Bushcrafting is a cornerstone of survivalist philosophy and one of my personal favorite subjects. This is a wilderness survival technique that entails surviving in the woods only on what you discover in nature and whatever you may have on you or be able to carry. This can range from scavenging for food in the wild to trapping, making shelters, and manufacturing clothing—whatever necessity arises. Not only is mastering these abilities a lot of fun, but they may one day save your life.
Thousands of individuals become disoriented each year in the outdoors, from public parks to private land. Though basic navigational abilities would be extremely beneficial in these situations, understanding how to make advantage of your surroundings might make all the difference.
Bushcraft Wilderness Survival Skills: Acquainting yourself with your wilderness
The first step in honing your bushcrafting abilities is to become acquainted with the environment. Wherever you often wander, arm yourself with a library of regional field guides and pamphlets. Take your guides with you on every trek in the region. Take a seat on the trails to regain your breath and take a time to explore your surroundings.
Utilize all of your senses—inhale the forest’s aroma, feel the soil’s texture, and listen for the creaks and groans of the trees. This procedure has a deliciously raw feel to it and will help you feel more connected to the environment you’re in. It may appear esoteric and metaphysical, yet it is the most effective technique to gain a complete picture of your environment.
It’s surprising how much may be learned just by observing. If you wish, bring a pencil and a pad and sketch away. Make notes to investigate more when you return home if your field trip proves to be fruitless, but start with the fundamentals.
Bushcraft Wilderness Survival Skills: Acquaint yourself with plant life – it may save your life
Consider the plants beneath your feet, the tree against which you are resting, the moss growing on it—everything. Develop an expertise in the flora and animals of your area. While this may seem repetitive and monotonous, it’s tough to know how to utilize your surroundings if you have no idea what they are.
Additionally, bear in mind that you’re making these observations in anticipation of one day scavenging for food. Being unable to distinguish between a lethal plant such as water hemlock and an innocuous flower such as chamomile can be fatal.
If you’re ever in a rush and unsure about a plant’s toxicity, there are a few techniques to verify its safety for consumption. To begin, tear open a leaf and inhale its aroma. Does it have a pungent, disagreeable odor? Numerous hazardous plants have a pungent stench, which naturally deters animals from taking an interest in them. Following that, gently massage the open leaf on your skin.
Allow a few seconds; is the area itchy, scorching, or numb? Otherwise, go to the following step and place it on the inside of your lip or the tip of your tongue. If the plant has a bitter or nasty flavor, avoid eating it. If, on the other hand, you have no reaction and the plant has a mild flavor, it is definitely safe to consume. However, never consume more than a few ounces of a new herb and pay attention to your body’s signals. If you have even the least degree of fever or digestive trouble, discontinue eating it and allow yourself to vomit if necessary.
As you begin to identify the plants, conduct study to determine whether they possess any helpful traits that are not readily apparent to the human eye. Numerous common plants were utilized for millennia prior to the advent of modern medicine. While natural wildcrafted treatments are not always as successful as their contemporary counterparts, many are clever and efficient in their simplicity. However, if you are familiar with the plant and its qualities, you will not be required to take a risk and test something that may be quite dangerous. That is why you should read our guide to edible wild plants and become familiar with their qualities.
Begin compiling a catalogue to arrange your findings, categorizing plants according to their intended use: medicinal, food, and textile (these will be plants that are particularly well suited for building, clothing, or tool making materials).
You may find it beneficial to conduct study about the Native Americans’ usage of plants. They were an exceptionally resourceful tribe that made the most use of what they had and discovered surprising applications for a variety of common flora. For instance, they discovered that the white powder that coated the aspen tree bark made an excellent emergency sunscreen. Although this residue has a low SPF of roughly 5-10, it is an excellent survival essential in a pinch. Simply massage a little amount between your palms and distribute it around your shoulders and cheeks to provide UV protection.
Bushcraft Wilderness Survival Skills: Wildlife – become acquainted with the area
Keep an eye out for tiny changes in the forest floor as you investigate. While it’s natural to search for wildlife directly, most of what lives in the outdoors teems right beneath our noses, never revealing its face. Begin to observe scratches in the bark of trees and huge, overturned rocks—often the indication of a hungry bear.
