Integrating Bushcraft With Modern Outdoor Life: Bushcraft Show 2014 Presentation

Integrating Bushcraft With Modern Outdoor Life: Bushcraft Show 2014 Presentation

Bushcraft Show 2014 Presentation

For the second year in a row I was among the expert speakers on the main stage at the Bushcraft Show.

I was honoured to share this platform with illustrious names and authorities such as Lofty Wiseman, Cody Lundin, Steve Backshall, David Scott-Donelan, Ray Goodwin, Johan Skullman, and Dr Sarita Robinson.

The video above combines a recording of my full 2014 Bushcraft Show talk along with the slides I used for the presentation. It also includes the Q&A session at the end.

In my talk, I examine the relevance of classic wilderness skills in the context of modern outdoor life. In particular, I suggest ways in which bushcraft skills can be integrated with contemporary outdoor activities, both by using your skills more widely in varying contexts as well as removing the partitions between bushcraft and the rest of your outdoor life.

I received very good feedback from those who attended my talk live at the show. I hope you also find the video interesting and/or thought provoking.

Please leave your comments below…

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

The Difference Between Foraging And Living Off The Land: Bushcraft Show 2013 Presentation

How To Live In A Heated Tent

Boost Your Bushcraft With Urban Botany

Way Out North: A Boreal Forest Foray

47 thoughts on “Integrating Bushcraft With Modern Outdoor Life: Bushcraft Show 2014 Presentation

  1. Great talk Paul. I always try to get more people “doing” and less web surfing and try to keep people interested by helping them with different skills. As for the knives thing, I once got a proper rollicking when I cut an onion with someone’s Alan Wood instructor knife. Whoops

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear you are of a similar mind.



      P.S. There’s nothing wrong with cutting onions with a Woodlore Instructor’s knife πŸ˜‰

  2. Hei Paul; excellent talk about how we should look at Bushcraft in a slightly different light; modernistic perhaps? Pity about the ski boot on your trip to Norway:-) (watched all 60 mins by the way) Best regards from Norway

    1. Hei hei Brian! Nice to hear from you. I’m flattered you watched it all the way through! πŸ˜‰ I know you are a busy man… Hope all is well with you. I’m looking forward to bringing my modernistic views back to Norway before too long…

      Warm regards,


  3. Hi. Paul great talk and i totaly agree bushcraft has become about what kit you have instead of what skills you have i couldnt afford a Β£500 knife so i learned how to make one you dont need a blacksmithing fordge i used a metal bustbin lid charcol and an airbed blower for me thats what bushcraft is about making or finding the tools and kit to be able to live survive in nature as our ancesters did there are a lot of people how get the kit read the books but dont put it into practice id love to travel to sweden and after what you said about it being prety inexpencive im defently going to look into it i live in the cotwold hills and go out alot i go up to the forest of dean as well and try brush up on my tracking skills as theres alot of wild boer up there anyway great talk paul totaly agree
    Cheers lee

  4. Dear Paul,
    You had my attention from your opening word to your last. One word that you used in your presentation a number of times defines for me the “something other” of what we refer to when discussing bushcraft. That word is “FUN”.
    Great presentation Paul.


    1. Hi James,

      As always, it’s good to hear from you.

      Thanks for your kind words – I’m glad I held your attention and that you found that the content resonated with you.

      Yes, FUN! Something we often forget about…. πŸ˜‰

      Take care,


  5. “The weirdos who wear green and go and sit in the woods
    To carve spoons!!”
    Fantastic presentation Paul, very good to see how
    A lot of those disparate conversations we have had before
    Have come together as a coherent piece.
    Very impressed and really enjoyed it.

    1. Hi Shakey, It’s good to hear from you. Glad you liked my comments πŸ˜‰ Yes, we’ve had some of these conversations before, around the campfire.

      Looking forward to seeing you soon.

      Warm regards,


  6. Hi Paul,
    Very interesting and enjoyable video. I agree with your comments regarding accessibility to the woodland in England . I live in Middlesbrough and yes you have lost your North East accent lad. May I ask where in the NE you are from? . Thanks for all the videos and advice you give.
    Stay safe,
    Denis Watson

    1. Hi Denis,

      It’s good to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoyed that.

      I have an article in the pipeline about access and what you can do under different circumstances to improve your skills under the laws we have in the UK.

      As for where I’m from – I was born in Beverley, Yorkshire then lived in North Wales for five years between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. We then moved to Teesdale, where I lived until I went to university in Edinburgh for four years.

