My mind tends to wander when I give myself unfettered access to the Internet. While that may lead to procrastination from time to time, it also bears fruit every now and then. For the purposes of this blog, I often find myself rooting through other outdoor-gear-tech-“how to” blogs for inspiration or simply to research what other folks like me are doing out there. It is a great way to chew through time and potentially learn something along the way.
One thing I have noticed in during my cyber wanderings is that most blogs have some sort of list of requisite outdoor skills that any backcountry explorer should have before venturing out into the wilderness. The lists vary widely in their content or in their presentation. Some authors’ focus on the nitty gritty skills like fire building and navigation, while others ruminate on the necessity of self-awareness, common sense, and respect for the wild. Both seem totally relevant when posing this question.
Having pondered my own predilections on the subject, I have come up with a hybrid list that combines elements of both metaphysical and physical skills. Here are my “backcountry basics”:
Navigation: Regardless of whether you are on a familiar trail system or heading into uncharted territory, you must know how to navigate, or at least have a sense of direction.
Specific skills: Compass use, map use, star/sun navigation, waypoints, pacing.
Water Acquisition/Treatment: Proper hydration can make or break a trip, so knowing where to find water and how to make it potable can be essential to your survival.
Specific skills: Water tracking/acquisition, water purification.
Woodsmanship: This is a catch all term for general hard skills. Lumberjacky stuff that candefinitely save your life.
Specific skills: Campsite selection, fire building/safety, proper knife handling, knot tying, sewing, shelter building, gear repair
First Aid: When the defecation hits the oscillation, you need to know how to take care of yourself and those around you.
Specific skills: General knowledge of treatment protocols for: burns, blisters, breaks, cuts, hypothermia, heat-related illnesses, stomach-related illnesses, etc. General knowledge of basic medicines and their usage.
Trail Nutrition/Cooking: Along the same lines as hydration, proper nutrition can set you on the path to success or lead you into the dismal slump of despair. Knowing how to intelligently replenish the calories you are burning through is essential to your wellbeing and happiness.
Specific skills: Meal planning, dehydrated food, trail cooking, backcountry nutrition.
Self-Management: Basic self-preservation. It takes a certain amount of knowledge and skill to ensure that your body achieves homeostasis from the chill waters of Lake Superior to the desert Southwest to the damp heights of the Olympics.
Specific skills: Regulating temperature, sleeping, hydration, kit layering, weatherproofing.
CCC (Common Sense. Creativity. Composure.): Similar to woodsmanship, this is an all-encompassing term that celebrates the simple things that allow experienced backpackers to not lose their cool when the situation turns dire.
Specific skills: Know your gear. Know yourself. Know the possibilities.
For any given adventure, these seven skills may vary in importance, which is why they are of equal importance as opposed to ranked order. For example, if you come across a trauma victim laying on the trail, first aid becomes paramount. If you get lost, your ability to navigate takes precedence. When the temperature drops 20° overnight, then your firebuilding skills come into play. You get the idea.
As I embark on this next chapter in my life, I can say with some certainty that each of these skills will affect the course of my adventure. As a result, I am hoping to hone each of these skills over the next year. As I do, I will share my experiences and insights in a 7 (or more) part series focusing on each of these essential skills.