The Bushcraft Movement: what is it and why should you care?

Google News globally searches key words of interest for me.  For over a year now one of those words has been ‘bushcraft.’  Every couple of days or so there is a new article mentioning Bushcraft.  All but two of a 100+ news articles have been from the UK.  And each of those have been about upcoming bushcraft workshops or weekends in local newspapers or online magazines.

That was until today.  While far from earth-shattering for anyone reading this blog, thought it was interesting enough to repost the article below to show what others in the world think of the term…

 

The Bushcraft Movement: what is it and why should you care?
by Emily Buchanan

Ever since the likes of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls burst onto our screens, bushcraft has firmly established itself in the public zeitgeist. As a holistic movement influenced by environmentalism, bushcraft courses are popping up all over the UK, teaching attendees’ to survive and thrive in a natural environment by making the most of primitive technologies.

Now, you might wonder why – in an age when most people live in cities and deforestation is endemic – these skills are necessary? After all, what’s the likelihood of someone actually finding themselves in a survival situation without a smart phone or some form of modern technology? Chances are slim to none.

However, bushcraft is less about the eventuality of survival and more about developing a positive relationship with nature. By learning how to work with the environment, rather than against it, those trained in bushcraft are said to have a better understanding of the natural world and of its needs in the face of climate change. Indeed, the longer one lives in a hand-built shelter forced to hunt for their own food, the more one adjusts to the beat of the great outdoors and to the changing seasons of the forest.

It might read like new-agey rubbish, but Richard Woodhouse, a Bushcraft Expert, says that the craft offers a viable form of “experiential learning that teaches people the power of resilience, independence, patience and most importantly, preparation. All of these skills are transferrable outside of a survival situation.” Naturally, this means that bushcraft is an incredibly effective tool for teaching children about the environment and their role in the world.

Thus, one needn’t view bushcraft as a purist survival course or some form of ecological doomsday prepping. Sure, you’ll leave the woods with a firm understanding of camp and fire building, but you’ll also benefit from a connectedness with nature that is absolutely not limited to the forest.

But What Actually is it?

Simply put, bushcraft includes but is not exclusive to; fire building, tracking, shelter, knife skills, foraging for edible plants and fruits, hand-carving wood to make utensils, rope and twine-making, camp craft, hunting, cooking and the filtration of dirty water for safe consumption. It’s an insight into the wild antics of Bear Grylls, except you actually have to sleep in your hand built shelter.

Faking it? Bear Grylls in Born Survivor

Faking it? Bear Grylls in Born Survivor.

Taking a bushcraft course could change your whole approach to country walking. Suddenly, the forest becomes an inventory of natural resources and you have the skills to live in nature comfortably and in a way that is sustainable. If the feeling takes you and you decide to spend an impromptu night under the stars, you’ll be able to build a shelter, start a fire and stay dry without any of the latest gear.

Of course, the only modern day instrument that bushcraft allows is the knife, without which you’d be hard pushed to survive.

Emily Buchanan is an outdoor education writer for Kingswood. She lives in Norwich, UK, and is an ardent advocate of all things natural. Check out her blog or follow her on twitter for the latest.

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of MasterWoodsman.com and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

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8 Responses to The Bushcraft Movement: what is it and why should you care?

  1. woodtrekker2010@gmail.com'
    Ross Gilmore July 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    This is indeed the new agey rubbish side of bushcraft, as explained by someone who does not actually spend a lot of time in the woods.

    “Suddenly, the forest becomes an inventory of natural resources and you have the skills to live in nature comfortably and in a way that is sustainable”… Really?! How about you (the author or anyone else who is interested) go into the woods with just a knife (because for some unexplained reason, that level of technology is okay) and live thee for a week or two and then we’ll talk about how comfortable you are. Going for a walk near a farm in the UK, or hanging out in the backyard is not exactly the same as living in the wilderness.

    On top of that, bushcraft, has nothing to do with living in balance with nature. This is the the new agey rubbish that we have inserted into it to make it more marketable. Bushcraft is nothing more than a set of wilderness skills. They can be used in many ways. The North American trappers of centuries ago were expert bushcrafters, and so were the buffalo hunters. Many species were driven to the edge of extinction by very skilled buschrafters. Shall we talk about Nessmuk,s chopping of two trees every night for shelter and killing a deer for food every few days and then letting it rot?

    Years ago buschraft was just a set of wilderness skills that we tried to learn and preserve from indigenous populations. These days it has turned into a fully blown commercial enterprise that sells people adventure and false security wrapped in the very optimistic idea of living in unity with nature. That way we can go to the park, fire up the barbecue, carve a spoon, and then go back home so we can post online about how we are one with nature.

