Economy of effort.

Economy of effort

Any would be woodsman who takes their bushcraft seriously soon comes to realise the importance of efficiency in their daily routines and skills.

This is perhaps brought into focus most keenly when foraging for your food – even if that is just a day or two in the woods. The connection is soon made between ‘Wow this really takes some work!’ and ‘Maybe I should try and economise on exactly how I’m spending my hard won calories’.

We often joke with our customers about ‘the fire wood tax’ where we ask them to always please bring a few bits of fire wood into the camp any and every time they go off into the woods. This helps keep a constant fuel stack at the ready for keeping the kettle hot and any cooking that needs doing.

It’s a simple enough rule but it really does pay over the course of a weekend. Without it the fuel gets depleted and then everyone has to go out wood collecting on force and it’s in these situations you see people stumbling back into camp under arms full of branches and logs sweating profusely.

These same people probably went to the loo or fetched something from their camping area a dozen times without bringing in any fuel. The moral is simple, do it little and often and save the all-important calories!

We can take economy of effort further and apply it to all manner of bushcraft related tasks and chores and part of the fun of being in the woods is making and mastering your own routines.

Another simple but obvious technique is to let the fire cut your wood. Many a novice spends hours sawing thick logs into short but ever so tidy looking logs to go in the fire. Spend any time doing this long term and the same novice is instead dragging (not carrying) long lengths of wood into camp, breaking them quickly into 3 or 4 foot lengths and feeding them straight into the fire. This arrangement makes sense in a fixed woodland camp and isn’t always the best option, but it sure does save on sweat!

Taking a look at cutting tools, first and foremost is not surprisingly safety. However once competence, dexterity, strength and motor skills are well established economy soon comes into play. For example, why take out your folding saw and push and pull frantically to cut through small diameter green wood material when you can simply, quickly and very efficiently bend the branch under tension then slice through it with a fixed blade sharp knife in less than a second. Knife comes out, bend bracnch, slice, knife goes away, done.

This technique takes a bit of a knack but ultimately boils down to sufficient tension in the branch you are bending, a very sharp knife and a quick downwards, punch-like action with the knife hand. The accompanying photos will give you a clearer idea of this technique and its one I first learnt from Mors Kochanski’s Bushcraft book.


Selecting a stem from a Hazel stool.


Bending Hazel stem over and keeping it under tension.


Quick downwards slice leaves clean stump for re growth.


Minimal re shaping of removal cut to create pot hanger platform.

I hope these ideas add to your growing repertoire of bushcraft skills and help to keep you out of calorie debt when out and about on your next woodland adventure!

Adam Logan.

Related posts