Differences and similarities between camping, bushcraft and survival techniques

There is a difference in the activities and mindset undertaken between Bushcraft, survivalists and campers.

Camping is more of a social and leisure activity that can be treated as a day out or an event on holiday. People usually go out and camping in the outdoors in a group or as a family.

Bushcraft camping is a skill based interest or even a required part of a job role like Woodsman. Bushcraft can be used as a means to survive or thrive in many outdoor environments and situations, without the equipment for it.

Bushcraft techniques are used in a variety of situations and outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing, survival and the military. Techniques used are many but focus on the basics of what is needed for a person to exist in a wild environment indefinitely, and not die from the encounter.

Small Camp Fire


What are the minimum skills needed to survive?

First you need to understand the physical rules and needs that every one has – described as the rules of 3:
3 Minutes without air and you will die! Your brain and body needs oxygen to operate.

3 hours exposure to bad weather conditions and you will die! If your body gets too hot or too cold due to cold rain, sleet, snow, wind or hot sun you will die from exposure.

3 days without water and you will die!  Your body needs clean, fresh water in order to function. You can die of dehydration from drinking dirty water as the resulting diarrhoea will deplete your body of fluids faster.

3 weeks without food and you will die! If you don’t eat your body starts to consume itself to provide calories to fuel cell metabolism. First it depletes your fat reserves, then it will consume muscle tissues and finally the vital organs.

These rules are considered universal to everyone given that a person is of good health, but if that is not the case then these numbers can be less!

Next we need to consider what are the basic requirements that are needed to be achieved to survive, given the rules of 3.

These are:

Shelter:- Some form of shelter is needed to protect you from bad weather, cold and heat. The shelter is needed for the rest and sleep needed by the body after a days work surviving.

Water:- A source of fresh (non-salty) water should be found. If the water is dirty then attempts to clean and filter the water will be needed.

Food:- Locate and identify edible foodstuffs. These can vary dependant on location but edible Plants, Fruits, Animals, Fish and Shellfish should be considered. Means to hunt, catch and collect food should to created to maximise the calories you receive verses what was expended in getting the food.

Fire:- Fire is an essential survival tool! It can be used to boil water to kill microbes that would make you sick. It is used to cook any caught or collected foodstuffs making them ready for consumption and is used as a source of heat to keep ourselves warm in cold conditions.
There are various ways of making fire, some ready made such as matches and lighters, and primitive ways such as a hand or bow drill fire by friction.

Fuel:- Finding suitable sources of fuel to create and maintain your fire after it has been lit. This can include finding dry wood and what to use for tinder to having enough fuel in the area you find yourself.

White Coppice Water Gorge
An upland stream runs through an gorge carved over millions of years.

All the different outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, woodsman together with emergency situations, will see you in a place where you are away from the safety and conveniences of civilisation. It is how the basics of surviving “in the wild” are addressed that differers from activity and situation.

For instance if you are on a camping trip on your own or with family or friends then the basics still apply but you bring with you the many things that address your needs. You will have brought with you water, food, a tent for shelter, a means to make fire and even fuel for it.

Bushcraft or survival enthusiasts will go to wild, isolated areas and the basics apply to them too! But they have less with them and use more survival techniques and create things they need to survive the encounter from the environment.

The true test comes when you are put into a true survival situation and you could have very little if any equipment to aid you. In these situations you would have to source and satisfy all your needs using the resources available to you.

So the differences in the situations you would find yourself away from comforts and conveniences, come down to a balance of knowledge of survival and what equipment you need to survive.

The more you know the less you need to have with you. But with some basic tools and techniques, you can be confident that when you step into the woods, you will step out again!