When I first started down this route over twenty five years ago, it was with a view to learning the essential survival skills that might give me the edge in an unplanned outdoor emergency but I never really devoted a lot of thought to where I was heading and why. Over the years my direction has seemingly changed from ‘survival training’ leaning more towards the traditional crafts and wilderness living skills collectively known today as ‘bushcraft’ although the effortless merging from one into the other implies that this had been my intended journey all along. I was just addressing it by the wrong name!
Bushcraft as a subject is difficult to define having many variables and countless connotations, meaning different things to different people. An interest in bushcraft often begins with survival training then delves further, looking towards becoming able to source everything needed for life from the natural world around us. We strive to learn how these natural resources were shaped and processed to benefit our lives in days gone by. With the development of this knowledge comes an awareness of how resources should be harvested responsibly so as not to have a lasting impact on the very environment that provides us with everything we need. One thing’s for certain…bushcrafters will never be bored!
Otzi’s pack frame:
Otzi had what most people think was a pack frame lying near him. If so, then this item alone illustrates perfectly, the combining of skills and knowledge that a bushcrafter strives for. A two metre bent hoop of hazel rod formed the frame itself so the maker must have known about hazel as one of the more flexible woods. Two backboards of larch were lashed securely to this using plant fibre cordage meaning that the maker knew which species provided strong cordage and also how to process and construct the cordage needed. A goatskin kit bag was believed to have been fastened to the frame so a working knowledge of how to preserve and cure animal hides in order to make leather and buckskin would have been needed. I don’t believe any shoulder straps were found but these must’ve been present originally and it would be fair to assume these were also leather of some sort. The images of the broken frame, despite being extremely ancient remind me hugely of some modern day external frame packs I have lugged over hill and dale so it doesn’t seem beyond comprehension that I might be able to make up a close copy that might actually be effective and maybe even comfortable to carry. After all, Otzi did apparently haul his original model most of the way up a snowy mountain with an arrow head lodged deep in his shoulder! You can’t really get a better recommendation than that.