Man hiking

6 outdoor skills you need to know

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Thanks to the proliferation of smart phones, troubleshooting any problem involves only a quick Google search, a YouTube tutorial, or downloading a special app. But what about when your phone dies while you’re out camping for the weekend? Here are six basic outdoor skills—from starting a fire to finding safe drinking water—that every man should know.

How to start a fire

First off, whenever you’re camping there are some essential pieces of gear that you should always bring with you. You’ll need bug spray, an effective sunscreen, and definitely some strike-anywhere matches. Throw a pack of matches in a plastic Ziplock bag and watch it become the hardest-working tool in your arsenal.

Now, to start a fire. First you need to gather tinder, which can be anything from dry plants, moss, wood shavings, birch bark, dry leaves, or even lint. Next, find yourself some kindling, such as dry twigs, cardboard, or larger pieces of wood split into smaller pieces. Finally, collect logs that will sustain your fire.

Now that you have the necessary materials, it’s time to start building. Pile the kindling together and place your tinder on top of that pile. Use a match to light the tinder and slowly blow air to ignite the fire. Gradually add more kindling and eventually add firewood, starting with the smallest pieces. Now for the rest of the night, it’s your job to keep the fire alive—arguably the most important camping position. Once you master the basic fire, you can experiment with different lays, such as the tee-pee, cabin or lean-to.

How to locate a proper campsite

As important as bringing along the essentials, it’s equally crucial to pick a suitable location to set-up camp. Your ideal campsite should be high and dry, meaning you want to stay away from valleys that could become dangerous should a flash flood hit. Also, be aware of any branches hanging over your tent that could break off in a storm. Next, take a look around: Where’s the nearest running water? Are there any visible bug nests? Are there any downed trees to make a lean-to? These are all questions to consider when choosing a campsite.

How to tie the basic knots

Brush up on your Boy Scouts skills and learn how to tie a few basic knots. The following knots will come in handy on land and water.

The Bowline: It has multiple uses, including fastening a mooring line to a ring or hanging bags from trees.

The Clove Hitch: This must-know binding knot is easy to tie and untie, yet it’s ideal for securing lines along posts.

The Sheet Bend: Also known as the Weaver’s Knot, this knot joins two ropes together.

How to find clean water

You’re out hiking and you come across a body of water, but is it safe to drink? If it’s a clear flowing stream or spring without any visible pollution, the water is likely safe to drink. If it’s a lake or pond, or other stagnant waters like a puddle, the bacteria levels are likely very high and the water will need to be boiled before consuming.

If water sources are scarce, you can rely on foliage to keep you hydrated. Tie some extra fabric around your legs and walk through a leafy area. Once the fabric is dew-soaked, ring it out into a bowl for drinking.

How to navigate without a GPS
When you can’t rely on your GPS or Google Maps to get you out of a sticky situation, you better know the basics of navigation.

To find north, take a stick and place it upright into the ground so you can see its shadow. Mark the tip of the shadow with a stone. Wait at least 15 minutes and mark the shadow again with another stone. Make a line connecting to the two stones and you have an approximate east-west line, with the first stone marking west. Draw a perpendicular line to find north.

How to survive a bear attack

Hopefully you won’t ever encounter a bear on a hiking trail. But if you do, be prepared on how to handle the situation.

First, identify the bear and whether it’s acting defensively or offensively. In Canada, you’re most likely to encounter grizzlies or black bears, and both need to be treated differently. The following are some basic guidelines on what to do in each scenario.

If you come face to face with a defensive grizzly, get out your bear spray immediately. If you don’t have bear spray or if the bear approaches you, drop to the ground in the fetal position and cover the back of your neck with your hands. Stay in this position until the bear leaves the area, which is usually within a few minutes.

If you encounter a defensive black bear, get out the bear spray again. Rather than playing dead though, try to retreat from the attack. If that’s not possible stand your ground. Create lots of noise and find any weapons such as sticks and rocks to use if necessary. Do not run or climb a tree, as black bears are excellent climbers.

If either a grizzly or black bear is acting offensively, such as stalking you, do not play dead. Try to find a safe space to hide, such as a building or car. If it’s a grizzly, you can climb a tree to get away. If there’s no way to escape, brandish a big stick to intimidate the bear.