Question: I’m a beginner and I have recently purchased a few bags to carry all sorts of stuff in. I have a very nice backpack and a haversack. The only problem is, I don’t have much actual gear yet. I do have a few lighters and a knife or two, but nothing like the pros own. I’m not there yet, which is why I’m asking this question. What’s your advice for filling my bag and sack? What do you bring when you venture out in the woods? What are your go-to items to keep on you at all times?
Answer: I have my own go-to gear when I head out, but really, everyone is different. One person may want to use a lighter for starting fires while another is determined to use only their ferro rod. Personally, I always keep a lighter on me. I use it all the time to melt the frayed ends of rope. That’s a must.
Also, there are all types of bushcraft folks around. Some like to camp in tents while others sleep in the nude under the stars. Let’s just say that there are “levels” of bushcraft.
I’ve got quite a few books on bushcraft, but Dave Canterbury’s Bushcraft 101 is one of the best when it comes to laying out typical gear someone might keep in their bags. I’ll list and describe some below.
To keep in your pockets, you’ll need a lighter, compass and jackknife. These are probably good items to keep on you most of your life. You never know when you’ll need any of these. Again, the lighter is perfect for melting the ends of paracord and the compass comes in extremely handy during most times during long hikes, camping trips or anything bushcraft. I love compasses. Finally, the jackknife is small enough to conceal and it’s handy enough for cutting paracord or for notching wood for one reason or another.
When it comes to your belt, Dave says to keep a sheath knife and a kuksa. A kuksa is a wooden cup. I personally don’t keep anything on my belt as I don’t like the feel of it. Those things would become uncomfortable for me, so I generally store everything in my rucksack.
As for a belt pouch, Dave says to keep a sun glass, ferro rod, another lighter, carving jack and some cordage, such as paracord or tarred mariner’s line. Again, I don’t have a belt pouch because I keep all my gear on my back and in my pockets. I do like the idea of a haversack though. That’s next.
In the haversack, store your watch coat (light waterproof jacket), kerchief, more cordage, work gloves and another ferro rod. To be honest, I don’t know why you would need two lighters and two ferro rods, but if Dave says to bring them, there must be a good reason for it. I like the idea of a kerchief or rag and I think it’s a decent idea to carry these things where they’re more accessible than in a backpack. I would keep all the items that I’ve previously listed in the haversack.
Okay, so here’s the big one. He’s got a lot of stuff listed here, so this may take a while. I’ll move fast and I won’t be as descriptive as Dave was. In your backpack, store a tarp, trash bags, wool blanket, axe (hatchet), cordage, bow saw, pot, skillet, candles, fatwood, lantern and some more items that I don’t think you’ll be interested in as a beginner. You can pick up his book if you would like to know the minute details, but I suspect you won’t be packing a pencil and paper or large needles in your bag. Or a knife repair kit. Some of this stuff is out there for the pros.
The nice part about this list is that it’s suitable for bushcraft, camping or even hiking. I would always keep paracord on me because I never know when I might need it. A lighter is a must and so is some sort of a knife, even if it’s not a big survival knife. I do like having a ferro rod as a backup and I’ll generally make sure my knife is made of high carbon material because I can use the two together. Blankets, tarps and cookware is all a given for camping, so that’s fine.
Overall, if I were you, I’d start working on this list. Instead of buying a “watch coat,” you may want to work on getting a waterproof anorak. Those are more stylish and more readily accessible. You can also use it for hiking and camping if you so desire.