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Bushcraft and Wilderness Activities

Course CodeBTR201
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Survive and Thrive in Wilderness Locations

Once you are in a wilderness area the opportunity to buy equipment does not exist. It is therefore crucial to the success and safety of any trip to be well prepared. Lots of research will need to be done prior to setting out to ensure that the correct type of equipment to suit the conditions is purchased. You also need to be able to identify the type of clothing and bedding that suits the environment in which you will be travelling (i.e. alpine, tropics, desert) and is appropriate for seasonal conditions (i.e. spring, summer, autumn and winter). It is essential to be able to identify the desirable characteristics of:

  • Footwear for single versus multiple day trips.
  • Ground pad and sleeping bag.
  • A shelter.
  • A lightweight stove.
  • Other miscellaneous equipment.
  • Small survival kits.

Who Should Do this Course?
  • Ecotour Operators & Tour Leaders
  • Camp Managers 
  • Anyone working in a wilderness area



Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Understanding Wilderness Areas
    • Introduction
    • Living Things
    • Ecological Relationships
    • Climatic Zones
    • Climate/Soil/Vegetation Interrelationships
    • Plant Associations
    • Understanding Impacts of Weather on Wilderness Activities
    • Terminology
    • Participants Fitness Levels
  2. Equipment
    • Equipping to Survive
    • Clothing
    • Nutrition
    • Risk Assessment
  3. Protection from the Elements
    • Introduction
    • Hypothermia
    • First Aid Procedures
    • Hyperthermia
    • First Aid Procedures
    • Building a Wilderness Shelter
    • Lighting a Fire
  4. Natural Resources
    • Introduction
    • Finding Water
    • Bush Tucker or Survial Food
    • Animals for Food
  5. Navigation
    • Introduction
    • Natigation & Direction Finding
    • Map Reading
    • Longitude and Latitude
    • Scale
    • Contour Lines
    • Estimating Distances
    • Pacing
    • Navigation by the sun, moon and stars
  6. Dealing with Emergencies
    • Introduction
    • A Person can Live For:
    • Venomous Creatures & First Aid
    • Carnivorous Mammals
    • Poisonous Plants
    • Bushfires
  7. Camping
    • Setting up Camp
    • Waste Disposal
  8. Passive Wilderness Activities
    • Introduction
    • Observing Nature
    • Orienteering
    • Environmental Activies for Kids
    • Observation Activies
    • Collecting Activies
  9. Water Based Adventure Activities
    • Introduction
    • Water Based Activities
  10. Active Land Based Adventure Activities
    • Introductions
    • Activies
    • Motor Activities

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the scope and implications of ecotourism opportunities in wilderness areas.
  • Prepare for an excursion into a wilderness area
  • Determine appropriate methods of protecting against the elements.
  • Determine different uses for natural resources in the wilderness.
  • Navigate in a wilderness area using a variety of different techniques.
  • Deal with a range of emergencies in a wilderness situation, including developing contingency plans and determining appropriate first aid.
  • Explain campsite establishment and management.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for managing different passive wilderness activities.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for managing different water based wilderness activities.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for managing different active wilderness activities.

How to treat Spider and Snake Bites



Spiders do not attack in herds. Spiders do not lay in wait and attack people. Spiders do not lift the covers at night and crawl into bed to bite people as they are sleeping. Some spiders can jump but they are not intentionally jumping at humans to attack them. A spider generally bites a human because it was scared and bites to defend itself. Spiders generally prefer to live in undisturbed areas such as corners of the house or the eaves or in the garden where they can catch insects in peace.

Spider venom is a cocktail of many chemicals. Some are toxins, which evolved in order to kill or immobilise arthropods like insects by attacking their nervous systems; others help break down the victim's tissues so the spider can ingest a liquefied meal. Unfortunately, a few of these chemicals can be seriously toxic to people. But in general, spider venom cause us no more than mild local pain and inflammation. However, some species of spider can give a fatal bite. A handful of spiders worldwide are considered dangerous: widow spiders, recluse spiders, hobo spiders, and Australian funnel-webs are a few. The first aid for a spider bites is the same as that for a snake (there are some antivenins for spider bites worldwide). However, for Red Back Spider bites, compression is not advised, instead, cold should be applied to the bite site and general area and the limb immobilised with a sling or similar.

