I was discussing bushcraft on Saturday and trying to explain it to someone whose life experience has been all in urban areas. In discussing life at our field school, I explained that it was just like life anywhere else, except without the infrastructure. I thought about this for a while after the conversation ended, and the more I thought, the more I liked it as an explanation. In bushcraft, we do the same things we do in town, but we do it with either improvised infrastructure (fire cranes, shelters, bough beds, etc.) or with no infrastructure at all (running water, central heat, etc.). It teaches you to find creative solutions to problems and make them yourself. But it doesn’t change what you do in your daily life. You still, eat, sleep, laugh, interact with others, etc. It just eliminates the interceding layer of infrastructure that cuts us off from the world around us.
Bushcraft Is Life Without Infrastructure
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I like that definition. I define it as participating in nature, instead of passing through it. When I put that as the header on my blog I thought it was an original unique that, but then realized I got it from Thomas J. Elpel’s book “Participating in Nature”.
My official definition of bushcraft, from the front page of our site:
“Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with nature. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world using simple, low-tech tools. Static knowledge, such as how to care for tools, etc., is a small percentage of the discipline. The vast majority is active, dynamic and hands-on.”
But I seem to be routinely shortening it and simplifying it for that coctail party explanation where you don’t want to be too wordy. I might have to crib from Elpel next time as I like his as well. With full credits given, of course.
Another good step in our quest to come up with a definition!
I too have difficulty with the concise explanation for folks who look blank when you say “Bushcraft”. I usually go from wilderness skills (still blank looks!) to primitive skills to nature, camping (getting desperate now) and usually end up mentioning Ray Mears at which point everyone I’ve ever spoken to seems to get what I’m talking about.
As I’ve said before it’s so far out of most people’s normal activity that people kind of think it’s unusual to be doing this stuff when in fact I think the opposite is true!
Happy Christmas. I hope you have a good one.