Prepping vs Bushcraft: Which is Better for SHTF?

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There has been a lot of spirited discussion in the comments this week so I thought I would try to throw another log on the fire and see what debate this article would generate. There seem to be two sides to this survival coin in terms of what people believe are the best tactics and skills needed to survive anything that comes your way. On one side we have preppers who tend to have certain interests and opinions. The other side is Survivalists or people who practice the art of Bushcraft. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but who do you think would fare better in a SHTF scenario? Who would win in the battle of Prepping vs Bushcraft?

What are the traits of a Prepper?

Before I get into the main question I think it is a good idea to define what I mean by the two types of people. I am sure there will be those who disagree with my definition, but that is what I will use for the comparison of each.

Preppers are defined as people who take steps to ensure they will be ready to address, survive and thrive through any disasters they may face in their lives. Preppers will stock supplies in advance of shortages and I believe the primary focus comes down to Water, Food, Shelter and Security.

What are the traits of Bushcraft?

Bushcraft skills are focused more on living off the land using minimal tools and gear to survive with what you have access to. Bushcraft relies on what you can acquire in nature versus what you can purchase at the store. Some main concepts of Bushcraft are building fire, shelter and small game traps with not much more than sticks, whittled and assembled in the right configuration with cordage to supply the noose and lashing to connect your wood. Bushcraft can also be referred to as survivalism where the focus is on surviving using the elements you find yourself in.

Which one is Better?

As I came up with the idea of this article, I knew pretty much right away that there is no clear winner between people who label themselves preppers or people who believe Bushcraft is all you ever need. There are good points in both camps and determining which path would be the most successful really depends on what you are facing. Like so many other problems we try to address with prepping and Bushcraft, it comes down to the disaster.

I decided to think of three hypothetical disasters and contrast the two schools of thought.

Economic Collapse – Stock implosion worse than the great depression that lasts for 2 years.

Prepper: Most preppers start off with stocking up on food and water so you are able to stay at home while everyone else panics and loots. Stores are burned down and FEMA trucks are attacked. Eventually Martial Law is declared but you stay away from the chaos, live off your preps and plan your next move.

Foraging for food could prove harder in the winter.

Foraging for food could prove harder in the winter.

Bushcraft: Relying on your skills of foraging and small game hunting, you are able to catch food every day for the first couple of weeks. The two squirrels and a field mouse a day are not enough to feed your family though and seeing as how the Economy tanked in winter, there are precious few fruits, nuts or berries to eat. You are able to eat some wild roots, but spend hours each day searching for food with mixed results. Some days you aren’t lucky and go home hungry.

Virus Pandemic – Mandatory shelter in place rules are in effect for 6 months

Prepper: Using your preps like this was never how you envisioned it, but you have plenty of food and water supplied for several months. You also have personal protective gear so you are able to go out into the yard, tend your garden and collect rainwater from your rain barrel systems without fear of contracting the virus. The solar panels you installed right before the virus hit give you enough power each day to charge a laptop and your cell phones. Since the power outages caused by a shortage of workers who fell ill also, the laptop has come in handy playing DVD’s for your children and staving off the inevitable boredom of sheltering in place.

A Virus pandemic would necessitate staying in doors and out of contact with other people for survival.

A Virus pandemic would necessitate staying in doors and out of contact with other people for survival.

Bushcraft: The good news is that your wild plant and herbal remedy knowledge has prepared you to treat fevers your family experienced as they were forced to travel from your home in search of food, but the illness has seriously weakened two of them which leave fewer people to hunt and gather. Each of you have lost 20 pounds and the lack of nutrition is taking its toll.

Lost in the wilderness – A camping trip goes wrong, you are separated from your group and forced to spend the night in the woods.

Prepper: You became separated from your group but you didn’t panic and instead set up camp. You had brought along an extra day’s food and were able to fish from a small lake and filter drinking water. Your layers keep you warm into the cold night along with the roaring fire you were able to make with your fire starter and some wetfire cubes. The next day you are found by the park rangers and escorted out.

Getting lost in the wilderness can try anyone's survival skills.

Getting lost in the wilderness can try anyone’s survival skills.

Bushcraft: You also didn’t panic and were able to devise a debris shelter and a fire. This consumed all of your time though so you weren’t able to set any traps or catch any fish. You are alive though and people can live without food for a long time. You are also rescued the next day.


Who is the winner?

