Here is a list of tools used for the vast majority of the harvesting, gardening and general plant collecting I do for my clinic, the herb school and personal reasons.
Keep in mind the variables involved with choosing this type of tool collection.
These variables include:
1. Personal preference and budget
2. Plant parts collected – bark, leaves, roots
3. Soil type – sandy, rocky, gravel, mud
4. Do you have ready access to a vehicle or are you hiking long distances to the desired plant collecting area?
An important feature of my personal tool kit is that it is portable and can be carried on hikes and camping trips.
This word means dig-dig in Japanese and is essentially a strongly built garden spade.
The key points are:
~Full tang blade that goes up into the handle.
~A concave shape to the blade which makes it stronger and less likely to bend when digging up hard roots.
~One edge of the blade is serrated so it cuts through roots
The other blade edge is like a very sharp butter knife.
~The handle is either a hardwood or a hard molded plastic that gives a form-fitting grip.
Once a hori hori is used, most people are hooked and never go back to the usual garden spade that bends easily and has a handle that comes off repeatedly.
There are many sources for this tool:
~big box hardware stores
~local garden centers
~the big box online store
There are also websites that rate the best hori-horis.
To be honest, I don’t find a huge difference among them.
Follow the tips given above and you will be very pleased with your purchase.
A sheath is a must-have.
This is used for harvesting branches and possibly tree trunks that aren’t too large in diameter.
The are are many possibilities.
The saw type I find most useful is a 6” folding saw found at many hardware stores and garden centers.
Decent quality saws of this type are readily found and affordable.
From experience learned the hard way – don’t purchase the cheapest product.
Top quality brands are Silky, Bahco and Corona.
I have had bad results with Gerber and Fiskars.
For the non-metric crowd, 6” converts to the 130-170mm range.
A good quality knife that is designed for a specific job is a treasured tool around the world and in a wide range of occupations.
There are endless choices and price levels.
My favorite knife brand for the outdoors and working with plants is Mora.
This is a Swedish company known for top-quality blades, ergonomic handles and surprisingly low prices.
The company name is sometimes spelled Morakniv.
What I look for:
~Full tang blade going into the handle for increased strength
~A carbon steel blade is preferred over stainless steel as it is easier to maintain an edge
~For plant work, a plain edge is better than a partially serrated edge
~A fixed blade (non-folding) is safer, stronger and preferred over a folding knife
~An ergonomic handle that fits the hand in a way that it remains comfortable to use for an hour+. This duration is not uncommon when processing willow bark, cherry bark and other woody plants. Many knives have thin handles that are fine for the occasional cutting of rope. This type of handle quickly leads to hand cramping and blisters with sustained use.
~A 4” inch blade – many people initially make the mistake that bigger is better and get an unwieldy Bowie knife or butcher knife.
Trust me, these aren’t needed and don’t work well.
~A durable sheath that holds the knife secure.
~A 90 degree spine on the back off the blade – this is my favorite tool for scraping fresh bark off branches and small trunks that are up to the diameter of a broom handle.
Mora knives meet all these requirements with one exception.
The very basic models (less than $20) lack the 90 degree spine.
This can be remedied with a quick fix using a file.
The Mora Bushcraft Survival Black (~$60) has the desired spine angle and is a personal favorite.
This video demonstrates how to make the spine of any fixed blade sharp enough to be a scraper.
Mora knives are found all over the internet.
One site I recommend is Bens Backwoods.
This is a tool used repeatedly by foragers and wild crafters. There are so many quality choices on the market I am not able to give a specific recommendation. I advise you go to the garden tool section of your nearby hardware store and see what feels right in your hand.
Putting It All Together
The beauty of having a kit made up of the above tools:
4” knife – 6” saw – hori-hori – hand pruners
is that these fit easily into a day pack and can be readily carried when out and about on the land.
Larger versions of all these are available but are often left in the garage or vehicle due to excess size and weight.
What About a Shovel?
Another tool used for wildcrafting is a shovel.
I prefer to keep my kit light and portable as I often go off trail and over some rugged country.
For the most part, the hori-hori has worked as a shovel substitute although there have been a few times when a hori-hori is not enough for my digging needs.
This is when I either carry a full sized shovel or use a portable mini version.
A basic garden shovel is readily available at any garden center.
Use what works for you.
For wild crafters who go into more out of the way places – size, weight and portability become issues.
Many shovels in this category are folding shovels that break easily at the joint, have weak handles that snap or are simply poorly designed.
For portability, the best I have found are small shovels can be found in hardware and garden centers. The shortest length is 26″ from tip of the blade to top of the handle. This is small enough to fit in a rucksack and works well for both portability and size.
One example is here.
One last item…
A drying rack for your hard earned herbs and wild foods.
There are many choices for this role.
One that works well for me is on Amazon. It is called HYDGOOHO Drying Rack 8 Layer Dryer 2ft Black Mesh Green Zipper.
There are many similar racks on the market, some with zippered closures and some with a permanent small opening.
Choose what works for you.
These are the tools that have worked well for me over 25 years of working with the local flora in the Southwestern US.
I hope you find the collection that works as well for you.