What Is Bushcraft?

I am a bushcraft instructor.

To some of you, that means something.

To some of you, it doesn’t.

Although the term “bushcraft” has seen more recognition lately, the majority of Americans still don’t know what it means. I’d even argue that the majority of outdoor enthusiasts aren’t exactly clear as to what “bushcraft” is.

For starters, it doesn’t involve turning landscaping shrubbery into Mickey Mouse ears.

When I was a teen approaching high school graduation, I knew that I wanted to become a person who leads people in the outdoors. I scoured the country for outdoor education programs that were geared towards college age students. Inevitably, I ran into the largest wilderness education school in the country. I looked through their website, in awe of the beautiful scenery and variety of exotic locations where they held their courses. I was so intrigued by the school that I drove out to their campus in Lander, Wyoming to speak with the staff first hand. Speaking to the staff further solidified my belief that this school was special. They all possessed the virtues of great leaders.

While touring the campus I was shown a large room, specifically designated to outfit the students. Everything from underwear to backpacks to tents and gas stoves. As a genuine gear geek, the room brought a smile to my face. I had never seen so much of the latest and greatest equipment in one room!

But, there was something missing…

Every skill that the school advertised relied heavily on the equipment that they supplied. Although I’m not a purist when it comes to primitive skills, it left me yearning for more. I don’t want to solely do things “to” nature.

I wanted to do more “with” the natural world than simply climb over its back. I wanted to know it deeper and rely on it, rather than high-tech, heavily manufactured equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love climbing its mountains, navigating its forests, and paddling its rivers… but I wanted to interact with the wilderness in a more in-depth way. I wanted to understand the trees, not just walk around them. I wanted to know the edible and medicinal plants. I wanted to understand what the weather meant, and why it did what it did. I wanted to be able to carve a life out of the wilderness, in a sustainable way.

Creating fire with sticks, building shelters with trees and earth, eating “weeds,” making cord out of inner bark, and understanding wildlife. At least, that’s a good start.

Bushcraft is when we take a step closer to nature. Bushcraft is not just observing nature, but participating in it.

Bushcraft is the human celebration of the natural world, in its purest form.

About The Author

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Sam Larson is a husband, father, and lover of the outdoors. He’s had the privilege of training with world renowned instructors in many different environments.

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