In recent days I have noticed that the survival and bushcraft community have begun drifting apart. Their views do not seem to mesh well in conversation. While I have no issues with either side of the spectrum, I find myself in the middle of these arguments. First off my general take on the whole idea of what gear to carry and what skills are best will always come down to a more skill based point of view. I have been this way most of my life and I have always believed that gear is secondary to the knowledge inside your head. There are huge differences between bushcraft and survival. There is also a major difference between primitive skills and survival. To put it bluntly in order to qualify for survival your life must be in danger. At this point everything is dictated by need or necessity. In survival taking three hours to build a shelter is foolhardy, however there are those have been in that situation and not by choice.
I had a conversation on skype with a friend. We began to realize that the field seems to be predominately made up of people that do in fact rely on gear. The western side of the field rely more on the skills rather than the gear. I am not saying that we do not carry items on hand, but we do choose what we carry seemingly more meticulously than others. Being in the southwest I can personally attest to the need to go lightweight. I feel that instead of carrying a 10lb sleep system I will opt to carry either an extra gallon of water or possibly a secondary 2 qt and a wool blanket and parka for the cold. Point being that here in the southwest the weight you carry needs to have reason. It has to be able to function or it is a waste of space. The sheer lack of water in the desert will also dictate how much gear is carried. Trust me one day carrying that bug out bag in 120 degree heat and you’ll understand. Those that say “they can do it” are fooling themselves. The terrain here will also decide for you on what you carry. That 50 pound pack…have a rock roll out from under your foot and see what happens and trust me it isn’t a question; it WILL happen. Most of our slopes here are 45 degrees and greater, that is enough to put the hurt on you or worse should you fall.
The point of this blog is not to rant on about the way others bash skills or even how it seems that lately this field has become as divided as our nations congress. It is however focusing on a major difference that has always been and that is choices. I grew up in Oklahoma, not the flat parts but down in the southeastern side of the state. This is home to the Arbuckle mountains and the Ouachita Mountains. It gets cold in winter and hot in the summer, it also rains a lot along with many other aspects. Now that I live in the desert I can personally see the major differences between the two regions. Since then I have adapted in many aspects, however I also notice that the same skills I used there growing are the same skills I use here. The major difference is simply the climate and how I went about accomplishing the tasks. I will admit, I do miss all the resources it had to offer.
I have in the past few years began to focus on gear as well. The reason for this is the simple fact that when it comes to videos and articles I will get a lot more views when writing about gear rather than skills. I am not sure why this is, but it is. I also reserve a lot of the gear for what I still like to call CAMPING. This is an activity I do when I am with my family or if I am relaxing with friends. In this case my truck is my pack horse and not my back. I still get out and do my primitive skills and practice going with only a knife, this is what I call sharpening these skills. There is something to be said about the feeling of staying in a natural shelter, catching your own food, and making the tools to make it all possible. It is a feeling of not only accomplishment but one of great respect for those that came before you. I can honestly say that if things where to happen in this country there will be a lot of gear hounds laying dead in the desert, and their gear will become trade wampum.
Since I was in my teens I have always practiced making stone tools. I have always known how to improvise and make something work. To me this is skill, this is the essence of being outdoors and enjoying my time out there. I have always leaned toward the primitive, mostly because I didn’t have the money for gear. I grew up very poor and a good knife was a luxury just as a pack and sleeping bag. This never stopped me from enjoying the wilderness, in fact I strongly believe that just that simple fact is why I enjoyed the wilderness so much. It is actually an integral part of my very being.
These same skills I pass down to my family. I encourage them to learn to use less and gain that respect for the world around them. This is what I feel is lost in today’s world, I see it a lot in the videos I watch on youtube and some of the conversations I have. I don’t disagree, but I do have very differing feelings about it. The skills I love are the skills that have worked for millions of years. They are the very reason we are all here today. I also strongly believe these are living skills, while they can and will work in a survival situation, survival means life and death. In a case like this your shelter must be built now, your fire must be made now, and your water must be disinfected now. I see it as being the same as crawling before you walk. By walking I mean living and thriving. I will also carry back up items in my kit for situations like this.