This simple article aims to answer anyone who has ever wondered, “What is bushcraft?” Maybe you stumbled upon this blog while browsing travel tips and stories and were left confused about bushcraft.
Are you new to bushcraft and trying to understand the subject better? Maybe you have a family member or friend who wants to know more? I’m not sure I’d heard of bushcraft or survival skills until I met my outdoor-loving spouse, so I guess it’s time to explain!
SO WHAT DOES BUSHCRAFT CONSIST OF?
Bushcraft is a term used to encompass all skills and knowledge related to the outdoors. But be aware that the definition of bushcraft and what it entails is a hotly debated topic, with many opposing views.
This article will explain the basic principles of bushcraft to you, based on my experience over many years as an observer and participant. Furthermore, I am not trying to establish a definition of bushcraft because I am not qualified to do so. Rather, it is my interpretation of bushcraft, correct or incorrect.
Also, be aware that there are many different names for bushcraft, and I will name just a few here:
- Survival techniques;
- Skills in the natural environment;
- Forest survival techniques;
WHO IS BUSHCRAFT FOR?
In my opinion, bushcraft should be accessible to everyone, in one form or another. There is a significant risk that naming something and over-defining the term “bushcraft” will reduce its appeal and usability.
Some people consider themselves bushcrafters, while others, like me, are into it.
Bushcraft is accessible to everyone, beginner or expert. Yes, even if our knowledge is limited, we have access to it. And don’t forget that we can’t all be experts, every field has its share of novices.
We all have elements of bushcraft in our lifestyles. For example, gathering berries to make a crumble can be considered a bushcraft skill – it’s foraging. Additionally, some may consider wild camping to be a form of bushcraft; the two seem to go hand in hand. In the hills, using a map can also be considered a bushcraft skill.
Bushcraft also means being able to survive in the open air with the bare necessities, feeding on the land and using natural resources for one’s comfort in the most responsible and sustainable way possible. So what is the distinction between bushcraft and survival techniques? I think that will require another article!
Bushcraft techniques are mainly made up of the following elements:
- Gather ;
- To prepare ;
THESE DO-IT-YOURSELF FOODS
One of my favourite aspects of bushcraft is the ability to recognize and harvest berries, nuts and seeds. Being able to confidently recognize wild foods provides a great sense of accomplishment. It takes a bit of time and, ideally, guidance from someone who knows what they’re doing.
Even the most inexperienced person can recognize common fruits in nature, such as blackberries. For example, the elderflower is one of my favourite stuffing items because it can be used in so many different ways.
Hunting is a completely different field, and I have no experience in this field. However, as someone who has worked in the preparation of pigeons, I think it is essential to understand where our meat comes from. If you’re interested, you can read my thoughts on the subject: Should you eat meat if you couldn’t kill it yourself?
LIGHT AND MAKE A FIRE
One of my favourite bushcraft themes: I find it fascinating how many different ways to start a fire. Imagine someone could start a fire simply by rubbing two sticks together: isn’t that something you’d love to try?
When I got my first ember, bow piercing was the first skill that gave me a lot of happiness. Mostly because getting there took a lot of trying and understanding some valuable lessons.
We should all try to make a fire with our own hands at least once in our life! Learning how to make fire efficiently and quickly is also a useful skill for this kind of activity. I’ve already learned a lot about general recommendations like fuel location, wood choice, and air-to-fuel ratio by living in Canada for six months in the winter. I had the opportunity to learn how to make fire with flint and steel in the fall and look forward to refining my technique with the Ferro Rod.
BUILD A BUSH SHELTER
Building a bush shelter takes some work, but it can be very rewarding. Imagine building a complete refuge from the elements out of natural resources: epic.
However, it is not always so easy. Did I ever tell you about my terrible first night in a natural shelter?
OBTAIN WATER AND ENSURE IT IS SAFE TO DRINK
This is another topic that fascinates me. Water is a vital thing for life – it’s obvious. On the other hand, how many of us know where to look for it, how to collect it and how to purify it? I’m not sure there are many.
I’m still learning, but it’s a subject I’m passionate about. There are many interesting strategies for collecting water, such as collecting birch sap from trees, evaporating your own urine in the desert, or chiselling ice from a lake.
Filtering water through a water mill bag and boiling it is the simplest purification technique. Other methods, such as water treatment with iodine or bleach, are available. Modern filters and purifiers are great too, and I have a few favourites.
NATURAL ARTS AND CRAFTS
Survival is generally not the goal of bushcraft. It’s not always about conservation; sometimes it’s just about enjoying nature and using natural resources.
