Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

By Quynh Mai   April 6, 2024 | 02:00 am PT
Venturing into the rugged world of bushcraft camping in Vietnam, adventurers immerse themselves in nature's raw challenges, relying on skill and a deep connection to the wilderness.
Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Unlike glamping, which offers a luxury camping experience that blends the outdoors with upscale services, bushcraft camping strips away all amenities, immersing participants in the raw challenges of wilderness survival.

Bushcraft is a term that refers to wilderness survival skills and knowledge, particularly those associated with living in the natural environment with minimal equipment.

Deep within the forest, where human footprints are scarce, adventurers rely solely on nature for sustenance and shelter, honing their skills and resilience amidst the wilderness.

In Vietnam, bushcraft camping remains a niche pursuit. Vo Cong Danh, a 43-year-old from Ho Chi Minh City with over 10 years of camping experience, mentioned that there are only 1-2 forums where participants share information about bushcraft camping.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Besides creating shelters from natural materials, bushcraft campers can also hang hammocks high amidst the canopy to rest. Doing this safely requires a lot of skill and experience. However, the experience is incredibly rewarding: campers get to relax while surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Danh described it as "a different feeling from sleeping in city concrete rooms."

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Nguyen Duc Binh, aged 31, frequently goes bushcraft camping in the forests of Tuyen Quang, Hoa Binh, and Ha Giang provinces.

His most recent trip took place from Feb. 14 to 17 at Cham Chu Mountain in Tuyen Quang Province. Prior to this journey, he dedicated a year to studying arboriculture, a practice of caring for and managing trees.

"Workers use protective gear while ascending tall trees to trim branches," he explained.

During this recent trip, Binh applied the skills he gained from his studies in arboriculture. His group hung hammocks for sleeping in the trees, about 40 meters above the ground.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Before the trip, Binh surveyed the destination twice, months in advance. He aimed to find a suitable location with a water source and tall, straight trees for his hammock. He also assessed the surroundings for edible plants, fruits, and potential dangers like reptiles or venomous insects.

Ideal spots were usually deep in forests, near streams, and surrounded by old trees. In his final survey, Binh selected a tree about 45 meters tall, with a base diameter suitable for two people to embrace.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Before setting out, Binh and his group calculated their equipment needs to optimize weight, crucial for trekking through the challenging forest terrain. Their gear, totaling about 55 kilograms, was packed into two backpacks.

On Feb. 14, they rode motorbikes to Cham Chu Mountain and started a 10-kilometer journey to Binh's chosen spot, with 5 kilometers covered by motorbike. During the remainder of the journey on foot, they distributed the equipment load evenly among members.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

It took the team almost three hours to clear and prepare the area beneath the chosen tree before proceeding to set up the hammock.

One member of the group, equipped with spiked shoes for improved traction and a specialized climbing rope, ascended the tree to secure the attachment points for the hammock. Subsequently, another member joined to help with the hammock setup.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

The group split into two, with one providing ground support while the other worked above, lifting tents, hammocks, and essential equipment up into the trees.

Essential tools include climbing ropes, safety belts, hooks, and locking mechanisms for convenience and safety. Binh opted for a foreign tent due to its specialized design, not readily available in Vietnam.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Ascending above the forest canopy, Binh found himself in a vast, airy space, surrounded by the lush greenery of the mountains and forests. The height, a significant 40 meters, offered a unique sense of satisfaction compared to his previous climbs.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

As evening fell, Binh turned off all lights, immersing himself in the beauty of the forest.

From his elevated vantage point, he remarked, "you can hear the echoes of the jungle, blending with the sounds of insects chirping."

However, camping at such heights poses increased risks, such as falling branches or encountering dangerous wildlife.

Binh emphasized that it's crucial for climbers to be mindful of the weather, as rainy days pose significant risks for tree climbing. When venturing into forests in northern regions, it's advisable to go during the winter months when the weather is dry and less prone to sudden rain and strong winds, unlike the summer season.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Beginner adventurers should dedicate time to thoroughly understanding equipment usage, safety protocols, and essential survival skills such as self-aid and identifying poisonous flora and fauna.

Apart from learning from online resources like forums and videos, it's crucial for beginners to practice at a manageable level to gain experience in various scenarios. For those lacking in mental fortitude, it's advisable to camp in groups or accompany experienced individuals.

When venturing into areas with no phone signal, it's essential to have a contingency plan and share your location coordinates with friends or family. Always carry first aid supplies to handle emergencies effectively.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Every forest has its unique ecosystem, making it vital for adventurers to depend on local resources for sustenance. While journeying, they should keep an eye out for edible plants and green moss near streams, and they can also catch seafood. Groups typically remain small, with fewer than 10 members, to ensure an adequate food supply.

Binh stresses the need to get permission from forest rangers before entering, and to help avoid hunting rare animals or damaging precious trees.

Bushcraft adventure in the Vietnamese forest canopies

Because it requires skills, knowledge, physical endurance, and involves risks, bushcraft camping remains uncommon in Vietnam. Binh highlights that participants must have both the financial resources to acquire equipment and the mindset to navigate survival challenges in the wilderness, without modern conveniences like electricity or internet access.

Photos by Nguyen Duc Binh

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