What is Woodcraft Camping?

Woodcraft camping harkens back to the early days of recreational camping.  Woodcraft camping refers to the methods of camping that were enjoyed during these times, late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

No need to rush. Classic camping is about leisure time and enjoying the moments. It is about recreating in nature simply to be in nature.

No need to rush. Traditional Woodcraft Camping is about leisure time and enjoying the moments. It is about recreating in nature simply to be in nature.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800’s ushered in a new age of leisure time and camping was a favorite way of spending this leisure time.   The Ford Model T car provided people the means of going camping.   Camping had become mainstream since people had the time, resources and the means to get back in touch with their roots in nature.   Recreational campers camped for various reasons but primary among them was the belief that being in nature had positive benefits for the mind, body and soul.    Read “The American Camp Movement”.

The early authors of camping how-to books – George “Nessmuck” Sears, John M. Gould, Horace Kephart, Stewart Edward White and Daniel Carter Beard to name a few– were interested in helping people reconnect with nature.  They wanted to make camping accessible to everyone. These authors went back to the days of occupational camping – the scouts, explorers, surveyors – to draw on the professionals’ wisdom regarding what works.   The occupational camper knew more and carried less.   Skill with a knife and hatchet were used to replace the pounds of gear that less experienced campers had to carry on their backs.   The literature of the day referred to woodcraft skills – knife craft, fire craft, shelter craft, camp craft, pack craft and navigation– as the essential skills of the day.  These were the”ten essentials” that the occupational camper carried along.

Woodcraft camping has many aspects.  The tools used, the environment through which you travel or camp and the season of the year all affect the skills needed for woodcraft camping.  The various ecosystems provide a different array of resources.  The mountains, forest, desert, plains, tundra, swamp all provide different resources and challenges.  The early writers even referred to these as craft categories – mountain craft, forest craft, desert craft, jungle craft etc.

Discovering very faint pictographs on a rock art journey. Note the Classic Camping Style packframe.

Discovering very faint pictographs on a rock art journey. Note the Woodcraft Camping Style packframe.

The Industrial Revolution had made numerous technologies available to the camping public.  However, the “simpler is better” approach is what numerous authors wrote about.  The authors were rarely impressed by new fangled gadgets and gizmos espoused by the retailers as the latest and greatest for camping expeditions.  Then, as now, these items created more weight on the back rather than providing a significant benefit to the camper.  The books provided wisdom for making simple “kits” for camping using resources of the day.  The bed roll was assembled from blankets and some blanket pins all wrapped up in a canvas or rubber blanket.  A camp fire was the primary means of cooking and it provided plenty of opportunity for stories and song as the evening entertainment.  A knife and ax were the main tools and woodcraft skills allowed campers to use these tools to make all sorts of camping accessories from what was available in nature.  Camping was appreciated for the skills one developed for creating comfort in nature.

These simple ways continued up into the 1960’s and 70’s.  Books written in the 70’s were still instructing campers on how to use basic gear and woodcraft camping skills.  Though backpacking gear has changed  significantly in the last 30-40 years the reasons of being in nature – the positive benefits for the mind, body and soul – have not.

A hot meal cooked over an open fire is a wonder ending to a fay of hiking. Photo courtesy of Paul Bojan.

A hot meal cooked over an open fire is a wonderful ending to a day of hiking. Photo courtesy of Paul Bojan.

Woodcraft camping is experiencing a revival.  The traditional woodcraft camping skills of know more and carry less for living in nature are becoming valued again.  Campers are reconnecting with these skills for the  exciting and rewarding dimension they add to nature travel and camping experiences.  Woodcraft camping skills allow you to interact and connect more with nature.

Woodcraft camping is the foundation of skills used at Desert DAWN.   We take you back to the simpler approach to gear, allowing you the opportunity to have a greater appreciation for the nature within which you travel and live.  Desert DAWN teaches the traditional woodcraft camping skills used by the campers in the early 1900’s.  We use a knife and axe along with woodcraft skills to create camping implements, we sleep under the stars in bed rolls,  we cook on open fires, and we tell stories and sing songs around the campfire.  We simply want to enjoy nature unencumbered by new fangled gizmos and gadgets.   Join us around the fire and learn the skills to live simply and happily in nature.

Come home to nature, it welcomes you.

Join us at Desert DAWN for a re-awakening of woodcraft skills.    Gain a new perspective and appreciation for the gifts of nature through woodcraft camping skills and a traditional camping experience.

Explore More:

Woodcraft Camping Courses               Custom Excursions                Family Excursions               Day Hikes
What is Woodcraft Camping?              Woodcraft Skills – Our Core Curriculum
Vision and Mission        Contact Us          Staff Stories