Story by Joshua Swanagon, Photos by Jim Cooper (SharpByCoop Photography)
As Summer comes roaring in our thoughts turn to getting out into the woods and enjoying the beauty and splendor that this world has to offer. It is a way of getting back to our roots and channeling our frontier forefathers.
Although I would not consider myself an “ultralight” backpacker, I do like a bit of a lighter backpack. I am getting older, and things don’t function quite like they used to. That, combined with the fact that I believe skills beat gear, hands down, I am the type of person that believes it is better to pack lighter and make what you need in the field than it is to pack a huge, heavy backpack full of stuff you probably won’t even use.
Don’t get me wrong, if you saw my backpack, you would find that I, like many others, do tend to bring a bit with me, but much of the bulk of it is camera gear. Which might be why I prefer to take less gear.
Although we refer to any kind of crafting in the field as “bushcraft,” much of what we know of it was nothing more than necessary survival skills just a couple hundred years ago—if even that long. Although the art of bushcrafting may not be as vital to our daily survival as it was during the forging of our country, it is still important for myriad reasons.
For example, although it may never happen to you, finding yourself in a dire survival situation is not as rare as people may think and the knowledge of how to use the environment around you to survive will be a necessary skill to make it out alive.
Also, the knowledge of the bushcraft process is a link to our past and provides skills that can translate into other areas of our lives. Bushcrafting takes a certain amount of engineering and creativity. Not everything you do will be just a simple feather stick or splitting kindling. Once you start making traps, chairs, tables, benches/raised beds, pot hooks (that can be raised and lowered), cooking utensils, etc. you start to really expand your creative thought processes and problem-solving skills.
The more you create and the more you really begin to become one with the environment around you, the more fulfilling your camping experience becomes. As you begin to work with the natural world, the more you will realize how much the natural world is providing for your survival. You just have to learn how to work with it and it will begin to work with you.
Stay sharp and keep it real. K&G
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Joshua Swanagon has studied survival in both urban and wilderness environments in Colorado and Michigan for most of his life, while also adding experience in harsher terrains abroad. He utilizes his experience and years of diverse martial arts and combatives training and real world application as a self-defense/combatives instructor, published freelance writer and Field Editor for various magazines in the fields of knives, survival, self-defense and tactical subject matters. Joshua also brings with him his years of experience as Editor of, and Subject Matter Expert for, Knives Illustrated Magazine.
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