I was with my friend the other day in the forest when we decided to start a campfire. We were practicing a few of our bushcraft skills and always did it as safely as possible. Suddenly, we were confronted by a park ranger who told us it was too late to start a fire at that time in the night. Say what? Really?
Since then, I’ve done a little research of my own to ask the simple question: where can I practice bushcraft safely and effectively?
10 best places to practice bushcraft and survival skills:
- Your Own Back Yard
- Your Own Neighborhood
- Your Local Park
- Running Trails or Greenways
- Train Stations or Malls
- A Public Beach, Lake, or Pond
- National Parks or Forests
- Private Lands
- BML Lands
- Crown Lands
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to be in the wilderness to practice bushcraft. It can be as easy as starting in your backyard if you just want to focus on skills like trap-making, plant ID, wildlife observation, weather predictions, and many more.
If you don’t have a yard, there probably is some “everyday” location near you that most of your skills can be worked on. In fact, you may only have to travel a bit or take an extended trip for more hardcore bushcraft skills.
So, let’s discuss the 10 best areas for you to practice bushcraft. Note: This list is ordered from areas generally easiest to hardest as far as accessibility goes.
1. Your Own Back Yard
So long as you don’t break any state or federal laws, practicing bushcraft in your yard or inside your home is the safest and definitely best way to get better at your craft. You can practice essential skills like:
The possibilities are endless. You can just go out, pull up a chair in the shade, and do some carving or whittling. Being good with your hands in the wilderness is something that must be practiced often to keep your skills honed. It’s a good habit to get into to work on something every day.
And, just because you might have run out of daylight is no excuse, there is still an opportunity for you to hone your bushcraft skills in the night, as close to home as your back yard.
For example, on a very dark night, you can go outside, and look up in the sky. With this, you can get a better understanding of stars and constellations and how you might be able to use them to get a better understanding of direction and, in turn, some natural navigation. Don’t underestimate how important this skill is!
Simulate Survival Situations
While being at your homestead provides comfort, there is another huge benefit that cannot be overstated. The fact that you are shielded from the inherent dangers that come from the outside world allows you to take a safe trial run before heading off to parts unknown. This allows you to basically run a simulation build up your fundamental skills and get your feet wet before putting yourself at risk in the wild.
Long story short: hone every single possible skill you can at home and get really good at them before even thinking about trying it in the wilderness. A survival situation, even a relatively safe mock one, is not the place to figure things out. Master the skills and add them to your toolkit before you do it live.
Above all, the best part about practicing at home is that you don’t have to deal with anybody else! Often, authorities can get confused when they see people practicing primitive skills. By doing them in your back yard, you virtually eliminate almost all possibility of outside-interference with your work.
2. Your Own Neighborhood
Your neighborhood is one of the safest places to practice your bushcraft skills safely. Even if you are just learning to identify the flora, it’s a great place to hone your skills. Take trees for example.
When in the wild, understanding how to use trees to your advantage is extremely important. Think of all the uses they provide. From building shelters and fires all the way to providing sustenance and even medicine.
There are likely a wide variety of species present in your community. You walk, drive, and maybe even job past these trees almost every single day. Learn to name them instantly when you pass by and what each species are best used for. Then, it’ll become second nature if you ever find yourself in a survival situation.
So, within 50 to 150 yards, within your neighborhood, in all directions, there is a range of trees you can keep your eyes on throughout the year, which will help you identify them while you go into a more remote area.
3. Your Local Park
With an open parkland just a mile or two from your doorstep, you can safely and effectively practice your bushcraft skills. Even if it’s just something as simple as predicting the weather.
Sit on a park bench and have a look at the vast expansive open sky. When you see that the clouds are starting to form and coming from a west direction, or anything unusual, pick up your weather forecasting book.
Get an idea of what those clouds are, how they are formed, and how they might predict what weather is to come. Knowing when to prepare for inclement weather or even recognizing when it is likely to be dry and hot the next day will give you a leg up on survival.
4. Running Trails or Greenways
Undeveloped running trails with very little traffic and dog walkers can be found close to most neighborhoods. You get to see all sorts of wildlife when you’re running on these trails in the morning or evening. Some of these include foxes, badgers, rabbits, chipmunks, rats, stouts, and many more.
