Bushcraft & Survival, what's the difference?
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
I can't tell you how many times people have said "Bushcraft & survival are the same thing!" or "Bushcraft, isn't that just survival?" I can understand the confusion and people are free to make any connections or associations they like, but to me, NO... Bushcraft is not just survival, and they are NOT THE SAME THING.
Here's how I see it. Bushcraft is a collection of wilderness living skills, typically with cultural links to different indigenous people from all over the world and very often utilising primitive skillsets, which our ancient ancestors would have found very familiar. Bushcraft is not limited to this though, as modern wilderness living or wild-camping techniques and equipment should also be an intrinsic part of a good 'Bushcrafters' skillset. To practice Bushcraft you are often intentionally visiting wild places, utilising skills and techniques which make you interact with nature and value it as a precious resource.
To summarise: Bushcraft is about going into the wilderness on purpose, to be there and experience it.
Survival, or survival training, is about learning a set of skills which will enable you to stay alive and remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. These skills have typically, but not exclusively, been created and perfected by the military. Military personnel have often been subjected to these emergency situations and harsh environments due to their various occupational roles. It's not the intention of a survivor to spend as much time as possible enjoying a period of time in the wilderness, and feeling a connection to nature, they just want to survive and get home alive!
To summarise: Survival is about escaping the wilderness and getting home alive.
Yes, Bushcraft & survival training share techniques and skills; fire lighting, shelter construction, water purification, navigation, campcraft etc. However, the fundamental ethos behind these activities are at odds. If we confuse the two activities then we do both a dis-service and the more specific elements of each activity won't be fully understood or appreciated. For example, there's not much reason to learn advanced carving techniques such as canoe paddle carving for UK orientated survival training. It'd be far more applicable to learn to use a satellite communication device to alert mountain rescue, but the for Bushcraft practitioners canoe paddle carving is highly viable, interesting and useful.
Both 'Bushcraft' & 'Survival-skills' are great to study and learn, and they compliment each other, but in my opinion they aren't the same... and that's a positive thing!