21 Bushcraft Essentials: Must have and Optional

Bushcraft is the use of the knowledge and experience in the bush country to make practical items from natural materials. Having a good knife, fire-making gear, and rope are a few of the necessities for bushcraft.

Also, you can make temporary shelters and traps with natural materials. As well as using the sun for direction when lost or confused in the woods.

Bushcraft gear list:

This is a list of must-have items for your kit and includes some more advanced options; like optional extras.

  • Knife/axe
  • Space blanket 
  • First aid kit 
  • Marker and Notebook
  • Paracord
  • Tarps
  • Whistle
  • Rifle
  • A backpack
  • Can opener
  • Binoculars
  • Compass/GPS
  • Waterproof container
  • Knife sharpener
  • Food
  • Dried or Canned fruit
  • Map and compass
  • Wristwatch 
  • Extra batteries to power your devices
  • Flashlight/Headlamp

1. Knife/axe

These are must-have bushcraft essentials for any bushcraft guy. If you could only have one, it would be a knife. 

A good quality fixed blade knife that is strong enough to baton and work as an axe, with a comfortable grip (if the handle is textured then it’s easier to hold) and has a full tang (the metal of the blade going all the way through the handle – if there isn’t any metal showing on either side of the handle it’s just glued on). Don’t forget your sheath!

2. Space blanket

A space blanket is a thin sheet of material that reflects your body heat back to your body. 

It will help keep you warm in cold conditions while also reducing heat loss from generous amounts of skin exposed to the air. When folded, it can be stored easily with very little space used.

Note: Want to know more about packing your bushcraft backpack? Take a look at our blog post for the details.

3. First aid kit

A first aid kit includes bandages for wounds, antiseptics to clean and prevent infection, and medications such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, etc. A small magnifying glass or eyeglasses if needed for better vision around medical procedures are a plus.

4. Marker and Notebook

Many Survival kits come with a marker or notebook for writing your thoughts down. Some like the Rite in the Rain All-Weather Journal are waterproof, making them even more useful. 

Waterproof paper is also a good idea to write on because you can find it easier to read when it gets wet. 

A pen that writes in extreme cold conditions without refilling the ink is another option, but many pens are not made with these specifications, so do research before buying one.

5. Paracord

This nylon rope is an item that many soldiers used and it is still in use today. It has been proved to be stronger than steel and plenty strong enough to hold up a small vehicle. In fact, paracord may have more uses than any other survival gear!

6. Cordage (50 ft.)

This one is another item that most people overlook when they make a survival kit but should not. 

Cordage is extremely important because it can be used in many different situations to help you achieve your goal. It can be used as a snare, trap trigger material, or even sewing thread if needed. 

Paracord will work great for this purpose but the smaller diameter varieties may break under load while the larger sized ones are bulky and difficult to carry. 

If you choose to use paracord, ensure that it is larger and consider keychain-sized ones because they will take up less room in the pack. This one can be used over and over again if needed, so having extra on hand would not be a bad idea.

7. Tarps

If you’re trying to lighten your load then cutting down on the waterproofing of your pack can be a way to do that. 

Most tarps are lightweight and will keep you dry in a rainstorm while you get your shelter set up.

8. Whistle

A whistle is used for signaling or emergencies. Having one with you will help prevent getting lost, help with being found by other survivors or rescuers and even signaling planes to land if needed. 

Keep in mind that noise discipline is extremely important when using it at night because the sound will carry further than normal and could attract unwanted attention from animals or people nearby.

9. Rifle

Having a rifle with you while bugout camping, hiking or other survival activities can significantly increase your ability to get food in the wilderness. 

This will be added weight and may not seem necessary but it could help you if needed.

10. A backpack

Another must-have bushcraft essentials. Having the ultimate bushcraft backpack can make your life easier when bugging out. Your bug-out bag can be seen as the most important part of your survival kit because it holds all of the items you will need in an emergency.

Choose a backpack that is large enough to hold everything in, but small enough that you can carry comfortably and effortlessly.

Bushcraft backpacks are made with a heavy-duty material that holds up well in tough conditions. You can even get them with extra pockets and compartments to hold specialized items on the outside of the bag for quick access.

11. Can Opener 

This item is not only an option but highly recommended. Today, many cans have pull tabs, but those items have been known to break off, making them difficult to open. 

A real paracord buckle knife can opener is ideal for this situation, but a small foldable one will also work.

12. Binoculars

Binoculars are an item that is commonly overlooked by novice survivalists and beginning bushcrafters alike. They are an excellent tool for scouting animals in the distance or spotting your surroundings more clearly. 

If you choose not to carry binoculars it might be wise to keep your eyes peeled for trees with low branches that may provide a vantage point when looking around.

13. Compass/GPS

Many people either own both of these items or just one of their choice. There are compasses or GPS units on most phones now so they take up less room and are available if needed.

14. Waterproof container

A waterproof container for matches is key to have if you are bugging out. Without one, the matches could get wet and be useless in an emergency situation. 

If a match container is not available then use a film canister or other small round plastic container that can be sealed airtight. It’s also recommended to carry several lighters and waterproof matches in a waterproof container as well. These can be used for getting fires started when needed.

15. Knife sharpener

While not a necessary item, a knife sharpener can help make your life easier when cutting branches or food, etc. 

There are many different kinds so take your time and decide which would be best suited to your needs. Some come with an adjustable angle guide that people find useful and belt clips for easy carry.

16. Food

Having extra food on you may not seem like a good idea but having it pre-cut up into bite size pieces is very helpful especially if you are in a rush and don’t have time to cut it up yourself.

17. Dried or Canned fruit

Fruits such as apples, bananas, peaches, etc… are excellent energy sources and can be eaten when hungry to give you that extra boost of energy. 

Having these available with no preparation is another plus because they won’t go bad even if you’re out there for months at a time. Dehydrated fruits also work well but will need to be added with water before eating them.

18. Map and compass

Having a map of the area around you will help you identify landmarks in your surroundings as they are labeled. 

This can easily be used to figure out where you are when it is dark or foggy outside and not having a compass with you could cause significant issues if not avoided.

19. Wristwatch

Many people prefer to wear a wristwatch over an analog one because it allows them to easily tell time without having to look at their phone. 

That being said, an analog watch that has an illumination feature on it is even better for this purpose because you can see the dial clearly in the dark or foggy weather conditions as well

20. Extra batteries to power your devices

While having extra batteries is not a 100% necessity it can be very helpful. 

These will allow you to keep your GPS, radio or other electronic devices fully operational without having to worry about their battery life.

21. Flashlight/Headlamp

Having some kind of light source can make a huge difference especially if you are stuck out there during the night. 

Having both a flashlight and headlamp is preferred for increased functionality, but having one or the other will still help immensely.

Last Few Words

As you can see, there are a number of things that you should consider taking with you when bugging out.

For the most part, they all fit into the bug-out bag or backpack without taking up much space and can be easily stored until needed. 

The items listed above are just suggestions on what to include in your survival kit. 

The important thing to remember is that you will need to make adjustments based on your own personal needs. 

For example, if it’s summer in the area where you live then having extra water should be more of a priority for you than if it was wintertime. In addition, everyone has different tastes and preferences as well so feel free to add or modify any of the items listed so that it meets your specific needs.

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