#1 The difference between Bushcraft and Survival.

Bushcraft v Survival

Google Bushcraft and you’ll almost always find it explained as “Survival Skills” or it will be “Bushcraft and Survival”. Bear Grylls is often referred to as a great survivalist, whilst Ray Mears is more often associated with being a Bushcrafter. Here I discuss the differences between the two subjects.

So what is survival?

I have attended many bespoke ‘Survival’ courses sold as such without the mention of Bushcraft. This is my interpretation of how to survive.

Surviving is broken down into a few easy to follow steps. First is the ability to provide protection from the elements in terms of donning the correct clothing, building a shelter from nature or sheltering in a building or shelter of some kind. Within this period you would be encouraged to check for injuries and create a fire by the easiest means.

Next is location, to create some kind of Ground To Air Signal (GTAS) so aircraft or satellites overhead will hopefully spot you and send help.

Penultimately water: locate, transport, purify and then store. Most walkers or outdoors people will carry with them purification tablets (chlorine most commonly) which work by killing bacteria and pathogens. Chlorine doesn’t actually kill viruses instead it works by ‘coating’ them so they pass through the human body without causing harm. As a last resort you can create a filter from moss, charcoal, sand and stones. Then boil the water for a minimum of 4 mins.

Finally current teachings say to locate and consume food. Snare wire is the most common, but rudimentary fish traps are also taught.

So what’s wrong with all of this and why isn’t it Bushcraft? I hear you cry.

After all bushcraft is surviving outdoors isn’t it?

So yes, I suppose when I spend time outside I am surviving, but Bushcraft in my eyes is the ability to see nature and exist with it. Bushcraft for me is the ability to navigate by natural means, to look at the moss on a tree and know North from south. To look at the sun and know the current time and when it will get dark.

When I want to spend the night outdoors I can look at the trees and know the quality of the soil and how likely it is to be particularly wet, or too hard and clay-ee.

When I teach outdoor skills (to umbrella it all) the knowledge comes from a place of peace and synonymity.

Surviving is becoming lost or stuck and needing external help at some point. All survivors who are recovered have done incredibly well to survive for as long as they have done. A survivor is someone who endures extreme hardship and lives. But had a government or agency not helped them they would have eventually perished.

Bushcraft I believe is exactly that: a craft, a set of skills. A mind set to see how things work in nature and encouraging them to flow to help you.

I practise Bushcraft with every extra skill that I use and teach, be that the ability to identify trees and their uses, to leather work and manufacturing cordage. When I am working with natural resources I am practising Bushcraft.

When I am waiting to be saved I am practising survival.

A survivalist to a Bushcrafter is a cook to a chef.

You can be an excellent cook and be very proficient in the basics. A chef understands the why. They can create excellent dishes from raw ingredients.

These views are my own and I encourage discussion, please comment with your thoughts.

9 thoughts on “#1 The difference between Bushcraft and Survival.

  1. Great post. Love the thoughts you put forward. Do you not think it’s categorizing skills needlessly. Why can’t a practising “bushcrafter” be put in a survival situation and still be able to work with the environment? If I was waiting to be saved bushcraft knowledge would help me massively.


  2. I take your point it may be catorgarising for the sake of it. However if one has the Bushcraft skills to live in a given environment then is it a survival situation? The point here is to not to downplay survival training but to try and make a clearer line. Survival training is all about getting out, how to get out and the fastest way. Where as Bushcraft is how to live with that situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d argue that bushcraft may be one set of skills that you might need in the general set needed to survive. I’m imagining ‘survivalist’ skills could include a whole load of urban and post urban skills that have nothing to do with the bush.


      1. Yes. Survival is about exploiting the environment, whatever that may be, and knowing what you can use and how. Bushcraft is much more specific and generally does not need to be exploitative.


      2. Survival is taking but not giving back. Where as Bushcraft is taking with the view to giving back eventually, e.g. natural cordage will eventually rot and go back to the earth. ?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Survival implies something went wrong in the woods (or you screwed up) and now you have to deal with it. Bushcraft goes way beyond that.


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