Both Funnel-web and Red back Spider venoms contain toxins that attack our nervous system (neurotoxins), usually by interfering with nerve impulse transmission, so disrupting many of the body's functions. In extreme cases, this can result in death due to respiratory or circulatory failure.

Antivenins are produced by injecting horses, goats or rabbits with the particular venom. This doesn't harm these animals because they are either given only small venom doses or they have a naturally mild reaction to the venom. Antibody molecules are produced as a result of the reaction of the animal's immune systems to the foreign venom molecules. These are used to make life-saving antivenins for humans. Molecular research aimed at making synthetic antivenins is in progress.

Bites for scorpions can be extremely painful and which can sometimes be limited with an ice cube held on the area bitten. Morphine injections may be given but only if a doctor in present. Generally, a scorpion bite is treated the same way as a snake bite. The majority of scorpions are not deadly to humans, but medical opinion is best sought following a sting.

First aid

  • Those at greatest risk, as with any poison, are the very young or elderly and those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
  • Suspected funnel-web or mouse spider bites should always be treated as quickly as possible by applying a pressure bandage and immobilising the victim (do not cut the wound or apply a tight tourniquet).
  • Bandaging is not necessary for Redback Spider bites. Applying pressure worsens the pain that often comes with Redback bites.



Antivenins have been developed for most venomous snakes therefore there is little cause for death. However, the isolated location of some wilderness trips poses a considerable problem as antivenins are not readily transportable. It is important not to partake in any behaviour that may lead to contact with a snake (and a possible bite). Bites have occurred where people have tried to pick up snakes, or reached into hollows thoughtlessly. If you are in areas where snakes are present there are a few things one can do to avoid an attack:

  • undefined undefined Clap your hands occasionally (this may alert the snake and it will slither away - most snakes are more likely retreat than attack).
  • undefined undefined Avoid poking hands in hollows or burrows.
  • undefined undefined Avoid walking in areas of dense, high grass (if you can’t avoid it ensure adequate footwear is worn).
  • undefined undefined Keep an eye out for snakes on the track ahead and allow them to pass.



If a snake does rear to attack raise the toe of your leading boot and commence walking backwards slowly. Often the snake will strike the nearest object and in this case it will be the sole of your boot.

Symptoms of a poisonous bite

While each individual may experience symptoms differently, the following are the most common symptoms of poisonous snake bites:

  • swelling at the site of the bite
  • pain or weakness in muscles
  • coughing up blood or passing blood through urine
  • severe localized pain
  • diarrhoea
  • burning
  • convulsions
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • excessive sweating and saliva
  • fever
  • increased thirst
  • loss of muscle coordination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficulty swallowing
  • numbness and tingling
  • rapid pulse


First aid

If a bite does occur apply a compression bandage to the bitten area and have the patient stay very still. This prevents venom travelling with the pumping action of the muscles. The patient must be taken to hospital as soon as possible and kept as still as possible during transport.

The lymphatic system is responsible for systemic spread of most venom. This can be reduced by the application of a firm bandage (as firm as you would put on a sprained ankle) over a folded pad placed over the bitten area. While firm, it should not be so tight that it stops blood flow to the limb or to congest the veins. Start bandaging directly over the bitten area, ensuing that the pressure over the bite is firm and even. If you have enough bandage you can extend towards more central parts of the body, to delay spread of any venom that has already started to move centrally.

Immobility is best attained by application of a splint or sling, using a bandage or whatever to hand to absolutely minimise all limb movement, reassurance and immobilisation (e.g. putting the patient on a stretcher). Where possible, bring transportation to the patient (rather then vice versa). Don't allow the victim to walk or move a limb. Walking should be prevented.

Removal of the bandage will be associated with rapid systemic spread. Hence ALWAYS wait until the patient is in a fully-equipped medical treatment area before bandage removal is attempted.

  • Do NOT wash the area of the bite!
  • It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits!
  • Bites to the head, neck, and back are a special problem - firm pressure should be applied locally if possible.
  • Do NOT cut or excise the area or apply an arterial tourniquet! Both these measures are ineffective and may make the situation worse.
  • Do NOT try to suck out the venom. It causes brusing and additional injury to the bite site and if you do ingest some of the poison yourself you will also become ill.

Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceVeterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
Marius Erasmus Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

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