Take a careful look at excrement and take note of where you locate it. If you discover a large amount of elk excrement in a given place, examine the region’s plant life and topography. Was the herd drawn here by a food supply or a climatic preference? Where did they sleep that night? Look for patches of soft, flattened grass beneath the canopy of huge trees. Is there a local water source? From a bushcrafter’s perspective, this is a good location for setting up a blind and hunting.
Bushcraft Wilderness Survival Skills: Forest Investigations
Develop a keen eye for recognizing game tracks. They may stand out like lines on a map if you know what to look for. These are the trails etched into the ground by animal activity that occurs on a regular basis. Often, these trails follow contour lines, since animals, by instinct, would follow the path of least resistance through an area. Additionally, we have a comprehensive essay on elk hunting tips that might be incredibly beneficial to a bushcrafter.
Allow your eyes to glaze over and take in the environment as a whole. Stand a decent distance away from a place and, rather than scrutinizing individual characteristics of the landscape, allow your eyes to glaze over and take in the scene as a whole. This will cause any defined trails in the scene to pop out at you. Follow the trails and attempt to establish their freshness based on any remnants you come across, like as droppings or fur.
Additionally, become familiar with your neighborhood predators. Not only is this a matter of personal safety, but predators have considerable impact over the movements of other species. Knowing how to recognize indicators of a huge predator in the region, such as a mountain lion, might alert you to the fact that prey species, such as caribou, may be more cautious and on guard in that area.
Bushcraft Wilderness Survival Skills: Basic skills to familiarize yourself with
It would take an entire book to cover all of the outdoor survival skills necessary to survive a week on your own. However, simply understanding how to acquire shelter, food, and clean water might potentially save your life. If you can master only one of two methods for each of them, you will be ahead of the game.
Not only are these abilities extremely important, but they’re also a lot of fun to acquire and teach. Include your family in the learning process by teaching your son how to set a snare or your daughter how to fish trap. You’ll create amazing memories with your family and pass along skills that have been passed down through multiple generations.
If you are truly serious in learning more about survival and training yourself and your family, our survival training guide contains information on camps and programs.
How can I obtain drinkable water?
Begin with one of the fundamentals, which is learning how to locate fresh water. This is a process that varies significantly depending on your local climate and terrain. There are, however, some fundamental actions you may take to begin locating a supply of safe drinking water. This procedure requires much patience and detective work, so plan to spend at least one day conducting your search.
Infographic on Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival Skills
Begin by analyzing the surrounding environment. If you reside in a mountainous environment, tributaries and steams in the valleys between the mountains, referred to as coolies, are almost certain. These drainage systems are frequently seasonal, so you may come up empty depending on the season, but it’s a great place to start.
Again, whether you are in a flat location or one with rolling hills, search for ditches and drainage. After that, search for indications of a high water table or a spring. These signs are often marshy, water-loving plants that grow in clusters, such as reed plants and cat tails. Dig a hole in certain spots and check to see if you can reach the water table. If you still have no luck after a few steps, it’s time to follow the animals. Investigate where the area’s largest animals travel for water by following game trails—the greater the animal, the more fresh water it requires.
However, just because you locate water does not imply it is safe to drink. Stagnant water is a potential source of contamination, and rivers are not always completely safe to drink. We have an excellent article on how to purify water using five ways that every bushcrafter should be familiar with.
Where can I obtain stuff to eat?
We’ve previously discussed a good deal of what foraging entails. Knowing what plants are around and how to determine whether or not they are safe to consume is a critical bushcraft survival skill. Much of the success of natural foraging for food is simply understanding when not to tempt fate, which you shouldn’t have a problem with if you’re well educated and cautious.
The difficult aspect of foraging in the wild is obtaining food that is able to flee. Being able to hunt with little or no professional equipment is an uncommon ability. Even archery, which appears to be a primitive form of hunting, has grown heavily reliant on technology and industry in the modern era with sights and compound bows. While these are still valuable skills to develop, the ability to hunt without the latest gear is a necessary one.
