#AskPaulKirtley Episode 37 – Sustainable Birch Bark Harvesting, Tarp or Tent, Shelter Bedding Materials, Camp Positioning, Heavy Tents and Outdoor Career Advice

by Paul Kirtley

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Ask Paul Kirtley Episode 37

In this episode of #AskPaulKirtley I answer questions about shelter bedding, sustainable birch bark harvesting, martial arts and teaching bushcraft, higher or lower for optimal camp temperatures, cod liver oil tablets for survival packs, at what weight is a tent too heavy, career advice for someone who wants to work outdoors and what’s best – tarp or tent?

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Bushcraft Show 2016 FULL Presentation
Bracken Beds Video
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What Is #AskPaulKirtley?

#AskPaulKirtley is my Q&A video and podcast series that aims to answer your questions about bushcraft, survival skills and outdoor life.

The idea here is partly to take the strain off my email inbox and get answers out to people in a more timely fashion.

Rather than send an answer to just that one person, I’d like others to benefit from the answers too. So, just in the same way I’d previously write an email answer, here I’m going to speak the answer (which is much quicker than me typing out an answer, so I’ll get more questions answered as well as benefiting more people).

Click here to find out the different ways you can ask me a question.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Staying Warm Outdoors: Avoid The Four Horsemen of Heat Loss

Creeping Death – Hypothermia And How To Avoid It

Do Tarps Keep You Dry In The Rain?

Winter Woodland Wildcamping: 21 Tips & Tricks

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Scandian

Great as always Paul, I always enjoy these shows and learn so much, it adds wonderfully to both my Tree Plant ID course and Elementary course. I can’t thank you enough, you have given me all I could have asked for and have taken my knowledge from a very limited and restricted position, to one that really encompasses a vast array of skills and knowledge, I am truly grateful.

My ears perked up at the end there hearing my name! Great to hear you have included it into your pod casts, hopefully more bushcraft related questions will arise through the implementation of skills and your students’ difficulty in achieving an end result.

For me, when it was wetter (Perth had the wettest winter on record and coldest for 5 years) I went out over a few months and sourced a new bow drill set every time i took the dogs into the woods ( daily )
I used 15 – 20 if not more different species of wood and made 30-40-50 or more sets and always collected new sets of everything every time, bows and bearing blocks included. I also went home and used the sets there and then and also really focusing on technique and challenging myself with going out in the rain and cold conditions, collecting damp wood and tinder and when i was cold and hungry (times when this skill will be needed!)
It goes without saying, i have learnt so much about the skill and how different woods change technique, importance of dimensions, pressure, speed, insulation, ground conductivity, tinder preparation, mental attitude, belief how to accept failure and to come and overcome it and much much more.
As you know I throw myself 100% into learning new skills and this is no acceptation!

Now coming into spring, the beautiful wild flowers are out and I am really focusing on plant ID (and as you said, I’m posting pictures on insta all the time). Once again, without your teachings I would be miles behind in my implementation here. Family traits are so important and are global hence why i spend 30 mins + 7 days a week religiously studying. I can now say I can recite and remember word for word the whole of up to module 4. Trees, their identification, plants and theirs, family, their common name and botanical name, their appearance, texture etc etc etc etc.

I am also focusing on carving now the days are getting longer and warmer. I am doing both intricate ornamental carvings and functional carvings from different woods (all on insta). This not only strengthens my experience with knife skills, techniques, visualising and procuring 3d objects, but also keeps my sharping skills top notch too!

I have said a lot, but since to moving to Australia and having so much more space and opportunity to be alone in the wild, my practical implementation of skills has drastically increased, that and the wonderful warm days.

Thank you again, you have been pivotal In my studies. If only others are lucky enough to learn as much as i have so far, and continue to do so.


Paul Kirtley

Hi Tom,

It’s good to hear from you here on my blog. Great post – you illustrate what is possible when someone applies themselves to learning. What you state with regards to bow drill is an excellent example of what I was alluding to with my answer to the question about martial arts, when I was talking about repetition.

You’ve told me in the past how much you are learning from my materials and again, you are a great example of how this process works at a distance. Your current location in Australia means it would be hard for you to be further away from me while still being on Earth and yet you are still learning from me. That said, the real learning, taking ownership of the skills and making them your own comes from practise and reflection.

