Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Difference Between Bushcraft Skills and Survival Skills

 Still socked in with snow, no relief in sight.  I try to avoid getting cabin madness fever by randomly searching the Internet for a knife to take on our camping trip this summer.  During my search I come across a curious new distinction.  There are some knives referred to as "Bushcraft" knives, and some referred to as "Survival" knives.  I would like to know the difference between them, wondering if this is just another example of over-specialization that we find in our society.

Bushcraft is the set of skills needed to survive in nature (i.e. the bush). Skills include firecraft, tracking, hunting, fishing, shelter building, the use of tools such as knives and axes, foraging, hand-carving wood, container construction from natural materials, and rope and twine-making, among others. (Wikipedia)

Survival skills are to help us survive a natural or man-made disaster.  Unlike bushcraft, the location is unknown.  That's because we do not know what the disaster might be.  So the disaster is often referred to simply as "SHTF", or "Shit hit the fan". You need to be prepared for any of the various possible SHTF scenarios.  That's why survivalists are often called "preppers", in that their main activity is preparing for the day the SHTF. After TSHTF, you may end up in a flooded area, or out in the bush or desert, in even your own home. Skills include first aid, finding water and food, "thinking clearly", self defence, and making the perfect "Bug out Bag" of stuff to grab quickly when TSHTF.  In Survival skills, the main thing that all preppers seem to agree on, is that when TSHTF, you will need to defend yourself against other humans (and possibly zombies) out there, trying to get your stuff or simply wanting to eat you.  There is a lot more emphasis on self defence in Survival than you find in Bushcraft.  So you will often find Preppers are accumulating guns and ammunition, while Bushcrafters may be more absorbed by trying to light fires by rubbing sticks together.

So after all this research, I find that bushcraft knives are designed more for whittling sticks, or making wooden spoons.  Survival knives are made for knife fights, for target throwing, and stabbing.  The same distinctions apply to survival axes vs. bushcraft axes.  So far, saws have not been divided into "Survival saws" vs. "Bushcraft saws".  That distinction may be coming one day, but the current school of thought has it that sawing off an attackers leg or arm is too slow to be an effective deterrent to all but the slowest zombies.  And those can be avoided by simply walking around them.

Pictures: Some of bushcraft from Wikipedia, and one from this website:


  1. Knives are as personal as motorcycles ... the same configuration does not work for everyone. Personally, I camped with a 'old pattern' NATO sailor's knife for years, tough as nails and stood me in good stead. Wish I could figure out where I left it :-(

    But that entire survivalist SHTF nonsense reminds of nothing as much as the Diefenbaker days and the nuclear shelter craze ...

    1. Although the Diefenbaker days are gone, today we have another SHTF scenario. Let's say Putin thinks some of the athletes at the winter Olympics are too gay for his liking, and decides to push that big red button to put a stop to it. We're going to be sorry we ignored all those warnings to build the fallout and nuclear bomb shelters.

      BTW, Saturday Night Live had a solution to avert the problem. They proposed sending over an alternate B men's figure skating team to conform to Putin's anti-gay laws. The B team would all be beer bellied out-of shape louts who are clearly not gay, or even good figure skaters.

  2. Well, there certainly is a difference between surviving in the wilderness and surviving an angry, desperate mob about to invade your home.