Outdoor Skills to Make the Best of Your Next Adventure

Outdoor Skills Feature

Most of us at some point in time, fantasize about wandering off in the woods and living of the land for an extended period of time.  As unrealistic as this is, we do still find time to explore the outdoors. Adventuring outdoors can be challenging, but it is extremely gratifying. There is nothing like being in the woods without a person around for miles and just observing nature. Before setting off on a great outdoor adventure though, there are some outdoor skills you should take the time to learn first. We have collected some fantastic resources to help you learn the skills you need to thrive in the outdoors. This post contains affiliate links.

A creek in the woods with a tree growing over it Outdoor Skills Midtntravel

Outdoor Skills

You don’t just take off into the woods and automatically know how to do all of the things you need to do to make it.  These skills take a lot of practice to master. The great thing is they are actually pretty fun to practice in controlled situations.

Fire Making

First, I am going to talk about everyone’s favorite outdoor activity, building a fire. There is nothing like sitting around a campfire sharing stories with good friends, or the security that a fire can give you when you are in the woods alone. There are so many methods and gadgets out there for fire building, and every one has a favorite.  Truth is, there are 3 basic elements to make a fire, and everything else is just personal preference.  You need Fuel (wood), Air, and Heat (Spark / Flame).

Fire burning by the lake

Fuel

Firewood is essential to building a fire and to be successful you need a few different sizes.  Tinder, Kindling, and Fuel sized pieces of wood (or other material that will burn) will get your fire going and keep it going.

Tinder is usually small and easy to get started, but burns long and hot enough to light your kindling. I like material like jute twine, inner bark from dead cedar, wood shavings, and dry grasses. Kindling is just a little bigger and serves to get the fire big and hot enough to start burning the fuel. Dead branches and twigs are great for this if they are dry. Sometimes if they are too big, you will have to split them down.  When splitting kindling, I try to make a few different sizes from pencil thin up.

The fuel logs are even bigger than the kindling.  I prefer around wrist width to start with, and if the pieces are bigger I will split them down into a more manageable size. Once the fire is going bigger logs will burn longer, so it is nice to have some on hand.

Air

It sounds silly, but this is often overlooked when building a fire.  If you stack your logs in a way that prevents airflow, you are going to have a hard time keeping them burning. Make sure you leave gaps when stacking your fuel and you will be fine.  There a lot of interesting ways to stack firewood, but as long as you leave your fire room to breathe you should be fine.

Heat (Spark / Flame)

This is where there are really a lot of different options. The ultimate goal is to have something that will ignite your tinder.  Some people like primitive fire making methods like bow drills or flint and steel, others like gadgets like fire steel and Magnesium Bar.  I think knowing how to use these items is a good idea, but my first choice for starting a fire in my area is a Bic Mini. They are cheap and reliable in most environments, and as long as they are stored properly they will last a long time.

For a much more detailed look into starting a fire and keeping it going, check out this great post by Graywolf Survival.

Knot Tying

Another outdoor skill you should learn before setting off on your next big adventure is knot tying.  I don’t think it is necessary to learn a lot of decorative knots, but there are a few essential knots you should know how and when to use. This outdoor skill comes in handy for everything from building improvised shelters to repairing broken equipment.

Knot Rope and Wood

From Bowlines to sheet bends, the number of knots and variations out there is mind boggling. I am not going to attempt to put a knot tying tutorial in this post, instead I will direct you to a few websites that I think provide the best information for knot tying.

Scouting magazine is a great resource for outdoor skills.  Their article “How to tie 10 essential Scouting Knots” does an incredible job of teaching how to tie some of the most essential knots for outdoor activities.

Another resource for knot tying is Animated Knots. It is much more in depth than the article.  With instructions for over 300 types of knot it can be a little overwhelming.

If you are like me you prefer a tangible book to read when you are learning something new.  In that case, check out The Knot Tying Bible: Climbing, Camping, Sailing, Fishing, Everyday.

 

Shelter Building

Protecting yourself from the elements in incredibly important.  Should something happen when you are out in the woods, one of the most important outdoor skills is being build a shelter to keep you warm and dry.  The options for building shelters are endless, but the basics are all about the same.  A good shelter protects you from the weather and provides you a sense of “home” in the outdoors.

Wilderness Shelter Outdoor Skills

There are varying levels of complexity to wilderness built shelters.  They can range from a debris hut, which isn’t much more than a pile of leaves, to the teepee like Wickiup.   It is very important that no matter the type of shelter you build you select a good location for it.  You want to be in an area that has readily available materials for building, is safe from falling branches,  and is away from hazards like insect nests, and potential flooding.

Field and Stream magazine has long been an expert source for outdoor skills education.  They published an article with directions for building survival shelters that is definitely worth reading.

Outdoor Life Magazine also has an excellent article on outdoor shelters that also goes into using tarps in your shelter building.

Navigation

I often say I just want to go get lost in the woods.  What I really mean is I just want to escape for a little while; I have no desire to get lost anywhere, much less the woods.  That is where learning to navigate (either with a map and compass or a GPS device) comes into play.  One of the most essential outdoor skills, navigation, makes sure you can get from point A to point B and not end up at Point 48 instead.

Compass and Map Outdoor Skills

There are really two methods for navigation, the first is with a map and compass.  I think everyone should understand this before moving on to more technological means. The map and compass have been around for ages and it is not going to quit working anytime soon. If you are new to this, check out Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS, 3rd Edition (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics).

