Differences Between Bushcraft and Survival Camping

There are many different ways to camp.  Most of the camping terminology describes the location of the campsite, such as a campground or the backcountry.  Other ways to characterize camping is the gear you use, such as a tent or a car.

Another way to compare the different types of camping is to look at the purpose behind the trip. Many people camp for recreation, entertainment, and relaxation.  Escaping into nature is a way to forget the stresses of everyday life and recharge for the week ahead.

Others look to camping as an opportunity to learn new skills or challenge themselves.  These types of camping intentions are geared more toward learning how to stay alive in difficult situations or environments.  They can also help campers prepare for disaster scenarios when they might not have access to common resources.

In this article, we will look at two types of camping: bushcraft and survival.  What are these methods of camping?  What are the differences between them?

Bushcraft Camping

At its core, bushcraft camping is a subset of survival camping.  It is focused on being able to live out in nature and learning skills that allow one to do that.  Those who participate in this style of camping study a variety of skills and then venture outside to practice and gain experience.

The term “bushcraft” refers to life “in the bush” which is a term used to describe the outback of certain countries such as Australia or South Africa.  It has become more widely known through several survivalists who have published books or have television shows about wilderness survival skills.

Many people have become interested in bushcraft camping as a way to get back to nature and connect with lost skills that were prevalent among those living rurally long ago.  Today the majority of people live in large cities and do not feel as connected to nature so they are looking to escape into the wild to restore themselves.

Bushcraft Camping Skills

There are many skills associated with bushcraft camping that are necessary to survive in the wild.  Some of these include:

  • Hunting and Fishing

If someone needs to find their own food sources, hunting and fishing are two ways to supply animal foods.  Both of these skills require a lot of knowledge about how to track animals by observing their tracks, signs, trails, scratchings, sounds, behavior, scat, and many other clues and cues.

A hunter should also know the best way to capture an animal.  Those who do not have access to weapons may need to learn how to set traps and where to place them to capture the desired prey.

If a gun is not available, what other weapons can be used to quickly bring down an animal?  For fishing, one may need knowledge of how to create a fishing pole, hook, and lure.

Lastly, once an animal has been caught, you need to know how to clean it properly and what to do with the remains so you don’t attract scavengers.

  • Building a Shelter

Having protection from the elements is a critical skill when it comes to bushcraft camping.  Even if someone already owns a tent, they should still know what to do in case it gets damaged or lost.

Knowing how to construct a simple lean-to using a tarp is a basic shelter-building skill.  More advanced ones include constructing your own lodging using logs that are cut down using an axe or other tool.

  • Navigation

Being able to read a map and compass is an essential skill when camping or spending time in the backcountry.  But if no map or compass is available, being able to read natural signs will be necessary to navigate.

Learning how to tell the time based on the sun’s position, awareness of the directions, and using natural landmarks are all a part of this ability.  Using the stars to guide you is an ancient method of navigation that can still be utilized today.

  • Making and Using Tools

Although many campers already own a lot of tools, those interested in bushcraft camping take things a step further by making their own instruments.  Learning how to take already existing objects such as sticks, stones, branches, and vines to create axes or knives is something these campers pursue.

It’s also important to know how to safely use any tools, whether they are homemade or purchased at a store.  Using a saw, axe, hatchet, knife, or other tools in a proper way will prevent injuries.

  • Foraging

When food supplies are limited, the bushcraft camper must search out in nature for wild-growing foods.  Learning which foods are edible and where to find them can prevent one from going hungry.  Just as important is knowledge of poisonous or inedible plants, what they look like, where they grow, and how to avoid them to stay alive.

  • Making a Fire

Learning to make a fire using natural equipment is key to surviving.  There may be situations where a camper does not have access to matches or a lighter.  Knowing how to use flints or different methods of creating friction to start a fire is a life-saving skill.

Survival Camping

There are many elements from bushcraft camping that overlap with survival camping.  In its simplest form, survival camping refers to those who want to test their skills to stay alive with very few resources.

People who want to learn to be self-reliant and face challenges or fears may be drawn to survival camping.  They may ask to be left out in the wild with just a fire starter, water purifier, and knife, for example, and challenge themselves to live with these very basic tools.

While bushcraft campers often want to return to nature and a more primitive way of living, survival campers are concerned with learning skills to help them stay alive with minimal resources.

There are a lot of similar skills needed in both types of camping.  Some additional survival skills include:

  • Purifying Water

Because water is essential to survival, it’s important to know how to locate clean water sources. Just because water is present, it may not always be safe to drink.

There are many methods for purifying water, from tablets to filters.  Many of these need to be purchased and then used in the wild.  Survival campers may take things a step further by building something to catch water.

It’s also important to know about naturally occurring sources of clean water if water purification methods are not available.  Those interested in survival often prioritize obtaining clean water and will learn multiple ways to do so.

  • Cooking and Preserving Food

In addition to water, having enough food is necessary to stay alive.  Survival campers will know how to cook food in the wild so it is edible and nutritious.  This means learning how to build a fire that gets hot enough to be used for cooking.

When fresh food is not available, survivalists will prepare food by preserving it.  Knowing how to dry foods and store them so they do not spoil means having enough to eat in leaner times.

Survival campers may also build structures to smoke certain foods or bury them in ashes so they can be cooked slowly.  It’s also important to know how to keep foods cool by building a natural cellar or other storage area.

  • First Aid and Medical Knowledge

Accidents can happen anywhere, and the backcountry is no exception.  In fact, injuries that occur while camping far from civilization can be more serious because it may be difficult to keep them clean.

Knowing how to prevent infection and treat injuries is an important skill to have for survival.  Not only that but having some basic first aid knowledge can go a long way to helping care for someone in an emergency.

Those interested in survival may study first aid, CPR, how to make a splint, ways to properly clean and dress wounds, how to stop someone from choking, and ways to treat shock.  Preventing and treating both hypothermia and heat stroke as well as burns and frostbite are also key.

In some situations, it may be necessary to go a step further and learn how to sew stitches for a particularly deep wound.  Awareness of what infection looks like and other symptoms of possibly life-threatening illnesses are also important.

  • Search and Rescue

Should something happen to one of your fellow campers, it’s necessary to know how to rescue them.  Knowing search and rescue skills will help you locate a missing person, extract them from a dangerous situation, and stabilize them if they have any injuries.

Some extreme environments may require additional knowledge.  In the mountains during the winter, awareness of avalanches is of primary concern.  In the water, being a strong swimmer and knowing about rip tides or having lifeguard training will be more important.


Many of the skills outlined here are important for both bushcraft and survival camping.  Bushcraft focuses more on living out in nature and being self-reliant while survival camping is about staying alive in any circumstance, often with minimal equipment.

Both types of camping can teach anyone important life skills and give an experience that will be invaluable in an emergency.  Many also find these types of camping to be very enjoyable and empowering because they connect you with nature and teach you to be self-sufficient.

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Rickie Arms

Hi, I'm Rickie Arms, owner of Glampingorcamping.com. I am so invested in writing the best and most informative articles for you that I went out and bought a travel trailer just so I could write about it for you. I spend just about all of my off time both camping and glamping so I can share everything I have learned and will learn with you. I have spent my whole life camping and over the last 10 years, I have spent a large amount of time checking out glamping experiences with my wife and kids as well. Thank you for coming by and we hope to see you back here getting great information in the future. Rick Arms-

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