The definition of a woodsman — a person accustomed to life in the woods and skilled in the arts of the woods, as hunting or trapping — apparently has no female counterpart. It’s encouraging to see that this is changing, there are many women now, who are doing just that and filming it. Women like Stephanie Margeth and Survival Lilly.
As I’m practicing more “survival” skills myself, I’ve watched many of their videos, listened to podcasts, and I’m reading books like “How to stay alive in the woods”. While doing research I noticed there are different groups, such as “bushcraft”, “survivalist”, “woodsman”, and on the other end of the spectrum are the “preppers”.
A new term that has recently emerged is called: “re-wilding”, Daniel Vitalis, came up with the “ReWild Yourself” concept. “ReWilding is — in its essence — a celebration of our natural selves,” according to Vitalis “It is about living a life aligned with our biology and experiencing the sheer pleasure of fulfilling our biological drives.”
As we were preparing for our first overnight backpacking trip last November, my hiking buddy brought all sorts of gear and items to test during our trip in the Shenandoah mountains. We tested several types of stoves and ways of fire making, trying to figure out which type of tinder would start a fire easily.
Because we were 4 women hiking in the woods, we discussed different emergency scenarios. How well are we prepared? What if…one of us gets hurt? What if the weather turns really bad? What if we encounter a bear or a human being with bad intentions?
We started talking about knives, and my friend mentioned the importance of having a “bug out” bag. I had never thought about that before, but it makes a lot of sense to have one. Here in Virginia, at a stone’s throw of the White House and the Pentagon, there are many scenarios possible (as we’ve witnessed several times), including severe storms and even earthquakes.
Both my daughter and I now have a backpack filled and ready to go. It’ll carry us through 72 hours of surviving. I also have a fully equipped car, in case we get stranded during severe winter weather. The next level is to practice becoming completely self-reliant, better smart than sorry!
Survivalists, or preppers, are those “who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international…” The word “prepper” is derived from the word prepare. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defence training, stockpile food, and water prepare to become self-sufficient and even build structures (e.g. a survival retreat or an underground shelter) that may help them survive a catastrophe.
You see, often the hard-core preppers arm themselves with guns and ammunition, but ammunition runs out and guns break, so what then? What uses the least amount of energy hunting or trapping? Can you grow a crop? Do you know how to make tools yourself? What if we run out of medication and we encounter illness? For example, did you know that that “nasty” dandelion in your lawn can actually help with liver problems, upset stomach, and high blood pressure?
I’m not a prepper, but I do like to be informed, organized, and prepared. Just a simple power outage (very common here on the East coast during snow storms and summer storms, lasting sometimes several days, up to over a week!), can completely change life as we know it. Everything in our house is electrical, so how do I cook? How do I heat water or my house? Redundancy is extremely important, Plan B is not enough, better have Plan C, and D as well.
Self-reliance is important to me, I’m a single mom and I need to be able to pull up my own pants, under all circumstances. This is what attracted me to bushcraft, my love and respect for nature, has now gotten a new dimension by adding the survival element. I want to be able to survive and thrive in nature. What can I make out of natural materials? How do I hunt or fish? Which plants (and trees!) are edible, poisonous, and which ones medicinal?
Recently we camped for the weekend at the North American Bushcraft School in West Virginia, about 1,5 hours from where we live. Once a year they host the P2P Festival and give demonstrations of all sorts. We learned how to “dress” a squirrel, make fire with a stick and we did a medicinal and edible plant walk. The kids loved bow and arrow and tomahawk throwing (not surprised).
I think it’s very important (perhaps even for our survival as a human being) that we re-connect with nature and learn to work with it, explore it, and feel connected with it. The vision of aligning “with our authentic biological selves” appeals to me, this is what happens in nature as we learn to live in it. Nature humbles me, inspires me, and encourages me to take calculated, bold steps and live more fully.
I look forward to sharing some of my explorations via my youtube channel called MountainMuse. I’m working on my next videos, stay tuned!