If you have read Dave Canterbury's "Bushcraft 101" but have not yet read Mors Kochanski's "Bushcraft," then you really ought to! Mors wrote his book back in 1988 and has been one of the leading survival instructors out there teaching wilderness skills for more than 30 years in Canada. What is unique about Mors's book is that he goes into areas and details that Dave's book does not cover completely. And yet, what is awesome about Dave's book and what he focuses covers the areas and points that Mors's book didn't. It's very evident that Dave indeed admires Mors and his knowledge as you can see his influence in his own direction of bushcraft yet is still his own. However, you can see they share a similar bond at the same time.
When structuring the direction of his book, Dave, places emphasis on the importance of understanding your essential gear and its purpose, while incorporating his own take on bushcraft survival basics, What I like about his book is how he wants you the reader to understand how to get started and what you should consider so that you can literally take the book and physically do what it says to get out into the woods. Whereas, Mors's focus of his book is directed at understanding the dangers of environmental conditions which can lead to further problems that he would rather a person seek to avoid all together, as he guides the reader to understand the essential knowledge of firecraft and the needed foundations of it. Now, when I say "firecraft" I am not merely talking about just making a simple fire, but that it dives right into the subject to cover all the needed points. He goes into detail of variables such as how to make fire, what tools to use to construct one, how to use those tools, what type of fire lays exist for both group camping as well as individuals, how to perform different cooking methods with fires, warming fires, what advantages do some fire lays have over others, wood processing, tinder bundles, where to make a fire, where not to make a fire and so on.
When you begin to see the layout of each author you begin to realize more about their woodsmen knowledge and perspective. Dave wants you to know where to begin before venturing out in the woods and where to start. Mors wants you to be careful and know the importance of being safe and smart as he guides you to know and understand things like proper axe and knife skills while giving you tons of pictures to demonstrate his points. Sure, Dave is not in any way against safety as he himself brings up these points now and then such as knife safety, the four W's and other topics. What I really like about both their books is they completely compliment each other. It would be like spending time with Dave for some time when reading his whole book and then being trained under Mors afterwards as he goes into more depth covering certain topics in his book that Dave didn't spend as much time in. But after finishing you really feel the overlapping of issues both spoke about, to the point it really begins to click and sink the very points the made inside you really well. and that is priceless!
I was watching a YouTube channel called Bushradical one day, which is done by a guy name Dave Whipple, who brought up an interesting points asking the question of what is Bushcraft and how he defined it. I was indeed impressed by his ideas and even inspired some to the point I myself began to jot some ideas down to add to his postulating points. I personally wrote him a letter when he first brought up the point and even sought him out if he would desire to contribute some by possibly collaborating together a little? Although he never replied, and I felt no hard feelings seeing he has some twenty-three thousand followers on his channel, I felt it best to bring up the points here in order to add my two cents to the table a bit.
When I first heard his points he made I in some what agreed with him that essentially bushcraft, camping and survival all can in truth have some common connection to each other. And that there indeed are a set of skills that they all have essentially in common when viewed individually as well as together. But that's as far as I was able to continually agree, and well, it is also where I began to veer away from his points some. Although he would agree he probably only in part touched the issue, and to be honest he himself said he was not fully confident that he explained everything, and believed other people might probably argue out the points even better. It was just that very thing that made me think about what points he did not bring out in order to add to his initial point. So let me explain some of the points I felt needed to be fully addressed. And for those curious to know what he said by all means click the link and check out the video yourself as he sincerely made some very important points I could not help resist getting myself involved into this discussion.
If you look at the picture above you can use this as a visual idea to see where I agree with Dave and where we differ. The middle portion represented to me the actual skills, knowledge, and experience we should have outside of the subject of bushcraft, survival and camping. Lets call these skills simply "Basics Life Skills." These things are the stuff we should naturally be taught as well as pass down as basic knowledge to our kids, to know and do with ease. Instead of the lame garbage we have been passed down today, most if the electricity were turned off or the city water was some how got compromised, would be going crazy. Because the main ideas being taught are further from the skills and mindsets people had in the 1800's. If people today were forced to live in that environment they would most likely not even make it through the winter as many reality shows are beginning to see. And this is not good at all.
So in order to understand things in my eyes, I feel the middle must indeed be the skills we need regardless of whether one goes camping and or if someone is seeking to go into the path of bushcraft. For indeed life itself is all about survival yet survival also can be defined in different categories as well. So for this reason I feel its best to lay out each point as they relate to the different parts of the diagram above.
