Bedrolling - the future??

It seems there is great interest in bucking the "expedition" style, sitting around the campfire in your shiny gear, my knife cost more than your knife" modern bushcraft trend.

I like to think many of us dyed in the wool outdoorsy types have either seen the light or simply grown beyond the easy option! There is a time and a place for it (glamping or rough camping), of course, but when a bushcraft meet becomes no harder than a weekend camping with the family, and as craft orientated as the octoberfest, surely something as changed and probably not for the better.

Now I hate this need to name something, but to get the ball rolling, we need to define what we are talking about - its hard to write about something without a name so I thought to call it bushcraft for the common man (only joking) as has been pointed out the common man tag is as much a marketing gimmick as ......... well, bushcraft is these days ....... Karl over on his blog ( calls it Neo-traditional(ism) which is a gob full even if it is accurate but I fancy something simplier.

So how about


backwoodsman (plural backwoodsmen)
  1. A person who is acclimated to living in a forest area that is far removed from civilization or modern conveniences.
  2. An uncivilized person.


backwoodsmanship (plural backwoodmanships)
  1. the skill of living in the backwoods
Although this is a little to "pioneer america" it does at least do what it says on the tin.



A swagman (also called a swaggie, sundowner or tussocker) is an old Australian[1] and New Zealand[2] term describing an underclass of transient temporary workers, who travelled by foot from farm to farm carrying the traditional swag (bedroll). Also characteristic of swagman attire was a hat strung with corks to ward off flies.

This has appeal as a swag is just a bedroll by another name.........and both of these I like but are they suitable?? I dont know (maybe you can suggest something better - infact lets have a vote, list your choice of definition in the comments and lets see what others think)

Maybe worrying about a name is just to bushcraft but for a working title I think "BEDROLLING" will do until I find something better.

So what is bedrolling?? (Hell ya lets define it to!)

Bedrolling is the ability to travel into a wilderness area with ONLY the minimal kit, i.e the contents of a bedroll for shelter/sleeping in and the contents of a haversack for possibles.

A bedroller is a outdoorsman who has the ability to travel into a wilderness area with the minimum of kit and use his wilderness living skills and knowledge to sustain himself and meet his daily needs. He is a minimalist with advanced skills and knowledge.

How does that sound??

So, my fellow BEDROLLERS welcome to the future, welcome to the past ............ what are the skills needed to live comfortably in the wilds? what is minimum kit??

How many of us are there?? How do you do it??

So many questions and a world full of answers .................. watch this space for a few of the answers ..........or at least my version of them

Swagman circa 1900

Bedroller circa 2012


Ross Gilmore said...

Another interesting post. As I’ve said before, I agree with you about being unhappy and dissatisfied with the bacon cooking, spoon carving, wool wearing fashion show, backyard camp out that bushcraft has become.

As far as terminology to differentiate a different way of interacting with the woods, I’m not sure. All of the terms seem to have been coopted by now, and if not, I’m sure they will be soon. These days everyone who can baton a knife in their backyard is a “woodsman”. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that.

I like your definition of “bedrolling”, but I think the emphasis should be on the first part of the sentence rather than on the second. I think the important part of this new activity, whatever we call it, is “the ability to travel into the wilderness”. The important part to me is the traveling into the wilderness; the exploration; the ability to go deep into the woods with only the items on your back and stay there for a prolonged period of time. The second part, about how much gear I have is not as significant. The only limitation there that I care about is that the amount of gear is small enough that I can actually carry it on my back deep into the woods and that it be complete enough that I can stay there for a prolonged period of time.

If we start to focus too much on the kit, and how minimal it is, this activity will become just as much of a sport, and consequently a joke as bushcraft. It will start with “I only have 10 items”, then “No! I can do it with 7 items”, then “I can do it with 5 items”, then “That’s not right! You are counting two items as one”, etc. Who cares! Why carry a bedroll, with the strap cutting into my shoulder, when a $10 backpack from Walmart will make the job of carrying the gear ten times easier. Why, so I can say I have one less item?

Survivall said...

Good points as ever Ross - and I agree with you, never considered that in trying to define bedrolling we risk making it into that which we are trying to escape from ...........

My only concern really in the "kit" sphere is the minimal tag I like to think we are encouraging people to got minimalistic and dump the 120 litre Rucksack so while no draconian rules should exist people should be proud of the fact they have the skills to go out with less gear IMHO!

Karl said...

