There is nothing like going into the wilderness with nothing but a few basic supplies and your own wits. I know that I’m not alone in this thought.
There’s recently been a huge surge in people learning bushcraft skills.
The great thing about the bushcraft community is that they aren’t snobs. There isn’t any of that “your gear is too heavy” of the lightweight backpacker community, or any of the “you’re too slow” snobbery that pervades the thru-hiker community.
But first of all...
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.
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.
Pioneer Bushcraft Skills
It was bushcraft skills that made the exploration of the Coppermine River by Samuel Hearne in 1770, and many other explorations and expeditions of the frontier period, possible as those pioneers realized the need to rely on native knowledge and wilderness living skills rather than modern equipment.
George Washington ‘Nessmuk’ Sears was another advocate of packing light and carrying simple tools and utilizing them with superior bushcraft skills, rather than modern vices when in the wilderness.
In short, bushcraft is a way to enjoy nature without feeling pressure that there is a “right” or a “wrong” way of doing it.
So, if you are interested in learning bushcraft skills, don’t hesitate to get started.
Bushcraft Skills Checklist
Bushcraft skills use the natural materials around to get:
- Build shelter, and
- Defend yourself.
As a survivalist, you need to learn not just one but as many bushcraft survival skills as you can.
After learning, you should be able to apply them properly. This way, you can increase your survival, especially when faced with difficult situations.
The question is, with the many types of bushcrafting out there, which one should you prioritize?
Here are 19 essential bushcraft skills to start learning:
Bushcraft Skill 1 : Emergency Shelter Building
Bushcraft and camping can sometimes go hand in hand. Sometimes, you find yourself unable to go back to civilization.
If you need to spend the night in the wilderness, a bushcraft shelter becomes a must. After all, you need to protect yourself from the elements (including dangerous animals).
You don’t need to be a master woodsman when it comes to shelter building in the wilderness. You can learn how to build an emergency shelter for your bushcraft camp.
Bushcraft Skill 2: First Aid
Hopefully, you will never have to deal with anything more severe than cuts and scrapes, but having the kit to deal with those incidents is important in the first instance and knowing what to do is absolutely vital.
Carrying a tourniquet, substantial would dressings and equipment to deal with a catastrophic hemorrhage is important if you are going to be using axes and knives as a small slip can sever a femoral artery or cause other severe bleeding. So make sure you can deal with those situations when they arise.
Medical preparedness is one area where many otherwise great survival plans fall short, with most people thinking it’s to complected or time-consuming. Plus it’s easier to concentrate your efforts on the more “exciting” aspects of prepping like firearms, bug out bags, and outdoor survival skills.
Bushcraft Skill 3: DIY Survival Cement
Now you know how to build a shelter. Here’s a scenario, though: what if there’s a storm coming or a strong wind blowing?
The first step is to seek cover. If you can’t, you can consider fortifying your makeshift shelter withstand the elements. You can do that by making your own survival cement!
Doing this can also mean being able to cook inside without worrying too much about your home catching fire. To know how to make survival cement is definitely an important skill for survival which is beyond primitive skills.
Bushcraft Skill 4 : How To Knot
One of the most important bushcraft skills is learning how to knot, and you have so many different knots to consider. There will always be one for, say, securing your shelter.
Start with the most basic ones, which have more than a handful of uses in a survival situation. Then slowly progress to advanced knots as you master each one.
Make sure you know how to use non-conventional materials as a rope if you don’t have anything handy. You can also invest in cheap bushcraft supplies such as a paracord.
Bushcraft Skill 5: Paracord Bracelet Making
These paracord bracelets may look fashionable, yet in times of survival, these little handiworks can do wonders. They can come in handy when it comes to sawing trees and catching fish. You can also start, keep your survival gear in place, and make a dog collar for your pet.
Bushcraft Skill 6: Navigation and Way Finding
No matter how good you are at advanced bushcraft skills, whether it be hand drill firelighting, flint napping or decorative carving, if you can’t find your way in the woods or wilderness, you need to re-assess your priorities.
Without a doubt, you must be able to find your way in the event of an emergency where you may need to call for help to your location. Not being able to read a map or give a grid reference may cost you or a member of your party their life.
Navigation is a must-have skill, and you can take it much further than the basic skills of map and compass navigation. Celestial navigation using stars and sun, the navigational clues that can be gleaned from vegetation and a myriad of other skills are all part of the massive topic that is bushcraft.
