Bushcraft. For me, the word conjures images of Ray Mears setting up camp in the forests of England, on the lake shores of Canada or along the fjords of Norway. I see visions of canoes laden with canvas packs and an elaborately built bush camp, with axes and knives shimmering in the light of a campfire. I can almost smell the wood smoke as I type these words…
The word bushcraft has become heavily romanticized and is often associated with expensive gear and skills that can, to some, seem mystical and, to many, seem unattainable.
However, bushcraft is not about expensive gear or exotic locations. Bushcraft is using and making tools to create the things needed to live comfortably in a natural environment. Knowledge is the most important thing to possess and far outweighs fancy gear and exotic locales.
With enough knowledge of skills and natural resources, it is possible to go out onto the land and make everything you need using nothing but your hands and the tools you pick up and create along the way. However, most people involved in bushcrafting will agree that there are three basic tools that will make life in the wilds much easier. A good knife, a saw and a chopping tool. I rarely go to the woods without some version of these three tools.
Type “bushcraft knife, saw or axe” into a search engine and you will be met with a dizzying array of choices. These implements can cost anywhere from $15 to $1,500 each and can be purchased everywhere from big box stores to custom craftsmen.
For this article we will assemble a solid bushcraft kit that will be functional, versatile, won’t break the bank and instills some pride of ownership in the user. All the tools chosen cost under $100 each. They are all made by reputable manufacturers and have withstood the test of time and use.
Custom knifemaker L.T. Wright is known for his high quality custom and semi-custom knives. L.T. uses premium materials to produce knives designed to serve hunters and outdoorsmen under the most demanding of circumstances. His knives have proven themselves time and time again with a variety of participants on the History Channel Show “Alone.” Unfortunately for those on a budget, the materials and level of craftsmanship in L.T. Wright’s premium line come at a price. That said, you definitely get what you pay for.
“THE WORD BUSHCRAFT HAS BECOME HEAVILY ROMANTICIZED AND IS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH EXPENSIVE GEAR AND SKILLS THAT CAN, TO SOME, SEEM MYSTICAL AND, TO MANY, SEEM UNATTAINABLE.”
L.T. Wright recognized that the price of entry for custom craftsmanship was too high for many and decided to do something about it. L.T. created the Bushcrafter HC and Bushbaby HC. These knives maintain the same level of performance and service in the field as his higher priced knives but are constructed with materials that help to keep the costs at a minimum.
For this project I chose the Bushbaby HC. I wanted a belt knife that would be small, lightweight and nimble. I love large knives, but, for many bushcraft tasks, they can be cumbersome. Smaller knives excel at many of the common bushcraft tasks. A small knife is also easier for beginners to use when learning their initial skill set.
The Bushbaby HC is a full tang knife made from 1075 high carbon steel. It features a flat-ground 3-inch blade, and a contoured Micarta handle that fills my hand well despite its small size. The steel is expertly heat treated and given a two-part patina to help resist corrosion.
The optional sheath is made from high quality leather. It includes a ferro rod loop and a dangler to drop the sheath below bulky clothing or the hip belt of a pack.
The knife alone only costs $55! Adding the sheath (which I highly recommend) adds only $30 to the package.
Despite its small size and price tag, the Bushbaby HC is a solid performer. The thin blade stock coupled with the full flat grind ensures that the cutting performance is outstanding. The drop point design and the centered tip make this a very intuitive knife to use. The steel might not hold an edge as long as some of the steels used in the premium line, but it still holds an edge well and is very easy to touch up in the field.
L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives Bushbaby HC
• Overall length: 6.75 inches
• Blade length: 2.875 inches
• Blade steel: .09-inch 1075 high carbon
• Grind: Full flat with a convex edge
• Handle: Natural canvas Micarta
• 2-step blade patina for rust prevention
• Alloy lanyard hole
• Fish-eye bolts and marine-grade epoxy
MSRP: $55 without sheath; $85 with leather sheath
When people think of a trio of bushcraft cutting tools, the axe is the first chopping tool that typically comes to mind. An axe is an outstanding tool to have in the woods. In some environments, a case can be made that an axe is more valuable than a knife.
For our kit, my goal was to achieve maximum versatility while not being intimidating for the beginner. To serve that end, I replaced the traditional axe with the Terava Skrama Bush Knife. The Skrama is a tool that I have personally relied on for years. It is tough, versatile, easy to use and falls within our sub-$100 budget.
The Skrama was designed in Finland by a former Finnish soldier and is manufactured by Lauren Metalli, Finland’s leading knife blade manufacturer. It was designed to be a viable one-tool bushcrafting option.
The Skrama is patterned after the ancient Seax design. It is a full tang design with a comfortable, multi-position rubber over-molded handle. The 9.5-inch blade is made of 80crV2 high carbon steel and incorporates two grind angles to allow it to be equally adept at heavy chopping and fine cutting work. The Skrama does an outstanding job when building shelters and preparing firewood. Its multi-position handle, combined with its edge geometry, make the Skrama an extremely good chopping tool. That same handle allows the user to get their hand close to the edge to take advantage of the thinner grind found near the ricasso. I have used my Skrama to chop down trees, baton wood for a fire, build shelters, carve trap triggers and make feather sticks. It has never let me down.
MSRP: $60.99 with plastic sheath; $87.99 with leather sheath
As far as this author is concerned, there is only one saw manufacturer that I consider when heading to the woods. Silky saws have been designed and manufactured in Ono, Japan, since the early 1900s. I’ve tried a lot of saws from a variety of manufacturers and none of them come close to the performance of a Silky saw.
Silky produces a wide array of saws, from pocket-sized folding saws to large fixed blade designs. Their saw blades are differentially tempered which allows them to be flexible while still having extremely sharp, durable teeth.
Silky saws cut on the pull stroke only and are hands down the quickest, most efficient saws I’ve ever used. I have used their larger models to cut down large trees and buck them up for firewood, and I regularly use several of their smaller saws for a wide variety of tasks. The Silky saw is the reason I am comfortable leaving my axe at home and taking a large chopping knife in its place.
Their saws start at about $25 and go up from there. They may be a little more expensive than the folding saws available at most hardware stores, but they are still very affordable. When their performance is taken into consideration, the choice becomes obvious.
Silky Saws Gomboy 210
• Blade length: 8.3 inches
• Blade steel: 1.2mm SK4 high carbon
• Teeth per inch: 8.5
• Handle: Rubber
• Weight: 8.8 ounces
• Carry case is included
The goal of this article wasn’t to tell you what you must buy or use to be an effective bushcrafter. Its aim is to provide you with affordable tool options that will provide maximum versatility while serving the needs of both the beginner and the seasoned woodsman. You can certainly spend less money and get similar performance from your tools. However, these tools are not disposable junk with a short service life. When properly cared for, they will last you a lifetime and are tools that you will be proud to pass on to your children.