10 (Mostly) Easy Ways to Improve Your Survival Skills Starting Today

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Bear Grylls might be able to walk across the road to a McDonald’s when production gets too difficult, but were things not so peachy, you get the feeling he’d be just fine without it. That’s because despite sometimes misrepresenting it, Grylls and other celebrity survivalists have put years of effort into becoming skilled outdoorsmen and women, understanding their surroundings and how to cope in difficult situations.

Would you have the skills to stay alive, keep your wits about you and find a resolution that leads you back to civilization if you were faced with a survival challenge? It’s no easy feat. To be competent at self-preservation, you’ll need a selection of well-honed survival skills. Here are a few places to put your focus.

1. Get Fit

Even though we don’t necessarily think of physical fitness as a “wilderness” survival skill, it’s certainly a survival skill. Keeping yourself healthy is just a necessary part of surviving the stress of our modern world. You don’t have to be into trail running and mountain biking to get the benefit of being fit if you find yourself in a challenging situation, although it might make you feel more comfortable if you’ve spent some time outdoors.

Survival situations often arise out of confusion or misinformation. You read a map wrong and lead yourself several miles off of the trail. The weather turns and you can’t get oriented. A vehicle breaks down, leaving you stranded with little knowledge of how to get home. Physical stamina is important in these situations where getting back might mean stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Strengthening your body to withstand putting a foot wrong while hiking a rocky trail or endure carrying your heavy bike back 10 miles after a flat tire will truly increase your chance of survival. In fact, there are full exercise routines developed with the idea in mind of becoming more resilient in wilderness situations. These exercises will prepare you for physical tasks and help you develop the mental toughness required to effectively navigate such trying situations.

2. Stay Mindful

Speaking of mental toughness, it might be the single most important component to resolving a wilderness survival situation in good condition. When something goes wrong while you’re outdoors, the last thing you want to do is panic. Making hasty decisions or judgment calls without having all the information you need — or when you’re in a traumatized state of mind — can cause the situation to escalate rapidly. Instead, you need to remain calm and have the presence of mind to determine the best course of action.

Wilderness College calls this technique SPEAR, for stop, plan, execute, assess and re-evaluate. Regardless of how you help yourself remember it, keeping your head on straight and not panicking in a wilderness situation is the best way to prolong your survival. The human body is capable of incredible feats, but if you panic, your brain will turn you into your own worst enemy. There could be other people relying on you in a survival situation too, so be sure that you’re capable of making clear-headed decisions to find the best outcome.

3. Practice Building and Finding Shelter

Depending on your locale, the conditions associated with your survival challenge could vary dramatically. You might face blowing winds, extreme cold, flooding or debilitating heat. You might have to deal with a combination of weather conditions or the presence of predatory animals. In all of these situations, you’ll need to understand how to protect yourself from the elements and potentially from animals as well.

Many types of terrain lend themselves well to making shelter. Heavily wooded areas can provide you with tree boughs to build a lean-to, and in the snow, you can dig yourself a cave to preserve body heat. That said, other locales aren’t so benevolent. In a more desolate area, you might need to huddle up against a prominent rock or terrain feature to shield yourself from sun and wind. Remember that as a basic rule, you always want to stay “high and dry.”

It can be fun to practice building shelter. The next time you’re in the wilderness, set some time aside and see what you come up with. Consider whether your makeshift shelter would helpful in a real survival situation, and how you might refine it. It’s more fun to practice it when you aren’t relying on the structure to keep you alive.

4. Figure out How to Get Potable Water

Thirst is one of the quickest killers when someone is stranded in the wilderness, which is why you need to understand how to find or make safe drinking water very well to maximize your chances of survival.

Of course, if you have a means of filtering, chemically treating or boiling water, that’s a reliable method of purifying it for drinking. However, that might not be realistic in some scenarios. Look for fast-moving water that’s clear to the eye — the higher the elevation, the better. If you’re not able to find good-looking water in a river or stream, you might need to resort to collecting water using other means.

