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14 Bushcraft Survival Skills You Need To Know

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14 Bushcraft Survival Skills You Need To Know

Prepping and bushcraft are two different things.

When you prep, you're preparing yourself for a disaster that might occur at any time, and that typically requires modern equipment.

When you practice bushcraft, you're willingly putting yourself in the wild, and you're trying to learn how people survived in the good old days. It's more of a hobby.

While the two are very different, they often overlap.

Bushcrafters often find themselves in unexpected survival situations, and preppers can benefit greatly from learning some of the primitive skills used in bushcrafting.

There are a ton of different bushcraft skills that can benefit your prepping efforts, but the following skills are the 14 bushcraft skills you need to know.

They'll benefit you the most, and they might save your life if you find yourself separated from your fancy gear. 

Featherstick

A featherstick is simply a stick that has thin curls shaved into it. The thin shavings allow a thicker piece of wood to catch on fire a lot easier.

They're great for when you need to make a fire fast, but there isn't much kindling and tinder around.

To make a featherstick, you need a sharp knife, and you need a stick.

Any knife and stick will work, but I recommend using a stick that is about half of an inch in diameter, and I recommend using a sharp pocket knife.

Survival knives will work, but their large size will make it more difficult for you to control your knife strokes.

Once you have your knife and a suitable stick, hold the stick in your empty hand by one of its ends.

Slowly begin to shave very thin strips from the stick, but don't shave them all of the way off.

Start of by making a single shaving.

If you leave the thin shaving attached, you'll get a curled strip of wood at the end of the stick. 

Then, you can just make another one behind it. After a while, you'll end up with a ball of feather-like curls at the end of your stick. Be careful not to remove them by rushing your knife strokes.

After you've made a nice ball of curls, you can use whatever method you want to light the curls on fire.

They'll light pretty quickly, and the flames will be more than enough to start a larger fire if you prepared some wood beforehand. 

Making A Bark Container

You can probably tell what a bark container is from its name. It's not a difficult concept.

It's simply a strip of bark that is folded and sewn in a way that allows it to hold things. 

Bark containers aren't as durable or leak-proof as modern containers, but they'll work in a pinch.

There are many different types of bark containers, and you can make your own designs with a little creativity. To keep this short, I'm just going to cover how to make a basic birch bark container. 

Birch trees produce very flexible bark, and they don't die when you remove their bark.

So, I highly recommend using birch bark for this application. On the other hand, you might not be so concerned about preserving a tree if you're trying to survive.

To begin, you need to peel some bark off of a birch tree. Try to find healthy trees to ensure that the bark isn't rotting or otherwise poor quality. Then, you want to use your knife to trim the bark into an even strip. 

After you've processed the bark, you'll need cordage and a needle. If you have an awl available, it'll help you poke holes in the bark. Otherwise, your knife tip will work just fine. 

Roll the bark until the two ends overlap all the way around the cylinder they make.

Use your knife tip to poke holes along the area where the two ends line up, and try to make the holes relatively close together. 

You want your container to be as sealed as possible when it's sewn.

If you have a needle, you can use it to move your cordage throughout the holes you poked in the bark.

It'll make it a lot easier, but it's not necessary. 

You want to make basic cross stitches through each of the holes in the bark, and pull the stitches together tightly as you work.

The bottom and lid can be made in a number of ways. You can either cut out circles of wood and jam them in, or you can sew more birch bark over the openings. Wooden cutouts will look nicer, but that's a lot of extra work in a survival situation. 

Flintknapping

Flintknapping is the act of chipping off small pieces of flint until you make a sharp point.

It's how arrowheads and knives were made for hundreds of years.

I do not recommend learning how to flintknap in the middle of a survival situation.

It's difficult, time consuming, and it requires a lot of practice to consistently make useful items. If you think it's something you'll need to do, now is the time to start learning.

To practice flintknapping, you need flint, a hard and thin object, and something to smack things with.

A piece of leather is also recommended to protect your leg while you work.

