The Bushcraft Challenge – Survive from the Land for One Year
My name is Matt Hopkins and I’ve had a strong interest in survival and bushcraft skills for about 15 years now, but I have a confession to make. Other than camping in in a tent, the occasional spot of fishing and collecting some wild apples, I’ve not really put too much of what I ‘think’ I know into practice, but I’ve always had the desire to try, and whilst most of what I have learnt has come from watching the TV and reading a few books, the reality of actually taking part is always a completely different prospect.
Just over a year ago I contacted Greenman Bushcraft to see if they were able to point me into the direction of someone who’d be able to teach me about bushcraft and put some skills into practise for a challenge that I’d set myself.
Greenman kindly directed me to some reputable bushcraft schools – but in all honesty, I was looking for something a little more personal and long term, maybe a weekend here and there to be taught on a more casual basis rather than a solid few days of intensive training which I’d likely forget. I wanted a routine, and a slow filter of knowledge being passed down to me so that I take it on board and remember it.
One-to-one tuition was what I wanted, and needed, because I planned to see if I could survive from the land (wild and not so wild) for a full year, something I find daunting and exciting, but ultimately challenging – so I contacted one of authors of the blog here (Kris) to see if he was able to offer any one-to-one tuition on an ad hock basis. I must confess, I was expecting it to be a NO, but then I received a private email from Kris who asked me what I was looking for and after a lengthy reply detailing my needs, Kris kindly accepted the challenge of teaching me his skills to see if I could complete my challenge of living from the land with limited tools and a head-full of bushcrafting knowledge.
So for the past 15 months, off and on, season by season, environment by environment I have been receiving one-to-one bushcraft training – focusing on the main elements to keep me going whilst taking on the great outdoors. For the first few sessions I was taught the basics of shelter building, foraging and finding water, fire lighting – all subjects I ‘thought’ I knew but the reality turned out to be rather different to my inner perception. It turned out I knew very little in practical terms, but over the next few weekends I began to learn and remember the basic skills in which to build from. Kris showed a lot of patience, especially with foraging where I’d probably have killed myself without his deep understanding of this subject.
I was carefully guided through the dos and don’ts of foraging and shown some really unusual species of plants, trees and fungi that could be used as a good food source. Who new silverweed roots were like small potatoes? Or soap can be made from Conker tree leaves? I didn’t.
So, after many hours of training in almost all areas of bushcraft and survival I’m about ready to take on my challenge of seeing how well I can do surviving in the ‘wilds’ of the UK. Most of it will probably not be truly ‘wild’ for obvious reasons, but I will be living as wild as possible in a well-populated and built-up country, so woodlands, grasslands and coastal areas (where I have relevant permissions) will be the main habitats that I will be testing my skills in.
So, what kit am I allowed I hear you ask?
Firstly, I have one more confessions. Due to an old injury I have granted myself permission to use a firesteel rather than friction fire lighting. I’ve been taught well, and can certainly create fires this way, but sometimes my wrist just won’t allow this due to damage to my tendons – so a firesteel will be used for my fires if I can’t managed friction fires, but I will aim to do so when I’m able. I’m looking forward to finding and preparing various naturally occurring types of tinder that I have been shown.]
My Kit for 12 months
Karrimor Sabre 60-100 Rucksack
Karrimor Sabre 45 Side Pockets
DD 3x3 Tarp
DD Frontline Hammock
Paracord – I’ve gone for olive
Mora 860 Knife
Klean Canteen Bottle
Zebra Billy Can
Boonies Outdoor Millbank Bag
Basic survival kit, including fishing equipment - custom made for me by Greenman Bushcraft
Suitable clothing and footwear
First Aid Kit
One thing that I’ve decided not to take is a sleeping bag. I will most likely regret this, but I really don’t like them, and prefer a blanket, so a basic, no frills blanket I have chosen and now need to keep it away from the rain – so this will be stowed away in a printed survival bag (basically used a stuff sack).
I don’t intent on using my phone much. I’m taking this as an emergency tool really – and although I’m planning on surviving from the land for a full 12 months, I’m not planning on doing anything overly dramatic, so I don’t consider this cheating, and once in a while I will provide updates for this blog, or send out some tweets from my brand new account (@12monthmatt). I also have a basic solar charger for the battery if I need it.
And before I’m asked by the general public how I can afford to take time off work to do such a weird and wonderful thing. I'm not rich, I was made redundant by the company I was working for – I knew it was coming, and so gone is my rented flat, gone is my car, and after a long sabbatical, hopefully I will be ready to get back into employment, or who knows, maybe teach these skills myself? Time will tell.
I want to thank Greenman Bushcraft for allowing me to tell my story via their blog, and although I want to keep you all updated on my survival challenge, this is more of a personal goal, but I will endeavour to keep these posts coming, but, please do bear with me – Greenman may need to use their interpretation skills to unjumble some of my messages, or convert any calls into a blog post on my behalf whilst I’m away. But I will always do my best to update you all as way to thank Greenman for their assistance.
I will be making my way into my first site to test my skills sometime in early September. First off is local woodland where I’ve been granted permission to camp wild before heading off to location number two.
If you’d like to message me, please leave comments below and I will check back as and when I can and reply to each and every one of them (hopefully there will be some anyway!).
Catch you soon.