Through the misty morning the voice of the forest clicks, chirps, snaps, and sings. Have you ever started your day with a campfire coffee, watching the fog dance through a wilderness valley? When you talk about real rarity in this lifetime, it comes from the places your woodsman’s wilderness survival kit can take you.
Not to get too esoteric, but we are living through a time where people need a true challenge, a true adventure, and an experience that exceeds the glowing screen and bean-counting metric of our modern world. There is more to this life than money and mobile apps.
No matter your background in wilderness exploration, the time is right to get back to the dirt and foliage from whence you came. We all desire to return home to our youth, well, a woodsman is driven by their desire to return to the home of their ancestors.
Becoming a Modern Woodsman and Wilderness Adventurer
There are some steps to take and some wilderness survival gear to buy. Most importantly there are skills to learn. These skills are going to take time. In fact, the whole process is going to take time.
It shouldn’t scare you. It’s a commitment but all good things come to those who wait. Even better things come to those who work tirelessly.
To become a modern woodsman, you are going to have to focus on how much time you can get into the woods each year. No matter what you watch, read or buy there is no substitute for dirt time. Dirt time is the process of getting out into the woods and learning the trees, rocks, plants, terrain, wildlife, and skills that help you affect all the above.
You will also need a woodsman’s wilderness survival kit. This kit will address most of your needs in the wild. It will keep you safe and should also give you all the tools needed to build shelter, start a fire, and feed yourself.
There is no denying that our wildlands and places are at risk in this modern age. The more people who get out and enjoy them the more of an army we will have to protect them. It will be the outdoorsmen and the adventurers that save our wild places for the next generation.
You are a part of something that has far-reaching consequences and we thank you.
No matter how grand the mission, it all starts with getting into the woods. So, let’s talk about the major components of the woodsman’s wilderness survival kit.
The Irreplaceable Survival Knife
The one tool that most people can understand and appreciate, despite their woodland experience, is the survival knife.
Having the right survival knife is going to assure that you are never without the means to execute the survival essentials. You see, if you know what you are doing, you can create fire, sanitize and filter water, and build shelter all with the right knife.
This is just the beginning of what a survival knife can do for you. A survival knife can be used to:
- Carve Wooden Tools
- Split Wood
- Start Fire
- Make Kindling
- Process Tinder
- Strike a Ferro Rod
- Hunt Food
- Harvest Wild Edibles
- Skin and Process Game and Fish
This list goes on and on. Your survival knife will be the woodsman’s best friend. So, be sure you do your due diligence.
SURVIVAL KNIFE CHARACTERISTICS
There are some characteristics of a good survival knife that are worth noting, Let's look at what makes up the ideal survival knife
5-6 inch Blade
A blade size of 5-6 inches will give you the ability to do intricate carving and baton wood. Two things you will need a survival knife to be capable of.
The strongest blades are going to be fixed blade knives. This simply means that your blade does not fold, and it is made of one piece of metal, handle included.
90 Degree Spine
The 90-degree spine is critical for striking ferro rods, processing materials for tinder and preserving your razor-sharp blade
High Carbon Steel
A knife blade made of high carbon steel is going to be able to throw sparks when struck with flint or glass.
If you are on a tight budget look into the affordable Morakniv. They have basic survival blades that are for sale under $10! These are the bare minimum and lack some of the most important elements that make a survival knife effective. If you commit to a Mora Companion you will get an even better survival blade for under $20.
The first part of your woodsman’s wilderness survival kit is going to be the survival knife. Find the one you like, the one you can afford and the one you will use on a regular basis.
A Woodsman’s Fire Kit
While you can start a fire by throwing sparks with a piece of flint and your high carbon steel knife, that can be tough. It can seem near impossible for the beginner.
Fire should be easy, eventually. In the beginning, you will have a lot of learning to do but before long you will come to an understanding with fire. Fires speak. They tell you what they need if you watch and listen. This takes experience.
To expedite this process, you will need a fire kit to be part of your woodsman’s wilderness survival kit.
One of the best places to start is to depend on metal. You need to make fire with metal because of its reliable and repeatable. Fire with sticks is a cool trick to know but it's not easy and it adds to the workload.
In the beginning, you will only worry about your first fire because that is the challenge. However, as you progress you will start to understand that is just the beginning. In that first fire, you may make some charcloth to start your next fire.
WHAT GOES IN THE KIT?
