12 Essential Bushcraft Tools you must have: Which Do You Really Need?

 12 Essential Bushcraft Tools you must have: Which Do You Really Need?

Bushcraft Tools List

This list includes bushcraft tools which should be in every beginner’s bushcrafter kit.  Remember, there’s nothing wrong with bringing some high-tech items to have as a backup or to help you stay comfortable.

As you gain skills and experience, you can lighten your load and rely more on primitive and DIY bushcraft tools.

1. Blade

A knife or blade is the ultimate survival tool and many bushcraft purists would even say that you don’t need anything but a knife.  You can use a knife to make many of your own bushcraft tools, batoning (splitting) wood, preparing foraged food, and much more.

Since blades are so important for bushcraft (as well as survival), a big part of your bushcraft tool budget will probably go towards it.

Note that different blades are required for different tasks and environments – like how all the locals I encountered while in the Peruvian jungle had machetes and my usual drop-point blade was practically useless in most situations.

2. Bushcraft Axe or Hatchet

While you can get by with a knife or saw, you’ll want an axe anytime you plan on spending a longer time in nature.  It will come in handy for building semi-permanent or permanent shelters, chopping firewood, shaping logs, and numerous other tasks.

3. Saw

Saws are an incredibly versatile bushcraft tool.  They can be used to clear brush, cut branches for a shelter, saw through bone, cut firewood to size, and much more.

I personally prefer saws over axes; a saw is lighter and easier to carry.  You are also less likely to inflict serious danger on nature (or yourself) with a saw than an axe.

4. Firestarter

There are many primitive ways to start a fire without matches or a lightersuch as making a bow drill or a fire plough.  However, the standard bushcraft fire tool is a striking tool, such as flint and steel or Ferro rod and striker.

No matter what bushcraft fire-starting tool you use, it’s crucial to have good tinder.  I personally carry some cotton balls dipped in Vaseline to use as tinder.

Yes, purists would consider this cheating – especially since you can make your own tinder by shaving down sticks or making a “feather stick.”  However, it’s nice to have dry tinder as a backup in case conditions are bad, especially since starting a fire can mean life or death.

Another option which is more inline with the bushcraft mentality is to make your own char cloth to use as tinder.

5. Cordage

Once you get started with bushcraft, you’ll see how important cordage is.  It’s useful for building shelter frames, setting snares, make a fishing net, hanging a bear bag…

While it is possible to make your own rope from natural materials, it takes a long time and the learning curve is fairly high.  Paracord 550 is generally regarded as the best all-purpose rope for survival and bushcraft.

6. Canteen and Pot

Unless you want to get intestinal parasites, you’ll need a way to purify water.  That usually means boiling water in a pot.  And once you’ve purified water, you’ll need a way to transport it, which usually means a durable canteen.

If you have a metal survival canteen, you can boil water right in the canteen.  However, I still recommend bringing a bushcraft pot since it is better suited for tasks like cooking meals. You can also use the pot for holding things like foraged berries if you don’t have a basket with you.

7. Clothing and Footwear

Where backpacking and camping clothing is usually made from high-tech synthetics, bushcraft clothing uses natural fibers.  Wool is a favorite and, while I admittedly don’t make them myself, I love the wool socks, leggings, and sweater that I bought from a local grandma.

Military surplus is also popular for bushcrafting as it’s cheap and the material is durable, as is leather footwear.  When the weather turns very cold, then fur-lined clothing is the way to go. 

8. Compass

It’s smart to learn how to navigate without a compass, but the stars aren’t always clear and the other tactics also don’t always work.  So a compass is a great bushcraft tool to have in your kit.   If you want to take your orienteering skills to the next level, then get some ranger beads to use too.

9. Shovel

A shovel is a bushcraft tool which doesn’t get as much attention as tools like knives, but life in nature without a shovel can get uncomfortable quickly.

For me, the primary use of a shovel is to dig a latrine or “cat hole” to bury waste.  Not only is this in accordance with the principles of Leave No Trace, but it’s much more hygienic. Burying waste also helps keep animals away.

A shovel is also necessary in winter for building shelters, in bad weather for making drainage ditches around your shelter, and in many other situations.

11. Knife Sharpener

Even the best bushcraft knife will get dull after extended use — and you WILL be using it a lot when practicing bushcraft skills.  So, you’ll need to have a knife sharpener with you.

Some bushcrafters prefer to use a natural sharpener, such as a smooth river rock, but it is generally a lot easier to sharpen a knife with a dedicated sharpener.

12. First aid kit

While this might be considered equipment more than a bushcraft tool, please don’t go bushcrafting without a first aid kit. Especially if you are inexperienced!

Many of the bushcraft tools are large, sharp, and have high learning curves.  I’ve heard plenty of terrible stories about people gashing themselves with their hatchet or knives while trying to do camp tasks.

At the very least, you’ll need clean gauze, a tourniquet, antiseptic balm, and medical tape.