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Bushcraft is becoming more popular year after year and many people already enjoy this fantastic outdoor hobby, but what exactly is it? In this article, we will be answering the question “what is bushcraft” and going through a few basic terms, common tools, and tasks that are associated and needed to practice bushcraft. By the end of this short guide, you will know exactly what bushcraft is, what it is all about, and what you need to get started. Enjoy!
Defining Bushcraft and its Terms
Bushcraft is known by many terms and different people call it different things although basically the same. Bushcraft means the same thing whether you are calling it survival, wild-camping, or outdoorsmanship. Whatever you call it, the practice is defined as self-reliance and self-sufficiency in the wilderness (bush) without having to depend on the modern creature comforts that normal life offers. The word bushcraft essentially means “skills for off-grid wilderness survival”.
Bushcraft is commonly associated with a few other names and bushcraft skills are regularly labeled with other words. Below is a list of words and phrases that you may or may not have heard of before that describe bushcraft skills. All of these phrases essentially mean the same thing and describe bushcraft as a hobby, survival tactic, and skillset.
- Wilderness survival
- Outdoorsman skills
- Off-grid camping
- Forest skills
What is it all About?
Bushcraft is all about improving a person’s survival skills in the wilderness for preparation or for recreational purposes. Bushcraft is a great way to spend time in nature and get more in touch with the outdoor world around us. An experienced bush crafter understands the landscape, the nature, and the wildlife in ways that most cannot comprehend and understand. The bush crafter knows how to use the fruits, tools, and building materials that nature provides without harming or exploiting the natural world. This is an extremely important skill to have if not for prepping, but for environmental education, respect, and understanding of nature.
Bushcraft can mean different things to different people and you don’t have to be a hardcore prepper and minimalist survivalist to say you practice bushcraft. You can be a normal person that enjoys the outdoors and still call yourself a bush crafter if you practice a bit of bushcraft when you head out into the wilderness. You may enjoy camping and bring your tent, roll mat, and sleeping bag with you but practice fire craft, trapping, and foraging while you are out, this is still practicing bushcraft even though you have the luxury of a tent and a sleeping bag with you. So, bushcraft can mean many things but overall, it is the skills that count and the practice of using what’s around you to thrive in nature.
Bushcraft is a valuable hobby, pastime, and way of life that can be practiced by anyone from any walk of life. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the center of the city and head out into the country for the weekend, live on an off-grid farm and have nature on your doorstep, or live in a campervan and travel from place to place. Bushcraft is about getting out into nature and enjoying your time, gaining valuable skills, and learning more about the outdoor world around you. It doesn’t have strict guidelines or specific “club rules” that you have to fit in to or abide by, it is simply about surviving in the wild with as little as possible.
Common Bushcraft Tools
Although bushcraft is the craft of surviving in the wild and being self-sufficient, there are some tools associated with the practice that are accepted as essential survival items. Most tools are relatively primitive in design and aid the bush crafter in fire crafting, shelter building, hunting, fishing, and trapping. Although a serious, talented, and seasoned bush crafter could survive indefinitely in the wild with only a knife, the tools in the list below are commonly used in bushcraft to make life a little bit easier in the wilderness.
- Survival knife
- Survival axe, hatchet, or tomahawk
- Fire steel (fire starter)
- Bushcraft Saw
- Fishing line and hooks
- Paracord or a spool of twine
- Cooking pot
Those are the most basic tools that are commonly used in bushcraft, however, there are hundreds of useful tools that can be used for the bushcraft and as a survival kit. Other kit can include rucksacks, tarps for shelter, sleeping bags, and shovels. If you want to find out more about bushcraft tools and look at a useful bushcraft gear list, check out our article “bushcraft gear list” for a more in-depth view and a handy checklist.
So, now you know what bushcraft is, who would enjoy it, and the tools that are commonly used when practicing it, it is time to look at the skills associated with bushcraft. It doesn’t matter how many high-quality tools you have or how many bushcraft terms you know, without the right skillset you are destined to fail as soon as you head out the door and into the wilderness. If you are serious about practicing bushcraft the most valuable thing you can do is educate yourself and expand your skillset.
When you head out into the wilderness to practice bushcraft there are five main skillsets you will need to learn in order to meet the five basic human needs. The five basic human needs have to be met in order for a human to survive and thrive in an emergency situation. These needs are oxygen, water, food, warmth (shelter), and sleep. Without these five things, you will struggle to survive in the wilderness. This is where bushcraft skills come in, and the whole idea of bushcraft is to be able to acclaim these five points quickly, easily, and efficiently so you can be self-sufficient in the wilderness for fun or for survival.
