There’s Something In The Air…

Fall colors in Algonquin Provincial Park
There’s something special about autumn/fall… Photo: Amanda Quaine.

There’s something about this time of year, the evenings closing in, the colder mornings, the dew on the ground.

It sparks something off inside me, something that makes me want to get outside and follow my instinctive nature to forage and stock up for the winter.

The change in seasons always has an impact on me but the onset of autumn has by far the strongest.

I think it connects with a programmed survival instinct, as if it’s nature’s way of giving us a kick start for the hard months ahead.

If you look outside, the same thing is happening all around as our relatives in the natural world are doing the same; squirrels are busy stashing food and birds are on the move.


In our modern lives we are relatively disconnected from the impact of the seasons on our survival. We can bimble from one month to the next without changing our routines too much; maybe we need to start wearing a scarf or check the guttering for leaves before the winter kicks in but we no longer need to worry too much about adding more thatch to our shelters or stock-piling dried or preserved foods.

My response to this instinctive urge will be reflected in my time outside this autumn, I’ll be out nature watching with the family, we’ll out out hunting for fungi in the woods and hedgerows. I’ll also be taking the Scouts on adventures in the woods and practicing skills along the way.

Maple leaves on the ground in the Fall...
Stirring autumn colours… Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Lots Of Opportunity…

So, as the seasons start to change what are you going to do?

Why not set yourself some goals or commit to learning a new skill?

There’s lots of opportunities…

Here’s some ideas, things you can work into your personal or scouting programme for the autumn and winter:

Join a fungi walk: Find your local fungi club and either sign up for a guided walk or arrange for an expert to come and meet your group.

Do some carving: Decide to improve your carving skills, set yourself a goal to carve something useful or challenging.

Practice your fire-lighting skills: How many types of tinder can you find and light a fire with? Can you light a fire in the driving rain? Have you made charcloth? There is always something you can do to challenge and improve this important skill.

Improve your sharpening skills: Practice getting an expert edge on your knife or teach your Scouts how to do the same and recap on knife safety at the same time.

Sleep outside when it’s freezing: Bushcraft doesn’t stop when it gets a bit chilly outside. That’s when it gets started. Your skills and personal organisation become more important. Plan for a night out in sub-zero temperatures. First with a decent sleeping bag and a bivvy bag and then with just a fire and a shelter.

Navigation: The early nights in winter shouldn’t restrict us to more time indoors. The dark nights are a great way to improve navigation skills with night hikes and compass work.

Ontario woodland in the fall
A great time of year to be camping out… Photo: Amanda Quaine.

So what are you going to do? Let us know what you are planning to do this autumn and winter?

Whatever you do, we wish you well on your adventures.

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Barry Smith

Barry Smith is a Scout Leader and was Frontier Bushcraft Course Assistant from 2012 to 2013.

15 Responses

  1. Ruud
    | Reply

    Hi Barry,
    I love waking up in a forest in autumn or winter, especially when its still a bit dark. It’s just so… cosy.
    This autumn I’ll be practicing some carving and carpenting, like making a bench out of one log etc.
    This winter I might go to Sweden for a week or two, since I help a friend of mine who has a huskyfarm over there. When there are to many clients, I sometimes teach one group a few bushcrafttricks and -tips, while the other group goes mushing.

    This article is a great way of motivating others to get out there, even in the cold!

    • Barry
      | Reply

      Hey Ruud,

      There’s definitely something special about being in the woods through the colder months, I think I sleep better too.

      Sweden sounds fantastic. What bushcraft skills do you pass on to the mushing clients?



      • ruud
        | Reply

        Hey Barry

        I just show and teach a few basic techniques that are usefull when staying outdoors in the snow like how to prevent and recognise hypothermia, firelighting techniques with all kinds of firestarters and tinders, making a shelter with just a shovel.

        Kind regards!

  2. Jake Pyett
    | Reply

    Great article Barry! and really nice pictures too.
    I’m going to try some flint knapping over the next few months, and i can’t wait for the leaves to really start falling. It adds a nice atmosphere to the woods.

    • Barry
      | Reply

      Hi Jake, Flint knapping sounds like an excellent thing to get into over the colder months. Let us know how you get on.


  3. Austin Lill
    | Reply

    Hi Barry,

    I’m looking to do proper tinder bundles with the cubs next month using charcloth to start them…not a cotton wool ball in sight! The only problem is that I purchased a massive bag of hay from a pet shop and it’s a tad green in the middle so I’m laying it out in the garden day after day and quite literally making hay whilst the sun shines.

    • Barry
      | Reply

      Hi Austin,

      Good effort in leaving the cotton wool balls to one side. Your neighbors must be interested in your garden hay making!

      You could get them to try inner bark from the Sweet Chestnut too however you might need to do some of the processing up front.

      Best of luck


  4. Dave Nott
    | Reply

    Hi Barry
    An outdoor adventure comany recently contacted me via a buisness site.
    The owner asked me if i would be prepared to put together a 13 week winter bushcraft programme for a group of kidswith behavioural issues.
    I jumped at the chance as there is a shortage of work through the winter months.
    So i have put a plan together which culminates in a weekend, putting all of the skills together which they have learned over the 13 week period.
    Really looking forward to it, a challenge for them as well as myself.
    I’m always looking to push myself and improve as a bushcraft practitioner / teacher.

    • ruud
      | Reply

      Great! Good luck and have fun!

      • Barry
        | Reply


        Sounds like a fine way to spend the winter. Time well spent I think.

        Best of luck


  5. Stewart Lomax
    | Reply


    Thanks for that. I will be practicing my night nav at various locations around the area where there are orienteering courses through the woods. It’s amazing how much harder, and yet more rewarding when you get it right, this is when done in darkness.


    • Barry
      | Reply

      Hi Stewart,

      Have fun with your night navigation. It’s definitely more rewarding when things are a bit more challenging!


  6. James Harris
    | Reply

    I love it out in the woods when autumn really starts to set in. Over the last few years I’ve developed a real interest in mycology so I’m planning on doing some fungi hunting. Also a friend of mine has shown a bit of an interest in bushcraft so hopefully I’ll get the chance to teach them a few basics and get them out into nature.


  7. Leena
    | Reply

    Great article Barry,

    We are aiming for a weekend , our first in cold weather. Hoping to use all our fire lighting , kit , dressing for cold weather skills, sleeping bags ….wish us luck…it’s adventure in baby steps!

    • Barry
      | Reply

      Hi Leena,

      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you liked the post.

      Your adventure sounds great, best of luck and let us know how you get on.


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