      I’ve been living down sarrff most of the time since then. I still feel most at home up north though πŸ˜‰

      Warm regards,


  7. I’ve just watched the presentation again (having been in the audience as you know) and found it just as captivating a second time round. Great speech and I hope you’ll be doing another next year.


    1. Hi James,

      Thank you. I’m happy you enjoyed it a second time around.

      It was good to see you at the weekend. I hope you had a good birthday.

      Speak soon,


  8. Hi paul πŸ™‚ love your words, you put i just right, its sad to se all the people living there life on the internet but think its just the way it is today πŸ™
    I live in sweden so i have so much easier geting out πŸ™‚ i have the forest in my backyard, can go out whit my dog and girlfriend and make a fire and put the coffe on any time:)
    Think every one want to go out and be a woodsman or a bushcrafter but they think its all about the gear and it must be so extreme if the go out πŸ™
    The best outdoor moments are the small ones when you picking berries or walk your dog πŸ™‚
    Im very interesting in people that are burntout( we call it burntout,utbrΓ€nd in sweden ) from work and stress and think nature is the salvation to it all, bushcraft i see is just about the courses and gear to many and not the journey if its outside or inside your mind
    Love your swedish military shirt its the best πŸ™‚

    thank you for your site and your words:)
    kind regards joakim

    1. Hei Joakim,

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      I particularly like “The best outdoor moments are the small ones when you picking berries or walk your dog”

      It’s good that you don’t take Sweden for granted. You have a wonderful environment there.

      Yes, journeys – both physical and personal – are the most valuable aspect.

      Take care and keep in touch.

      Warm regards,


      PS I love the M59 shirts – so comfortable!

  9. Hi Paul, good pres. You made me smile with the bushcrafty/bushcrafter … bushbandit chat. πŸ™‚ When I am teaching my kids climbing, survival, animal, plant, fishing, boating, hiking, camping, etc. its about life skills. I am trying to prepare them for being independent, well balanced, happy & fulfilled people. For that I think they need a cross pollination of skills and education that will help them in many future situations. I have to say that I will probably always love the shiney, gadgety stuff though.

    Cheers, Dave

    P.S. I really like your blog style and marketing emails that seem a bit more personal and information based than sensational or “check me out”. Great resource, keep it up please!

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad my talk made you smile πŸ˜‰

      It sounds like your kids are very lucky to have such a rounded outdoor education. Well done!

      As for the shiny stuff – it’s nice to have and certainly you should appreciate it if you do have it. But remember there is kit and there is bushcraft. The two are separate πŸ™‚

      As for my emails and this blog – it was set up and always intended to be a helpful resource for other outdoor people. I don’t do it for show or for ego. It’s a lot of work and costs me money to run but my reward is helping people and having a community of people who can share tips, resources, experience and who are willing to discuss more philosophical points from time-to-time….

      Take care and keep in touch.

      Warm regards,


  10. Hi Paul,

    A fantastic really gripping and enjoyable video (I always watch your video’s through to the end)
    I totally agree with what you say about bushcraft becoming a “New shiny toy club” At 54 I have always had akeen interest in the outdoors, but have only been practicing bushcraft skills for the past year or so. Bieng a practical person I really enjoy making my own kit or converting kit to suit my purposes. I did actualy make my first knife from an old large kitchen knife, the was finished by hand filing (it took hours it was stainless steel) but I ended up with a knife that was sharp enough to shave with.
    I consider the making and converting of kit no matter how large or small, all part of the skills and enjoyment of practicing bushcraft.
    I have to admit that I have been refering to myself as a “Bushcrafter” a lot less of recent because when I used to say “I am a bushcrafter” I invariably got a completely blank look and asked “Whats that then?” And even after mentioning Ray Mears all I often got was “WHO?” So now I just say that I enjoy going out into the woods and countryside and camp without a tent so that I can be at one with nature.

    Thank you so much for your blog and video’s etc and for all of the knowledge you have passed on to me personally, hopefully I may be able to attend one of your coarses in the not to distant future.

    Warm Regards


    1. Hi Simon,

      Thank you. That’s very kind of you.

      When I was taking bushcraft courses 15 years ago, no-one amongst my colleagues knew what I was talking about. They knew I was into hiking/backpacking and mountain biking and would happily go off on my own to complete trips but they still didn’t comprehend what these courses where all about or why I felt the need to do them. They just about understood survival courses but I was often asked if that meant I was “sleeping under a hedge and eating worms?”

      When Mears started to become a little better known around 2002-03, I’d mention his name in conjunction with the subject in the hope the person listening would know who he was – it sometimes proved to be a useful shortcut in explanation. More often than not, though, people either didn’t know who he was or confused him with Steve Irwin.

