The Basic Skills You Need to Get Started
When it comes to getting by while backpacking or camping, you pretty soon realize that you are putting yourself at a disadvantage in comparison to your everyday life. Well...most people fall into this category. There are a few of you out there who excel at skills related to wilderness survival.
However, the rest of us need a refresher from time to time. The main considerations anyone should make is how to get warm, how to eat, and how to avoid the elements. Remember that our ancestors spent an untold number of years trying to cope with these problems. With a little help and some consideration, you too can soon become a master of overcoming the challenges of nature!
First things first….When you leave the comforts of home behind, remember that you will eventually have to find a place to call home for at least a night. Securing a safe and adequate spot for shelter is a must for any outdoor adventurer. You want to find someplace that is not only accessible, but also safe!
Consider caves and hollowed out areas to be someone else’s home. These spots are perfect hiding areas for animals big and small so take heed when stepping in to take a look around.
Find a place near water with a lot of animal prints? Chances are that while you may find a somewhat safe night’s sleep here, your stuff is going to become communal property to every animal in the area.
What you are looking for is an area that is flat and free from excessive water. Once you have a spot for shelter, use whatever you have brought along or what nature may provide and get a roof over your head as soon as possible!
Next things on the to do list is to get a fire going. We are going to already assume that you have potable water and food along for the ride and the search for them will not be as critical. Follow the advice from our recent blog on how to safely light and manage a fire.
Any wood that is in contact with these plants should be avoided as the smoke from burning them will severely ruin your day and will most likely necessitate a trip to the emergency room. Find that you came into contact with some of this stuff? Wash the area as best you can immediately and do what you can to limit any further exposure if at all possible. The oil from the plants will stay on your skin and clothes until it is removed. Be warned! Heading out to gather needed firewood? Take special care to avoid some pitfalls that could cost you dearly later on. Plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are all quite common in many regions of the country and don’t have a season when it comes to their effects. Not a clue what these plants look like? Consider this rule of thumb to be of great use: “Leaves of three, let it be.”
Collect twice as much wood as you think you’ll need to start. Chances are if it is extremely dry, it will burn faster than you want it to. Only find wet wood? Try carving into it until you locate a dryer section and start by attempting to burn that. Deadfalls are a great source of firewood since they usually have both kindling and larger logs all in one. One stop shopping!
Want to start heading off to explore new lands or find you’ve had enough and just want to make it back to your car? Let nature be your guide in all matters directional and walk with confidence. Remember that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Find a sunny spot and take a look up to see where the sun is.
Have a compass, but don’t know how to use it? The needle in a compass will always point North. Once you have a steady reading on which way North is, you can be assured that anything to your left will be West, your right East, and behind you South. Always know which way you came in and which way you need to either get back to your shelter or to your vehicle.
Here is a huge tip for helping with navigation. Decide on landmarks from all around you. Pick things that stand out as being unique. Consider things like mountains or lakes to be a good choice to be there for you when you get turned around. Of course this doesn’t help should it get dark, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.
Generally, anyone should be able to get by in the woods for a short time without any major survival skills. Recognize that you only need to have your basic needs be met in the short term. Things like shelter and a fire are basics that anyone can muster up with some mild effort. The most important thing to remember whenever you decide to step out into the wild is to keep yourself safe and have fun!