I'm conflicted. I enjoy getting outdoors with my kids at the weekend, going on day hikes, and practicing our bushcraft skills like making firesticks, carving pot hangers, and learning how to properly build and start a camp fire. BUT - when I go on my multi-night or longer distance ultralight backpacking trips (typically without my kids) I'm careful to practice and adhere to the core principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) as much as humanly possible. However, it recently struck me that these two schools of outdoor ethics may actually be at odds with one another.
Bushcraft, in my mind, is about surviving and thriving in the natural environment. It's about using natural materials to practice age old skills like fire starting, hunting, shelter building, foraging, twine making, and wood carving. It encourages us to use the available natural materials in a responsible way even though that may include cutting down and altering our original surroundings.
The seven key principles of LNT, (plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors), preach a "touch nothing" ethic that must be adhered to at all costs. LNT practitioners will go to extreme lengths to ensure that they do not disturb or harm the natural beauty of their surroundings. I know several 'hard core' LNT'ers that openly scoff at Bushcrafters.
Is there any middle ground? I want to teach my children to both respect their natural surroundings and know the basic skills of how to use them should they ever need to. Is it really necessary to follow the principles of LNT to the letter, or is it good enough to simply do your best to be responsible and respectful?
I'm struggling to find the right balance for myself and my children. What do you think about Bushcraft vs. LNT? Are they at odds, or is there a way that the two can work together to compliment each other? I'd love to hear your thoughts either way.
Brian is a Charlotte based backpacker, gear junkie, runner, and CrossFit(er). Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the US for over 20 years, finally settling in North Carolina. He spends as much time backpacking as his busy work schedule and family life will allow.