Garage

Friday, 22 April 2011

Survival versus Bushcraft

Survivalists and bushcrafters have a great deal in common. In general both are believers in self reliance and appreciate the need to learn skills often thought of as outdated by the general populace. I think the difference is that in the survivalists mind, scenarios are quite extreme and they often see themselves alone and against daunting odds. I prefer bushcraft. It seems less complicated and requires less paranoia. By no means am I saying you shouldn't store some food and provisions. In fact, I encourage this. I am a firm believer that whoever feeds you owns you so make sure you have enough to get by in lean times. In my opinion this is good housekeeping, not survivalism.

So why is survivalism negative? I don't think it is, but it attracts quite a few weirdos. By weirdos, I mean folks who:
  • Feel the need to hammer their knives through an anvil to make sure that it will survive a typical survival scenario.
  • Folks who stockpile tactical clothing. They don't realise that if war broke out, someone dressed as a special forces soldier would be sniped or vapourised with a hellfire shot from a drone within the first minute of stepping out of the door.
  • Carry a giant knife when a small folder would do perfectly. I mean, you don't need a kukri to open a letter.
  • Paint their Chevy C10 in camo, even though they use it as a round' town car.
Bushcraft is romanticised and has become very popular. Really, it's just people who enjoy, and have become proficient at camping. It's nothing mythical or magical. If you know someone who hunts regularly, chances are they are great bushcrafters who could do quite well at living off the land.

Since Discovery channel has been featuring more "survivalists" and even men who are apparently competing against nature, people have started looking at bushcrafters as being extreme or following the survivalist line of thinking. I think this is a grave misunderstanding. For the most part, bushcrafters are not extreme adrenaline junkies, yahooing as they backflip off waterfalls after drinking their own urine from an elephant's foreskin. Quite the opposite really. They are generally people who like the quiet and enjoy activities that require patience. You see most of the old skills required time, patience and an understanding that everything takes effort and time if it's to be done properly.

So what is my take on survivalism? I think anyone can be a survivor. I think it's a state of mind rather than a preoccupation with tacticool equipment. When the chips are down, will you keep your head and do what you have to in order to get yourself and those around you through it? If you answered yes, then you are a survivalist. Some people have all the gear, but no idea. I think it's better to have less but know how to use it to it's full potential. This is why I advocate using less equipment, but buying quality. Learn to use less and you will learn to think and plan more. This is a useful skill to practice and no amount of gear will develop this skill.

Making the transition from a survivalist to a bushcrafter requires a shift in thinking. Start using your equipment and gear in practical ways. You will quikly find out if your gas mask is as useful as an aluminium pot when your out in the woods. I can guarantee you that you will start to realise that you have bought into a great deal of marketing hype and for the most part, have spent a lot of money on crap you will never use. I often chuckle when i read threads on forums where people ask what knife / axe / phone would be best in a survival situation. Most times, you won't have any of these items with you, that's why it's a "survival" situation. This is why skills are more important. Knowledge, skill and common sense will serve you much better than the best knife or camo paint.

That's my take. Skills and knowledge weigh nothing and only require use to stay maintained. For the most part these can be had for free. It just takes time. If your willing to spend the time, you are already on the road to being a bushcrafter. Stay safe this Easter.

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