Adam is a cabinet maker and our home is filled with hand-carved wooden paddles and bows. On our shelves, we offer containers made of birch bark and handcrafted slippers made of sheepskin and fox fur. At -20°C, beaver and deerskin mittens keep us warm, and a natural wreath adorns our front door every year.
TRAVEL AND NAVIGATION
The ability to explore and travel is another fascinating aspect of bushcraft and survival skills.
Anyone who enjoys the outdoors needs to know how to navigate. Imagine being stuck in the middle of nowhere, without GPS or phone battery and without knowing how to use a map… To survive, you have to know how to use a map!
Natural navigation is a fantastic skill to have. Imagine going hiking in the hills and losing your map or the wind blowing it away. What an amazing experience it would be to come home using the sun!
Also, imagine, you get lost in the middle of the night and you can locate your camp by simply following the North Star! To be honest, the night sky has a lot to teach.
For me, bushcraft includes many journeys. I learned to canoe or kayak, as well as snowshoes. This method of travel is self-powered and allows us to observe nature more closely.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM BUSHCRAFT?
Having been exposed to bushcraft for seven years, I can give you an honest assessment of the outdoor skills that can be learned.
- nature appreciation
I have always loved nature, but living with a bushcrafter has allowed me to appreciate it better. Walks in the woods turn into nature walks. Adam points out to me the remarkable behaviours of animals, the way trees repair themselves, and how puddles on a road can tell you the direction of the south.
- Enjoy being outside
When you start noticing tracks in the muddy ground or marks in the tall grass, being outside becomes even more exciting. I got into the habit of identifying trees and plants after talking about them for years and learning a lot without even realizing it.
- Take it easy and slow down your pace of life
Nowadays, we talk more and more about slowing down and living in the moment. Bushcraft is a great way to reconnect with nature, enjoy the calm and take your time. For example, waiting for water to boil over an open flame teaches us that not everything happens right away.
- Rediscover the pleasure of simple things
Have you ever noticed how much better a cup of tea or coffee tastes outside? When you’ve collected the wood for the campfire and used a hard-learned kindling technique to catch that first spark, that hot drink tastes even better.
- Develop your ability to adapt
Nature is sometimes unpredictable. Our ability to adapt to varied settings and conditions improves when we spend time outdoors. We can’t always control our environment, but bushcraft teaches us to adapt to new situations and overcome obstacles.
In nature, the little things we take for granted in everyday life take on their full meaning.
HOW MANY THINGS DO WE NEED TO LIVE?
How many of us have a house full of things we don’t need or an attic full of things we don’t remember using? While some of these items have sentimental value, most are just clutter. We don’t need these items. In reality, all we need is shelter, water, food and warmth. It’s always wonderful to have a little company.
WHAT EQUIPMENT FOR BUSHCRAFTING?
Many people are seduced by the idea of buying the most modern bushcraft equipment, and this is understandable. Isn’t bushcraft, in its purest form, more about living in harmony with nature and off the land?
Traditional tools like flint, wooden bows and bone needles come into their own in this context. Bushcraft is the art of adapting to and thriving in its natural environment.
However, there are a few inexpensive staples that are fantastic for bushcrafting and practical, especially when you’re just starting out. All of these items have been personally tested and approved by us here at Prep4War.com
I’ve included links to things that I personally use and recommend throughout this article. I may receive a small commission if you click on a link or purchase a recommended item.
- A piece of fire steel:
This piece of bushcraft gear is inexpensive and makes a fantastic modest gift. Put it in your pocket and you’ll be ready to light a fire whenever you need it.
- The knife :
You can carve feather sticks for your fire, carve wood for a bushcraft spoon, cut string, and perform a variety of other bushcraft-related tasks with an inexpensive yet durable knife.
- A guide to bushcraft
While getting outdoors is essential to learning about living in nature, a good book is a great place to start. For example, Mors Kochanski’s novel is a legend and it comes highly recommended.
- A long-lasting water bottle
You will need water at all times. This container is extremely robust and can also be used to boil water in an emergency. It also works great as a hot water bottle.
- A water kettle
It is a fantastic tool for people who are new to outdoor life. Making tea over a campfire is a wonderful experience and this little kettle is ideal.
For now, that’s all I have for equipment. It’s fun to try new things, but you came here to learn what bushcraft is all about. Bushcraft, in my opinion, is all about spending time outdoors and learning new skills. Focus on that, it won’t cost you anything.
Just remember the skills you learn, can and might just one day be the reason you and your loved ones will survive.
Take a look at what’s happening in Ukraine. That was a western-oriented European country, with western values that was filled with people looking like you and me, and one day they woke up and there was a crazy dictator knocking on the door, and the skills you learn from bushcrafting, will in that case literally be the difference between living or dying, as with those skills you can create a shelter, find food in the wild and survive.