What Is Bushcraft?

Bushcraft is the art of using the resources provided by our natural environment to survive and thrive in the great outdoors.  It combines the knowledge of how to best use the plants and animals at your disposal with some basic bushcraft tools to make outdoor living easier and more efficient.  In learning bushcraft skills we benefit in many ways including:

  1. Increasing our ability to adapt to new challenges
  2. Becoming more self sufficient
  3. Growing our confidence
  4. Increasing our survival skills
  5. Becoming better prepared to face unforeseen problems

Bushcraft is not just one thing to learn.  It is a group of related skills that help you survive and adapt to overcome obstacles.  Although traditional bushcraft is focused on wilderness survival, its mindset of using the world around you can easily be applied to an urban or suburban setting.

bushcraft skills

Learning bushcraft survival skills will go a long way in making you better prepared the next time a disaster strikes.  Many of the skills and projects within the field of bushcraft can be directly applied to survival situations and are immensely useful to learn.

What Are Bushcraft Skills?

Bushcraft encompasses several primitive skills to shape the world around you and meet your survival needs.  In this article I am going to focus on the fundamental bushcraft skills that are most related to survival:

  • Food Foraging
  • Trapping and Hunting Game
  • Water Gathering and Purification
  • Shelter Building
  • Fire Building

Now we have discussed many aspects of these skills in other articles (such as this one) but remember, bushcraft teaches you how to do all these things with just a basic tool and the knowledge in your head.  Each of these bushcraft skills have many smaller subsets of tasks and abilities that make them up.  Let’s take a look at what you need to learn to become proficient at these fundamental bushcraft survival skills.

Food Foraging

  • Knowledge of local plants
  • Camp cooking
  • Avoidance of toxic plants
  • How to efficiently harvest

Trapping and Hunting

  • Tracking and stalking game
  • Reading animal signs
  • Building snares
  • Using lures
  • Hiding human scent
  • Tying knots
  • Making cordage
  • Cleaning and cooking game

Water Gathering and Purification

  • Foraging for water
  • Making a water filter
  • Purifying water
  • Fire building (for boiling)
  • Container making (for carrying water)

Shelter Building

  • Felling trees
  • Batoning branches
  • Harvesting other materials
  • Thatching or weaving grass or bark
  • Knot tying
  • Making cordage
  • Natural insulation and waterproofing

Fire Building

  • Collecting wood
  • Gathering tinder
  • Batoning branches
  • Building a bow drill, fire plough or other device
  • Building a fire pit
  • Types of fires and their uses


How Long Does It Take To Learn Bushcraft Skills?

As you can see there is a lot to learn!  While becoming a bushcraft master can take several years or longer the good news in that there are many small skills that can be quickly learned to get you started.  Additionally, some of the more basic skills like making cordage and batoning branches have many uses and can be applied to more than one discipline.

what is bushcraft

If you are just starting out

If you are starting with no base of bushcraft knowledge it is best to begin with one of the easier skills to learn.  Many of these can be learned in a matter of hours and be further developed whenever you have the time to practice.  Some basic bushcraft skills to start out with are:

  • Batoning wood
  • Carving simple tools
  • Lashing basic camp structures such as a tripod
  • Knot tying
  • Basic fire starting

If you have a basic knowledge already

With some basic bushcraft knowledge under your belt you can start to learn some of the more intermediate skills such as:

  • Foraging for food
  • Primitive fire building (no matches or lighter)
  • Shelter building
  • Basic snares and trapping
  • Water purification

For the pros

If you have a working knowledge of survival or outdoor living you can start to take on some of the more advanced bushcraft projects and skills such as:

  • Making rope and cordage
  • Advanced structure building (camp oven, beds, thatching)
  • Advanced foraging and trapping
  • Land navigation
  • Tracking

 What Are Bushcraft Tools?

At its most basic level bushcraft is the art of going out into the woods and surviving with nothing more than the clothes on your back and an edged tool.  Nearly every skill and most bushcraft projects use a bushcraft tool to make your labor easier.

bushcraft projects
A solid bushcraft toolkit will make most projects easier and faster

Bushcraft Knife

A fixed blade knife is the most common bushcraft tool.  Finding the best bushcraft knife (Check out my guide for picking the best fixed blade knife here) for your kit will make many camp tasks easier and faster.  Bushcraft knives are best suited for light and medium duty tasks:

  • Batoning branches smaller than your wrist
  • Carving or whittling wood
  • Skinning game
  • Making snares and traps
  • Preparing food

by The Bug Out Bag Guide