OK, at first glance this probably looks skewed and opinionated. I will admit right now that Bushcraft skills are no joke. They are life savers if you are out in the wilderness away from all civilization. I don’t believe they trump prepping in every instance though and I tried to illustrate that here, however unfairly.

Prepping has a definite usefulness that can save millions of lives and it shouldn’t be looked down on by the purists out there who can whittle anything in the world. If we had a global apocalypse and everyone had to walk into the woods naked, I image Bushcraft skills would be far superior – in the long run. For most disasters though where we do cling to some civilization, I believe prepping offers just as many advantages without the luck you might need with Bushcraft. Is it the lazy way out? Perhaps, but I would rather have 20 lazy families who stocked up for a rainy day than 20 people who thought they were going to live off the land and in three days came banging on my door for a handout.

Maybe we should combine elements of both for the most well-rounded person. Preppers can definitely learn a myriad of Bushcraft skills that could keep us alive. Could preppers help bushcrafters out some too in the preparedness department? Bushpreppers? Prepcrafters?

What do you think? Who would fare better in a SHTF scenario, Prepping or Bushcraft?


  1. BobW

    March 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    I just don’t see the concepts to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t a prepper learn survival skills? Why can’t a survivalist build some preps?

    Seems to me that regional population density and duration of calamity are major factors that will affect each person’s answer.

    It seems obvious to me that a blend of the two is far more useful and practical than choosing a side to live on. If I was permanently seperated from my preps, dropped out in the woods somewhere, I’d prefer to be a survivalist or bushman or whatever you call them. If I was at home and got a choice one or the other, I’d be a prepper. Its the whole ‘bird in the hand…” situation.

    All things being equal, with my obligations, I can’t transform into a bushman. I do have the means to become something of a prepper, but with some bush-skillz added to the mix to for the eventual bug-out.

    Personally, I refuse to be labeled. I am not a prepper. I am not a survivalist. I am a practical, realistic man who is hedging against future rainy days. The signs that something bad could happen soon are all around. I’m just doing what I can to set the conditions to survive (if not excel) in a negative, possibly hostile environment.

    • LWJ

      March 9, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      A prepper should have the ability to function in the boonies with minimal gear. The more field skills one has the more versatile one is. The ability to bring home a months worth of food can be quite the plus. Your stockpile is great until your home burns down. Preps and technolgy can’t replace skills, but they can enhance them.

      Although I do prefer Pheasants over rabbits…..

    • Pat Henry

      March 10, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Thanks Bob,

      I agree with you too and tried to use this article to push a few buttons on the side of people who advocate one or the other. I think a balance is best myself.


  2. Toni73

    March 10, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Hi there; great article and nice provocation! 🙂 I am a follower of your site and this is the first time I dare to reply.
    I agree with BobW and LWJ; the concepts shouldn’t be mutually exclusive and ideally Bushcraft / Preparedness should be the two sides of the coin. Having said that, I myself am a bit more inclined towards bushcraft / survival skills than pure preparedness because is more about having and mastering the right skills vs “having a lot of stuff” (I know that this is a very simplistic view, but I also like to be a bit provocative) 🙂
    But the point is that sooner or later you will run out of supplies and then you will need to use your skills to either hunt, fish, harvest…
    Long story short: the ideal is to be a bit of both and as BobW says: the point is to be “a practical realistic man”
    Toni (Germany)

    • Pat Henry

      March 10, 2015 at 8:45 am

      Thanks for reading Toni and commenting!

      I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but as I was saying to Bob, I was addressing the labels. Todd Walker who runs the Survival Sherpa blog (excellent!) talks of “Doing the stuff” as opposed to having the stuff. He is what I would consider a practitioner of Bushcraft and he has amazing skills that I aspire to.

      This post was really just another conversation starter as I believe the perfect individual would be one part prepper and one part bushman. Someone who has supplies stored, but could survive if dropped in the wilderness with only a sharp rock.


      • Toni73

        March 10, 2015 at 1:27 pm

        Hi Pat, I agree with you: the ideal combination would be a 50% -50% split preparedness / bushcraft or preparedness / survival.
        Going too extreme in either direction would be a mistake IMHO. Although some of us have some extra limitations which will condition our choice on prepper vs bushman: living in Europe, the approach to self-defense involves a lot of creativity since there is an enormous gun control in this part of the world. So stockpiling guns and ammo is not possible at all.

