tasty and all parts of the plant can be eaten at least at some times of the year! It’s a hardy plant that can live through ice and snow and is around all year in woodland hedges. Its tasty and versatile and full of vitamin A and C. Whether you are just getting into foraging, or if you have been into wild plants for years, Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is one species you shouldn’t pass up, actually take as much as you can handle as it easy to find and identify and by taking as much as you can help the eco system.

 

  • About the plant

Alliaria petiolata is a biennial flowering plant in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is native to Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa, from Morocco, Iberia and the British Isles, north to northern Scandinavia, and east to northern Pakistan and western China.

In the first year of growth, plants form clumps of round shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves, that when crushed smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing cross shaped white flowers in dense clusters. As the flowering stems bloom they elongate into a spike-like shape. When blooming is complete, plants produce upright fruits that release seeds in mid-summer. Plants are often found growing along the margins of hedges, giving rise to the old British folk name of Jack-by-the-hedge. Other common names include Garlic Mustard, Garlic Root, Hedge Garlic, Sauce-alone, Jack-in-the-bush, Penny Hedge and Poor Man’s Mustard. The genus name Alliaria, “resembling Allium”, refers to the garlic-like odour of the crushed foliage. Some people give the species name Alliaria officinalis for this plant.

All parts of the plant, including the roots, give off a strong odour. In 17th century Britain it was recommended as a flavouring for salt fish. It can also be made into a sauce for eating with roast lamb or salad. Early European settlers brought the herb to the New World to use as a garlic type flavoring, and as a good source of vitamins A and C. The herbs medicinal purposes include use as a disinfectant, a diuretic, and sometimes being used to treat gangrene and ulcers. The herb was also planted as a form of erosion control.

The plant is classified as an invasive species in North America. Since being brought to the United States by settlers, it has naturalized and expanded its range to include most of the Northeast and Midwest, as well as southeastern Canada. It is one of the few invasive herbaceous species able to dominate the understory of North American forests and has thus reduced the biodiversity of many areas.

 

  • Description

Close up of the leaves and flower – Photo by Andy Hall

It is a herbaceous biennial plant growing from a deeply growing, thin, white taproot that is scented like horseradish. In the first year, plants appear as a rosette of green leaves close to the ground; these rosettes remain green through the winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring.

Second year plants can only be eaten in early to mid spring, the plant grows from 30–100 cm (rarely to 130 cm) tall. The leaves are stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, 10–15 cm long (of which about half being the petiole) and 5–9 cm broad, with a coarsely toothed margin. The flowers are produced in spring and summer in button-like clusters. Each small flower has four white petals 4–8 mm long and 2–3 mm broad, arranged in a cross shape. The fruit is an erect, slender, four-sided pod 4 to 5.5 cm long, called a silique, green maturing pale grey-brown, containing two rows of small shiny black seeds which are released when the pod splits open. A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which scatter as much as several meters from the parent plant.

The seeds of the Alliaria petiolata – Jack by the hedge – Photo from Wiki

Depending upon conditions, garlic mustard flowers either self-fertilize or are cross-pollinated by a variety of insects. Self-fertilized seeds are genetically identical to the parent plant, enhancing its ability to colonize an area where that genotype is suited to thrive.

There are sixty nine insect (69) herbivores and seven fungi are associated with garlic mustard in Europe. The most important groups of natural enemies associated with garlic mustard were weevils (particularly the genus Ceutorhynchus), leaf beetles, butterflies, and moths, including the larvae of some moth species such as the Garden Carpet moth.

The small white flowers have a rather unpleasant aroma which attracts midges and hoverflies, although the flowers usually pollinate themselves. In June the pale green caterpillar of the orange tip butterfly (Anhocharis cardamines) can be found feeding on the long green seed-pods from which it can hardly be distinguished.

