Year of birth: 1979
Lives in: Cervignano D’adda (Lombardy, Italy)
Occupation: Knife designer and outdoor photographer
Shoe size: 44.5
Favourite tune while hiking: the sounds of nature
As a kid, Alex Wander (real name: Alessandro Bassi) wanted to be like Indiana Jones when he grew up. His dream was to travel to mysterious places and have exciting never-ending adventures in wild and unpredictable terrain. “Back then, I was always outdoors wandering through nearby forests.”
He wanted to learn how to be resourceful and survive in the wilderness. Plants and which ones were poisonous and which edible were an equal source of fascination. And whether you really needed to study agriculture to find out…
Today, some 20 years later, this energetic Italian would probably no longer choose an academic path. Because towards the end of his degree, he increasingly sensed his unease at studying nature in great detail just to develop pesticides. The thought of harnessing his expertise to help major agricultural corporations troubled him.
Shortly before qualifying, he dropped out and became a professional musician instead. But what’s that got to do with his passion for unexplored terrain? Not much at first glance. But whenever possible, he swaps his drumsticks for survival bushcraft gear, does up his trekking boots and sets off.
He spends days and nights exploring the wild and lonely north of Italy, or Iceland, Romania and Sweden. He loves going off the beaten track and building his camps with simple bushcraft tools in the middle of nowhere. “I spent almost 20 years as a drummer in progressive death metal bands. But I always worked as an advisor to the outdoor industry. As a result, I was able to gain lots of expertise and experience of bushcraft and survival.
A few years ago, he came up with the idea of making customized hunting and survival knives with a colleague. To start with, even Wander was surprised that their Milan-made tools were so successful. These sharp, bespoke bushcraft knives are shipped all over the world via the Wander Tactical webshop.
Perhaps it was his passion for being outdoors that made him a perfect knife designer. “My grandfather taught me how to use a hunting knife”. He grins when he recalls how he first embarked on his outdoor adventures. “Even Ötzi the Iceman had one with him. “In my case. a knife is an extension of my body and helps me in all types of situations outdoors.”
Over the years, Wander taught himself and developed the mindset and bushcraft skills in various survival workshops to react appropriately to tough situations out in the wilderness. Or he learnt how to build a camp from anything nature had to offer. However, he doesn’t want to label or pigeonhole what he does.
He believes it’s much more important that nobody sees nature as an enemy to be conquered. To him, being outdoors is like therapy that keeps him mentally on track. After a long day working in Milan, the city where the survival knives are forged, he longs for the pure simplicity of the wilderness. And to connect with the soil and plants again.
“I try to encounter nature like a child does, freely, spontaneously and without prejudices. Without having to meet any expectations or stick to specified routes.” He’s out and about on his own 90% of the time. He often follows animal tracks: “As a photographer, I’ve noticed that animal tracks usually take you to unique places. The terrain can be very challenging because at the end something worthwhile often awaits the animals.” Animals don’t need paths. And with the right gear, Alex doesn’t either.
What’s vital for quenching a child-like thirst for exploration? “Exceptionally good, reliable boots that are ideal for cross-country hikes.” And of course, the willingness to leave your own comfort zone. Then the sky’s the limit for the guy outdoors with the camera and the bushcraft knife.
A knife, rope, fire striker, vacuum flask, and a tarpaulin.
Survival means having the right skills to tackle an emergency. And to feel at ease outdoors when you’re out of your comfort zone too. Bushcraft means learning skills that allow you to build or make everything outdoors you need at the time.
About seven years ago, I wanted to capture my memories and experiences on camera. Previously, I always used a smartphone camera, but a good camera got to the heart of everything much better. These pictures are like a visual journal for me.
I’ve always been fascinated by lost places since I was a child. As an adult, I love rediscovering these small, hidden-away places all over the world. It’s fantastic to hike to places virtually no other human being sees. Places where nature is so wild and untamed and envelops everything protectively. These days, areas like this are very rare. The feeling of adventure is what spurs me on. It’s very important to me to share lost places via my channels. I’m grateful to experience all this and know that there are lots of people who want to follow suit but can’t for various reasons. I try to convey something of my experience to these people through my photos. Because sharing is caring.