Category Archives: Bushcraft on TV

Canoe Videos by Bill Mason, Waterwalker…


A classic canoe documentary from the early 1980’s, still made available from the Canadian National Film Board:

“This feature-length documentary follows naturalist Bill Mason on his journey by canoe into the Ontario wilderness. The filmmaker and artist begins on Lake Superior, then explores winding and sometimes tortuous river waters to the meadowlands of the river’s source. Along the way, Mason paints scenes that capture his attention and muses about his love of the canoe, his artwork and his own sense of the land. Mason also uses the film as a commentary on the link between God and nature and the vast array of beautiful canvases God created for him to paint. Features breathtaking visuals and exciting whitewater footage, with a musical score by Bruce Cockburn.”

Song Of The Paddle

Also available is Mason’s 1978 film “Song of The Paddle”:

“Join outdoorsman Bill Mason in this short documentary as he and his family go canoe camping in the wilderness. Gain an appreciation for the art of canoeing while watching a small group experience the sheer joy and beauty of Nature. Along the way, the Masons experience countless adventures and some breathtaking scenery, including Indian rock carvings at Lake Superior.”

The Voyageurs

Another fantastic canoeing film available there is the documentary “The Voyageurs” from 1964, covering a subject featured heavily in Ray Mears’s recent series about Canada, “Northern Wilderness”:

“This short film tells the tale of the men who drove big freighter canoes into the wilderness in the days when the fur trade was Canada’s biggest business. The film recreates scenes of the early 19th century with a soundtrack by an all-male chorus.

Campfire Tents – Ray Mears Baker Tent

Ray Mears has done more than anyone in recent times to promote the benefits of Getting Out & Staying Out, and particularly he has shown himself a great believer in the open-to-your-surroundings nature of the Campfire Tent or Baker Tent. In his episode on Roger Rangers in the North East United States and Canada he showed a complete camp set up using 2 baker tents, in some really beautiful woodland.

For a modern baker tent see our video review of the Campfire Tent or our feature on our ongoing “Baker Tent Hunt”.

Here’s some pictures of Ray Mears Baker Tent Camp – makes you want to Get Out & Stay Out doesn’t it!

baker campfire tent1

baker campfire tent2

baker campfire tent 3

baker campfire tent 4

Ray’s set up shows perfectly the combination of openeness, ability to be warmed by a fire in front, and of cooking on the fire whilst staying sheltered in your tent. But the main benefit of the Campfire tent is in this open-ness to your surroundings – if you’re out there you don’t want to miss a deer wandering past your camp, or the chance to make a wish for a lottery win on a shooting star burning up in the atmosphere above you. Or an owl that flies low across your camp in the early evening. Using open tents these are all things I’ve experienced on my travels.

Tripod for Cooking – the Ray Mears Way

With some new Dutch ovens pots on there way to me via Fedex, I was interested to see Ray Mears in his Northern Wilderness series using a traditional tripod simply made from some branches found at the camp site. Ray explains how this was in fact the way the “Voyageurs” worked, saving weight by not having to carry a metal tripod. Again unlike the classic dutch oven tripod set up there’s no metal chain suspending the pots either – instead ‘Withy” or thin sampling branch twisted to make it more flexible was used by Ray in this example. Further withies were used to secure the tripod legs at the top – here’s some outtakes:
Ray Mears tripod cooking

Ray Mears cooking with tripod
We’ll be trying this method at our next camp, once I’ve properly seasoned the new dutch ovens.

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Ray Mears – A Rare Sighting!

You won’t see this too often – everyone’s favourite bushcraft expert Ray Mears wearing a slick suit! Normally at home in Khakis and Goretex, it’s from the most recent of his Northern Wilderness series on the BBC – the suit was in honour of one of Ray’s heroes David Thompson, who opened up vast tracts of Canada and North America through his travelling and surveying when working for the Hudsons Bay Company. Ray was invited to unveil the plaque on the Grey Coat school where Thompson began his own Path through his schooling and natural ability in maths his life’s work took him to Canada, a Path of the paddle, the sexton (for navigating), horseback and on foot across Canada, working and learning from the Native peoples in how to travel in that vast wilderness. The series is absolutely stunning and will give people much more understanding of how the nation of Canada came about. You can catch it on BBC iPlayer – try the HD version which really gives amazing detail of the scenery.

Ray Mears in a Suit!

