What does it take to be an outdoor man? I mean a real one. Not the kind you see on TV that are dropped into the wilderness on Monday with only their toothbrush, and gain 4 lbs by Friday’s pickup. Nor the poor saps that are left for 21 days to endure Nature’s wrath, being devoured by insects and risking hypothermia, but at least they do lose weight. The true outdoor man has the skills to not only survive, but thrive in the elements, although don’t expect to see a fat outdoor man. Extremely physically fit, but not fat.
You want to become an outdoor man? No body expects to get lost in the wilderness and especially don’t intend to get injured, but it happens, and people die from it. I warn you the skills required to learn and the time it takes to master them are not for the faint of heart, nor is full & total survival easy to understand. What’s to understand? Each survival situation is unique, and may require a completely different skill set than you are accustomed to. Factors such as weather, current and future, terrain, available materials for building shelter and starting a fire, availability of safe drinking water, and does anyone know you are missing all figure into the equation.
We will divide our lessons into several smaller categories and they are all equally important, if they weren’t we wouldn’t be discussing them. Committing the information to memory obviously is important, but I want to stress one thing … “You never want to be trying something for the first time when you need it to work in order to save your life.” Practice the skills you will learn. You may not master them, but at least you’ll have a basic knowledge of where or how to begin.
If anybody knew they would get lost before venturing into the wild I’d assume they wouldn’t go, but although nobody anticipates getting lost, you must mentally prepare for the event in case it does occur. That acknowledgment of the possibility of getting lost can actually be instrumental in preventing it. You will be more aware of your surroundings, making mental notes of landmarks and direction of travel.
Should you become lost, the most important survival skill you can utilize is the ability to not panic. The ability to remain calm or the instinct to recognize you are on the verge of panic, and the skills to prevent losing it, is your first life saver lesson. There is nothing to be ashamed of, most people when faced with a crisis situation panic, but knowing this will alert you to your own feelings and allow you to act accordingly.
Panic is your worse enemy in a crisis situation. It’s important you view the situation with a clear, logical and creative mindset. Should you feel yourself beginning to panic, stop everything, take several deep breathes and fully exhale. Sit down in order to maintain your balance, close your eyes if it helps. This is the beginning of utilizing your outdoor survival techniques and knowledge, fail here and every other skill you have may be for naught. An outdoor man cannot afford to panic and make bad decisions from the start as these mistakes will tend to build upon themselves.
Begin Developing Physical Skills
It’s important to be honest with yourself concerning your skills with outdoor survival techniques. If you are somewhat experienced, begin practicing the skills of survival in controlled circumstances before you are placed in a potentially life threatening situation. Practice making fires in various weather conditions utilizing natural materials or build a shelter near your house or while on a camping trip and spend the night in it. If you wake up freezing you can always abandon the shelter and climb back into your bed or sleeping bag. In the morning revisit the shelter, figure out what went wrong, correct it, and try again. Learn from your mistakes.
If you are a brand new novice, read survival articles. There is a wealth of knowledge in books and on the internet. Pick out a skill and practice it until you are somewhat proficient at performing it. This not only increases your skills, but your confidence will soar with successes.
For instance, when you are out hiking quiz yourself on what materials you would use to build a fire from what you see around you. Where would you build a shelter to protect yourself from the elements and how and from what materials it would be constructed from, where the closest water sources is located etc etc as a way to begin learning and practicing your outdoor survival techniques. This is how an outdoor man is developed.
Outdoor Man Tools
In the western world, especially Americans, we often want to know a skill immediately. With something as complex as outdoor survival techniques this is simply not possible. This is a life long journey, where practicing a little bit here and there adds up to a great deal of knowledge and experience over time. Most importantly is to just enjoy the learning process and have fun.
It’s important to instill and maintain an outdoor man mentality. Always be prepared to learn something new or try out a skill you’re working on. One way to do this is to create a survival pack which you can take along with you anytime you venture into the outdoors. By carefully selecting necessities which can be stored and carried in a waist pack you have given yourself a huge advantage of surviving any unexpected crisis situation or accident. Even if you never find yourself in a life or death survival situation, an increase in your ability to take care of yourself in the outdoors using proper outdoor survival techniques will bring a sense of freedom and self sufficiency that is very rewarding. Remember, learning to survive in the wilderness is a lifelong journey where the individual pursuing the knowledge and freedom is constantly evolving and growing.
Outdoor Man Recommended Outdoor Survival Kit
There is no ironclad list of survival equipment to always take with you into the woods or wilderness, you’d be attempting to maneuver a semi-truck along the trail, but there are common items that experience has taught us that are frequently required. You’d be surprised how much you can store in a fanny pack and how light it actually is to carry. When you return from from your hike or hunt, simply store the pack in the car or truck until next time, plus you’ll always have it when close to the vehicle.
Make sure that you put everything in plastic baggies so your stuff won’t get wet, plus the baggies will come in handy for collecting plants and/or hauling and storing water.
- Quality matches (in a plastic baggie) waterproof matches are great. If they aren’t strike anywhere matches make sure you keep the striker from the box.
- Small flint striker
- Some type of flexible seal-able water container
- Non-folding knife (make sure it is sharp):
- Some type of quick fire starter: Suggestion: Vaseline soaked cotton balls work very well: Microwave the Vaseline in a bowl. Beware, it can get very hot. Saturate each cotton ball with the Vaseline and then place the soaked balls in a small container that won’t leak if the Vaseline warms up in the sun. A lot of cotton balls can be jammed into a small container. Each ball will burn on its own for quite a long time and work great for fire starting. They can be started with matches, lighter, or flint striker. Try them out when you soak them so that you can get an idea of how they work. One huge advantage to these is that they are cheap and completely waterproof.
