Get crafty with our bushcraft tips
We’re feeling a bit Ray Mears-like today – perhaps caused by taking the stapler to a broken shoe heel earlier - so we’ve been musing on handy things you can make from nature while camping. Whether you're constructing a makeshift shelter or adding musical accompaniment to your campsite, get all pioneer-like and feel like a man or woman of the wild by trying out these nature DIYs:
Channel your inner cave-dweller: If you’ve lost the Swiss Army knife yet again, do what your ancestors did and make a cutting tool from flint. Take a strong piece of flint and hit it with a rock to get a sharp end, then sand one edge smooth so you can hold the flint safely when you use it to gut your freshly killed dinner. Or slice through your shoelaces when you can’t get them opened at 2 am. See here for instructions on making a cutting tool and other stone goodies.
Robin Who?: You can spend ages making a proper bow, which is perfect if you’re the type that goes camping to stare contemplatively over the landscape while whittling various things from wood. To make one quickly just in time for the wildebeest advancing over the horizon, get a flexible piece of wood for the bow such as juniper and make the bow string from fishing line or vine. Cut notches to hold the string, add some arrows and away you go.
Put down roots: Here’s hoping you’re never in the type of situation that requires to construct a shelter for the night in case of emergency, but these things are always handy to know in the case of a zombie apocalypse. You can make a lean-to shelter using trees or anything sturdy such as a large rock. If using trees, find two of them standing slightly apart and tie a branch between them three to four feet from the ground. Then get several shorter sticks and drive them into the ground, so that they’re leaning against the branch. Stuff the gaps with leaves or brush and then busy yourself making a sleeping mat.
Zzzzzz: That sleeping mat? You’ll need bulrushes and weaving. Take about 40 bulrushes and cut them to size using a knife or your handy flint tool. Set half the leaves out horizontally, then start weaving the rest in and out of them. See how the Canadians do it here.
Do the dishes: This is a nice easy one and good to show the kids, even as you do get a bit wistful that you can’t just pick up coconut shells anywhere like on a tropical island. Once you do get to the supermarket and get your hands on a coconut, use a nail to make a small hole in the bottom (amuse yourself here by asking your child which end is the bottom). Cut the coconut in half, remove the meat, then smooth the inside with sandpaper.
Basket case: Another one to show the kids, if they have an ounce more patience than us. Weave a basket using bulrushes, as shown below, using the same weaving method as with the sleeping mat, but weaving upwards. You can make this on a camping trip then use a rock to sink it in a stream to keep food or drinks cold.
Up the creek without a paddle: If you’re feeling especially ambitious, follow in the watery steps of cultures from the Cherokees to Cro-Magnon Man by making a canoe from a hollowed out tree log. You’ll need a felled tree, which you then split in half and hollow out to make a basic kayak. Easy. Full details here.
Make sweet music: It’s not all about survival – you can use your bushcraft skills for entertainment too. Make a bamboo wind chime by attaching glass beads to bamboo stalks, as shown here. This is one to make in the garden rather than when camping, although you could choose to astound your four year old by ‘finding’ the glass beads under a conveniently placed nearby rock.
Try out your newly found skills at our wild camping sites around the country, or take yourself off to a remote location and find a log to whittle into a canoe. It's still a canoe if it fits in your hand.