Friday, July 23, 2010

Bushcraft and Technology

No matter which definition of bushcraft we use, an underlying current remains the minimalization of technology. There is a drive to acquire traditional skills, which allow a person to make their way in the wilderness without having to rely on manufactured goods. As the saying goes, the more you know, the less you need. The wonderful aspect of learning these wilderness skills is that they allow us to become more self reliant and sufficient, in a way similar to our ancestors. The ability to use technology which can be reproduced in the wilderness if necessary, is a beautiful thing.

I fully believe in the value of learning how to live and procure resources in the wilderness without the use of modern technology. What bothers me however, is that many people have managed to commercialize this very rejection of commercial goods. Many have become more concerned with looking the part than possessing the knowledge. It is always hilarious to see a person on the trails dressed like a mountain man from the 1800s, who clearly bought all the gear that some "bushcraft" site recommenced. Most of that gear of course, much more expensive and complex to produce than the "modern" technology he is trying to get away from.

When you look at a piece of bushcraft gear, ask yourself, "Is this actually a useful tool, which lets me live in the wilderness in a sustainable way, or is it just designed to look the part?"

A good rule of thumb that I use, is to check whether this "bushcraft" technology can be produced more easily in the wilderness than the modern equivalent. If the answer is "no", then there is no benefit to rejecting the modern equivalent. Of course, there is always personal preference, but we have to be honest about it. Do you just prefer the item because it makes you look more bushcrafty?

For example, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the person who has the skill to make his own leather coat from an animal which he has hunted down and killed. However, if you are standing in a department store, deciding whether to buy that $400 leather coat, or the $40 synthetic equivalent, ask yourself "Is this a better item, worth the price, or is it just something I am buying to look the part?" Be honest, if you are equally unable to produce either item in the wilderness, why are you choosing one over the other? Which one is better from a practical stand point?

End of rant!