This lockdown has given us a new passion – youtube wormholes! In part one we looked at the stealth camping channels. In this we look at the homesteaders / house-builders / van-lifers , and the sneaky tricks they use to entice you in….
We’ve filtered out the bushcraft / homesteading channels that are just rich nobs playing at being Thoreau’s Walden with a few sodding chickens, and this is what we’re left with. The US stuff is in right-wing libertarian territory, which is fascinating in itself, the Canadian is a bit more hippy, the UK stuff is just normal, because as we all know it is impossible to have dreams or flights of fancy in the UK. But we tell you what’s great about their videos and as a bonus give their pets a score out of ten, as applicable.
Girl in the Woods , BushRadical.
Brooke Whipple reminds me of my mom when she was younger – straightforward, socially conservative and always trying to do everything herself….almost to a fault! If you ever needed someone to be stranded in the woods with, well, Brooke’d make you a great shelter for sure. Her husband Dave who runs youtube channel Bushradical is great too, I certainly learned a lot about grizzly bears and black mould on logs from his channel.
What is perhaps so fascinating about these US channels is that it’s a glimpse into a simple-thinking utopia where everyone is, on the surface at least, really friendly, drives a truck, gets to look at mountainous pine tree landscapes all day, and has that strong, almost religious connection with nature. You know, where you hunt for your food and shout ‘Praise Jesus!’ when you shoot something through the heart and it sinks to the ground. But Girl in the Woods and Bushradical present at the reasonable end of the spectrum. Some of the others we watched though….blimey!
Brooke has a quite charismatic dog which scores highly on personality, but it’s a Welsh Collie, a dog that you never, ever see in the UK anymore, let alone Wales, on account of them having too much hair, and looking like the 1970s. So just 5 points for Da Woof. But fair play, these two are great. A real team. They don’t make the couples section because they are equally interesting and probably love each another enough not to have to constantly prove it, if you now what I mean.
They also both went on the US survival show Alone, which I recommend you watch.
Expect: Build projects, shelters, cooking over fires, fishing, huge breakfasts with four or more eggs, checked shirts, baseball caps, drilling wells, being spoon-fed with pieces of steak from your TV.
Another Alone contestant is Greg Ovens. Looking like a cross between an 80s wrestler and a hobo, this guy is hilarious. His survival / bushcraft / homesteading videos are much younger than his years with all sorts of chopped up video horseplay going on. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy drives a Maserati and has some serious bling. Definitely the look of ‘it’s a wise man who can act a fool’. Very likeable to watch but I wouldn’t trust him an inch. If you pulled into a one horse town and he ran the hotel, keep moving! Petwise, he has a puppy alsation that is really cute and gets an 8, and lots of poultry including a bird with a limp who gets to ride around in his car.
Expect: Overnight shelters, lots of hunting and outdoor cooking, knowing blue eyes, a disabled chicken.
Kris Harbour Natural Building.
A very informative chap who is sickeningly talented at everything. He built his own cord and mud cabin on some land in Wales, and just keeps on making more stuff. Kris has a cat, but cats don’t count, sorry.
Expect: Detailed woodwork construction projects, a bewildering amount of tools.
Inbetween apologising a lot, sidetracking and looking a little bit embarrassed, this guy is a really, really good source of information for the kind of self-sufficiency project that you are no doubt planning but are obviously never going to be able to do, but don’t let me stop you dreaming. A blacksmith by trade, Maximus built his own house on some scrap land in the south of England and is so polite and endearing that he managed to get away with it. Highlights are seeing him talk about his ‘landrover project’, whilst you are shouting at the screen ‘that’s not a landrover, stop calling it a landrover, it’s just a rusty chassis!’. No dog, but plenty of broken scrapyard vehicles and plenty of detail on building your own self sufficient house.
Expect: Ginger beards in varying states of growth, ruddy-faced explanations. The most informative of all the channels – I put solar power in my shed after watching this channel. 10 out of 10.
We were first attracted to this channel by the iron age and saxon shelters they build in the woods. This bloke has the funniest dad ever. He certainly loves his gear so if you have a large wallet and Amazon open on your laptop you’ll love this. Waterproof matches, anyone?
Expect: Products, sawing logs, products, the sound of posts being bonked into the ground, products.
VANLIFE / housebuilding COUPLES
What can be better than being in love? Being in love and having an audience, maybe? Welcome to the couples! Because living rough is no walk in the park it’s darkly amusing to watch these people struggle with the relentless positivity that the modern world expects from us 24/7, so you can sit on the sofa with several cans of lager knowing they will be having a miserable time off-camera either in discomfort or unable to find a parking space or with an overflowing chemical toilet or whatever. But fair-play, they’ll go down in history, whilst you’ll just be going down the pub and boring everyone there with your boring life in a boring house with running water.
Trent and Allie.
