Bushcraft Camping — Practice Your Survival Skills

Homegrown Self Reliance
10 min readSep 11, 2020


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Have you been buying lots of new prepping equipment? Do you know how to use it all? Skills are more important than stuff! Bushcraft camping can help you — and your family — how to build your preparedness skills. And it’s a fun way to learn!

Bushcraft is the practice of a group of skills that are necessary for you to survive in the wild. They are important skills to have if you are ever in the woods.

If you are new to the preparedness world, you might want to think about how you can hone your skills. Can you start a fire? Do you know how to cook over an open fire? Can you build a shelter? Why not try bushcraft camping?

My family loves to camp. Sadly, sometimes there isn’t a lot of time for it, due to the farm chores and everything that we have going on at home. But we always go at least a couple times a year. Especially at hunting time.

Since we have been preparing for quite some time, we haven’t done a lot of bushcraft camping in quite a while. When our kids were little, we did it a lot. We wanted our kids to have the skills to survive in the wilderness if needed. But since we are “doubling down” on preparedness, it’s about time for a refresher!

Here are some fun bushcraft camping activities that you can do to learn new skills with your family:

Gathering and purifying water

Water should always be your first priority in a wilderness survival situation. You should learn a few different ways of purifying water. Bushcraft camping makes it easy to practice this.

Go down to the nearest stream and get a pot of water. Take it back to your campsite. After you build a fire, put the pot over the fire to purify it. It should come to a low boil for at least one minute. If your water is cloudy after purifying, let it sit for a bit, then filter through a clean cloth or coffee filter.

Another interesting way to practice getting water while you’re bushcraft camping is by digging a hole. Place a tarp over the hole, that is just slightly bigger than the hole. Secure it on all 4 sides with rocks. Place a medium-sized rock in the center of the tarp, so that it weighs it down slightly in the middle. Directly under that center rock, in the middle of the hole, put a cup to collect the water.

Dew will collect on the underneath of the tarp, and will run down it to the lowest point. That should be where the cup is. The next morning, you should have at least a little bit of water in the cup. This won’t need to be purified, as it’s clean dew.

If it looks like it will rain, set up a few water catchment systems to capture the rainwater. Put a few bowls, pots, or cups in areas where rain will go into them. Unless it’s running off a surface, this water will be clean and won’t need to be purified.

If you’ve purchased a water purification system, take this opportunity to try it out. You need to make sure you and your family knows how to use it. Gather some muddy or murky water, and see how clean you can get it. Also try purifying water with iodine or water purification tablets.

We love the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter, and keep one in every bag. Try as many purification methods as you can during your bushcraft camping adventure.

Build a shelter

Even if you have a fancy camper, you should practice making shelters. When you go bushcraft camping, make sure you have a few extra tarps and some cordage. These will be very important in building your skills.

If you have a tent in your emergency bag, make sure the whole family knows how to set it up. But also practice making primitive shelters.

Take the family to a wooded spot, and have them help you build a shelter with tarps and cord. You can tie the tarp up to a tree, or anchor with rocks. Make a lean-to, A-frame, or a tent of sorts. Gather branches with lots of foliage on them to lay on the ground. Raising your “bed” area will help you stay warmer and more comfortable.

Let the kids take turns building their own shelters. It may seem redundant, and you might get a little push back from them. But I promise you, a little bit of “fun” work can help them immensely in the future.

You can even try building a shelter without tarps. Make a debris hut or an A-frame with branches. If there is snow anywhere near by, build a snow shelter.

Use some cordage to tie branches together to make a lean-to. If you place the branches with the foliage facing down, it will allow rain and moisture to flow down it, rather than dripping into your shelter. It’s also easier to tie the wood without the branches together at the top.

Build a fire

Another very important skill to learn is different ways of building a fire. Make sure you take the time while you are bushcraft camping to learn at least a few.

We’re not talking about rubbing 2 sticks together here. But hey, if you want to try that, more power to you!

Gather your tinder and kindling, and try different ways of lighting it. Maybe you bought a ferro rod. Learn how to use it! Learn to make a bow drill for fire starting.

Try out those new fire starters that you threw in your emergency bag. Learn how to make char cloth. Dip some cotton balls in petroleum jelly to make your own fire starters. Try to stay away from using matches or lighter, if possible.

Then learn how to build more efficient fires. Check out the Dakota Fire Hole, or a Swedish Fire Log. Learn to build a teepee fire, or a log cabin fire. Try different types of tinder and kindling. Maybe even test your skills by trying to light a fire in the rain.

You could even practice transporting fire, by carrying a coal in some grass from one spot to another. And make sure you learn how to position a fire in front of your shelter to capture the most radiant heat possible from it.

Learn to cook over a fire

Once you’ve built your efficient fire, why not learn how to cook over it? Cooking on an open fire is an important skill to learn in bushcraft camping. Practice boiling water, and throw some rice in the pot. Or put a can of soup in a pot on the rocks around the fire.

