The term “bushcraft” has been trending lately. It's been applied to a wide variety of activities, from a daylong hike through a mountainous trail to a weekend camping trip by the lake. But others say it should be applied only to more hardcore pursuits, such as a serious trial-by-fire solo expedition into the backwoods where you emerge a different person. So, what is it truly?
Bushcraft is about conquering the wilderness and one's darkest fears. Yes, it's a movement of applying skills, knowledge, and physical endurance in the great outdoors — but it's more than that. It's a mindset that requires the development of both a survival skillset and a determined spirit to be able to overcome rising odds. In the physical world, bushcraft is a combination of skills and the right gear to help you not only survive, but thrive in the wilderness. The term bushcraft was coined in part by Leslie James Hiddins, a retired major from Down Under who was the main author of the Australian Army's survival manual. He became well known for touring the Outback in search of “bush tucker” (AKA food commonly found or made by aboriginals) and even hosted his own TV series called The Bush Tucker Man. No surprise, he was sometimes seen on camera employing a blade.
Knives are popular among outdoorsmen for many useful reasons, but knowing when to use what kind is key. A machete isn't very good at skinning a deer, while a skinning knife shouldn't be used to blaze an Amazonian trail. A bushcraft knife is more utilitarian, simple, and to the point (pun intended). With a full-tang blade, it doesn't have the typical accessories you'd associate with those cheap Rambo-style knives found on QVC, nor does it use those accessories to shill itself. Bushcraft knives are to wilderness survival like Jeeps are to desert trails: essential, nearly indestructible, and worth every penny.
Selecting the right one depends on personal taste, financial wherewithal, and likelihood of using it as it was intended to be used: as an all-purpose knife for hunting, food prep, cutting/chopping, self-defense, and shelter building. Keeping one nearby in your go-bag or in your general camping gear will ensure that when you need a knife that performs what you want, when you want it, you won't be disappointed.
But buying a quality bushcraft knife, like the ones on these pages, isn't something to be considered lightly. Where do you see yourself in the next few years? Stuck in a cubicle with five sick days and no vacation? You can pick up a $20 pocketknife at Target, and you'll probably use it only to open bills and junk mail a few times a month. Or are you trekking into the backwoods of the unknown to seek adventure, glory, and the reaffirmation that you're still a man looming atop the food chain? Then you may want a proper knife. Consider the blades in the following pages; no doubt one of them will fulfill your bushcraft needs.
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