To effectively chip away at a piece of flint, you want to work slowly. Place your chipping tool near the area you want to chip, and lightly smack the end of the tool with your striking tool.

If you strike too hard, you'll knock entire chunks off of your flint.

You want to remove small pieces, and you want to slowly whittle the edges of the flint until they form a fine edge.

It's best to do this while resting the flint on your outer thigh, and you need whatever thick padding you can get to protect your leg.

I honestly recommend finding glass or scrap metal during a survival situation.

You'll be able to make pointy objects a lot faster, and trash is abundant around the world.

However, it's a great skill to learn for long-term survival situations, and it's a skill that bushcrafters take seriously because of its historical significance. 

Making Rope From Plants

Cordage is one of the most important tools to have during SHTF. You can use it to make shelters, fish, trap animals, and many other things.

However, you might find yourself without your trusty supply of 550 paracord at some point. So, you need to know how to make it naturally.

It's not difficult to do, and it's a pretty relaxing activity. First, you need to source enough plant fiber to make the amount of rope that you need. You can use any flexible plant fiber, but I prefer to use the inner strands of tree bark due to how strong they are. 

Once you have enough plant fiber, you have to start your rope. I'm going to cover the two-strand method because it's the easiest way for beginners to learn.

You can eventually start making ropes with 3 or more strands. Take two strands of plant fiber, and pinch them together at one end. Use your other hand to hold the two strands together about two inches from the end you're pinching.

Then, start twisting the two strands in the direction facing away from you. You'll want to twist the two strands until the braid kinks.

Once the two strands are connecting, use the hand you pinched the end with to hold the ropes just before the point where they start to split.

Use your other hand to hold one strand above the other with two fingers, and twist the higher strand in the direction facing away from you.

Then, use the rest of your fingers to grab the strand on the bottom, and pull it tightly over the strand that you twisted.

You should end up having the bottom strand on top, and you can release the strand you twisted. 

Repeat this step a few times, and remember to move your other hand to hold the twisted line as you continue.

If you keep doing that, you'll notice that a rope starts to form. Natural plant fibers don't tend to be very long.

So, you'll have to attach other strands to your rope to increase its length. Whenever you need more, just lay a new strand into the braid, and continue twisting.

There are many different methods, but this one works best for me. It's great for light applications, and it can be used for fishing.

Pot Hanger

A pot hanger is extremely easy to make, and it'll allow you to cook a lot of different things a lot easier in the wild. All it is, is two hooked sticks that are connected via a carved joint

You'll need to find two thick branches that have natural hooks on their ends.

You'll probably have to saw or chop the branches from a larger piece of wood. 

You'll also want a fairly hefty knife to make things easier.

Start by positioning the limbs so one hook is curving downward like a candy cane, and the other is aiming towards the sky like a fishhook.

Mark the two limbs along their shafts so you can make cuts that will match up closely.

On the hook that is pointing like a candy cane, all you have to do baton out a flat chunk.

Then, carve a rectangular hole towards the top of that cut.

The bottom hook is what you'll be hanging your pot on, and it's a little more complicated.

Towards the end of the shaft that doesn't have a hook you want to remove wood until you have a rectangle that will fit the hole you carved in the other one. Then, you'll need to remove wood to make a flat surface stretching down towards the hook.

This is more difficult because you can't just baton a long chunk out. You'll have to carve it flat the hard way. All you have to do after that is put the rectangle in the hole, and you're ready to hang a pot. 

Finding Edible Plants

Protein will likely be scarce during a survival situation.

Hunting animals is a laborious task, and it's not guaranteed to produce any results. That's why you need to know what plants you can eat.

Plant life is just sitting around in the environment, and it can be a quick way to fill your stomach.

However, a lot of plants can kill you or leave you in bad shape if you eat them. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't try to eat berries, mushrooms, or strange flowers in a survival situation.

If you are 100 percent certain that a particular plant is safe, then you can break that rule at your own risk.

