While traditional camping is always exciting, some people want to go full survivalist. If you happen to be one of those individuals, it’s important to learn bushcraft skills. These can help you build shelters with nothing but your bare hands and teach you how to create makeshift tools out of branches. With that said, the wilderness is an unpredictable place. When you choose to rely on nothing but your natural surroundings, it’s important to be prepared for anything. Here are some of the most important bushcraft skills you need to survive in the wilderness.
The official definition of bushcraft refers to skills that force you to rely on natural resources. Theoretically, being skilled in bushcraft means you could survive in the wilderness with only a knife to help you. In fact, some survivalists are capable of completing such a feat after many years of training. With that said, bushcraft can still include bushcraft tools like axes, headlamps, and foraging bags. The key to bushcraft survival is relying on as little urban resources as possible.
Bushcraft vs Camping
Unlike traditional camping, bushcraft refers to a set of skills rather than a singular activity. For people who enjoy backpacking, camping can be just as difficult as bushcraft. The difference is that bushcraft can be paired with backpacking. For these reasons, bushcraft skills are great to learn for survival purposes, not just as a hobby. For example, if you get stranded and have to survive a night in the wilderness, bushcraft skills could save your life.
It takes several years to master bushcraft skills before feeling confident enough to take on the wilderness. Even so, there are several skills that can be learned quickly and applied to everyday life. This can allow you to practice your bushcraft skills when you decide to do the real thing. Generally speaking, skill building should follow this timeline:
- Carving easy tools
- Lashing basic camp structures
- Tying knots
- Fire starting with matches or a lighter
- Batoning wood
- Rough fire starting without matches or a lighter
- Building shelter
- Trapping and snares
- Food foraging
- Water purification
- Making cordage and rope
- Advanced trapping and foraging
- Navigational skills
- Advanced structure building of beds, thatching, and stoves
Bushcraft fire starting means creating a flame without matches or a lighter. Even in wet conditions, it’s important to learn how to start a fire with the resources around you. For bushcrafters, fire starting goes far beyond creating a flame. You’ll need to learn how to transport a fire, how to gather wood, and how to keep it going. Even little details like positioning it away from your shelter and putting it out will be essential for safety.
Building a shelter is arguably one of the most important survival skills. Hypothermia can affect your body faster than you’ll realize and a shelter helps you stay warm. It also protects you from potentially aggressive wildlife and wet weather conditions. There are many ways to construct a makeshift shelter without a tent. Search for natural materials like leaves, branches, and moss. If you’re carrying tools like paracord or a tarp, you can pair these resources with natural materials.
Foraging is the fastest and easiest way to produce food for survival. The key is to know what you can and can’t eat. Foraging refers to the accumulation of edible foods like fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. Foraging can be helpful when you need nutrition but don’t have the resources available to cook food. Sometimes, certain wild herbs and plants are great for medicinal purposes. In cases of illness and/or injury, identifying and learning how to make temporary herbal remedies could save your life.
Your body can only survive for three days without water, making it essential to keep yourself hydrated. True bushcraft means filtering and purifying your water by boiling it with your fire built from scratch. To find water, pay attention to foot and animal traffic. For example, if you see a beaver’s dam closeby, find another source of water. It’s important to prevent bacteria borne illnesses so you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to severe dehydration.
Wilderness First Aid
When you’re alone in the wilderness, the only doctor available is you. This means knowing how to treat something as simple as a scratch to a severe injury like a bone break. We highly recommend taking a wilderness first aid course before attempting a bushcraft camping trip. These can teach you how to make a splint in case of a break, how to clean and seal a severe cut, and what to do in case of an extreme accident.
Utilizing Knives and Axes
When it comes to bushcraft, a small knife can mean the difference between life and death. Knowing how to properly use bladed tools can greatly benefit you, even when traditionally camping. Blades can help you fish, hunt, and build shelter. Before attempting to try to use blades without previous experience, it’s best to practice and figure out which one you like best. Part of bushcraft skills is also knowing how to properly store your blades to prevent premature deterioration.