Bushcraft Skills

Bushcraft Skills, Do You Have Them

Going into the wild with only the clothes on your back and surviving for an extended period of time is not nearly as easy as Hollywood makes it out to be. In fact, it is extraordinarily difficult, and most people would die from exposure to the elements, dehydration, or any number of other causes in a matter of days.

Just because surviving in the wild is extremely difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible – you just have to have the right skills. Below, we’ll cover seven bushcraft skills that are absolutely necessary if you want to survive in the wild. These are skills that can help you survive in the wilderness and a wide range of other scenarios.

1. Starting a Fire

Getting fire going is quite easy – so long as you have the right tools and the right conditions. Without any type of fire starter such as a lighter, though, starting a fire is very difficult. Likewise, if it’s raining or your wood is all damp, getting a fire started can be difficult, even if you do have a tool to start it with.

Using friction to create heat and start a fire is possible, but it’s not nearly as easy as the highly edited clips on survival shows make it look. If you want to be able to reliably get a fire going without any supplies, you’ll need to know how to fashion a bow drill out of sticks, and you’ll need to practice using it – a lot.

Even with tons of practice, starting a fire with a bow drill isn’t going to be easy, especially if the conditions are less than ideal. However, since fire is such a necessity for survival in the wild, you should know how to start one using the bare minimum number of tools. If you can reliably start a fire with a bow drill, starting one with a flint striker, lighter, or anything else you might have available will be no problem.

To learn how to start a fire using a bow drill, check out this video.

2. Navigation

By far the most common scenario where you might be forced to survive in the wild is getting lost in the wilderness. Therefore, one of the best wilderness survival skills that you can have is knowing how to find your way out.

Of course, having advanced knowledge of the area as well as tools such as maps, a compass, or even a GPS is ideal. But what if you don’t have these things? If you somehow end up in the woods with no idea of where you are and no tools for navigation, you’ll have to rely on much more primitive navigation techniques.

You can use celestial bodies such as the sun and north star to orient yourself without a compass and figure out the direction you are heading. If you aren’t sure which direction you need to be heading, though, your best bet is to head downhill until you find a creek or river and follow it.

If you aren’t lucky enough to find a river, you’ll need to know how to spot and follow game trails, since these trails will likely lead to a river if there’s one around.

Learn how to use navigation tools such as a compass and learn how to navigate without them as well so you’ll be able to find your way out of the wilderness no matter what knowledge of the area or tools you have available.

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For more information on navigating without any tools, check out this article.

Wilderness Navigation

3. Shelter Building

Exposure to the elements can kill you just as quickly as anything else in the wilderness – whether it’s wind and rain that causes hypothermia or blistering sunshine and heat that causes a heat stroke.

Human beings just weren’t made to live outside of shelters, and if you want to survive in the wilderness, you’ll need to know how to build one. Depending on where you are located and the materials you have available, building a shelter may take a number of different forms.

If you’re in the frozen tundra, an igloo might be your best bet. In the woods, you’ll want to build a makeshift lean-to out of tree limbs, and in the desert, your best shelter is probably going to be one you find rather than one you build such as a cave or an animal burrow that you widen out.

Whatever the situation demands, though, you’ll certainly want to know how to build a shelter that can protect you from the elements if you hope to survive for an extended period of time.

To learn how to build nine different types of survival shelters, check out this article.

Bushcraft Shelter

4. Finding Edible Plants

It may sound counterintuitive, but food typically isn’t the first concern for someone trying to survive in the wilderness. Most people can survive about three weeks without food, but you’ll only be able to survive a few days without water and even less time than that without fire and/or shelter if the conditions are too extreme.

With all of that said, food is still incredibly important for one huge reason: energy. You may be able to go three weeks without food before you die from starvation, but just a few days without food will likely leave you too weak to perform any of the other tasks necessary for your survival.

To find food in the wilderness, one of the best skills you can have is the ability to identify edible plants. There may be quite a few edible plants available depending on where you are located, but since many plants are poisonous and many others offer no nutritional value, it is essential that you have an in-depth knowledge of the plants in your area if you hope to survive off of them in the wilderness.

For a list of eleven different edible plants that can be commonly found in wildernesses across the United States, check out this article.

Wild Cattails

5. Fishing

Aside from finding edible plants and perhaps edible bugs such as grasshoppers, the only other realistic shot you’ll have at getting food in the wilderness is fishing. Hunting for even small game is just too difficult without any type of projectile weapon.

Trapping game is a possibility if you are able to find a well-used game trail and can place a covered pit in the middle of it. Even if you do find a game trail, though, trapping is a matter of luck and will take quite a bit of time and effort. Without a game trail and without any kind of bait, you’ll just be wasting your energy.

If you find a water source, though, fishing is much more doable. There are several methods you can use to catch fish without any gear or supplies, and you’ll want to be adept at all of them since the best one to use will depend on where you are and the type of fish you are going after.

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If the water is shallow and the fish are abundant, you can spearfish using a stick that you carve to a point. For less shallow or less abundant waters, craft a makeshift fishing line using whatever you have available such as paracord or even fabric from your clothing, as well as a makeshift hook using a bit of wire, a piece of bone, or whatever you can construct into a J shape and sharpen to a point.

