Bushcraft vs Ultralight: Choosing the Right Gear for Your Outdoor Adventure

Bushcraft and ultralight backpacking are two different philosophies of wilderness travel. While they both involve exploring the outdoors and being self-sufficient, they differ in their approach to gear and equipment. Bushcraft is about using traditional tools and techniques to survive in the wilderness, while ultralight backpacking focuses on carrying the lightest possible gear to cover more ground.

Bushcrafters typically carry heavier gear, such as axes, saws, and knives, to build shelters, start fires, and prepare food. They rely on their skills and knowledge of the land to survive, and often spend more time in one place. Ultralight backpackers, on the other hand, prioritize weight reduction and efficiency in their gear choices. They may use lightweight tents, stoves, and sleeping bags to cover more miles in a day.

Both bushcraft and ultralight backpacking have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific trip. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two approaches to wilderness travel and help you decide which one is right for you.

What is Bushcraft?

Bushcraft is the art of living in the wilderness, using the resources that nature provides to survive and thrive. It is a way of life that has been practiced for centuries by indigenous people around the world, and has gained popularity in recent years as a way for outdoor enthusiasts to connect with nature and develop survival skills.

History of Bushcraft

The history of bushcraft dates back to prehistoric times, when humans first began to rely on the natural environment for their survival. Indigenous people around the world have developed their own unique techniques for living in the wilderness, using local resources to build shelter, find food and water, and create tools and weapons.

In modern times, the practice of bushcraft has been popularized by outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists, who seek to learn these skills for their own personal growth and enjoyment.

Bushcraft Skills

Bushcraft skills encompass a wide range of techniques for living in the wilderness, including:

  • Shelter building: using natural materials to construct a shelter that provides protection from the elements
  • Fire making: using primitive methods such as friction fire or flint and steel to start a fire for warmth, cooking, and signaling
  • Water sourcing and purification: finding and purifying water from natural sources such as streams, lakes, and rain
  • Foraging and hunting: identifying edible plants and animals in the wild and using primitive tools to gather or hunt them
  • Navigation: using natural indicators such as stars, sun, and landmarks to navigate through the wilderness

Bushcraft Gear

Bushcraft gear is typically heavy-duty and durable, designed to withstand the rigors of living in the wilderness. Some common bushcraft gear includes:

  • Axes and knives: essential tools for cutting and carving wood for shelter, fire, and tools
  • Cordage: strong, durable rope made from natural fibers such as hemp or sisal
  • Tarp or canvas shelter: a sturdy, weather-resistant shelter that can withstand harsh conditions
  • Water filtration system: a portable system for purifying water from natural sources
  • First aid kit: essential for treating injuries and illnesses in the wilderness

Overall, bushcraft is a valuable skill set for anyone who spends time in the outdoors. By learning to live off the land and rely on natural resources, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world and develop a greater sense of self-reliance and independence.

What is Ultralight?

Ultralight backpacking is a minimalist approach to hiking and camping that focuses on reducing the weight of gear and supplies carried by hikers. The goal is to increase mobility and comfort while reducing the physical strain of carrying heavy loads.

History of Ultralight

Ultralight backpacking has its roots in the 1960s, when a group of hikers in California began experimenting with lighter gear and techniques. The movement gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s, as new materials and technologies made it possible to reduce the weight of backpacking gear even further.

Ultralight Backpacking Gear

Ultralight backpacking gear is designed to be as lightweight and compact as possible, without sacrificing functionality or durability. Some examples of ultralight gear include:

  • Tents and shelters made from lightweight materials like silnylon or cuben fiber
  • Sleeping bags and quilts made from high-quality, lightweight insulation like down or synthetic fibers
  • Backpacks made from lightweight materials like Dyneema or X-Pac
  • Cooking systems that use alcohol stoves or other lightweight alternatives to bulky gas canisters

Ultralight Backpacking Techniques

In addition to using ultralight gear, ultralight backpackers also rely on a variety of techniques to reduce their overall pack weight. Some common techniques include:

  • Cold soaking food instead of carrying a stove and fuel
  • Using a tarp or bivy sack instead of a full tent
  • Carrying only the essentials and leaving behind non-essential items
  • Sharing gear with other hikers to reduce overall pack weight

Overall, ultralight backpacking is a great way to increase your mobility and comfort on the trail, while reducing the physical strain of carrying heavy loads. By using lightweight gear and techniques, you can enjoy longer hikes, more challenging terrain, and a deeper connection with nature.

Bushcraft vs Ultralight

When it comes to outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and camping, there are two main gear philosophies: Bushcraft and Ultralight. Both have their pros and cons, and deciding which one to use depends on your personal preferences and the specific situation you’re in.