    • tray@york.k12.sc.us'
      Tom Ray July 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      Ross,
      You hit the nail on the head! You are absolutely correct when you say, “Bushcraft is nothing more than a set of wilderness skills. They can be used in many ways.” This could also be said of Woodcraft, Woodsmanship, or whatever the specific set of skills happen to be that are being discussed. The skills belong to people who put in the blood, sweat and dirt time to learn them. They can be used by backpackers, hikers, canoeists, classic campers, whomever. Once someone learns the skillsets, they can use them however they wish. If they want to use them in a park, on someone’s farm, or in a parking lot, I have no right to begrudge them that. The skills belong to them because they worked for them. No one holds a patent on them, and its a free country. I enjoy practicing outdoor skills in a variety of settings. If I had to depend on traveling to “true wilderness” to practice them, I would be in trouble. I can’t afford to go to Canada or Alaska, let alone Siberia. Here in the eastern US, my local government “wilderness area” with its rules and gravel tent pads is fine and dandy, but hardly qualifies. Instead, I prefer to camp on private land belonging to friends in remote locations, where i can do as I please within the bounds of good stewardship. This leads us to an important point for us all to consider. Somehow, some people have the idea that to practice these skills, and to “keep it real”, they have to be in a wilderness. The very idea of wilderness and how it has evolved is a very interesting subject. Check out William Cronon’s excellent essay, The Trouble With Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. Let’s face it, most of these skills we practice have no practical purpose in the modern world. The chances of people like us, who go into the woods prepared, finding ourselves in an actual survival situation, are slim to none. Personally, I do it because I like the sense of non-competitive personal accomplishment I get. It’s also a lot of fun! When you think about it, some of the skills we practice have their roots in aboriginal technology. I wish we would spend a little more time focusing on our common outdoor heritage and less on our differences. I dislike the politics and personal attacks that have become so common on the Internet when discussing these topics. So much that is constructive rather than destructive remains to be said and accomplished.

  2. matt.bodnarchuk@hotmail.com'
    weekendwoodsman July 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    “Of course, the only modern day instrument that bushcraft allows is the knife, without which you’d be hard pushed to survive.”

    Hmmm, I’ve been interested in bushcraft for about 5 years now and have never heard of this “knife rule” or anything like it.

    The problem with writing about something as an outsider is that it’s too easy to unintentionally misinform. Although Ross’ comment above might seem a bit…”fervent”, I think he has a good point that the author has probably just read a few articles about bushcraft and then written this rosy and new-agey article based on them. Of course, everyone is entitled to write about anything they want to. I guess any publicity is good publicity.

    • tray@york.k12.sc.us'
      Tom Ray July 22, 2013 at 6:48 am #

      I totally concur weekendwoodsman. And since when is a knife “modern equipment”? 🙂

  3. emily@further.co.uk'
    Emily Buchanan September 12, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Hi Christian,

    I’ve only just noticed that you’ve reposted this so thank you for taking an interest. In response to the negative comments, I went to an Open Day at Kingswood Outdoor Activity Centre for children and wrote this afterwards. My experience of bushcraft is based on that and that alone. I imagine a bushcraft course for children and its learning objectives vary greatly to the purist wilderness skills you describe, Ross. I was told that a knife was the only tool the children were allowed to use.

    I sense a lot of hostility towards this type of bushcraft and I don’t see why that is. Many children are spending a great deal of time inside and online. Teaching children the wilderness skills of bushcraft gets them hands-on in nature and excited about the Great Outdoors. What’s the harm in that or are you just annoyed because you liked bushcraft before it was cool?

    I do spend a lot of time in the woods, when I can, but I’m not sure what this has got to do with anything. The article is not a personal account.

    All the best,

    Emily.

    • nechstar@gmail.com'
      Chad September 12, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Hi Emily!

      Thanks for the comment. I personally agree with you. I think anything we can do to get the kiddos outdoors is an effort well received.

      Warm Regards!

  4. Christian September 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Emily, thank you for the feedback!

    Lots of discussion, and even debate around “Bushcraft” and other terms here in the states. With technology allowing open forums (including this one), sometimes we simply can’t see someone’s intent or motive. Therefore, we all need more understanding. With two young children of my own, appreciate and prescribe to your perspective.

    Not sure if you will like this section on our site about Bushcraft, but suspect you will at least appreciate. Primitively yours, Christian

  5. neemancallender@hotmail.com'
    Neeman October 7, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    Bushcraft?

    Excuse me but this is simply Woodcraft I learnt in Boy Scouts 50 years ago

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