Another Great Post Gary... Bedrolling is an easy tag to say, and could become a fashionable way of doing things for some, while I did coin the term Neo-Traditional/ist/ism it's just a catch all phrase for an idea... do more with less gear.

For many Bushcraft is a hobby, as Mark A. Baker defined it, "a hobby is something you do without sweating", at the time he was trying to get people to look at his version of historical trekking as a sport since he wanted people to actually live and work the lifestyle on the weekends.

No matter the title it all comes down to a bit of personal challenge and a willingness to try using skills rather than just playing with them.

I'm always happy to see people get out with nothing more than a blanket, a billy can and a knife for a weekend... but so few do these days that it's becoming a lost art in the wilderness community...


Survivall said...

Cheers Karl - i must be doing something wrong most of my hobbies involve sweating, and long distance hiking usually involves lots of .......... lol

Lost art - well Karl, Ross etc that means we are the carries of the torch ...... let us go forth and light the darkness of ignorance that shadows the campfire of the many .... lol

Waldgeistman said...

Interesting comments. So what if you have all the skills required to live in the backwoods for a prolonged time whats the issue with taking a 120 litre Bergan. What type of person does that make you? I think that each generation uses what it has available to them...I am sure if certain skills and equipment had been around they would have been used by outdoors men. A lot of the old outdoor people, Swagman/Bedrollers were victims of a rather harsh society, vagrants or outlawed of course although you had the trappers. I would suggest that most would not have chosen that lifestyle but its there skills learn't mainly from the indigenous tribes we know look too for survival and outdoor skills today. Here's a question Gary. If the Backwoodsman/Bedroller had the availability of money,equipment and knowledge would they have taken just a bedroll and possibles sack into the back woods with them?
I would suggest not, circumstances forced a need.

Lets be honest here, its a hobby for almost everybody....who is going to actually live the life of a backwoodsman/bedroller/swagman.... no one because actually its too bloody hard.....

What ever you do enjoy it.

Survivall said...

Mate - I guarantee if they could afford to live another way the majority would - but some, not all, like our tramps and american hobo's do it as a life choice, king of the road and all that.

Likewise many folks would say "why do you go and sleep in the woods at the weekend with only a tarp and a ground mate and a sleeping bag when you could be in a hotel and watch tv?" To us now for horses

And no issues at all if someone wants to camp in a RV or VW beetle van ....... if they want to carry a 120 litre bergen thats down to them and their back (skills aside) - I often use one as you know. I also often use a LK35 depending on my mood and what I want to do, the skills come into it in as much as I am not limited to one choice, I can have the full Ray Mears Style outfit or just a blanket, a knife and a billy can - the point is as you say its a hobby for us all and its a choice. As you know I like to try new things whether its a blanket by the fire or learning to go minimal with a bedroll, and thats why I follow this hobby to always learn something new and to test/push myself a little.

i will certainly be taking many lessons from this new set of skills - and I am already planning a weeks hiking - south downs way - with just the bedroll and the haversack!!

That which doesnt kill us only makes us stronger .......... but dont worry I'll always have time for a campfire, few beers and a cheese board ")

craig de freitas said...

I Think I pretty much agree with most of the comments on this page, but what is not covered is that people start out going out camping with nearly no knowledge this means that first they are going to have to carry a lot of kit. this leads people to start obsessing over kit. And at one time or another we have all obsessing over kit.

What I do agree with is the fact that at one time or another most of us will start getting more into bushcraft which then leads into us taking lees kit out with us as we now know the skills to keeps us warm, watered and fed, without bringing loads of water and tins of food with us. but my point is, this does not come over night it takes years of learning.. have a look if that same guy is taking a 120lt began after 10 years of going into the woods. doubt it...

Yes there are a lot of people going into the woods with 120lt began but thats because in the last 10 years there has been a explosion of interest of bushcraft. Everyone has to start from somewhere Those who end up becoming a bedrollers will, in years to come. those who will not will go off and do another hobby.

What ever bushcrafters take from bushcraft is up to them, I dont think we need to get tied up with labelling the purist . We all start from somewhere and get out our own things we like to get out of bushcraft, and if that means someone going out with a tent and a load of gear compared to someone going out with just a wool blanket then who cares they are both buzzing off the outdoors and if they both call themselves bushcrafters then again who cares. we should not be labelling stereotyping anyone . we all are enjoying the same thing. the ourdoors....

all the best


Miles Wilkinson said...

Hi, I live in ch shire and I often struggle finding good sights to camp and light fires in , preferably woodland. Do you have any recemendations of places to do that in Cheshire or neighbouring county's