Bushcraft: A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors

Bushcraft: A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors

by John Boe, Owen Senior


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781849537414
Publisher: Summersdale
Publication date: 09/28/2016
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

John Boe and Owen Senior both run bushcraft companies that primarily run courses for children aged between six and 14. They have been making bushcraft, being outside and outdoor adventure accessible, safe and fun for young people for many years.

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Buschraft - A Family Guide

By John Boe, Owen Senior, Kostiantyn Fedorov, Shutterstock

Summersdale Publishers Ltd

Copyright © 2015 John Boe and Owen Senior
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78372-593-9



"Bushcraft is all about using what nature provides and working with the seasons in order to make yourselves comfortable"

You've decided to get your tribe outside and into bushcraft -excellent! Being in the great outdoors with family and friends cannot be beaten.

• So what kit are you going to need?

• Is it going to be expensive?

• Where can you get it?

In brief, the answers to these questions are: not a lot, no and anywhere you like.

Bushcraft is all about using what nature provides and working with the seasons in order to make yourselves comfortable. So don't panic, it's not going to cost an arm and a leg, unless you're a gear junkie and you want it to!


Clothes - Suitable for the time of year. If you or the kids get cold then that's the day over and they won't want to go out again. A good, warm coat is a must and fleecelined trousers are a bonus in the winter, but long johns are just as good. Waterproof coats and trousers are a necessity in the UK, we take ours even when it's wall-to-wall sunshine, just in case. Don't forget the basics of hats, gloves and decent socks - nobody likes cold toes!

Knife - For most of the activities in this book you are going to need a knife. A great and inexpensive place to start is the Mora Clipper as it is perfect for bushcraft and wood working.

Saw - An example of an inexpensive and efficient saw is the Bahco Laplander. It is basically a folding pruning saw that cuts on both the push and pull strokes making your life a lot easier when it comes to crafting things with your family.

First aid kit - It is always good practice to take a small first aid kit with you whenever you are using sharp stuff, just in case. However, it's even better to take a first aid kit for any bushcraft activity, and know how to use it.

Cord- Last, but by no means least, you're going to need cord. Paracord is great to take out with you and will save you lots of hassle when making shelters or traps, or any other activity where string needs to be used. Inexpensive to purchase, paracord is available from online stores and camping shops.

Fire lighting - A cheap disposable lighter, a box of matches, a fire steel or a flamethrower (the latter might be overkill!). However, all will do the job of igniting your fires.

That's it, simple; a knife, saw, cord, first aid kit, appropriate clothes and fire lighting equipment; this is the minimum you will need.

Now, of course you can get as much as you like and there are loads of bushcraft shops out there with all manner of equipment: tarps, sleeping bags, rucksacks, hammocks, axes; the list is endless. However, we would recommend testing stuff and researching carefully, as the most expensive stuff is not always the best.



So you've got this book - great, it's a good start. You have your kit, you have assembled your tribe and you're off to the woods for a family adventure, excellent!

Make sure you tell someone where you are going. Regardless of whether you're heading out to the middle of Dartmoor or just the local woods, it's wise to let someone know so that if something goes wrong and you become stranded, your phone's dead, the squirrels have nicked your car keys and it starts to bucket it down, someone can raise the alarm and come and get you.

Bushcraft is relatively safe when you are starting out or doing family things. Nothing in this book should lead you to a survival situation where you have to eat insects and drink your own wee to see you through. If you act safely from the start then safety becomes a habit. So when you start your big adventures, which we are sure you will once you catch the bug, your risk will be far lower.


Hominids have been using sharp edges to help make life easier for at least two and a half million years. Knives and other sharps are wonderful tools that have helped shape the development of mankind.

Knives are really important for bushcraft; making things, preparing fire lighting materials, cooking and most other tasks are very difficult without one.

However, sharp things have become scary; knives are associated with 'youths' rather than boy scouts. In the world of bushcraft, we can begin to change the way knives are perceived.

Letting young people learn to use knives to help them explore and enjoy the great outdoors can be a very positive thing. Teach your tribe to use knives safely and responsibly and there is no reason why they shouldn't use sharp edges without you having to worry.

Anyone that uses a knife will cut themselves occasionally: knife injuries help to remind you of the need to be careful with any tool that has a sharp edge.

Very young (six and under) children should only use knives under direct 'contact' supervision, e.g. your hands over their hands when using a blade.

Young children (six to ten) should only use knives under direct supervision.

Children (ten to 14) should only use knives for specific tasks under your direction.

You know your children best; be aware that even the most mature child can sometimes have a lapse of concentration.

Older children (14 and over) are more likely to be able to look after and use their own knives; they should be complimented and rewarded for being responsible and safe knife owners.

