This page is all about kit or resources we use and really really like.
Links to most of the items below are from the amazon affiliate program- if you buy using these links we get a small cut (thankyou!)- but do feel free to look around and buy elsewhere if it makes sense to you. You getting the right kit for your setting means the children benefit, and that’s way more important than anything else.
If you’re reading this and you think there’s something missing, you’d be welcome to let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Obviously all kit is purchased, risk assessed and used by you. BroadTree accept no responsibility for any adverse consequences of you choosing to use anything listed below in your setting.
Small hands need big handles, and this is the best we’ve found so far by a long way. These are decent steels that give good sparks, in our experience comparable to the much more expensive branded steels. Again they’re cheaper on eBay- a seller called drazziw has offered us bulk discounts in the past for 10 at a time; search “Cardinal Fire Steel” if you’re in a hurry for a reasonable UK reseller, or “Premium Survival Fire Steel” for the cheaper slow posted from China variety. Avoid small cheap fire steels at all costs. The strikers bend and they aren’t beginner friendly at all.
Once your fire’s going being able to get air going to it is a really helpful cheat. We use fire wafters from ebay (search BBQ handheld fan plastic)
A razor sharp, full blooded knife that looks and handles like a “real” knife- but eliminates the risk of stab injuries. We can’t think of a single reason to use knives with sharp stabbing tips at Forest School group sessions. Stainless steel and scandi grind makes it easy to care for, there’s a reassuringly large flare before the blade so hands stay on the handle and don’t slide were they shouldn’t be, the fixed blade prevents it accidentally closing at the wrong time, and the blue handle means it doesn’t get lost on the floor. Basically, Hultafors sat down one day and designed the perfect FS knife. Thanks!
We think the retracting blade is safer than a folding design. It’s also a fantastic saw! Ours has a 225mm long blade and we wouldn’t recommend going any smaller- children don’t usually have the co-ordination to start and stop at an exact point, so the longer blade seems easier for them to manage (We started with some cheap 150mm saws which are now unused!). This serves a dual purpose as an activity for the children, plus a useful tool that may help you sort a hazardous tree situation you find during your pre session checks.
- Easy to make thin slices of kindling with it- unlike an axe which is hard to place exactly whilst being swung
- Creates teamwork and trust when using
- You can use it to hold up awkward pieces of wood whilst they’re being split
- No need for it to be sharp- safer, less maintenance
- Since they’re rare it’s a nice introduction to old woodworking- you can make wooden roofing tiles with them and explain around that.
- Vibration through the handle can be a problem if the hit’s aren’t well placed. Hold the handle tightly and don’t let a single person hold it constantly.
- The mallet bouncing off the back of the blade and hitting fingers can be a problem if the hitter gets too keen. It’s rare, but it happens.
- Tricky to get hold of- since they’re rare, they’re generally more expensive or harder to source than alternatives, although they’re widely available on ebay from blacksmiths.
We suggest a full size froe, around 20cm or larger. This ebay seller makes the best we can see at time of writing. You want to be able to bury the froe in the wood and hit the nose of it through without positioning it perfectly every time, and we imagine a 13cm micro froe would be quite frustrating in that respect so don’t recommend them.
Kit is nothing without training, and training quality varies dramatically. Find a first aid provider where the course is 100% outdoors, includes lots of scenarios, and and sign up.
WOLT do the best first aid courses in our neck of the woods. They’re practical, hands on, and zero boring powerpoint. You’re constantly doing scenarios that actually prepare you to give real life first aid, rather than sitting in an uncomfortable chair waiting for the day to end.
We bought a St Johns medium first aid kit and took some things out and added others to suit what we do based on the first aid training.
The cold is one of the biggest risks for an injured person outside. We carry a foam sit mat and a small emergency shelter to enable us to get them insulated from the floor and put a warm bubble around them.
- wound wipes
- 1x medium dressing
- ice pack
- fiddle toy
- Burn dressing
- foil blanket
- tik twister
- medical tape
- safety pins
- 1x triangular bandage
- 1x eye pad
- 2x finger dressings
- 5x small saline sprays
- compressed gauze
- 2x conforming bandages
- another ice pack
- 3x medium dressings
- 2x large dressings
- wound wipes
- 6x pairs of gloves
- normal plasters
- 2x large plasters
- Piriton- max 5 tablets
- Eurax cream.