Once you have these two things, you can use insects as bait and tie your lines to trees and bushes near the water. Or, if you have the time, you can make a pole out of a tree limb and use it to fish in order to decrease the chances of a fish getting loose before you have a chance to check your lines.

To learn more about fishing for survival without any gear or supplies, check out this article.

Salmon Jumping Waterfall

6. Finding and Purifying Water

This is one of the most important skills. You can only survive a few days without water, and possibly less if it’s hot outside and you’re sweating a lot of you hike your way through the wilderness or work hard building fires and shelters.

The trouble you have finding water will depend a lot on the climate. If you’re in the desert, water will be very hard to find, but not impossible. In other places, you might have trouble taking two steps without getting your feet wet.

Even if you do find water, you have to be careful to purify it before you drink it. Contaminated water could make you sick, causing you to become even more dehydrated. If you have a fire and a metal container, you can boil it. You could also try distillation, sedimentation, solar stills, evaporation traps, and a number of other methods.

To learn how to find water in the wilderness, check out this article. To learn how to purify water in the wilderness, check out this article.

Wilderness Waterfall

7. First Aid

If you’re trying to survive in the wilderness, it’s a matter of “when” you get injured, not “if”. Minor cuts and bruises are guaranteed, while more serious injuries such as sprains or even broken bones are concerningly likely. You’ll need to know how to properly treat each one in a makeshift manner using the supplies you have available if you want to keep these injuries from holding you back or potentially even killing you.

This entails knowing things such as how to craft a splint using tree limbs, how to make a tourniquet out of your belt or clothing, how to bandage a wound using strips of clothing, and more.

For more information on the various wilderness first aid skills that you will want to learn, check out this article.

All in All

Seriously, if you learn these few skills here and practice them so you can actually perform them, your chances of survival in any condition will drastically increase! If you do not have the resources or desire to get into all that, I can help you! I have a membership to help you prepare a survival kit and teach you to rotate stock so you always have what you need to survive by staying in your existing shelter. Just click here and I will help you with Your Survival Plan.

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4 Replies to “Bushcraft Skills”

  1. Hello Chad,

    I love this post very much. It is well presented, detailed and very interesting. 

    I agree much that I will need to know how to properly treat some injuries in a makeshift manner using the supplies I have available if I want to keep these injuries from holding me back or potentially even killing me, as you outlined.

     This is helpful, thanks for sharing.

    • Hello Kokontala,

      I am glad you have found it and enjoyed the article! These are pretty much the essential skills if anyone were in an emergency or just in the wilderness with no modern conveniences around. 

      1. Starting a fire, provides warmth, and the ability to cook raw meat.

      2. Navigation, it is so easy to get lost in the wilderness. at least know how to tell direction so you don’t end up walking in circles!

      3. Build Shelter, the reason for this can vary depending on our location but is a must! All the food and water will do you no good if you freeze to death overnight.

      4. Foraging, knowing what plants you can and can not eat in the area you are in.

      5. Fishing, one of the most common resources of food anywhere you go. I always have an emergency kit that fits in the palm of my hand with all I need to be able to catch a fish. I mean, I have access to one of these at all times, home, work, travel, everywhere. That goes for a Fero Rod too. I can catch food and start a fire, always!

      6. Finding and Purifying Water, if stranded or unable to go anywhere, you have about three days to figure this one out before you are in real trouble. 

      7. As you mentioned, First Aid: This includes hygiene! Germs are bad! As if the last year hasn’t taught us that! One really needs to have some basic skills on how to dress wounds to prevent infection. It could be a simple scratch from a rusty nail that gives you tetanus!

      Didn’t mean to go through the whole article again but it is that important to know all of this! With First Aid, knowing how to respond is so crucial! If you would like a program to learn more check this one out!

      SurvivalMD, This is some life-saving training that was developed dealing with third-world conditions!

      Just looking to help everyone be ready before they have to be!


  2. This is such a useful article. Even if you never end up in such a situation, this skills are good to know. The only experience I have with anything like this, I’ve never been camping in my life, is the book Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I’m sure bits and pieces of it are dramatized for effect, but I felt like he did a great job describing how the protagonist managed to survive in the wilderness alone for so long. I’m happy I stumbled across your article, not only for the useful information, but because it helped me remember my time reading that story.

    • Hello Rachel,

      It is amazing to me how many people there are that have no experience in this area. I think I take it for granted that I was subjected to all of these opportunities to learn and practice skills like starting fires without a lighter or liquid accelerator, fishing, and making my own Water Clean Enough To Drink

      People, in general, are resilient and have a natural ability to survive. The last statistics I looked at, there are about 53% of all population that lives in a city. That to me would make it hard to use some of these skills if you were in this environment but if society collapsed, you could survive in a city. 

      You can learn more about that in an article called City Skills.

      Just looking to help everyone I can be ready before they have to be!

      Thanks for stopping by, I may add the book you mentioned, Hatchet to my TBR list. 


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