Bushcraft skills have been passed down from generation to generation since the days of Stone Age man. Back in those days bushcraft was literally a matter of survival in the wilderness and today there are many people who have carried the skills of their forefathers along with them as part of their lifestyle or as a hobby.
The essence of bushcraft gear lies in the functional use of natural materials and foods from the wilderness to provide shelter, water, food and fire. Most of these skills are actually very basic and also lots of fun to do.
Bushcraft 101 Book
An awesome way to learn and discover is through reading and Dave Canterbury’s great book, Bush Craft 101.
His book is jam packed with everything from A-Z about bushcraft gear and survival in the wilderness from making containers with natural materials, how to start fires with different materials right up to making tools out in the wild.
Bush Craft 101 will be an essential part of any kit, With Dave’s expert knowledge on the subject; you can’t go wrong with this book.
Finding & Locating Water
Water is the first and foremost thing to find when you are in a survival situation. Dehydration is the number one cause of fatality if you are lost in the wilderness.
Locating water can be simple by studying the environment you find yourself in. Valleys and depressions are naturally areas where water drains into, so that would be the first place to go and search for streams or ponds. Higher lying ground on mountains where rock formations form crevices, often collect rain or cloud moisture.
One very important point is contamination in water. Even snow or ice contains high levels of bacteria, so it is important to carry a water purification kit of sorts. There are purification tablets which can be carried in your bushcraft kit and boiling water for a certain period of time also kills a lot of bacteria and contaminants.
Bush Craft Survival Knife
An awesome bushcraft knife is the SE Outdoor Tanto Knife. This knife is small and compact, yet rugged and versatile and can be used for various applications in the bush.
Its full tang design makes it possible to use as a small axe for splitting branches or fixing it to a stick as a handy spear.
A really cool bonus with this knife is the ferro rod which is included as part of the kit. After assembling some kindling and tinder, it’s simply a matter of striking the ferro rod with back edge of the knife to ignite a fire.
You can’t go wrong with an SE Outdoor Tanto Knife as part of your kit.
How To Start A Fire
Fire has been with us since the dawn of mankind and it provided us with warmth, a way to cook food and also offered us protection from wild animals at night.
For bushcraft skills purposes, I have listed the 2 best fire starting techniques below.
Fire By Friction
Involving simple tools all made from wood, namely a bow, spindle and hearth board, to create an ember by friction. The ember is transferred to the tinder which ignites to start a fire. This is the old classic way which our forefathers used.
Fire By Spark
This technique requires a few various tools which most modern bush crafters have in their kits.
A Ferrocerium rod provides a spark when struck by the edge of a knife, which then ignites the tinder to start a fire. Ferro rods come in different shapes and sizes and last for a long time, they should be a staple part of your kit. A magnesium and ferro rod combo block is a handy little tool to keep with you, the magnesium is shaved off the block into your tinder material and once receiving a spark from the ferro rod literally blazes into ignition.
For either of these techniques, you still need to collect tinder, kindling and wood. Also be sure to use a safe site to start your fire on by clearing a small depression in the ground and making sure that your fire doesn’t run into vegetation and causing a wild fire.
Fire Starting Necklace
The Firestarter Necklace made by Wazoo Survival Gear is a really awesome fire gadget.
The necklace is made from a strong leather sling which is adjustable thanks to the Double Fishermans Bend knot. It features a Ferrocerium rod that forms a toggle on the necklace and a zirconia ceramic scraper to generate sparks from the ferrocerium section.
What’s really great about the necklace is that it is small, functional and a perfect backup to your other fire-starting equipment.
The Wazoo Firestarter Necklace is a really handy emergency Firestarter that any bushcraft enthusiast should own. Highly recommended.
Crafting Your Own Cutting Tools
In bush craft you will always need to have a cutting tool of some sort and there are many cool ways to acquire a blade in a short space of time in the wilderness.
In the past Flint knapping was a skill used to turn natural glass and stone into knives, arrowheads and other cutting tools. Obsidian is a natural glass that splits into shards very easily and can be fashioned into razor sharp edges of different shape and size. Other types of stone lying around in most places can be shattered and good cutting edges can be selected from the shards.
Another interesting source of cutting material comes from local vegetation, bamboo for example, can be split down its length into strips that can be sharpened by grinding the inside edge down towards the tough enamel-like skin into a blade. The same principle works on many of the hardwoods available in the forests.
How To Build A Survival Shelter
After water, a second priority in any survival situation is shelter. In the wilderness you are totally exposed to the elements and the weather can change within minutes.
The easiest way to make a shelter is to look for fallen trees, rock formations or other structure that already offer partial protection.
Branches, reeds or fern leaves can be gathered to create a simple lean-to wall against an existing structure or two such walls can be leant against each other like a tent. Vegetation and leaves should be attached in overlapping layers facing downwards, because raindrops will naturally follow the shape of the leaves, leaving the interior of your shelter dry. Cordage to tie things down with can be made quite easily with supple bark strips or tough grasses.
The emphasis should be on fast and functional shelter, not neatness or longevity.
The Bahco Lapland Folding Saw is a top of the range saw, which is very well priced and definitely a tool to have in your kit.
It cuts on the pull and push which many other folding saws don’t do and the tooth design on the 7 inch blade is adequate for cutting bone, plastic as well as green and dry wood.
Although it is slightly shorter than most other folding saws, the dual cutting action of the blade makes the sawing stroke much shorter and efficient.
It folds down to a compact 9 inch length making it perfect to keep in your kit bag.
You can’t go wrong with a Bahco Folding Saw!
Making A Primitive Hunting Bow
To make a survival hunting bow sounds daunting but is actually quite simple if you know what to look for in the bush.
Look for branches or saplings of hardwood trees that can be bent down the length without cracking or snapping. A good place to look is where young trees and saplings are growing densely, so they reach for the light faster and don’t have so many side branches.
The best piece would be about 5 foot long and even in thickness on either end. The ends should have a groove cut in around the front and sides to secure the string.
You will need a bowstring of some kind, in a survival situation really strong para-cord or any other strong cordage will suffice. Rawhide will also work well.
For an arrow you can use a straight piece of reed, dogwood or cedar that is tipped with a sharp shard of stone. Alternatively you can fix a blunt stone to the front of the arrow which will work to kill birds or squirrels in a survival situation. The back end of the arrow shaft should also have a groove cut in to accommodate the string.
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About the Author
Marcel Terblanche has been a keen outdoors man since a young age and his interests lie in wild-foods, bowhunting, bushcrafting skills and the natural world.
Also a lifelong and passionate outdoorsman he has contributed to many publications and we are very proud to have him associated with MyWildEarth.