Bushcraft and the Natural World

Using Your Hands as Tools (Video)

Photo by Nadine Shaabana,


Keep your most valuable tools attached to your body.  

That’s what wilderness survival instructors advise us.  This way, we always have them when we need – Even if we’re separated from our packs.

Aside from our powerful brains, our hands are truly our most valuable tools.  They grip, lift, twist, and touch.  They rub, scratch, pry and grasp.  Their dexterity let us accomplish delicate tasks.  And their strength let us rip asunder.  Best of all, they are about as attached to us as you can get!

But do you know how to use your hands in the wilderness?

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Let’s Give Him a Hand

We may not always have our fancy equipment in the woods, or even a knife.  But if we know how to use our hands, we can accomplish plenty.  This is especially useful during a wilderness emergency.

Mors Kochanski is one of the premier bushcraft instructors in the world.  His book, Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival, is widely regarded as a woodsman’s bible. 

In this video, Mors and Kelly Harlton show us how to use our hands as tools.  They demonstrate how to limb saplings and twist flexible withes that can be used to hang pots over a fire or tie a shelter together.  They also use a rope to cut another rope. 

My favorite technique comes toward the end, when they use two standing trees to cut a long piece of wood into shorter lengths.

While these techniques are useful, they definitely violate the “leave no trace” ethic.  So practice them only on private land, with permission, or where it is legal to do so.   Make certain to be a good steward of the forest.


Using Your Hands as Tools

Mors Kochanski is much better at bushcraft than he is at making videos.  So the pace of the video is rather slow.  And they demonstrate rather than explain the techniques.  It is helpful if you already understand the techniques or the underlying principles.  But I think even beginners can learn from watching these two men demonstrate the skills.

When Mors talks, we should all listen!  Enjoy the video and think about what you can accomplish using your bare hands.



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