The slow winter months are a great time to learn new skills, and bushcrafting has endless possibilities to try out. Simply put, bushcrafting can be defined as wilderness skills. They’re useful self-reliance skills that would come in handy in a survival situation, or whenever you’re out in the bush for fun. Whether you live off the grid, or in an urban area, you can learn and use these skills anywhere. If you start with these 7 bushcraft skills, you'll be well on your way to becoming an expert bushcrafter.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
What is Bushcraft?
The term bushcraft originated in Australia. However, it has become increasingly popular around the world as a word to describe outdoor wilderness skills.
Television personalities like Ray Mears, Les Stroud, and Bear Grylls have sparked a renewed interest in bushcrafting amongst global audiences. In essence, bushcraft involves using a minimal amount of lightweight tools and the natural resources around you to thrive in the wilderness.
The more bushcraft skills you learn and master, the more comfortable and safe you will be in survival or wilderness situations. Whether you like simple day trips hiking in parks, or multi-day backcountry trips, there's something in bushcrafting for you.
Knife Sharpening & Maintenance
This skill is something you would never really think of until you needed it. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you most likely carry some kind of knife with you. Keeping this knife sharp and knowing how to properly sharpen and care for the blade while in the bush is an essential skill for any woodsman (or woman).
People always think to have a knife with them in a survival situation, but you never think of what you'll do once that knife gets dull. If you use it a lot, and on harder jobs, it will rapidly dull the edge. Carry a small flat whetstone with your knife, and learn how to quickly put a razor-sharp edge on it while in the field.
Check out this step-by-step video by Ray Mears on how to sharpen your knife in the bush.
After you become a knife-sharpening expert, why not learn some useful skills with that knife? There are hundreds of different bushcrafting skills to practice with a knife, but these 10 basic bushcraft knife skills give beginners a great place to start.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually trickier than you might think. Do you always carry a rifle, or even have one? Can you make a bow or slingshot with materials in the woods? If not, your meat supply will likely have to come from trapping and fishing. With just a blade, some string, and a few sticks, you can make a variety of snares to trap small animals.
These rudimentary animal traps have been used for thousands of years. And they work just as well today as they did back then. Check out these 15 easy snares you can practice making today.
If you’re near a small body of water, you can learn how to bushcraft a fishing rig. All you need is a hook and some fishing line, the rest of the supplies you can find in the bush. The bushcraft rod may not be pretty, but it’s effective and a great skill to have if your animal snares aren’t paying off. Fresh fish is always a tasty meal over a campfire.
Rope & Knot
Learning how to properly tie knots and use rope is a fundamental skill that once mastered, will help you succeed with other bushcraft skills.
You can practice your essential knots while sitting by the fire, or even your ice fishing hole. To start, you should learn the bowline, figure eight, clove hitch, and sheet bend knots. Knowing how to properly tie and use knots will help you build shelters, tools, weapons, and other life-saving instances.
After mastering knots, take the skill one step further and learn how to make your own rope from plants and other materials.
Even though there may be snow on the ground, learning how to build a fire in any condition is an essential bushcraft skill. The ability to make a fire will keep you warm, cook your food, provide light, and keep any predators at bay.
Anyone can start a fire with a lighter or matches, but learning how to make one with the bare essentials is a true skill. Learn how to use firestarters like flint and steel, or the traditional way of creating a friction fire or bow drill.
You will also want to learn how to carry embers with you so you can quickly start another fire if you’re hiking through the bush.
Cooking Over a Fire
Believe it or not, cooking over an open campfire does require some skill. You don't want to spend all day hunting, trapping, or fishing just to ruin your prized meat once you have it over the fire. You could accidentally drop the meat in the fire, burn it, or simply have no practical way to cook it over the open flame.
To become a skilled bushcraft chef, practice building pot hangers, spits, racks, and more out of the wood and materials available to you in the bush. You can also practice making bark containers to use as water boiling vessels.
Building a Shelter
Building a shelter in the wilderness can be something as simple as a lean-to, an igloo, or a full log cabin. Whatever you build, shelter is an important aspect of bushcraft since it provides you some form of protection from the elements. The type of shelter you can build depends on the climate you’re in, and the available natural resources, so it’s good to learn a few different styles. Check out these survival shelter design options for you to try out this winter.
The variety of skills you can learn in bushcrafting is endless. Even if you don’t master them right away, learning just the basics of bushcraft are skills you can use forever, in a bunch of different ways. Get the family involved in bushcrafting and let us know what your favorite skills are.