      Now when I mention bushcraft, people ask “what, like Bear Grylls?”. The answer to that question is clearly no.

      But these are the perils of trying to attache labels and/or pigeonhole things.

      As you state, much better to say I enjoy nature, camping, tracking, botany, etc.

      Thanks again for your comment. I’m glad you are enjoying the being here, reading my articles and watching my videos.

      It’ll be great to meet you on a course at some point.

      Warm regards,


  11. Excellent presentation. It is the journey whether to the backyard fire pit, the local park or down the Missinaibi River.

  12. Hi Paul, nice to meet up with you. I was the wet Guy in the long coat & his Mrs!
    Just watched your video regarding the Bush Craft show, it seems that I am practicing most of what you say anyway even though I don`t go to the far off places that you have been. We regularly disappear for days & enjoy ourselves. I have picked up the majority of my skills from my ancestors without even knowing it, being shown what is edible & what is useful to you was an every day thing, it was just the norm living in the country side, picking things from the wild, only eating seasonable foods etc all of which was just normal country life, which is now been reborn & re branded as Bush Craft!

    1. Hi Maisey,

      It was good to meet you and your fair lady.

      I agree that we have a richer heritage of country knowledge and crafts than many credit.

      We should be mindful to try to keep it alive where it still exists.

      Warm regards,


  13. Hi Paul
    Great to listen to your talk, and as someone just getting back into the outdoors after years of exams I found this inspiring. Thank you.

    I wondered whether you or others felt one of the reasons we in Britain might be a bit disconnected from “bushcraft” might be our lack of aboriginal cultural history. We don’t appear to have much of a cultural link to our hunter gatherer ancestors and maybe that exacerbates the disconnect. After all many of us seek out First Nations in other countries to rediscover and reconnect with these skills.

    Thanks again for the talk and the blog. Very much appreciated.

    1. Hi David,

      While it is true that our hunter-gatherer past is more distant in time than for other cultures, I think it is also largely to do with the nature of the countryside (and population levels while closer to home) combined with an historical tendency to value our own methods over those of indigenous cultures.

      Where eplorers and colonials did embrace local bushcraft, they found it to be very helpful, or even their saviour.

      Warm regards,


  14. Good video Paul. I hope the thoughts shared are taken on board.
    As many people, I scan a number of forums and blogs on outdoor subjects. I don’t share very often because I don’t fit with really any of the boxes in the forums. I’m not a bushcraft what ever that is, or survivalist, or hiker or camper yet I do all of those things when I’m out. I get fed up of either being told I’m doing it wrong or it is implied in the tone of answers that come back at me. Isn’t the whole point that you go out and enjoy yourself and the environment? It’s my opinion that there is a snobery that actually will put many people off participating in bushcraft (what ever that is) and that is reflected in the gear you are told you have to have to enjoy the outdoors. I could go on. Again a thought provoking video. Many thanks.

  15. Great presentation and one I really agree with. Get out and use your skills no matter what your outdoor pursuit is.

  16. Counting petals.. That’s not science that’s maths.
    Going outside to count petals that’s not maths, that’s a geography field trip..

    Nothing is ‘other’ unless we choose to separate it from everything else and once it is separate it looses it’s worth looses it’s whole meaning and becomes dry – just like a stuffy school class where the subject is isolated. Once we pigeon hole our ‘thing’ it is diminished.

    I think here in the UK we don’t really journey in any aspect of our lives. We are goal oriented, ‘end of’ oriented if you will, the result is that we care not about how we get there just that the destination is fulfilled; essentially we are happy to take short cuts to get the result (I’ll be Ray Irwin if I just own a wood lore axe designed by Bear Stroud).

    I think your ideas about journey, about wholistic learning, about normalising skills and attitude into the everyday and then taking the opportunity to push those skills further to make the everyday/normal skills easier/more manageable is something that applies to any and all of our life activities we just have to recognise it in each context.

    Bushcraft is dead – long live Bushcraft!

    1. It is the journey vs the goal. The Cree value the process over the objective. We can learn from that.

  17. Hi Paul, I really enjoyed the video and agree with so much of what you say about integration. I’ve been lucky and privileged enough to take my two sons twice into the bush in Canada for 4 days at a time by canoe so can really identify with what you say. In the UK I tend to go to one spot because the landowner gives me permission to camp in his woods -that’s a problem in our country -getting access without impinging upon people’s privacy and/or trespassing. I want to go travelling using the woodcraft/bushcraft/camping skills I have/am continuing to learn, but how does one overcome access etc? I like your blogs and have learned much from them – AND I try to put them into practice, from candleholders to lean-to’s, so I do try to embody what your message in the video is actually about.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your message. I’m very glad you understand where I’m coming from and it sounds like you are doing your best to integrate your bushcraft with the rest of your outdoor life πŸ™‚

      As for access, this is a perennial issue in the UK. I have some material coming addressing this subject, which will be on this blog before too long.