- Insulating foam seat / mat
- small group shelter which can double as an emergency stretcher
Burns Kit Contents:
- Nitrile Gloves (4 pairs)
- Burnshield Spray
- Burnshield Dressing (10x10cm)
- Short roll of cling film
Rope Swing and Hammocks
We use wide, flat lifting straps for almost all the heights activities we offer. The big advantage over rope is in terms of heat and wear distribution- even a relatiely thick rope can wear through quickly if it’s moving against a tree as heat builds up and melts it, or the bark rubs against it. A strap distributes the heat and wear accross it’s (much wider) surface, dramatically reducing the pressure and in our experience preventing wear. This is also better for the tree.
Lifting straps have the additional advantage of being load rated; we most commonly use 1 tonne from safetyliftingear; these have a safety factor of 7- meaning it shouldn’t fail this side of a 7 ton force being applied. That’s enough to hold up every person at a session, plus the minibus they came in. All straps we use that didn’t come supplied with a piece of equipment have a WLL of at least 500kg. We use the ebay seller zebinka who usually has a good selection of cheap used straps that appear to have only been used once or twice.
For connections we use climbing carabiners with a load rating of at least 20kN. The advantage of a carabiner is that they require two steps to open and disconnect a load meaning they won’t work loose over time and open accidentally.
We use hammocks made from 210T parachute nylon in approx 300x200cm size. We check they come with a 200+kg manufacturers weight capacity, and have loops of webbing and decent quality metal carabiners at the ends- some have rope and cheap clips. We usually purchase off amazon, but there’s a very high turnover of product making it hard to recommend one, but here is an amazon image that satisfies our requirements regarding loops and quality carabiners.
Wet / Cold Weather
These are great gloves. Cheap, warm, chuck them in the washing machine when they get too muddy, cut resistant for tool use, and the smallest size (XS) fits most 9 or 10 year olds. For bulk buying, we used MI supplies as they were a bit cheaper and had more sizes available, but if you want to try a pair or two before committing, toolstation sell them as ‘thermogrip gloves’- unfortunately they don’t stock XS. The gloves come with different coloured hems depending on the size so they’re really easy to sort at the end of a session!
This is the perfect size for a “normal” group of 12-14 kids plus 2 adults. It’s useable down to about 5 kids, below that it starts getting a bit too big. Highly recommended if you’re doing cold weather sessions- it warms up in no time and is great for a snack and a cup of hot ribena. Have a few soft balls to chuck around inside to keep everyone engaged and moving! Note- it will never ever ever go back in the bag it comes in- so ours now gets stuffed back into a bagbase BG125 fashion backpack, and the bag it came in is used to take wood wool to sessions (We buy in big 1KG bags and dispense from there) to start fires.
There’s a lot of debate around chemical vs composting toilet. If you don’t have a permanent site, chemical toilets are wonderful, as a composting toilet needs 2 compost heaps on rotation, each needing at least a year to do it’s thing. Thetford are the most well known, but there are numerous own brands available of this type from places like go outdoors, etc.
This design means smells are kept to a minimum but does need a “how to” poster to accompany it as it’s not as simple as a normal toilet is to use.
To keep things clean and private we use some Elsan organic fluid, some antibac gel, a pop up tent and a toilet roll holder (currently £3, don’t spend the full £15 asking price for that!!) and you’ve got a nice portable chemical loo for about £115.
Frustratingly most cheap chinese walkie talkies selling on ebay, amazon, etc, aren’t legal out the box for use in the UK.
PMR walkie talkies are free to use, legal across the UK and EU, and work really well for our site. We’ve tested the range to be at least 250m through trees in the middle of summer- they will go much further than that without trees in the way!
All PMR radios are compatible with each other, so we buy whatever we can find cheap which runs on AA batteries (built in battery packs tend to degrade and die after a few years)- we use Cobra 645 and replaced the supplied batteries with Eneloops so they last forever and never give up mid session.
If you have a site bigger than 5 or 10 acres you may need to consider looking into more powerful walkie talkies which will require you to pay a license fee (starting at £75 per 5 years).
For bigger hands, any welding gloves from the likes of toolstation or screwfix that look like this are great. For smaller hands, the Ejendals Tegera 19 Heavy Duty Welding Gloves in size 8 are the best we’ve found. Here’s the amazon link, though they’re out of stock- these people are currently showing in stock.
Fire gloves need to be big enough that you can get them off by shaking your hand around! So although the small gloves aren’t hugely small, they should be the right size for 8 year olds+.
Tesco marshmallows are the best toasting marshmallows we’ve used. We use bamboo skewers and burn them in the fire after use.
There’s obviously way more kit needed than this- but most of the rest we’ve found no clear standout. Any stainless steel flask works, any cotton wool works, etc etc. Happy Forest Schooling!