Is it Bushcraft or Survival?
In many of the blogs that I read and YouTube videos I watch and even in some of my own posts, I see, hear and use the words “Bushcraft and Survival” interchangeably. This is likely due to the similarities they share since they both tend to involve the wilderness and the outdoors, fire, shelter, water, etc. But in reality the two things are quite different. In this post I will briefly talk about what each one is, how they differ and why its important to understand the differences.
A “survival situation” is any kind of event (usually short term, statistically 72 hours or less, though many have gone on much longer) that requires you to take actions to save your own life or someone else’s life. Typically, these situations are out in rural or wilderness areas where no one else is around to assist and they generally involve extreme weather or injuries, being lost or some serious issue that is immediately threatening your existence. If you are lucky you will be prepared and have some equipment and resources with you. But often these situations happen precisely because the people were unprepared in the first place. Survival situations can also happen in urban areas, especially during natural disasters or other emergencies where police and fire fighters or neighbors are occupied with other emergencies.
Essentially, every decision you make and every action that you take in a survival situation is based on your ability to meet your most important need at that time. Like a medical emergency you have to triage what needs done first and what is most important. If you get it wrong you may die. Your goal is getting rescued or getting home as soon as possible. The survivor should “consider” the possibility that they may have to be stranded long term. However, in most cases their actions and their mindset should be geared towards efficiently and effectively meeting the needs at hand and those needs they will have over the next day or two and that’s about it. Unless there are clear indications that the possibility for rescue in the short term is highly unlikely for whatever reason.
Read the following to see an article that talks about the five basic needs in a survival situation and goes over How To Prioritize Your Actions In A Wilderness Survival Situation.
Bushcraft or bushcrafting is when people go out into the wilderness intentionally to test their skills and practice techniques that could be used to help get them out of a survival situation or techniques that may be able to be used for a long term self reliant existence in the wilderness. Typically this involves carrying the minimal amount of gear needed to effectively meet your needs while utilizing as many resources as possible from nature. Many of the techniques are similar to native American practices. Some of these techniques are also similar to ones that were used by pioneers, trappers and frontiersmen, etc.
How Are Bushcraft & Survival Different?
I recently heard a blogger or YouTuber (sorry I can’t remember who or I would give you credit) explain the difference as follows. “In bushcraft you are putting yourself into a situation intentionally to practice your skills, in a survival situation you are doing everything you can to get yourself out of the situation as quickly as possible.” Whoever said that nailed it exactly.
So a key difference between bushcraft and survival is that the bushcrafter has planned for their situation and they are focused on conserving resources and doing everything they can to extend the life of their gear or supplies and they are attempting to practice techniques that would enable them to prolong their stay or their ability to stay out in the wilderness if they chose to do so. The person in a survival situation desperately needs to do everything possible to make their situation as short as possible because their very survival depends on getting home or to safety quickly.
Why Is The Difference Between Bushcraft & Survival Important?
It’s important because even though some of the techniques used by bushcrafter could be used by a survivor, many of the techniques that may need to be used by a survivor would probably never be used by a bushcrafter.
I believe a person in a survival situation should do and has an obligation to do whatever they need to do to stay alive and return to their family. Even if that means cutting down trees, killing animals, abusing or misusing tools and knives, drinking unboiled/untreated water, etc. Their first concern is getting home and if gear gets dinged up, or a few trees, bugs, plants or animals die in the process that’s ok. Bushcrafters don’t have the same sense of urgency so their techniques are and should be more conservative, more deliberate and less aggressive. Now I am not saying survivors should take survival advice from Bear Grylls and go running rampant through the wilderness hanging from trees and biting the heads off of snakes. But often the survivors approach will be more aggressive than the bushcrafter.
Obviously, these are not technical definitions, just my thoughts on the difference between the two. I point this out because I feel it is important for readers of this site to understand where I am coming from and why I teach or explain somethings the way I do. This site’s primary focus is on teaching wilderness survival techniques. While I do touch on some primitive survival topics and bushcraft topics those posts should be viewed as skills sets that may augment a survivors knowledge base so that they can use those skills in an emergency if needed. But like I said earlier many of the skills I teach here may not be skills that a pure bushcrafter would agree with and may actually oppose.
How do you think survival and bushcraft differ? Or does it really matter? Should all of the techniques be done the same in manner, even in different types of situations?
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