Bushcraft Tools Must Haves

In our comfy Western civilization few people choose the bush as home. Knowing how to live off the land and away from urban conveniences is a set of skills that have largely died out. But what if society collapses to the point that you have to survive in the bush for an extended period of time? Would you know what to do? Do your current preps include the bushcraft tools you would need?

I want to point out that there is a difference between prepping and bushcraft. Preppers stock up and prepare to survive in a specific location, whether that is bugging in at home or bugging out at an alternative location.

Those who choose bushcraft, are the ones who plan on surviving with little or no human interaction. I’d like to think that most of you reading this have embraced both approaches, at least to some extent, because I fully believe both are necessary.

Here, I am going to cover the survival equipment you will need for survival in the bush, but these tools are only truly useful if you have developed the skills to use them. Bushcraft skills include the ability to:

  • Hunt and trap
  • Forage
  • Purify water
  • Build shelter
  • Build fire

To accomplish these goals, you need surprisingly few tools. These tools are primarily bladed tools, but there are a few others you will want in your arsenal to be able to survive whatever the bush might throw at you.


Bladed Bushcraft Tools

No one can survive in the bush without at least one bladed tool. They are a must, plain and simple, and since there is such a variety of bladed tools that have many different uses, having more than one is ideal.

In fact, in the old days the most essential tools for bushcraft included three blades – a large knife, a small knife, and an axe or hatchet. Some bushcrafters also include a saw in the essential blades, so I will cover it here.

Large Knife (Machete)

If you could only take one blade with you into the bush, it would have to be a large knife or a machete. Really, a machete is just one heck of a big knife.

A large knife can handle a lot of jobs you would give to a small knife and a lot of jobs an axe could handle. Some might say it is a hybrid of a knife and an axe, which is why it is the ideal choice if you can only have one blade. A large knife can be used to:

  • Clear brushlarge_knife
  • Cut branches
  • Cut small logs
  • Dig
  • Skin and butcher game
  • Defend yourself against wild animals (that includes people!)
  • Pry or as a drawknife

Small Knife

A good solid small knife (fixed-blade or folding) is going to provide you with years of use, provided you spend the extra money for a high-end knife and you properly care for it. The beauty of the fixed-blade knife is in its versatility and its maneuverability. With a small knife you can:survival_knife

  • Whittle and carve wood
  • Cut small branches
  • Skin and gut game
  • Prepare food
  • Prepare traps and snares
  • Defend yourself

You can use your imagination to come up with loads more uses for your blade. The important thing to know about a small knife is that its smaller blade allows for precision work that would be difficult with a larger blade.

I will add here that having two separate blades, a large one and a small one, is far better than getting a medium knife that you think will do it all. A medium knife will be able to handle many of the jobs a small or large knife can handle, but will not do it as well. That means you will lose efficiency and/or accuracy.


An axe or hatchet is another must-have for any serious bushcrafter. You can do a lot of things with an axe and it can handle some of the heavier jobs of which a knife is capable. Axes are used to:bushcraft_tool

  • Fell trees
  • Chop wood
  • Cut notches in wood to build a structure
  • Butcher large game
  • Dig
  • Hammer posts and stakes

If you think that you can use a knife to do the job of an axe or hatchet, please think again. There is no tool that is designed more adequately than an axe or hatchet for chopping wood. In a pinch you can use a large knife for axe-worthy jobs, but it won’t be easy.

Saw (Folding or a Pocket Chainsaw)

A saw is another bladed tool that is useful for bushcraft. It is a highly specialized tool that is used to cut wood for the purpose of building – well – anything. Whether you are building shelter, furniture, or ladders a saw is the idea tool, but I’ll be honest here. You can get by just fine without a saw if you have the other three blades.


Multi-tools are so important for survival than many preppers actually have them in their EDC kit. It only make sense to include one in your bushcraft kit as well. Leatherman makes awesome multi-tools, I wouldn’t buy any other brand unless I was on a really tight budget.

carving tool

Carving Tools

You never know when you’ll have to make your own survival equipment on the go. For example, you might have to carve yourself a knife or a bowl. An inexpensive carving tool could be a great addition to your BOB.

(Optional) A Tactical Shovel

In case you need to do some digging (such as a Dakota fire hole),  a foldable shovel is something you should have (and spare your knife or machete).


Non-Bladed Bushcraft Tools

Some real die-hard bushcrafters will say you need nothing more than a good blade. Just strap them on your belt and you’re good to go. That might be true for the most skilled survivalist. You can indeed go out into the bush and use those three bladed tools to cut the wood you need to build a fire, strike flint or another type of sparking rock, build a lean-to or more permanent shelter, skin and butcher game, cook, and more.

However, there are a few other important bushcraft tools that I recommend you have in your arsenal. Not only will they make bushcraft easier, they are so small and light that they are easy to add to your pack. Some of these things really should be and probably are part of your regular BOB, but I’m going to discuss them here anyway because they are important even when living in the bush.

Whetstone or a Knife Sharpeshnerwetstone

If your blades are your most important bushcraft tools, then you are going to need to keep them sharp or they won’t be of much use to you. Unless you know how to create a whetstone in the bush or you know other ways to sharpen your blades, a knife sharpener is going to be an essential bushcraft tool.