    • LWJ

      March 10, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Technolgy can be a big helper. My Coyote call is programmed to play a few billion sounds, quite a few of which are “Fawn in distress”. During certain parts of the year I call in more deer then dogs….handy to have in case things go south.
      Knowing how to build a snow cave might be a vital skill to have if your ride breaks down. Just because you have warm clothes does not mean your going to be able to withstand the elements in the open overnight. The ability to create your own shelter is great, having a candle or a heater to use in it is even better!

      • usmarinestanker

        March 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm

        Philistine! Electronic calls are cheating! 😛

        • LWJ

          March 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

          We went out two weeks ago and it was -6 standing air temp not including the wind chill. No way was I going to try to blow into a call, operating my remote was bad enough. However if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying!!

      • Toni73

        March 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        Hi LWJ
        Agree: technology helps. My only watchout is to rely too much on technology. I saw lots of videos of people claiming to be preppers who are showing their bug out vehicle or bug out bag and it is amazing to see how much junk some people need to survive 72 hours…
        I am not saying you need to go all Cody Lundin with just a knife and no shoes, but you also don’t need 6 extra batteries, a solar charger and a back-up solar charger just to get out of Dodge… if you know what I mean.
        The interesting thing is that I can see this overreliance on technology also in my day to day job. I work in an office and some people cannot present an idea to an audience without a Powerpoint presentation… without the technology some people cannot deliver. Scary.
        What I am trying to say is that, it should be part of our training to try to survive one day without all (or most) of our junk. Is good mental training. Just food for thought

        • LWJ

          March 10, 2015 at 1:48 pm

          Yes I do, people need to know how to do things without the high tech gizmos. LIke land navigation without a plugger. You have to be able to read a map without the device telling you where to go.

          Mind if I ask what part of Germany your from?

          • Toni73

            March 10, 2015 at 2:56 pm

            In fact I am from Spain 🙂 and I live in the north of Germany now. Close to Hamburg.

            • LWJ

              March 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm

              I lived in Wiesbaden, Fulda and Schweinfurt. Would love to go back again one day.

              • Toni73

                March 11, 2015 at 6:58 am

                Those were all US Army bases, weren’t they?

              • LWJ

                March 11, 2015 at 7:28 am

                Correct the Blackhorse Cav was in Fulda, the 3rd ID at Schweinfurt, and I don’t know who was in Wiesbaden, back in the day. Germany was a great experience, living in another country is an eye opener.

  3. NRP

    March 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    IMHO, there is no split/difference in the two, If you’re a so called “prepper” than you dang will better know how to build a fire to cook that “stored” food with out the kitchen stove. If you call yourself a “Bushy” you might want to have an extra pair of underwear somewhere, is that not prepping? So to my statement, there is no difference. At least if ya have abilities to go to the Wally-World store now days, you have GOT to be a survivalist to get those preps. HAHAHAHA

  4. EgbertThrockmorton1

    March 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I never “knew” there was/is a “difference” between preparing for emergencies and bushcraft. Always thought, from the time I was a Tenderfoot rank, Boy Scout, that the two went hand-in-hand. Add me to the list of those who oppose a mutual exclusivity between the two genres.

  5. Sideliner1950

    March 10, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Everybody seems to agree with each other. The question amounts to an “apples and oranges” scenario…maybe we shouldn’t try to compare them, and besides, they go so well with each other in the fruit salad. Thought provoking.

    • NRP

      March 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Are you saying we’re all a bunch of “fruits” HAHAHAHA

  6. Prepp or Die

    March 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I am a BushPrepper! I do both 😉

  7. Eddie Bergstrom

    March 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Neither is more important unless you know or do neither.

    Depending on the situation either or both could be vital skills to have. Someone with bushcraft skills could show a prepper where to stash a cache and reason where and why or why not to setup a camp. They can keep people safe and fed under most circumstances, unless the party is too large. There is zero democracy in this scenario. Minimalist.

    The prepper has the advantage of food, gear, tools etc. But now you have a s-ton of stuff and nowhere to put it. You just know you need to get out. This person can keep more people alive as long as no one walks away with or destroys the cache of supplies. Strategist

    Both skills together makes a formidable team or a great guide/leader in a SHTF scenario.

    • Pat Henry

      March 15, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      Good points, Eddie. Thanks!

  8. Zachary Campbell

    March 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    The bushcraft expert wins every day of the week and if like me (I’m not a prepper I practice bushcraft) I know how to catch and store food for the winter. I appreciate a prepper can do well but too reliant on stuff.

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