bushcraft, the recession and the world..........just some thoughts......

Bushcraft, the recession and the world.
The recession is still very much alive and well, at least in peoples wallets and lives. People are still very tentative about their spending - on courses we have noticed a new phenomenum of people booking and either canceling last minute or not turning up? People's spending on the mail order site has changed noticably too so using these as a thumb rule the differences are there. Forget the courses (we can all learn our skills and gain loads of experience doing it for ourselves) forget the kit (carry less by knowing more - remember that?? The motto of the shrafter!!) So how have these changes effected the bushcraft, which after all is what were interested in? Well for a start the brand name trend has been bucked - returning us to maybe a better time when kit was used, as in the old days, because it worked and not because a tv presenter wore it and the sheeple flocked to buy it having no experience for themselves of what worked and what didnt. For example, the new resurgance of Mora knives, these age old trusted tool are a good as ever. And this may also be in part due to the fact people are more interested in doing the bushcraft and less interested in paying money to do courses or buy expensive kit.

Experience earned is the key here - by taking your shiny gear out the box and into the woods you learn what works and how to use it for yourself!
I know I sound like im being a little condescending but lets face facts as with any hobby the more popular it becomes, or became, the more the general public discover it. The hard core "shrafters" have always been there and will continue to be - while the dabblers will drift in and drift out. And those in the middle who like the idea but dont really want to sleep out or dont have the time or inclination will find better ways to spend their now hard earned cash. And I'm sure I'm not falling far from the mark to say the popularity of Ray Mears also has a effect on the bushcraft. I remember the sudden surge in axe sales when they released extreme bushcraft on DVD - proof if it were needed of Rays following. That being so how many once bushcrafters have followed their hero off into the world of wildlife watching?? But as I say the hard core are still there - and no offence to the rest, these are the people I care about. How has modern times effect these (and I include myself in this group too - maybe a little to bold but hey its my blog!)

Modern bushcraft is a different world it seems - the ideal of the 80's shrafter was to be able to go out into the woods and live, reasonably comfortably, with just a knife, a blanket and a billy can. Now (pre-recession anyway) it seems that the ideal of the bushcrafter is/was to roll up in their 4x4 set up a expedition style camp, light the fire and spend a weekend sat around it eating either fried food - or some hippy style vegetarian alternative - drinking beer and talking about how great their new knife is ................the actual craft side of the story didnt really come into it.

A friend of mine nailed that one, a twist on his saying anyway as it seemed to me people started to REPLACE MISSING KNOWLEDGE with KIT!

So thats the past, and I'm sorry if the arrow of truth has fallen near the mark!

But all is not lost as there is a future! What is the future - will the kit market resume? Will the course collector come back and bookings soar?? I am sure they will, all things come and go, come and go - life is but a circle.

But, dear reader, maybe you are like me, a 80's shrafter. I've paid my dues, learned to do the bushcraft before the great kitcraft culture arose in 2000. Thirty years of outdoors experience hasnt gone away because I cant afford the latest must have bit of kit!

For me, the future of bushcraft is bright. I'm loving it! Yep, the recession has meant I have been able to get out and do the things I love while the woods are empty of the wage slaves who beaver away in the office! More to the point, after a good long time lost in the wilderness of kit hell, I've found myself back on the trail of the true bushcrafter where kit doesnt rule over skills or the simple pleasure of place.

My kit, refined and refined again, is now almost perfect and minimalist. I dont lack for luxury or comfort and yet can get it all in a 45 litre sack .......... a weeks worth! Saving me money and back ache!

My time (like yours), that most precious of resources which, like the grains of sand in a egg timer is always running out and can never be reclaimed, is now split between the odd course (less of these and in 2011 none as I take a gap year to do only the things I enjoy) my hunting camp where we shoot and snare and live a classic hunter gatherer live style, Hiking and Sweden.

In the hunters camp we practice our skills - and baring the use of a tarp generally live and breath the knife,billy and blanket dream of the old time bushcrafter who shuns the modern gear dependant style of bushcraft!