Fire Crafting and Lighting
Fire crafting and lighting is one of the biggest parts of bushcraft and one of the most important skills you should learn. Fire helps provide warmth, purify water, and cook food which is an astonishing 3 basic human needs out of the 5. There are many different ways to produce fire in the wilderness with the most popular being the flint and steel (or fire striker). This technique involves using a magnesium rod and a piece of metal to throw a spark at some tinder to start a fire. Other techniques are more primitive like the bow drill but can be used to create fire in an emergency survival situation.
Getting a spark or ember to catch a piece of tinder is only the start though. Learning how to quickly and effectively build up that fire so it lasts through the night is an essential skill that will help you stay warm all day and night. Learning to start and build a fire in all types of conditions is vital as well and it will help build a rugged bush crafter that can create warmth, hot food, and safe drinking water in the wet spring, dry summer, damp autumn, and frozen winter.
Water Collection and Purification
Learning to find and/or collect water is another essential bushcraft skill that is essential to survival in the wilderness. Without water, it is impossible for the human body to survive more than 3 to 4 days, so this is one of the most important skills to learn if you are ever planning on an extended trip in the wilderness or are prepping for a disaster. Reading the land and the foliage growth can help the outdoorsman find a water source and utilizing rain and snowfall can supply constant water supply. There are many ways of which you can collect, find, and store water whether you are in a disease-ridden swamp, tropical beach, dense pine forest, or bone-dry desert.
Purifying the water that you do collect is essential to your survival in the wild as well. Drinking dirty, contaminated, bacteria-filled water kills more than 5 million people per year, so it is vital that you learn how to purify it effectively. Purifying water can be done in numerous ways and depending on how hardcore you are, this could be with the natural resources you find around you and a hot fire, or in the more modern form of purification tablets.
Survival Shelter Building
Learning to build a shelter is an excellent bushcraft skill that is both fun when practicing as a hobby and vital to survival if the time comes to fend for yourself. A shelter will help you stay cool in the sun and keep the UV rays off your skin and in the rain, it will keep you warm and dry as well as providing a dry area to keep your fire lit. A shelter provides a base camp and a “home” which can psychologically help a survivor because it provides them a place to reside and sleep that feels safer than the open landscape. It will keep you, your firewood, your food, and your clothes dry in a storm which will help prevent hypothermia and water-borne skin issues.
Hunting, Trapping, and Fishing
Learning how to hunt, trap, and/or fish is essential to extended survival in the wilderness. Learning all or one of these bushcraft skills will allow you to harvest food from nature no matter what time of year it is. Once you have caught your animal, cooking it on the fire will provide you with a safe, tasty, and nutrient-packed meal to give you the energy to survive in the wilderness. Learning how to get meat in the wild is a necessity and if you are planning on being vegetarian or vegan in a survival situation, you will be met with certain failure during seasons of poor growth.
There are plenty of ways you can hunt animals in the wilderness using bushcraft skills. The simplest way is to craft a spear moving onto more complex methods such as the bow and arrow or slingshot. As for trapping, there are plenty of ways to do this as well. Traps can be as simple as the pit-fall and fixed snare, or as complex as the Paiute deadfall trap or toggle deadfall trap.
Fishing can be as simple as crafting a spear and heading into the water to have a go at impaling live fish, or it can become more complex. Funneling fish using rocks and stones into a smaller area of water is a great way to harvest fish without exerting too much energy. Crafting a triggered fishing pole to leave out in the water with bait is another great way to fish. Leaving a fishing trap live like this allows you to get on with other important bushcraft tasks.
Collecting Wild Fruit, Vegetables, and Fungus
Foraging is another valuable bushcraft skill. You may think it is as easy as finding some berries and eating them, but there is far more to it than that. A good bush crafter will educate themselves about the local flora and fauna to get an idea of what fruits, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and fungi are safe to eat. Getting hold of some books to find out what food grows naturally in your area or the areas you wish to explore could help you thrive and survive in the wild. Knowledge is power in this game and the more you know, the better. A person with the knowledge of the forest will last much longer than the ignorant person with all the gear and no idea!
Now you know exactly what bushcraft is, the tools that are commonly used, and the practices that are involved with bushcraft. You can now start to educate yourself and get out into nature to practice! Remember that knowledge is far more powerful than any tool, so before heading to your local store to purchase an armory of bushcraft tools, think about going to your local bookstore to stock up on informative guides instead. Happy bush crafting!
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