Probably the most important part of a woodsman’s fire kit is going to be a simple lighter. That is the safety net. You should also carry a flint and steel as well as a ferrocerium or ferro rod. You can make thousands of fires using these methods.
Homemade fire starters are great to carry, as well. Dryer lint makes great tinder and its free. You might also want to include some fatwood in your kit. This resinous evergreen wood is highly flammable.
You can find fatwood at the root ball of fallen evergreen trees or in the crooks where branches meet trunks. The fatwood can be harvested and cut into small planks. These can be scraped for tinder or used to make your early-stage fire burn hotter.
You might also consider including other types of fire starters like compressed paper or fire gels. There are many brands out there and they all do the job. While making fire from natural materials is exciting its certainly not the only way. It’s a skill that should be practiced but it shouldn’t be your only option.
The goal of the woodsman’s fire kit is to make fire easy. You want a quick and easy fire in a survival situation. There are no exceptions.
Adding Metal Traps to the Woodsman’s Wilderness Survival Kit
Food is important to the outdoorsman. Not only do you need to eat but there is something very special about harvesting your own food in the wild. That could be from fishing, hunting or trapping.
While most people are familiar with hunting and fishing, we rarely expose ourselves to the benefits of trapping. Trapping is a monster skill because it is easy to repeat and it's passive! In other words, you can leave a trap to do its work while you are gone.
The bushcrafter will be able to make things like snares from cordage and the woods around them. However, these traps are often a one time deal. Snares made of cords and wood are also easy to chew through and that can cost you a meal.
Our ancestors have been depending on metal traps for hundreds of years. While you might think that all your survival gear should be made from wood, don’t be silly! Metal killing traps like the 220 conibear are going to work for you repeatedly.
When you think bushcrafting you might think wood, but you should consider steel and metal. At first contact, the Native people of North America were ready to sell everything to get their hands on metal tools. Things like metal knives and hatchets were far superior to their bone and stone tools.
I am sure they had the same feeling when they first saw how a metal trap worked on things like beaver and muskrat.
THE DEADFALL TRAP
The DF-4 Deadfall trap is another great metal trap for your wilderness survival kit. Most woodsman will know about the figure four deadfall trap. This is traditionally made from a hand-carved figure four trigger that is designed to hold up a large rock or log that drops when triggered.
The weight of the object crushes the small animal and doesn’t allow it to expand its lungs. This is a killing trap.
The DF-4 Deadfall Trap is modeled but has been created out of high-quality aluminum. This metal trap holds more weight than wood can and is quicker and easier to set up. The trap stores in three stacked lengths that are held together by metal rivets. It opens into the figure four shape and is set in seconds.
Metal traps are essential to harvesting small game. The DF-4 Deadfall Trap is a great addition to any woodsman’s wilderness survival kit.
Building a Lightweight and Effective Mess Kit
An effective mess kit is not only going to help you prepare food, but it will make tasks like boiling water and simmering plant medicine much easier. While you might not look at yourself as an herbal healer, these things come in time.
The lightweight mess kit is another important piece of that outdoor experience. This will allow you to cook real food in the wild. Many people opt for a weekend of foil unwrapping. This is a very interesting choice.
It seems silly to spend your whole day on an epic hike or exploring a magnificent expanse and only eat foil wrapped or freeze-dried foods. The overall experience is punctuated by cooking a real meal at the end of a long day.
Just imagine what it would be like to enjoy a meal of fresh cooked fish that you caught earlier in the day. Maybe you even mix up some griddle corn cakes and cook them over the fire. Of course, your mess kit should include plates and some eating utensils, as well.
When planning to use your mess kit be sure you do your research on campfires in the backwoods locations you are exploring. Many State and National parks do not allow backwoods fires. That doesn’t mean you cannot use your mess kit; you just need to bring some sort of fuel source.
MESS KIT OPTIONS
Self-Reliance Outfitters has a wide range of mess kits for sale. There are very affordable lightweight kits that will meet all your needs. We also have kits like the Pathfinder Stainless Steel bottle Cooking Kit. This kit is nearly a survival kit on its own but presents all the tools you will need to cook and eat a meal on the trail.
If you are going to take the time to master building fires and sparking tinder you might as well take your bushcraft cooking to the next level. Bank on a high-quality, lightweight mess kit. It’s a necessary addition to any wilderness survival kit.
Extend your Season with a 100% Wool Blanket
For most people who dabble in the world of bushcraft and survival, the season comes to an end when the weather reaches a certain point. Those accustomed to the cold might hold out longer but most people pack their gear away at a certain point.
