Modern world; Ancient wisdom. Here’s why traditional skills in the modern world still have significance.
I will admit, right off the bat, I don’t watch much TV, but I am a major fan of Ray Mears. When it comes to a person who exhibits the bounty of the natural world in the most realistic way, Mears takes the cake. His programs are straightforward, real, and honest and his skills in the backcountry are on a whole other level. His passion for the wildest places in the world bursts through in his presentations and is infectious.
One saying Ray occasionally quips on his show: “It’s about learning to live in nature, not about visiting it occasionally.”
All of our outdoor pursuits help us better to reach that point– the point where we could live in nature rather than just going there. Hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, bushcraft; they all require skills and knowledge that have been passed on through the generations. The continuation of this knowledge happens subtly with each passing day.
When a kid goes out with his dad on his first duck hunt; When a daughter learns to build a fire; When you see a YouTube video about trapping coyotes and try to apply the knowledge. These are all traditional skills in the modern world, and they all still have value.
That being said, in no particular order, here are the top seven traditional skills in the modern world.
Lumping together all forms of hunting and fishing, making meat is still a traditional skill in the modern world as relevant today as it ever was. Learning to leave the house empty-handed and return with something to provide for yourself and family will hopefully always be a part of the human experience.
Personally, as a meat hunter, I, along with many other meat hunters I know, depend on wild game to help supplement my diet and provide excellent food for the table. On another level, it is not only fun, but satisfying to go out and get your own food.
We are blessed today to see so many people returning to the woods. The popularity booms of hunting, and backpacking in particular, have led many people to explore hard-to-reach places of our country. Pioneers, Native people, and early explorers all spent their lives living in these places we deem as “wild” and had to learn to cope.
One of the most important traditional skills in the modern world is to have the ability to make fire in a variety of ways. Friction fires, ferrocerium rods, flint and steel, modern methods, and a thousand other ways to start a fire are all important to know, as each may come in handy at some point in your time in the woods.
Plant and Tree Knowledge
With the absolute eruption of plastics into the world, this may be the skill that has vanished most quickly in the past 40 years. People of the past could not only identify different species of plants and trees, but knew their properties and which species were appropriate for different jobs.
Knowing how to build things out of wood is still as important today as it ever was, and knowing the different properties of different wood is an essential skill to that end. Increase your knowledge of plants and trees, and you will not only be better equipped to build quality products, but also learn more about the world around you.
As a kid I always grew up believing a good man always carried two things; a pen and a knife. Combine that with an encyclopedic knowledge of duct tape and you got a regular MacGyver on your hands.
All kidding aside, knives are capable of completing so many tasks it is incredible. From fine finishing shaving of wood projects, to big jobs like splitting wood, a good knife is worth its weight in gold. Although folding knives are easy to carry and popular, a fixed blade knife is the only way to go for a person that demands a lot from their knife.
Knowing how to use a knife is one of several traditional skills in the modern world that still can come in handy nearly every day.
With the invention of packaged meals, MREs, and instant soups, pastas, and other carbohydrates, camp cooking is becoming a lost art. That being said, if you’ve ever spent a good deal of time in the backcountry you, no doubt, appreciate the satisfaction of a hearty well-cooked camp meal.
Some of the best meals I believe I’ve ever eaten were cooked over a simple campfire with meager spices and ingredients. Fresh cooked fish, baked potatoes, simple breads, and cowboy coffee are all easy to make and hit the spot after a long day tromping around. Learn to cook in the woods and you’ll enjoy more than Mac and Cheese on your next outing.
Another advantage of learning the art of camp cooking is that the cook doesn’t have to do the dishes! A fact undisputed in respectable camps across America.
Read the Sky
There are some traditional skills in the modern world anybody who spends time in the outdoors must learn to pay attention to, and reading the sky is one of those skills. Learning what different clouds indicate and how to detect weather events in advance is not only important to staying comfortable in the backcountry, but can also save your life.
Each year I take a handful of students from the high school I teach at on a real backcountry camping trip. For many it is their first time on such an experience, and the kids, and their parents, can get a bit nervous about bears, mountains lions, etc. Each year I remind those people the biggest danger is the weather.
More people are killed by weather events in the backcountry than all other things combined, and we take no chances when it comes to being caught in a bad place with a storm rolling in.
Gardening is a traditional skill that has really grown in popularity recently. People committed to learning how to live from the land know the abundance a garden can provide. Whether a few simple tomato plants, or an elaborate raised-bed phenomenon, gardening is a great way to offset food costs and provide wholesome and pure food for your family.
Ever been to the grocery store and found your favorite produce unavailable? Learning to garden also allows people to grow the crops they most enjoy. If you combine food preserving along with gardening, you will be able to enjoy your favorite foods all year-round. People always need to eat, and gardening is a great way to learn a traditional skill and satisfy a basic need as well.
There you have it, seven traditional skills in the modern world that are still important and can help nearly anybody who spends a decent amount of time outdoors.