My top ten (plus 4) Bushcraft Essentials

It's really easy to load yourself up to the point where you struggle to lift the pack anymore. But what are the Bushcraft Essentials, what do you really need as a bare minimum?


It’s really easy to load yourself up to the point where you struggle to lift the pack anymore. But what are the Bushcraft Essentials, what do you really need as a bare minimum?

I have certainly been guilty of this, especially when I want to take all my camera gear out with me.

There are many such lists out there – ranging from the 10C’s of Survivability to all manner of lists.

My list goes a little beyond the ‘bare essentials’ required to survive. But in my opinion, the more important ones are up the top.

My Bushcraft Essentials:

  1. The knife – many things can be made with a good cutting tool. The general consensus is that a fixed blade knife will give you more strength and a wider range of abilities than a small pocket knife. I will generally carry my larger SVORD on my hip, and my Victorinox Pocket knife in my pocket (the Victorinox Pioneer is nearly permanently in my pocket as part of my EDC).
  2. A simple level 1 first aid kit – a system small enough to permanently carry in your pocket. I carry a small zip-lock bag with some painkillers, antihistamines (or your own personal medication), sticking plasters, alcohol wipes and a large wound dressing (gauze with a bandage attached). I carry a larger, more capable kit on the pack, but this smaller one lives permanently in a pocket.
  3. A tarp/shelter sheet/poncho… Something that you can rig up to provide a bit of shelter, should you need to. Yes, you can always build a debris shelter, but why not make things a bit easier on yourself? I carry the Pathfinder Poncho as a multi-use item.
  4. Cordage. Some people prefer Paracord because it can be stripped down and the internal lines used, others prefer Bank Line, but essentially, something that you can use to tie things up down or sideways. Always carry extra – yes you can make cordage out of items in the bush, but again, why not make things a little bit easier on yourself?
  5. A PLB. The theory being (which tends to get back up by reality) that a PLB (personal locator beacon) will get you located and picked up with hours of setting it off. Why don’t you carry one again?
  6. A  canteen and nesting metal cup… something to carry water in, and something to boil water in. Ideally, you should also have something to store the clean water in. I tend to carry a roll-up plastic water bag, my Titanium Mug and a water bottle.
  7. SureFire. Carry a method of guaranteed fire starting. I always carry lighter, and for 99% of the time – that, and some tinder (some Esbit Fuel cubes) is all I am going to need. As a backup – I will have Fire steel & some Vaseline-soaked Cotton Wool buds.
  8. A Compass… and learn how to use it. Button Compasses are small, light, and a pain to use. Get something decent. Ideally with a mirror in it – then you can use the mirror for signalling as well. My pick – the Sylva Expedition S.
  9. A Light source… I generally carry two – a headlamp, and a small torch in my pocket. In my case – it’s actually 2 of the 4Sevens Mini 123’s – one with a
    Fenix Headband holding it. Also – carry spare batteries.
  10. A heavier cutting device. This could be a folding saw (lightest option), or potentially an axe or Machete (or my SVORD Golok). This is used for wood processing. While your main knife should be able to cut a lot down and can be used for Batoning if you need – something a little bigger will save you a lot of time and energy.
  11. Some food. I always carry something with me – beyond my planned food. In my case, it’s a ‘One Square Meal’, a coffee sachet (mainly for comfort) and a pack of instant porridge. A little bit of nourishment, but a lot of a morale booster.
  12. A Whistle… it’s a lot easier blowing into a whistle than trying to continuously yell for help.
  13. Gloves. Protect one of your most valuable assets – your hands.
  14. Notebook, reference books – not really essential – but great for learning. I carry a couple of mini-guides, while I am still learning how to identify the flora and fauna of NZ.
I plan on doing some more in depth reviews/articles on specifics of what I carry in the next couple of weeks – this is really just a good overview for the subject.

Great video from one of the experts – Dave Canterbury