In all but the most arid climates, you can create a moisture trap to collect water in the mornings if you have access to a large piece of plastic, which could mean salvaging something you have on you. Plants are another good source to forage for water. Many trees can be tapped for sap with high water content, and some even produce leaves or fruit that can be consumed for small quantities of water. You’ll want to study up on these options, as recognizing them could save your life.

5. Build Your Ability to Forage for Food

We’ll discuss hunting for food shortly, but it’s not safe to rely on the presence of game to provide sustenance. You need a method of finding reliable nutrition, even if it’s little by little. Most wilderness areas have some form of edible plants available, but you’ve got to know how to recognize them.

Nutrient-rich nuts and seeds provide a great caloric value relative to the effort required to find them if you can recognize the plants that grow them. Edible fruits and berries are also a great source of calories but be sure that you know how to recognize those that are safe to eat.

In addition to plant-based foods, insects and bird’s eggs can contribute protein and fat to your diet while you’re surviving in the wild, and they shouldn’t be ruled out. You can learn how to harvest large numbers of insects using some basic techniques. The key to enjoying a fresh bird’s egg is to know where to find nests, so you’ll need to be well-versed in the types of bird life in the area and where they like to lay eggs. Once your foraging skills are well-developed, you can move on to more proactive methods of finding food.

6. Improve Your Shooting Skills

Having access to a firearm when you’re in a survival situation can be a game-changer. Guns are a great tool for self-defense and for hunting food, but chances are, you didn’t bring an unlimited supply of ammunition with you on your journey into the wilderness, so you should plan ahead and practice your shooting to make every shot count.

If you have a choice when you’re traveling into the wilderness, a shotgun or rifle will afford you a better means of hunting food than a handgun. When you’re practicing your shotgun marksmanship, remember that shooting clay pigeons and trap will help build your coordination to allow you to hit birds on the wing. Rifles are best for larger game such as deer and elk. Just make sure that if you’re going to hunt any animal that you have an idea of how to break down your kill — it’s not good to waste anything when you’re in a survival situation.

Since wild animals aren’t likely to walk right out into the open to provide you with an easy meal, it’s a good idea to learn some basic tracking skills to complement your marksmanship. Without an understanding of how animals move in the brush, what signs to look for and how to know if you’ve scored a hit, it’s going to be much more difficult to find food.

7. Learn to Make Fire

Heat for warmth, light and the ability to cook food all rely on your ability to make fire — unless you’ve lucked out and gotten lost with a camping stove. Basic fire-building skills are an essential component to any survivalists’ repertoire and can safely be practiced and developed on a family camping trip or solo outing in a more controlled environment.

Many backpackers have learned to carry fire starting “kits” consisting of a flint and steel and/or some lightweight kindling. Some people even use corn chips — the grease makes them easy to light, and they can be eaten in emergencies!

Perfecting your fire-making can be fun, and with time, you can learn advanced techniques that will make you a more competent outdoorsman, such as how to create a fire in the snow or rain. It might sound impossible, but it’s not — you just have to know what you’re doing. Making it through a cold night without fire can be miserable, so it’s a good skill to have.

8. Master Basic Fishing Techniques

Like shooting, if you’re stranded with a functional fishing rod and reel, you’re in luck. However, unlike with shooting, you can go fishing using only the things you can find around you if need be. Granted, this tip assumes you’re in an area with fish. It’s best to head up in elevation to find lakes and streams with the best chance of fish being present.

The most basic technique of hand-lining fish can be performed with very basic equipment. All you need is a sturdy thread and a hook that can be fashioned from some tough plant matter, but this process might not be the most productive method of fishing. Instead, consider learning how to build a fish trap. A trap and basic spear will afford you a much better chance at eating well than attempting to hand-line from the shores of a wild lake or stream.

