What is Bush Craft and why study it?
I often joke that I was raised by wolves. This is only half-joking. If you met the closet case that was me in grade school, then you would conclude I was half-nerd and half-wolf. I spent all of my time, 100% of it, either studying or working outdoors or training athletics. Notice there was no social aspect there? That came much later. :) I did lots of Bush Craft activities, such as building fires, hunting, hiking, exploring, orienteering (navigation by map and compass), preparing food in the woods, etc... It was great fun and my brother and I loved our little adventures and experiments.
Why study Bush Craft in the modern age? Don't get me wrong. I love my modern comforts and am ridiculously lucky to cook and eat gourmet meals. I love a firm, comfy bed and Internet on tap. However, studies are showing that the more we insulate and isolate ourselves from the outdoors, the less healthy we become. We were simply not meant to eat three meals a day, sitting in a climate controlled and sanitary bubble, day after day, year after year. Processed foods every day? Fuggettabouttit!
My wife has never known the joys of exploring the woods. In fact, she barely knows how to swim. When we have kids, we feel it is important for them to really experience the wild outdoors, to make them stronger, healthier, and more confident. If you've ever camped out, you know that food tastes super-yummy after a long hike. We want our kids to know that sense of satisfaction. Also, ingesting some deep-woods-dirt and natural bacteria is good for you, especially for kids' health.
We still have much to learn, starting with the foods we eat. Of course, delicious, healthy food starts with fresh, wild, healthy ingredients. We are butchering and fresh-killing more of our meats, especially poultry. We are buying the freshest vegetables I've ever seen in my life, outside of my dad's garden. We are learning the various heirloom vegetables and fruits. We are trying to vary our nutrition. My wife is baking everything from scratch, and she's amazing at it already! This year, I'm going hunting with a friend from badminton. One of our neighbors is from Austria and comes from a family of professional butchers. He is going to teach me how to make sausage. Another friend is amazing at hardwood smoking, butchering, and BBQ. I'm going to study under him too. We constantly ask questions and learn from local farmers we know.
It all starts in the deep woods, oceans, and mountain streams, so let's get out there! Let's go to where the healthy living is.
Where to start?
One of my co-founders, Allen Hillery, is an expert sailor and also an experienced outdoorsman. Once, I joined him for a week-long hike in the Grand Canyon, in July! We needed to hang our food to keep it from rodents, and he tied a clever slip knot. It was like a magic trick. Years later, I felt like less of a (woods)man for not knowing more rope craft. I'm starting with that. I also took a mountain climbing course at Cornell, so I'm re-learning mountain climbing rope craft too.
There are great advances in lightweight backpacking technology. There are new fabrics, composites, ropes, fibers, and insulators. There are new backpack and shoe designs. There are new tent and sleeping bag designs. There are new stoves and camping foods to learn. There are new water filtration systems. There are new clothing designs. There are new knife steels, steel coatings, knife designs, even new handle materials.
There are tiny, family-owned companies which specialize in producing just a couple of these high-tech things. There are YouTube experts and blogs which specialize in each of these areas of study. I am studying all this, buying and trying all sorts of amazing things.