Beginner Bushcraft 101

bushcraft for beginners

Bushcraft Definition:

The use and practice of skills, acquiring and developing knowledge and understanding, in order to survive and thrive in a natural environment. 

Bushcraft skills therefore provide for the basic physiological necessities for human life: food, water sourcing and purification, shelter-building, and firecraft.

Where To Start 

Bushcraft is one of those things that when most people hear about it or observe it they think to themselves “ wow thats amazingly cool”.

They watch a few shows like ‘Man Vs Wild’ or ‘Survivorman’ and then further think “ I wish I had the skills to do something like that!” 

But then ultimately never do much about it.

Now you don’t need to strand yourself in some isolated location or invest a small fortune in equipment to get good at bushcraft. Just a little time to acquire some knowledge and a nearby forested area to practice your newly acquired survival skills. Heres a little beginner bushcraft 101.

  1. Go for a Hike

   If you are not accustomed to frequently being out in nature then start by first just getting out in it. Explore some new areas and regional park lands near you.

Survival skills take stamina and endurance. Hiking is low impact with high benefits. This is a great first place to build on your navigational skills and to train your eyes to find the natural vegetation you can draw on for survival if need be.

hiking bushcraft 101

2. Learn About Foraging and Basic Wild Foods

The next thing to add to your skill set is identifying what vegetation is edible and can help sustain you in an emergency situation. 

There are so many types of plants and herbs that provide just about all the nutrients you need to live. Identifying which ones you harvest and cook up or turn into a tea can be the difference between life and death.

3. Camping

Theres no better way to appreciate the wilderness then by sleeping under the stars in a clear night sky and listening to the crackle of a warm fire or the creaking of the trees in the brisk wind. 

Camping puts you right at the heart of buschrafting.  Being in the type of terrain you want to learn about is one of the best ways to, well, learn about it. 

While you’re camping you can practice one of the key skills of any bushcrafter, starting a fire without the use of conventional fire starting equipment. Ie. a lighter or matches. 

Practicing starting a fire with a flint and steel and foraged tinder is the most popular and reliable of all fire tools but it does take practice to get used to.

Check out this quick video by Donny Dust where he quickly builds a fire from forged materials and a ferro rod. Easily one of my favourite survivalists and bushcrafter to learn from.

4. Go Fishing

In a survival situation having the knowledge of how to catch fish can be a lifesaver, but the best place to start isn’t by finding a secluded mountain lake and trying your luck with a homemade fishhook. Find your nearest fishing lake and spend a few hours there practicing how to cast and strike and the general basics.  

After you know what you are doing it’s time to practice some bushcraft fishing using a makeshift line or hook, and if you’re lucky enough to catch something then what better way to eat it than on a fire you built yourself. 

Fishing bushcraft 101

Expand Your Learning

Paul Kirtley has a great article “ 10 Ways To Boost Your Bushcraft Skills in The New Year” that gives more detail on how to get good at bush crafting.

Once you’ve experienced these few basics you can grow and expand your knowledge on bushcrafting and practice the more advance techniques. 

  • Emergency signaling techniques
  • Natural containers
  • Water procurement
  • Wild food plants
  • Advanced trapping techniques
  • Primitive/aboriginal cooking methods
  • Shelter building using various natural materials
  • Advance fire lighting techniques using natural materials
  • Cordage making
  • Primitive fishing equipment and techniques
  • Manufacture and use of stone tools
  • First Aid/Wound treatment in the wild

Essential Tools For Bushcraft

  1. A Knife (Blade)

One of the most important tools in your kit will be your knife. There is not too many situations you will come across in the woods were you don’t need a knife. From making other bushcraft tools, Shaving or splitting wood, prepping foraged or caught food and even protection. 

Note that different blades are made for different uses and environments. 

2. An Axe or Hatchet

While you can get by with a knife or saw, you’ll want an axe anytime you plan on spending a longer time in nature.  It will come in handy for building semi-permanent or permanent shelters, chopping firewood, shaping logs, and numerous other tasks.

3. A Saw

Saws are an incredibly versatile bushcraft tool.  They can be used to clear brush, cut branches for a shelter, saw through bone, cut firewood to size, and much more.