In North America, the plant offers no known wildlife benefits and is toxic to larvae of certain butterfly species that lay eggs on the plants, as it is related to native mustards. Native species, including two stem-mining weevils, a stem-mining fly, a leaf-mining fly, a scale insect, two fungi, and aphids (taxonomic identification for all species is pending) were found attacking garlic mustard in North America. However, their attacks were of little consequence to plant performance or reproduction of garlic mustard.

 

  • Use in food
Above, roast beef in garlic mustard – photo Recipe Chart

 

The chopped leaves are used for flavouring in salads and sauces such as pesto, and sometimes the flowers and fruit are included as well. These are best when young, and provide a mild flavour of both garlic and mustard. The seeds are sometimes used to season food directly in France. Garlic mustard was once used medicinally as a disinfectant or diuretic, and was sometimes used to heal wounds.

The older plants tend to be very strong, enough to take your breath away.

The root, which can also be eaten through all 4 seasons, has a pungent, horseradishy flavour, especially when mixed with white vinegar (just like our commercial horseradish is).

During the 2nd year the stems of the plant can be eaten in early to mid-spring, before the plant flowers, and while the stem is still pliable.

Professional foragers believe it is the best part of the plant but I have personally found it a tough and not very nice plant, it could be due to the area it grows and ones pallet. The leaves of the flowering, second-year plants are most people’s favourite part, where the plants are harvested makes a huge difference

 

  • Best picked

Get your garlic mustard from the shade, unless you’re a big fan of very bitter tastes. These leaves can be quite large (up to 5-6″ across at the end of summer), making them easy to gather.

 

  • Best use

This plant can be very bitter like any mustard, so we recommend using it sparingly but depending on your taste.

We love to add it to roasted pork and chicken, it works very well lamb and any cheese product.

It’s ideal once blanched and used in salads and even used in making Pesto.

 

  • Editors Note:

habitat -Woodland edges, scrub, hedgerows and gardens,

uses  –  leaves: can be chopped finely added to scrambled egg, used for salads, add in sandwiches, also goes really well with lamb and fatty meats and salty fish, the white flowers can also be added to salads,

harvesting notes – in my experinse, only the top few leaves should be picked from each specimen,

health benefits antiseptic and anti-asthmatic, used to treat bronchial complaints and worms,, also as a poultice for ulcers and cuts, contains glucosinolates and apigenin flavonoids, both known to have anti-tumour effects, leaves also contain cancer preventing chemicals, also really high in vitamin A and C!

  • Disclaimer

Never eat any wild plant unless you are 100% sure that you have identified an edible species.

Always cross-reference the information you find on the internet with an expert, a foraging group like purselves on a course, or several reference books. Have fun, but be responsible. Identification is entirely your responsibility and it can also mean your life!

Words by Steven J Taylor & Andy Hall

www.northernwilderness.co.uk

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Auriculariaceae family, Auricula-judae aka Jews ear / jelly ear

jews ear 2

Similar species : Auricularia mesrnterica aka tripe fungus which is poisonous, not to be eaten, can effect health adversely or is deadly!!!!

Auricularia auricula-judae, known as the Jew’s ear, wood ear, jelly ear or by a number of other common names, is a species of edible Auriculariales fungus found worldwide. The fruiting body is distinguished by its noticeably ear-like shape and brown colouration; it grows upon wood, especially elder. Its specific epithet is derived from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name “Judas’s ear” eventually became “Jew’s ear”, while today “jelly ear” and other names are sometimes used. The fungus can be found throughout the year in temperate regions worldwide, where it grows upon both dead and living wood.

Harvesting notes:

Jews ear/jelly ear should be gathered while its still soft (it turns rock hard with age) it should be cut from the tree with a sharp knife, make sure you discard all of the tough stalk!!

Uses:

should be washed well and sliced finely, although the flesh is thin, it can be tough and indigestible. best in soups and stews, not easily fried. Stew for at least 45 minutes in stock or milk and serve with plenty of pepper.

It can also be dried, and is best ground to a powder and used as a flavouring.

