Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury

101 is the designation we often use when referring to introductory material. It harkens back to colleges and universities, where they often classify courses by numbers. 101 is the basic level, moving up a notch is 201, and so on. Bushcraft 101 is a great introduction to what author Dave Canterbury calls “smoothing it” outdoors. Why smoothing? Well, roughing it is when we head out to the wilderness to test our wits against Mother Nature and all her allies. Smoothing it is when we do the same thing, just better equipped to make the time spent tramping fun rather than being a chore.

Bushcraft 101 is divided into two sections. Part 1 is Gearing Up. Here, Dave covers in detail his fairly well-known 5 Cs of survivability. These are:

Cutting tool
Cordage
Container
Cover
Combustion

In each of those chapters, Dave gives great information about the importance of each C as well as how to choose the right gear for yourself. He gives his recommendations here and there but is careful to recognize what works best for him might not be perfect for you.

Now, there may be some of you who are familiar with Dave Canterbury and are thinking, Wait, I thought there were 10Cs, not 5? There are indeed 10 total. The first five, listed above, are what Dave feels are the core requirements, the absolute gotta haves. The next five are items that might not be absolutely crucial to survival but are damn nice to have. These are:

Candle
Cotton
Compass
Cargo tape
Canvas needle

You can read more about Dave’s 10Cs of survivability here.

He also discusses choosing packs and gives a great overview of the different types available, citing pros and cons for each. Remember, though, we’re talking bushcraft here, not bug out bags or get home bags. While there is certainly a fair degree of overlap between smoothing it and bugging out, they are more like kissing cousins rather than twins.

The second section is In the Bush. This is where we get into the nitty gritty of bushcraft. From choosing a campsite to different types of fire lays, trapping to wild edibles, Dave covers it all. One of my favorite chapters in the book is Chapter 8 – Navigation. I will readily admit that land navigation is a weak spot of mine. In this chapter, Dave covers how to properly use a compass, determining distance when traveling, using a map, and several other key skills involved with figuring out where you are and how to get where you’re going.

Included at the end of the book are several appendices. Appendix A outlines the Pathfinder Concept: Conserving and Utilizing Resources. Here, Dave gives ten things to remember when it comes to conserving your resources and energy. These concepts are all very well thought out and make perfect sense, such as never pass up an opportunity to collect dry tinder.

Appendix B is on wild edibles. While really nothing more than a cursory list of plants is given, the value here is the information on HOW to use the plants you find.

Appendix C consists of several bush recipes. Now, I tend to look at recipes the same way I look at first aid information in a general survival manual — filler material. However, there are some great recipes here, many of which I’ve earmarked to try myself.

Appendix D is a glossary, which is a great resource for those new to bushcrafting.

There are no photos in Bushcraft 101 but there are several very detailed line drawings. Sometimes, I’ve found drawings to be easier to follow than photos, especially if the photographer isn’t very skilled and/or the photos are rendered in black and white.

Bushcraft 101 is truly a great resource for those new to outdoor recreation. It covers all of the basics in easy to follow steps. I have but two minor complaints about the books.

1) I wish there were more illustrations. I know, I know, those of you who have read my books have probably thought the same thing! But, be that as it may, there were a few sections in this book I felt would really have been better had there been more drawings accompanying the text.

2) I guess this isn’t really a complaint but more of an observation. The text is almost too well written, in a sense. By that, I mean there were a few instances where the language used was a bit fancier than I’d have expected in a book on this subject. Not really a bad thing, just kind of a surprise. I do rather like Dave’s preference for the term “tramping” when talking about spending time in the woods, though. Seems just somehow very fitting.

All in all, I’d heartily recommend Bushcraft 101. It was a pleasure to read and I learned quite a bit. You can find it here on Amazon as well as at any bookstore worth visiting.

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