4. A Firestarter

While you can learn more advance techniques for starting a fire without the use of matches or a striker and flint, its extremely time saving to carry one with you. Since weather conditions aren’t always favourable or you may be in a situation where having a fire can be the difference of life or death. 

Most bushcrafters use a steel and flint since matches can easily get wet, broken or lost.

5. Cordage

Once you get started with bushcraft you’ll see how important cordage is. From tying shelter frames, making a snare or fishnet to hanging pots, tools and bear  bags.

In time you can certainly learn to make your own from natural material but it take a long a time and the learning curve is fairly high. Paracord 550 is regarded as the best all purpose rope for bushcraft and survival.

6. Canteen and Pot

There is definitely some fancy gadgets out there for water purification now but the most basic and reliable is to simple boil your gathered water in a pot and fill your canteen. 

If you use a metal canteen you can boil your water right in the canteen itself. However having a pot offers more versatility for cooking things or as a holding container for foraged items.

Bushcraft pot

7. A Shovel

A shovel is a bushcraft tool which doesn’t get as much attention as tools like knives, but life in nature without a shovel can get uncomfortable quickly.

For me, the primary use of a shovel is to dig a latrine or “cat hole” to bury waste.  Not only is this in accordance with the principles of Leave No Trace, but it’s much more hygienic. Burying waste also helps keep animals away.

A shovel is also necessary in winter for building shelters, in bad weather for making drainage ditches around your shelter, and in many other situations.

8. A Wet Stone or Knife Sharpener

After extended use your knife, axe and even shovel will get dull. Its best practice to keep your tools in top shape and working order. Carrying a sharpening tool of some sorts will definitely save you a headache when trying to perform a task with a dull instrument.

9. A First Aid Kit

While this is not so much considered a bushcraft tool as it is an equipment piece, probability of injury out in the woods is higher then normal. 

From rolled ankles while trekking to straight up falls, gashes and cuts while crafting with sharp tools, its just plain smart to have a first aid kit with you to take care of things should an emergency situation arise.

10. A Backpack

Obviously go without saying but you’re going to need a way to carry these tools efficiently with you in the woods so your are going to need a good backpack.

Make sure to try on a few to find the best suitable fit, comfort and storage. 

Is Using Modern Bushcraft Tools VS Natural Hand Crafted Tools Cheating?

A bushcraft purist would say yes. But when you’re just starting out that thinking is a little extreme.

Gordon Dedman said 

“The pursuit of bushcraft brings us closer to the natural world and opens our eyes to see that we are part of the earth and not separate from it.”

With this in mind one could say that any tool that helps us connect deeper with nature can be considered bushcraft.

There is a wide degree between purchasing your tools or hand crafting them but the bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to connect with nature.

Wether you use high tech tools or a more primitive approach, bring whatever helps you achieve this goal.

bushcraft 101

Is Bushcraft Legal?

In a nut shell Yes,

Bushcraft is legal in the United States. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) & National Forest land is open to dispersed camping (bushcraft) as long as you follow local laws & regulations.

In Canada, you are allowed to legally practice bushcraft on what is known as crown land. Land all Canadians have access to.,industry%20to%20recreation%20and%20research.

For people in the United Kingdom, you have open access land.

Note: Always check local laws and regulations of whichever area you are exploring before hand.

It’s important to remember that wherever you are setting up camp you do so both safely and respectfully, you always want to be sure you practice proper fire safety around camp, so you don’t start a Forrest fire. 

It’s also very important that you clean up after yourself, as someone once said to me “Leave it how you found it” or “ Leave no trace.”. There is nothing worse than getting to a spot in the bush, and it is littered with trash.

Can You Make Bushcrafting a Career?

Very few people get paid to just go and do bushcraft, ie. live outdoors for any length of time. Those that do get paid by tv networks to display/demonstrate what they do. You’ve probably heard of a few of them, as they usually have their own tv shows, their own brands of gear, their own self-designed knives, etc.

There are several ways people have been successful building outdoor careers. Although there are differing levels of success associated with each one, there are four main ways people have turned bushcraft into a job:

  • Making and/or selling gear.
  • Teaching skills.
  • Leading trips and facilitating experiences.
  • Creating media.

Working outdoors is good work. Sometimes it’s great work. But it’s still work, and if you don’t treat it as such, your chances for success, both financial success and personal fulfillment success, are very limited.

beginner bushcraft 101

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