By Todd Walker
The thought of going to the woods for rest and relaxation is a foreign concept to most moderns. Others see it as an oasis. The later enjoy the simplicity of woods life for many reasons. Through experience, they’ve learned to be healthy, comfortable, and relaxed in the woods.
Learning the art of “smoothin’ it” in the woods, as Nessmuk called it in , is well within reach for even my novice middle school students. If your camp is an oasis in the woods, you’re more likely to find the unplugged benefits of nature. Not only that, but you’ll gain valuable self-reliance skills in the process.
Below you’ll find 27 projects and skills developed while turning my basecamp into a comfortable personal space in the woods.
My shelter design takes advantage of the properties of radiant heat from a fire one step away from the opening. The heat enters under the two foot lip overhang and circulates through the entire structure. This action makes the shelter more efficient than a simple lean-to.
- Ax-Manship ~> The ax is the oldest and most under-appreciated, yet invaluable tool which serves, not only as a wilderness lifeline, but, as a simple machine that connects your hands to a forgotten craft.
- Campsite Selection ~> Consider the 4 W’s. You need wood… lots of wood… for shelter construction and fire. Standing dead red cedar and a few other saplings were used for my shelter.
- Knots/Lashing ~> Square, tripod, and diagonal lashing hold my shelter together. Timber hitch, clove hitch, trucker’s hitch, and other useful knots were also used.
- Simple Machines ~> Here are my top 3 simple machines for shelter construction: Wedges (cutting tools), lever, and pulley.
In this category, you’ll find ideas to make camp life enjoyable.
- Saw Buck ~> This tool may be the most used of all the stuff at my camp. The obvious use is for bucking firewood. Max, my grandson, prefers this as a camp chair.
- Camp Maul ~> You’ll use ax and knife skills to craft this woodsman hammer. Watch our video here.
- Shaving Ladder ~> My newest addition to basecamp. Wish I had discovered this long ago!
- Takedown Buck Saw ~> A good bucksaw makes life easier when processing wood on my saw buck.
- Cooking Tripod ~> A sturdy tripod is a multifunctional piece for every camp.
- Stump Vise ~> A round section of wood used to hold stuff while working with both hands.
- Sleep ~> The #1 hallmark of a good woodsman.
- Fire ~> My favorite skill to practice. You’ll find many articles on fire craft on this page.
- Cooking ~> Nothing beats the smell and taste of a pan of dry cured bacon sizzling over an open fire. Basecamp cooking affords you the luxury of not eating from freeze-dried bag food. Check out my buddy’s YouTube channel, Feral Woodcraft, for more camp cooking tips. Bring your appetite!
- Food and Medicinals~> Bacon: Make your own non-refrigerated bacon here; Wild Edibles: Trout Lilly, Katniss; Mountain Man MRE’s; Check out other common feral foods and medicinal on our Foraging page.
Now that you’ve got tools made and a belly full of camp cooking, it’s time to make some fun stuff!
- Tree Bark Arrow Quiver ~> Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) bark has been used by indigenous people and traditional craftsmen in Appalachia for thousands of years.
- Primitive Pottery ~> Not my best skill by far, but making your own containers from clay gives you options.
- Pitch Sticks ~> This project turns pine sap and charcoal into glue.
- Greenwood Spoon Carving ~> Employ your ax and knife skills to craft eating utensils for camp.
- Burn and Scrape Containers ~> A primitive skill useful in making spoons, bowls, and even canoes. Watch our video on making a cup here.
- Leather Ax Sheath ~> Make a hands-free ax carrying sheath for tramping and scouting from basecamp.
- Ax Handle ~> While I didn’t make this hickory ax handle at basecamp, it’s doable with the above mentioned tools.
- Plumber’s Stove ~> On rainy days, you need a way to cook in your semi-permanent shelter. It also adds enough heat to knock the chill off.
- Fire Pit ~> Wooden reflector walls are popular for bushcraft shelters. However, stone is better at retaining heat from your fire. Lay rocks to form a chimney effect to draw air for clean burns.
- Frog Gig ~> A sapling and knife skills can have you eating in no time.
- Camp Table ~> Every camp needs a horizontal surface (table).
- Roycraft Pack Frame ~> A fun project to do with kids.
- Build Community ~> Now that you’ve got your basecamp equipped and comfortable, invite friends over and burn sticks together. A lot can be learned from each other around a warm campfire. You’ll quickly become the smartest woodsman around.
My basecamp is never finished. There’s always more stuff to do and things to craft to make camping in the woods fun.
Note: This week marks the fourth year anniversary of Survival Sherpa. I started writing here a few weeks before Dirt Road Girl was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This little blog has provided much-needed clarity on our journey.
Our hearts are always encouraged by the ongoing support from each of you here. We’ve had the pleasure of personally meeting several of you and count it an honor to call you friends. Hope each of you have a merry Christmas and a self-reliant New Year!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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