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Ray Mears' Swag Camp

You can catch Ray in his swag bedroll in the Australian desert: on DaveJaVue channel tonight at 7pm if you have Sky TV. Here’s a couple of images of his desert camp from the show:

For more on swag camping, see our main post about “swag” camping here: “Me Ol’ Swagaroo”

Ray waking up in the Desert in a traditional Australian 'Swag Bag'

Ray waking up in the Desert in a traditional Australian 'Swag Bag'

A beautiful desert camp spot for Ray Mears

A beautiful desert camp spot for Ray Mears

Ray packing the Swag back in the 4 x 4.

Ray packing the Swag back in the 4 x 4.

We love swag-camping – if you want to get yourself a swag see our post on “Where to Buy a Swag in the UK” and also see our “Duluth Bedroll” post for a Canadian ‘swag’ option!

For more Ray Mears swag camping see this clip from his DVD from YouTube, showing 4×4 swag camping in places with a lot of biting insects, so a fully enclosed mozzie net features heavily in the swag he uses here – You’ll need to view full screen because there’s an awful lot of split-screen editing gone on in this one!

Wye Video?

Because it captures the mood of the river, and the ‘path’ of the paddle! This one is in high definition video so click the youtubefullscreen icon to view it full screen.

See our Canoeing & Bushcraft Videos section for more Canoing Videos (these are all uploaded & managed via You Tube)…

These were filmed with an excellent digital HD widescreen handheld camcorder from Toshiba – more info here.

Good 'Ol Kelly…

Just thought I’d collect my thoughts following a recent canoeing and ‘get out and stay out’ camping trip in the Wye valley. I’ve shared a few tips and ‘learns’ below that I’ve picked up in recent trips with the help of a touch of ‘backyard’ testing too. 

Camp Fire!  Firstly, respect your surroundings at all times, only light camp fires where and when they are allowed and keep it safe. Depending on where you are and if there are restrictions – find out and follow the rules.  Extinguish remains and embers thoroughly as it can travel both over and under the ground.     

  • Collect the fluffy bits from your tumble dryer – from the filter you have to keep clear. Great tinder support. Keep it dry and take it as back up as you can find tinder in the field / woods, even in the rain if you know where to look. Ray can anyway.!
  • Open pine cones great too, put a couple in with your small twigs.  The air gets in around them and it really picks up quickly
  • Prepare your sizes of sticks before hand and have them in different graded size piles.  Nothing too fussy but otherwise you will be scrabbling around for the right sizes…. and the fire has gone out.
  • Birch tree – tiny delicate bark shavings are fab too – they are flakey – care not to damage any trees though.  We’re talking the tiny bits from broken branches if possible.
  • Have a lighter and/or matches as back up but try to light your camp fire with a simple steel striker without an instant naked flame doing the work for you. I know this maybe cheating too but it’s only a step away from a flint stone approach, so stop making it so easy and improve your skills.
  • I find that firing up Kelly Kettle and using what’s left is easier than starting from scratch with a general camp fire. Let the chimney effect of the Kelly process do its thing.  Remember to point the ‘vent’ hole into the approaching wind to feed Kelly with air.  If there’s no wind, blow in there but too much puff and its out. Once your water is boiling use the established fire base to start your camp fire and have the sticks ready.  It’s all in the prep.


  • A well as a small sharp knife, if you don’t mind carrying it – a little wooden handled hand axe is very useful or even a hand sized fold up saw – most DIY stores.


  • On two occasions recently, I burnt my hand lifting the full kettle from the fire and in my instant reaction to the burn, spilt precious water on the fire that I still needed as I lifted it off! Now I run a decent stick under the kettle handle, angle it and lift from there, to keep my hand away from climbing flames in the ‘chimney’ of the kettle. Also, if you put the kettle straight on to a small fire rather than its own base, remember to keep the cork and wooden part of the handle away from the ‘wider’ flames.
  • Update. New Kelly Kettle Video Here.

  • The medium Kelly kettle takes 2.5 pints but remember not to fill it unnecessarily.  How much tea do you need? You’ll be peeing all night. Boil what you need for 2 mugs and it will be quicker anyway.
  • Collect fire wood, tinder, dried grass, leaves etc during your walk or canoe trip.  Don’t expect it to be lined up for you where you want to light your fire.  There won’t be a boot sale there with an estate car full of twigs with a bloke going, ‘’50p for the lot – get your fire here.’’  Not in the places I’ve camped anyway. Chances are it will be getting dark and there won’t be a dry stick in 50 metres radius especially if it’s a well used spot.  You might be lucky but don’t walk past some great natural fuel if it’s jumping out at you.  And it will be.  So much of it you might not see it.  Can’t see the wood for the trees and all that.  Take the dead stuff – don’t hack away at branches.  Look under your feet. Chuck it in your bag or into the canoe if you can reach it but don’t rock the boat!  It’s all in the prep.
  • Get the right side of the wind.  There’s nothing worse than a face full and eye full of smoke just as you’re getting it going. As your eyes sting and stream with tears, the appeal will wear off and you’ll be longing for a gas cooker and a wet flannel.
  • During the effort, refrain from putting your ‘tools’ from your kit on the ground – eg knife, striker, maglite etc.  You’ll mislay it, walk it into the soil, lose it in the cover or generally lose track.  Get in the habit of putting it into one handy pocket with a zip… and zip it up or it’s falling out with all the stooping you’re doing.  It’s like at home doing a bit of DIY – can you ever find your pencil if you put it down?! And the car keys…….


