Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is it with this "bushcraft"-thing?

I keep running across this word and the use of it and those that do wear it as a badge of honour and knowledge, fiercefully defending that title.
To me it seems this word is merely a clever disguise of the old and boring word "camping".... There, I said it.
You are a camper, skilled or not, but you are a camper!!! Or a hiker, a backpacker, an accomplished explorer or adventurer, hunter, fisher, outdoorsman, woodsman, trapper or whatever label you'd like to pin on a person....
In whatever form, ultralight hitech or weighed down with traditional materials, you still are a camper. You take your gear, go out there and stay there for any length of time and return home. To me, that is camping.

Kephart a bushcrafter? No, a old days-camper. Skilled and inspiring, true, but still a camper.
Nessmuk? The same goes for him and all the others, too.
Ray Mears? As much as I respect him, his knowledge and his skills, he still is a camper to me. Allthough I do believe that he could do very well as a bushcrafter. He has the knowledge and the skills. he just needs to sever the link to modern society and go LIVE the other way.

Real bushcrafters are the bushmen, living directy of the land, the original native Americans did the same. And the keyword here is LIVING, as on a permanent basis, 24-7 all year round and using the land's resources in a very direct way to sustain yourself.. Bushcraft is "primitive living", where primitive stands for no or very short processingtime as in the hunter-gatherer-way.
Western men has stopped being a bushcrafter long ago, the day they stopped using the land's natural resources directly and started to use these resources to manufacture items. Items like clothing, permanent houses and shelters, food and tools.

All those wonderfull skills and arts displayed by craftsmen working the leather, wood and bone... To me that has nothing to do with bushcraft.
Taking a hide, tanning it and wearing it as clothing or footwear... That is. But as soon as you start to process it, in any other way than strictly necessary.... it stops being bushcraft.

Bottomline to me;
Bushcraft is living your life out there, 24-7, all year round, using the resources you find in their most basic form to sustain your living.
This has nothing to do with disrespecting all those people who go out into the woods, hunt, live, make fire, knap flint or forage. It has nothing to do with being viciously envious of those able to whittle, carve, sew or otherwise make the most skillfully crafted knives, bowls, kuksas or leather items. (allthough I am a bit envious on htose who can).
I know the whole BC-community is going to be all over me. I don't care. Deep down they know I'm right if they stopped and honestly gave it some thaught.... but than again, that is not necessarily men's greatest ability anyway....

This is the way I feel about this thing, but I can be completely wrong about!!
Not that any of it matters, really.....


  1. Camping does have lots of different names these days, doesn't it? ;) I think the different names are useful because they help to describe the different ways in which we camp, but of course the most important thing is to get out there and do it.

    As for your definition of bushcraft, I agree to a point. I think it originally was supposed to mean "primitive living skills", like you describe, but I also include things like working leather, wood, bone (as you mentioned), adornments, decorations etc. In other words, any kind of primitve skill, not limited to purely survival skills. Just my opinion.

    I think it is possible to be a bushcrafter in the West, for example, if you actually practice primitive skills. Ilkka Seikku, a very accomplished knife and bow maker, has made perfectly functional bows and other implements with no modern tools or equipment whatsoever. He used only rocks and broken bones he found. I would say that, when he is doing something like that, he is a bushcrafter, even though he doesn't live out in the wilds 100% of the time. Again, just my opinion.

    In any case, I do like to see that people are bringing up these topics for discussion, so thank you Ron! :)


  2. Very well put Ron. I think many of us are not honest, even with ourselves, about what we do. What we do is camping, and as much as we want to talk about thriving in nature, that reality does not change.

    I personally define bushcraft a bit more vaguely as a set of skills that those people who live the life 24/7 use. I think certain individual skills can be applied with more or less success to particular camping, hiking, or hunting tasks. Ultimately however, I think you are right. Most of us just go to the camp site, cook some bacon, swing a huge axe a few times (so that everyone knows we are men), and then we go home.

    As a side note, I don't think any person, whether it be Ray Mears or anyone else, can live alone with the use of bushcraft, however we define it. The people who live it 24/7 only do so in communities (from what I have seen).

  3. Bushcraft seems to become more and more like just another fad for bored Westerners, like endurance-showering and "who can eat the most pancakes"-contests. I have nothing at all against Bear Grylls, in fact, I have a deep respect for that guy, but presenting the topic on the TV makes matters worse.

    I totally agree with you. I am no bushcrafter, not even a decent camper, but being primitive is a way of life for me, and has always been. Everyone may have one´s own way of living, as long as I can have mine.;-) My challenge is and always was to get along with less. Not only functionally or technically, but first and foremostly psychologically. And my deep respect goes to those real bushmen. Native Americans, Africans, Ainu, Saami, Inuit, Tscherkesses or whatever. As an expression of that respect, I want to learn what they are capable of, to be able to communicate. And this I do to find alternatives.

  4. @Fimbulmyrk: I've never seen a Bear Grylls show, but I thought he did wacky survival stuff, not bushcraft. ???


  5. To me, bushcraft is just a name for the skillset you aply when you are camping or hiking or being out in the "bush" doing your thing, whatever that is. To it is bushcraft to be able to identify and use wild, edibles. It's bushcraft to be able to stalk and shoot a moose, and know how to take care of the meat.

    Wether it's in your own garden with the kids. or on your way to conquer mount Everest, or living 24/7 in a lavvu while herding the reindeer. or what kind of equipment you have is quite irrelevant I think. The Inuits use snowscooters, and modern boats, and shoot their prey with rifles, and most of them live in modern houses with Internet, X-box etc. in towns. They still have the skills - the bushcraft though.

    I am actually looking for a scandinavian word that covers that. But have trouble finding it. If i do, I may simply change my use of the word Bushcraft to that one. Meanwhile I'll make do with bushcraft.

  6. Surviving the wilderness is how I understood bushcraft. Reading this, it became clearer to me that there are certainly a lot of things that I still need to know about bushcraft..