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Monday, 18 August 2014

Why I will Never Review Gear

I thought hard before putting this up on my blog, what if a manufacturer offered me a load of expensive kit to play with and review? Would I really stick to my rule to never review gear? 

I think I would just about manage to keep my resolve, and the reason is that I believe bushcraft is not, or at least should not, be about kit.

The basic tools of bushcraft never need to be expensive at about £3.50 and £10 respectively why would any one need to consider anything other than these Hultafors and Mora knives?
Inevitably leisure activities like bushcraft are going to be supported by manufacturers who make state of the art, high quality goods and equipment which people are entirely free to buy and make use of but I can't buy into that. I have never bought a knife that cost more than £30 and in fact the one I use mostly at the moment is made from a broken saw blade. I don't have an expensive tarp, instead I can sleep my whole family under a large green tarpaulin that cost £15. I have a dutch oven that cost me $15 NZ dollars and a cast iron frying pan that came from a recycling centre. 

This is the bulk of my bushcraft kit, the wool blanket is home made and backed with waxed cotton and is completely waterproof and very warm for it's size and weight although no substitute for a sleeping bag in UK winters. A generic folding saw from a garden centre, dutch oven and pan bought very cheaply and a very old hultafors hatchet which I picked up from a second hand tool shop and re-handled.

For me bushcraft is all about what you can do without kit, the knowledge you carry with you that set's you apart from other 'outdoorsmen/women' that means you don't need lots of expensive kit. You don't need expensive kit to light a fire with a bow drill but if you don't know what your doing it won't work however much fancy kit you have. 

From a point of view of teaching bushcraft or educating using bushcraft, fancy kit doesn't impress there either. If your students are all using Mora knives and you are wandering around with an expensive custom knife on your hip they will wonder if they are struggling because their kit isn't up to it. For that very reason I normally equip my students with bright orange handled Mora knives and use an identical one just with a green handle. 

Also it's part of a bushcrafters journey to learn what kit does and doesn't work for them, don't just listen to what people say on youtube about which knife to buy or which firesteel is best or which tarp, hammock or rucksack you need try things out for yourself, if you want to spend a lot of money on kit there is nothing wrong with that but if I was to offer one pice of kit related advice it would be this; save your money on kit and buy books instead. 

The only big brand name in my kit bag, this whittling knife was made from a broken silky saw and given a tea tree wood handle. 

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