With primitive camping and survival being the theme of many shows it has become quite popular over the last decade. Dave Canterbury, Ray Mears, and countless others have YouTube videos showing in great detail how to survive in the woods. You can spend hours watching them and gaining confidence in your skills, but unless you practice, practice, and practice some more you’re kidding yourself if you think you know anything. Luckily the solution is too just practice. The importance of practice plays heavily on survival when it gets dark by six p.m., it’s cold and rainy, and you’re ten miles from your car. When it comes to practicing Bushcraft it’s very cheap and you just need your yard or a nearby park to collect resources. Some would have you out buying expensive knives, blankets, and backpacks but that’s all rubbish and defeats the purpose of the idea. Bushcraft lets you get nose deep in nature because you’re learning to use nature instead of a nylon or canvas backpack. Although everyone cheats a little, I carry a number of man made tools.
There’s several things you can practice while watching your favorite survival show right in your own home on a rainy day. You can make dead fall traps, tie knots, make a shelter like when you were a kid, or any number of things you can imagine without burning the house down. I like to practice something I first learned from a Dave Canterbury video called the five C’s and something from Ron hood called the rule of three. These steps help insure survival in the cold wet woods in a worst case scenario with a minimal amount of gear to carry. The five C’s are cordage, a cutting tool, cover, a container, and a combustible. The rule of three is three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food. If you learn these rules and how to apply them in a worst case scenario then your chances of rescue are greatly increased. I think its also extremely important to learn navigation with a map and compass for self rescue and not to get lost in the first place.
To practice these skills it’s a very good idea to carry a survival or bushcraft kit on your person. That’s means in your pockets or a small bag that is attached to your body and won’t be lost while you’re resting or if you fall. I carry at all times in the woods a Swiss Army Pocket Knife and several ways to start a fire along with a small amount of para cord. Those items address three C’s but can be used to create cover and a container. By using cordage and what’s in the environment around, you can make shelter within three hours and start a fire to keep you warm and safe from exposure. In order to make those adjustments under pressure though takes practice beforehand. Therefore it’s a good idea to bring a synthetic shelter with you and a small container as well. Your shelter can be a nice space blanket or a simple heavy duty trash bag. Your container should be something you can boil water in and possibly store your other items as well. There’s expensive GSI cups and metal coffee containers to choose from. Coffee containers have nice lids and storage space for everything else. I use a GSI soloist cup that was pricey but I like it and It’s kept up well. Coffee cans will probably rust and who knows what chemicals might burn off them and into the water you’re boiling. You don’t need a fifty five dollar Swiss Army knife either. With knives you get what you pay for but there are some under twenty dollars that do very well. Morakniv is one of those brands that hold up very well in the woods when it counts. For cordage most people carry para cord or limb lines used for fishing. If you’re hardcore or in dire need of it, nature provides. Animal sinew and vines or grass were used for most of mans existence. For combustibles have a backup plan and experiment heavily to find what’s easiest for you. Carry a lighter, matches, and a ferro rod. Sometimes you won’t be able to get a fire started and I wish you luck in dealing with that frustration.
Remember that it doesn’t matter what you carry or how much you spent on it if you don’t have any idea of what to do with it. You have to practice, read instructions, study maps, research where you’re going, and just study as much as you can. Use google or visit the library whenever you have questions. Saying I’ll cross that bridge when I get there is stupid and can be disastrous. Trying to figure something out when your hands are numb with cold and there’s ten hours of darkness before daylight is madness and that’s when people die.
On the other hand though, don’t just practice these things so you won’t die. The woods, prairies, and mountains are beautiful places full of life and wonderment. The best thing about using primitive skills is being slowed down and witnessing truly the place you’ve traveled into. Tents obstruct your view of the stars and stifle the strange noises of the night. When your face is close to a giant cottonwood or a rocky slope you see smaller forms of life that you would normally miss out on. In my opinion you get a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of peace if you travel deep into a wilderness with minimal gear and greater knowledge. It’s much harder work and there’s likely to be less comfort but the trade off is worth it. So get out there and gather some sticks and leaves and dig some twine out of your junk drawer and have some fun making what you see on television into reality. If you find you don’t like it, it’s free and the yard needs to be cleaned up anyway.