In a true wilderness survival scenario, various bushcrafting techniques can play a huge role in affecting survival right from the beginning, as many of these techniques are essentially proven primitive skills. By applying these techniques, everything from crafting water containers to building shelter and making friction fire can be made much more obtainable when faced with limited time or a lack of proper equipment.
Once all acute survival needs are met, bushcrafting techniques can make life in a bad scenario tolerable and possibly even enjoyable at times. Whether you’re in full-on survival mode or just out camping for the weekend, building a multifunctional kitchen setup is one of the biggest steps you can take to improve life in the wilderness.
THE KITCHEN ITSELF
This multi-functional kitchen setup allows wild or store-bought food to be prepared and preserved in a number of different ways. While it’s obviously a little overkill for a short-term survival scenario or that quick overnight camping trip, it does give the user the ability to cook pretty impressive meals to perfection and is a great addition to any long term permanent camp or wilderness man cave. From baking wild roots and grilling venison backstrap to making squirrel stew and wild turkey jerky, this style of kitchen does everything but hunt the food for you!
“FROM BAKING WILD ROOTS AND GRILLING VENISON BACKSTRAP TO MAKING SQUIRREL STEW AND WILD TURKEY JERKY, THIS STYLE OF KITCHEN DOES EVERYTHING BUT HUNT THE FOOD FOR YOU!”
Maple was the wood of choice for this build as it grows relatively straight, and even though it’s a hardwood it is pretty easy to work with when it’s green. The tools used to build this kitchen setup consisted of a small shovel, folding saw, axe, knife, and about half a roll of bankline. It’s important to note, however, that the majority of structures within this kitchen can be improvised to require even fewer man-made tools. By utilizing “Y sticks” and natural cordage it’s not too hard to imagine using only a knife to produce a scaled-down kitchen that is more primitive, yet just as practical.
Once a shady and relatively flat area was selected, construction began with the digging of the keyhole fire pit
FROM THE GROUND UP
Digging a fire pit is a good place to start. The size of the pit is strictly a personal preference. This pit is a slight oval shape. It measures roughly three feet at its widest point and was dug about a foot deep. These measurements are pretty ideal for a cooking fire as the depth leaves room for a large coal bed, and the width accommodates long sections of deadfall, meaning less processing of fuel wood. This pit features a keyhole on one side into which coals can be raked and a grill placed on top. This allows for a controllable temperature when grilling or frying in cast iron. On the opposing side of the pit a two-foot deep hole is dug and lined with stones. This will become an earth oven, which is the answer for all wilderness baking needs. Simply heat up the rocks in the main fire pit and roll a base layer of hot rocks into the earth oven, add the food item and then another layer of hot rocks. Finish by adding a generous helping of dirt onto the top layer of rocks. The earth oven is fantastic for making roast, as well as baking fish and birds as the meat will retain the majority of its natural juices, especially when wrapped in leaves.
A simple pot hanger over a campfire can make camp life much more enjoyable and hassle free. This setup features three different pot hangers for your stewing convenience. Multiple pot hangers allow you to cook your soup on one adjustable hanger while a separate hanger acts as a cooling hook and a third boils your drinking water for the night. The primary hanger consists of a tall Y stick hammered securely into the ground on both sides of the main fire pit, with a third Y stick acting as the horizontal across the pit. This combination of Y sticks produces multiple secure settings that will come in handy when cooking meat on a spit over the open flame. The hanging hook itself has two settings which allow the pot to be adjusted to the desired cooking temperature.
The secondary pot hanging system is a simple, practical design consisting of a Y stick placed in the ground near the side of the fire pit with a 5-foot long pole laid across the top. Three upside down Y sticks are then placed at the rear of the pole, each one slightly taller than the previous. This allows for a secondary cooking pot to be used with temperature controls of its own and is great for making coffee or wild teas. The third hanger is simply a piece of cordage suspended from the top of the tripod that passes through the smoke rack and has a small toggle tied to the end. The primary purpose of this toggle is to act as a cooling rack, but it also works well for suspending a pot of stew well out of the reach of those pesky varmints while you’re sleeping or away from camp. This toggle could also double as a place to suspend a large piece of meat, such as a deer shoulder for thawing or smoking, by attaching a loop to the meat and hooking it over the toggle.
There are few things more embarrassing to a woodsman than having your buddies out to camp for a cookout and trying to get away with not crafting a proper spit. You throw a chunk of meat on a stick and lay it across the fire and blush as that rabbit instantly rolls to its heaviest side. You simply shrug it off and mumble, “It’ll be alright.” Before you know it, you’re eating rabbit sushi. It’s important to take that extra few minutes to make a proper spit before roasting so the meat cooks evenly. Aside from a better tasting meal, this ensures the meat is cooked thoroughly, which is especially important when cooking wild meat.
To make a proper spit, find a green branch that has a Y at one end. Sharpen the end of the branch to a tapered point and wrap a bit of cordage to the other end to prevent unwanted splitting. With your knife, baton two thirds of the way down the branch, or as desired. Slide your food onto the spit, in this case a tasty venison kabob, and use some cordage to securely close the split end of the spit. The Y in the spit will allow for rotation of the spit as desired and the result will be a delicious, evenly cooked piece of meat.
When larger game is harvested in a wilderness situation, the need for preservation arises. Beyond the instant gratification of grilling, stewing, frying, and baking you’ll need to consider the long term. Building a smoke rack is a fantastic way to turn that pile of meat into bags of tasty jerky. This removable smoke rack rests on two lateral poles lashed to a tripod, which will keep thinly sliced strips of meat away from the direct heat of the fire and allow the smoke to rise through it. The sunlight and breeze will dry the meat slowly, as the smoke repels flies and helps preserve the meat as moisture is removed. There are spices with antimicrobial properties that will also help preserve the meat. Bows of pine or cedar trees can be placed around the tripod to maximize smoke. Use your own judgment when preserving meat primitively in the wild, and for added caution, reconstitute and thoroughly cook meats dried in this manner.
THE POT HANGER
Keeping your cast iron and other kitchen utensils well maintained and organized will save you a lot of grief and headache in the long run. The horizontals on this tripod are about 71⁄2 feet off the ground and extend a couple of feet beyond the edge of the tripod. Lashing two sections of maple saplings across these horizontal extensions provides a perfect pot hanger. Sticking a split piece of wood through the handle of a skillet or pot will keep them suspended between the two maple saplings and conveniently within arm’s reach.
This was a very enjoyable process and only took around 10 hours from start to finish; however, a lot of that time was spent gathering materials. Building any kind of bushcraft structure in the wilderness will allow you to see the endless possibilities in the forest around you, which is a skill that comes in handy in a survival scenario.