Bushcraft is like any other craft; it requires practice and repetition to perfect your technique and skills. As you practice your skills, you are honing them, and they become part of your so that you don’t have to think about them, but they come almost naturally!
When you need your bushcraft skills for real survival situations, you cannot be fumbling and trying to remember how things are done, or what the next step in a process is. These skills that have the potential to save your life or the life of someone else need to be at your fingertips without the need to try and dig up a memory!
This ability is the product of practice, which involves repetition and the repetition of improving your effectiveness and efficiency in the task. So, where can you practice your bushcraft skills as often as possible?
Bushcraft skills can be practiced on hiking trails, camping trips, in your backyard, on a walk around your neighborhood, and with a little ingenuity, even in the workplace of your day job!
Before we take a look at the “where” of bushcraft, let’s take a look at what skills can be included in your repertoire of skills, and then we can explore places where you can practice these activities.
What Are Bushcraft Skills?
Bushcraft skills can be broken up into categories that cover various aspects of wilderness survival, which can include the topics of fire, food, water, and shelter.
- Fire making is an essential skill that every woodsman, survivalist, or homesteader should become very familiar with. This is a skill that requires knowledge of multiple methods of fire starting and needs regular practice. Fire is not only necessary for cooking, but also for providing warmth in adverse weather conditions. Therefore you should also practice starting fire in various weather conditions so that you know which method will work well in those circumstances.
- Finding food in the wild is another aspect of bushcraft that requires regular practice. There are many ways of finding food in various types of wilderness, which can include foraging, hunting, and fishing.
- Ways of finding water in the wilderness are probably one of the hardest tasks and yet one of the most important due to our frequent need for it as a life-sustaining requirement. It is also an aspect of bushcraft that is practiced the least and should have more of a focus in our preparation. The bushcraft for water in the wild not only involves finding water but also in rendering it drinkable as well!
- Making shelter is another skill that requires practice in different types of terrain. It is no good if you only know how to make a shelter out of pine branches, and you find yourself in a semi-dessert area in need of shelter! This would require a different shelter making method and use of different materials.
While these are the main categories where bushcraft is generally grouped, other more general skills pertain to not only bushcraft but general survival that should be practiced and honed as part of your ongoing learning process. These other skills can include topics like tool-making, re-purposing skills, awareness skills, navigation, and knife skills.
The need to practice your bushcraft skills is going to require you to become innovative in finding ways to practice your skills in various locations and at various times!
To stimulate your creativity, I will recommend some ways and places where you can start honing your skills no matter where you are!
Hiking trails are a great outdoor activity that can present you with opportunities to practice many of your bushcraft skills. It is a great way to include some family time into the outdoors and also get them involved in learning some of the more basic skills.
Plan to do a day trail or even better some trails where you can overnight out on the trail, as you can then add more bushcraft practices that you can try out at night. If you can get out to do one of these trails once a month, or once every second month, it will be helpful for practicing and enjoyable as an outdoor activity.
Another option is to join a local hiking club, which will often enable you to access hiking locations that are not open to the general public, and you will get to experience a wider variety of terrain and environments.
Bushcraft you can practice out on the hiking trail can include the following.
- Navigation. Even though you are not lost, this is the best time to practice multiple ways of navigation. The advantage is that you know where you are, so you can determine the accuracy of each method you try out!
- Foraging is not only a method for gathering food in the wilderness but also a method of finding other natural items that can be useful as tools or material. Take along some books about local plants and try to identify trees and plants that can be of use to you for both food and other bushcraft tasks.
- Fire making, if the rules for the trail allow it is another skill that can be practiced.
- Shelter making is another skill that can be tested out in this environment. Even if you are not allowed to make a shelter, see if you can identify the materials you would use and what means you would employ to construct it.
- Methods of finding water, like which plants can provide you with life-sustaining water, geological formations, and methods of cleaning the water for drinking purposes.
Weekend camping trips are probably one of the best times to practice some bushcraft and survival skills! You have the advantage of a great outdoors location and a good bit of time available to dedicate to practicing several of your bushcraft skills and try out some new ones.
On camping trips, I would recommend picking one or two skills that you would like to invest some time in and focus on multiple methods of completing the task and improving your competency in that task.
Here are some suggested bushcraft skills you can try out on a camping trip.
- Foraging skills
- Fishing skills, if the location allows for it, can be practiced. Try making your own fishing tackle from natural materials that you can find around you and looking for natural bait. Try different methods out as well.
- Fire starting.
- Knot tying when setting up camp. Try out different knots and how effective or ineffective they are in specific applications for securing your tent or hammock or washing line.
- Shelter building.
- Practice knife skills, such as using natural materials for knife sharpening.
Bushcraft In Your Own Backyard
This is where you can try out alternative methods of doing tasks you already know, learn new skills, and hone your existing skills with continued practice!
You can very easily test out and practice the following skills right in your own backyard!
- Fire starting skills. Your backyard is probably the best place to test out new survival fire starting methods and practicing existing ones.
- Outdoor cooking skills can be practiced by cooking regularly over an open fire and learning to create makeshift cooking containers and eating utensils and cooking food that you have forages for.
- Shelter building practice is easily managed in your backyard where you use natural materials you can find on your own property. A good idea is to build a few different shelters and leave them standing to see how they fare in various weather conditions.
- Foraging for food and materials.
- Making hunting tools such as a survival bow and arrow from branches and sticks from your backyard, or a catapult and, space and safety permitting, practice shooting with it to test how effective it will be.
- Practice trapping skills can be achieved as a backyard activity as well. If you have a vegetable garden or keep livestock, you probably have rodents around in your yard. You can practice building various survival-type traps to rid your garden of these pests!
Other Places To Practice
There are probably many bushcraft skills you can practice in almost any location or circumstance in your everyday life. All it takes is some imagination and perhaps a little preparation to have the items with you that you will need to practice with.
Each of us has different responsibilities during our day to day life, and the opportunities for practice presented to each person may vary, but here are some ideas to get you started and to stimulate some ideas of your own.
- In your day job, when you have a lunch break, coffee break, or you are just goofing off, you can practice a few knot tying skills. Just carry a couple of lengths of paracord with you in your pocket. If you have internet access, research some new techniques and methods to enhance your bushcraft abilities.
- Waiting in the checkout line, you can practice knots once again, or you can carry a bushcraft book and read a few pages while you wait.
- While driving, practice your awareness skills to make sure you are alert and notice your surroundings. This not only helps your bushcraft skills but will make you a better driver too!
Bushcraft is all about adapting to situations and learning skills that will prepare you for those circumstances. Finding the time to practice the knowledge and skills takes time and effort, sometimes you will need to be innovative in to make the best use of your free time of gaps in your schedule to hone, fine-tune, study and learn to advance your bushcraft skills!