Bushcraft vs Backpacking – What’s the difference?

If you are just starting out, you might be wondering what is the difference between bushcraft vs backpacking.

In comparison to backpacking, bushcraft emphasizes survival skills such as hunting, processing and cooking food, and building shelters. While backpacking is about being outdoors and enjoying nature, it doesn’t involve a lot of survival skills.

Both bushcraft and backpacking require skills and knowledge but there are some key differences between them. Luckily you have come to just the right place because I am going to explain the difference between bushcraft vs backpacking from different angles.

You should not only be able to tell the difference between the two after reading this guide but also know which one is best suited for you. So without any further ado, let’s get into it.

Bushcraft vs Backpacking

What Is Bushcraft?

While people often use these terms interchangeably, the term “bushcraft” actually refers to several activities or hobbies that can be done in an outdoor environment. They include:

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Survival Skills

But what exactly does bushcraft mean? Bushcraft is defined as the art of making use of tools, weapons, woodworking techniques, natural materials, fire, and other means to live off the land sustainably in remote areas and primitive conditions.

It includes everything from creating shelter and clothing to hunting wild game. The name itself comes from ancient times when people were referred to as “the uncivilized tribes.”

Therefore, in modern language, the word bushcraft was used to describe all those traditional skills that allowed our ancestors to survive. In more recent years, bushcraft has become popular among people who enjoy camping, hiking, and surviving in wilderness places where there is no electricity or running water.

What Is Backpacking?

Backpacking is a recreational activity that involves spending time outdoors with little or no supplies. This usually occurs in national parks and forests where you can camp overnight. Some may even choose to hike long distances in the wilderness.

Although it mostly happens outdoors, backpacking also encompasses some indoor activities like sleeping inside your van or bus while on the road. Camping inside a vehicle has become a new backpacking trend and more and more people are now spending time in camper vans.

Some common things backpackers do include:

  • Carrying their own food and water
  • Cooking meals
  • Packing tents, cookware, etc.
  • Staying in hotels
  • Finding entertainment
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The main goal of backpacking is to find solitude, explore nature, be away from civilization, and feel free. It helps to clear your mind, recharge yourself, and enjoy life to its fullest. Unlike bushcraft, backpacking won’t necessarily entail many survival skills but instead will focus on staying healthy and safe. 

Bushcraft vs Backpacking: The Difference in Gear

bushcraft making fire

There is also a huge difference between the gear that you choose for both survival/bushcraft and backpacking. Below are the few main types of gear that are mainly used in bushcraft and backpacking.

Difference Between Sleeping Gear

Good sleep is important for everyone. During survival activities, you need to be well-rested so you’re ready to engage yourself in combat or go out on dangerous trails. That’s why bushcrafters usually carry sleeping bags with them because it allows them to sleep peacefully in just about any kind of place. 

Backpacking sleeping gear is usually a lot heavier as it comes with extra features. Whereas, bushcraft sleeping gear is usually as lightweight as possible.

Shelters: Bushcraft vs Backpacking

Another thing that is different between bushcraft and backpacking is the type of shelter used. Bushcrafters don’t carry heavy tents or highly sophisticated shelters with themselves.

However, backpackers carry tents and other essential items that provide them an excellent shelter in any kind of weather. In bushcraft, shelters are created using available natural resources and sometimes a tarp is all a bushcrafter may use.

Tools Used in Bushcraft vs Backpacking

There are various tools that are used during bushcraft. They range from knives to saws, spears, axes, and many others.

However, backpacking doesn’t call for any such tool except maybe a lighter that is needed to prepare a fire. The only tool that is mandatory in backpacking is the backpack itself as it provides everything else that is required for camping.

Bushcraft Skills vs Backpacking Skills

Bushcraft is something that is unique to individual skills and knowledge and they must keep themself updated by learning the skill of bushcraft every day. However, backpacking is not something specific that one needs to learn and practice every day.

You will need to learn how to catch and cook your own food while bushcrafting. While in the case of backpacking, you usually carry your own food and prepare it whenever you want.

In addition to that, backpackers carry lighters that allow them to easily make fire whereas, in bushcraft, people often have to rely on fire starting techniques. Therefore bushcraft requires much more effort than backpacking.