There are just too many plants in those families that can cause serious health problems if you eat them, and they all look very similar.

If you must eat something from that list, eat a small sample of it, and wait a while to see if you notice any side effects

Some plants are universally safe to eat, though. Plantains grow all over the United States, and they're easily recognized by their long and leathery leaves.

They're a lot like lettuce in terms of nutritional value, and you don't have to worry about them making you sick. 

You can also eat anything that is commonly used in your kitchen. Apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, coconuts, and other common plants are instantly recognizable in the wild, and they're obviously safe to eat.

Recognizing plants that are dangerous requires a bit of practice.

Like I said, you don't want to eat random mushrooms or berries unless you've educated yourself in finding edible ones, and there's no way that I can explain every plant in the forest in this post. 

Leafy greens are typically safe to eat, but you should stay away from anything that produces creamy liquids or tastes extremely bitter when sampled. That is the plant's attempt to warn you that it's going to fight back if you eat it. 

Primitive Trap Making

You can't expect to have your gun on you at all times. Regulations prevent you from carrying it in a lot of places, and things happen that might be out of your control.

So, how do you get protein without a conventional hunting tool? You rely on the same methods that primitive cultures used.

Traps come in a large variety of designs, but I'm going to cover the two that are easiest to make on the fly. Survival usually comes down to keeping things simple and easy, and you want to avoid tasks that require a ton of effort. 

A snare is extremely simple. It's just a length of cordage that has a closing loop on one end.

You can use a hangman's knot or any other knot that you know to make it. It's best to use wire or at least paracord. Wild animals will try to chew through the snare when they're captured.

To use a snare, you want to use a bait that attracts small game, and you want to make a lot of them.

You'll have a better chance of catching something if you have several snares laid out. If you hear rustling near an area that you setup a snare in, you must immediately move in to dispatch your prey.

They won't stay around for long, and you have even less time to act if you use natural cordage.

Tension traps are also easy to make, and they kill prey outright. So, you don't have to worry as much about running to your trap at the slightest hint of noise. 

You'll need to setup a few things to make a tension trap. First, you need to carve some small spears, and you will want to use a fire to harden the tips for more penetration.

You don't want to be the jerk that leaves a bunch of injured animals running around the place. You'll also want some relatively strong cordage, and you will need some thicker tree limbs or sticks to use as braces.

You'll need to locate an area where animals frequently travel. You can tell by the way the foliage is moved aside and trampled.

Once you've found a good spot, harvest a flexible tree limb that flings forward with force when you bend it. Then, create a hair trigger.

You have to attach your spears to the thinner end of flexible stick, and I recommend not skimping out on binding when you do this. You want the structure to be as solid as possible. 

Now, attach the end of your stick to a conveniently-placed tree, or make a sturdy base with other limbs and cordage. Ensure that the makeshift weapon is setup around the same height of your prey. 

You need to set up an attachment point for the pointy end, and it has to be positioned in a way that forced the stick to bend as much as possible. Attach your hair trigger to lock the stick in place.

Finally, you want to carefully run a tripwire made from cordage across the path that you expect an animal to use.

You can do this by shoving a strong stick in the ground across from the trap, and you can tie the cordage to it.

Then, attach the line to your hair trigger very carefully. It has to be set to a height that won't allow your prey to simply walk over it.

You want the line to be fairly tight, but don't mess with it so much that you accidentally impale yourself.

Be extremely careful with this trap. It swings pointy objects into fleshy objects, and that includes your own fleshy bits.

You should also refrain from using it in any area where people and pets travel.

The last thing you want is to kill somebody's hunting dog because you were practicing your survival skills recklessly. 

Fishing

Fishing is a lot easier than hunting with traps, and it is nowhere near as dangerous.

 If you haven't read the section about making cordage, I recommend that you go back and read it before you practice this. You'll need it to make fishing line.

The easiest way to fish during a survival situation is with a gouge hook.

It's obviously better to have a full kit of tackle, but that's not likely to be the case when you actually need it.

