Abstract The relationship between ‘bushcraft’ and ‘indigenous knowledge’ is investigated through a historical review, an examination of ethnographic literature, fieldwork amongst bushcraft practitioners, and through original case studies. Fieldwork was carried out in Sweden, the USA, and the UK. Case studies of the Saami ‘kuksa’, the ‘figure 4’ deadfall trap, and making fire by friction are used to explore a number of themes in the contemporary bushcraft world: the role of skilled-practice, ethical values, notions of an individually experienced connection with nature, practice as a personal transformative experience, and as an intersubjective relationship between practitioner and craft engagement with the material affordances in the landscape. It is argued that motivations for practice foreground a relationship with an environmental experience that counters ‘alienation’ through the development of techniques required to spend un-insulated time in nature which counter modern Western technocratic lifestyles. Bushcraft destabilises apparently similar categories of activity, particularly tourism, outdoor adventure recreation and education, historical reenactment and survivalism.