THE very idea of bushcraft revolves around using resources available to you in order to thrive.
It’s a classic case of ‘living off the fat of the land’.
And yet you will often encounter a fellow enthusiast who spends thousands on gear. They adorn themselves from head to toe in ‘tactical’ kit – a £300 headtorch, £900 backpack, £150 knife and the very latest in a priceless GPS navigation system.
And, you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Bushcraft is what you make it – it’s personal to you, and if you want to spend huge amounts of money on something you enjoy then that can only be a good thing.
However, the point of this article is to explain how you really don’t need to blow your savings on something that for many is just a hobby.
I’ll use the example of fishing to get the main message across…
Imagine two guys having a fishing contest. The first has spent a fortune on the latest carbon-fibre match rod, a top-of-the-range reel and he’s sat on the comfiest fishing chair imaginable in the luxury of his high-tech bivouac shelter.
The second angler bought his old rod and reel from a second-hand shop. He’s sat on a plastic chair with an umbrella that has seen some better days.
However, at the business end, they’ve both got identical hooks, the same bait and are fishing at a similar depth while four feet away from the bank.
The fish don’t see what’s going on above the water. They don’t care that one of the blokes trying to catch them has coughed up three grand for his gear while the other one got change from thirty quid. Below the water – where it matters – both have an equal chance of landing a fish. Neither has an advantage over the other, despite the vastly different outlay.
And therein lies the lesson. If you spend the money where it matters, you can make do in other areas that don’t need you to part with your hard-earned cash.
So, I’ve compiled a brief rundown on some of the gear I’ve invested in for Wild Parkin that’s come straight off Amazon, has been thoroughly and rigorously tested by me, performs to my expectations, gets my seal of approval, and hasn’t broken the bank.
It’s the, pardon the pun, ‘spearhead’ of any collection of bushcraft equipment and is likely the tool you will use more than anything else. So that means you need to choose carefully and wisely.
Various knives do specific jobs but, as an all-rounder, I’ve not seen anything that can deliver everything I want quite like the Mora Outdoor Companion.
A four-inch, hardened steel blade matched up with a comfortable handle, this superb piece of kit has never let me down. I haven’t even sharpened it yet!
This would still be my knife of choice even if I was hell-bent on spending £200 on a blade and not just £20.
Next on the priority list is shelter. I’ve used a host of tarps – expensive and otherwise – over the years, but in 2019 I needed to invest in a bulk order to help with overnight bushcraft courses. I tested a few, but settled on this one – the hotbesteu 3×3 – because it was tough enough for my needs but, most importantly, held its waterproof properties better than most after a bit of wear and tear (and not so much of the ‘tear’ – it can take some punishment).
Look, I don’t expect this tarp to last a lifetime and as I’m running a business I need to replace equipment every few years, so at less than twenty quid a unit I’m more than happy with this.
It’s pretty much the same story with hammocks as when it comes to my tarp purchases. I often buy in bulk and need them for courses, so they’ve got to prove their worth to me and tick all the boxes of being reliable and tough as well as not taking up much room or creating unnecessary weight.
That’s why I tested and opted for this Covacure hammock which tops out at little over a pound in weight (including carabiners). It’s made of parachute material and has well-stitched strappings. Despite the fact I would regularly renew these for courses, this brand actually offers a lifetime guarantee which is something you don’t see very often.
This particular hammock, while also priced at under £20, has the added benefit of a decent mosquito net as well – which, if you’re an avid canoeist like me, is always a bonus when you’re bedding down near the river.
I’m particular about stoves and cooking arrangements when I’m camping. I almost always go for a wood burner. As always, because of the canoe expeditions, I need something light and durable that can pack away and stow easily.
This is where the Wild Camping International ‘Birthday Card’ stove works for me. I labelled it the ‘birthday card’ because that gives you a general idea of the size and shape it turns into once you’ve dismantled it and slipped it into your pack.
It’s made from really tough titanium and – perhaps more importantly –the ventilation holes and fuel chamber are all the right size to allow your fire to breathe properly. It’s a great bit of kit.
In fact, I’ve been using the same one for a year now on many tough expeditions and it hasn’t let me down once.
Clocking in at nearly £30, it might be a little bit more of a guilty luxury in terms of bushcraft on a budget. After all, it’s easy enough to knock up a small campfire with stones etc, but when I think back to the number of times this unit has been there and done what I needed as well as comparing it to similar stoves then I think it’s worth every penny.
I’m sticking with another Wild Camping International product here, purely because they do a decent line in titanium products.
And this one surprised me. Largely because when it first arrived I was a little taken aback at how small it was.
I was really in the market for a hanging pot that could boil up enough water for a group of eight or so. Given this was 750ml it was unlikely to be making coffee for everyone on bushcraft courses, so I ended up taking it on a couple of solo trips and even a big river expedition with my wife down the River Wye which you can view here.
It’s hardly left my side since, and has teamed up nicely with the stove for countless morning coffees and afternoon brews.
I reckon five budget items should be enough to whet your appetite for bushcraft on a budget for now. If you want more, give me a nudge and I’ll add a few more items that have my personal recommendation.
Maybe you’d like to recommend some of your own, or you’d like me to test something. Just drop me a line… firstname.lastname@example.org