Folk medicine:

Auricularia auricula-judae has been used as a medicinal mushroom by many herbalists. It was used as a poultice to treat inflammations of the eye, as well as a palliative for throat problems. The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard, writing in 1597, recommended A. auricula-judae for a very specific use; other fungi were used more generally. He recommends the preparation of a liquid extract by boiling the fruit bodies in milk, or else leaving them steeped in beer, which would then be sipped slowly in order to cure a sore throat. The resultant broth was probably not dissimilar to the Chinese soups that use A. polytricha. Carolus Clusius, writing in 1601, also said that the species could be gargled to cure a sore throat, and John Parkinson, writing in 1640, reported that boiling in milk or steeping in vinegar was “the onely use the are put unto that I know”.

Writing in 1694, herbalist John Pechey described A. auricula-judae by saying “It grows to the Trunk of the Elder-Tree. Being dried it will keep a good year. Boyl’d in Milk, or infus’d in Vinegarm ’tis good to gargle the Mouth or Throat in Quinsies, and other inflammations of the Mouth and Throat. And being infus’d in some proper Water, it is good in Diseases of the Eyes.” The species also saw use as an astringent due to its ability to absorb water. There are recorded medicinal usages from Scotland, where it was again used as a gargle for sore throats, and from Ireland, where, in an attempt to cure jaundice, it was boiled in milk. The medicinal use of A. auricula-judae continued until at least 1860, when it was still sold at Covent Garden; at the time, it was not considered edible in the United Kingdom.

Medicinal use in Indonesia was also recorded in the 1930s, and was more recently reported in modern-day Ghana. A report for the 2005 Commonwealth Forestry Conference examining the possible effects of deforestation in southern Ghana on medicinal and edible fungi found that A. auricula-judae was in use as a blood tonic.

Photos and words by Andy Hall

Pharmacological uses:

Auricularia auricula-judae has been the subject of research into possible medicinal applications. Experiments in the 1980s concluded that two glucans isolated from the species showed potent antitumour properties when used on mice artificially implanted with Sarcoma 180 tumours. This was despite the conclusion of earlier research indicating that, while aqueous extracts from several other fungal species had antitumour effects, extracts from A. auricula-judae did not. Further, research on genetically diabetic mice showed that a polysaccharide extracted from A. auricula-judae had a hypoglycemic effect; mice fed with food including the polysaccharide showed reduced plasma glucose, insulin, urinary glucose and food intake.

Another chemical extracted from the species was an acidic polysaccharide (made up of mostly mannose, glucose, glucuronic acid and xylose) which showed anticoagulant properties. The article concluded that “the polysaccharides from these mushrooms may constitute a new source of compounds with action on coagulation, platelet aggregation and, perhaps, on thrombosis”. Another study reported that the species may be effective in stopping platelet binding in vitro, with possible uses regarding hypercholesterolemia. Research has shown that A. auricula-judae can be used to lower cholesterol levels generally, and, in particular, is one of two fungi shown to reduce the level of bad cholesterol!!

 

Disclaimer

Never eat any wild plant or fungi unless you are 100% sure that you have identified an edible species.

Always cross-reference the information you find on the internet with an expert, a foraging group like purselves on a course, or several reference books. Have fun, but be responsible. Identification is entirely your responsibility and it can also mean your life!

Editors NOTE: 

Andy Hall is Northern Wilderness’s senior assistant, blogger and writes for his own blog Andy’s Outings on facebook. Andrew also works as an instructor with Northern Wilderness and you can join Andy on a course. When booking quote A01 to receive a discount for taking the time to read this blog post.

A message from Andy – “Hey guys, I hope you enjoy the blog post and look forward to answering any questions you may have about the post but the best way to learn is to actually get out in to the wild. take part in one of our courses and we can answer all your question. I hope tom see you in the Northern Wilderness real soon.”

www.northernwilderness.co.uk

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