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Outdoor Survival Skills

The Secret to Dealing With Fear on the Trail? Learn When to Listen to It.



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For as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt fear in the outdoors. I was so scared of thunderstorms as a child that I learned to recognize cumulonimbus clouds as they gathered over the outdoor pool each summer. I’d feel a swell of panic at the darkening sky and anticipation of the lightning flashes, and would have to be carried to the car in hysterics.

My fears didn’t end there: I was also scared of the dark, the woods, being alone in the house, and swimming to the dock at my friend’s lake house. I envied my peers who swung higher on the swings and jumped off the dock without thinking of what might be swimming under their feet. They moved freely through a world I skirted cautiously around.

Aside from being timid and fearful, I also struggled to keep up physically—I was uncoordinated and suffered from sports-induced asthma. As I got older I became frustrated with these limitations. There was only so much I could make up for athletically, and what I lacked in natural ability I tried to make up for in mental fortitude. I began to see fear as something to be conquered, an instinct I could push aside. I couldn’t overcome my lack of coordination or weak cardio capacity, but I could keep going when other people turned back. 

On one hike, this meant continuing to the summit of a socked-in, windswept peak in New Hampshire as a summer storm blew in during my ascent. I was on the verge of a panic attack, desperate to descend out of danger. I imagined turning around, each step taking me away from the howling wind towards the protection of the trees. 

But I kept climbing, doubled over against the wind until I reached the summit. Within an hour I was back in an AMC hut, still slightly out of breath and in disbelief I’d reached the top. The weather was calm at the hut, but when I looked out the window, I could see the swirling mass of clouds I’d descended from. I had faced down fear and succeeded in reaching my goal. 

Looking back to that hike from a decade ago, I know continuing up the peak wasn’t a smart choice. But that one peak-bagging expedition was a turning point, and the start of a confrontational relationship to fear that I still work to balance. 

As I got deeper into hiking, my relationship to fear continued to be closely tied to my insecurities as an athlete. Moving to the Rockies, where I was surrounded by gifted outdoor athletes wherever I looked, only worsened my problems. In response, I kept pushing my boundaries. I hiked solo, and camped solo even though it left me feeling impossibly isolated and vulnerable. 

Fear has played an important role in our survival for all of human history. It acts as an instinctive guide in unfamiliar situations, keeping us safe from threats both real and perceived. Feeling afraid when you step outside of your comfort zone isn’t just normal, it’s evolutionary. It’s supposed to protect us from threats. How we respond to this fear—turn around? Continue on?—depends on the person. In some circumstances, our fear keeps us safe; in others, it holds us back.

My instincts told me to be scared during my first solo camping expedition, but I wouldn’t have been much safer with a partner. It was less of a rational fear than it was intimidation at being alone. On the other hand, the fear I felt climbing into that storm in New Hampshire was based on a real danger, and I would have been better off honoring it.

There aren’t a lot of adrenaline-spiked moments in backpacking. Instead, most of the fear we feel is based on the what-ifs. What if the weather turns, or there’s a bear around that bend? Those instincts are there for a reason—the wild is full of risks, and being wary of them was a matter of life and death for our ancestors. But while we can make choices to help us stay as safe as possible, some elements will remain out of our control. The hard truth is that the safest thing to do is stay home: If you never venture into the woods or mountains, nothing in the woods or mountains can hurt you. The more time you spend in the backcountry, the greater the chances of something going wrong. If I dwell on this too much, it’s enough to keep me inside, watching the seasons go by through the window. 

My relationship to fear is still very much a combative one. But now, as an adult, I recognize that our fears are just our body’s way of trying to keep us safe. I’ve learned to take those instincts into consideration, while accepting that sometimes it’s just the dark or solitude playing tricks on me.

I can’t tell you how to tell the difference: Your relationship to fear doesn’t look the same as mine, and what makes me turn around might not faze you. It’s a balancing act, deciding to push forward or turn back. Every time, I hope I’m making the right choice.

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Teaching Kids About Wilderness Safety and Survival




Exploring the great outdoors offers numerous benefits for children, from fostering a love of nature to promoting physical activity and learning valuable life skills. However, venturing into the wilderness also comes with inherent risks. Teaching kids about wilderness safety and survival not only empowers them to enjoy outdoor adventures responsibly but also prepares them to handle unexpected situations effectively.

