Tent camping may be familiar, but have you ever tried bushcraft camping? Consider car camping, where you brought everything but the kitchen sink. Perhaps you included the tent, sleeping bag, comforter, pillows, and air mattress. Some travel with fancy outdoor kitchens, a four-burner cook stove and on/off faucets, camping chairs with all the comforts, and more. Bushcraft camping is nothing like that, yet still similar. You won’t have all the amenities from home, but those luxuries will come from nature instead. Let’s dive in!
What Is Bushcraft Camping?
Bushcraft camping uses natural materials to build a shelter, cook food, and live off the land. It’s an excellent way to connect with nature and learn new survival skills. Bushcraft camping is becoming increasingly trendy as people look for ways to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. If you’re interested, here are a few things you need to know.
What Is the Difference Between Bushcraft and Survival?
First, understanding the difference between bushcraft camping and survival will help you determine what you need for a successful bushcraft adventure. Survival camping is about surviving in the backcountry. Those campers navigate the frontier as though they are in an actual survival scenario. They practice skills like building a shelter, starting a fire using various heat sources, filtering water, finding and preparing food, and first aid. You need skills to survive in the woods if you are hurt or lost.
Bushcraft camping involves practicing those skills on your terms and not in a survival situation. You can practice this camping style almost anywhere.
Where Can I Bushcraft in the US?
You can practice many bushcraft camping skills anywhere, even in your backyard. However, if you want a genuine bushcraft camping experience and not simply a place to practice a skill or two, you’ll want to find a more remote location. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and National Forest lands are some of the best places to practice bushcraft skills.
It’s legal to camp on most of those lands, but pay attention to stay limitations, fire restrictions, and where you can camp. You’ll be away from civilization and close to nature. If you want to go more remote, pack the necessary tools and go on a backpacking trip. You’ll test the waters by sleeping and camping in isolated areas. This will provide more connection to natural resources and less dependency on humanity. That is what bushcraft camping is all about.
Pro Tip: Want to test your survival skills? Find out if you know these Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know.
How Do I Get Started in Bushcraft?
Getting started in bushcraft is pretty simple since most of your tools will come from the land. But before you head out, there are a couple of tools that you should bring with you. You can craft these tools, too. It all depends on the skill level you want to practice.
For beginners, start with a basic survival kit. That survival kit should include first aid items, a couple of different fire starters, an emergency blanket and whistle, a parachute cord, and a knife. You might also want to bring a small backpacking stove, pot, and a sleeping bag. Remember, you are just getting started.
Store your supplies in a lightweight backpack appropriate for your size and shape. Plan your route and where you’ll camp. An essential rule for any camping style is to let someone know your location.
Can You Build a Bushcraft Shelter in a National Forest?
Since the purpose of bushcraft camping is to use natural resources, you should build your shelter from nature. There are many shelter types, and what you create will depend on your environment. If you need protection to keep you warm during a chilly fall evening, your best bet would be a debris shelter, which uses sticks and debris from the forest floor.
If you are looking to stay warm in the middle of winter, then you’ll pile snow to build a quinzhee or an igloo-style shelter. However, if you want to get out of the elements but don’t need anything time-consuming, then a simple lean-to shelter will do the trick.
But can you build these shelters in a national forest? The simple answer is yes but do so responsibly. Don’t chop down trees. That will cause trouble. Use downed trees and debris from an area that is rich in resources. Building a shelter to practice bushcraft camping in a region lacking natural resources doesn’t do anyone good.
When you’re no longer using the shelter, tear it down. Demolition is just as fun, if not more, than building. Then disperse the materials you used.
Some places may require a permit for gathering wood and camping overnight. Regardless of where you camp, do your research beforehand.
What Makes a Knife a Bushcraft Knife?
Knives aren’t challenging to find. Walk into your local kitchenware or hardware store, and you’ll have many options. But for bushcraft camping, you don’t want a standard knife. You’ll want a bushcraft-specific knife. Your knife should make building a shelter and fire a less tricky task. It should have finesse and the strength to make outdoor cooking more manageable, too.
A bushcraft knife has a fixed, long blade with a flat edge. The handle is grippy and comfortable, even when your hands are wet or cold. The construction is full-tang so that the blade’s steel runs through the grip to the butt of the knife. Most bushcraft knives use carbon steel, which is easier to sharpen than other steel.
A longer blade allows for more leverage but can make it more possible to break the blade. A good length for bushcraft knives is generally in the 3-to-6-inch range and around 0.1875 inches thick. A thin blade has more accuracy, while a thick knife offers power. Having the right blade for bushcraft camping adventures can make or break your trip. Get a bushcraft knife, so your excursion doesn’t become an actual survival situation.
How Do You Practice Bushcraft Camping Skills?
Preparing for a survival situation is one of the reasons many people practice bushcraft skills. When you know how to camp outdoors without the comforts of home, an emergency can be less daunting and more tolerable.
You must practice your bushcraft skills. The best way to do this is to overpack. Bring the backups for your first foray into bushcraft camping. Don’t stray too far from your vehicle. Have a warm sleeping bag and pad. Carry a cookstove, lighter, and good food. However, only use them if you must.
Remember, you’re out in the wilds to practice a new skill. Build a shelter, sleep under the stars, and build a primitive fire using friction like flint and steel. Know the plants you can consume and eat them. Try fishing and cook your catch over an open fire. Look for water from its natural source and filter it.
While doing this, be aware of the seven Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles. These are guidelines around camping and hiking to help protect the lands we love. They include rules like how to bury waste or start a fire properly, or where to camp and hike. With more people heading into the backcountry, following these principles when practicing any camping style should be a top priority.
Pro Tip: Don’t know how to make fire? Use these 5 Best Techniques To Start A Fire Like An Expert.
Would You Ever Try Bushcraft Camping?
If you’re heading into the great outdoors to relax around a campfire, then maybe bushcraft camping isn’t for you. However, if you’re searching for an adventure using natural resources for many of your camping skills, and you’re ready to see what you and nature can accomplish, bushcraft camping might be for you.
What do you think? Would you ever try bushcraft camping? Tell us in the comments!
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!