      Warm regards,


  18. Hi Paul,

    A great deal of what we have come to think of as bushcraft was once common knowledge I suspect, and well known to (almost) everyone not so long ago. People were not so disconnected from the natural world as those of us who get our food from the supermarket, keep warm with our central heating and cook with the gas/electric/microwave oven in the UK of 2014.

    The land-ownership, access laws and comparatively small areas of wild country in England has had a significant effect on how we think about and experience the outdoors I think, as has the ‘outdoor industry’ with its marketing, ‘essential kit’ and specialist publications. I think I could paraphrase your talk as “Just get on with it, enjoy it and stop worrying about what to call it.” and not be too wide of the mark. That’s not to devalue the skills and knowledge: the more you know the more you want to know I find. And by knowing more I value the environment more.

    Yesterday I spent about 8 hours in some admittedly familiar woodland. I cooked some lunch (BBQ lamb), brewed up some tea, watched some birds, had a bit of a walk, read a book, followed some deer tracks. Bushcraft? Not really, but I did light fires, filter water, leave-no-trace, have fun and come home safe and happy. Not an epic journey, not a day ‘bushcrafting’, just a day out.

    I did use some shiny-kit though and might have been able to manage without some of it by being more ‘bushcrafty’. But I would then have had to have been out longer or spent less time doing some of the things I did do; read less of my book for example, or gone without a bit of a doze in the sun-shine after lunch if I hadn’t had a spark-stick or a lightweight metal grill with me. But that brings me on to another thing learning some bushcraft skills have taught me, which is an increased respect for our less technologically advanced ancestors and for contemporary hunter-gatherer people.

    Anyway I’ve gone off pseud’s corner so I best stop now! As ever plenty to think about in your presentation. Thanks for posting it online for those of us not able to make it to the Bushcraft Show.

  19. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for putting the video of your presentation on line, I missed it at the show as I was tied up with my own workshops so it was great to catch up with it. I really like the fact that you have chosen to address bushcraft as a part of a outdoor life/outdoor activities as a whole rather than something completely separate.
    I thought the question from the audience (about the 55 minute point I think) regarding bushcraft and education was particularly interesting.


  20. Hi Paul, a good well balanced talk I reckon, thanks very much for putting it here for those who didn’t make the show. Straight talking and to the point, you’d never make a politician!
    I’m on my first year (of a 2 year) “Bushcraft” course and really enjoying my re-acquaintance with nature, I think most ex army feel a deep connection inside them anyway, that’s why so many end up doing it. People have often asked me where I go once a month, nearly all think it’s funny or weird when I tell them. Why do that? they ask. Why have insurance I say? Curiously only one guy, a black Frenchman from one of the old colonial countries, was keenly interested and wanted to know everything! It turned out his family used to live off the land a great deal, but now in the uk he doesn’t do it anymore. I soon put him right about that, so keep a look out for him. I follow your blogs and find them very useful, and as you rightly pointed out, it’s not about all the gadgetry – but getting “out there” and actually doing it, practicing the skills to survive and even thrive where others would succumb. And Bushcraft ( gotta call it something) is now a major part of my life and mindset, and is making me a better person because of it.


  21. Nice video,very interesting.Thanks for sharing it Paul!

  22. A great video and very thought provoking, many situations and truths laid out as well. I used to do a lot of hill walking with a friend snowdonia Lake District Peak District and get the magazine which after a while I realised it was touching on one of the points you are making and it was all about this years latest kit and how much better this years shiney gore text jacket is from last years model and I think is where ‘Bushcraft’ is now we’ve gone through the ex military kit and now at the mercy of people that produce Bushcraft specific kit, and how it’s so much better.
    Some of the best times I’ve had have been when I walked my dog, finding paths and trails to follow or even along a beach and putting up a cheap tarp to get out of the rain for a while.
    It is all about just get out there and enjoy our surroundings wherever they may be and let the skills help you, and as said previously or access or just complete lack of countryside is a problem hence why people visit the same woods, this though shouldn’t be frowned upon its circumstances we can’t all afford to go to Scotland for a few days tramping and camping.
    I really enjoy your blogs and emails and understand it’s not your first choice but a necessary evil in this day and age! But your presentation has made me question why don’t I just pack my rucksack and go for a walk and see what happens….
    Well done Paul and may see you soon for a non parachute learning experience