A bushcrafter travels the terrain without having any support systems like maps, GPS devices, etc. They move through the wilderness without knowing where exactly they are navigating and hence, has to rely upon experience while traveling at night.

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In addition to this, bushcrafters usually find vantage points to find their way in most situations. Since there is no compass or GPS device, therefore, they will need to rely on their sound navigation skills.

On the other hand, backpackers travel along pre-planned routes when they’re going somewhere new and unknown. When they arrive at their destination, they plan to follow another route that takes them to their next desired location. They also carry modern GPS devices that allow them to find their way and plan their journey accordingly.

The Difference in Food and Water

During backpacking, there is no doubt that the most important things to consider are water and food. These two things are definitely mandatory for anyone who goes out on a long hike.

People who go on a long trek generally carry enough bottled water with them. However, they also pack some dried foods that can last them up to three weeks. Also, a good portion of these foods is packed in aluminum cans which means that they’ll stay fresh longer.

Additionally, they are protected from rain, wind, dust, etc. While in the case of bushcraft, the food and water need to be obtained from the available resources in the surrounding area. Water can be obtained from natural springs and then filtered and purified to make it drinkable.

Similarly, food can be obtained by going fishing, hunting birds and animals, or collecting fruits from the trees.

cooking food in the wilderness

How do you pack a bushcraft backpack?

Before packing for any type of expedition, remember to consider your needs and figure out exactly what kind of backpack you would use. Most bushcrafters use packs similar to those used by military personnel.

These bags have strong frames that make them durable so they can withstand lots of wear and tear. Bushcraft packs usually have three compartments for organizing gear:

  • Two large front pockets, which are perfect for holding map and a compass
  • Smaller internal pocket next to the bottom flap
  • Top compartment for food and other smaller items

When deciding where to place these compartments, try to keep things relatively equal — don’t put huge cans of beans in one spot while keeping a lighter jacket in another. As long as you have room, all of this should fit inside the pack. You may also want to add a separate “water bottle” strap so that you can easily grab the tube when needed.

When you’re ready to start packing, organize the contents into several layers. Start with smaller items such as socks, underwear, and shirts on the bottom. Next comes boots/shoes, then jackets, followed by larger items such as tents, sleeping mats, and tarps, finally closing off the top with heavy tools and supplies.

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This will help ensure that there is no unnecessary weight in your pack, making it easier for you to move through tight spaces. Also, having easy access to items without digging around helps speed up the process.

A good rule of thumb is always to leave 30% of space empty in your bag since many adventurers fill their packs beyond capacity.

Which One is More Fun? Bushcraft or Backpacking?

As I mentioned earlier, both activities offer different experiences. The following comparison breaks down the main differences and offers insight into why bushcraft might be more enjoyable than backpacking.

First, let’s take a look at how the two different types of expedition differ in regards to duration. A typical backpacking trip requires anywhere from 2 days to 2 months.

This includes planning, preparation, travel time, arrival, and departure. In contrast, an adventure involving bushcraft only takes about 7-10 days based on the terrain involved.

In addition, due to its nature, bushcraft tends to be less comfortable. Many people enjoy hiking under the bright sun because it makes it possible to see everything around them clearly. Hiking can also be done over uneven surfaces, which adds extra difficulty to the experience.

Finally, unlike backpacking, bushcraft allows you to spend more time enjoying the outdoors. During backpacking expeditions, every moment away from camp must be spent gathering firewood and carrying water.

If you do get caught behind schedule, you’ll have to sit still until you reach base camp (or worse), forcing you to miss out on some great photo opportunities. On the flip side, you can relax during a bushcraft excursion because you know you can find ample resources nearby.

Final Words

I hope after reading the above article, it’s clear to you now that both bushcraft and camping are very different from each other from different perspectives. It is up to you now if you would like to choose backpacking or bushcraft. Either way, they are both great methods of exploration and fun adventures.

If you’re looking for a challenge or prefer the feeling of being alone, bushcraft could be just what you need. However, if finding solitude isn’t your thing but instead, you like spending time with friends, then you should choose backpacking.

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