One of the great things is that, once you’ve seen these animals in an area, you can come back after your run, and try and detect any sign, droppings, or tracks. You may also track what they’ve been eating, moving through the area, and giving away any visible sign of their presence.
So, running a more “wild” area does create the perfect opportunity to look for any wildlife and look for signs. And I am pretty sure you probably have an undeveloped running trail near you.
5. Train Stations or Malls
With a Google Map search, you can usually find a train station near you. Train station platforms are one of those places where there is not a lot to do there. They are a little bit like an airport departure lounge or a being a passenger in a car or sitting in your doctor’s waiting room.
Bring with you a couple of feet of paracord, and while you’re sitting down in the beautiful weather waiting to get on the train, you can practice some knots you know as well as learn some new ones.
6. A Public Beach, Lake, or Pond
Public bodies of water offer enumerable opportunities to practice bushcraft skills. It’s always a good idea to just pretend you are on a dessert island and have to take care of the basics, like purifying water. Here are a few things to practice:
1. Make Solar Stills
The easiest way to purify water is to make use of the plastic water bottles that inevitably always wash up along bodies of water. This video demonstrates how it is done:
This is also a great family activity. Since everyone is already digging, they might not even notice or care what you are doing. Having your kids help you.
2. Cast a Net in the Surf
Also, learning to weave a net from either natural materials or man-made cordage is a great skill to have. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating something and then eating as a reward for your labor.
3. Forage for Shellfish
Crustaceans and mollusks are mostly found near saltwater, but there are also freshwater mussels.
If you have a beach around you, it’s a great place to spend a weekend both having fun and working on your skills.
Stand at the seashore where there is a rock pool around. They are a great place to come and improve your knowledge and foraging skills. If you have no idea about seaweed, cockles, periwinkles on the shore, and all that stuff, do not worry. There’s plenty of info out there to help you. Check out this video:
The places I have mentioned so far are not the best place to practice skills that require more open space, like navigation or hunting. So, let’s discuss a few places that may require a bit of planning or extensive travel to partake of but will be extremely rewarding.
7. National Parks or National Forests
National forests are a great place to go camping and work on your bushcraft skills. You may find a national forest near you with these tips:
Use Google Maps
The easiest way to find a national forest near you is to go into Google maps. Here are a few ideas to guide you:
- Search for “National Forest Near Me.”- Google will locate you and give you a whole list of parks near you where you can practice.
- Search for “Forest Service Roads Near Me”- This is an alternative to searching for national forests near you. Because, when you’re going on bushcraft in a national forest, most at times you’re on Forest Service roads. This is not like boondocking in the desert where you can go to a variety of places to camp. To practice bushcraft in national forests, you usually have to go down a dirt or service road.
- Switch to Satellite View of the Place You Might Want to practice Bushcraft- To avoid the situation of you taking turns that lead nowhere, switch your search to a satellite view. If you just use the regular maps views, they won’t necessarily show you the best areas. From the satellite view, you can scope in and see all the little turnout roads.
Using the satellite view might be somewhat dicey at times because you might not see how steep these places are or if they are crowded, or for some reason, the park has been closed off by the time you arrive. This is when the use of apps, such as AllStays, becomes handy.
Get a Benchmark Map
You might not think you need this, but it may be useful for some folks. Having a benchmark map is usually most helpful when you happen to get lost and have no access to the internet. This is a definite possibility when you go to an unfamiliar area and not something to be taken lightly. You don’t want your practicing expedition to become a real-life fight for survival.
Therefore, I highly recommend you all have at least one good paper or plastic map. This is because all benchmark maps drill down to a specific state. More importantly, it will give you all of the recreation areas, campgrounds, national forest areas, and most importantly, show you the paved roads, the dirt roads, and all the offshoots. Often, they even give you more details than what you might get in a regular Google Map search.
Call the Rangers
If you do not know a good spot to go, want an area with a Wi-Fi signal, or a place with or without more people, call the local ranger station. Their numbers are on the lower-left corner of the page of the National forest you plan on going to.
