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Thread: Starting Out

  1. #1
    Alone in the Wilderness
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    Jan 2016
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    Starting Out

    Hello good people
    I've decided that I'm going to get in to bushcraft and I'm looking for advice/tips about how to gain the most from it. But maybe a bit about myself so you's can better understand the mammoth task 😂.
    I'm reasonably young and able and have done a couple of bushcraft/survival course in the past. I'm always out walking with the dog through woods etc and enjoy conventional wild camping i.e tent, sleeping bag, food and a half of whiskey ( i am Scottish after all). I've watch a lot of YouTube vids and read up extensively on the subject but a feel I've reach the point where I need to go out and challenge myself by putting it in to practice. Always seems the best way to learn.

    But my goal/dream is to put the dog in the car and take of to the woods for the weekend with minimal equipment and supplies and maybe drag the wee ones along when they are a bit older.

    So to get going I've got a few questions straight of the bat.

    Location - I live in the Scottish Highlands and while there is no shortage of places to practice bushcraft it does seem that the woods and forests surrounding the area are predominantly pine, with some birch dotted about. A lot of the things I've watched and read seem to have a greater variety of trees and bushes at there disposal. Now where I see challenge I'm sure you guys see opportunity. Any advice on this would be appreciated.

    Duration and season - The Scottish highlands can be a harsh environment, so as a novice would you's recommend holding off for spring/summer before spending the whole night out?

    Supplies and Equipment - I've read up about what to take but is there anything I really shouldn't forget, in other words a must have list.

    And finally, my good lady isn't all that keen on the thought of me heading off in to the woods on my own for the weekend when I'm not very experienced. Is it worth talking a friend in to joining me for a while?

    Thanks in advance for replies, all advice is hugely appreciated.

    Carter

  2. #2
    Woodsman bopdude's Avatar
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    I haven't camped in the Highlands so can't comment on anything apart from what goes for all camping in the wilds start off easy and build up, make sure your kit is up to the task, make sure someone knows where you'll be and when you expected back, take a mode of comms ( even if the signal is intermittent ) If your first trip is by car, don't stray to far, take more than you think you'll need, experiment from the resources in the car, you really don't want to get caught out.

    Anyway, I ramble but you get the point

  3. #3
    Samuel Hearne
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    Sep 2011
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    Last time I was in the highlands was summer time and I was glad that I had a mossy head net as the midges were a nightmare, and bopdude has given good advice.

  4. #4
    Ranger OakAshandThorn's Avatar
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    I started out with a basic kit core, and built up from there.

    A tarp, tent, bivy, or shelter of some sort is a must - a roof over the head establishes a more manageable controlled environment. But probably most important above all is solid clothing suited to your environment, the season, and weather conditions. Without the right clothing, you risk exposure/hypothermia. Next thing to bring is water, and the means of purifying water to replenish your bottles when out for longer trips. Good communication is also vital: a cellphone, radio, or a SPOT transmitter (stored in a ziplock or some other waterproof container), backed up by a whistle and-or a signal mirror. Food is also up there on the list, especially in the winter or on longer trips. I personally don't like a cooked meal all the time (especially not in the heat of summer), so usually half the food I carry is ready-to-eat (granola bars, granola mixes, dried fruits, dried berries, chocolate, etc.) and the other half will require preparation. A sharp cutting tool is a necessity - I know some backpackers "get-by" without one, but I wouldn't pass it up. You don't need to be decked out with an axe, a saw, a fixed-blade knife as well as a folder, unless you're planning on doing some trail work or building a natural shelter. A simple folding knife will do everything you need, from shaving "feathers" from a stick to food preparation. A means of making fire or taking along a backpacking stove is a necessity, especially in winter. Ferrocerium rods are great, but there's nothing "wrong" with using a Bic lighter or strike-anywhere matches as well. As for the stove, if you're on a budget, you can make a pop-can alcohol stove, but be warned that they lose efficiency the closer to 0 C you get. Below 0 C, it can become next to impossible to light them, because alcohol evaporates at a higher temperature, and it's not the liquid that burns, but rather vapours. But for 3 season use, they work just fine and are ultralight. Otherwise, in the winter I prefer esbit fuel, because they were designed to withstand the extremes. Esbit fuel also leaves a minimal residue and gives-off hardly any fumes when burned. Esbit stoves/burners are relatively cheap online - some are ultralight, some are heavier. The folding ones in the stores are good enough. And if you're going to take along a cutting tool, do take a first-aid kit as well. I would advise building your own FAK rahter than buying one, since it is useless to buy something and not know how to use half of the things inside the kit. I recommend purchasing a QuickClot spounge in case of serious accidents...in any case, it only weighs a few ounces and takes up hardly any room. Stow it all inside a ziplock bag or a dedicated pouch, and keep it accessible. Going back to the shelter principles, sleeping kit is a must-have for overnights and multi-day outings - sleeping pad or mat, and a sleeping bag, both rated to the season. It simply does not do to spend a night in 0 C temperatures in a sleeping bag rated for 10 C, even with a sleeping mat. You will be cold, unless you bring along lots of extra clothing. Last but not least, you need a rucksack to carry all this stuff in . Before you purchase one, you might want to go to an outdoor supply store and try some on. Try frameless, external frame, and internal framed rucks. See what feels comfortable. My advice would be to acquire a day pack (less than 32 litre capacity) for short trips and a larger rucksack (greater than 32 litres - 35 to 40 should be good enough) for extended outings. That way your not cramming everything into a tiny pack or left with lots of extra room in a larger rucksack.
    The final list:
    1. external shelter
    2. appropriate clothing
    3. water, and means of purifying water for extended trips
    4. communication
    5. food
    6. cutting tool
    7. first-aid kit (FAK)
    8. means of making fire/heat/cooking source
    9. sleeping kit

