What to bring:
- A knife. You don’t need a large or expensive knife. But do buy quality. A Mora is cheap and good quality and many seasoned wilderness hikers and campers love them. I use a TBS Boar myself. A bit more expensive, but bulletproof.
- An axe. I usually bring my medium sized hatchet. I use a Hultafors, but you don’t need an expensive hatchet. Some of the cheaper makes come with a dull edge, though. Get a sharpening stone and shape up the edge a bit.
- A saw. I think a small folding saw, like the Silky or Bahco Laplander, is essential. It makes things so much easier when you’re processing firewood.
- A lighter.
- Material for starting a fire. Normal cotton pads are great for this.
- An inflatable mattress. Okay, I know some would say you shouldn’t use the inflatable kind. It can get punctured by a spark from the fireplace. But still, I find that my back is in much better shape if I bring one of those thick, inflatable mattresses. Also, if it does get punctured, I can make myself a bushcraft bed using twigs and leaves.
- A sleeping bag. As with your rucksack, don’t save money on this one. Go for a good, warm sleeping bag, even if you’re not camping in a very cold climate. I use this rule of thumb: If the sleeping bag says you can use it in -10 degrees Celcius, it’s comfortable at 0. If it says -15, it’s comfortable at -5 and so on.
- Tent or hammock. If you’re in an area with lots of ticks or ants, I recommend a good camping hammock. In sub zero temperatures, a tent is better. A lavvo, in which you can have your fireplace, is ideal in colder climates.
- Food and water. Bring food that is easy to prepare. We Norwegians love sausages and fry them on sticks over the fire. Bring lots of water. More than you think you’ll need. That goes for the food as well, by the way.
- Map and compass. Yes, you’ll need to teach yourself how to use both. Do that now. Find some Youtube videos, get a map of your local area and practice.
- GPS. This one should be your backup to your map and compass, not the other way around. Or you can use both.
- Cooking equipment. If you haven’t been out in the wilderness much before, get a gas or alchohol powered cooking kit. In some areas, you aren’t allowed to make a fire, so you’ll have to use that gas or alchohol kit anyway. Check the guidelines and rules where you live. You don’t want to burn the forest down!
- First aid kit. I must admit, I never brought a first aid kit, not even after that time when I cut my knee badly out in the woods in the middle of winter and had to ski back to my car before I could get to the hospital. But I do now, and the reason is I often have my kids with me. So bring a first aid kit, it’s the sensible thing to do. By the way, put some mild pain killers in that kit.
- Bug repellant and mosquito net. You’ll need it even if you’re not bothered by them where you live. If it’s not winter, they’re out there.
- A book, music, etc. Not necessary, but if the silence gets to you, you have a distraction.
- Toilet paper. I know it’s called roughing it out in the wild, but some toilet paper is still a good thing to have.
- Torch and extra batteries.
- Bottle with integrated water purifyer and filter. This gives you the option of drinking water from streams and rivers.
- Shoes/boots. Try to find hiking boots that have a somewhat flexible sole. Too many of these boots are unflexible and I hate that. Some prefer normal trainers. They should be waterproof, unless you’re going out in some very dry terrain.
- Rain poncho. This one can even be used for an emergency shelter.
- String. Paracord string is a good option. Bring 20-30 feet.
- Trousers, jacket, a hat/cap. Some like synthetics, and to be honest, good quality cotton canvas clothes are really expensive these days. Your clothes should be waterproof or water repellent.
- Extra clothes. This obviously depends on the climate. But remember that it can get cold out there.
- TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU’RE GOING AND ASK THEM TO CALL YOU WHEN YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE BACK HOME. If you don’t respond, that person should assume you’re in trouble and call for assistance. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s something that will prevent you from getting lost out there.
Please keep in mind that you might want to add to this list, or adjust it to fit you and your climate. As you become more experienced, you tend to bring less stuff. Keeping the weight of your backpack down is essential.
Practice some skills while you’re out there! I love using my ferrorod to make fire. In fact, I never bring a lighter anymore. Whittle a spoon, make a bushcraft chair, take pictures of plants and animals. If you have someone with you, tell some tall tales. Have fun!
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen
Read more: Bushcraft overnighter in the woods
If you want to check out some of my bushcraft/camping videos on Youtube, use the link to the right (on Mac/PC) or bottom of this page (mobile devices).