Western Traveler

Hardcore Camping

I’ve had so much fun learning about Bushcrafting as of late I thought I’d add a new camping category to Western-Traveler.  This will not be normal camping though, but “Hardcore”.  I watched a guy go camping in the middle of winter where it got down to -36° below zero and he spent the night in the woods without so much as a wool blanket.  To say I was impressed is a massive understatement.  But, he made it work.  He did carry in: an axe, a bush pot, a good knife, a Ferro rod and food, that’s it.

I think the one thing he did that made this work was his careful selection of the campsite; in this case a huge downed tree.  He ended up using the root ball as the rear wall of his shelter and collected a ton of downed limbs and peeled off bark from huge trees to make his wind break.  Prior to putting on any of the wooden pieces he took time to kick all the snow off the area where he was going to be sleeping, exposing raw dirt.  His shelter was approximately 5 feet tall and about 7 feet long with about a 4 foot width (all estimates). 

After setting up the wall system he then collected a large amount of downed twigs and spruce boughs to make his bed with.  It was over a foot thick, effectively getting him off the ground where he wouldn’t lose body heat to the ground.  By no stretch of the imagination would this have been comfortable by any normal standards, but it’s not about comfort, but maintaining body temperature.

Once his shelter was set up he got a fire going using his Ferro rod.  He had peeled off some birch bark and used that for his fire-starter.  Prior to igniting the fire he’d collected a large amount of firewood to keep it going once started.

Once his fire was up and running he scooped up some snow and placed it into his bush pot; setting it by the fire to melt for water.  He put some spruce sprigs into the pot to make some tea.

While the tea steeped he collected even more firewood, enough to maintain a larger fire through the night.  Once that was done he sat by the fire and enjoyed his tea, along with the homemade jerky and hardtack he’d brought with him.

In all respects he did an outstanding job.  Had it been me however, I would have added two items to my pack; some #36 bank line and a wool blanket (just to make it nicer).  Clearly he didn’t have to have either one, though he did lament not bringing in his blanket.

The reason for the bank line is because it would have allowed me to construct a reflecting wall next to the fire.  Half the heat that is produced by the fire is lost to the open air, but a wall reflects some of that back toward your shelter if properly positioned.  To me, the extra half-pound of bank line (more than enough) would have been a good weight investment.  The photo below shows a fire wall that was constructed without bank line, so this may not be the best example, but on most fire walls the line is used to pull the tops of the vertical pieces together for strength.  Otherwise, I would have set up camp exactly the way he did, and in the same order he did.

This kind of camping is not for the “faint of heart” but for those who want to “push the envelope” on their survival skills.  The cool part about this is that you don’t really have to have a lot of specialized skills, the only one being the fire-starting.  Anybody who has practiced with wood processing and the use of a Ferro rod can do it.  I’ll admit that it’s a lot harder than striking a match or using a BIC lighter, but it is really rewarding when you achieve ignition.  I actually practice a lot processing wood, figuring out what works best and how to up my odds of success.  Same thing goes for using the Ferro rod.  The rest of setting up camp is just thinking about what your needs are; shelter, water and heat and making it happen.

If you’re really wanting to know your skill level, this is the way to do it.  It’s not for everybody, but if you’re an adventurer and really love being out in Nature, you might find this the perfect exercise to test yourself.

Last modified on: August 31st 2023.
© Western-Traveler.Org • All rights reserved • 2004 - 2020