Put together a few hobo dinners that you can toss into the hot coals after your fire is dying down. Learn how to cook with coals in a dutch oven.

Find some green branches to lash together loosely to make a fire grate to set a pot on. Or learn how to make a fire spit, with 2 forked branches on each side of the fire, and a sturdy green branch to set between. You can do your own rotisserie squirrel on a spit.

Learn to hunt, fish, and build traps and snares

While you’re bushcraft camping, you should practice hunting, fishing, and building traps and snares. What good is learning to cook over a fire without having anything to cook?

You can easily make a deadfall trap with a heavy rock and a stick. Or set snares with rope on a well-traveled path to catch small game as they go past.

Learn to track big game, and practice shooting a gun or a bow. Target practice is pretty easy in the mountains. Make sure you know your state’s hunting regulations and have a license if you’re going to actually hunt.

Learning to clean your game is a valuable skill as well. Make sure you know how to do it properly. Watch videos, or have another hunting friend show you how to do it.

Learn how to fish without a traditional fishing pole. Build your own pole with a flexible branch. Any small-gauge cordage can work for fishing line. Did you know that in paracord, that there is many different strings inside? That means that you can take it apart and have many, many thin strings to use for different purposes. A soda can tab with a notch taken off can be used as a fish hook. Again, make sure you have a license if you’re going to fish.

Practice foraging

Take a look at your surroundings while you are bushcraft camping. See what trees, herbs, berries, and foliage you can identify and forage. If you have a field guide, that will be very helpful in identifying plants.

Gather some rose hips, mullein, or pine needles to make some tea. Pull off some pine sap to put on a wound. Find and gather elderberries for later use.

Most forests have some type of mint growing rampantly in them. Find some mint (hint: any plant in the mint family will have a square stem, and smell like mint) and add to a cup of tea. This will greatly help improve the taste of the water you have gathered and purified.

Find some nuts or berries that you can eat while in the woods. Be very, very cautious of mushrooms. If you haven’t studied them before you go on your adventure, don’t risk it! There is only 1 mushroom that I feel confident foraging in the wild, and that is the Morel. There are just so many lookalikes, I don’t feel confident trying them.

Even just identifying the plants around you will help you learn valuable skills. Find plants, take pictures of them, and do research on how to use them later.

Learn to use knives and axes

While on your bushcraft camping trip, you should have a variety of knives and axes. You need to learn to use them! Learn to split wood and how to carve with a knife. If you are going to hunt, you need to know how to use a knife to clean and process your game.

Also take the time to learn how to sharpen your knives and axes. Learn proper knife care to keep them clean and free from rust. Knives are a valuable tool, it’s important to know how to care for them.

Treating wounds

If you’re planning a serious bushcraft camping adventure, you should learn to treat wounds. Take a first aid class, or invest in the Boy Scout Handbook. This book is very valuable for learning new wilderness skills.

Did you know that yarrow is excellent at stopping bleeding? You can find yarrow in most woods and prairies, and it’s easy to identify. If someone gets a small cut, you could try putting some yarrow on it to stop the bleeding. Then wrap with a bandaid or gauze to protect it.

Even if someone is unlucky enough to get a sprain or a break, you can still practice splinting. Take a small branch and some gauze, a bandanna, or a t-shirt, and stabilize the “injured” area. Make sure the area is restricted from much movement.

Make sure you always have a well-stocked first aid kit with you. We always have one in each emergency bag, in the car, and in the camper. This will help immensely, no matter what size of aid is needed.

Learn to navigate

Another important skill to learn while bushcraft camping is navigation. Take a trail map or topographical map with you. Learn how to identify landmarks on the map, and learn how to find them in person.

Make sure you know how to read a compass. They can be confusing if you don’t know the proper way of reading them.

Most national forests have marked trails. They have a number somewhere at the beginning of the trail. If you ever go hiking on a trail, make sure you note what number it is. You may need to tell someone where you are.

Learn the proper way of marking a trail. Yes, there is a proper way! Your family should have a standard way of marking any trail that they go down. That way, if a family member gets lost, you can know it’s them, and know which way they went.

Make sure the kids know how to identify north, south, east, and west. Moss normally grows on the north side of trees, so they can learn that trick to learn direction. And always study your position based on an easily-identifiable landmark. Test the kids frequently while hiking, to see if they know where their landmark is.

Go bushcraft camping!

I hope I’ve inspired you to do some fun and useful bushcraft camping during your next outdoor adventure. Have you done any bushcrafting? Are you confident in your skills? Maybe it’s time to try them out!

Originally published at https://www.homegrownselfreliance.com on September 11, 2020.



Homegrown Self Reliance

Proud wife, mother, and grandmother, blogger at www.homegrownselfreliance.com. Lover of animals and gardening. Follow me for great beginner homestead tips!