- Emergency poncho: get a bright colored one for high visibility and potential signaling devise for rescue
- Thick black trash bag
- Small first aid kit: Antibiotic ointment, band aids, Benadryl, pain killers, one or two gauze pads for larger wounds and a small amount of medical tape. I suggest you buy a prior-packaged first aid kits from a drug store and add a few essentials to them like Benadryl.
- Small saw which can be a small cable finger saw to save space, but put sticks through the end rings instead of your fingers for better control and efficiency.
- Para-cord: the type with a bunch of smaller strands inside as this is strong stuff and if needed you can pull out the smaller strands and use them for other projects like traps, fishing, or shelter making. A para-cord wrist band is the way to go.
- Some type of light metal cup: People tend to buy plastic cups that collapse in order to save room, but water containers are one of the hardest things to create in a survival situation and plastic can not withstand heat. The metal cup will allow you to boil water and cook food (dandelion soup, hickory teas, and lizard stew)
- Iodine tabs for water purification
- Small foil emergency blanket which can be used to waterproof a shelter and make it warmer by reflecting the heat back on to you, as a ground cloth, or to reflect the heat of a fire back onto you or into your shelter.
- Small flashlight with extra batteries
- Small whistle
- Signal mirror
- 1 or 2 Original style power bars only … for two reasons.
- For one, at least in my opinion, they taste terrible so you won’t be tempted to eat it unless you are really hungry.
- Secondly, the wrapper can be used as eye protection from the sun just like sunglasses. The wrapper is see through when you put it up to your face but will block out the sun, which is especially important in snow conditions to protect your eyesight.
- A couple of small fishing hooks, weights, and some light fishing line (10 yards or so should work. I like 4 or six lb test) you can put this stuff all in a small film canister or similar container.
- Candle (great for starting fires or warming a snow cave)
Buy DEET wipes in individual packets for keeping the bugs off. Trust me they can really drive you mad and you will wish you had this if you don’t pack it.
Outdoor Man Survival Essentials
When you prepare for an adventure into the wild, an experience every outdoor man loves, it’s important to pack correctly. The bare essentials, then necessities, then environment specific. There’s little need to pack snow equipment for a weekend in the desert.
The Bare Necessities
The four basic needs of nearly all survival situations are shelter, water, fire, and food. The following gear assists with meeting the needs of these four priorities and are listed by order of importance. However, that order can change depending on the environmental and weather conditions.
Shelter – a light-weight tarp, tent, or extra large rain poncho can provide emergency protection from the wind and rain, but will not withstand any long term usage. Learn to build survival shelters.
Water Container – No plastic. Having something to transport water in is important and a metal water bottle can also provide the opportunity to heat water over a fire.
Water Purification System – a good water filtration pump or purification tablets allow you to have clean drinking water, remember the rule of 3 … this is #2.
Fire Starting Tools – carrying at least three different ways to make a fire such as a lighter, waterproof matches and a magnesium flint and steel, in a seal-able plastic bag with dry tinder material, will assist in fire-making. There’s little more frightening or lonely than sitting alone in the pitch black woods all night.
Navigation Tools – topographical maps and a compass, signal mirror, and GPS unit will help you navigate, a good survival watch will provide most of these needs.
First Aid Kit – one that includes a variety of supplies such as sterile gauze, antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, bandages in various sizes, tweezers, safety pins, scissors, benadryl, ibuprofen, and any personal medication you may need will allow you to address most first aid situations
Illumination– a flashlight, preferably a headlamp with extra batteries, can allow you to travel or work on survival tasks into the night. Solar powered is preferred.
Miscellaneous Tools – strong rope, a sewing kit, multiple-use-tool, and whistle can assist in many situations
Insulating Layers – warm layers of wool or synthetic clothing, rain gear, a warm hat, and gloves assist with regulating your body temperature
Food – snack bars or dehydrated food can provide a boost in energy in survival situations
Knife – a quality, fixed blade knife is a core tool for numerous survival tasks
Sun Protection – sunglasses, a wide-brim hat, and sunscreen help protect you from sunburn.
The outdoor man carries his most important survival tool with him at all times. His Brain, which contains the knowledge and skills required to survive. The survival knowledge is basically divided into two sections, knowing how to fully utilize all survival equipment and knowing how to improvise without gear.
1. Any tools, gear or materials you might have as part of your survival essentials must be used properly in order to serve your needs best. Practice using all of your essentials, and get comfortable with them. Treat them with care insuring their proper operating condition, such as you do not leave your gear unopened and unused until a survival situation arises.
2. Consider this when failing to practice with your survival gear. Using a lighter or matches to start a fire in the comfort of your own home, a controlled environment, is not the same as trying to start one with the same materials while the wind is blowing and the rain is coming down hard. Be sure to practice in all conditions.
3. What if one or more of your survival essentials are forgotten, become lost or break? What then?
Outdoor Man Wilderness Survival Skills:
Knowledge is power and power enables you to overcome situations you may never dream you could, and remember, once that knowledge is committed to memory, you can never lose it or have it taken from you. The above listed tools are essential to have in order to survive, but … you can survive without them, it’s just a whole lot harder. Lose your compass, navigate by the sun and stars. Break or lose your fire-starter, build a fire with friction.
Perhaps the Outdoor Man manifesto should be something like “Survival situations demand that you be flexible, adaptable and skilled with utilizing whatever resources are available.”
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