In the beginning, we were all bushcrafters, we had to be if we wanted to survive. Today, in the modern world, we don’t need all the skills our ancestors had. Still, learning a few bushcraft basics can help us deal with everyday challenges.
The art of bushcraft: Definition
Bushcraft is a practice of survival in the wilderness by using only what you can find in nature with little to none tools. We will call it art because in order to master it you will need a certain amount of creativity. What you will also need is patience since it is no small field.
While your bushcraft knowledge grows, you will also become more self-aware, your confidence will grow and you will easily adapt to changes.
Bushcraft basics: Skills
The whole bushcraft philosophy revolves around the idea of using only what you can find in your environment, so the more bushcraft techniques you learn the less equipment you’ll be needing.
Bushcraft skills can be divided into a few main categories.
Starting a fire
You should begin with learning how to start a fire, this is the essential, probably most important thing you’ll need to know. Start with gathering wood and tinder, and build a small fire. In the beginning, you’ll be needing matches or lighter, but as your knowledge grows you could try building fire-lighting tools such as a fire plough or fire saw. Fire building is a skill that you can always improve, and you should, for it is really in the center of bushcrafting.
For lighting a fire you can also use a sun glass, it can be: magnifying glass, camera lens, glasses, or some similar object. This can be a difficult method since it requires direct sunlight. Some other ways to start a fire are by using a ferro rod, or flint and steel.
There are several methods for collecting and purifying water, some of them are boiling, filtering, and distilling. CDC recommends filtering and then boiling water to decontaminate it. For boiling use a metal container or if you don’t have one you can use a wood container and hot stones.
When you start learning, our advice is to practice it with bottled water. There are a lot of diseases you can catch from drinking contaminated water. Always put your safety first! There are iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets/drops for sterilizing water, but you shouldn’t use them for longer than 3 weeks. Later on, as you get more crafty, you can try building a solar still.
As a bushcraft novice, you probably won’t be able to hunt animals for food. You can start by learning about local edible plants and mushrooms, but be careful, there are many poisonous species, especially mushrooms.
You can also find great bushcraft cookbooks, and discover some delicious recipes. There is nothing like breakfast made on fire outside your tent!
Building a shelter
When picking a place where you will settle you should consider a few things. The spot should be near water and woods for fire, but you’ll also need to be protected from wind and flooding. Depending on your needs there are different types of shelters you can build. When the nights are warm a “lean-to” shelter will do fine, but when it’s colder or if there’s a storm outside a debris hut or an A-frame is a better choice.
If you decide to spend some time in the wilderness you will need a lot of energy, so a good night’s sleep is essential. Experienced ones would frown on modern tents, but they are great for beginners. Nowadays, with just a little digging, you can get yourself a great one on a budget.
Bushcraft basics: Tools
We already mentioned that as you keep getting better at your bushcraft skills you will need less equipment, but even the most skilled ones need a good knife. So what are some basic things you will need when starting?
A knife is a part of a standard bushcraft kit. It is used for cutting smaller branches, wood carvings, skinning game, and prepping food. There is a whole range of techniques you can practice that will help you end your tasks easier. Since there are many different types of knives, we recommend starting with something simple like a fixed blade knife.
Conserving your blade is important, keep it sharp and oiled (cooking oil should do the trick). Knives can be made out of stainless steel, but we will recommend using high carbon steel since they stay sharp longer. Always remember, a dull blade is more dangerous than a sharp one.
Axe or hatchet
For preparing firewood and building shelter you will need a more serious tool. Bushcraft axe has a whole range of applications, as you can use it for wood chopping, log splitting or digging. To expand its lifespan, use wedges regularly.
Instead of an axe you can use a saw if you plan on doing a lot of cutting wood. It will prove much more efficient than an axe (especially in winter) and it is also safer for use. Bow saw is great when camping, but when on-trail we recommend foldable saw.
Finally, you will need a backpack for carrying all your bushcraft tools and gear. When choosing one, ensure it is comfortable and easy to carry. The material needs to be durable and waterproof, and the backpack should have multiple compartments. This will help you to better organize your stuff.
Get out there!
Now that we covered bushcraft basics you can start your own projects. Begin small, don’t try learning it all at once. Remember to have fun along the way, and in no time you’ll be ready to get out there.