Several Fire Starters

The most important thing you will need for your survival is a fire. You will use this to keep warm, purify water, and cook your food. It can also be used to sterilize tools and cauterize wounds if the need arises. Unless you really know how to start a fire from natural materials found in the woods (and you should), you are going to need a tool that will help you start a fire. A good fire starter will have a striker that lasts for hundreds or thousands of strikes.

Recommended fire starers:

A Portable Water Filterwater_filter

Again, there are ways to purify water while in the bush simply with what you have on-hand. Boiling is the best way and requires a pot and fire, but carrying a way to purify water in your pack is important for those times when you cannot or should not make a fire. Water purification tablets are light and easy to carry and there are plenty of small purification systems that are designed to fit in your pack.

A Lensatic Compass

compassIf your navigation skills are even moderately good, you might not need a compass, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. Avoid button compasses as they don’t offer good precision when navigating. Instead, go with a professional one.

You will also need a map of your area and where you intend to go. Hopefully, you have spent some time getting to know the area around your home for at least a 50 mile radius, but regardless, having a map will help you find important resources, such as:

  • Roads
  • Railways
  • Rivers, lakes, and other sources of water
  • Forested areas
  • Towns and cities of various sizes
  • Crown land
  • National and state parks

An Aluminium Pot 

potWhen you have your fresh caught fish or meat, you can cook them on a stick or a makeshift spit over the fire. If you manage to forage for and find some wild green, onions, carrots, or other types of edible veggies, you can make a soup if you have a pot.

Having even one small aluminum pot will allow you to have some variety in your otherwise meager menu. It will also allow you to boil water. Make sure you have a spoon so you can eat what you cook and a water bottle or canteen in which to carry water.

Dan’s Notes

Last but not least, let’s not forget the old propane stove. Compact and lightweight, it’s a must if you’re assembling an INCH bag or a bug out bag that will help you survive for days on end in the wilderness.


Primitive Tools

There are a number of “primitive tools” that some preppers like to have on hand. If you’re passionate about the old ways, consider having some of the following:

  • primitive spears (for hunting and fishing)
  • wooden items for the bow drill method (bow, spindle, board)
  • rock slings
  • lassos for hunting big game
  • and more.

You can learn how to make each of them by taking a bushcraft class or by watching YouTube videos and trying to replicate them.

A Tarp

Learning how to build your own shelter out of wood, boughs, and anything else you can find in the wild is advantageous when in the bush. However, if you can manage to carry something with you to help make that shelter, it will make things easier for you.

A tent might be a bit much to carry around with you in the bush. If you want a lightweight one, the price might be too high, but if you can afford it, then do it.

Otherwise, at least bring a good-quality tarp, a small sleeping bag, a bivvy bag, or even a poncho. Even if some of them won’t provide you with warmth, you can use whatever’s available to fix that: bramches, dead leaves, moss, rocks etc.

copper snare wire
Photo: copper snare wire

Snare Wire

You have the right blades to skin and butcher your game, but first you have to catch that game. A copper wire won’t add bulk or weight to your pack and it will make it so much easier to catch your dinner than if you only use your knife and your bare hands.

fish line with hook

Fishing Line and Hooks

Having a small fishing kit, particularly a line and some hooks, will also be of great help when in the bush. Again, this is something that is small, easy to fit in your pack, and will save you loads of frustration.

Be Truly Prepared

These tools are just the beginning. You need to do further research to decide which ones are right for you. Read the reviews on the sites you buy them from. See what people DON’T like them and the alternatives they recommend.

Once you get them, don’t let them sit there and collect dust! Use them on your camping trips, bug out drills, survival challenges and even around the house. Remember that skill trumps gear any day.

About Karen Hendry

Karen Hendry
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats. In her spare time she is writing the next great apocalyptic novel of our time, full of government conspiracy and betrayal at every level.


  1. Avatar

    I’ve been experimenting a bit by taking a small 1.5kg, short handled mattock out and about with me. It’s a decent forged item that can take some punishment.
    The adze on it is angled well and good for digging (obviously ) and grubbing, but also can be used to shape timber. The axe on the back is a bit small but can fulfill most requirements.
    I’m thinking I might try replacing my axe with it and see how I go.
    It could also make a rather effective defensive weapon too…

  2. Avatar
    Kris Murphy in Alabama

    If it comes down to being out in the sticks and that is the place you end up trying to survive, I believe a wide bladed hatchet is a must. You can use a heavy bladed machete-knife for most things but one thing that is a long-term survival must, for cooking and heat, is firewood, in particular, kindling.

    Almost every outdoor survival scenario, unless you are in in Antarctica or the North Pole, is firewood.

    To cut down, cut up and split wood from a tree or large bush, a hatchet is a necessity. The difference in trying to split wood, in particular, fresh cut, between a machete-knife and a hatchet or ax is night and day.

    Also, a hatchet makes an effective weapon (TV show “Vikings” demonstrates)

    So besides a knife or two, a hatchet with a wide blade is an absolute requirement.

  3. Avatar

    This is the best I have seen.

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