Bushcraft 101 for the everyday adventurer

Dave Canterbury headshot
Lumberjacking in Washington State, Dave Canterbury shares plenty of bushcraft knowledge in his “Dirty Rotten Survival” show. Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic
Ever felt out of your element in the outdoors? Can’t even get a fire started? Freaked out about hypothermia on a long bike ride? Feel lost without your smartphone GPS?

One killer confidence-building mechanism for becoming the outdoors expert you wish you were while getting in tune with your wild side is a little bushcraft (aka wilderness-survival skills).

Lucky for you, survivalist and outdoor-travel pro Dave Canterbury, who co-owns the Pathfinder School in Ohio, shared some of his favorite bushcraft basics in his book, “Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival,” and demonstrates more skills in the National Geographic show, “Dirty Rotten Survival.”

Dave Canterbury at the river
Survivalist Dave Canterbury collects water safely with trusty companion Rufus. Photo: Courtesy of Iris Canterbury
“Bushcraft is the art of using natural resources to provide and construct needed items in a ‘bush,’ or wilderness environment,” Canterbury told GrindTV. “It also includes skills like plant and tree identification and use, tracking and food gathering. None of these skills are a bad thing to have if you are ever stuck in the wild during a mishap.”

His how-to field guide covers fundamentals like the “5 C’s of Survivability” (cutting tools, covering, combustion devices, containers and cordages), choosing the right items for your emergency kit, collecting and cooking food and protecting yourself from the elements.

Friction Fire
Canterbury teaches a bow-drill fire. Photo: Courtesy of Iris Canterbury
Canterbury says fire craft is really handy for outdoor athletes and adventure enthusiasts who may need to prevent hypothermia in a sticky situation or know more about core-temperature control (CTC).

“Along with fire, shelter craft helps people maintain CTC, but it also helps provide a comfortable night’s sleep — one of the most underrated and important of all survival skills,” he says. “If we can get a solid four to six hours of sleep, our mind will be much better prepared to make critical decisions and our body can recover from a stressful day of working toward possible rescue.”

Canterbury shared five of his most profound bushcraft 101s:

Opossum mentality

Never pass up a possible usable resource once you are in an emergency mode. Become a scavenger and understand how to best utilize every resource.

2 is 1 … and 1 is none

Always double up and layer any kit so that if you lose a bag or pouch, you have a similar item somewhere else. Put a Bic lighter in your backpack — and your pocket.


Never carry an item in your survival kit that cannot perform three functions in passable fashion that directly affect CTC.

Triangle of survival

Fire on film
Canterbury demonstrates some critical fire-craft skills in the Oregon woods. Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic
Skill, knowledge and resources: It takes all three to become a good survivor. The resources start with the clothing and kit you carry and extend to the landscape around you.

Having the knowledge to identify what you need and what you can utilize to accomplish things, as well as the skill to perform the tasks, are the key elements.

Trees are key

Many people get hung up on medicinal and edible plants, but in most areas of the U.S. these resources are available in two seasons at best. Trees are a four-season resource and much easier to identify and find in a winter environment than any plant rosette under the snow.

Trees provide everything: food, medicine, shelter, fire, containers and cordage. If you have a good belt knife, the other four critical C’s can be manufactured from tree resources.

Learn more at Canterbury’s YouTube channel.

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