There are many videos online that describe the safest way to use sharp tools. Watch them and encourage your tribe to watch them; they contain far better demonstrations of the safest way to use these tools than can be described on paper.

Enter 'bushcraft knife safety video' into your preferred search engine and you'll have lots of guidance.

"Young children should only use knives under direct supervision"


Choosing a knife

There are many, many knives that can be used for bushcraft: penknives, folding knives, locking knives, fixed-blade, full tang, 'Scandi' grind, full grind, convex grind, high carbon steel, stainless steel, 01 steel, D2 steel, the list is endless.

Useful types of knife for the activities in this book:

Penknife/Multi tool

The classic Swiss army knife falls into this category as does any tool that has a knife blade/s accompanied by a number of other devices that fold out of the handle. These knives can be great to stick in your pocket to accompany you on a walk but have some limitations should you rely on them for lots of different tasks.



Folding knives

A single-bladed knife that folds out from its handle, traditionally called pocket knives and carried for convenience to help with everyday tasks that call for a sharp blade:

• sharpening pencils

• cutting string

• whittling sticks


Locking knives

A (usually) larger single-bladed knife that folds out from its handle and locks in place with a simple mechanism. Locking knives can be a useful 'backup knife' in the woods and, when used safely, can complete lots of bushcraft jobs well.


A blade that is fixed in place, that doesn't fold and that needs a sheath to be carried safely. A 'full tang' fixed-blade knife is a knife that utilises the same length of steel to construct both the blade and the handle, this is the strongest way of making a knife. We think that this makes it the safest type of knife as it is less likely to break or fail.


The most useful knife for bushcraft is a fixed-blade knife made out of steel that you can confidently sharpen and look after.

Size is important. The ideal blade length of a fixed-blade bushcraft knife is about 3 inches and the handle should feel comfortable in your hand.


A good bushcraft knife can be very inexpensive.

Stainless steel will be easier to maintain, but carbon steel can be easier to sharpen.

If you can afford it then a full tang knife will be most reliable and last you the longest.

If you are keen for your children to get involved in bushcraft your tribe ought to get used to handling knives correctly. Giving your child a knife can be a wonderful way to teach them to be safe when using sharp tools while giving them responsibility for caring for, cleaning and sharpening something that belongs to them.


Make the perfect marshmallow stick

If your tribe are going to enjoy toasting marshmallows to the fullest then they should create their own toasting sticks.

Something at least as long as your forearm and somewhere between a pencil and your little finger in thickness is perfect. The pointy end should be carefully sharpened and the bark removed for a few inches behind the point.

Really young children can safely manufacture a brilliant pointy stick and toast the perfect marshmallow; sit them between your legs, hold their hands in yours and get to work. Make sure they realise what a good job they are doing and how much tastier the finished marshmallow is going to be because they have toasted it.


Make shavings

With a little practice it's really, really easy to make shavings that are brilliant for helping to start fires.

Sit your tribe down, elbows on knees, knives in hand and show them how to take slivers of wood from a stick, the thinner the better, but everything can be used.

Make feather sticks

Feather sticks and fire darts are used as tinder to start fires (see Fire chapter, page 30). They are great when natural tinder is a little damp.

Making feather sticks can prove tricky. Once everyone has had lots of practice making shavings then get them to try making a feather stick.

Shave a stick, just like you would to make shavings, but don't finish the cut, so that each shaving is left attached to the stick by a small amount of wood.

Making feather sticks is a great skill to practise and can be perfected over years of fun in woods.

Make a fire dart

Like a feather stick, a fire dart can be used to help light a fire in damp conditions. It's made in a similar way, except instead of shaving only one side of a stick you shave all the way around one end, creating a feather duster-like appearance. The point you leave on the stick when the fire dart breaks off is perfect for starting the next fire dart.

Make a walking stick

Take a stick that seems to be about the right height, weight and thickness for you to use as a walking stick and slowly, carefully strip the bark from it. A coat or two of mineral oil or hazelnut oil on the debarked stick will give you a walking stick that will last ages.

If you can find a straight section of hazel that has a natural fork, twist or burl at one end, then it's very easy to create something beautiful and unique just using a bushcraft knife and a little elbow grease.


Axes are great tools for splitting wood, carving and other jobs around the camp. We don't recommend that you try to chop through any branch thicker than your wrist with an axe; it'll take ages and can be quite dangerous.

Axes are great at starting carving jobs when you need to remove a lot of wood to start shaping. Hold the axe just behind the head and use its weight to help you as much as possible.

It's much safer to kneel down when using an axe; make sure that the only part of the body that is close to the cutting edge is the hand holding the axe handle (not your knees!).

