Wilderness Survival Training – The Difference Between Bushcraft vs Survival Skills

With SCT’s wilderness survival training courses – while most people might consider the words bushcraft and survival to be interchangeable, they are actually quite different terms. The two different methods do often overlap when talking about wilderness survival courses or when out in the field…however, there is a noticeable distinction.

  • Survival tends to focus on the key things you need to do in order to stay alive.
  • Bushcraft tends to focus on the skills of living in the wilderness using natural materials and traditional methods.

Here are a couple of dictionary definitions.

Survival: The fact of a person, organisation, etc continuing to live or exist (Cambridge dictionary).

Bushcraft: Ability and experience in matters concerned with living in the bush (Collins English Dictionary).


Training in survival techniques is based more around your equipment and was initially conceived to teach members of the military a variety of essential skills quickly, to enable them to survive in a remote environment – long enough to be rescued or to self-rescue from that emergency situation. You can see an overview of all of our survival courses here.

It typically relates to being able to survive on your own for up to 72 hours and returning to safety in the fastest way possible.

wilderness survival training - alcohol wipe as fire lighterReal-world survival training concentrates on the priorities of survival and the critical steps to follow in a particular order, based upon immediate needs (e.g. protection / shelter, warmth / fire, rescue signals, water, food, navigation etc).

Survival skills are really important skills to gain for anyone who enjoys spending time in the wilderness or carries out any activity or work that takes them into remote areas of Australia and beyond.

When you are thrown into a survival situation it means there is the strong possibility that your life is in potential danger.

The priorities that you need to follow in order to survive would be carried out as quickly and effortlessly as possible, such as putting up a basic shelter that will protect you from the elements, or treating / boiling water from a natural water source because that’s the only option available.

The critical actions you take when you’re in a wilderness survival situation will be done to save your life, and you won’t want to waste time or effort constructing anything unnecessary, because you’ll ideally be on the move (assuming you’re uninjured).


On the other hand, bushcraft is more of a natural skill set that involves a deep understanding of the wisdom and bush skills that traditional cultures across the world have used to survive and even thrive in the wilderness for tens of thousands of years.

Bushcraft is the umbrella subject that encompasses all survival training and has a direct link with the land and a stronger connection to nature.

It includes a diverse range of disciplines such as building natural shelters, as well as a thorough understanding of:

  • fire preparation & lighting
  • botany & plant identification
  • natural navigation
  • tool making
  • fishing
  • animal tracking
  • hunting & trapping
  • water procurement techniques
  • bush cooking etc

Bushcraft often involves spending long periods of time in the wilderness doing things to make you more comfortable. It is more focused on ways to create things you’ll need from nature in a safe environment where your life isn’t in danger, unlike in a survival situation.

wilderness survival training - natural willow cordageIt relies more on a maximum use of knowledge and skills with only a minimal reliance on equipment.

Bushcraft and survival do overlap in their need for self-reliance, but separate further from each other in their need for connection and the relationship to nature. Ideologically, they have two different foundations.

In the real world, however, we often transition from one to the other – as with wilderness survival training in Australia they have somewhat similar skill sets – and at Survival Courses Tasmania we’ll cover both with more of a dominance on survival techniques.

At SCT, we strive to deliver an all-round education in survival rather than instruction only. This enables our students to gain real-world skills and the right knowledge acquisition, combined with core personal development.

The invaluable life skills you will take with you from an SCT course will help you to grow in self-confidence, resilience and will help you become more self-reliant in the field. Read more in our blogs here. There’s a course to suit everyone, regardless of experience in the wild.

Definition of survival.