Bush Baggage

As an outdoor adventureist and naturalist, I am interested in the relationship that Earth-made materials have with their environement. What was once intuitive engineering with the surrounding environments, is now lessons for a sustainable world.


Staying dry in heavy rains can be a difficult challenge in which synthetic materials have found excellent application for.

However plastics have been proven to leach harmful chemicals with acute toxicity in water in very short periods of 24-72 hrs, (Lithner D, 2011). The lifespan and decomposition of plastic has created extreme ecological global problems. Plastic does not bio-degrade but instead degrades into micro-plastics resulting from environmental degradation, like UV radiation, and abrasion, the same way boulders become sand, (Dris, 2015). This rogue plastic is known to entangle wildlife or be consumed by wildlife, who confuse it for food often leading to starvation, (Mendoza, 2015).  These degraded forms of plastic have been found in such small sizes that scanning electron microscopes were used to view them, (Mendoza, 2015). A single wash of synthetic material can produce 1900 fiber which directly enters the wastewater, (Dris, 2015).

Waxed canvas, Wool and rubber are three alternative options, as are woven plant fibers like grasses, palm leaves, cedar bark strips, and spruce roots.

Woven plant fibers like straw and cedar bark were both used traditionally in areas of high rain fall, along the coasts of Asia and Pacific Coat of British Columbia, as well as in other cultures around the word. Another example of Nature providing the essentials around you for what is needed.

These fibers when woven together are highly water resistant causing raindrops to flows across the fibers of the mat.

Mino (straw cape) Japan.




Pacific Coast Haida


Kwakwaka’wakw woman with cedar bark hat and cloak. Photo: Edward S.


Haida, spruce root hat.

Dris, R., Imhof, H., Sanchez, W., Gasperi, J., Galgani, F., Tassin, B., & Laforsch, C. (2015). Beyond the ocean: Contamination of freshwater ecosystems with (micro-)plastic particles. Environ. Chem. Environmental Chemistry, 12(5), 539.

Lithner, D., Nordensvan, I., & Dave, G. (2011). Comparative acute toxicity of leachates from plastic products made of polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC, acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene, and epoxy to Daphnia magna. Environmental Science and Pollution Research Environ Sci Pollut Res, 19(5), 1763-1772.

Mendoza, L. M., & Jones, P. R. (2015). Characterisation of microplastics and toxic chemicals extracted from microplastic samples from the North Pacific Gyre. Environ. Chem. Environmental Chemistry, 12(5), 611.


The Birch Bark Canoe

I cannot think of a vessel in the world as beautiful as the Birch Bark Canoe. Extremely lightweight, durable, and limber. Utilizing handcraft skills, steamed cedar, and stitched with spruce roots. The creation of a canoe would take one family an entire summer to build, the women incorporating their fine handwork to stitch together the bark to the frame, using spruce roots like the largest thread through the biggest clothing.

The Birch Bark Canoe was the perfect engineering relationship between resource and landscape. The rivers of “Upper Canada” ran along a sloping shield of granite, and rapids within helped make travel with any other boat impossible. The Birch Bark Canoe could take an astounding amount of weight, and when necessary traversing the rocky landscape easily unloaded and carried to portage. Mending of the Canoe was easily accomplished by melting a mixture of Balsam Pitch and rendered bear fat(Bear Grease) onto open seam’s.

The Birch Bark Canoe was a crucial part of an already existing trade on the continent (which many called Turtle Island), between the vast and large population of tribes. Long before any Europeans arrived and utilized the Canoe for their own trade. Without the help, intellect and knowledge of the First People’s, and their ingeniously crafted & engineered Canoe, The Fur Trade, Settlement, and History would be very different.





Indians at river portage


Birch Bark Canoe building is becoming a fading skill as large enough trees are becoming more and more rare, however there are people who still make them and I have found some great film’s.


The utilization of animal skins, fur, and hair allowed Humans to inhabit all corners of the globe.

Wool a luxurious hair harvested from grazing sheep, was the driving economy behind Medieval Tudor England, and the cloth of nobility for the Inca’s of South America.

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A 3,000 year old Tartan was found on a Mummy in Ürümchi. Inca mummies have been found wrapped in Alpaca wool more luxurious in micron then available today.

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Many people continue the process of natural dyeing today. Harris Tweed of Scotland uses Lichens and Vegetables to acquire a vast array of rich natural tones. As do the Alpaca weavers dye their fiber with a jungle of plants and insects.


Wool was once the ultimate outdoor fabric, which has recently gone to the wayside of cheaper to produce yet costly trends of “space age” fabrics. However take an outdoor survival course, or hunting, and they will tell you to choose wool.

Wool Advantage’s

Water Repellant. Lanolin a natural oil in wool, acts as a water repellant, wicking away rain.

Breath-ability. Natural fibers unlike synthetics, allow air exchange, our skin needs to breathe. Synthetics can trap heat leading to sweating, that sweat can get trapped also, cooling your body down to hypothermia and death.

Absorbancy. Wool fibers naturally draw moisture away from the body and can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without becoming clammy from perspiration, keeping you dry when sleeping. It is said even when wet Wool will keep you warm.

Temperature Regulating. Wool provides comfortable warmth. Wool fibers are fluffy with tiny air pockets. Their loftiness and cushiony insulation keep body heat in and cold out.