Hypothermia is very real, and it should not be underestimated. It should also be mentioned that hypothermia does not just affect you in the snow and wind. You could argue that a steady rain in the upper 30’s is about as dangerous as it gets.
This is because people might take the situation for granted. When you are moving you stay warm. Hiking in cold weather and rain might even be kind of refreshing to some. However, once you stop you are in for a rude awakening.
For the woodsman who is looking to extend their dirt time season a 100% wool blanket is essential. Because of its incredible insulating properties, the wool blanket is a must-have for the woodsman in the cold.
Not all wool blankets are created equal. The difference between 100% wool and everything else is important to understand. Along with insulating, 100% wool is incredibly water resistance and it is also moisture-wicking.
In the battle against cold and hypothermia, you need to fight moisture. The 100% wool blanket does this on many fronts. Just be sure you are only buying 100%
It is important to note that a 100% wool blanket is going to cost you some money. These are investments. They are survival tools like anything else. If you try to cut corners here, you won’t be reaping the benefits of the wool. If you go for an 80/20 blend, then you might as well just pack a sleeping bag.
Effectiveness of the Wool Blanket
This is as much about your mentality as a woodsman as it is about the effectiveness of the blanket itself. It’s a time tested material that goes a long way. You can also put it to use in several ways.
- Sleeping Bag
- Ground Insulation
- Day Pack
To create things like a poncho or a coat you are going to need a brass pin that can go through the wool and lock it in place. With the blanket over your head, you will use the pin to join the blanket around your chest and this will create that coat or poncho. You can also use the pin when creating a small day pack.
A wool blanket is an effective tool of the outdoorsman just be sure you go with quality above all. Getting swindled into something that is not 100% wool will negate all the thought and effort you put into it.
Carrying your Woodsman’s Wilderness Survival Kit
Now that you understand the survival gear that makes up a kit like this, you need a place to put it. This is where preference really plays a roll. Many people prefer the traditional haversack to store their gear. These are impressive backpacks that get the job done.
Others like the feel of the back padded, multi strapped, MOLLE compatible tactical style bags that are for sale across the internet. Again, this is a matter of preference.
The gear that we have explored in this article is mostly traditional gear that would have been used a hundred or even two hundred years ago. Sure, there have been advancements to things like the quality of steel, but the tools would have been similar.
Its stands to reason that you might enjoy the look and feel of a more traditional pack, like a haversack to carry your gear in. These packs rarely have the organization of the modern tactical bags, but you won’t likely be carrying a ton of gear anyway.
In bushcraft and wilderness survival we want to travel lighter and go further.
No matter what bag you decide to house your woodsman’s wilderness survival kit in be sure it's of high quality.
ASSESSING PACK QUALITY
Quality often shows itself in things like straps, stitching, and zippers. Buckles are another great tell of quality. In this age of Amazon people are very willing to spend money on a product they have never seen or touched before.
That is astounding!
At least go for gear that others have used and have spoken for. It would be a real drag to find yourself having saved $20 bucks on a bag that has already fallen apart before your first outing. Remember, if you cannot carry your gear you won’t be able to enjoy much of the wild.
Straps come off, zipper teeth bend and then you spend time either repairing your gear or abandoning the trip that means so much.
What is the motivation for the average person to head out into the woods on the weekends? When we have everything at the tips of our fingers, why leave the house? With the increase in violence and terrorism why go outside at all!
Of course, there is a little sarcasm in this statement but there is also some truth. It's much safer and much easier to just stay inside and drool in the blue light of your phone. From one screen to another you could make your rounds and hit your fully stocked fridge in between.
The problem with all this luxury and convenience is that it rarely affords us true satisfaction. That’s the rub.
The human-animal only gets true satisfaction through challenge, struggle, learning and doing. These were all things we couldn’t avoid in life, till now.
Becoming an outdoorsman or just continuing with a lifelong pursuit of dirt time, is how we can recover from the struggles of our modern lives. We are boxed up behind screens in controlled environments and while we do nothing physical, we arrive home exhausted.
Thoreau said, “We need the tonic of the woods.” He said this long before the creation of the iPhone and he couldn’t more on point.
The time has come to build or improve your own wilderness survival kit. Whether you start with a reliable survival knife or a flint and steel you will be taking the first steps towards a new kind of fulfillment.
You can’t find this kind of reward on a mobile phone. It exists only beyond the tree line.