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Thursday, 30 June 2016

What is Bushcraft?

I want to announce the publication of the first of our new 'Bushcraft Basics' pages on the BushcraftEducation blog and share the content of the first page here.                     I originally started this blog to share ideas of how to use bushcraft in education to enhance learning for students and to share ideas of how teachers can engage learners with the countryside and the natural world through bushcraft activities.                       Over the next few months we will gradually publish more 'Bushcraft Basics' pages on topics such as fire, tools, shelter and water to name just a few and they will all be available here. This 'What is Bushcraft' page is already available. 

Cooking out in the woods is just a small
part of bushcraft.
Bushcraft is almost impossible to define in just a few words, it's such a broad topic and is open to so much individual interpretation. But I like to sum it up by saying;

"Bushcraft is a collection of skills which make subsisting in the natural environment without modern conveniences possible and sustainable"

Ray Mears offers a brief definition in his 2002 book 'Bushcraft' and says that it's a topic which includes botany, zoology, hand crafts and outdoor leadership but trying to give a list of 'bushcraft skills' just as difficult as trying to offer a simple definition and can be very controversial. 

For example I don't think anyone would argue that gathering food from the wild should be considered part of bushcraft but a couple of years ago I carried out a simple survey to determine the level of interest from bushcrafters in the UK in using firearms as part of their bushcraft practice, bearing in mind that to take a deer from the wild to eat it, use it's skin for making clothing, sinews for cordage, bones for tools (all part of bushcraft?) your only legal option in the UK is to use a rifle of the appropriate calibre (we write a lot about deer on this blog, if you're interested check out some past posts here). I was really surprised to find that a lot of people who responded to my questionnaire, not a huge number in the grand scheme of things but a large enough proportion to cause me some confusion, felt that firearms had no place in bushcraft. Now I can understand that using firearms is not to everyone's taste or within everyone's comfort zone but to declare that their use is not part of bushcraft seems a bit odd. Especially as everyone would agree that gathering wild food is 'bushcraft.

Now I'm not trying to say that your practice of bushcraft is incomplete if you don't use firearms, what I'm trying to illustrate is that 'bushcraft' is different things to different people and I cant really do any more than offer you some examples of skills I regularly use which I believe are part of 'bushcraft', And because bushcraft is largely practised now as a recreational past time rather than relied on for day to day survival and subsistence it can be exactly what you want it to be. 

I will offer some examples of skills I use regularly which I would consider part of my practice of bushcraft, they include;

Fire Craft
Knife and tool use and hand crafts

Wild Food

These are just a few examples of skills that I associate with bushcraft but beyond that the beauty of recreational bushcraft is that you can make it exactly what you want it to be and take it to as advanced a level as you are comfortable with. Yes there are many professions which apply bushcraft skills to their work and we have run a whole series of posts on these skills which we are constantly adding to and you can find here but...

..if 'backgarden bushcrafting'; Building dens, lighting fires and doing simple work with knives and tools with with your children is as far as you want to go you are still a 'bushcrafter', if you want to go on long distance expeditions with modern, light weight equipment but use your bushcraft skills to prolong your expedition that's fine too, if you want to live off the land with nothing but a flint knife and some buckskin clothes you are still a 'bushcrafter' if that's what you want to call yourself.  

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