When using an axe make sure you're aware of your surroundings - don't use an axe if there are people close to you as a flying chunk of wood can leave a big bruise.

Really young children don't have the strength or control to uses axes safely, while older children should only use axes under direct supervision.


Folding saws are cheap, lightweight, compact and tough enough to cut through any wood you're likely to need to use while in the woods.

Saws are used to cut firewood and construction materials quickly and cleanly. If you're cutting green wood always try to cut as low as you can and make the cut in the direction that is best for the tree you are cutting. This usually means angling your cut away from the main growth of the tree to allow rain water to run off, away from the tree. If you're cutting firewood that may need to be split, try to make your cuts perpendicular and straight to make the job of splitting with your knife or axe as easy and safe as possible (it's easier to stand an evenly cut log onto a flat surface for safe splitting).

Bow saws are less compact than folding saws, and quality will cost a little more money, but they can be more efficient when handling thicker wood. Never attempt to use a bow saw with two people; you'll end up hurting someone.



"A fire in the woods on your own is good; a fire with friends and family is excellent"

Before there was TV people sat around the fire.

Fire brings people together; it touches something primeval in us all. Sitting around a fire somewhere wonderful is an experience that should be shared on a regular basis. A fire in the woods on your own is good; a fire with friends and family is excellent.

With a little preparation lighting a fire is simple; to make things really easy start your fire-lighting adventure on a dry, warm day. Once you become a fire-lighting Jedi, you can practise your skills in more challenging conditions.

Later in this chapter you will find loads of different ways to start your fire using friction, sparks, chemicals or the sun.

Whatever method you decide to use the preparation for your fire will usually be the same, you're going to need some fuel to feed the flames and really fine material to start your fire, getting progressively bigger and heavier as the fire builds.

To practise your set-up we recommend starting with a box of matches or a cheap disposable lighter.


Clear the ground as much as possible; there should be no flammable material within a metre of your fire area. Lighting fires on gravel or rock is great as there's is no chance of the fire spreading although you should be extra careful if it's windy. For best results, place two lengths of timber as thick as your wrist parallel with each other and palm width apart in the middle of your cleared area. We normally call these lengths of timber the 'tracks'.

You can also make a base for your fire by laying a bed of sticks really close together in the centre of your fire area. This base will stop damp from rising into your fire and improve your chances of success.



Tinder is any fine, dry, fibrous material that takes a flame very, very easily. Any of the following work really well:

• dried grass

• newspaper

• cotton wool

• firelighters

• birch bark

• tumble dryer lint

Collect at least two good double handfuls of tinder.


Kindling is dry, thin, light wood that is laid on top of the tinder once it is alight; it needs to be fine enough to catch a flame but thick enough to burn for a while without going out. The ideal kindling is usually the length of your arm from wrist to elbow and is no thicker than your index finger. Ideally you will collect two piles; one that varies in thickness from matchstick to pencil and another that ranges from pencil to index finger size. Your bundles of kindling should be big enough so you can only just hold them with two hands.


To fuel your fire you'll need wood that is dry; anything that is still 'green' or wet just makes things much harder. The ideal fuel is usually as long as your arm from elbow to fingertips. Ideally you will collect two piles; one that varies in thickness from index finger to thumb to help you get the fire going and another that ranges from thumb to wrist to keep the fire going. Collect at least two armfuls of fuel; you don't need to use it all at once but if you need it you've got it.

"Collecting tinder, kindling and fuel is a great job for the kids, especially if you make a competition out of it"


• Once you have everything ready, with neat piles of tinder, kindling and fuel, get everyone sat down so they're on hand to help.

• One person should be in 'charge of the fire'; everyone else needs to be on hand to pass fuel.

• Start by placing a pile of tinder between your two lengths of wrist-thickness timber (your tracks) in the centre of your cleared area.

• Light your tinder using one of the methods detailed later in this chapter. Collecting your tinder into a 'nest' held in both hands around your ember or flame and gently blowing into it increases the flow of oxygen and encourages the flames.


Excerpted from Buschraft - A Family Guide by John Boe, Owen Senior, Kostiantyn Fedorov, Shutterstock. Copyright © 2015 John Boe and Owen Senior. Excerpted by permission of Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About the Authors 6

Introduction 7

A Quick Word About the Law 10

Equipment 12

Fire 30

Water 47

Shelter 60

Cordage 73

Foraging 86

Hunting Tools 97

Preparing Game and Seafood for the Pot 112

Cooking in the Great Outdoors 133

Staying Out Overnight 148

Tracking 156

Natural Navigation 167

Making Things and Carving 176

Leaving No Trace 187

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