Winter Bushcraft

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With the winter solstice past, and Christmas festivities coming to a close, the new year is a good time to get out in the woods and hone winter bushcraft skills.  There are many challenges out there at this time of year: shorter days, colder, windier, wetter conditions, plant food is scarce and tree identification is potentially harder because the leaves have fallen.  There may also be conditions unique to winter such as snow and ice.

Extreme examples of these conditions are found in polar and mountainous regions. These can quickly become life threatening environments without the correct equipment and skills. However, temperate conditions with wind and rain  often take people unawares and with the associated chill factors can also be deadly.

In December, our Winter Bushcraft weekend on the west coast of Scotland was very well subscribed, and we have another date scheduled for Sussex in January.  So, what can you learn on one of our Winter courses?   For a start we look at clothing systems to provide the first level of protection from the environment.   We cover ways by which you lose heat, and cold injuries (such as frost bite and hypothermia) – how to avoid them and how to treat them.  We also look at shelter building in winter, how to survive a winter’s night without your sleeping and shelter systems.  For example we  look at heated shelters such as long log fires, heated beds and enclosed shelters.

For some people, identification of trees becomes a challenge once the leaves have fallen, so we look at tree shapes, colours and bud identification.  Knowing your trees in winter is obviously very useful – for example choosing hot, slow burning woods for a long log fire can make a big difference.  We also cover game preparation and trapping as this may be an important food source with fewer plant foods around.  Lighting a fire in winter can also be much more challenging in wet and windy conditions – we will demonstrate how to do this with nothing but a spark or friction ember and natural materials collected in the woods.  I’ll write a blog article all about wet weather firelighting soon – something you need to cover in depth living on the west coast of Scotland!

So while winter may not seem the most inviting time to be out in the woods it can definitely be very rewarding and  fun. Also, having developed these skills, it should boost your confidence and effectiveness if you find yourself in a winter survival situation or even get caught in a drawn out power cut.  If you want to take things a step further have a look at our Arctic courses which cover survival skills at temperatures often below -20 degrees with deep snow and ice.

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