Today I have some great advice to share from Dennis Owens, he's a graduate of the National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. He's basically s a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness. He blogs at WildernessMastery.com.
I'll now hand you over to Dennis:
If you love autumn and bushcrafting as much as I do, why not combine these two in one perfect trip? Well, it might seem a little problematic at first, since the fall is a tricky season with a lot of special demands and risks. But we’re here to help with some great tips on how to make sure everything runs smoothly.
1. Place your shelter just right
You know how Goldilocks tried all the beds before finding one that was just right? Well, you need to make sure you already know which shelter position to choose without trying them all. That will save you a lot of hassle, as well as save you from danger. Places that are prone to accidents, especially in the fall, include rotting and hanging trees, considering that humidity accelerates the chances of them falling on top of you during your sleep. Fall also means there’s an increased chance of avalanches in certain areas, so you need to avoid placing your shelter at the bottom of a snowy hill or mountain face. Rock falls are also quite possible in this season, considering that rain, wind and colder temperatures can trigger them. But that doesn’t mean you’re safe in the lower areas either. Anything that’s prone to floods, like ravines, valleys or ditches are a definite no, though they might seem like providing a good cover. So a good spot for fixing your shelter is on flat ground, at higher altitudes. If you want extra protection from trees, you can definitely place your shelter in a forest, but make sure you choose a meadow or an opening. That reduces the chances of trees falling on top of you during a storm, but also provides good protection from the wind.
Picture by Sarah Stockley
2. Grab the right gear
You’ll want things that offer good protection against the rain and the cold, or that work in low temperatures. So if you take a tent or a tarp, make sure these are windproof and rainproof. The same goes for any jacket or another piece of clothing you might take. But insulation isn’t your only concern. You also need gear that can help you do small repairs around camp that are caused by the wind and rain, and that’s why you need the best bushcrafting knife. Make sure you bring plenty of waterproof matches, as well as a flashlight because it gets dark faster now. Don’t neglect your first aid kit, and make sure you get plenty of cold medicine in case you get ill. You should also grab an emergency radio for weather alerts because ‘tis the season.
3. Drink clean water
Now that you’re bushcrafting in the fall, the chances of you finding more water along the way can be increased thanks to the more frequent rains. So you’ll actually see more whirling rivers, bigger streams, as well as more puddles. You can even get some snow patches if you’re at a high enough altitude with low enough temperatures. But don’t make the mistake of drinking dirty water. Even melted snow and rain need to be at least boiled to destroy most of the bacteria and parasites that live there, but that goes double for rivers or puddles. So it’s best to have a water purifier with you that helps you avoid the perils of drinking contaminated water. But another ignored danger lurking in the shadows is your water bottle. Since now the temperatures are lower, you’ll have the tendency of drinking less water, which means your bottle gets stale faster. You’ll notice it will start smelling funky, maybe even see some yellow, mushy cover near its neck. To prevent these bacteria from forming, you need to clean your water bottle frequently, so rinse it and let it dry before refilling it. But if you already have some happy campers living inside your water bottle, you can clean it with some antibacterial mouthwash.
4. Protect your axe blade
Because there are much lower temperatures in the fall, and since night time may even bring with it temperatures below freezing, your tools might suffer. One of the most affected tools is your axe, which can break or get chipped because of the cold. Low temperatures make the blade quite brittle, so the solution is to ensure it’s warmed up before each use, but especially first thing in the morning. There are quite a lot of things you can do for this purpose, depending how much time you have, but it all starts with storing your axe well. So make sure you don’t leave it lying around on the wet ground, outside. You should wipe dry the blade after each use, and place it in a shed. If you have the room, a better idea would be to actually take the axe inside your shelter, where it’s warmer. But if you can’t take it inside, and don’t have a shed, cover the blade with thick paper and place it in a plastic bag, which you can hang from a tree. When you use it next, do some very light, practice-like chops on a tree, to warm it up.
5. Protect your head
Since your head is your best asset, both literally and figuratively, you need to keep it warm. And a bandana is perfect for a fall bushcrafting trip because it’s very light and easy to clean, apart from having tons of uses. For instance, if your nose starts running because it’s so cold, you can easily use it as a handkerchief. It also makes for a terrific rag and hand towel, but in the days that get really cold, you can also substitute it for a neck or face scarf. And remember how we talked about drinking clean water? Well, a bandana is a perfect strainer for silting it. Of course, you’ll need to take a few with you, but they’re so light and small that it’s totally worth it.
That said, I’d love to hear more from you. Where are you going next? What advice do you think will be the most useful?