Who doesn’t want to build their own house on a hill? Well, tough shit people, the world is too small, and you are probably too poor, and almost certainly too late. But you can always watch Trent and Allie. They started out as van-lifers, it’s fair to say they probably had a few quid already, and are the epitome of squeaky clean Americans with that perpetual positive outlook that to non-US audiences verges on unrealistic, but you can definitely rely on them to cheer you up. Currently plumbing their new house, anyone who has ever done any DIY will know that the first time you try it, everything goes wrong, particularly if you don’t have the necessary cynical streak – so it’s nice to watch people who can’t ever shout ‘fuuuuckkk!’ have to deal with it. Apparently they are one of the richest youtube couples, and they sure know how to promote the product sponsors for each video. As people? Allie is lovely and male readers mum’s would probably be overjoyed if they brought her home. Trent maybe finds it a little harder to keep up the pretence. Maybe he will snap one day and go to the plumbing department and bludgeon everyone to death with a pipe wrench for supplying the wrong fittings. Who knows? Their pooch Frank is an Australian Cattle dog – a personal favourite breed – but doesn’t seem to have that much personality, and apparently craps in the same patch of snow, leaving them with an interesting clear up job when the thaw comes. Frank gets a 6. They also have a new Alsation puppy with wonky ears that is difficult to score yet, because all puppies are cool. Trent and Allie don’t need anything from me, they have it made.
Expect: ladders, snow blowers, pulling cars off icy roads, lots of toothy smiles, product placement, explanations through gritted teeth.
With a hundredth of the subscriptions and possibly being the complete opposite of Trent and Allie, are the Boondockers, a couple from the North of England who travel around in their converted van with their little daughter, meeting up with other van-lifers and exchanging tips on van builds. It really does get addictive seeing how people design these vans, I’m warning you. They tidy up a lot, make dinner and drive around country lanes, chuckling. They have two greyhounds that are a bit boring and score just 1 point each. Not the most professional videos but they are a likeable couple and I would give them both 100% on their parenting skills.
Expect: UK working class culture. Chips. Car parks. Vans. Small children picking their nose. Fishing. Earthy comments like, ‘Shut your legs love, I can see up your fanny!’
Jake and Nicole ( AKA bIG BUM and big bum ).
Everyone clicks on this because of Nicole’s bum in the screencaps, but ladies who like vegan body builders will appreciate seeing Jake endlessly chop wood with his butt sticking into the camera, or cooking pizza in the laboriously constructed outdoor oven, with his butt sticking into the camera, etc, etc…in their Yurt in Lake Vacouver. Functioning as a kind of vegan-reich soft porn, these asmr videos are mainly comprised of the sound of rainfall, chainsaws, butts, trees falling over, and the chuckling woodstove. But the loudest sound is the ticking of Nicole’s biological clock. They have the most handsome pair of grey Australian Cattle Dogs I have ever seen, with lots of running about and sniffing and looking cool, and they get a 9. Jake is a good guy and always has a plan, and a vision, you have to respect that. In a way it’s so perfect that you have to keep watching, but you might wonder – how long can this woman put up with rain and mosquitos?
Expect: Big bums, trees, projects involving cutting down trees, and inclement weather.
Elsa Rhae and Barron
Less conventional these two, but they are still likeable if only for the fact that they have the smallest vehicle ( called the Scamp ) you could feasibly live in, a spinning fan on a tiny wood stove that they have to feed with twigs, and they talk like a pair of stoners, probably due to mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Elsa also has dirty fingernails so is a million times more genuine than any of the other wildcamping types, because as everyone knows, you cannot realistically keep your fingernails clean when you are roughing it. Barron has those ice blue eyes that could fire laser beams and possibly make bridges of frost that you could use to escape from danger. Their dog looks like a chubby fox-cub, or a Parisien cartoon character, but when it’s fired up it can jump six feet above the snow and gets an 8 for style.
Expect: strange medicinal concoctions with bone broth and a pestle and mortar. A lot of lying about in the Scamp because standing up requires so much effort. Snow sports. Walking around in the snow and having ice baths and yelping in pain.
The Indie Project
Hands down winners if only because they have the same accent as the entirety of Black Sabbath. Two lovable brummies who just never let anything get them down. Starting out originally as van-lifers, they have a chubby unimpressed cat called ‘gingey bear’, a kitten called ‘Fernando’, and a Portugese barn that they are converting into a residence, at great and laborious expense. Bea is bubbly and light-hearted. Theo has the same boring streak that all men either have already, or will acquire as they age. He has an old tractor and I am a bit jealous because I want one, plus a scaffold tower, and I want one of those too. But he has to spend hours each week filming videos and putting them together, and I don’t, so fair’s fair.
Expect: Scaffolding, pointing trowels, Fernando the cat attacking the camera, clucking hens, old vehicles, piles of wood and stone, drone shots, endearing Birmingham accents, and the phrase ‘ I’m not gonna lie’.