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What is bushcraft?

By Andrew Armstrong, Feb 9 2018 03:03PM

It might sound like a simple question to answer. However, here at Trailblazer Wildcraft it is a subject that still causes much debate. The term is covered, in a historic sense, in this Wikipedia article. It’s both interesting and insightful, putting the origins in the 1800’s Australian outback travel skills. I use my words here carefully, as it is interesting to note that the articles opening line describes it as being used to describe “wilderness survival skills”. This is something, at least a Trailblazer Wildcraft, we would tend disagree with. And here lies one of our key definitions of the word. We say its fundamentally different from survival, (although the skills are very transferable into survival). In survival, you are literally fighting for your life; in other words your life is in danger and you have arrived at this by ill fortune and personal tragedy, (a plane crash or getting lost in the Canadian wilderness). Bushcraft is practiced because you are in the environment or situation by choice. In our definition, you are not in immediate danger and have arrived at your destination on purpose, intending to be at the location and living in harmony with your surroundings. And here is another key difference. In survival we may destroy and remove resources that in a bushcraft scenario, we would not, (e.g. in order to protect the local nature from harmful damage).


To us, the kings of bushcraft where our ancient ancestors. While they probably faced more wilderness survival scenarios, they did not survive as a rule, they thrived. The more we understand about them, the more we realise this. The Star Carr archaeological site, close to the Trailblazer Wildcraft site and near the North York Moors National park, has shed light on this, unearthing some complex and well used sites from our Mesolithic ancestors. So while their bushcraft would have aided in surviving getting lost or displaced from the group, it was this same craft that allowed them to thrive and understand the bounty on offer to them, with only their shared knowledge to unlock its fruits.


The debate on its meaning will go on, but the word bushcraft is here to stay.

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