Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course: A Student’s View

by Paul Kirtley

Portrait of Duane Yates

Duane Yates. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Duane Yates was a student on one of our Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft courses.

Duane is a keen amateur photographer as well as an enthusiastic practitioner of bushcraft skills.

Coming on one of our Elementary courses allowed him to combine these passions.

During the bushcraft course he took a large number of photographs, including the time-lapse sequence of a bushcraft camp that we have featured on this blog.

Duane has written a review of the Elementary course, highlighting his personal experiences during six days of bushcraft skills training and including some of the photographs he took.

Without further ado, below is Duane's review...

 

Elementary Bushcraft Course Review

I had been looking forward to this course for months. The sitting room was filling up with rucksacks, sleeping bags and various pieces of kit that I would need for my week away with Frontier Bushcraft. At last the day arrived. I packed up my car and waved goodbye to bricks, mortar and modern day life. I set off on the 5 hour journey which would step me straight into the heart of peace, tranquility and the joy of outdoor living.

The meeting point for the course was the car park of a superb little country pub. The arranged meeting time was 5.30pm; I arrived an hour early and soon saw one or two others sitting outside with rucksacks leaning against their tables. We introduced ourselves and by 5.30, when Paul Kirtley arrived spot on time to meet us, we already had a good banter going on between us, which was to set the tone for the rest of the week. Paul showed us a secure parking place for those who had driven down. Once the cars were safely parked up, it was into 2 Land Rovers and we were off to the course base camp.

The first impression I had of the camp was of how well organised it all was. The kitchen area was spotlessly clean with a white topped table under a large tarp. Under the table were waterproof plastic boxes containing cooking and food preparation equipment. There was also the “Breakfast Box” which contained a very good selection of cereals, tinned fruit, mueslis and other breakfast foods, from which you could help yourself at the start of each day.

The washing area consisted of four washing up bowls set into wooden frames that were held together by withies. There were two bowls for hand washing, two for pot washing.

The main lecture, meeting and eating area was a parachute which ballooned up into the treetops and created a large and cosy covered area. There was a fire in the middle, complete with iron tripod and the all important kettle. Benches were arranged in a circle around the fire to give a nice comfy seating area. The parachute also contained the most important thing in camp; the well-stocked Brew Box!

Parachute shelter illuminated by firelight

Evening by the camp fire. Photo: Duane Yates.

The latrines were well separated from the camp and kept private by tarpaulins. A good distance away from the latrines was the shower, again kept private by tarpaulins.

After the tour of the camp it was a brew by the fire, followed by a meal and a chat. We all reintroduced ourselves and listened to the basic rules and safety tips of camp life. After that we were left to settle in and to set up our tents and tarps.

Waking up in the tent on that first morning was fantastic. Listening to the leaves rustling outside and seeing the sunshine on the tent made for a perfect start to the morning. Then it was up, wash and breakfast before the course kicked off in earnest at 8.30.

Paul Kirtley talking about cutting tools for bushcraft

Paul giving a lecture on cutting tools. Photo: Duane Yates.

The first lecture was about cutting tools; how to choose a knife, various cutting techniques and most importantly how to use it safely. After this, everyone was given a Mora knife, which was ours to keep, and issued with a Laplander folding saw. These were to be our main tools for the week.

By the end of that first day, the group had really gelled, with a strong sense of comradeship, teamwork and much laughter!

Everything on the syllabus was covered very thoroughly on Frontier’s webpage for the course, so I won’t give a blow by blow account of what happened and when. Suffice to say all the lectures and demonstrations were given in a very clear and easily understandable manner.

The instructors, in our case Paul Kirtley, James Bath, and Henry Landon were exceptional. They offered the right blend of encouragement, advice and humour to make learning and honing our bushcraft skills a thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable experience.


Bushcraft course participants collecting spruce roots

Henry helping collect spruce roots. Photo: Duane Yates.

Kit

The kit list on the website is comprehensive and covers everything that you will need on the course. As long as you have everything on the list you will be fine. Anything else that you might need will be supplied as or when it is required for a particular task or skill.

If you want to keep in touch with family, friends and the outside world during the week away, I would recommend packing some spare fully charged phone batteries or some other way of charging your phone, as obviously there is no plug socket to charge a phone in a wood!

Food

Food on the course was exceptional, freshly prepared for each meal. Some meals were prepared by the instructors, others by the students after a demonstration of how to prepare that food item. Other meals were a joint effort involving everyone. Should your cooking skills fail on an epic scale, such as my attempt at couscous and fish, there is always the breakfast box to fall back on, so no one need go hungry!

Bushcraft instructors preparing salmon for ponassing

James and Henry preparing fresh salmon to be cooked over the fire. Photo: Duane Yates.

Highlights of My Week

The whole week spent with Frontier Bushcraft was a fantastic experience. It is hard to pin point any specific highlights as each day brought new challenges, knowledge and experiences.

For me, the best points were the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise that was passed on by the instructors. This enabled me to sharpen my existing knowledge and learn many new skills.

Waking up in the morning after a night spent under a tarp, watching the low morning sun shining through the trees and listening to the sounds of the woodland coming to life was also an unforgettable experience.

Finally, the strong team spirit, the air of fun and laughter and the friendships which developed over the week, added to the sheer sense of achievement that this course gave is something that I shall take away with me and remember for the rest of my life.

Frontier Bushcraft Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course participants looking happy.

Big Smiles at the end of a fantastic week! Photo: Duane Yates

 

Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Courses are run throughout the Spring and Summer. For more details, or to make a booking, please see the course description page here.

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Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine.

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheri

Nice one Duane, think the big smiles at the end sums up our week! A fantastic week, expert tuition and meeting some lifelong friends 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Sheri, we had a great time teaching the course too 🙂

Reply

Scott

Great write-up! Paul or Duane, could either of you offer some photos and/or details on how you rig the parachute for a group camp like that?

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Scott,

I don’t have photos of the details but it is relatively simple to set up.

1/ You need to be able to hoist up the parachute by its central attachment point. Either throw a rope over a suitable branch or span the rope between two trees. Attach the parachute to the rope (we use a karabiner) and hoist it up.

2/ Peg out the lines attached around the circumference of the bottom of the parachute. The aim is to have this ‘skirt’ sitting around head height or just a little lower. The height of the parachute is largely determined by step 1 above but the angle at which you pitch the chute/how far out the lines are pegged also plays a part in determining the height of the perimeter of the finished shelter. You can sometimes attach the guy lines to nearby trees directly but often you have to use a pole to set the height, then run the guy-line down to a peg at a steeper angle than that of the parachute itself (just as you would with a large tarp set-up).

3/ Tie the guy-lines off with the usual adjustable guy-line knot. Pegs need to be sturdy and hold the ground well. Note that if you use insubstantial pegs, when it rains and the ground softens, they will likely come out.

I appreciate that this is not as clear as step-by-step photos but I hope it helps.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Elen Sentier

Great review and pics. Very envious of you all :-). Nights sleeping in the woods and waking in the tent or uder a tarp are just soooooo good. Paul, James & Henry are a superb team, looking fwd to working with them again next year.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Elen,

I’m glad you appreciated Duane’s write-up and photos. I suspect you will see more of his photos cropping up in various places on the website over time.

We’re very much looking forward to seeing you again next year 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Dave

Great artical & great photos Duane. Cheers

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

Yes, Duane did a good job didn’t he?

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

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