9. Work on the Best Ways to Clean and Cook Food

If you do have the good fortune to successfully catch or shoot a meal, you’ll need to know how to prepare it. There’s a whole lot that goes on between the ranch and the grocery store that most people don’t typically know how to emulate. In the wilderness, there’s no one there to process the kill for you. Hopefully you’ve got a good knife available, as one will be required for much of the game you’ll have the opportunity to hunt in a survival situation.

You should learn how to suspend and drain blood from a fresh kill, how to remove entrails and how to skin a carcass so that you can break down the kill and prepare small portions of meat. Fish are slightly simpler than large game. Begin by removing scales, then make an opening along the fish’s belly and scrape out all of the internal organs.

If your fire-making skills are good, you can smoke smaller portions of meat. It’s also possible to create a basic spit and roast larger portions. A grill plate is a wonderful complement to a kit that will open the door to many lovely wilderness meals, but it’s not something you can plan on always having with you.

10. Get Outside!

There’s no replacement for real-world experience. We’re not saying you should go and get lost all the time. Practice safety first, bring friends and tell people where you’re going, but the more time you spend in the outdoors, the more comfortable you’ll be. Experience will help ensure that you don’t end up in a bad situation going forward.

All of this information is meant to help you navigate a difficult situation, but ultimately, we go outdoors because it’s enjoyable. So put the work in to be prepared, but do it also to get the wonderful benefits of being in nature. Do you have a favorite survival story or skill-building technique? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: This was a guest post.

How to Survive a Hurricane: A Complete Hurricane Preparedness Guide

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Hurricanes are violent. They can bring a handful of serious and dangerous hazards- from storm surge, high winds, heavy rains, and even tornadoes. If you and your family aren’t prepared, you’re risking your safety.

As a guide, here are the following steps you can take to ensure your family’s safety.

Before A Hurricane

Learn your hurricane facts

Knowing your hurricane facts is important in understanding hurricane forecasts and knowing exactly what the news reporters are telling you.

You can start with the following important terms:

Eye- This refers to the clear and well-defined center of the storm. It usually has calmer conditions.

Rain bands- These bands create severe weather conditions, like tornadoes, wind, and heavy rain.

Hurricane watch- These watches are typically issued about 48 hours in advance of the expected onset of the tropical storm.

Hurricane warning- These warnings are usually issued 36 hours in advance.

Create a plan

One of the most important things you need to prepare prior to a hurricane is a plan.

To start, you and your family need to know where to go. If you aren’t sure where your local hurricane evacuation areas are, you can contact your local emergency management agency.

If family members get separated during a hurricane, they need to know where to go. You can assign out-of-state relatives or friends to act as your family’s point of contact. Let everyone know that person’s name, address, and contact number.

In case you have pets at home, be sure that each of them has identification tags. Ask your veterinarian about any other emergency preparation instructions.

For kids, you may want to practice evacuation drills with them. This will help them remember what they should do in case of a disaster.

Complete Your Emergency Supplies

Another thing you shouldn’t miss is your inventory of emergency supplies. Your family should have:

  • A manual can opener
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable foods (minimum)
  • A gallon of water per person per day (minimum of 3 days)
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • A sleeping bag per person
  • Personal hygiene products
  • A solar charger for mobile phones
  • A complete change of clothing per family member
  • Cash
  • A full tank of gas in your car

Don’t forget to include some bandages and antiseptic products in your emergency supplies. You may also want to add some pain relievers, eyewash, and ammonia inhalants as these are some of the most frequently overlooked first aid kit items

Secure your home

In case you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, it’s a good idea to secure your home even before the actual season for tropical storms hit.

Begin by checking the gutters if they are free from debris and clogs. They should also be stable and secure. Next, clear nearby trees and remove any dead or dying limbs.

It can also help if you build a safe room inside your home. There should also be a functioning generator. Every three months, make sure to start it. This is one way to guarantee that it’s working properly.

In case you have a shed, lock its doors tightly. With a hurricane, it will be easy for them to be blown off the hinges and become dangerous projectiles. Remember to bring in any outdoor house ornaments, like wind chimes and wreaths.

