Ultralight backpacking is a great way to experience far-flung locales without burdening yourself with an overabundance of bushcraft gear. But obsessing over the weight, materials, and technology can build a barrier between a more holistic relationship with the woods. That’s where a more traditional approach—where you focus on building bushcraft skills while camping with gear that’s focused on natural, sustainable materials like wool, canvas, and steel—can serve your inner mountain man well.
It can be tougher for folks used to the niceties (and lightness) of modern tech—especially in winter and the beginning of spring—but don’t hibernate through the shoulder seasons. Take to the melting woods with the right bushcraft gear we’ve sourced below, and you’ll have the backcountry to yourself. Plus, no bugs.
Essential Bushcraft Gear for Camping in the Shoulder Seasons
1. Snowtrekker Crew Canvas Tent
A spacious and bright canvas tent is key to camping comfortably in the fringe seasons. The 8-by-10 Crew by Wisconsin-based Snowtrekker is your mobile two-person cabin in the woods, weighing under 18 pounds and featuring an internal aluminum frame for easy pitching and protection. Plus, a heat-resistant stovepipe thimble in the roof allows campers to stay cozy by bringing a compact woodstove inside.
2. Kni-Co Trekker
Similar to the custom unit pictured, notable commercial camp stoves pump out enough heat to ward off subzero temps and keep a pot bubbling. The compact, durable Kni-Co Trekker is made of cold-rolled steel. Or step up to the ultralight Titanium Goat Vortex stove (from $340; titaniumgoat.com), which features an innovative roll-up stovepipe, and disassembles quickly to fold flat for packing.
[Kni-Co Trekker, from $144; kni-co.com]
3. Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw
No skimping on firewood. Rely on a Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw, a classic, lightweight, made-in-Minnesota folding saw that sets up easily to cut up a pile of fallen timber. Or for chopping, the Swedish-forged Hults Bruk Akka Ax ($179; hultsbruk1697.se) makes quick work of kindling and firewood.
[Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw, $85; frostriver.com]
4. Western Mountaineering Apache MF
Western Mountaineering’s sleeping bags are works of art, filled with premium down and designed to keep you warm in harsh environments. The Apache MF is rated to 15 degrees. Add a cozy and compact Appalachian Gear Co. All-Paca Fleece Liner ($112; appalachiangearcompany.com) to increase your bag’s rating by 15 degrees. Don’t scrimp on a sleeping pad. The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm (from $220; thermarest.com) packs winter-worthy insulation in a Nalgene-size package.
[From $550; westernmountaineering.com]
5. Zebra Billy Pots
To put that stove to best use, get a pair of 32- to 64-ounce nesting pots with pouring spouts and practical handles. The best alternative to a classic hard-anodized aluminum cooking pot are the stainless steel Zebra Billy Pots.
[From $30; bensbackwoods.com]
6. MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoe Kit
MSR Evo Ascent snowshoes are available in a practical kit with a set of telescopic poles and a slim, functional daypack. The plastic-decked snowshoes are the package’s centerpiece, with grippy crampons underfoot, easy-to-adjust bindings and enough float for hard-packed spring snow.
7. BioLite Headlamp 200
You’ll be tempted to stay up late relaxing in your cozy tent, so light up the night with the BioLite Headlamp 200, a pocket-size, USB-rechargeable torch that produces 200 lumens at high setting and lasts for weeks on a single charge, even in sub-freezing temperatures.
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