What essential outdoor skills should you familiarize yourself with?
In recent times we've become complacent in civilization, and are increasingly insulated from the great outdoors. This has led us to seek out and be more appreciative of nature, and yet still be unprepared to spend any amount of time in it.
For your next trip outdoors, be sure to have these crucial skills down in order to ensure your safety and prepare you for whatever nature throws at you.
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Orienteering and Natural Navigation
This is a skill that has been particularly lost in the days of GPS and electronic maps, but an overreliance on these has left many an outdoors enthusiast up a creek if they are lost without a signal. Carry an old school compass and paper map on you whenever possible, and know how to locate your position on the map and where you need to go. If you're unfamiliar on where to start, this site gives a great introduction to orienteering.
It's also wise to learn to use natural navigation to find your way at both day and night. An analog watch can serve as a compass in a pinch, but simply knowing that the sun sets in the West and rises in the East can be a big help. You should also know how to locate the age-old compass point Polaris in the Big Dipper in case you get lost at night. Using the sun, moon, stars, and even plants and animals, you can find your way out of just about any predicament.
Whether you're out in the cold or heat, awaiting rescue or in for the long haul, you need to know how to build a shelter to protect yourself from exposure and the elements.
Tree branches are almost always available, so know how to make a basic lean-to you can shelter under. If left out in the cold, knowing how to safely build a snow cave can be the difference between life and death.
Regardless of where you're going, it's best to know at least one type of shelter you can build using the things you find in your environment if things take a turn for the worse. If you're bored on your next campout, try abandoning the tent for a night and see if you can build a shelter from what Mother Nature provides.
Finding Food and Water
Regardless of climate or temperature, finding water is of the utmost importance. The human body needs at least two quarts a day just to stay in good health. Always know where the nearest water source is, how to collect it from natural sources and boil it for purification. The next skill will be crucial in getting this done.
Easy access to grocery stores and restaurants has made us unaware of how difficult it is to locate food when these resources are suddenly unavailable. Know the edible and inedible plants in your area, because picking the wrong one can be costly, even fatal. Insects are also a good source of protein and easy to find if you know what you're looking for (generally, steer clear of bright colors).
If you really want to be prepared, learn how to make a snare or trap, construct a fish spear, or make a "death star," a basic weapon comprised of two sharpened sticks lashed together, which can be thrown like a ninja star to bring down small game.
When's the last time you had to start a fire without a lighter, matches, or a hefty dose of lighter fluid?
If you're left without these luxuries, you may find it's a lot more difficult then it appears.
Each outdoorsman has their own style for starting a fire, but it's crucial to find a dry fire pit clear of wind and water that could snuff out a flame. Lighting the fire is only half the battle, and you'll need a supply of gradually larger wood, from tinder to kindling to larger sticks and logs. You don't want to finally bring a fire to life, only to have to madly rush around the forest in the dark for fuel as the flames die down.
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These five skills won't make you Bear Grylls or Daniel Boone overnight, but with practice, they'll go a long way towards keeping you alive in the outdoors and appreciating its awesome power.
What's something that you think every outdoors enthusiast should know how to do?