Call them, and you will be surprised by the wealth of information they will share with you. They will almost always be glad to give you the best spots, and also some suggestions to make your stay remarkable.
Now you have chosen your favorite spot(s) to practice bushcraft, let us talk about a few recommended rules to follow:
Know The Number of Days You Can Stay
Generally, in most US states, you can stay at a public land for just 14 days before you have to move. Of course, all these rules can change based on the jurisdiction of the forest, and what the rules are for that locale.
If you are going to stay in that area, you will often have to move about 1 mile to 5 miles to settle again, depending on the national forest. This is great because it forces you to continuously adapt to different areas.
So, I recommend you take a look at the US forest service website where you want to go and practice bushcraft to see the number of days you can say. Then, pick 2 or spots to move around to based on how long you have to be out in the wilderness.
Clean Up After Yourself
National forests that allow bushcraft and almost never have pit toilets, trash cans, water, or anything like that. So, you must pack in everything you need for your length of stay, and pack it all out following the “Leave No Trace” principle.
If you are not familiar with that, the name says it all. You want to leave the place the same as when you got there with no trace of human activity. Bottk line: If you do make a mess, be sure to pick it up. Otherwise, Yogi Bear might come after you.
Be Far from a Water Source and the Road
If you plan to spend the night at a spot, you will have to be 100 to 200 feet from a water source and 150 feet from the road. You cannot setup your camp at the bank of a river.
It’s also important that you know everything there is to know about local state laws and federal statutes about what you can or cannot do. Can you collect fish? Can you collect berries? Are you allowed to collect samples of grass or rock formations? National Reserves can be very delicate in dealing with some issues, so it’s essential to ask beforehand.
Aside from that, National reserves can be an excellent place for learning how to identify plants and wildlife. You can find a variety of rare specimens of plant species to examine and correctly identify if you can locate the right national reserve that allows for it.
You may also come across a variety of wildlife species that are specific to each location you visit. Do your research and figure out precisely what bushcraft skill fits best for the environment, so you can be ready to go when you arrive.
8. Private Lands
You may also find land that a private individual owns that is perfect for what you want to do. Here are some guidelines to follow to try to get permission to use them:
Scout Out the Land
First things first, you want to scout out the area to see which place you want to go and find out who the landowner is. If you do not know who the owner is, you may knock on people’s doors, and they may point you in the right direction.
Approach the Owner
Once you’re done scouting, approach landowners to see if you may have permission to practice bushcraft on their land. Before meeting them, I highly recommend that you look presentable. You do not want to show up looking like you’re all ready to go and bushcraft that very moment. You want to give the impression that you do not have the intention of practicing bushcraft the same day. But that you want to ask for future permission.
Do not Be Scared
If you’re approaching landowners for the first time, you might be scared if they say no, or be scared that they might be mean to you, well it doesn’t matter. Just go in with a positive mindset and expect anything. Most folks are friendly and may even be honored that you have taken an interest in their property.
When you meet the owner, try to be brief and specific with your purpose. You may ask for permission to bushcraft at a particular spot, or they may even suggest a place to practice.
Most landowners are reasonably approachable. They are regular people, and they will be friendly to you most of the time.
Ask for Permission Again
Once they permit you to bushcraft on their land, thank them and ask for permission again about the specific day you want to start. You can be like, ” Do you mind if I come on Sunday to practice bushcraft?” Then that’s it. Be sure to thank them again and ask for their number and go about your day.
9. BML Lands (Western US)
The BML is the Bureau of Land Management. The BML is in charge of various wildlife restoration projects and even allows hunting on its land. However, it is important to get in touch with a BML worker before you plan to visit.
Also, you must know precisely what the regulations are. For example, most wildlife reservations will not allow hunting, while many BML projects provide you with hunting grounds. While BML land can be less strict, it should also be noted that they are also often more dangerous. Always be sure to wear bright colors and to look out for signs of other hunters when you’re on hunting grounds.
BML land is a great place to practice the various types of hunting:
- The diversity in scenery between many different hunting grounds offers the perfect challenge for an archer.
- The differing materials in each environment make it a great place to practice trapping.
- The varying forms of color and changing game in each different location make it a fantastic way to practice rifle hunting.
