Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival vs. Long-Term Wilderness Living (Part 1-General Overview)

by Justin Lowthorp on May 03, 2020

In this post I'm going to discuss the difference between wilderness survival and long-term wilderness living as it pertains to bushcrafters and other practitioners of wilderness living skills. It is my opinion that what passes as modern bushcraft largely has become really just wilderness survival with a side of handicrafts.

There seems to be a large number of military vets teaching bushcraft nowadays. I too served in the Army (A/27 Infantry, Rock of the Marne) and I can tell you most assuredly that no branch of the military in any nation teaches long-term wilderness living. Some do excel in temporary survival, emergency medicine, and disaster preparedness; all important skills to know and invaluable when desperately needed.

I would never discourage the pursuit of that knowledge and I am personally always seeking to gain more in that direction. The issue is that modern bushcraft seems to now be gear focused and a mix of military survival skills, camping, some wild edibles and a bit of cup and spoon carving. Most bushcrafters I know really do want more than this though. They want the knowledge and ability to live in the wilderness for as long as they desire.

Fortunately I am starting to notice some channels on YouTube experimenting with traditional building techniques, largely influenced by John Plant's fantastic channel. I credit him with bringing back the interest in traditional construction more than any other. For some time there have been channels that focus on wild edibles and others that specialize in hunting, fishing and trapping. Unfortunately YT seems to shadow ban these channels and it's hard to promote realistic wild food harvesting. Again, this is just my opinion. 

So how can we find and cultivate the knowledge, experience and physical properties needed for long-term wilderness living? I will go over my personal path in developing these but first we must discuss some truths and except these as reality.

First, no modern human can carry all they need to live indefinitely in a single pack you can carry around on your back. Much harder and more capable men than us never did such a thing. Most would venture into the forest in sizable groups heavily laden with gear. The rare solitary mountain man would still bring a string of horses carrying all they might need.

Second, you are not going to be able to feed yourself completely off the land with your bow and primitive traps and snares. The point is to succeed, not to suffer. The point is to make meat. To best achieve this bring modern cartridge rifles and steel traps and snares.

Feel free to use your bow in good times when you have a store of meat already and play around with deadfalls, but do not depend on these to keep you fed. A .308 and a .22 will cover most of your needs, perhaps a 12ga shotgun too for waterfowl and to accommodate certain state regulations depending on where you are and what game you're going after.

Next is wild edibles. The simple truth for the most part is animals are food and plants are medicine. The plant foods with a high energy content are very seasonal. When available, by all means take advantage of them, but don't overly concentrate on them. The sugar crash from over-consuming berries or fruit is not worth it in my experience. The starch-rich sources generally require a great deal of processing to make the nutrition contained within bio-available.

I very much enjoy wild harvesting but these are more of a side to accompany the game I take, and for their health benefit. Many plants and fungi are immune boosting and even have cognitive enhancing properties and are well worth the effort it takes to collect and prepare them. This should be done opportunistically while on the hunt or when on the trapline. The knowledge of medicinal plants is more vital than what is edible. Focus on making meat.

Now let's take a look at the gear we would bring for long-term wilderness living. The light-weight gear commonly available isn't appropriate. Everything must be heavy duty. Your tools need to be suitable for work on a construction site and easily maintained out in the field. Thin, light-weight cookwear needs to be replaced with restaurant quality stainless and cast iron. Clothing needs to be rugged and repairable. Even your light scouting kit needs to be robust.

In the next post I will cover how to go about setting up your gear for the long-term and what to do to gain and cultivate the needed knowledge to remain in the wilderness for as long as you desire.

3 comments
by Steven Valiquette on May 31, 2020

Straight and to the point, wasting no time in delivery. Gotta love it; In fact, I do love it.

Keep up the good work.

- Parkourestry

by Pedro Torres on May 13, 2020

Very good. Always learning.

by Naim C on May 10, 2020

very much waiting on part 2

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