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Bushcraft is the use and practice of skills, thereby acquiring and developing knowledge and understanding, in order to survive and thrive in a natural environment.
Bushcraft skills provide for the basic physiological necessities for human life: food (through foraging, tracking, hunting, trapping, fishing), water sourcing and purification, shelter-building, and firecraft. These may be supplemented with expertise in twine-making, knots and lashings, wood-carving, campcraft, medicine/health, natural navigation, and tool and weapon making.
Bushcraft includes the knowledge to handle certain tools such as bushcraft knives and axes. A bushcrafter can use these tools to create many different types of constructions, from dugout canoes to a-frame shelters. There are various types of shelters to construct or use in the wilderness. The first is a purpose-built shelter like a tent. Another example is an improvised shelter, like using a large tarp or blanket as a tent. Indigenous shelters include a snow cave or bark lean-to. Lastly, natural shelters include caves, underneath a tree, or within thickets.
Bushcraft includes the knowledge to tie different knots for different purposes. These knots include the reef knot, figure 8 loop, improved clinch knot, clove hitch, and snare noose. The reef knot is also referred to as a square knot. It is good for bundling items together because you can tension the rope during the first part of the knot tying. Tying bondages together like a sling is a common use. The figure 8 loop is a strong knot because it forms a loop that will not draw tight. You can use a figure 8 loop at the end of a fishing line to tie on a hook or lure. This knot is also useful to hold loads or to lift or drag items. The improved clinch knot is often used to attach a hook to a line or to attach an anchor to rope, or fore tying up to a pole or tree. The clove hitch can be used when creating a raft or to attach a shelter to a tree. It is commonly used to start a lashing, binding one thing to another such as a shelter frame. The snare noose use is commonly used to catch animals. The snare consists of a noose attached to an anchor point like a shrub. As the animal moves through the noose, the line will tighten around its neck.
The term bushcraft was popularized in the Southern Hemisphere by Les Hiddins (the Bush Tucker Man) as well as in the Northern Hemisphere by Mors Kochanski and more recently gained considerable currency in the United Kingdom due to the popularity of Ray Mears and his bushcraft and survival television programs. The origin of the phrase "bushcraft" comes from skills used in the Australian bush. Often the phrases "wilderness skills" or "woodcraft" are used as they describe skills used all over the world.
The word has been used in its current sense in Australia and South Africa at least as far back as the 1800s. Bush in this sense is probably a direct adoption of the Dutch 'bosch', (now 'bos') originally used in Dutch colonies for woodland and country covered with natural wood, but extended to usage in British colonies, applied to the uncleared or un-farmed districts, still in a state of nature. Later this was used by extension for the country as opposed to the town. In Southern Africa, they get Bushman from the Dutch 'boschjesman' applied by the Dutch colonists to the natives living in the bush. In North America, where there was also considerable colonisation by the Dutch, they have the word 'bushwacker' which is close to the Dutch 'bosch-wachter' (now 'boswachter') meaning 'forest-keeper' or 'forest ranger'.
Historically, the term has been spotted in the following books (amongst others):
- Preliminary titles for The Art of Travel by Francis Galton, published in 1854, included Bushcraft or Science of Travel and Bushcraft or the Shifts and Science of Travel in Other Countries
- The History of Australian Exploration from 1788 to 1888 by Ernest Favenc; published in 1888.
- My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin; published in 1901.
- Campaign Pictures of the War in South Africa (1899–1900) by A. G. Hales; published in 1901.
- The Explorers of Australia and their Life-work by Ernest Favenc; published in 1908.
- We of the Never-Never by Jeannie Gunn; published in 1908.
- The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders by Ernest Scott; published in 1914.
The word bushcraft was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a trademark by Bushcraft USA LLC on November 12, 2013, as a service mark, for "Providing an on-line forum for bushcraft," and "Providing on-line forums for transmission of messages among computer users concerning bushcraft" (Ser. No. 85690815). This led to some concern about the validity of the mark among Internet users who asserted there were senior uses of the mark in a more general context such as Mors Kochanski as early as 1981, however no formal opposition was ever filed, nor any assertion of continuous use in commerce as the mark related to Internet forums. As of 2021, Bushcraft USA has not publicly enforced its mark against other Internet forums using the term.
Canadian wilderness instructor Mors Kochanski published the "Northern Bushcraft" book in 1981 and an expanded edition of the book in 1988. He has stated on numerous occasions that book title was an explicit reference to Graves' work.
- Heiman, Scott (2018). "Bushcraft & Survival". Archery Action with Outdoor Connections. 44 (2): 54–58.
- Heiman, Scott (2021). "Bushcraft & survival BACK TO BASICS". Archery Action with Outdoor Connections. 47 (1): 38–42.
- Wade Cox, Stephen. "About Ray Mears". Ray Mears Bushcraft. Ray Mears Bushcraft. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- "Info". Springfields Bushcraft.
- Galton Archive, Manuscripts Room, University College, London, List No. 56
- An on-line edition of 'The 10 Bushcraft Books' by Richard Graves
- Kochanski's webpage "Mors Kochanski - Survival & Wilderness Living Skills". Archived from the original on 2012-12-23. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Mors Kochanski Interview, Equip 2 Endure Podcast". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2020-08-06.