Re­al­ity a big part of a trial by fire

The Woolwich Observer - - SPORTS - OPEN COUN­TRY

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.


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