Ben’s Backwoods + Lester River Bushcraft


Ben Piersma lives in the woods of northern Michigan and runs a bushcraft and survival supply company.

Ben’s full time job is testing, researching, and selling tools and outdoor goods for camp life in the north woods. He uses hand tools like axes, hand-saws, and knives daily for fishing, hunting, foraging, self reliance, and bushcraft. Ben has designed several production knives as well as outdoor gear and is consulted on design by different manufactures. He is a expert with a camp axe and has produced “Safe and Efficiant Camp Axe Use” DVD as a teaching aid. Ben has spent most of his training with Mors Kochanski, and Karamat instructors Kelly Harlton and Dragan Uzelac with the focus on survival and bushcraft in the boreal forest. He has been teaching bushcraft and survival skills in the north woods of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota since 2012. 

YouTube: Ben’s Backwoods Channel
Facebook: Ben’s Backwoods Facebook

Jason Gustafson (Lester River Bushcraft) has trained with many of the best in the business (Mors Kochanski, Madison Parker & Terry Barney).  He has 5+ years of FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) and has taught classes at Dirtime, the Winter Camping Symposium & other local events.  

Training/Certification References

•Mors Kochanski – Karamat Wilderness Ways
•Madison Parker – Bulletproof Primitive Supply
•Terry Barney – 88 Tactical
•Mark Laine – Center Line Systems 
•Winter Camping Symposium

Instagram: @lesterriverbushcraft


2-Day Class | Class Cost: $350 + $25/day venue fee
Instructors: Ben Piersma (Bens Backwoods) and Jason Gustafson (Lester River Bushcraft)


This class will cover the skills and tools required for survival and comfort in the north woods. These skills will give you safety and confidence in everything from an unexpected night in the woods to a longer off grid trip or expedition. The main topics covered will be shelter, fire and water. We will go over basic kit ideas for a day pack or bug out bag to meet your shelter fire and water needs. The goal is to combine skills, natural resources from the environment and a few well selected tools to not only survive but to thrive in the north woods.

SHELTER: Clothing is your first line of shelter, we will cover clothing options for cold/wet weather, footwear, base layers, insulation layers and environmental layers for working around fire.
We will cover tarp set up for heated or unheated shelter, running a tight ridge line, building a raised and insulated bed, stake carving and super shelter for deep cold weather.

FIRE: Mastering lighter, matches and ferro rod for fire lighting will be a large part of the class as it is the top skill in meeting your needs in a wilderness emergency or living situation. We will cover birch bark, fatwood, twig bundles and feathersticks. Types of fires used will be a warming drying fire for emergency use and a long fire for cooking and sleeping.

WATER: Water filters for on the move pros and cons, boiling water over a fire as a reliable source of water. Setting up a cooking crane pot suspension system for a large group or a small tripod for single person use. Boiling Kochanski coffee and gathering roots, leaves, bark and mushrooms for bush tea.

TOOL SELECTION: Understanding what tools you need for crafting, carving , cutting and meeting your firewood needs. Knife, axe, saw and pot selection for different kits. Maintenance and sharpening of tools. We will cover safe use of these tools during our carving projects and we will build a 24″ bucksaw with saplings.

All students will be given a Mora knife, ferro rod and 24″ bucksaw blade.


  • Positive mental attitude 
  • Outdoor clothing to meet the expected weather conditions as most teaching will be done outside.
  • Folding chair
  • Food and drinks for yourself. (A large pot of hot water and coffee will be available throughout the camp, we will also have a hanging grill grate above the fire for grilling meat, steak and sausages are easy. )
  • Coffee cup or metal canteen cup etc. 
  • Headlamp, knives, saws axes and any other personal gear you want to test and use.
  • Students are encouraged to bring personal camping gear and camp out Friday and Saturday night. See NWTF Lodging page for camping costs and amenities.


Coming in 2023

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