What is the Online Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course?

The Online Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course provides comprehensive training in the cornerstone skills of bushcraft.

The aim is for you to use the course materials to develop a solid foundation of skills and know-how on which you can rely during your outdoor life.

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Enhance every adventure, from local overnighters to extended wilderness trips...

Gain The Skills You Want, Flexibly

 Compared to a field course in the woods or the bush, an online course has two distinct advantages: 1/ you can consume the parts of an online course you want to, when you want, whether it be in bite-sized chunks or a big, binge session; 2/ in an online course you can watch the demonstrations, lessons, and technical presentations as many times as you want.  Focus on the specific parts of the course until you've retained the information - or gained the inspiration - you need to succeed. You don't have this flexibility with a timetabled bushcraft course in the woods.

Benefit From Our Proven Teaching Structures

We are not just people who know bushcraft.  At Frontier Bushcraft are professional outdoor leaders, instructors and coaches. We deliver educational structures that are proven to work.  We have proven lesson plans, effective ways of explaining technical information, and proven methods of challenging you to grow with your knowledge and succeed with your skills, that are progressive and rewarding.  Our online course programmes are based on years of helping people like you achieve their goals, both online and in person. 

Save Time and Money Through Online Training

Teaching 12 students on a course in the woods with four instructors is relatively costly. It's not just the instructors' wages, it's all the other logistical expenses, as well as land rental, insurance and the like. Delivering training to you through an online learning platform, however, makes it much less expensive for you the student. Plus, rather than you coming to us, we come to you. So you cut out your travel expenses too. Also, you don't need to take time off work to take an online course. Your time is valuable and you can fit an online course around your life.

Meet Your Course Leader

Paul Kirtley is considered one of the leading bushcraft educators globally.

Through his company Frontier Bushcraft Ltd., Paul offers high quality field courses, wilderness expeditions, and online training resources that set the standard in distributed bushcraft learning.

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Paul Kirtley has been running his wilderness skills training company, Frontier Bushcraft, since 2010 and has been teaching bushcraft since 2003.

Paul and his team deliver wilderness skills training courses in various locations in the U.K. as well as further afield, including working with Ray Goodwin to deliver expedition canoeing skills training, and guiding wilderness canoe trips in Canada.

In addition to working with Ray Goodwin, Paul has worked alongside the likes of Ray Mears, Lärs Falt, Juha Rankinen, Professor Gordon Hillman and David Scott-Donelan.

Paul has been invited to speak about and demonstrate bushcraft skills at both domestic and international events, including as a keynote speaker at the 2019 Global Bushcraft Symposium in Alberta, Canada.

Paul is a prolific writer on the subjects of bushcraft and wilderness skills, regularly contributing to magazines. Paul has contributed to several books, including the Scout Association's Outdoor Adventure Manual and Kevin Callan's Complete Guide To Winter Camping. Paul also has a book of his own in the works.

Since 2010 Paul has maintained a highly-regarded blog, which was his first foray into sharing information online. Paul has continued to expand the availability of high quality bushcraft, survival and wilderness skills knowledge over the internet via his website.  In 2013 he also launched his first paid online course.

"This guy is absolutely top notch. He knows his stuff and can get the information over in this format. I have done his tree and plant course, so I have first hand experience of his courses. I have now joined this one too. For those who don't know, bushcraft is not all Bear Grylls type stuff; far from it. It is an education about all things outdoors - and I mean education in that you will "learn" a lot. If you have a love for nature, outdoor photography, wildlife, navigation, hunting, camping and many other topics this will have some relevance. Please have a look as you can get some samples with no obligation and see if it is for you. "

Michael Mercer
United Kingdom

Course Syllabus and Structure

The course is split into over 100 digestible sections, across 12 modules. Each module covers a key topic area, which align with core areas of bushcraft. Each module addresses techniques and knowledge for these areas. Scroll down to review the areas covered by this course, along with an overview of each module...

Cutting Tools

If you had to define bushcraft, one of the features of the material culture surrounding the subject, and one that helps separate bushcraft from other outdoor activities, is the use of cutting tools.  Knives, saws, axes, adzes, machetes and parangs are at the core of "bushcraft tools". Cutting tools of steel make the craft of bushcraft more refined, more efficient and, in some cases, turn the impossible into the possible.  Knowing which tools to select, how to use them effectively and safely, as well as how to maintain them, is fundamental.  Knowledge of the use of cutting tools is a core element of bushcraft. 

