Updated: Mar 17
Here's my site disclaimer and some information about being responsible outdoors.
My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your safety, any possible injury, or anything that happens if you choose to follow anything on this website. By going outdoors you are solely responsible to know your strengths and limitations, be aware of current conditions and proceed with the appropriate caution. My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your choices and the outcome.
Everybody defines bushwhacking in a different way. Here are a couple different definitions:
“A challenging, non-trail hike through (sometimes dense) foliage.” –Uncruise
“Hiking someplace off-trail” –Terns
“Most of the time a bushwack means the bushes whack you, not the other way around.” –Terns
I guess the main thing to clear up is my definition of bushwhacking doesn’t involve making a path through the jungle with a machete.
The terms bushwhacking, off-trail hiking, and cross-country hiking are all somewhat interchangeable from what I’ve been able to find online. I’m just going to keep it simple and call anything off trail, where I’m making my own trail (without damaging nature) bushwhacking.
Be sure what you’re doing is legal. In certain areas going off trail is illegal and it’s important to respect those laws because they’re there for a reason.
When I do bushwhack, I do my best to follow “leave no trace” principles and leave the smallest footprint behind. This means not stomping all over plants or cutting things down to make a path. The idea is to move with the forest, not against it. When traveling in a group, disperse where each person walks so that it doesn’t trample down one area. It leaves less of an impact if you don’t all walk in one line.
Bushwhacking Difficulty Rating System
These apply to the “free" difficulties (no aid used) and range from BW1 to BW5, where BW stands for “bushwhack.” Difficulty ratings apply to those areas of worst brush that can’t be avoided.
BW1 - Light brush. Travel mostly unimpeded, only occasional use of hands required (e.g. mature open forest).
BW2 - Moderate brush. Occasional heavy patches. Pace slowed, frequent use of hands required.
BW3 - Heavy brush. Hands needed constantly. Some loss of blood may occur due to scratches and cuts. Travel noticably hindered. Use of four-letter words at times.
BW4 - Severe brush. Pace less than one mile per hour. Leather gloves and heavy clothing required to avoid loss of blood. Much profanity and mental anguish. Thick stands of brush requiring circumnavigation are encountered.
BW5 - Extreme brush. Multiple hours needed to travel one mile. Full body armor desirable. Wounds to extremities likely, eye protection needed. Footing difficult due to lack of visibility. Loss of temper inevitable.
Creek and River Rating
These ratings are used to describe the difficulty in crossing watercourses. The range is WA1 to WA5, where WA stands for “water.”
WA1 - A dry crossing is possible by using rocks or logs.
WA2 - Possible wet crossing, but a dry crossing can be accomplished with some finesse.
WA3 - Wet crossing, ankle- to calf-deep.
WA4 - Wet crossing, calf- to knee-deep.
WA5 - Wet crossing, greater than knee-deep, possibility of getting swept downstream.
Access Classifications on Lake & Peak Posts
On my trip reports particularly for lakes and peaks I have a section labeled "Access."
It is labeled one of four ways.
Drive up - meaning the lake/peak can be access by driving up to it
Trail - there is a designated trail that is used to access lake/peak
Unmarked trail - followed a trail that was unmarked or doesn't appear on map to lake/peak
Bushwhack - required off trail navigating to access lake/peak
Leave No Trace Principles
It’s important to respect nature.
Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Be considerate of other visitors
The best places to learn about Leave No Trace Principles is directly from the source.
The 10 Essentials
It's important to always be prepared and bring the 10 essentials.
Repair kit and tools
Learn more on the NPS website.
My experience—knowing your skills & limitations
I’ve grown up hiking, backpacking and just being in the outdoors in general. I’m very comfortable in remote wilderness areas and driving on 4-wheel drive back roads. I know my skills as well as my limitations. I am always prepared and aware of the weather and environment I am in. I know what to do if something happens medically or I get lost. It’s important to know and evaluate your own skills and knowledge before doing any outdoor activity. There is always a risk and by choosing to go out you are willingly choosing to take that risk.
It’s important to have a healthy respect for nature and wildlife.
Always let someone know where you’re going, especially if you’re going out alone. Even if you’re going out with multiple people you should still let someone know your group is going.
Be smart and cautious. If you feel uncomfortable doing something don’t do it. (Unless you’re an anxiety ridden person like me who wouldn’t leave the house if you listened to that uncomfortable feeling.) Just be aware of your limitations and don’t put yourself in an unnecessary situation that could cause injury.
Personally I choose to take a forest service map of the area whenever I go out in the woods or on a hike.