Bushcraft is a term that you may have heard but not understood. Around the world, people use different terms to refer to natural places: wilderness, wild, outback, bush, backcountry, and so on.
All these words refer to places that have not been significantly impacted by humans; they are dominated by natural communities and by the weather and the elements.
Bushcraft is a term that is used in various communities to describe the set of skills necessary to recreate, survive, and thrive in the bush—that is, in nature.
Bushcraft encompasses a wide range of skills. Some of these are relatively modern. For example, some would consider the ability to use a chainsaw to be part of bushcraft. However, for most people the term bushcraft refers to skills based on blades, natural materials, and human skill—not modern technologies.
Here are a few of the elements of bushcraft.
Knives, axes, saws, and similar tools are essential to surviving in the wild. These tools provide a lifeline, and as such knowing how to properly use and maintain them is essential for any outdoor person. Learn how to handle, sharpen, oil, and otherwise use and protect various types of blades.
Perhaps the most important element in any survival situation is shelter. Exposure to the elements can kill you much faster than hunger, and faster even than thirst. The ability to build a variety of shelter, such as debris huts, lean-tos, tarp shelters, tipis, and small cabins—is part of the bushcraft skillset.
Fire and Cooking
Another critical element in survival situations is the ability to start and maintain a fire, and to cook using fire. This can encompass many different skills, such as the use of a flint and steel, fire steel, bow drill, hand drill, fire plow, and so on.
Also important is the ability to move a fire, which often involves knowing which materials locally can be used to insulate and maintain a coal when you move to a new camp.
Cooking over fires seems simple, but it isn’t. The variety of methods available (spit, stick, pit, clay oven, rock boiling, and so on) are varied, and different methods are effective for different foods. All should be considering important for effective bushcraft, as they could save your life in a survival situation.
Water is the second most important factor in survival outdoors. Finding water can be difficult; finding drinkable water can be almost impossible. Those who wish to master bushcraft should learn about springs, hydrology, and various water purification methods—as well as what locations may contain water that is pure without filtration or treatment.
Hunting and Gathering
Bushcraft has a connotation of not simply surviving in the outdoors, but actually thriving. Food is an essential element in thriving, and as such learning how to hunt, trap, and gather food is a central part of bushcraft.
Making and Mending Necessary Materials
Here again, bushcraft is distinguished from survival. In a survival situation, you may only use those human-made materials that you began with, such as high-tech clothing and camping gear.
However, bushcraft involves living off the land, and that means using what the land can provide: bark, logs, skins, feathers, plant stalks, sticks, and so on. These materials can be used to provide all the goods necessary for humans to survive in comfort. Learning to use these materials can be an immense boon for survival, can make you healthier and build a connection to the land, and can be a great deal of fun.
And of course, if the SHTF, then these skills will be essential.