Pros and Cons of Bushcraft

Bushcraft is a gear philosophy that emphasizes traditional skills like fire-making, shelter-building, and foraging. It’s all about being self-sufficient in the wilderness and using natural resources to survive. Here are some pros and cons of using bushcraft gear:


  • Bushcraft gear is typically durable and made to last a long time.
  • You can use natural resources to supplement your gear, which can save weight and space in your pack.
  • You’ll learn valuable skills that can be useful in emergency situations.


  • Bushcraft gear is often heavy and bulky, which can make it difficult to carry on long hikes.
  • It can take a lot of time and effort to learn the necessary skills.
  • You may not always have access to the necessary natural resources, which can limit your options.

Pros and Cons of Ultralight

Ultralight is a gear philosophy that emphasizes minimalism and weight reduction. It’s all about carrying only the essentials and using lightweight materials to save weight. Here are some pros and cons of using ultralight gear:


  • Ultralight gear is typically very lightweight, which makes it easy to carry on long hikes.
  • You can cover more ground in less time because you’re carrying less weight.
  • Ultralight gear is often very packable, which makes it easy to fit everything into a small backpack.


  • Ultralight gear can be expensive because it often uses high-tech materials.
  • You may sacrifice comfort and durability for weight reduction.
  • You may not have access to some of the luxuries that you would with heavier gear, like a full-size tent or camp chair.

When to Use Bushcraft vs Ultralight

Deciding whether to use bushcraft or ultralight gear depends on the situation you’re in. Here are some scenarios where one philosophy might be more appropriate than the other:

  • If you’re going on a short trip and want to learn some new skills, bushcraft might be the way to go.
  • If you’re going on a long hike and want to cover a lot of ground, ultralight gear might be the best option.
  • If you’re going on a trip where you’ll have access to natural resources, bushcraft gear might be more useful.
  • If you’re going on a trip where weight is a major concern, ultralight gear might be the better choice.

Overall, both bushcraft and ultralight gear have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to decide which one is right for your specific needs and preferences.


In conclusion, both ultralight backpacking and bushcraft have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the type of outdoor experience you are looking for. Here are some key takeaways to consider:

  • Ultralight backpacking is all about efficiency, movement, and time on the trail. It teaches you how little you need to survive in the wilderness and is ideal for those who prioritize speed and distance over comfort and luxury.
  • Bushcraft, on the other hand, is about making do with what you have and learning how to thrive in the wilderness. It teaches you how much you can do with the little that you have and is ideal for those who prioritize self-sufficiency and resourcefulness over speed and distance.
  • Ultralight backpacking gear is typically lightweight, compact, and designed for maximum efficiency. It is ideal for those who want to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time and don’t mind sacrificing some comfort for speed.
  • Bushcraft gear, on the other hand, is typically heavier, bulkier, and designed for durability and longevity. It is ideal for those who want to spend extended periods of time in the wilderness and prioritize comfort and self-sufficiency over speed.
  • While ultralight backpacking and bushcraft may seem like opposing philosophies, they can actually complement each other quite well. By combining the efficiency and speed of ultralight backpacking with the self-sufficiency and resourcefulness of bushcraft, you can create a truly unique and rewarding outdoor experience.

Overall, whether you choose ultralight backpacking, bushcraft, or a combination of both, the most important thing is to stay safe, respect the environment, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Martin Smith
Outdoor Expert at Bushcraft Explorer | Website | + posts

Martin Smith is not just your average outdoorsman; he is a dedicated explorer with a deep passion for survival and bushcraft. The natural world has always been his favorite playground, which led him to develop a profound understanding and love for bushcraft skills. His curiosity is insatiable, constantly driving him to uncover the secrets of the great outdoors and unravel the mystery behind survival in nature.

Martin is the creator and host of the popular YouTube channel, 'Bushcraft Explorer,' where he shares his experiences and teaches essential survival techniques. But he isn't just a content creator; Martin is a survival expert who has spent countless hours under the open sky, perfecting his bushcraft skills.

From constructing shelters and crafting tools to identifying edible plants and purifying water, Martin has honed his survival skills in the most challenging environments. His dedication to mastering bushcraft has shaped him into an authority in this field, making him more than qualified to share his knowledge with others.

But Martin doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk. He spends a considerable portion of his life outdoors, continuously expanding his knowledge base and skill set, all to feed his love for the wild and provide his followers with up-to-date, reliable, and practical survival tips. He is also an avid hiker and explorer, often traveling to remote locations to test his skills against nature’s challenges.

Martin's writing, much like his videos, is brimming with practical advice and insightful tips. Through 'Bushcraft Explorer,' he not only shares his profound expertise but also inspires his readers and viewers to embrace the beauty of the outdoors and the thrill of survival. His commitment to making bushcraft accessible to all is evident in his easily digestible content, making his work valuable for both beginners and experienced outdoorspeople alike.

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