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One of the problems people who practice bushcraft encounter is how to practice the skills they are learning especially if they are new. Public, or state parks may not allow you to make fire, or camp outside designated areas. With that in mind here are some ideas you may be able to use to practice your new bushcraft skills. Watch the video at the bottom for some outstanding advice on practicing bushcraft.
Here are some tips that you may find useful broken down into a few broad categories:
You don’t need to build a fire to practice lighting fires. Instead, try doing the following (in roughly the following order). Note that these are all things you can do in your back yard. All of these things are probably tolerated in a state park.
- Make your own char cloth
- Start a fire using char cloth and a ferro-rod (It’s easy, You’ll be surprised!). Note that you don’t have to get a full-fledged fire rolling. Once you get your tinder to ignite (usually some dried grass or hay), you can call it a win and stamp the thing out with your foot. If you want to actually build a full-fledged fire, do this in one of the fire-pits and move on.
- Find and process tinder fungus that grows in your area. Repeat step 2 using tinder fungus instead of char-cloth
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 with a piece of high-carbon steel and a very hard rock (e.g. flint).
- Start a fire with a magnifying glass. The same details from step 2 apply here as well.
- Start a fire with a fire-bow or fire-plow. Set an afternoon aside and do this in your back yard with a glass of cool lemonade nearby.
- Camping stoves are usually tolerated outside of designated fire pits, so you can always construct a penny stove and cook stuff with that. It’s not the same, but it’s a good trick to keep up your sleeve. Besides, there’s a satisfying DIY component.
Alternatives to public parks
There are a few options, here…
The first is to try to fly under the radar. I don’t really condone this since you’re potentially subjecting yourself to fines and multiple slaps on the wrist, but I’ve done this more times than I can count and I’ve never had a problem. The secret is just to be discrete and to cleanup after yourself. There’s the added thrill of trying to go undetected as well. If you do this:
- Do not, under any circumstances, light a fire. (You’ll get hammered with fines when you’re inevitably caught)
- Have some sort of obnoxious signalling system handy. Camouflage is good (and fun), but you want to be found if shit and fan meet. At a minimum, I suggest having:
- A whistle (the loudest, most offensive motherfucker you can find. Avoid those with the little balls inside and opt for something similar to a Fox40)
- A bright, reflective construction vest or something similar.
- Tell someone you trust where you’ll be and when you expect to return. You should always do this, but it becomes even more important when you’re going out of your way to avoid detection.
Note that most state parks will not allow you to fell trees willy-nilly. They usually tolerate the processing of dead, standing trees as well as sticks and boughs that are already laying on the ground.
The second option is to find a big piece of private land that looks suitable for bushcraft and then ask the owner if you can make use of it. You should pretty much just put your cards on the table and ask outright. It takes a bit of courage, but you’ll want to insist on the following:
- You won’t hunt.
- You won’t trap without asking for permission first.
- You wont make a fire unless they’re okay with that. If you make a fire, you’ll take all the necessary precautions.
- You’ll give them a heads-up before going out on their property each time.
- You’ll give them your contact information so that they can get in touch with you if need be.
The third option is to find lands owned and maintained by one of the following organizations, and negotiate with those entities.
- The Boy Scouts of America run a number of camps which they may (or may not) give you permission to use in the off-season. Here is such an example.
- Lands owned and operated by the civil air patrol (or another similar SAR group) may be tolerant or understanding of your needs.
Here is some outstanding advice on practicing bushcraft right near your home.