Tools for Bushcraft: Essentials for Shelter Building

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In this article, I will cover essential tools for bushcraft.

There are many tools out there for bushcraft, but there are really only a couple of things you absolutely need to have.

When people discuss tools, we always hear about how knives or axes are kings, but often not discussed is the mindset and mental skills needed before getting into traditional tools.

So, let’s jump into that first.

1. The Mindset Required

Before jumping into any tools, the most important tool in any outdoor situation is a positive mindset. Keeping things upbeat will allow all the skills you spent so much time learning easier to use.

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It is easy to get a fire started in your backyard on a nice day to make s’mores, but it’s hard when you need to warm yourself quickly after spending a long time cold and wet in the woods.

When you are in the backyard, we keep things light and fun. It should be the same mentality in the woods. Don’t get frustrated.

Take the time to make sure you are prepared properly and understand that it’s okay if it doesn’t go right the first time. Take a breath, learn from your mistake and try again.

The next important thing is to keep it simple. It has been my experience that when people go out into the woods, they tend to spend too much time and energy making a large and complicated shelter and overcomplicating their fire lay when simple shelters and fires work.

When we were kids and made forts in the backyard, it was just a pile of sticks and a cotton sheet.

That is the foundation of a shelter, and as kids, we didn’t need any fancy knives or axes to do it, just our imagination and a lighthearted attitude. So even when it’s pouring rain, cold, and it’s been a long day, keep the attitude you had as a child, and you can build anything you need. 

2. Fixed Blade Knife & Pocket Knife

With your light heart and simple plan, let’s look at popular tools. The most versatile tool anyone can have afield is a good sharp fixed blade knife.

If you have done any reading about bushcraft, you will have heard it preached everywhere that you need a full tang fixed blade knife with a scandi grind.

Well, I pose the idea that any knife is better than no knife at all and should not be a barrier to getting into the woods and having fun.

When it comes to cost or downright need for survival, survival skills should be practiced with your everyday carry knife because that is likely the only knife you will have with you in a survival situation.

Full tang fixed blade knives are made to do this, but I have done a lot of processing and carving with my pocket knife, and it is more useful in small carving tasks than my big fixed blade.

Now you can’t baton your pocket knife for very long before it breaks, but I can use my pocket knife to create wedges and a hammer to split wood instead.

This is where your knowledge and creativity comes into play. That’s why I would feel comfortable walking into the woods with only my folding pocket knife as a tool if needed.

3. Folding Saw

folding saw

Next let’s talk about my favorite secondary tool option. A folding saw that packs well in my bag. A saw gives me the ability to process bigger lumber more safely than with an ax.

I can also make more accurate length cuts with no chewed-up ends to work with when lashing things together. For my fellow prepper friends, a saw is also much quieter. An ax chopping on a tree can be heard miles away. I have had deer walk in on me while using a saw. 

4. Shovel

One more tool I will carry into the wild with me is an entrenching tool or a shovel. This goes without saying but nothing beats a shovel for moving dirt and modifying the earth’s surface.

The shovel I carry also has a sharpened edge for light chopping tasks. It might be the reason I dislike carrying an ax. 

5. Ax

Now let’s talk about axes. I personally don’t carry an ax into the woods with me very often. I can cut wedges with my saw and knife and use heavier logs to drive those wedges into the logs I need to split.

I don’t split much unless I am making a bed or smoking racks, and that is only if I can’t find long enough green rounds. I find the ax in the woods to be a large, heavy, cumbersome tool that is only needed seldomly, and it is easy to miss when using and injure yourself.

I have also known people as traveling to fall on the ax or be injured by the ax when falling. An ax sheath does help mitigate some of the dangers, but they are easily lost.

The ax does have its place and is a helpful tool, especially in older mature woods. When building a log cabin, it can help, but it isn’t a must when building a shelter.

Remember, the shelter does 3 things, it provides something to lift you off the ground, something to insulate you from the cold, and something to keep the weather out—nothing more, nothing less. 

Now, here’s the video of this article:

Final Thoughts

So keep it simple, keep it light-hearted, and have a positive attitude. The one who panics last survives. For more information, please visit me on YouTube or Facebook. If you wish to support my channel, please check out my merch store.

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