Out of Date Ideas

posted Oct 12, 2015, 4:22 PM by Paul Wagner
The Chef prepares dinner ©backpackthesierra.com

We’re not big fans of those survival shows that focus on “bushcraft” skills to stay alive in the wilderness.  Sure, they can be entertaining—sometimes for the wrong reasons—but we backpack in the Sierra Nevada in California, and that makes a big difference.

Yes, we’ve seen a show or two located in “California’s rugged and deadly Sierra Nevada…”  but please.  We hike there all the time.  We run into families with kids, people far older than ourselves, and rookies with almost no experience.  And we all seem to have a great time in these mountains.  The deadliest part of the Sierra, as we have said many times, is the drive to the trailhead on the highway.

But there is more to this topic than just a misrepresentation of the nature of the mountains.  Bushcraft is a group of skills developed by early trappers and mountain men to stay alive when they had to live off the land a hundred and fifty years ago. Those skills are not only obsolete, but the techniques they used often damaged the wilderness for years to come.  They didn’t care, and neither did anyone else, because there was so much wilderness and so few people.  They also shot animals to eat, and trapped others to sell. 

That’s not the case today.  John Muir loved to chop branches of a tree to make his bed—but that doesn’t mean you should do it.  We don’t have enough trees for that kind of nonsense now.  So our advice is to leave the hatchet and Bowie knife at home.  Instead of scrounging up all the available tinder to start your fire with a bow-drill, take along an extra lighter and cook on a nice gas stove.  And when the mood strikes you to whack some trees down to make shelter against a coming storm, resist it. 
Your tent will work better than anything you can make anyway…and you’ll leave the mountains in better shape that way.
That’s the point. Our campsite in the photo above was left without a trace of use the next day--so the next person could find it just as pristine as we did.