Understanding the Environment

The first step in teaching kids about wilderness safety is helping them understand the environment they’ll be exploring. Discuss potential hazards such as uneven terrain, wildlife encounters, and changes in weather conditions. Encourage curiosity about nature while emphasizing the importance of respecting its power and unpredictability.

Hiking Essentials

Before setting out on a hike, ensure that your children are equipped with the essential gear and knowledge to stay safe. Teach them to dress appropriately for the weather, wear sturdy footwear, and carry essentials such as water, snacks, a map, and a whistle. Emphasize the importance of staying on marked trails and never wandering off alone.

Navigation Skills

Teach children basic navigation skills to help them stay oriented in the wilderness. Show them how to read a map and use a compass, pointing out landmarks and trail markers along the way. Encourage them to pay attention to their surroundings and make mental notes of key features to aid in navigation.

Emergency Procedures

Prepare children for emergencies by teaching them essential survival skills and emergency procedures. Demonstrate how to signal for help using a whistle or mirror, build a shelter using natural materials, and start a fire safely. Discuss what to do in case they become lost or separated from the group, emphasizing the importance of staying calm and staying put to make rescue easier.

Wildlife Safety

Educate children about the wildlife they may encounter in the wilderness and how to coexist safely. Teach them to observe animals from a distance and never approach or attempt to feed them. Discuss how to react in the event of a wildlife encounter, such as backing away slowly from bears or standing tall and making noise to deter smaller animals.

Water Safety

If your outdoor adventures include activities near water, such as swimming or boating, it’s crucial to teach children about water safety. Emphasize the importance of wearing a life jacket, swimming with a buddy, and avoiding strong currents or dangerous water conditions. Teach them how to recognize signs of drowning and how to perform basic water rescue techniques if necessary.

Leave No Trace Principles

Instill in children the importance of practicing Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the environment. Teach them to pack out their trash, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing wildlife or natural habitats. Encourage them to appreciate the beauty of nature while also being responsible stewards of the land.

Teaching kids about wilderness safety and survival empowers them to enjoy outdoor adventures responsibly while equipping them with valuable life skills. By helping children understand the environment, providing essential gear and knowledge, and emphasizing the importance of safety and respect for nature, parents can foster a love of the outdoors that lasts a lifetime. Encourage curiosity, exploration, and a sense of adventure, while always prioritizing safety above all else.

How do you teach children about wilderness safety? Leave your tips for other parents in the comments below.

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Family-Friendly Wilderness Survival Skills: Navigating Nature Together



When it comes to venturing into the wilderness as a family, being equipped with essential survival skills can turn what might seem like a daunting prospect into a thrilling adventure. From navigating rugged terrain to building shelters and finding sustenance, knowing how to handle various wilderness scenarios not only ensures safety but also fosters a deeper connection with nature. Here, we’ll delve into some family-friendly wilderness survival skills that are both practical and empowering for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

Navigating Nature’s Maze: The Art of Orientation

Wilderness navigation skills are absolutely necessary for survival. Teach your family members how to read a map and use a compass. Turn it into a game, plotting imaginary routes or exploring nearby trails. Understanding how to interpret natural landmarks, such as mountains or rivers, can serve as invaluable guideposts when technology fails or trails grow faint.

Shelter from the Storm: Building Safe Havens


Constructing a shelter in the wilderness isn’t just about protection from the elements; it’s also an opportunity to foster teamwork and resourcefulness. Encourage your family to work together to build a shelter using readily available materials like branches, leaves, and logs. Even practicing with a simple tarp or emergency blanket in the backyard can instill confidence and prepare everyone for unexpected situations.

Quenching Thirst: Finding and Purifying Water Sources

woman taking water from forest spring

Water is essential for survival, but finding safe sources in the wilderness can be challenging. Teach your family how to locate water sources such as streams or springs, and emphasize the importance of purifying water before drinking. Show them how to boil water over a campfire or use portable water filtration systems. It’s not just about quenching thirst; it’s about ensuring hydration without compromising health.

Mastering the Flames: The Art of Fire Building

Building a fire in the wilderness is not only a practical skill but also a primal experience that connects us to our ancestors. Teach your family the basics of fire building: selecting dry tinder, arranging kindling, and patiently nurturing the flames. Show them how to practice fire safety, such as keeping a safe distance from combustible materials and extinguishing fires completely before leaving a campsite.