Fire Foundation

Humans are the only creature on Earth that can create and control fire. It's a fundamental aspect of our unique abilities and one that separates us from other animals. Along with clothing, control of fire historically allowed us to move into cooler parts of the world, where we would otherwise perish. The ability to light a fire still has this value today; it will keep us alive in cold climates. But fire has much wider utility than just warmth.  From sterilising water to making food safe and digestible, from attracting attention to warding off animals and insects, from shaping materials to boosting morale, fire is uniquely important to us.  The ability to light and maintain a fire is a fundamental skill of wilderness bushcraft.  In this module, we take a deep dive into this essential skill.

Fire By Friction

Lighting a fire by friction is an iconic skill of bushcraft.  If we analyse friction fire methods, then we find each technique falls into one of three categories. This is covered in some detail in the course. One of these categories consists of techniques involving the rotation of one piece of wood into the grain of another.  The most widely-applicable of these rotational methods is the bow-and-drill or bow-drill method.  In employing the bow-drill technique, you have a large degree of mechanical advantage compared to other methods. This due to the bow converting a strong linear motion into a geared rotational motion. Additionally, the rotational component of your effort is separated from the downward pressure component, and can be controlled independently.  Many, many species of tree lend themselves to this technique and you can employ it over a wide range of latitudes. These are the reasons why bow-drill is such a foundational technique.  There are some subtleties to friction fire and it is not mastered overnight.  This is why we have devoted an entire module to helping you achieve a solid foundation.

Shelter

In one sense, shelters are very simple.  Ask young children to build a shelter and, with little or no guidance, they can build something.  There is a difference, however, between building a "den" and creating something that will protect you from a harsh environment.  There are many types of shelter and multiple sets of materials that might be available to you.  One thing we think is very important for shelter building specifically, but also more generally in bushcraft, is not to become too attached to one method. Don't become fixed or blinkered.  Learn a range of options that you can employ in different circumstances. Then there is also the question of how to combine shelter and fire to the best effect.  One thing is for sure though, shelter is an area where an online course excels.  We can take you to a deciduous woodland in summer to build a shelter then, in the next section take you to a coniferous forest in winter to build another shelter relevant to the environment and season.  This is something we cannot do on either a summer or a winter field course (until someone invents a time machine or a teleportation device).

Environmental Hazards

Through our knowledge of bushcraft, nature will provide many of our needs.  But there are also natural hazards we need to know about.  From heat exhaustion to hypothermia, and from the dangers of moving water to knowing which trees might drop their limbs on us, this section rounds out your awareness of environmental hazards and, importantly, provides ways of mitigating the risk, or avoiding them altogether. Echoing the statement about shelters, an online course such as this can cover the dangers of hot environments, cold environments, forests, deserts and floods, all in the same place.

Water Sourcing and Purification

You might already be aware there are five categories of water contaminants you need to concern yourself with. If not, this is the first thing to become clear about - i.e. what the problems are. Then you can begin to fit the potential solutions to those problems.  The good news is that there are ways of dealing with all of the potential problems.  And just to be clear, you can do this in a field expedient manner; you don't need a mobile municipal water purification plant. The bad news, such as it is, is that no single method will deal with all the potential contaminants.  So, we need to learn how to use a combination of techniques to form robust water purification protocols, and understand how to apply these in the field.  There are other parameters to understand and weigh-up too, such as the need for fuel, how much time is consumed, how much the materials cost per volume of water produced, as well as what the equipment weights.  All of this is relevant to wilderness application, and we cover it in depth. All of this is assuming, of course, you have some water to purify.  So, we also make sure you understand where and how to find water when it is less than obvious.

 

Cordage and Bindcraft

The ability to make cordage and effect bindings is vastly underrated by most modern outdoors people.  String and rope is, to a large extent, taken for granted.  There are many ways of making a binding from natural materials - tree roots, withies, plant stem fibres, plant leaf fibres, lianas, outer bark of trees, inner bark of trees, rawhide and sinews, to name some of the major categories.  Some are better suited to certain applications than others.  You need to know how to process them correctly to get the most from their potential properties, and, of course, you need to identify the relevant species in the first place.  Once you become familiar with your natural cordage options, however, you are freed of needing the petrochemical-based cords we have become so dependent upon.  And for those uses where the qualities of paracord is hard, or impossible, to replicate, you can keep your synthetic cordage intact for when it really counts. In this module we also cover a range of useful outdoor knots.

Traps and Trapping

You don't ever have to employ a trap to appreciate the ingenuity of their mechanisms. Like bushcraft more broadly, making traps requires a knowledge of natural materials and their properties - their strength, their stiffness or their flexibility.  You may need to incorporate cordage too, with all the knowledge this requires.  Then, if you wish to understand how to employ a trap, you also need an intimate knowledge of the target species.  Many traditional traps are no longer legal in a range of jurisdictions, while traps made with manufactured materials (often wire of steel or brass) are legal in some jurisdictions but not others. Whatever the current legality, we feel traditional knowledge in this area is as worthy of preserving and passing on as any other.  The supermarkets might not always be there. In passing on trapping skills, we also need to pass on the correct ethics.   

