Ultralight vs Bushcraft

Ultralight vs Bushcraft

Bushcrafting shares a similar ethos as military gear. Bushcraft gear is typically “heirloom quality” with the side effect of being much heavier than other gear, especially ultralight gear. However, bushcrafters don’t typically carry that much weight. Even though they carry really heavy gear, they multi-use items and tools that allow them to create the items they need. This would not be possible without the time spent developing their skillset to use these tools. Knowledge weighs nothing and is not consumable. This is where much of the ultralight community could learn.

Ultralight backpackers cut weight in two ways. The first is minimalism; much like bushcrafters, ultralight backpackers try to carry as few items as possible. This is typically at the expense of comfort or convenience. They forego a stove and eat cold oats to save a half pound, they leave medical gear because they will be close enough to civilization and accept that gamble, and they wear the same stinky, dirty outfit every day because extra clothes add weight. Minimalism is often a necessary tenet of recon elements in order to maintain mobility. MACVSOG's sweater-only sleep system for example. If you need to carry 600+ rounds of ammo, you’ve got to cut weight somewhere.

The second way ultralight backpackers cut weight is finding lighter alternatives to the things they need or literally cutting down the size of those items. This could be cutting the handle off your toothbrush, using Smart water bottles instead of Nalgenes, cutting their sleeping pad below the waist, using a polycro ground cloth instead of Tyvek, or buying a $600 dyneema tent. These things typically cost a little comfort, convenience, and durability and a lot more money. But sometimes it’s a worthy swap. It might be wise to use a synthetic jungle bag instead of a wool blanket. Half the weight and similar heat retention when wet.

So which is better suited for this “recce fad”? Bushcrafting or ultralight? You could probably see this coming: the answer is somewhere in the middle. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of ultralight and explored bushcraft. I think it’s unwise to forego medical gear, and you might as well leave the polycro at home because it will just tear anyway. But also there’s no reason to carry flint and steel when BIC lighters and ferro rods are cheap and expedient. I know a waxed canvas tarp is practically indestructible, but the weight savings that modern textiles offer are immense.

Ultimately, bushcraft and ultralight backpackers are specialized focuses, doing what they do best. I’m not trying to change that. In order to optimize our backpacking/sustainment systems in light of the second amendment, we should borrow from both. Take advantage of the weight savings of modern materials, maybe cut your pad in half, consider reducing redundancies and adopting multi use items. But remember that knowledge weighs nothing and isn’t consumable. Invest in your skillset , acquire quality tools that will last. It doesn’t matter how much weight it saves if it can’t do the job you need it to do. Study both, keep what works.

For some excellent resources to learn about these styles, here are some YouTube pages we recommend.

Darwin On The Trail / My Life Outdoors / Dan Becker / Jupiter Hikes

David CanterburyCoalcracker Bushcraft / Gray Bearded Green Beret TA outdoors


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