  23. Dear Paul
    Just caught up with your video here and I could not agree more. Even more poignant for me as I have just finished one of your courses and had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the English woodland with you and Stuart. I think your comments are reflected in your outlook and teaching style and it definitely works for me so please keep up the good work on the blog and the courses.
    I am an outdoor person that I guess has recently found the “bushcraft movement” in the uk and particularly on YouTube. I think the resources for learning are fantastic but as somebody who has always had a love of nature from a child sometimes there is something missing. You also have to be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of watching endless ‘prepper’ videos which sometimes don’t seem to worry about the outdoors much at all but are focused on other reasons for going outdoors or using skills.
    To me these skills just naturally fit in with other skills I have learnt whilst mountaineering, kayaking, fishing etc.
    I have just come in from outdoors and successfully lighting a fire using bow drill ( which I learnt with you guys)
    Still brings a large smile to my face as all I needed was a bit of string and a knife, if my equipment failed or was lost,spent I at least know I could attempt that!

    Great talk Paul hope to catch up again soon with hopefully you teaching and enthusing me more!
    Best regards

    1. Hi Dai,

      It’s good to hear from you. I’m glad you managed to catch up with this video and that it resonated with you.

      The efforts of everyone on your course still bring a smile to my face. It was a great group to work with. Stuart and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      If you didn’t see them, I added a few photos from the courser to both the Frontier Bushcraft Facebook page and Google+ page here:



      Keep in touch!

      Warm regards,


  24. Inspiring talk, Paul. The same day I watched it, I took the kids into the wilderness. We enjoyed wimberries, strawberries, some wild cherries; we found hazelnuts, saw a falcon hunting, saw a dead frog – so much for the kids to learn!

    Now, thanks to your talk, Paul, if I get too caught up and let my enthusiasm about the outdoors die down, I can always go back to this video, watch it again and get inspired!

  25. To me, bushcraft is the combination of a bunch of other skills and tools that we used to call by different names, like camping, orienteering, field craft, plant knowledge, etc. But it’s just the tool, like you said about the knife you were batonning, we don’t “bushcraft” for the sake of bushcraft, we use the bushcraft tool to accomplish other things, like hiking the High Sierra’s to see a sunrise on a pristine glass lake, or find out a marmut has peed all over your sleeping bag (priceless), or sleeping under the stars in the desert so you can see how many stars there really are up there.
    I didn’t saw and sand and screw and glue that bookshelf I made for my missus, I built it using those skills and tools though.
    I didn’t hike through the Kalahari to bushcraft, but I certainly used a lot of bushcraft skills to hike through the Kalahari!

    Anyway, I was inspired to integrate some bushcraft into my daily life. So I did some today, and all was going well. I was just about to string the cordage on a fire-making bow, when a couple people in the office asked me what I was doing. I think that batonning my knife into my desk was probably going a bit too far (one of the chaps in the office is a knife collector), or it might have been the IT guy, because to start the splitting the only thing I could find to hit my knife with was my laptop.

  26. Agree with your comments about taking your bushcraft skills with you. Recently did a tourist trip to South Africa including 3 days in Kruger national park with the usual animal sightings in Vehicles( A privilege on it’s own). But the best thing was an early morning bush walk with the rangers, only a small group of 6. But every thing I looked at was different, blades of grass and most trees were a mystery. But it was all about using our eyes.. The Ranger asked us to keep quiet and just watch his actions when he pointed casually on the walk, and too ask questions at the end. At the end He asked me what I saw? When I said I thought I had seen a Hyena track in a bank and some impala tracks. He agreed that was what happened the night before, a short chase. Was a track a leopard or a Lion(It was a Leapord)We talked about the different animal dung Hippos, Rhinos and Elephant! Ants and so on. The others wanted too know how I had seen so much stuff as the Ranger agreed with my sightings & locations. The Rangers did stop and show quite a few things, but he complimented me on my observations and told the others “they had eyes but did not see.” As one fellow tourist said when he was home in the woods all he saw was woods not individual trees or anything else. The ranger said ” I should take them home with me and teach them how to see”. But that’s it curiosity and observation drives us on just one of many skills we can take with us. Just as you did on the sea front.

    1. Hi Gwyn,

      You summed it up perfectly: “curiosity and observation” πŸ˜‰

      Glad you had a great time in Africa.

      Warm regards,


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