I have been asked several times “what do you do on historical treks?” and “what is there to do when camping?” “Don’t you get bored?” Well actually I don’t think I have ever been bored when camping under canvas, there is always so much going on around me.
I can sit and just watch and listen, and if I get tired I can lie down and sleep. I can brew a cup of tea and listen to the sounds of the forest and watch for wildlife. Sometimes I will take my gun and go exploring, following a trail to see where it goes and note what types of animals have travelled this track. All the while looking out for wildlife so I know what frequents this area.
I also look for edible plants and plant tinders, taking note of where I saw them. Bracket fungus like the Lietiporus Portensosus will spread its spores in the same area each time, so it is wise to keep track of where you find them. If I need tinder I will collect some and take it back to camp and prepare it there, charring the material in the camp fire and placing it in my tinderbox to extinguish it.
There are many skills that are second nature to me now, so I rarely practice them unless I need to, but there was a time when I would practice these skills in camp. Making cordage is a good skill to learn and cordage can have many uses from fishing and yabby lines to traps and shelter construction. Make it heavy enough and you can use it to hang game for skinning and butchering.
Tomahawk throwing is good fun and a good survival skill to practice if you can find a dead tree, and if you have a good fishing hole nearby what a great way to spend some time catching dinner.
One of the things I do make each time I go out is a kettle hook. Simple and easy to make with my clasp knife, yet an essential item in camp. I don’t usually have a need to make cordage because I use the same leather ties that secure my blanket roll and oilcloth to construct my shelter and hang my kettle.
Making traps for practice is always worthwhile if you have not done a lot of it. In a real survival situation setting out a trap line is a priority. Traps will work for you day and night whilst you are working or sleeping. The more you can depend on your traps, the less you will have to depend on your gun, and therefore save powder and lead. Trapping large game will require plenty of strong cordage and knowledge of the trails they use.
Getting plenty of firewood in is important during the colder months, because with only one blanket you will be relying on your fire and its rock reflector surround to keep you warm. Some kindling must be stored under your shelter, in case your fire should go out in the night. Should it rain or snow you will need that dry kindling. The other firewood should be stacked outside your shelter, but close up against it so you can stoke the fire in the night without having to leave your blanket.
Sometimes there are repairs to be made to moccasins; packs that have got damaged on the trail and of course your clothing. This is a good time to check things out and make those necessary repairs before the return trek. Check out your tools, do your blades need sharpening? Or your gun need cleaning? If you carry a journal as I do now is a good time to record things that have happened so far. If you are new to woodsrunning you might want to note down items that you carry that were not needed, or perhaps and item you wished you had taken with you. How is your food supply working out? Do you need to make changes to food choices or quantities? This is a good opportunity to note how much of any particular food you use. If you are out for say two nights, take note of the food used and work out how much you would need for say 8 nights.
I always carry the same amount of everything regardless of the length of time I am away from home. In this way I get used to the weight, and I know that if I can not get back for some reason, I have enough food. In reality on a long trip my food would get lighter. Once the meat was gone that I was carrying, I would hunt for more, eat what I needed, and dry some of the meat over my fire to take with me. If you should ever get sick, having enough food will be important, because you will not be able to check your trap line or go hunting.
On one trek I started constructing a half-faced shelter. Although I live in the forest I have other work to do, daily chores. So I only had a day to spare on site. I cut the poles and stacked them ready for next time. On the next trek I started erecting the shelter, and so it went on until the shelter was finished.