The subtleties of traditional bowmaking are a bit beyond the scope of this post, but you can learn all you need to know in our DIY tutorial on how to create your own bow and arrows.
Nonetheless, there are several additional methods for capturing wild wildlife without the need of modern technologies. Trapping has been practiced for thousands of years and has evolved into different forms as technology has altered its appearance once again. However, when placed in the proper locations, some of the most simple traps remain incredibly effective. These can be useful instruments for trapping prey with enough patience and thorough monitoring of animal movements.
The snare is one of the simplest animal traps. It is just a slipknot put in an inconspicuous spot with the intent of snagging a passing animal around the leg or hock. There are several methods for tying and setting one, with some of the more intricate methods utilizing hand-made, spring-loaded spears (use caution with these). However, for the beginner attempting to trap something tiny and straightforward, such as a rabbit, a simple snare would suffice.
Trap for food
If you have any rope on you, use around 5 feet of it; if not, look around for some “green,” or flexible, grasses or vines. These may be weaved or braided together to form a rope with a diameter of about a half inch. However, you do not want it to be too large, since this would make it more visible to your target. Choose a location where you’ve observed evidence of rabbit activity (again, observation is critical) and attach your rope to something solid nearby, such as a slender tree.
At the opposite end, tie a slipknot and find a subtle technique to support it up on the ground. The goal is for the animal to get its foot or neck trapped in the trap, allowing you to return later and gently dispose of it before using it for supper. Leave the snare in place and wait.
Many individuals establish trap lines, in which they set up a trail of traps in strategic locations in order to maximize their chances of catching an animal. This is an excellent concept in a survival situation—just remember where your traps are located.
Speaking of trapping, another wonderful bushcraft survival skill is catching tiny fish in moving water using an ancient Native American technique. If you live near a stream, you may choose a location close to the bank and construct a diverter out of rocks to deflect fish being dragged by the river into a shallow pool. The stream will prevent them from swimming back out, and you will have effectively established a living well for yourself. Bear in mind that they are normally carried out on a modest scale and may only catch tiny fish.
How to construct a sound shelter?
Utilizing your wild bushcrafting abilities to construct a shelter is not difficult, but it is time intensive. When undertaking this endeavor, begin early and work diligently to ensure that you have a roof over your head before dusk. The most critical factor is to keep wind and moisture away from your body, so take advantage of any natural windbreaks you come across. Often, this means leaning against a rocky wall or a tree—whatever will keep you dry.
Generally, a roof can be weaved together quite easily; just make sure to use live, or green, branches. Locate some suitable “tool rocks” for tasks such as digging post holes, chopping branches, and peeling bark. There is no one-size-fits-all method for constructing a shelter, although it is prudent to construct whatever building you invent with three walls and a shed roof, so that water drains off one end rather than down the walls.
Insulate your residence with any materials you can find; just ensure that it is dry and free of passengers (nothing like waking up to a bed full of fire ants). Dried grasses, leaves, and pine needles provide excellent insulation. Stuff it into crevices and corners, or anywhere a draft is felt. Then dig a hip hole for yourself (try lying on your side on the ground; you’ll see what I mean) and bunker down for the night. Seal as much of your body heat as possible within the walls of your refuge. The more comfortable and dry you are, the less likely you are to become ill.
Lost wisdom, priceless information
Many of these talents are inherited from pioneers who were forced to rough it in the days when they needed to wield an axe and construct a dwelling. However, the industrial revolution brought about a stealthy extermination of our abilities. We entered the era of convenience and lost sight of what it meant to get anything from the ground for ourselves.
The reality is that there is no truly excellent source of knowledge about these talents on the Internet. You can get some how-to articles and some basic knowledge, such as what I’ve just given you, but the real deal is to sit down with some of the original mountain guys. These abilities are a long-forgotten passion that is being gradually revived by a generation. Get out there and put this information to use—get your hands filthy and remind folks what it means to actually be self-sufficient.