10. Crown Lands (Canada)
Crown Lands in Canada is an excellent place to practice bushcraft safely and effectively while you develop your skills. The lands are free to Canadians for non-commercial purposes, so you live in Canada, or you happen to be a bushcrafter and stay there for any period, then you are in luck.
You can do anything on Crown Land that you can do in your backyard, so long as it’s not for commercial purposes and is legal. Don’t be surprised if you happen to cross paths with other bushcrafters while out and about.
In Crown land, you can practice a variety of different bushcraft activities.
- Fishing is a great one, as Canada is home to some of the world’s freshest lakes and rivers.
- Fire-starting may sound simple, but it can be a significant challenge in Canada’s cold and snowy winters. Starting a fire out of wet twigs and frozen stones in Crown Land can mean the difference between life and death if you are ever in a survival situation.
- Shelter building is also a big one because Crown land can offer ample resources to build the perfect short-term structure. If the time comes when you have to outlast a storm, you will be glad to have practiced in the great frozen North.
Which One is the Best Place to Practice?
All of the following locations have their advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it depends on what kind of experience you have as a bushcrafter.
What Is the Best Place for Beginner Bushcrafters to Practice Safely and Effectively?
The best place for beginners to practice bushcraft safely and effectively is, of course, in your back yard.
Being in your own space ensures that you are within notifiable distance if you need help. It also ensures that you do not get in legal trouble over things like ownership or licenses and provides the advantage of Wi-Fi access. If a beginner forgets just how to do a particular thing, you can just look it up online and get back right back on track.
What is the Best Place for An Advanced Bushcrafter
There is never a bad place for an advanced bushcrafter.
While the advanced bushcrafter may feel that the Crown or BLM lands offer open space for plenty of exploration, research, and hunting, the experienced survivalist knows that truly surviving in the wilderness can mean more than just doing so in a government-regulated zone.
An actual survival situation might provide much fewer resources than are in a national wildlife reserve. A true survivalist can survive anywhere with any support for any period so it’s key to know how and where to test your skills to be more productive and simulate an actual real-world scenario.
It’s essential to look up all of the local places you would like to visit to practice bushcraft and sort them out according to what is best for each bushcrafting activity. This can help you develop knowledge and experience in identifying the right location to hone each and every key skill.
Where Is the Best Place to Practice Fishing?
Wildlife reserves are an excellent place for a bushcrafter to practice fishing.
One of the best things these areas offer is that they are equipped with well-educated staff eager to help out the next curious survivalist. Just ask, and they can tell you all about the wildlife reserves most recognized fish, where to find them in the reservation and the rest of the world, and how to catch them. These individuals are a source of great information, make use of them.
Where Is the Best Place to Practice Mountain Climbing?
Don’t neglect mountaineering as part of your survival training. And, when you go out to practice, always make sure to tell someone where you are going, give them an estimate of how long it should take.
Because of the dangers, it is often best to practice the bushcrafting skill of mountain climbing in a national wildlife reserve along with an experienced guide. This is because being in an enclosed area that is readily monitored by park rangers and other government personal can help make sure you are safe and secure should you ever need anyone’s assistance while you are climbing. As a bonus, these areas typically also offer some of the most magnificent sights in the world. I mean, they were set aside as a reserve for a reason, right?
Just remember that location is everything.
Whether you are a newbie bushcrafter, a seasoned survivalist, or a hardcore wilderness wizard, knowing where you stand is the first step in developing any worthwhile skill. If you can learn to master the art of knowing what to do and where to do it, that is half the battle.
My advice is to learn everything you can and become really good at a particular skill before trying to employ it in the wilderness. If you think a skill is tough in relative safety, wait until your life is on the line. Trust me, it’ll be fumble-finger city.
And when you do venture out on a practicing expedition, make sure you always do some emergency planning. Think about what you will do, or where to go in the event of a worst-case scenario.
- Always know the fastest route to safety.
- Create primary and backup plans based on what the threat is and where it comes from.
The entire reason for practicing is to develop skills that will save you and your loved ones in an emergency. Make sure you remain around so that when the time comes, you are actually there.
Stay safe and thanks for reading!