Deep in the Canadian wilderness, a man trudges through deep snow on the forest floor, searching for a suitable place to call home for the night. Often with his dog by his side and a flask filled with scotch in his chest pocket, he builds camp using nothing more than an axe, some paracord and his expert knowledge of bushcrafting.
After hours of hacking down trees for shelter and firewood, he cobbles together his temporary home before kicking back next to the fire. He looks into the camera he had set up beforehand, unscrews his flask and says, “Cheers, guys.”
Joe Robinet is a YouTuber and expert bushcrafter. While some people enjoy binging Netflix shows with a cup of hot cocoa on a snowy winter weekend, Robinet likes to camp in the woods during below freezing temperatures. Not only that, but he also doesn’t even bring a tent.
All Robinet needs for a good weekend camping trip is a tarp, something to start a fire and cut down trees with and a camera to document the adventure. Oh, and his dog, Scout, of course.
You might find it sort of strange that a two hour-long video on camping could earn around 4.3 million views on YouTube, but there’s a few reasons why I think Robinet has become a successful outdoors YouTuber with nearly 760,000 subscribers and millions of views.
The first and most obvious thing Joe utilizes in most of his videos is bushcraft. “Bushcraft” is just a term for wilderness survival skills, but more specifically, it’s the ability to turn your wilderness surroundings into practical structures that will help you survive. Crafting the bush, if you will.
The majority of Robinet’s bushcraft camping videos consist of him harvesting materials from his environment and lashing them together to create lean-tos, fire reflectors and tipis, all the while explaining to the camera what he’s doing.
Wilderness survival is certainly not something that everyone’s doing nowadays, and what Robinet does must be like Boy Scouts — or, Scouts Canada — on steroids.
You don’t have to watch his videos in their entirety, since they do run on the longer side, to realize that Robinet is extremely good at what he does, which makes watching him all the more intriguing. I’m not exactly a bushcraft enthusiast, but I when I listen to Robinet explain how he’s building his lean-to, or why he’s using this knot as opposed to that one, I want to keep watching.
I think a part of me simply wants to see the finished product, but Robinet’s expression of his knowledge and passion for this unique hobby also keeps me engaged despite the fact that I’ve basically been watching a camping video for an hour straight.
The camera work is another thing that keeps Robinet’s videos fresh and interesting. He doesn’t have the same camera in his hand like some ordinary YouTube vlogger as he stomps through the woods.
Instead, he utilizes a couple different cameras like a GoPro as well as his usual DSLR to capture different perspectives of his work. With his diverse array of gear, Robinet provides a wide range of footage from an off-in-the-distance view of himself straining to pull a heavy sled up an icy hill to a time-lapse of his camp construction.
Some of the best footage he takes, in my opinion, consists of close-up angles on whatever he’s working on, whether it be whacking at a tree with an axe, or the fat dripping off a t-bone steak slow cooking over a fire with Scout patiently waiting by his side.
Those are the moments that you feel like you’re really there, and when Robinet balances those intimate close-ups with wide angles, you also feel like he knows what he’s doing when it comes to video production. At some points, it almost seems like watching a homemade Discovery Channel show.
Still though, despite the fact that he’s an expert at what he does and knows his way around a camera, that doesn’t quite answer the question as to why so many people watched a super long video on the strange art of bushcraft. Surely 4.3 million YouTube viewers including myself are not all looking for the best way to keep warm in our lean-tos with our dog during an overnight stay in the wilderness.
I don’t know about the other millions of folks who seemed to enjoy Robinet’s overnight video with his dog, but for me, watching a video like this feels like watching a story rather than a simple vlog. I start to enjoy Robinet and fall in love with Scout, seeing them both as sort of characters in an endearing adventure story.
I tense up as Scout nearly runs under a falling tree and feel disheartened when Robinet shows the camera that his fire reflector, which he had spent so long making, has caught on fire.
But more importantly, I get excited as Robinet pulls that juicy steak off the fire after hours of hacking lumber and lashing wood, and I want to ask him if he might pass me a beer as he cracks open his flask because it almost feels like I’m there with Joe and Scout on some crazy random adventure.