The best thing about going camping is getting away from the daily grind of your everyday life and enjoying time surrounded by the beauty of nature. Even if you prefer glamping, camping with luxuries, there is inevitably something you forgot to bring or that stops working.
There are many various ways to camp as well as tons of locations to camp. Even when everything goes as planned, there are tons of different skills you can learn if you simply put in a bit of effort. Whether you prefer to camp out in your backyard or in a luxury RV or cabin, here’s what camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival.
How to Improvise
One of the things that camping has in common with bushcraft and survival is the frequency of Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong usually will go wrong, at the worst possible moment. When you are camping, you inevitably forget to bring something that you need to cook with, start a fire with, or setup your tent.
Maybe the last time you packed up the tent, you inadvertently left the tent stakes lying on the ground. Or maybe you forgot to pack the food into the cooler. Or perhaps you left without your blankets and pillows. But even if your memory is excellent, and you do bring everything you need, things can break when you least expect it. Instead of packing everything up and heading home when things go wrong, use it as an opportunity to figure out how to do things differently.
Learning how to improvise when you forget something or the item you need gets broken is a primary bushcraft and survival skill that frequent camping can teach you.
How to Choose the Right Campsite
One of the first things camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to choose the right campsite. That nice flat area out in the grassy area might seem like a great place to pitch your tent. But when you wake up and the hot morning sun has heated your tent to what feels like oven temperature, it won’t be so comfy.
So the next time you pitch your tent, you may think under the big shady tree or on the ground near the river would be a great place, until you go to lay down after a long day and discover that there are quite a few hard, bumpy sticks and branches or rocks on the ground beneath you. Camping frequently teaches you how to choose the right campsite not just for comfort but for survival.
When Choosing a Campsite You Learn to:
- Avoid pitching your tent under trees with dead branches that could fall on your tent.
- Clear the area where you are going to pitch your tent of any rocks or sticks.
- Choose a shady spot that won’t get sun during the hottest part of the day
- Select a site on level ground, away from any water source that could flood
- Pick an area with sturdy saplings if you are using trees to build your shelter.
How to Identify Trees and Plants as Resources
If you choose your campsite wisely, you will have no shortage of trees and plants around you that can be used as survival resources. One of the most important bushcraft skills is the ability to identify which trees are good for firewood and which might be better suited to make eating utensils or build a shelter.
Edible plants can also be a valuable resource for bushcraft and survival. You can’t eat what you can’t identify. When you are camping, take time to explore the area and learn what trees and plants are in proximity to your campsite.
Fire Building and Fire Starting
When it comes to camping, you can’t really do it right without having a campfire. So another of the things camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to properly build and start a fire.
There are many different things to master when starting a fire including:
- Multiple Tools for Starting a Fire (matches, lighter, firestyker, etc.)
- The Proper Way to Use the Bowdrill Method
- How to Catch Sunlight Using a Reflective Surface
- Making a firestick
- Building a Tinder bundle
- Collecting and organizing tinder, kindling, etc.
Fishing & Hunting
Another one of the skills camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to catch and clean food to eat if needed. Even if you are just getting started, camping can be a great time to explore the woods and learn to track animals by identifying game trails, scat, and other signs of animal activity.
Fishing while camping can be a great way to pass the time but it can also help you hone your skills to learn the best times of day, kinds of bait, and types of water to catch fish. Some of the skills you can learn and practice when fishing & hunting around your campsite might include:
- Firearm and hunting safety
- Multiple ways to catch fish (pole, net, spear, etc.)
- Proper ways to clean and cook fish or small game
- How to set and check an animal snare
- Making arrows, spears, and other weapons from natural materials
No matter what type of camping you do, you are bound to do at least some of your cooking outdoors. If you are ever in a survival situation, the ability to cook outdoors is going to be a life saving skill. So one of the most valuable things camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to cook over an open fire or at least how to cook outdoors.
- Choose and Make a Roasting Stick
- Boiling Water to purify it or to reconstitute dehydrated meals
- How to secure leftovers from hungry animals
- Cooking in a dutch oven
- What you can cook in a solar oven
Hone Your Senses
Camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival by helping you hone your senses. If you make the effort to listen and observe the activity around you when you are camping you can learn a lot of things that can help you survive in the wilderness. Things to pay attention to while camping include:
- Weather patterns that indicate a storm or other severe weather is looming
- What edible and medicinal plants look like during different seasons
- Bird calls and other animal sounds
- The location of fresh water sources in the area
One of the most important things camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to keep yourself safe from the elements. Wind, rain, cold, snow, and even heat can be fatal if you are left exposed to it for too long. In fact, building a shelter from the elements should always be your priority, both when camping and if you ever find yourself in a survival situation.
If you intentionally practice shelter building when camping, even if you bring along your own tent, you’ll be better prepared in a situation where your familiar tent isn’t available.
Shelter building skills to practice when camping include:
- Different ways to build a shelter from natural materials or formations
- How to make cordage from natural materials
- Various ways to tie knots depending on what you need them to do
- How to properly lash branches or pieces of wood together
- Make a tent stake from a tree branch
- Multiple ways to make a shelter from a tarp or plastic sheeting
- Ways to insulate your shelter against the elements using natural materials
How to Collect and Purify Water for Drinking
Next to shelter, fresh water for drinking is one of the most important resources in a survival situation. Even if you bring water with you, it’s a good practice to scout the area for places where you can get more water if you need it. Next time you go camping practice some of these skills so you’ll be prepared to stay hydrated in any type of situation:
- Ways to find fresh water
- Multiple ways of purifying and filtering water
- Boiling water with heated rocks
- Different ways to collect rainwater
- Proper use of a water filter
Another critical skill camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival is how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. Once you have your tent and campsite setup, take some time to walk out into the woods or surrounding area.
Pay attention to landmarks, watch the position of the sun, use a compass to guide you, or mark your trail as you go so that you can find your way back. If someone is with you, practice using audible and visual signals to help your partner find their way to you. All of these skills are critical for you to master before you need to depend on them to save your life.
Basic First Aid Skills
Invariably when camping, someone is going to get sick or injure themselves. Although most times camping injuries are limited to minor cuts, scratches, or blisters, it’s a good chance for your to practice your first aid skills. Camping can teach you about bushcraft and survival by giving you the opportunity to hone your first aid skills away from home. Again, instead of packing up and heading home when an illness or injury occurs, see if you can assess the severity of the injury, treat it, and keep going.
Always seek medical attention for severe illnesses or injuries but even something like a minor allergic reaction, a small burn or sprained ankle can be treated at your campsite rather than ending your trip and heading immediately to the nearest urgent care.
What bushcraft and survival skills have you learned while camping? Share your campsite learning experiences in the comments below. Let us know if we’ve missed a vital bushcraft and survival skill that you have learned or practiced while camping.
A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she’s a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.