Friday, 18 January 2013

Hipster Bushcraft

I’ve recently begun to notice what I can only describe as “hipster bushcraft”. It’s the outdoorsy equivalent of chocolates or bath products or sea salt being sold at ludicrously high prices because it has a fancy label.

Came across a company yesterday called Bush Smarts. They seem to like red a lot. It’s their motif.

I’ll grant them that they have a clever little device for storing your bear bag line that doubles as a throwing device and has a line clip. $85. I’ll let you decide if it’s worth it or not.

I’ll concede they have wool base layers (in red of course) (long john bottoms, and tops, T-shirt, boxers) that are a decent price, comparable to similar products on the market.

And they sell a crooked knife with a good cover for the blade at what seems like a fair price.

But some of their stuff is just outrageous.

$20 for some birchbark? Sure it comes in a tin, but is that tin very different from ones that cough candies or the like come in? I can find as much birchbark as I want for free whenever I go for a hike.

$30 for a Nalgene water jug? Amazon has the same thing for half the price. Your logo on it adds double the value?

$15 for 10 6" zip ties? Because they’re red? I can buy an entire container of hundreds of various coloured zip ties for less than that. Oh, but in every colour but red....

$15 for 50 feet of red paracord? I can buy a 100 feet of red paracord for $7. Double for half the price.

$30 for a pair of red boot laces? I can use that 100 feet of red paracord I just bought, make boot laces for all my friends, and still have enough money left over for several other colours of paracord.

$40 for 4 titanium tent pegs? Sure, it comes with a little leather cover for the tips, but that isn’t so hard to fashion yourself. Given that I can buy 10 of the same titanium tent pegs for that price, I’ll just spend ten minutes fashioning something out of some scrap leather or ballistic nylon.


They even sell an “insta-beard”. Jeebus. I can just envision the sort of ironic hipster that would wear that.

There is another company here in Canada called Base Camp X that sells axes. They don’t actually make axes mind you. They merely come up with a comforting narrative to enshroud other people’s work in. They sell (the now apparently out of business) Snow & Nealley and Tautahi axes, where they’ve added a paint job to the handle and then sell them for very inflated prices. $75 for a double bit S&N axe at a company that deals with forestry supplies, versus $315 for the same axe at BCX. You can get a Tautahi work axe from them for about $200 to $225, versus the $445 for the same axe at BCX. That’s a lot of money for a paint job.

Come on.

I certainly don’t mind paying for quality. I have and I will. But exorbitant prices for average stuff that has a cute label or a fancy story attached? Get lost. This stuff seems to appeal to a bourgeois demographic possessing more money than sense. It all seems like a desperate attempt at “authenticity”. Doesn’t matter that you have a physique like Olive Oyl and live in an absurdly over priced urban loft. Buy one of these bedazzled, absurdly over priced axes, hang it on your wall and you too can pretend to be a lumberjack.

I’m a proponent of the free market economy. I guess if people are willing to buy your package of boutique label sugar and colour and flavour at a ludicrous price, over the generic brand of Kool-Aid™, hey good on ya. If you can make a successful go at running an artisanal pickle shop, more power to you. If people are willing to pay a premium for what they could easily do themselves, right on. But you’ll have to excuse me for snickering in derision at your effrontery, and the suckers who buy into your marketing over substance.


  1. Oh, you are so right, and this is so sad, especially because we are talking about bushcraft. I understand free market economics. I understand that there will be $50 t-shirts with a fancy label as long as there are rich kids willing to buy them. What makes me sad in that "bushcraft" tries so hard to pretend that it is not that, while at the same time we see it all too often.

    An activity (bushcraft), which is supposed to be the result of primitive and traditional skills, learnt through time spent in the wilderness, often turns into nothing more than people pretending like they have been in the woods by wearing the latest designer bushcraft gear.

    Why bother actually going into the woods (after all we are all so busy/have health issues that prevent us from doing so), when we can just buy a nice retro looking wool shirt costing $400 and is worn by that guy on that show. Then you will the real deal.

    1. Things costing a bunch don’t bother me. I’ve bought some high quality stuff in my time, and it tends to cost a bit. Quality, durability, performance, comfort, etc. - those things are all worth it to me.

      The stuff being peddled here isn’t bad per se - it’s not dollar store junk, and in some cases it’s very good stuff - it’s just the totally inflated prices on them that I find odious.

      I think the attempt to make it look like top end gear, because it’s been wrapped in some sort of mythology, is what really gets me. It’s an attempt at creating brand loyalty, not through actual performance of the products, but through this inflated mystique surrounding it. I have professed my love for Kifaru. But they have the cachet they do because of the actual quality of what they design and make. The aura surrounding their products has been built up by a loyal base of end users. This is merely taking someone else’s products, adding some gloss to it, making up a story to steep it in, and thinking that you can then reproduce what a company like Kifaru has. A genuinely earned reputation for quality and service.

      This all feels incredibly contrived and frankly feels like the customer is being bamboozled. Maybe people who don’t know any better can be fooled, but to anyone that gets out there for real and uses stuff, knows they are being scammed.

  2. Crap.

    So much for my unique artisanal pickle shop idea.

    1. It might well work in Brooklyn or Portland.

  3. Hey guys, it appears the folks at "Bush Smarts" have a tendancy to steal the images of others in the "real" Bushcracft community to further their own fake business. Not only do they sell hipster crap at stupid prices, they cant even have the balls to prove theyre real.

  4. These guys were just busted by some members who discovered them plagiarizing their photos. Buncha posers. They'll be sued by the way... Don't support these thieves.

  5. They have agreed to take the copyrighted images down. Thats not to say they dont have more...