|Bamboo. The one of the plant with a thousand uses in the jungle.|
The very name of it simply rings me to bushcraft memories. Like thousands of other kids growing up in rural Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries, I can't even remember since when I learned to recognize and love this plant. It's always there and I feel like I've always known this type of plant. Well, sort of... However, using bamboo effectively in jungle survival and bushcraft is another matter. Almost anyone who watch NatGeo and Discovery Channel can recognize bamboo, no doubt of it if you're also a fan of jungle survival and bushcraft skills. A small effort with the wise Mr Google brings me to a few fact about bamboos.
- Its a type of grass, and it also holds the Guinness WBR as the fastest growing plant in the world!
- It belongs to the Tribe (?) of Bambusoideae,
- In Malaysia, there are 44 species of native bamboos organized in 7 generas,
- It grows almost anywhere in the wet tropics, from sea shore to mountains...
And lots of yadda-yadda facts that anyone can learn from Mr Google. So let me get to the point of creating this article and stop beating around the proverbial bamboo bush. But first, I'd like to give three statements that I believe most jungle survivalist and bushcraftmen will agree;
- Using bamboo effectively is one of the most needed skills in jungle survival and bushcraft
- but there are so many bamboo species that grows even in this country alone
- and every bamboo species have certain specific uses for jungle survival and bushcraft.
Which made some people ask me the following question;
Should we know all types of bamboo that grows in our area?
I'd say nope. Simply knowing that it's one of the bamboo species is enough. Nobody that I know of knew every bamboo species and it's specific purposes by sight. Not me, none of my friends and not my dad. I mean, there are so many of them, 44 species in this country only! So, unless you are a PhD student hell-bent on getting your thesis done in the subject of bamboo, don't worry if you don't know all the species. All you need is to know that such and such plant is a bamboo species and not to mistake another plant as bamboo. Luckily, bamboo is easy to recognize.
Of course, it's definitely good to know the local name, the scientific name, weight per cubic meter, tensile strength and the mechanical or chemical properties of a particular bamboo, but in the end, if we are cutting the bamboo down for use as a bushcrafter or as a survivor of a plane crash, there is no point looking at the bamboo like a naturalist who just came down from Royal Scientific Society.
Look at it practically for it's usability - Use your eyes, identify it's a bamboo species and then improvise to look for the properties of the bamboo that you can use for your purpose.
How do I mean by looking for practical properties of bamboo?
It's easy. Look for specific qualities in a bamboo that we want to use that best suit our purpose - straightness, the size of the fiber grain, flexibility, hardness, strength, dryness, diameter, weight, wall thickness and so on. In example, lets say I want to cook my rice using a bamboo. I will look for a green bamboo that is thin-walled with long nodes. This is because a thick-walled bamboo will waste my cooking time and fuel as whatever is cooking inside the bamboo will take longer to heat. Long nodes will allow me to fill the bamboo with more rice and water plus, it will avoid the stick I use to hold the bamboo upright while cooking getting burned and break apart. The best bamboo type for this purpose would be Lemang Bamboo (Schizostachyum brachycladum).
In contrast, if I want to make a raised shelter platform to sleep on, I will not use the same bamboo I cook with as its most probably not sturdy enough. I will find a thicker-walled and with less miang (see here) for the pillars and frames and then look for a straight and flexible bamboo for the platform.
Another example is, If I want to start a fire using the bamboo fire saw method, I'd look for a dry, thick-walled and coarse grained bamboo. Obviously the dryer, thicker and coarser the bamboo is, the easier I can start a fire with it. These are consistent with the properties of Temalang Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris).
Improvising a use from a suitable jungle material is one of the core of survival skills and bushcraft. I think I'm not wrong to say that the concept of observing a jungle material's properties to put it to use for suitable purposes is also applicable for all subjects of jungle survival and bushcraft.
Bamboo in Jungle Survival and Bushcraft
Bamboo in Jungle Survival and Bushcraft