The second method people use to navigate outdoors is a GPS device like the Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator.  These devices are amazing and incredibly useful.  They are often accurate down to a few feet and have a dizzying array of features that allow you to map out your planned hike.  The only problem I have with them is that technology fails.  Maybe you drop it and it breaks, maybe you forget to charge the battery, or maybe a solar flare disables the tracking satellites (far fetched I know). What I am saying is I like to have a backup when I use these devices, just in case.

Water Treatment

Clean water is something most of us take for granted.  In the outdoors, I don’t trust water I didn’t bring myself.  I won’t drink any of it without treating it first.  It may be overly cautious, but there is a lot of nasty stuff that can get in water that I would prefer not to drink. Giardia does not sounds like a lot of fun.

So how do you get rid of these contaminants? Water treatment is another of the most important outdoor skills. The most common methods are boiling, filtering, and chemical treatment. You can also combine these methods to take your water treatment a step further.

Boiling is the most common form of treating your drinking water. To do this you need some kind of container for your water. Bring the water to a boil and keep it boiling.  The CDC recommends a minimum of 60 seconds to eliminate pathogens. Check out this guide the CDC published to help you know how to treat your water.

Filtering is next in line and is often combined with some other means of disinfection.  I carry a Sawyer Products SP103 Mini Water Filtration System because I can put inline in my hydration pack.  Be very careful when choosing a water filter as many of them will not provide the level of treatment required to make water potable.

Chemical treatment is also an effective solution for eliminating the nasty germs that can live in water. Again check to see that the product you purchase will work on the germs that you want to eliminate.

Practice, Practice, Practice

While not an exhaustive list, mastering these outdoor skills will have you well on the way to being a capable outdoors adventurer.  I think that every one is capable of learning these outdoor skills with practice. So get outside and give some of these things a try. Anyone have any excellent resources for bushcraft and outdoor skills that we missed?  Let us know in the comments.

Outdoor skills to make the best of your next adventure. Resources for Fire starting, water treatment, shelter building and more.

27 Comment

  1. Handy tips thanks for sharing!! 😀
    I’m an adventurer and I’m surely gonna use them in the future 🙂

  2. Great tips and skills to have! Knot tying was a huge struggle for me.

  3. Thank you for the tips! This is perfect timing with spring around the corner.

  4. Great article and links! I can’t wait till the weather gets warmer and I can head out into the woods again! I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on most of these skills, except the knot tying and shelter building! lol! This reminded me I need to learn some more knots and practice! Also it would be cool to go out and build a shelter to stay in sometime, I know the theory and have built little shelters for fun, but have never actually had to make one to stay in.. PS thank you for not having pop ups!! haha! Cheers!

    1. Pop ups are the devil! 🙂

  5. as someone who has led wilderness trips with a wide variety of groups throughout colorado, arizona, utah, and montana this is a great list…thanks for posting so people how to be prepared for the elements (:

  6. Great tips!

  7. Good info! Have you seen the life-straw? I think that’s the name. It’s supposed to filter water so you can drink it, it looks just like a straw though. I’m not willing to test it out myself because I’m scared lol

    1. I have seen the lifestraw. I haven’t tested it either, but I have heard good things. I plan to check one out sometime soon.

  8. We love going on adventures! We will have to use some of these on our next one as a family!

  9. These are great skills we all should know! I definitely need to brush up on some of these skills since I’ve been hiking a lot lately.

    xo, Elizabeth |

  10. Great tips! Is it wrong to bring a hotspot camping with me? I want to reference these tips on the go!

  11. This is really cool! I’ve never seen a post like this, I wish it wasn’t freezing misery outside so I could go try it all out!

  12. These are such great and handy tips 😀 I wish I was better at it. I don’t go camping that much, but I really want to. This tips will certainly give a better experience too 😀 I have to pin this for later reference 😀

  13. I am not much of an outdoor survivalist but I guess I will just have to make sure to get lost when I am only with my eagle scout, army husband!

    1. That is an adequate substitute 🙂

  14. I believe we should all know how to make fire (even though I have no clue lol). It’s so essential for survival.

  15. I am a leader for a female youth group and they are going to “girls camp” beginning of June. We are teaching them all of these basic skills! Good to know we are on the right track 🙂 My husband is totally an outdoor/survivalist type of person and I am not haha. BUT I will say, these are a good starting place for EVERYONE!

  16. What a great article! These are amazing tips ( I am just starting out on my camping adventures and these are great!). Knot tying came easily for me (I grew up on sail boats) but getting a fire going, oh man, the struggle is REAL! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  17. such a helpful post!

  18. Ha! I think I need these skills! I love the outdoors, but I was a terrible girl guide. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I’m terrified of the woods but if I ever do get the courage, I will definitely remember your advice.

  20. I’ve always taken the 10 essentials with me whenever I go in the backcountry. You never now what will come up. Thanks for the reminder!

  21. Knowing how to build a fire and a shelter are definitely key in the outdoors, especially if you somehow end up lost or stranded. This was a great list you compiled here and is super useful!

  22. Really in-depth awesome camping tips. I’m going to go old school with my son with the map and compass.

  23. I sometimes (more times than I am honestly willing to admit) think about just packing a bag and hiking off into the sunset. But then I remember that I am always cold and hungry and that pretty much seals the deal for me. LOL. Now that I have this handy dandy cheat sheet (the shelter part) and tools for knot tying (my shoes are slip-ons if that tells you anything) maybe my idea isnt so bad?

  24. I’ve seen a lot of people recently going out camping or hiking and they’re woefully unprepared and they end up asking strangers for help, or asking if anyone has a this or a that. It’s worrying that so many people don’t plan ahead, everyone should read something like this before heading out 🙂

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