Fishing

All freshwater fish are edible. Some provide a substantial source of fats as well as protein.  Others can be used to catch larger fish. Unlike the animals we might trap, we know where the fish are.  And there are proven ways of catching them.   Broadly techniques fall into active methods and passive methods.  Both have their traditional techniques as well as their modern equivalents.  Some traditional methods are not seen as particularly sporting but are highly effective nonetheless.  To the extent that some of these techniques are not legal in some places, we should study them for completeness, as well as a backstop for survival.  There are plenty of opportunities for the legal catching of fish for food, both locally, as well as on wilderness trips. In the course of this module, we also look at some great ways of cooking fish over a fire with minimal equipment.

Natural Navigation

Our ancestors didn't have GPS units or smartphones.  Portable compasses are only a relatively recent invention. Our forebears had to rely on natural cues to find their way. These methods are still available to us today (and they can be used in conjunction with modern gadgets).  The sun, the moon and the stars all move with predictable, natural cycles, and they exert the same noticeable influences on the natural world as they always did.  We can tap into these cues in a systematic way, allowing us many freedoms to roam that cannot be taken away from us, even if our modern equipment is lost or broken.  Studying natural navigation also brings us closer to nature, its cycles and the seasons.  We become reconnected with the natural world in a way that helps complete our study of bushcraft.

Tree & Plant ID For Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft

While a single module of the Online Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course cannot cover the depth and breadth of the extensive material in our dedicated Tree & Plant Identification Masterclass, we can certainly cover a range of key species, providing you with the resources you need for elementary techniques from fire to cordage and beyond.  Moreover, we focus on species that have a wide distribution. This gives you the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak. Tree and plant identification is many bushcrafter's weak spot; This module ensures it's not yours.

Equipment and Clothing

While we'll always assert that a knowledge of nature sits at the heart of bushcraft, we also acknowledge the value of clothing and equipment. We've already explicitly elevated the status of cutting tools, giving them their own module here on this course. Further, this is not a primitive technology course.  We recognise in the history of bushcraft as we know it, the necessity for outfitting ourselves with reliable wilderness equipment and robust, durable clothing that protects us. Equally we are not gear freaks. But we do have a good deal of experience of living outdoors and making wilderness trips in all seasons. Moreover, we tend to be living outdoors in the "bushcraft way", with fires, etc.  So, we feel we have something valuable to share in this context. In this module the aim is to share with you principles for clothing selection, rather than recommend models or brands. As for equipment, again we aim for principles, and tie these back with the core lessons on fire, water, environmental hazards, and so on. Again, it is experience of the natural world that is informing the choices...

"I'm enrolled on three of Paul Kirtley's online programmes. Having worked in the online training industry for approximately 15 years, I can wholeheartedly attest to the sound design, delivery and facilitation that goes into each of these programmes. If you're interested in improving your own skills and practices relating to the outdoors, then you could do a lot worse than requesting more information via the link on this page. "

Craig Taylor
United Kingdom

Videos Filmed On Location

To create the instructional videos in the course, Paul teamed up with a friend and colleague, who is a professional TV cameraman. Over the course of a year, they filmed each video in a relevant and representative location.

United Kingdom

We're based in the U.K. so it is natural we filmed here. But we made sure to travel to a variety of habitats, from Somerset in southwestern England, to Moray in northeastern Scotland.  The places we filmed are representative of environments found not just in the UK but more generally in western Europe.  Moreover, the vast majority of the techniques we filmed are applicable more widely still, to the northern temperate zone and beyond.

Canada

We travelled to Canada to film on the Canadian Shield, in an area with many tree, plant and animal species found in a large part of forested Canada as well as the northeastern United States. Paul is no stranger to Canada having made many trips here, both in winter and summer, including solo wilderness canoe trips. In the videos filmed here Paul shows the use of specific resources but also demonstrates the broad applicability of many of the techniques in the course.

Sweden

The winter bushcraft elements of the course were captured in the boreal forest of northern Sweden. Paul's experience here spans many years, first from working with renowned Swedish survival instructor Lars Fält on winter courses, then making winter wilderness trips with a small number of colleagues, travelling and living in the forest. Paul and companions have also made winter trips in Canada. What is shared in the course is widely-applicable in snowy forests, wherever they occur.

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Varied Formats To Aid Your Learning

In addition to professionally filmed and edited instructional videos, the course contains a range of learning materials in different formats, each one tailored to the topic. These complement the videos, and in combination, form a rich and effective learning experience.

Screencasts

These are recordings of presentations containing diagrams, text and images, all with voiceovers.  This format allows for the clear presentation of technical information and detail. Sometimes video is also edited into these sessions. As with all the materials in the course, these presentations are produced using professional equipment.