Keep your potted plants inside your garage and remember to keep your cars inside it, too. Don’t leave any vehicle under trees.

Keep important documents safe

Your passports, insurance information, deeds, and other important documents should be stored in a stormproof container to keep them safe in case flooding happens. For added security, you may want to keep digital copies. Store them on a portable device which you can take with you everywhere.

During a Hurricane

Remain inside your home during a hurricane

If you live in an area where the storm is expected to create the greatest impact, remember to keep everyone inside at all times. Stay away from windows, glass doors, and skylights.

Stay away from your basement. Although it sounds like an ideal place to hide during a storm, it’s not your safest option, particularly if your area is prone to flooding. You can easily get trapped there.

Your power and water mains should be turned off if instructed by your local authorities. This is one way to avoid a power surge after electricity has been restored. While the power is out, avoid using candles for visibility.

In case you’re outdoors when the storm hits, get out of your car right away. Move to higher ground to avoid getting undertaken and trapped by the water. As much as possible, stay away from low spots, canyons, underpasses, and dips as these areas are prone to flooding.

Don’t use a generator

Well, you can actually use one as long as you have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector.

Carbon monoxide is tasteless, colorless, and odorless. It’s easy for people to get poisoned with this gas, particularly if they aren’t aware of the risk.

Know when to evacuate

While it might feel safer to just stay at home, follow your local authorities when they tell you to evacuate for your safety. Below are some of the conditions that may require you to leave your home and stay in an evacuation area:

  • If you are in a high rise building
  • If you are in a mobile home
  • If you live near a river, on the coast or on a floodplain

Even though you don’t find yourself in any of those situations, follow your gut. If you sense that you’re in danger, get out of your house and go somewhere safer.

Shelters, however, aren’t always comfortable. With that in mind, try to stay with relatives or friends if possible.

If not, you can take some snacks and food with you. Most of the time, meals aren’t available in shelters for the first 24 hours.

To ensure your comfort, bring your own blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags. The supplies in shelters aren’t always enough.

If you have a baby, don’t forget to take his supplies, too. If you have special needs, bring a caregiver with you if possible. This is because shelters don’t provide hands-on care but they can do medical monitoring.

Take your identification and other valuable papers, too. If you are currently taking medications, bring them in their original containers.

To pass the hours, you can bring some books, cards or games to the shelter. Remember to take flashlights and battery-operated radios, too.

For pets, only service animals are allowed to stay in public shelters. You may need to make other arrangements for them.

Monitor the weather condition

With a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, keep yourself updated with the latest report on the storm path. Don’t leave your house or evacuation area until you’re sure that it’s safe to do so.

Turn off electricity

For your safety, it’s best if you don’t wait for your home to lose power. Turning off electricity at your main breaker will reduce damage. As much as possible, don’t use any electrical appliances during a hurricane.

Use your phone for emergencies only

Since electricity is cut, you need to conserve your phone’s battery. Make sure to use it only for communication.

Keep your pets safe

You should keep your pets in a designated area in your home. Place enough food and water in that area. If your pet has needs for special care, make sure to provide it. Animals, just like humans, can also feel scared

After A Hurricane

Use caution when entering buildings

Hurricanes can leave a lot of dangers behind. The list includes compromised electrical wiring, structural issues, and even carbon monoxide poisoning. With that, it’s best to avoid buildings with questionable safety.

If you really need to enter one, make sure that its electricity is turned off at the main breaker. Do it without immersing yourself in standing water.

Listen for any unusual noises as they can indicate weakening of the walls or floors. If you notice clear structural damages, get out of the building and stay away from it.

Be careful in inspecting your home

It’s normal to feel concerned about your home. After all, it’s one of your most expensive investments.

If you’ve evacuated your home and you need to inspect it after the hurricane, remember to exercise caution. If possible, try to visit your home during the day. This is to make sure that you’ll have light to check every area and room.

