When you’re out in the wilderness, there’s nothing more important than having the skills to survive. Whether you’re planning a camping trip, a backpacking adventure, or you’re simply interested in learning some new skills, knowing the essentials of bushcraft and survival can be the difference between life and death. In this article, we’ll cover ten essential bushcraft skills that every survivalist should know.
In this guide:
Your first priority in a survival situation should be to build a shelter to protect yourself from the elements. In extreme weather conditions, exposure can lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal. Knowing how to build a shelter using natural materials can be a lifesaver.
One of the simplest and most effective shelter designs is the debris shelter. To build one, find a sturdy branch or tree trunk and lean it against a large tree at a steep angle. Use smaller branches and sticks to form a frame, and then cover the frame with leaves, grass, and other debris to insulate the shelter.
Fire is essential for warmth, cooking food, and purifying water. Knowing how to start a fire using primitive methods can be a valuable skill in a survival situation.
One of the most popular methods of starting a fire is the bow drill method. To start a fire using this method, you’ll need a bow, a spindle, a fireboard, and a socket. First, make a small hole in the center of the fireboard, and then place the spindle in the hole. Use the bow to spin the spindle rapidly, which will create friction and generate heat. Use the socket to apply downward pressure on the spindle, which will create an ember that can be used to start a fire.
Water Sourcing and Purification
Water is essential for survival, but finding clean water in the wilderness can be a challenge. Knowing how to source and purify water can be a lifesaving skill.
One way to purify water is to make a water filter using natural materials. To make a water filter, fill a container with layers of sand, gravel, and charcoal. Pour water through the filter, and the layers will remove impurities and sediment from the water.
|Water Filtration Method
|Very effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and parasites
|Easy to do with basic equipment
|Time-consuming and requires fuel
|Very effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and parasites
|Lightweight and easy to carry
|Can leave an aftertaste and may not be effective against all types of contaminants
|Effective at removing sediment and some bacteria and parasites
|Lightweight and easy to carry
|May not be effective against viruses and smaller contaminants
|Effective at removing bacteria and parasites
|Durable and long-lasting
|May not be effective against viruses and some other contaminants
|Very effective at removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites
|Can remove salt from seawater
|Requires electricity and specialized equipment
Foraging and Wild Edibles
Knowing how to identify and gather wild edibles can be a valuable skill in a survival situation. Many plants and berries are edible and can provide important nutrients.
However, it’s important to be cautious when foraging, as some plants can be poisonous. Always do your research and make sure you know what you’re looking for before eating any wild edibles.
|How to Identify
|Berries (e.g. blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
|High in vitamin C and antioxidants
|Look for bushes with clusters of small, round, colorful berries
|Nuts (e.g. acorns, chestnuts, walnuts)
|High in protein and healthy fats
|Look for trees with large, hard-shelled nuts
|Wild Greens (e.g. dandelion, chicory, lambsquarters)
|High in vitamins and minerals
|Look for plants with leaves that resemble common garden greens
|Mushrooms (e.g. morels, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms)
|High in protein and vitamins
|Be cautious and only eat mushrooms that have been positively identified by an expert
|Wild Roots (e.g. cattail, burdock, wild carrot)
|High in fiber and vitamins
|Look for plants with long, slender roots
Navigation and Orienteering
Knowing how to navigate in the wilderness can be the difference between getting lost and finding your way to safety. Orienteering is the skill of using a map and compass to navigate in the wilderness.
To use a map and compass, first orient the map to match the terrain around you. Then, use the compass to orient yourself and determine the direction you need to travel. Use the map to guide you to your destination.
When foraging for wild edibles, it’s important to be cautious and only eat plants that have been positively identified as safe to consume. Consult a field guide or an expert to help with identification. Additionally, be aware of any potential toxins or contaminants in the area, such as pesticides or pollution.
Knot tying is an essential skill in bushcraft and survival. Knowing how to tie different types of knots can be useful for shelter building, tool making, and other survival tasks.
One of the most useful knots is the bowline knot, which can be used to tie a loop at the end of a rope. To tie a bowline knot, form a loop in the rope and pass the end of the rope through the loop. Then, pass the end of the rope around the standing part of the rope, and then back through the loop. Tighten the knot by pulling on the standing part of the rope.
|How to Tie
|Forming a fixed loop at the end of a rope
|Make a small loop in the rope. Pass the end of the rope through the loop, then around the standing part of the rope, and back through the loop. Tighten the knot by pulling on the standing part of the rope.
|Attaching a rope to a pole or post
|Wrap the rope around the pole or post. Cross the end of the rope over the standing part, then wrap it around the pole or post again. Cross the end of the rope over the standing part again, then tuck it under the last wrap.
|Joining two ropes of equal thickness
|Tie an overhand knot in one rope. Tie another overhand knot in the second rope, but pass the end of the second rope over the first rope. Pull both knots tight.
|Adjusting the tension of a rope
|Tie a half hitch around the standing part of the rope. Bring the end of the rope around the standing part again, then pass it through the first half hitch. Bring the end of the rope around the standing part again, then pass it through the second half hitch in the opposite direction.
|Joining two ropes of different thickness
|Form a bight in the thicker rope. Pass the end of the thinner rope through the bight and around the thicker rope. Then, pass the end of the thinner rope back through the bight and around itself. Tighten the knot by pulling on the standing parts of both ropes.
These knots are just a few examples of the many useful knots that can be used in bushcraft and survival situations. It’s important to practice tying knots until you can tie them quickly and easily, even in difficult conditions.
Tools are essential for survival in the
wilderness. Knowing how to make simple tools using natural materials can be a valuable skill.
One of the simplest tools to make is a primitive knife. To make a knife, find a sharp rock or piece of flint and use it to shape a piece of wood into a handle. Then, attach the handle to the rock using cordage or natural fibers, like sinew or plant fibers.
Hunting and Trapping
Hunting and trapping can provide an important source of food in a survival situation. Knowing how to make simple traps using natural materials can be a useful skill.
One of the simplest traps to make is the deadfall trap. To make a deadfall trap, find a large rock or heavy object and use sticks and cordage to create a trigger mechanism. When an animal disturbs the trigger, the rock falls and crushes the animal.
In a survival situation, injuries are common. Knowing how to treat common injuries using basic first aid can be a lifesaving skill.
Some common injuries in the wilderness include cuts, burns, and insect bites. To treat a cut, clean the wound and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. To treat a burn, cool the burn with water and cover it with a sterile bandage. To treat an insect bite, remove the stinger (if present) and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.
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These ten essential bushcraft skills are just the beginning of what you need to know to survive in the wilderness. While they may seem basic, mastering these skills can make a significant difference in a survival situation.
Remember, the key to survival is preparation. Practice these skills before you find yourself in a survival situation, and you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way.
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.