What is Bushcraft? Essential Tools and Skills

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Written By Michael Culligan

With over 12 years of experience in Oregon's forestry industry, I have established myself as a skilled and knowledgeable lumber professional. As a passionate competitor in local timbersports events, I have consistently ranked among the top lumberjacks in my area. I take great pride in meticulously maintaining an extensive collection of restored vintage axes. I personally test every axe I review by using it to fell and chop up oak firewood on my land.

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Bushcraft is the practice of wilderness survival and living skills, using natural resources and a limited set of tools. It encompasses fire starting, shelter building, navigation, foraging, hunting, and carving, among other skills. Bushcraft promotes self-reliance, adaptability, and respect for nature in outdoor environments.

Bushcraft is a popular activity for people who enjoy the outdoors. It is a skill that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Bushcraft is a form of wilderness survival. The term became popular in the late 20th century and described skills needed for living in remote areas, including shelter, water, fire, food, navigation, and first aid.

What is Bushcraft?

Bushcraft is a skill that helps people survive in the wilderness. It teaches you how to live off the land and find your way without getting lost. In addition, it also teaches you how to make shelters and tools, how to hunt and fish, how to find water, and much more.

There are multiple ways of practicing bushcraft, such as living off the land for extended periods or using it as a hobby for an afternoon hike.

what is bushcraft

Bushcraft vs. Survival

Bushcraft and survival are two different things. Bushcraft is more about the art of living in the wilderness and making use of natural resources. On the other hand, survival is more about staying alive and not dying in an emergency.

We should understand that bushcraft is a hobby that can be learned, whereas survival is a life-saving skill that you must have to survive in various situations.

Essential Bushcraft Skills

Bushcraft is the art of living in the wilderness. It is a skill set that allows you to live off the land without any modern conveniences. It requires you to be self-sufficient and able to take care of yourself in any environment.

There are many skills that fall under bushcraft, but these are some of the most essential.

Starting a Fire

The bushcraft skill of starting a fire is a skill that everyone should have. It’s useful for survival but can also be used to create warmth and light.

This can be done by bringing a firestarter like a ferro rod or using a bow drill.

Having a fire is essential for keeping warm at night and cooking any food you have gathered throughout your adventure.

starting a fire in bushcraft

Building a Shelter

Building a shelter can be challenging, especially when the weather is harsh and the environment is brutal. A shelter can keep you safe from the wind, rain, snow, and sun. It can be used to cook food, protect you from wild animals and keep you warm during the night.

This can be done in various ways and should be based on the materials in your local environment. The structure will also be different depending on the weather and temperature.

Gathering Food

Gathering food is an essential bushcraft skill. It’s not just about eating but also about staying alive. The bushcraft skills of gathering food are more complicated than you might think.

This can be broken down into several categories – hunting, fishing, and gathering. Each of these aspects has its own knowledge and tool requirements. The ability to gather your food from the environment is extremely rewarding and can be life-saving in an emergency scenario.

Sourcing Water

To survive in the wilderness, one must be able to procure clean drinking water.

The average person can live for about three weeks without food and three days without water. It is essential to know how to get a drink when you’re out in the wild.

Water can be found in lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and other sources. However, it is not always safe to drink from these sources as they may contain bacteria or parasites that could make you sick or even kill you.

The best way of acquiring drinkable water is by purifying it with a filter or boiling it before consuming it.


Knowing how to read a map and use a compass can help you find your way around unfamiliar territory or back home after getting lost. For navigation purposes, you also need to know how to use landmarks and natural features such as rivers, streams, cliffs, valleys, etc.

Crafting Tools

Crafting tools are an essential bushcraft skill because they provide us with a way to make things like shelters, arrowheads, or bows and arrows. Even carving bowls or water storage can be handy.

To create these items, we need to be able to use a variety of tools like knives, axes, saws, and more.

Using Tools

The use of tools is an essential bushcraft skill. The tools are what allow you to do everything from making shelter, constructing traps, and foraging for food. The tools you choose will depend on what you plan to do, but some general guidelines will help you pick the right one for your needs.

Popular Bushcraft Tools

Many tools are used in bushcraft, and it can be challenging to know which ones are the most important.


There are a few reasons why you need a knife in bushcraft. First, it is your primary cutting tool. Second, it is your only option for food preparation. Third, it can also be used as a weapon in self-defense.

The knife you carry should be high quality and should not be too heavy. A blade length of 3 inches or less is recommended for bushcraft because they are easier to handle and more versatile than longer blades.


A hatchet is a small axe that can be used for cutting, splitting, or carving. It would help if you had a hatchet in bushcraft because it can be used to cut down trees and prepare kindling. Hatchets are incredibly versatile and lightweight.

You can also use a hatchet to carve other valuable items such as bowls.


A saw is a tool that can be used for many purposes in bushcraft. A saw can be handy in a survival situation, from making kindling to cutting firewood.

Saws are usually used for cutting wood. They are generally made up of two pieces of metal with teeth on the edge which cut through the wood when they move past each other. The saw blade is the part that moves past the stationary blade and cuts the wood.

I recommend a folding saw so that it takes up less space.


A firestarter can be anything that will create a spark, such as a flint and steel or magnesium alloy blocks. Some people choose to make their firestarters out of items found in nature, such as pinecones, dryer lint, or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.

I prefer Ferro rods as my tool of choice for starting a fire.

Twine or Paracord

Paracord is a lightweight and durable type of rope that has been used for many different purposes. It is strong enough to support a person’s weight but also flexible enough to be woven in intricate patterns.

It can be used as a tourniquet, fishing line, clothesline, or shelter tie-down. It can also be used as an emergency sewing kit.

Paracord is lightweight and durable, making it perfect for any outdoor adventure.

Water Canteen

Water is the most essential resource for any person. Without it, you’ll die within a few days.

It’s always recommended to have a water canteen with you when you go out into the wilderness, especially in a hot area where dehydration can happen faster.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a must for any outdoor adventure. It contains all the essentials needed to deal with minor injuries and emergencies. It is crucial to have a first aid kit on hand in an emergency.

The items in a first aid kit are usually packaged in plastic bags or boxes, and they come with instructions on how to use them. The kits can be customized based on the needs of the person who will carry it, but they usually include some combination of:

  • bandages
  • gauze pads
  • antibiotic ointment
  • adhesive tape
  • alcohol swabs
  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • safety pins
  • latex gloves.

How To Get Started in Bushcraft

Bushcraft skills are often used to help people survive in hostile environments, such as forests and deserts.

Bushcraft is a diverse skillset that includes many different activities. Anyone can practice it, regardless of their background or experience level.

My advice is to start spending more and more time in your local woods. You will need to start building your skills to spend longer and longer outdoors with less and less equipment. Mastering the skills of fire starting and food gathering can take a long time to learn.

Find mentors and experienced survivalists that you can learn from. Read widely and start watching informative youtube videos such as this one:


Bushcraft is the art of living in the wilderness. It is a skill that is both practical and spiritual.

It’s about understanding the natural world and how to live in it without compromising your health or wellbeing. Bushcraft is about living with nature rather than trying to dominate it.

In this way, bushcraft skills are an excellent way for us to reconnect with our inner selves and find peace within ourselves as we go through life’s challenges.