Flame-Resistant. A wool blanket will not melt or ignite into flames, the hairs will only singe, usually putting out an ember quickly; an excellent safety precaution when sleeping or lounging around the campfire. Unlike synthetics which can actually catch on fire and feed the flame. This is why all Welders wear specific clothing made of natural materials.

Wool is dirt and odor resistant. Wool’s microscopic scales hold dirt near the surface of the fabric, making it easy to remove at the same time preventing odors from being absorbed by the fibers.

Sustainability. Wool is renewable and decomposes. Where as recent science has proven that Synthetics when washed lose fuzz that become micro plastics which are finding their way into the food chain and causing all kinds of problems.

In conclusion. The answer should be simple. Wool is an intelligent fabric that cooperates with the body. And as an outdoor enthusiast, it would be helpful to protect the environment  by staying away from the so called “Hi Tech” Synthetic material’s.

Chagudax Bentwood Hunting Visor


Hunters of the Aleutian Island chain shielded their eyes from sun and spray with elegant bentwood visors. Some had short bills and others were extended to conceal the face from strangers and adversaries. This visor is ornamented with bands and dots of paints that were probably made from volcanic minerals, fish bile, blood, and other traditional ingredients. Sea lion whiskers are attached on the left side, where they would not interfere with the use of a throwing board or harpoon by a right-handed hunter.

The bentwood visor with its extra long bill is a beautifully decorated example of a practical hat worn for centuries by kayak hunters in search of sea mammals, birds and beluga whales along Alaska’s western coast. The shape of the hat helps the hunter see and hear better by shading the hunter’s eyes and cupping and the hunter’s ears. The hat is made from a driftwood board that is carved very thin and bent while it is hot and soaking wet in a steam bath. Hats are decorated with purple, blue, green, gold, red, black and white paints, long sea lion whiskers, feathers, beads, and carved ivory.

The hat is both functional and spiritual. Among the functions of the hat, there is a ridge along the midline of the hat that is used to line up a spear. The visor is also used to shield the eyes from the sun and sea spray. The whiskers with the beads on the back of the visor clacked together when the wind became rough prompting the removal of the visor and the return home.


Makuk ~ Birch Bark Baskets


Up in the northern climates the bark from the Birch tree was an extremely valuable material for survival used in many ways. Birch bark contains natural waxes that make it waterproof, remarkably rot resistant, and lightweight. Uses span from canoes for travel and transportation, to the walls of homes and for boiling water, cooking food and perfect for storage(being naturally antibacterial and rot resistant).


There were two methods of cooking in birch bark baskets. Often the bark was used as a temporary container made with the brown side of the bark turned outside. Water and food would be put into the basket to hang over the fire. The fire needed to be watched very carefully to ensure that the basket did not flame while the food was cooking. At other times, baskets were buried in the ground, filled with water and very hot rocks were dropped into the water to bring it to a boil. New rocks were continuously added to keep the water cooking the fish or meat. This way the container could be reused. Cooking pots were made by pressing clay mixed with dried grass against the sides and bottom.

Some were decorated with dyed porcupine quills, and others had designs scratched into the bark.



The Adirondack Basket (For Mushroom Picking)


Now that the use of basketry is less common, the wisdom of its uses have fallen into obscurity. Many a person, like myself has given mushroom hunting a try. The go-to plastic shopping bag is used to collect the foraged morsels. Only to get home and find that your mushrooms are becoming bruised, moist, broken.  A fresh mushroom must breathe and the synthetic plastic only suffocates, and lacks the structure needed for the fragile mushrooms. A plastic pale could be used but also would lack much area for air circulation.

If you are serious about mushroom picking you might want to try a basket back pack like the Adirondack. Can be quickly slipped off the back and placed on the ground with its standing frame, while you collect from an area. The woven reed insures air circulation from all sides. Another interesting bit of information is that baskets have also been traditionally used for mushroom picking because the spaces allow for the spores to fall back to the forest floor to regenerate in new areas!






Information taken from http://www.nativebebe.com/cradleboards.php

 The Cradleboard or in the Ojibway language Tikkanaagan have been used for generations to carry infants while keeping babies safe and comfortable.  North American Indians indicate that it was common practice to cradleboard newborn children until they were able to walk, although many mothers continued to swaddle their children well past their first birthday.

Babies were wrapped in a moss bag and securely bound to a thin cushioned board for more longer content sleeps so they  wouldn’t jerk and wake themselves up. Cradleboards keep the child’s backbone and legs straight, further strengthen the neck muscles, and provide an opportunity for the infant to enhance their vision and hearing senses while being stimulated by his/her environment and family.


  Today many people across Canada still use a traditional cradle board to keep their babies safe and protected.  Usually made with pine or cedar wood and laced together with thin strips of leather.

   Natives believe the flat boards will give a baby a strong, straight back, and that a soft supporting pad will help the infant form a nice rounded head.  The Cradle board is smudged with prayers, songs and good thoughts for the baby. There are many native teachings on the cradle board that vary with nations across North America.


When babies are in a cradleboard they see the world as mom and dad see it, they listen to your conversations, or while being rocked to sleep they recognize the rhythm of your breathing, your walking and your touch. All this makes for increased awareness and stimulates speech and emotional development, and is known to  dramatically decreases crying.

Many people still hand make cradle boards, and tikinagan’s, in beautiful contemporary colors and designs.You can find some on the website in which I copied the information from.


Also, there is balance created within the woodwork. If travelling by canoe and the canoe tips, baby in tikinagan will naturally be flipped on its back in the tikinagan and float downriver. It would save their life. – Jean Marshal