Four Bushcrafting Skills to Master This Summer
Although it sounds mystical and mysterious, the art of Bushcraft is really just using the skills that our ancestors developed to survive in the wilderness. The origin of the phrase “Bushcraft” comes from skills used in the bush country of Australia. Before electricity and the advancement in technology, humans had to study their surroundings and figure out how to use what Mother Nature provided in order to thrive in an outdoor environment. Even in urban areas, where the average person takes clean water, shelter and abundance of readily available food for granted, there has been a renewed interest in Bushcraft, particularly, in the last decade. Many people from all walks of life have been practicing or seeking ways to get back to the basics of fire-starting, hunting, fishing, shelter-building and navigation, among other skills. Either way, there are many levels of Bushcraft to learn and master as a hobby or to just get outdoors and practice, with family and friends, which could actually could help you or others in a time of need. Here are some of the basics everyone should learn for fun or for that “just-in-case” moment.
1. FIRE STARTING
This skill provides warmth, security and the ability to cook food and purify water. The two most common Bushcraft fire-starting skills for beginners are flint and steel and ferrocerium rods with a striker. (The spine of a knife could also work well for this). The skill level for these two fire starting methods are easy to moderate.
First, obtain a piece of flint and a piece of high carbon steel as well as an item called char cloth. To use, hold the char cloth under your thumb on the flint in your non-dominant hand. Then, in a downward motion with your dominant hand, strike the flint with the striker to produce sparks that will cause the char cloth to smolder. Place the char cloth in a pre-made tinder bundle of dried grasses, birch bark shavings, etc. and blow or wave to ignite. You should have kindling ready to place onto your nest of flames and like Tom Hanks in Castaway, you have fire!
The second method uses a ferrocerium rod and striker. As in the first method, you should have a tinder bundle (dried grasses, birch bark shavings etc.) prepared in advance as well as kindling. To use, scrape the striker across the ferrocerium rod. This produces very hot sparks, which will fall onto your tinder bundle, producing flame.
These items are best purchased on eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, etc.
2. SHELTER BUILDING
Elongated exposure to the elements can be your downfall, depending on the time of year and weather conditions. To learn how to build a shelter to survive a night or longer in the outdoors, start with the most basic shelter — a debris shelter. This is constructed out of anything that is in the immediate area. For example, arrange dead branches along the side of a downed tree and cover it with pine boughs to provide a space underneath to protect you from the elements. Leaves, boughs and grass also make a great insulator on the floor of your shelter to protect you from the elements.
3. WILD EDIBLES
Food and water are the next essential skills on your list. Some of the most common and familiar wild foods found throughout Maine during the spring and summer are easy to find: blueberries, cattails, dandelions, and even pine needles. All of these can be prepared for nutrients to sustain you if need be.
For example: Cattail (Typha Latifolia) is full of starch/carbohydrates. The stalk and roots can be eaten and the fluff at the top can be used for fire tinder. To harvest cattails, you have to dig out (not pull out) the root or else the roots will break off under ground. The stalk can be peeled to reveal a soft center ready to eat. The roots should be washed and cleaned first. You can either roast both the stalk and roots over a fire or eat raw; both will provide you with well-needed energy and nourishment.
4. WATER PURIFYING
Luckily in Maine, there are abundant water sources everywhere you go: in brooks, ponds, rivers and lakes. To purify before drinking, water should be brought to a roiling boil for at least one minute and at altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (greater than 2,000 meters). Boil for three minutes. If you don’t have the means to boil, dig a hole next to a water source (such as a stream) and let the water naturally filter through the ground to your hole. This is still better than drinking directly from the water source itself as the earth acts as a filter.
— Text: Alex Ribar. Alex is a Bushcraft expert and former Marine who was an Infantry Squad Leader and NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) that held a second MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) as one of two Company Armorers (Gun Smiths). Alex has completed a Maine Guide course, is working toward multiple registered Maine Guide licenses, and is pursuing a career in outdoor adventure. He and his son Logan were featured on the History Channel show ALONE (Season 4) in 2016. For more information on Bushcraft skills, visit his YouTube channel @LibertyRogueOutdoors.
— Photos: White Pine Studios. They offer portraiture where you want it, with on site services. Take advantage of the beautiful Maine outdoors, or bring focus to your business in action. Contact: Tim@whitepinestudios.ne