Keep it up Tom! I hope you will be an inspiration to others who want to learn 🙂

Warm regards,


PS For anyone else reading this, check out Tom’s Instagram feed here: https://www.instagram.com/tomscandian/


Tom Scandian

Yes exactly right re – jujitsu and repetition in regard to bow drill. in fact I made that connection with me practising bow drill when you mentioned about repetition. That I learnt from you, and to work on your weakest skill while maintaining confidence and ability in ones which you are good! It’s a pleasure to be a student of yours I don’t know anyone who puts more effort into ensuring perfection with their products and therefore who is as dedicated as you with ensuring customers get the best content available. To everyone out there interested climbing the ladder of success in bushcraft, enrol on Pauls online courses if you can’t do the a week long courses (or even if you can as well). Many will buy a nice knife, clothes and equipment, we as a nation love to buy things, but if you say you are interest in bushcraft, but can’t apply any skills efficiently or struggling. Save and spend it on courses, your rewards will be great. If I can study traveling around Australia and New Zealand for 6-7 living out of the front seat in a car with maintaining a relationship with my partner and now back and working full time house sitting and moving house every few weeks, so can you all


paul walsh

hi Paul
another great episode
you ask what we are doing or looking forward to at this time of year
well i personally am collecting damsons at the min for making damson gin/vodka
will be collecting sloes later after some frosts , but my main priority is collecting ember
extender material such as cat tail (greater reedmace ) and thistle down , enough to
last me till the spring .
many thanks


Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

Good to hear from you again. Glad you liked this one too.

Sounds like you’ll have plenty to be keeping occupied with (and some beverages for the dark winter nights 🙂 ).

Warm regards,



Brian Trubshaw

Fantastic information again Paul, I really enjoyed the section on martial arts and outdoor career advice, it was all very philosophical to me as focus for me is becoming a real struggle lately so I found your thoughts on focus and working towards something you enjoy very inspiring so thank you 🙂

In answer to your question, I’ve just finished carving a spoon and spatula that have come out perfectly for the first time, which I am massively proud of they were so good my camp mates genuinely thought I’d bought them aha! I’m also going to be looking at finding a good underquilt to tackle convection in my hammock for this winter, will hopefully be able to afford it before the Spey trip!

All The Best,


Paul Kirtley

Hi Brian,

It’s always good to hear from you. I’m pleased you found this episode helpful psychologically.

Working on skills is always worthwhile and carving is one of those things which takes time or, at least, multiple repetitions (up to you how many reps you do in a given time period). Glad to read you are getting good results now.

With respect to camping on the Spey trip – yes it may be a worthwhile investment to get the quilt. It’s hard to know if we will be enjoying an Indian summer, waking up to frosts or hunkering down in flurries of snow. We’ve seen all this and more on those trips 🙂

Whatever happens, it’ll be a good trip. I’m very much looking forward to our journey and catching up.

Warm regards,



Jon Cape

Great video as ever Paul.

In answer to your open question to us all. Autumn is one of my favourite times of year, although i camp out less, I do in fact spend a lot more time out of doors, Mostly Photography for reference on fruits and fungi. (A lot of these you have seen on my walkabout album on Facebook)

Skill wise at this time of year I like to practise various fire-lighting skills (friction, Flint & Steel etc.) as i think these are essential things to practise and also things can be a bit more challenging due to the damper weather we get here on the UK.

Also this is a time for wild harvests, I love to be able to identify and make use of any wild fruits and nuts along with identifying news species to me. These are of course done in moderation


Paul Kirtley

Hi Jon,

It’s always good to hear what you are up to and yes, I’ve been following your photos on Facebook.

A love of autumn, fruits, fungi and combining wanderings with photography all resonate with me, as does testing one’s skills vs colder, damper conditions.

Warm regards,




Hi Paul, this Autum/winter I am wanting to search for fungi, not only the ones I know but try and build on my knowledge and find new ones. I Also want to improve on my techniques on winter camping with the skills you have shown me via various platforms to make my nights more comfortable than I have had in the past. I also want to discover my local areas more. Keep up the good work. Regards Facemeister


Paul Kirtley

Hi Facey,

Good to hear from you as always. I see from your Instagram feed you have been seeking out fungi and trying to ID them.

I’m also waiting for some colder nights to test out some autumn/winter sleeping gear combinations – it’s been way too warm recently!

Let me know how you get on with sleeping out once it cools off a bit.

Warm regards,



Mid Life Camper

Hi Paul,

My priority at the moment is to collect enough blackberries and sloes to make blackberry whiskey and sloe gin/vodka

Keep up the great work
The Middle Life Camper


Brian Schroeder

First and foremost thank you for sharing your knowledge. I normally watch on youtube but I wanted to answer your question about fall activities and plans more directly. Since I live near the Mississippi river in Tennessee I don’t get much time in the summer to be outdoors as much as I would like due to the excessive heat and humidity. I work in the heat and tend to avoid in when not at work. I am planning to be in the woods a good bit more now that the weather is starting to cool somewhat and work more on general skills building toward a few winter camps once the temp really drops. Specifically in the area of tarps and fires in the 30’s F range.



Hi Paul, another good post.

I seam to have developed a fondness for spoon carving and plan on extending those skills. Also I am working on my axe skills, trying to get some distance from my over reliance on my kukri.

Beyond that it is just getting outside. Just returned from a great week in the Trossachs, watching the rapid change in the colour of the bracken.

Regards Robin


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