Exploring the wilderness has always been a popular pasttime. Even in the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest and information regarding primitive survival skills. Whether it’s watching a reality-based survival show or simply taking a walk in the woods, people are asking themselves, “Would I know how to survive in the wild on my own?”
Whether you are hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, or are simply someone who likes to immerse themselves in nature, knowing how to keep yourself alive and protected when exploring the wilderness is a critical skill.
Knowledge on how to survive and tame the wilderness was passed down and shared for thousands of years. Generation after generation passed down essential knowledge to ensure the next generations’s survival. However, in the present day, most of us would hardly know how to correctly hunt, forage for food, or know how to build a shelter if necessary. Obviously, we don’t need to know those skills today; however, most of us don’t realize how one bad stroke of luck could put us in a situation where this knowledge is critical.
Nevertheless, the call of the wild still pulls for some of us. If you’re interested in exploring the wilderness and testing a few of your survival skills, taking a hike out in nature or simply camping with friends can be a good first step. There’s a vast array of survival knowledge online and in books that can guide you. In this post, I’m going to cover just a few important details about practices to avoid as you begin testing your survival and outdoor skills.
When heading out into the wild, even for a short or “easy” trip, bring good quality gear that you can rely on. A cheap tent can work out all right on a normal summer night, but will that cheap tent hold up in a rainstorm? Will it protect you and your gear from the rain and wind? The same goes for your footwear, clothes, or anything that will protect you from the elements.
Additionally, fake outdoor apparel is out there! Many foreign companies make counterfeit outdoor clothing that can look like the real deal, can be purchased at a great price, but will not perform like the genuine outerwear. Never, ever skimp on gear that can potentially save your life or keep you from being injured. It’s as simple as that.
No matter how much you think humans have tamed the wilderness, many dangers still exist. For example, mountain lions still exist in the hills of California, bears are found in the Rocky Mountains, and many other aggressive animals are present in the wild. Do you know what animals live in the area you’re visiting? Are you carrying bear spray? Are you using a bear canister for your food and toiletries? Don’t go into these wild areas without an abundance of caution and knowing how to protect yourself if a bear or a mountain lion attacks.
Additionally, starting campfires in dry areas can cause untold damage. Eating wild berries or plants that you can’t identify can make you ill or even kill you. Do you have a map, headlamp, good hiking boots, as well as extra water and food? Don’t go out exploring the wilderness without being prepared, talking to the park rangers, and knowing your risks. Nature deserves your respect.
Wild areas are just that – wild. These wilderness areas have their peculiarities, their legal codes, their watchful rangers, as well as their dangers. Simply entering a random tract of forest is not a good idea. You may wish to be as raw in your approach as possible, but it is essential that you inform yourself as much as possible in these situations to avoid a costly mistake.
In our national parks, many of the more dangerous places will require permits before you can visit (for example: Half Dome in Yosemite; walking rim to rim in the Grand Canyon; and overnight camping in most national parks and forests). This not only informs the rangers of your intent to climb, explore, or stay at these places, but it will also limit the number of people and decrease the risk of danger. Just as you wouldn’t walk around an unknown city without a map, you shouldn’t be out exploring the wilderness without knowing the area. Whether it’s the topography of the land, potential dangers from animals or the land itself (rockslides, crevices, obstacles), or knowing where your water sources are, it’s vital to be informed. Carry a map, a compass, a personal GPS tracker, and educate yourself.
If you avoid these three pitfalls, you and your friends can enjoy a truly stunning wilderness adventure. I’d recommend you plan for a few months before embarking on your journey. This will allow you time to prepare, get the proper gear, learn about your chosen location, and acquire the critical knowledge you’ll need to make it home and share your stories.
Be safe out there!
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