Information: bushcraft & survival skills

Information on the theory and practice of bushcraft & survival skills outdoors – from case studies to policies, examples of forms, documents & handouts, research and articles, and much more to support your theoretical explorations into the outdoors.

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Reports, articles, research etc are, as much as possible, arranged in chronological order, most recent at the top. 

Bushcraft & Survival skills

Bushcraft expert Dave WatsonDave Watson has been teaching bushcraft professionally since he founded Woodland Survival Crafts in 1995,  following a ten year career working in outdoor activity centres.

He shares a little of his knowledge with us here:

What is Bushcraft?

The term bushcraft originally referred to the skills of living/surviving in the Australian or African Bush. In the UK we have taken hold of the word and adapted it, widening its use to encompass the many special aspects of the subject.

For me, it brings together some key/magical ingredients: adventure, creativity, inspiration, survival skills, which are all-in-all good for wellbeing. At the heart of good bushcraft is a philosophy that focuses on “working with our environment,” rather than a focus on disaster survival where you do whatever you need to in order to survive the immediate situation. For me bushcraft should also challenge peoples perceptions/the way they see their environment.

What does it involve?

The sort of skills that bushcraft includes are: effective shelter building, responsible fire lighting, campfire gadgets & cooking, identifying and gathering wild foods, string making, tracking, whittling, flint knapping.

There are a lot more things we could mention but perhaps it is a good idea to get to understand what is at the heart of bushcraft: one of the key elements is that it will heighten your understanding of your surroundings.

Using a bow and nettle cord to start a fire

Who can get involved?

It really can be for anyone.

At the age of 2 my daughter spent a night in a cave with me. She loved it so much we spent 4 nights in it that year.

Benefits of participation

In the 1970s Richard Graves wrote a book called Bushcraft. In his opening paragraph he wrote this quite prophetic statement.

The practice of Bushcraft shows many unexpected results. The five senses are sharpened, and consequently the joy of being alive is greater. The individual’s ability to adapt, improvise is developed to a remarkable degree. This in turn leads to increased self confidence. Self confidence and the ability to adapt to a changing environment and to overcome difficulties is followed by a rapid improvement in the individual’s daily work. This in turn leads to advancement and promotion. Bushcraft, by developing adaptability, provides a broadening influence, a necessary counter to offset the narrowing influence of modern specialism. The practice of Bushcraft conserves and does not destroy wildlife.”

Where can we go to do it?

There are a good number of companies who run courses ranging from a family fun session to a full week for adults. Each year many new companies emerge offering exciting looking packages. Some will be excellent, some mediocre and some poor or even dangerous.

Questions to ask: who is the main person behind the business? What is their background? Have they a real passion for what they do or is it just a business venture?

Local Wildlife Trusts and National Parks often offer simple daytime packages or sessions that might include shelter building and fire lighting.

Woodland Survival Crafts logoThanks very much to Dave Watson

Visit his website:

Bristol recovering alcoholics learn bushcraft skills

Bushcraft skills are being taught to women recovering from alcohol addiction in Bristol as part of their treatment. Short video from the BBC, 16 October 2015 (2 mins 12).

My cat for your firewood: a fair trade?

Funny irreverent article about a father’s love for gathering and chopping firewood, and the author’s attendance at an Introduction to Forest Skills course in Devon. The Guardian, 20 November 2014.

Seven Things You Need To Know About Bushcraft

The 7 key areas of bushcraft, according to (not dated).

Fascination of Fire – Charcoal, by Claire Warden

One of a series of books that ‘outline adult knowledge and skills, case studies of children’s voices, progression in learning, and curriculum links … will give you an insight into the knowledge you need as an adult in order to facilitate learning.’ Available from Muddy Faces.

Fascination Of Fire - Charcoal - book cover

Knife Use with Groups

Forest School Leader’s Guide
A really useful handy-sized book with practical guidance based on recognised good practice and Forest School Training Network recommendations. Deals sensibly with popular misconceptions & sets out the legal position of using & transporting knives for educational purposes. Produced by & available from Muddy Faces.

Knife Use With Groups book cover

How to start a fire

Muddy Faces Outdoor Hub

We have an ever-expanding range of fire-lighting activities on our Outdoor Hub – click here to see them.

Fire-lighting articles & blogs

We’ve gathered a selection of articles on fire-building and fire-starting techniques.

A (Near) Complete List of Fire Building Techniques (+ Tips and Tricks) and 15 Best Fire Starters for Backpackers & Preppers for 2018 from Geek Prepper.

Basic fire-building techniques from ThoughtCo.

Beginners guide to making a campfire from BWCA – the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness in north-eastern Minnesota.

Firestarters. A selection of home-made fire starters as alternatives to matches or lighters, from Love the Outdoors.

Firewood: a start to finish guide. A comprehensive guide to sourcing & gathering, cutting & storing, seasoned wood & safety, from Camping Cooks. 

How to build a campfire: the right way. Good guide covering prep, lighting, fire-building techniques & extinguishing, from My Open Country (US).

How to make a pocket wax burner. From Woods Monkey – ‘for anyone who takes a playful and inquisitive look at the outdoors’.

How to make waterproof matches. Nicely illustrated guide to how to make matches waterproof, from Wikihow.

How to start a camp fire. Article from Trip Savvy.

How to start a fire. Extended & indepth article by legendary outdoor authority Tom Brown Jr, from Earth Mother News.

Primitive fire building. The five steps to fire-building & lighting, including preparing your area, making a spark & using a flint and steel, from Ridgerunners –  ‘for those who take to the woods & fields for work or play.’

We’re always expanding our bushcraft & survival skills activity guides – check them out here.
See also our Bushcraft & Survival Skills Links pages for tons of links to websites offering guides to practical skills.

9 Essential camping knots to master (+ 3 bonus knots)

Dos & don’ts of knot tying, types of knots, terminology, and how to tie 12 different knots – with a photo, instructions & suggested uses for each. From My Open Country (US)

Ancient Crafts: flintknapping & projects

How-tos, famous flintknappers, risks, glossary of terms and tools.
Child & adult-friendly projects to create cordage, pigments, tools, crafts & art.

Animated Knots

Aims “to provide the best teaching about how to tie knots” with literally hundreds of animations available.

Jon’s Bushcraft How-To articles

Lots of how-to articles including natural cordage, basket-weaving, spoon & bowl carving and beautiful canoes.

Make rope out of dead plants – with no tools 

Step-by-step guide with colour photos, includes finding your fibre plants, harvesting, prep, theory and method. From Instructables.


Our bushcraft & survival skills links page signposts you to the main national bodies, key organisations, initiatives and websites in the world of bushcraft, survival & wilderness skills outdoors.

Have a browse – there are tons of links to loads of interesting, important & inspiring organisations!

Sections include:

Ancient & primitive skills
Bushcraft, wilderness & survival skills
Knots & cordage
Magazines & events
Reading the landscape
Shelter making