Andy is an accomplished bushcraft and survivalist instructor; he has worked for two decades supporting extreme and remote TV productions and expeditions. His bushcraft teaching was extremely popular on our recent Wales course so he has kindly written this guide on the essential kit for getting into bushcraft.
Check out his amazing photography on Instagram @andy_dorsett
I’m not sure when my journey into bushcraft started, maybe when building dens as a kid in the local forest or helping my mum and grandad collect wildflowers for their homemade wine. What I do know is that it doesn’t matter at what age you start your journey or where you start it, just enjoy the ride.
You don’t need the latest Gucci equipment or spend extortionate amounts of money on kit. A few inexpensive items will allow you to get out into nature and simply enjoy yourself, then over time you can add equipment to suit your needs. The most important thing is to venture into different wilderness environments and make the most of it whilst surrounded by nature.
It’s important to remember that our ancestors and indigenous cultures have been living comfortably side by side with their environment, for thousands of years, without all the modern-day equipment.
All you want is to get out there, enjoy nature, learn new skills, camp under the stars and have a really fun time. People will often talk about Fire, Water, Shelter, and Food as the four basic things to consider with bushcraft/survival. Food and water we can look at in a future blog, when it comes to foraging and finding natural water sources. For now, it's easier to simply take some water and food with you that you can cook over the campfire.
So, let’s look at some inexpensive options that won’t break the bank to get you out there and start your journey:
● First aid kit
When it comes to knives, I have to admit, I’ve collected a few over the years. The one I use all the time is one where I bought the tang (the metal part of the knife) and I made the wooden handle myself. When I first started out though, I had one of these Mora knives which aren’t really expensive and show that you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on a knife.
When you buy a knife, you can get carbon steel or stainless steel. I’m a carbon steel person, but they do need a little more care than stainless steel as they can rust easily if not looked after, especially in wet humid environments like the jungle. You can also get these knives in bright colours, that way if you put them down on the floor, in all the vegetation, you should be able to find them more easily.
Shelter should always start with your clothing. As they say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Some decent waterproofs and boots are normally a must here in the UK, as you just never know when it’s going to rain.
When it comes to somewhere to sleep, I prefer sleeping under a tarp as it makes you feel closer to nature. It’s not as stuffy as a tent and you can lie to look up at the stars. If you choose to sleep in a hammock, then this opens up even more options as you don’t have to worry about wet and uneven ground. You just need to find two trees with the right distance apart and away you go!
One thing you should remember is that here, in the UK, most woodlands and open spaces are privately owned. This means you should always seek the landowner's permission before setting up camp on their land. You should also respect the land and always leave it as you found it, leaving no trace of you ever being there.
You can buy decent tarps from a local Army & Navy store, eBay or DD Hammocks, a 3x3m tarp is a good size.
A bivi bag is also a good idea as an extra layer of protection from the wind and rain when in your sleeping bag.
A hammock with a mosquito net is always advisable even here in the UK to keep all those biting insects at bay like midges.
Fire is the most primitive thing and without it, most of the things we take for granted wouldn’t even exist! It’s something we are drawn towards and find mesmerising as we sit around a campfire and look into the dancing flames.
Starting a fire by rubbing sticks together is what all bushcrafters want to achieve at some point, and there’s no better feeling when you do it for the first time. It’s not that easy and it does take a little knowledge of the woods you choose, the condition they are in and some skill to make your fire-by-friction kit. So, it’s something you need to practise when in your camp.
There are plenty of other methods to get your fire lit and a good one to start with is: a fire steel, some cotton wool, just to practise with, and then some char cloth or Birch bark.
Something I always carry with me though is a lighter and some fire starters. Some may see this as cheating, but if it’s really wet and all I want to do is get a fire going, as quickly as possible for some hot water or to warm up, then I am going for the quickest and easiest way.
That med kit in the picture might be a little over the top for a weekend camping out in the woods, but you should always carry a first aid kit with you. It doesn’t have to be big but it does have to contain all the essentials you might need.
You can buy a first-aid kit, but I personally like to put my own together as I know the items I may need depending on where I’m going.
Items to consider:
Tough cut scissors
Minor wounds (plasters, steri - strips, melolin wound dressing of a few sizes)
Blister kit (compeed, moleskin plaster)
Field dressing for larger wounds
Saline to wash cuts or to wash out eyes
At the end of the day the main thing is just to get out there and enjoy yourself, you just never know where your journey might take you!
Written by: Andy Dorsett
Photo credits: Andy Dorsett