Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival vs. Long-Term Wilderness Living (Part 2-Selecting Your Home Territory and Establishing Camp)

by Justin Lowthorp on May 12, 2020

In this post I'm going over finding your home territory and establishing camp. I know I stated in the previous post that I would be covering the specific gear you need for long-term wilderness living, but I got ahead of myself. As I stated previously, your gear must be heavy-duty and will not be able to fit in a single pack. To ensure we have all that we need then, we must create caches. To create caches, we must first create a home territory and a permanent camp 

Having a home territory has many benefits. If every time you go out you're going to new places, you will never discover all the available resources or build a close relationship with the land. How can you care for other people if you have never had a close relationship with an individual? Same goes for the Earth; to become close to the Earth requires an intimate relationship with a specific territory. 

As you go out and explore looking for a suitable area, the most important resources to look for is water and food. Building materials can be had anywhere as long as you keep an open mind. Do research on the building methods used by peoples in a similar environment and the indigenous peoples of the area. When looking for water, the main consideration is year-round availability. Most areas have a dry season so you want to ensure that even during those times you have access to some form of water. Even a stagnant pond can be filtered and sterilized so it being clean is not an absolute necessity, just it's presence is what is most important.

If you're in an arid area, you are in luck if you found a perennial water source because now you have guaranteed game as well. In a wet area like where I live, in the broad-leafed mountainous forests, water is no assurance of game. It is the plant life that dictates the available game. You need to look for a home territory that contains mast crop species and breaks in the forest. A mature forest with no undergrowth will only have seasonal food sources and the game will only be passing through during those times. Having wood lines and meadows creates the diversity of plant life needed to sustain year-round populations of adequate game.

Once you have found a suitable home territory containing perennial water and a diversity of plant life, the next step is deep exploration. Poke your head into every nook and cranny. Follow the game trails and read the tracks. Smooth out portions of the trail and keep an eye out for fresh sign. Bring provisions with you and do not concern yourself with hunting or trapping, just observe. Go at an easy pace, be comfortable and do not press the game. Let them get used to your presence.

If natural rock shelters are present you can already begin the process of caching gear and supplies. Every time you go out, just bring a bit more. If no natural shelters are present and you can not wait until you have something built, you can start caching by burying gear in waterproof containers if need be. My preference is to bring as little man-made gear as possible, a bunch of plastic containers or sheeting will eventually need to be dealt with in some way.

When you establish your camp, make sure it's away from areas trafficked by game. Locate it well away from hunting and trapping areas. My favorite camps are far away from hunting and trapping but close to fishing. If sick or injured it is always easy enough to cast a line and catch some fish and recover your health. Not too close though or you will be dealing with excessive bugs in the summer.

In selecting your camp site the most important considerations are drainage, airflow, proximity to resources and general safety. You never want to camp under a mature tree that you don't wish to fell that have branches that are potential widow-makers. It is always a good idea to find your permanent camp during the wet season so you can be assured of the drainage. If the flow of water is moderate to low over the area, a little bit of dirtwork can make the site nice and dry. Always build on a slight rise. Even a hillside dugout can be made dry if you locate it in line with a crest so the water can break to either side.

Do not camp down in the bottom of the hollows, at night the cold air will flow down and in the morning the fog will settle in the low areas. During the day the air is more stagnant and you will be contending with bugs. High ridges are exposed to the most harsh elements. It may be dry but your camp will have to bear the full force of the wind and storms. It is also more visible and your presence might attract curious eyes. Building materials will need to be brought up severely limiting your capability to build substantial shelters.

My favorite locations in the mountains are finger ridges that are just above the fog-line. You are able to stay out of the cold air flow, there is still enough circulation to keep the bugs down and building resources can be harvested from above the camp, saving you from over-exerting yourself. In the hills I look for a similar situation. On a slope, many times you can find where a tree fell over long ago and with a bit of dirtwork, a level, dry site can be made. In flat land pile the dirt from your trench towards the middle to create a slight rise. Every camp needs some dirtwork to control the flow of water, no exceptions.

Now that your site has been selected and resources have been inventoried, now it is time to build a permanent camp. As mentioned above, research the area's indigenous peoples homes and other styles from peoples from similar environments and available resources. Permanence is of upmost importance so that you will be able to cache gear. 

Your first shelter can be small so that you can get it built with your light-weight kit in a reasonable amount of time. Once it is built the items best to cache first are your heavy-duty construction tools, larger cooking vessels, traps and snares. Now would be an appropriate time to get into the needed gear and that will be for sure the topic of my next post.

1 comment
by Bret Coy on May 16, 2020

Another excellent post, Mr. Lowthorp. I very much look foward to the next post. I have already begun acquiring gear. I have a feeling much of what you will recommend are pieces of kit I am looking to acquire. I really enjoy your approach/philosophy in this.

Also, could you recommend any specific books or other reading material directly related to this post? Natural building and scouting the land is of vital interest to me. Thanks again.

Best Regards.

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