Basic Life Skills:
1. Making a fire
2. Procuring and purifying water.
3. Making shelter
5. Knife, axe, saw and tool skills
6. Bind skills
8. Wild edibles and medicinal plants
9. Emergency care
10. Cooking and preparing food (slaughtering/skinning ect.).
Without fire you cant cook. Without the knowledge of procuring water and how to purify it you can drink to survive. Without shelter you can keep yourself from the elements. Without knowing navigation you can travel accurately. Without fauna you don't know the animal dangers surrounding you. Without edible plants knowledge can't know what is there to eat around you. Without the knowledge of emergency care you can't solve the basics of injuries and how to deal with them. Without cooking you cant prepare food as needed. Therefore all of these essentially are the basis of everyday living. Every person should be a medic of their own home. Why is it we pass this knowledge off to others and simply worry about getting medical help when we should know how to close up a wound with stitches? Why are we pay and relying upon some company to give us water to drink and to purify it for us? Why is it we want to rely on some GPS transmitter and not learning how to pace count and navigate ourselves? The more dependent we as people become the less knowledge and ability one has to be socially independent.
When the topic of survival comes up its best defined as these listed below.
1. Natural Disasters
Lighting Storms (Fire/Power Outages)
1. Hunting, fishing
2. Exploring the outdoors
3. Hiking, rock climbing
4. Spending time with ruffing it
1. Learning to do more with less
2. Practicing primitive technology skills
2a. Using clay to make an oven
2b. Primitive blacksmithing
2c. Leather processing
2d. Clay vessel and brick making
3. Learning how to use natural resources and produce items from it
If you eliminate the basic skills I listed above you are in survival mode. Where as if we know these skills and hold on to them tightly then bushcraft becomes something in itself altogether as well as survival and camping. Having myself been in natural disasters when a huge hurricane hit I was by no means concerned as I had the skills to do what was needed when no electric or water was available. And yes I was in my own mind camping. As the needs I had were compensated by the skills I had and thus what could have been a survival situation became a camping adventure. However, when someone does not have those skills even a homeless situation becomes a survival one. And this is where life becomes real hard for someone who is suffering and cant even function in an environment where he is deeply now socially needing others but is even worse off because he does not have the skills to be socially independent as much as humanly possible. And its for this very reason I myself could not agree with Dave who called those skills bushcraft skills, because without them we as people would only become extremely helpless and social dependent and for this reason we must define these skills as "basics life skills." and not "bushcraft skills."
When we separate these skills from that of bushcraft the direction of bushcraft becomes either completely its own entity and or it draws from the basic life skills first in order for its ability to be carried out. Therefore, when being carried out those skills needed to be performed are themselves their own class of skill sets one must learn in order to perform them, but without the basic life skills one can not initiate these skills at all or they themselves are skills outside of the basic life skills set for example:
Proper knife knowledge is required before cutting into a tree and stripping the back off so as to procure bark strips for making cordage. Therefore, the knife skill it self is a basic life skill where as the skill of making cordage from bark is a bushcraft skill of its own. The same can be said in relation to survival if a huge winter storm were to surge in but one is not trained in the basic life skills of making fire one will die of hypothermia. Where as, the skill of knowing what wood is best for longevity and which ones are best for heat one can take that survival skill and knowledge and by it use the basic life skill of making fire to survive the winter storm by applying his survival skills he has learned to his basic life skills. Where as rock climbing and rappelling requires knowledge of ropes, carabiners, knots, harnesses, ect but do not require the skills found in the basic life skill set. However, if one had become injured while climbing such skills as emergency care skills would require one to draw from the basic life skills in order for its ability care for the injured person.
And for this reason, this is why I argue that the skills many are calling buschcraft, or woodland survival, or just survival skills actually should be placed into their own category which should be called "basic life skills" and this is what we have lost as a whole and are the reasons we today have become socially dependent in so many dysfunctional ways. It's these skills all people should be actually should be taught from their youth till 12th grade. As even Mors Kochanski said, "If teaching of plants was started in kindergarten and was done more systematically than it is now, a student graduating out of grade twelve...they would already know the names of all the plants in their general locale." (pg253 Boreal Survival 2013) So if you ask me we need to redefine what really is bushcraft and begin passing down to our children the real life skills they need in order to break away from social dependency and ultimately away from being ignorant to the skills of basic life living and survival as the old Swedish parable goes "Only the dead fish are those which move down stream"
Avi Ben Shalom: