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.


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!


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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