Harmonizing with Wildlife: Respectful Coexistence

Encounters with wildlife are part of the allure of wilderness exploration, but they also require caution and respect. Educate your family about local wildlife, teaching them to recognize signs of activity and respond appropriately. Instill in them a sense of awe and appreciation for the natural world while emphasizing the importance of maintaining a safe distance and avoiding confrontations.

Equipping your family with wilderness survival skills is not just about preparing for the worst-case scenario; it’s about empowering them to explore and thrive in the great outdoors. By teaching navigation techniques, shelter-building skills, water purification methods, fire-building basics, and wildlife awareness, you’re not only ensuring their safety but also nurturing a lifelong love for nature and adventure. So, gather your loved ones, pack your gear, and embark on unforgettable journeys into the heart of the wilderness, where every challenge becomes an opportunity to learn and grow together.

Do you practice wilderness survival with your family? What do you do? Leave your pointers in the comments below.

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Outdoor Survival Skills

Banding Together In Times Of Crisis: The Important of Survival Communities




In times of crisis, whether natural disasters, economic downturns, or other emergencies, fostering community resilience is paramount for families to navigate challenges successfully. Building strong bonds and collaborating with neighbors can provide essential support networks and resources. In this article, we’ll explore strategies for families to work together and contribute to community resilience during times of crisis.

Establish Communication Channels

Clear and reliable communication channels are essential for coordinating efforts and sharing critical information within the community. Establish methods such as neighborhood watch groups, social media networks, or communication apps to stay connected with neighbors. Create contact lists with essential contact information for each household and designate emergency communication protocols.

Collaborate on Emergency Preparedness

Encourage collaboration among families in preparing for potential emergencies. Organize community-wide preparedness events or workshops to share knowledge, resources, and skills. Pooling resources such as emergency supplies, tools, and equipment can enhance the collective readiness of the community. Develop evacuation plans and designate meeting points in case of evacuation orders.

Share Skills and Resources

Identify the skills, expertise, and resources available within the community and leverage them to support one another. Encourage neighbors to share their knowledge of gardening, first aid, construction, or other relevant skills. Create a network for exchanging goods and services, such as food, water, tools, and shelter materials. By collaborating and supporting each other, families can address challenges more effectively.

Establish Mutual Aid Networks

Establish mutual aid networks to provide assistance and support to vulnerable members of the community during times of crisis. Identify individuals or families who may need extra help, such as elderly residents, people with disabilities, or single parents. Coordinate efforts to check on their well-being, provide assistance with essential tasks, or evacuate them safely if necessary.

Organize Community Resilience Projects

Prepper Community

Engage in community resilience projects that enhance the overall preparedness and resilience of the neighborhood. Examples include community gardens, rainwater harvesting systems, emergency shelters, and neighborhood watch programs. Work together on initiatives that promote self-sufficiency, sustainability, and disaster resilience.

Foster Social Connections

Building strong social connections within the community fosters a sense of belonging and solidarity, which is crucial during times of crisis. Organize regular neighborhood gatherings, potlucks, or block parties to strengthen relationships and build trust among neighbors. Encourage open communication, empathy, and mutual support to create a resilient community fabric.

Participate in Training and Exercises

Participate in training sessions and emergency preparedness exercises as a community to enhance readiness and coordination. Practice scenarios such as earthquake drills, fire evacuation drills, or first aid training exercises. Evaluate and refine emergency plans based on lessons learned from simulations and real-life experiences.

Engage with Local Authorities and Organizations

Collaborate with local authorities, emergency responders, and community organizations to enhance resilience efforts. Stay informed about emergency protocols, evacuation routes, and available resources in your area. Advocate for community resilience initiatives and participate in local planning committees or advisory boards.

By working together and building strong community connections, families can significantly enhance their resilience and ability to withstand crises. By establishing communication channels, collaborating on preparedness efforts, sharing skills and resources, and fostering social connections, families can contribute to building a resilient community that supports its members in times of need. Remember, resilience is built through collective action and mutual support.

Are you a part of a bigger survival community? If not, do you plan on changing that? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 


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