Bushcraft: What it is, what it isn't… and why we don't care.
We recently received some feedback (let’s call it that for the purposes of this entry), from an individual who wished to point out that what we post online (and what he believes we are attempting to portray ourselves as), directly conflicts with his preconception of “bushcraft”.
- skill at living in the bush.
Now, let’s agree that not everyone agrees on the definition of “living” (especially in the bush/backcountry). Does “living” in the bush have a literal meaning and a start and end date? Must one live uncomfortably to adhere to an ideal? What “skills” are measured to assess one’s capabilities in the backcountry and how? Is there a minimum amount of gear to take with you to guarantee you can live sustainably? Is it six, or maybe only three pieces of equipment/gear that can assist you in “living” comfortably in the woods? I would think that this varies quite a bit from person to person, including those experienced “bushcrafters” who have decades of skills developed in the deep woods. Let’s face it: no one posting on social media about what is and isn’t “bushcraft” is actually living in the bush.
Over the last few years of being active online in various incarnations, we’ve witnessed a definite uptick in the amount of “bushcraft” channels (on YouTube and social media mostly). Everything from “how to make a ‘bushcraft’ camp chair” (using factory-made silicon-impregnated, ripstop nylon and paracord no less), to “how to cook a ‘bushcraft’ lunch” have all seen their day online. While the general consensus is that “bushcraft” is a social niche, it simultaneously accomplishes something else: the compartmentalization of outdoor skills.
It seems, as of late, that unless you maintain a carefully curated collection of boutique, handmade knives and axes, or are clad head-to-toe in Fjallraven clothing, you’re not considered a “bushcrafter”.Well, let me remind you that all the way back to the creation of bushcraft skills, no one really cared about what brand of axe you used, nor what pelt you wore. If it worked, and kept you alive and comfortable, you used it.
Today, we have access to mountains of inexpensive, reliable backcountry equipment. Never before in the history of mankind has there been such a vast selection of outdoor tools at our disposal. Is it wrong to take advantage of our ingenuity as a species? Isn’t that what the idea of “bushcraft” (at its core) is celebrating?
Is it sacrilege for an individual to combine skills like making and using a bowdrill with modern day rod-and-reel fishing? What about lighting a fire with a ferro rod (a modern invention) in lieu of a bowdrill? Should you not be permitted to process freshly-caught game with a knife, then cook it to perfection on a white-gas pocket stove? What about having the skills to craft a perfect lean-to or debris shelter, but choosing to sleep in a tent? Are these things frowned upon today because they aren’t primitive in appearance? I should hope not, but we are seeing a disturbing trend indicating the contrary.
I’m not against learning, developing or executing primitive skills – it’s great knowledge to have and I often use these skills when out on the trails (take a step back to make two forward) – but the point of getting outside is to enjoy it no matter how or what you use to do it.
I suppose we don’t fit the bill as “bushcrafters”. And we’re perfectly okay with that.