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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About northern Wilderness Bushcraft

Steven J Taylor is a professional bushcraft instructor, expedition guide and wilderness enthusiast. Steve owns and runs Northern Wilderness Bushcraft and forest school in County Durham along with the Frontier Bush Gathering, his real passion is outdoor life, living free and travelling. www.northernwilderness.co.uk
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