I’m new to this game, so I’m still trying to figure it all out. Luckily, I’m quite astute when it comes to activities like this. I pick up on things extremely quickly.
I’ve heard of the term bushcraft for years. I’m not sure I’ve ever given it much thought before. I’ve always been a straight up camper and surviving in the woods hasn’t appealed to me all that much. It wasn’t until recently that I became interested in the actual survival part. You see, I went winter camping for the very first time and that adventure shed an entirely new light on things. Now, I can’t stop thinking about this stuff. And of course, I’d like to know what the word bushcraft means. It seems to be at the center of everything.
To start off, I think I’ll tackle the actual word itself. I’ll pretend that I’m talking to someone who has absolutely no idea of what’s going on. They’ve never gone camping or walking in the woods before. They’ve never even gone on vacation away from civilization. It’s to this person that I would say that the word bushcraft is both a noun and a verb. It’s not like the words camping or hiking. Bushcraft can be described as a noun in this way; it’s an activity in which someone or someones shows an interest in being with nature and learning how to make do the best they can, as self sufficiently as possible. Anyone can go borrow a camper and sleep in the woods. Not everyone can create the perfect campsite in the wilderness; one that will afford them the opportunity to lie under the stars safely and securely.
I saw a quote today that was written by a father of two girls. The family visited Maine and stayed in the Grand Falls Hut that’s operated by Maine Huts & Trails. Even though they weren’t exactly roughing it as much as hard core bushcrafters would, the quote was reminiscent of something a budding outdoorsman would say.
“My goal for the trip had been for our girls to lose themselves in the woods, to scale rocks and imagine mountains, to ford streams and envision raging rivers, to make believe deep in nature.”
Pretty cool, right? If you’ve got that as a goal for your daughters, you’re a good father. I can tell you that right now.
Bushcraft is about getting to know nature. It’s about forgetting the indoors. It’s about making your own way. Respecting your gear. Finding new gear that will suit you well. Gear that fits your own needs. It’s about comfort and survivability in the elements. It’s about being different from all those who choose to ignore the forest, avoid the woods and stay away from the out of doors.
As a verb, bushcraft is the art of doing all these things. It’s not thinking of them, it’s actually doing them. It’s the act of standing up and walking to the quiet and peace and choosing a location in which to live for the next minute, hour, day or week. It’s the roughness of it. The challenge. It gives you the feeling in your stomach of nervousness, excitement and dread, all in one sitting.
When you look at a tree, what do you see?
Here’s what a bushcrafter might see. Branches to tie things to. To whittle and carve. To make into something. Logs to cut for firewood. Is it dry? Is it dead? Can I burn it? Can I use part of the tree as a shelter? As a fence? As a weapon? There are so many ways that someone who is into nature thinks differently than someone who isn’t.
So, what do bushcrafters need to know? If you’re reading this right now and if you’ve never gotten into any of this, I’ll give you a very brief overview of what’s most important when in the woods.
First, you need to know how to use the proper knife for so many things. The knife is one of the most important pieces of equipment for surviving outdoors. You also need to know how to make a fire and how to keep it going. You need to know how to transport fire from one location to another. Having knowledge of knots is critical. When outdoors, you’ll use rope all the time. You need to know how to strengthen it, use it for shelter and how to use it as a weapon, if need be. Hunting, trapping and fishing are categories unto themselves. This area is huge, but you’ll need to know about all of it. If you like food, you’ll find this topic invaluable.
Beyond what I’ve already mentioned, you’ll find that making shelter is one of the most rewarding aspects of spending time in nature. When your shelter is right, you’re right. Whether it be a tarp, tent or cabin, each has their own benefits and qualities. Tracking and recognition are important as well. Learning the habits of animals can help lead you to water sources and sources of food. It can also aide with hunting. Finally, we have foraging. If you’ve ever seen a wild bush with berries on it, you’ve likely wondered if those berries were edible. You should learn about plants and bushes in the wild. Your life may depend on it.
Simply put, beyond all the theoretical stuff, bushcraft is simply the art of using the nature around you to have the best experience possible. The more you know, the less you’ll be reliant on gear and modern amenities. Nature is chock full of resources that are waiting to be tapped into. Learn about them and take advantage of them. Plants, animals, topography, trees, shrubs – it’s all there for you. Educate yourself and when you do, you’ll face down many more life issues than you ever have before and you’ll become more self sufficient and confident. You’ll learn how to survive in the wilderness and you’ll create a mindset to face challenges head on as opposed to turning away from them. You’ll create a new you.
What are your thoughts on bushcraft? Are you involved in this hobby, sport or whatever you’d like to call it? If you are or you aren’t, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!