    Extras:
    1. Map - more important than a compass, since a map can tell you where you are. A compass is virtually useless you are very familiar with the area. A map can be useful even in places you are familiar with, as it may show hidden locations you have not yet explored. Maps are also imperative for exploring new, unfamiliar territories. Even if you bring along a GPS, electronics can fail, and knowing how to read a map is a really useful outdoor skill. Once you become experienced with maps, then consider a compass. If you are printing out maps on the home computer, get them laminated if possible. A large ziplock bag will work, but over time, the creases and folds become weak spots where water can seep in.

    2. Mozzie net and bug juice - few things are worse than being followed by hordes of mosquitoes and-or gnats. To save yourself a lot of aggravation, take both along. I carry a head net and a small bottle of bug juice (Avon Skin So Soft: Bug Guard Plus Expedition) with me throughout the warm seasons as I seem to be a favourite target for the black gnats, which go after the tender parts around my eyes and leave bacterial infection and boils where they have bitten.


    That just about covers it. Everything else is add-on stuff (luxuries ) and not essential. The above kit list shouldn't cost too much, and the base weight (weight of the pack and everything in it except "expendables", namely stove fuel, water, and food) should be light enough for comfort and long hikes. Hope this helps .
    My blog, New England Bushcraft

    "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
    ~ Abraham Lincoln

    "Be prepared, not scared."
    ~ Cody Lundin

  5. #5
    Bopdude hit the nail on the head really. Get out there and have fun but when you're starting out (even when you have years of experience) there's no shame in taking a large amount of gear. Good quality sleeping and cutting tools are important, not strictly the most expensive ones, far from it. A cheap mora will graft very well. And as for sleeping go over the top with the tog rating until you know your cold tolerance. I only ever use a light 2 season bag, but started with a 4. Going out with a friend is an idea, ideally with someone experienced if possible. Most importantly get out there and enjoy! The highlands can be harsh though, maybe look into going somewhere more forgiving for now

  6. #6
    Ent FishyFolk's Avatar
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    Here is an idea if you are new to this and do not know if your kit will stand the test. Do not wait to find out far out in the sticks that your sleeping bag is not up to the task.
    Nothing wrong in having a test run for a night in your own back yard, or somewhere close your home or a car. That way you can quickly adjust what is lacking, and maybe identify a few things you don't really need, before you go on any big expeditions.
    Victory awaits the one, that has everything in order - luck we call it
    Defeat is an absolute consequense for the one that have neglected to do the necessary preparations - bad luck we call it
    (Roald Amundsen)

    Bumbling Bushcraft on Youtube
    Nordisk Bushcraft - The Nordic bushcraft blog and forum

  7. #7
    Tribal Elder shepherd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishyFolk View Post
    Here is an idea if you are new to this and do not know if your kit will stand the test. Do not wait to find out far out in the sticks that your sleeping bag is not up to the task.
    Nothing wrong in having a test run for a night in your own back yard, or somewhere close your home or a car. That way you can quickly adjust what is lacking, and maybe identify a few things you don't really need, before you go on any big expeditions.
    very good advice, safety first.. also no need to be uncomfortable when it could be avoided.. have a car close by and be prepared to change kit that isnt working for you.. its a very individual thing..

  8. #8
    Ent FishyFolk's Avatar
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    In this youtube vid I made a few years ago, it looks like I am on an expedition far iunto the arctic wilderness of northern Norway...well, I am in arctic Norway, but I am actually 50 meters from the road between two housing estates, 300 meters from home...If I had thought to bring my binoculars I could have watched TV trough the living room windows...
    But it was my very first night in a new hammock, new sleeping bag, and new tarp, and I had not spent a night outside in winter since I left the army 13 years earlier. So I wanted to make sure it worked for me before I went out on anything major. Also I made a couple of mistakes that I learned from.

    Last edited by FishyFolk; 27-01-2016 at 12:21 PM.
    Victory awaits the one, that has everything in order - luck we call it
    Defeat is an absolute consequense for the one that have neglected to do the necessary preparations - bad luck we call it
    (Roald Amundsen)

    Bumbling Bushcraft on Youtube
    Nordisk Bushcraft - The Nordic bushcraft blog and forum

  9. #9
    Woodsman Pootle's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
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    Kernow
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    Hello Carter, welcome to the community.
    What changes are you looking to make from the camping you already do?
    are you looking to get out of the tent? or is it more about what you get up to while you're out there, like crafts and skills and stuff?

  10. #10
    Ranger OakAshandThorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishyFolk View Post
    Here is an idea if you are new to this and do not know if your kit will stand the test. Do not wait to find out far out in the sticks that your sleeping bag is not up to the task.
    Nothing wrong in having a test run for a night in your own back yard, or somewhere close your home or a car. That way you can quickly adjust what is lacking, and maybe identify a few things you don't really need, before you go on any big expeditions.
    +2 Agreed, really good advice there. Better to test things out close to home than heading off to a remote place and getting stuck or having a miserable night.
    My blog, New England Bushcraft

    "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
    ~ Abraham Lincoln

    "Be prepared, not scared."
    ~ Cody Lundin

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