Wayfinding is more than just navigation as well. Simple travel from A to B is important but bushcraft focuses on the environment and your surroundings. With wayfinding, it is a survival skill as it includes the search for and finding of resources, food, water sources and suitable shelter.
More so than having the skills to hunt using primitive methods, identify edible plants and purify water, wayfinding includes the skills and knowledge required to locate those resources in the first
Bushcraft Skill 7: Opening a Can (Without a Can Opener)
What if you forgot or lost your can opener? It doesn’t mean your canned goods are suddenly deadweight. Learn how to open a can without a can opener. This amazing bushcraft skill will make sure you have your fill whenever you get hungry.
Bushcraft Skill 8: Types of Wood for Your Fire
Different firewood types have their respective pros and cons. Having the ability to determine which ones make the best firewood will surely make your stay around the campfire enjoyable.
Brush up on your bushcraft skills by making sure you know what types of trees are growing in your neighborhood. Then know which works best for campfires in extreme conditions.
PRO Tip: Get yourself one of these Everstryke Match – It is a great fire starter. You can never have enough means to start a fire. The Everystryke Match can start a fire anywhere even when wet.
Bushcraft Skill 9: Fire Starting with Everyday Household Items
One of the smart ways to make fire starters is by dipping cotton balls in Vaseline. With one strike of flint, it will most likely catch fire. Be sure to practice precaution when disposing of this starter to avoid accidentally starting fires around your camp.
Bushcraft Skill 10: Starting a Fire (with a Gum Wrapper)
One of the basics of bushcraft skills is being able to ingeniously utilize anything for your survival. These include gum wrappers! These little fire starters are often in your pockets anyway. Refrain from throwing them away as they can still come in handy.
Bushcraft Skill 11: Bow Drill Fire-Starting Method
There are lots of ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter. Rubbing two sticks together is NOT one of them!
Instead of wasting your time rubbing sticks, make a bow drill. This method allows you to get maximum friction while sparing your hands.
Bushcraft Skill 12: Cooking Meat
Here’s a simple bushcraft skill: cooking meat over the fire. You’d be surprised how many people try to complicate this task by making skewers or roasting sticks. I personally prefer this hands-off approach.
Bushcraft Skill 13: Survival Archery Hunting
Survival archery is great for hunting your own game while in the wilderness. As all-around tools, the bow and arrows allow you to be a bit stealthy.
Bushcraft Skill 14: Alternative Fishing Techniques
Knowing the different fishing techniques can spell the difference between feast and famine. Some of them are ideal for certain bodies of water or fish.
Either way, when you master them, you can give yourself the best chance of surviving the wilderness. You can nourish yourself with healthy food.
Bushcraft Skill 15: Knife-Handling Skills
Learning the different safety tips in handling fixed-blade knives begins when you reach for it. You have to keep two things in mind: the point and the long edge. Proper handling of your tools can heighten your survival skills anywhere.
Bushcraft Skill 17: Rope Making
Rope is another one of those essential survival gear you need for tasks like making a shelter, making animal traps, or just fixing your bootlace.
What if you didn’t bring any paracord in your bushcraft kit? Just make some!
This rope is made from twisted yucca. Yeah, it does take a lot of patience to make strong rope but you’ll be glad you know how if you find yourself in a survival situation.
Bushcraft Skill 18: Primitive Trap
In all honesty, you’ll probably be eating insects in a survival situation. They are the easiest to find and full of nutrients (some actually taste good too).
Yet, hardcore survivalists will know the bushcraft skill of making snares and traps.
One of the simplest and most effective traps is the deadfall trap.
Bushcraft Skill 19: Calmness
Sometimes, it’s not enough to master every bushcraft skill if your mental state isn’t suited for the outdoors. The ability to stay calm under any wilderness situation will play a key role in your survival.
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.
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 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
Bushcraft skills can take some time to master, but they will always be worth your while. They can prepare you for the worst, boost your confidence and help you survive even the direst situation. With patience and determination, you can learn them.
Bushcraft is a diverse and extremely useful skill set to add to your survival arsenal.
This guide should help get you started but there is no teacher better than experience. I challenge you to go out into the world and practice your bushcraft skills.
You will make yourself more confident, adaptable, and better prepared for whatever fate throws your way.
Do you know of other bushcraft skills? Share them in the comments section below!