A gouge hook is simply a small twig that is sharpened on both ends. Unlike conventional fishing, you're not trying to hook the fish in the lip.

You want the fish to swallow the gouge hook. 

To do this, you want to tie your cordage around the middle of the twig.

That will force the twig to pull itself into a horizontal position when you start pulling the fish in, and it won't slide out of its throat as easily.

There's not much else to it than that. You just wrap a worm or press bait onto the stick, and you throw it into the shallower parts of the water. You don't want to catch big fish with this method.

Natural cordage is unlikely to hold up to a 30-pound catfish, and a gouge hook is typically too small to work with bigger fish anyways.

Stick to catching bream and bluegill with this method.

This is not a humane way to fish, and you will almost certainly kill whatever fish you catch with this method.

I recommend only using it in a survival situation, or when you're practicing your skills and willing to eat the catch.

Finding and Purifying Water

Water isn't something that you should hold off attaining in a survival situation.

It's usually going to be your first priority, and a lack of it will kill you faster than starvation. 

However, it's not too difficult to find in most environments, and you can purify it with minimal effort.

If you prepare properly, you can always use a Sawyer Lifestraw.

Lifestraws were originally created to provide clean drinking water to third world countries, and they work extremely well for survival. 

They're lightweight, reliable, and they can filter months worth of water for a single person. All you do is shove it in the water and start drinking.

If you don't buy a Lifestraw before something happens, you'll want to know how to boil water with rocks.

You might not have a pot that can handle the intense heat of a campfire, and your options might be limited. To purify water with rocks, you just have to throw a bunch of rocks on your campfire until they're extremely hot.

Then, you can fill a container with water, and throw the hot rocks into the container until the water starts boiling.

The heat will kill off any bacteria in the water, and you'll be able to drink without conventional boiling equipment. 

Fire-Starting

Fire is necessary for at least 80 percent of survival tasks.

You need it for warmth, cooking, boiling, hardening wooden tools, cleaning, light, and a lot of other things. Without fire, you'll probably die.

Telling you that you'll probably die without it probably doesn't do a whole lot for you, though.

So, I'll share my favorite method for making a fire. Bushcraft purists will insist that you focus on bow drills and magnifying glasses, but I want to keep this simple.

You need to buy a ferrocium rod. 

They're cheap, long-lasting, and more reliable than anything else.

To use a ferrocium rod, you want to prepare your fire pit first.

Start by making stacking sticks into a pyramid with an opening for air and tinder. 

Then, gather a bushel of dry plant fibers, cotton balls, or any other dry and fibrous materials. If you're wearing jeans, you can use the spine of your knife to fluff lint off of them.

Put the bushel inside of your little stick hut, and pull your ferro-rod out.

With a striker or the spine of your knife, you want to quickly scrape the rod towards the tinder that you gathered.

This will shower sparks all over it, and it should light up within a couple of tries. As the fire burns, put kindling on top of the tinder until your main fuel starts to burn. 

Shelter Building

Building a shelter will keep you warm, dry, and alive. You don't need to build a log cabin to survive in the short term, but you need to have something that protects you from the elements. There are many different types of shelters besides the one I describe in this section

Here are some instructions to help you build the simplest structure I've ever made. First, you'll need to acquire:

  • Tree limbs that still have their leaves. If it's the middle of winter, you can still make a shelter with bare limbs, but you'll have to spend more time scrounging up foliage.
  • 5 sticks. 4 of them should be as tall as you want your shelter to be, and the fifth one should be as long as you want your shelter to be.
  • Cordage
  • A ton of foliage. Foliage is all of the green and brown stuff laying around you in the woods. 

Now, you need to put all of those things together. Here's how:

  • Build a frame with your stripped sticks by jamming two into the ground to form a triangle. Do the same with two more sticks parallel with the ones you've already set up. Then, lay another stick across the top to connect to the two triangles. Finish the frame by tying it together with cordage.
  • Lay a leafy limb onto the frame and tie it down. Continue doing this until the entire thing is covered with foliage. Leave an opening on one end, though. 
  • Finally, jam foliage into every opening you can find, and line the ground inside of the structure with foliage. This will help give the shelter some insulation when the ground gets cold. 

