Reality a big part of a trial by fire
I HAVE BEEN READING and watching a lot of videos about “bushcraft” of late just to see what I’ve been missing since I last studied it many years ago. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that modern bushcraft, as practiced by a new generation of YouTube hipsters, is the art and science of doing everything in the outdoors the most difficult way you possibly can.
The best example of this is the compulsion to start a fire with every tool known to mankind except matches and a lighter. If the YouTube videos I’m watching are any indication at all, starting a fire the modern way is frowned upon because your matches and lighter could be left at home or rendered unusable by excessive moisture.
This leads me to believe the modern bushcraft world has never heard of Zip-loc bags or waterproof containers.
I get it. Lighters and matches can fail. More importantly, how many hits will you get if you do a YouTube video about starting a fire with either of those tried-and-true things?
That’s why I also carry a flint and steel and a magnesium stick in my pack. They’re fun to use – but honestly, I have never actually had to use them. Such is the miracle of a good Zip-loc bag.
Another argument YouTube bushcrafters use is “What are you going to do if you forget your lighter or matches at home?”
The answer is not have a fire and go home.
If I truly need one. though, I will employ one of the best outdoor techniques for staying warm that I know of. I will attempt to make and start a fire with a bow drill. Having done this a couple of times when I was young and curious, I can assure you by the time you actually start a fire with a bow drill you won’t actually need one.
There are hardcore bushcrafters who will tell you they want to start a fire with a bow drill because it is a low technology way of doing things and they want to be proficient at it. I’d buy that if not for the fact that many bushcraft experts on YouTube are using custom bow drill top spindle blocks made of beautiful hardwoods with ball bearing inserts to help the spindle turn better. They also use the finest paracord on the bow and very expensive modern knives to carve the spindle, notch and board. I even watched one primitive expert use a moisture meter, which is something I’d probably forget before I forgot my lighter.
I’m also suspect of the authenticity of these folks because bow drill kits are now being sold on eBay – ironically, for about the price of 12 lighters and a Zip-Loc bag.
It’s also interesting to note these primitive technologists use cotton balls impregnated with petroleum jelly – arguably one of the most ancient of jellies – as tinder. In fact they carry tinderboxes filled with them – which is smart if you ask me, provided you don’t forget them at home.
But – and hear me out – if you have gone to that amount of trouble to ensure your fire takes hold, why not just use a lighter or matches? Hey, no one needs to know. I mean, in a survival situation, you sometimes have to do what you have to do.