Hiking - well here's where the gear fetish comes into it - maybe. The hiking is, to my mind another string of the old hunter gatherer bow. How so? Well the hunter gatherer had to range about 30km's or so to find and feed themselves and as such had to use good old "Shankes' pony" to get there - as does the hiker. Hiking is great exercise, gets us out into the fresh air and some cracking wilderness areas. More than this it allows us to practice our bushcraft skills too - navigation, campcraft and plant ID for example, it allows us to understand our gear - nothing teaches a person about kit than the need to carry it on their back - for there is the great leveller of what we think we need - divided by what we actually need - divided by what actually works = the kit we carry!

And lastly to Sweden. Ever since I discovered the beautiful lakes and woods of Varmland I have been smitten like a lover lost in the beauty of youths first kiss. It wasnt a mere accident Ray Mears says that hiking and canoeing in sweden is as close to a religious experience as he knows! For this is the essence of Swedens charm - not a religious experience (im far to practical for that) but a place where the shrafter can actually go and practice their skills with a freedom not found in the UK since before that old Viking William got lucky! Sweden's charms are many fold the freedom is but one. Its not by chance Swedish knives, axes and clothes are deemed and found to be the best a bushcrafter can get. For here is the essence of it - the swedes actually still do the bushcraft many Brits can only dream of and as such they know and buy the kit that works. Another facite of Sweden's magic is the fact she still has vaste tracks of wilderness where a shrafter can go and not see another person! Self reliance is a powerful thing! Lastly, although not least and not all but enough for now, is sweden's fresh and cleaness - Britian this green and pleasant land is over crowded and to my eyes these days very tired looking, shes like a Middle aged women whose beauty has began to fade after one to many nights down the pub. Where Sweden is still that young, pretty blonde whose smile can take your breath away and whose slim waist and strong legs promise a future of delights.

Bushcraft, recession and the world .............. so what do you do, what can you do?? If your a rough camping, fried food and beer drinking shrafter thats cool, enjoy it! - theres a time and a place for it for sure, after all even the Mountain men had a annual renedevous.

But if you want something more or different well now is your time for I truly believe the recession has sorted the wheat from the chaff as far as the bushcrafter is concerned for now more than ever before the best gear is well priced and widely avialable (a lot of small businesses may have suffered, custom knife makers might have lost customers to Frosts Mora, bushcraft schools arent getting bums of seats - booo hoo this is the way with all trends they rise and fall the wise man enjoys the harvest but saves for the lean times too) also less people are in the woods which means the dedicated few can practice skills in peace and with the tv inspired masses distracted by other things (and with them the uneducated few who leave fire scares and litter ect ect) land owners are more inclined to allow access rather than shun it.

The bushcrafts future is brighter than ever thanks to the recession and now is the time of the true and dedicated bushcrafter!


Fasach Ile II - shark island

The old Scottish Fasach Ile course was a popular event with the more hardy and adventurious bushcrafter - sadly said course is no more.

But to qoute Cracticus Potts (chitty chitty bang bang) "up from the ashes grow the roses of success!" and in this case these roses were a new course off the north west coast of Ireland on a deserted Island called Inish Airc (the island of the shark!)

We followed the tried and tested programme Bearclaw perfected on its predecessor course - but we also improved upon it too. For not only were we working with our irish sister company Ancient Irish but we also (for example) were un-hampered by the constraints we suffered in scotland and were able to hunt game and gather wild foods in a true survival manner - as we'll as the legendary Limpet menu's our survivors also enjoyed Pollock fresh off the hook and from the rolling waves of the altantic ocean fished for off the point (when the Atlantic grey seals let then that is!)

All in all a fantastic course - the international team we had as our test course guinea pigs included two dutch, one brit and four irish lads - a combination of characters and skills which we pushed hard and tested to the limits.

Well done to you guys - you made the course what it was and set the standard for the future.

I look forward to reading the newspaper reviews too as this course not only raised a few eye brows among the locals on Inish Boifin but also among the local press!