3 Bushcraft Skills That Can Save Your Life

Bushcraft is defined as the “skill of living in the bush”. It’s based on the idea that Mother Nature has all the resources required for survival. These interrelated skills can help you survive and thrive while in the wild. Whether you’re in a survival situation, on a camping trip, or living off the grid, know that bushcraft will play a big role. With that being said, let’s take a look at 3 bushcraft skills that will come in handy when surviving or living in the wild.

#3: Land Navigation

Even experienced outdoorsman can lose their bearings when in the wild. But if you understand the fundamentals of navigation, it won’t be a problem. Within the category of land navigation, there are dozens of sub-topics that you should familiarize yourself with- using a compass, reading maps, and navigating using the stars.  These are all bushcraft skills that, while once popular, aren’t as common today (mainly due to the reliance on digital technology). Let’s talk about some of these individually:

Estimate Distance Traveled

One of my favorite bushcraft skills is being able is being able to estimate distance traveled without using a GPS. Here’s how to do it: start with the assumption that the average person walks about 3 MPH. If you’ve walked for two hours without stopping, you can assume that you’ve walked about six miles (3 MPH x 2 hours = 6 miles walked). That’s the basic method. You can also track the number of steps you’ve taken. The average stride is approximately 2.5-feet, so after 1,000 strides, you’ll have walked about half-a-mile (30,000 inches). Bushcraft skills like this one are super-important to know. In fact, they’re so fundamental that it’s not optional- it’s MANDATORY that you learn them. Here’s a video that will teach you how to do it:

Find the North Using a Watch

To find the North, take an analog wrist watch and hold it flat with the hour hand facing the sun. South will be halfway between the hour hand and 12 (with North being 180-degrees in the opposite direction). Pretty simple, wouldn’t you agree? Few people could have guessed that it would be so easy to find the North. And before you think it’s not that accurate, let me assure you that it is. I’ve tested this method using a compass and it worked perfectly. If you’re in a survival situation with nothing more than a wristwatch, bushcraft skills like this one can definitely come in handy.

Orient Yourself Using the Moon

Finally, let’s talk about how to orient yourself using the moon. To begin, look for a crescent moon (between a half and new moon). You must find it before the sun goes down. Once you see it, notice which side of it is illuminated- that’s the side that will be facing West. It’s not that complicated when you think about it. After dark, the bright side will be facing East. Bushcraft skills like this one work hand-in-hand with the ones above. They will ensure that you’re traveling in the right direction and ultimately allow you to reach civilization much more quickly.

#2: Fire Craft

It goes without saying that being able to build a fire is one of the most crucial bushcraft skills you can have. Fires allow you to do all sorts of things- keep yourself warm, fight off predators, cook food, and light up the way when traveling at night. But none of this matters if you don’t know how to build one. In short, there are two ways to approach fire-building:

  • Primitive: Focuses on building fires using nothing more than what nature provides. For example, the hand-drill method is a popular primitive technique that focuses on building a fire with nothing more than what you’re able to find in the bush. My article, 4 Ways to Make a Fire in the Wild, talks about primitive fire-building methods more in-depth.
  • Non-Primitive: By “non-primitive”, I mean starting a fire with things that weren’t originally designed to start fires with. For example, did you know that you can start a fire with a flashlight? Or with steel wool and a cell phone battery? These are just two of many examples. For more information, read Starting a Fire Without Matches – 6 Unique Ways.

Neither approach is “better” than the other. It just depends on the circumstances. If you’re in the bush with nothing, then the primitive approach will be the go-to method. But if you’ve got say, a flashlight, you can start a fire using that. These bushcraft skills are highly recommended because again, there are dozens of ways to utilize fire when in the wild.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter

#1: Purifying Water

Bushcraft Skills

There are many ways to purify water. Boiling is arguably the easiest method for most people, but it’s not your only option. You can also build a solar water still, which is basically a “system” that takes dirty drinking water and turns it into clean and safe drinking water. Things like purification pumps and survival straws work too, but those don’t really tie into bushcraft skills since they’re technology-based. It’s recommended that you learn primitive ways of filtering and purifying water in the wild, since that’s what bushcraft is all about. For more information on how to filter and purify water, click on the big orange button below.

Learn How to Purify Water in the Wild

Bushcraft Skills – Bottom Line

When in the bush, being able to navigate, make fires, and acquire clean drinking water can all save your life. Personally, I think acquiring fresh drinking water is the MOST IMPORTANT skill you can have. You can go a lot longer without food than you can water. For example, a 200-pound man can probably go 1-3 weeks without food depending on how much he exerts himself. That same man, however, can only go 1-3 days without water. For this reasons, it’s recommended that you practice the bushcraft skills in this article, especially the ones that focus on purifying water. They’ll make all the difference and ultimately make your experience in the bush a better one.

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Anonymous April 22, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Ummm, the moon thing fine. But if you are watching the sun go down that pretty much means you are facing west.

    • Reply
      David April 23, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Different strokes for different folks. Just another tool to have in your arsenal.

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