Animations

Animations are used from time-to-time in the course, to introduce a topic or an idea, or for some light relief.  Variety is the spice of life and in calling on all the ways we can illustrate the information we want to get across to you, we can make it even more impactful and your efforts more effective.

Worksheets

Worksheets and checklists are included in the course to support the other learning materials, highlighting key points and allowing you to process the information in a variety of ways. These printable documents also allow you to work through steps and processes, aiding memory as you work on practical skills.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The short answer is yes! While there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty with bushcraft and survival skills, you can learn on your own time, particularly with skilled guidance, even if this guidance is remote.  This is exactly the aim of this site and the courses and resources it holds - to help the globally distributed tribe of modern humans who are keen to learn and carry bushcraft skills and knowledge of their own. If you are doubtful about the prospect of learning bushcraft techniques from an online course, rather than a field course, consider this question: Have you ever learned anything about the outdoors from a book? If so, you can learn from an online course. In fact, an online course brings to life the subject matter in a way a book alone can't. We're not knocking books. We love books. It's just that the range of formats available in an online course provides a richness that isn't possible with paper. Plus, the variety adds to your learning experience. And yes, you can watch a video for free on YouTube but an online course produced by professional instructors provides a structured path. A comprehensive online course provides an efficient, effective and enjoyable route to attaining the skills and knowledge you want....

No, it isn't.  The Online Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course has a significantly larger syllabus than what we can cover in a week in the woods. First off, we just decided to load up the online course with as much as possible in all the foundational areas, including some aspects we just don't have time for in a field course over 6-7 days. We've also added more detail or variety to some topics. The other big thing to mention is that we can cover multiple seasons and types of habitat with an online course, in a way that is physically impossible on a field course. 

The course consists of 12 modules.  When you join you have access to the first two modules, with each subsequent module releasing to you on a weekly basis.  This provides some structure and pacing to the course.  While you will be able to watch the videos and presentations in each module within your free time each week, working on the skills takes longer.  There is more than enough here to occupy your curiosity and desire to learn for several months.

No. This course is entirely online.  There are no physical classes to attend as part of this course.  Also there are no set times for the lessons, presentations and demonstrations within the course.  You watch them at whatever time you wish. 

Almost certainly. The Online Elementary course consists of foundational bushcraft knowledge and techniques.  These are widely-applicable both in terms of the wide range of resources you can use to apply them, as well as the wide range of geographies to which this material is applicable. Much of what is included this course is knowledge you should have in your head and skills you should have in your muscles, wherever you are based or travel to.  So, yes unless you live in Antarctica, this material will be useful to you, and even then some of it would be useful in Antarctica. We have students who have taken this course from the U.K., Ireland, all over Europe, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and with a few in Africa too. The knowledge shared in this course is universal, not specific to a particular environment, and the practical techniques shared in the course are the most widely-applicable.

Forever. Until the end of the internet. Once you are in you are in. After all the modules have been released to you over your initial period of membership, you have continued access to all of the materials.  What's more, if there are improvements to the coruse, you also receive these.  So, if new sections are added or existing sections are improved, you receive thems.  There are no hidden fees or catches.  When we started the course it was on an old platform we used for a good number of years to house the Tree and Plant ID Masterclass.  in 2017 we migrated both courses across to a new, much improved course portal.  Everyone who was on the old platform was also migrated across to the new platform at no cost, and they continue to enjoy the benefits of the course improvements we make in the new portal.  You always have the most up-to-date version of the course materials. Once you have access, and you have worked through the materials, it becomes like a reference library for you to access whenever you wish. 

"To anyone reading this and thinking of jumping right in and enrolling on any of Paul’s courses I say do it, grab the chance with both hands and don’t let go. You will be challenged, intrigued, empowered, in awe even with just how much knowledge flows from him. Expect to get frustrated, and annoyed too though, skinned knuckles, stings, cuts and bruises are all part of outdoor life and with challenges will come great reward, much more than if it was just handed to you on a plate. His courses aren’t a walk in the park. The content is very high level, in depth and will require dedication to truly get the most from it, but you can be completely reassured he will be there by your side through the challenging times. No matter how much commitment you are able to give at any specific time though, you will learn a huge amount at the other end. The beauty of his online courses is that you can return to them time after time. I dedicate as much time as I can, but life is life and can get in the way, this isn’t a problem with online courses and you can be obsessive with a specific skill at a pace that suits you. While I was still learning the intricate knowledge in module 4 others were 3-4 modules ahead. That’s fine and that’s why the courses offer so much value for money. They fit in with you. You won’t find a better value or source of information than you will from Paul, no matter where you are on this planet."

Tom Scandian
Australia

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