old swag in a bag 

There’s something to be said for not having a tent covering you up and hiding you away from the sky, especially when it’s fine. I guess in a tent, you’re not really out – you’re still ‘in’ and enclosed.  Recently, I lay half under the half turned boat in my sleeping bag with nothing above me apart from a little dew and a million stars.  As my old mate, Kevin, snored and grunted like a badger in his swag bag with only his beard on show, I listened to the Tawny Owls echoing in the valley, the splash of jumping fish in the Wye beside us and I picked out the shooting stars that were occasionally trailing and burning through the sky – sometimes I was momentarily tricked by the constant path and track of a man made one.  The birds were singing at 4.30 and it was impossible to sleep so watching the sunrise in the valley was the next thing and it was going to be a scorcher.  The ‘badger’ was awake too, not long after – and it was coffee, courtesy of good ol’ Kelly! 

travelling light with your buddy 

  • I find a good way to keep things to a minimum, with your buddy doing the same, is to challenge each other.  Basically swap bags and go through each others and get ‘tuff with the stuff’.  Take it out.  Why do you need this? and this? and this? How many of these?! Be honest with each other and eliminate any unnecessary duplication of kit.  Never cut out essentials but know what the essentials are. Could be they’ve forgotten something and you need to add rather than take away but you only know by checking. Oh, when you’ve checked it to an essentials ‘list’, check it again. Make sure you both know where the car keys are, the mobile, the tiny first aid kit you argued about taking earlier……….and zip up pockets and pouches ….or an item could slip out in the long grass when you have your next brew and you’ve lost it for ever……..
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CRUSADER MUG as Used by Ray Mears, Bear Grylls

I’d seen both Ray Mears AND Bear Grylls using this steel mug type so figure that’s a good enough recommendation for anyone. I also like this design: has some real advantages – the shape means it can be used as a cup or a bowl; you can clean it with anything to hand, sand, grass etc. (because its Steel with not paint or coating, unless you like the taste of PTFE, I prefer sand), and cook direct on the flames with it too.


It’s an army issue cup called the CRUSADER CUP CANTEEN. It’s an awesome piece of kit – you know it’s good if Bear Grylls takes it with him, as he travels with almost nothing! Only a knife, water bottle and this crusadar mug most of the time… it’s the ultimate example of “Get Tuff with your Stuff” minimal gear! The 0.75 litre capacity is incredible in a ‘cup’ and means it can be used for BIG drinks, re-hydrating dried food, collecting foodstuff in the bush, and for eating from – 0.75 litres of beef stew is enough for anyone, in one helping anyway! The design of the handle means it’s a really solid grip and also helps prop up the mug when used directly on the fire – being thin metal it also sheds any heat build up pretty quick. Designed to fit beneath the NATO ’58 pattern army water bottle, the Crusader Cup Canteen doubles as a drinking mug or cooking pot. Constructed from high-grade matt finished stainless steel. Compatible with the Crusader field cooking unit (also available separately). The mug also features handy internal measuring scale (0.25 l/0.5 l) ideal when rehydrating meals etc. Volume: 0.75 L (1.58 pints). Size: 13.5 x 10 x 10cm (5″ x 4″ x 4″). Weight: 290g (10oz).

Note: watch out for cheaper replicas, e.g. from Gelert – thay are NOT the real thing – but the real thing does come re-badged as a bushcraft item, but it’s made in the same factory – you can tell by looking for the serial numbers imprinted in the steel.

Prices from £15.00 each from, our favourite and local Army Surplus supplier – Friendly service, 15 years in the business and now with a new MASSIVE warehouse in Frome, Somerset chock full of gear…!

Here’s the Crusader in use on a recent Canoe Trip:

Coffee in the Crusader steel mug - out of the rain....

Coffee in the Crusader steel mug - out of the rain....

The Crusader mug used straight on the fire, cooking up some porridge for breakfast

The Crusader mug used straight on the fire, cooking up some porridge for breakfast