First Aid

Getting sliced, stabbed, or bitten is usually handled by rushing off to the hospital for help.

However, doctors and hospitals aren't always available. That's especially true when you've been hiking for a week in the wilderness, and it'll take you a week to get back to your vehicle.

So, how do you take care of it on your own

First, you have to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible.

The majority of wounds don't require anything more than a little pressure and elevation to keep from bleeding out, but you'll need to make a tourniquet from your belt or similar item if it's too bad. 

You also need to remove any jewelry that you're wearing. A lot of swelling will occur when you get wounded, and you don't want a ring or wristband cutting off circulation to your appendages.

After you've stopped the bleeding, you need to flush everything out of the wound. You can do this by pouring water over it until it's clean, but the water has to be as clean as possible.

If you've been managing your water supply, you should have some clean water nearby.

Closing a wound can be difficult in the field, and you don't always need to. If you've been sliced open, you'll want to take advantage of any suture kits, butterfly bandages, or anything else you have to close a wound.

I'm not recommending it, but I've used Superglue more times than I'm willing to admit to close pocket knife cuts.

Use the appropriate equipment if it's at all possible, and don't wear restrictive clothing over your wound.

If you've been bitten or the wound isn't very serious, it's best to leave it alone. Keep the wound clean, and let your body do what it does best.

There's no point in risking a bad infection because you decided to play doctor over something that could heal on its own. 

Navigation and Wayfinding

Navigation skills are how you're going to get out of a bad area without walking 1000 miles in the wrong direction.

There are a number of ways of doing it, and I highly suggest carrying a button compass at all times so you can bypass these old-school methods.

All of these methods boil down to figuring out what direction north is.

To use a compass, you just allow it to rest. Then, the arrow will accurately point north. From there, you can figure out which direction you need to move in. 

If you don't have a compass, you can use the northern star at nighttime. However, this requires it to be night, and it can't be cloudy outside.

So, it's kind of a hit or miss solution.

Your watch can also help you determine which direction north is. This requires an analog watch, and that's why I only wear traditional watches. It's simple.

You just look at your watch, trace an invisible line between your hour hand and the 12 position, and that tells you what directions north and south are.

In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west.

You can use that information to determine which end of your invisible line is north by seeing what time it is. 

Animal Tracking

Protein is extremely important when you're exerting so much energy to survive. However, you can't expect it to just drop into your lap.

You'll have to hunt. Hunting looks easy at first glance. 

It's not that easy, though. Animals tend to stay away from humans in the wild, and you'll need to track them down.

Tracking isn't that difficult, but it requires you to pay attention to your environment. You don't need any special gear to track animals.

You can tell where they've been by the trails they make in the foliage, their droppings, and the markings they leave in their environment. 

For example, deer scrape their antlers along trees. Bears are also known to claw at trees when they're nails are too long. One of those markings can tell you a buck is nearby, and the other can keep you from picking a fight you can't win.

When it comes to traps, I recommend looking for paths that have been pounded into the ground from being frequently traveled on.

Fresh droppings also give an animal's general location away.

You can use those two bits of information to know exactly where to set your trap.

If you're hunting with a weapon, you can use the same information to follow an animal.

Footprints are commonly found around paths and droppings, too.

Use those to tell exactly which direction an animal is moving in, and you can locate it pretty quickly. 

Final Thoughts

Bushcraft isn't the same thing as prepping, but bushcraft skills can help when you find yourself away from the conveniences of modern equipment.

I'm not saying that you should forget about prepping and modern gear, but it's always nice to have some primitive skills to fall back on.

Thank you for reading these 14 skill guides, and I hope that you'll share them with your friends.

If you have any other interesting tips that you'd like to share, leave them in the comments.


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