Back to Basics: The Increasing Popularity of Bushcraft and Lumberjacking

Yes, real lumberjacks do exist, and they’re making the cut in modern society.

It may seem hard to believe that lumberjacks have a place in today’s era of drones delivering packages, smartphones, and cars that can parallel park themselves; however, bushcraft is making a comeback, and a strong one at that.

Lumberjack competitions are a popular event across the country. Many major colleges and universities, including Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the Bay Area’s UC Berkeley boast proud lumberjack teams, complete with forest green pants, suspenders and yes, red flannel.

At a recent NAU football game, the university’s lumberjack was present, celebrating a touchdown by sawing a log emblazoned with the school’s logo. The crowd roared with excitement in response. “We call ourselves the true lumberjacks of the Lumberjacks,” club president, Natalie Wilson, said while sporting trademark lumberjack clothing.

Wilson has been an active member of the university’s lumberjack club for three years, competing in logging meets with the rest of the team. “We take old logging practices and apply them to a competition setting, so we compete with the big six-foot saws, we use chainsaws, we use axes to chop through logs either based on speed or the number of hits you take,” Wilson said.

A forestry major, Wilson got involved the sport of lumberjacking after learning about logging activities from Centennial Campout, an annual camp that allows forestry majors to become better acquainted with the forest, and learn more about the tools used in the field, including tomahawk axes.

Tomahawks, often referred to simply as “hawks,” are a type of axe that originated in North America. They were first created and used by America’s indigenous tribes not only as a combat weapon, but also a multi-purpose tool. Today, tactical tomahawks have become increasingly popular, and are widely used by military personnel and law enforcement officers for breaching, and in search and rescue operations. Along with lumberjack competitions, tomahawk throwing competitions are also becoming increasingly popular.

Often regarded as a male-dominated sport, lumberjacking has started to gain favor among women, who dominate UC Berkeley’s lumberjack team. “It’s definitely different to have more women,” said team logger Justine Zeni. “People definitely notice us and they always know — Berkeley is coming again with 10 women and one guy.”

It may seem ironic that as technology advances, bushcraft has found a place in modern society. However, reality television shows focused on rustic lifestyles have sparked substantial interest. Some find the sport a soothing alternative to hectic modern life. “This is like a calming thing,” according to Zeni. “It’s a great way, especially because we are at Berkeley, we live in the city, this is a great way to get out in the country while still going to school in the city.”

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