Remember, after a hurricane or any disaster, it may not always be possible to restore electricity right away.

If you happen to find your electricity on during your inspection, be extra careful. Being in standing water and powering up an appliance often ends up badly.

Don’t forget about contaminated water, too. If there’s flooding in your area, expect contaminants in the water. Stay away from floodwaters and remember to clean any open sores or cuts that have been exposed.

Clean up molds properly

With flooding and water, you can expect mold and it’s quite challenging to kill it off. While it’s tempting to just leave it alone, particularly during the first few days after the hurricane, it’s best to tackle the problem on the first day.

You see, mold can bring a lot of health problems to the family, like asthma attacks, skin irritations, and even infections. If you have any of these issues, don’t attempt to fight the mold by yourself. Consider hiring professionals or get someone else to do the job for you.

Check your insurance policy

If you have existing insurance, look at it closely to know who you can contact as well as the extent of your coverage.

As a rule of thumb, the first thing you need to do is document everything. Take pictures of all the things affected by the hurricane.

While you are repairing and cleaning your home, save your receipts as they may be eligible for reimbursement. Take note of all the expenses incurred.

Don’t start any major repairs until your home has been checked and evaluated. Your insurance company will need to conduct an inspection.

Don’t eat anything left in your refrigerator

Don’t eat anything from your refrigerator or drink tap water until you are sure that they are free from contamination. It’s also a good idea to clean your refrigerator first before placing new foods inside.

Check for reptiles and rodents

Be careful in entering every room in your home. Check for snakes and other animals that may have been driven by floodwaters to higher ground. If you happen to find one, don’t deal with it along, particularly if you aren’t trained to do so. Call your local authorities as they are much more skilled in catching wild animals.

Don’t forget to inspect your outdoor property

Just like the interior of your home, your yard may also experience damages. For security, check your fences to see if there are still intact. You may want to check their hinges and locks, too.

Check your roof and see if there are no dangling power lines there. Because of strong winds, it may also be possible for large tree branches to get stuck there.

If you have a pool, avoid swimming in the current water. Because there’s always the risk of contamination, drain the water first and clean the entire pool. You can only take a swim after it has been filled with fresh water.

Final Thoughts

Hurricanes can’t be prevented but there are ways to minimize the damages they can cause to your property. The key is early preparation and being aware of what. Learning the tips on how to be safe during a hurricane should start even before disaster strikes.

As much as possible, plan ahead of time and make sure that everyone in the family is involved. Orient your kids about what they need to, who they should contact, and where they can go in case the family gets separated from each other. Don’t forget about your pets, too.

The most important thing to prioritize is your safety. If your local authorities tell you to evacuate your home, then leave. Even if it feels like the hurricane has passed, don’t go outdoors. Wait for the official clearance before you step outside or return home.

Note: This was a guest post.

How to Stay Safe Hiking in the Desert

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Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point, the Slickrock trails of Moab, Utah and the vast array of amazing hikes that surround the Grand Canyon are just a few examples of outstanding hikes located in the middle of the desert. If you’re not a fan of warmer climes, you might think to shy away from these iconic trails. However, with the right preparation, you can enjoy them just like you would any day hike.

As with any outdoor activity, it’s possible to conquer hiking desert trails if you spend the time to learn the tricks of the trade. Lots of experienced desert outdoorsmen and -women have come before you in this discipline. Here are some of their best teachings when it comes to hitting the trail in desert territory.

Study the Climate

Imagine how difficult it must have been to get outside before the invention of weather satellites! A well-prepared traveler can make themselves more comfortable on a hot day, but to ensure your hike is enjoyable and not miserable, it’s best to check the weather well ahead of time and plan to hike outside the hottest parts of the day. Usually, that’s mid- to late afternoon.

Are you a morning person? That’s perfect for desert hiking. Watching the sun come up from the trail is a magical experience, and you’ll be through with your walk before things get too toasty out. Night owls can make their preference work as an advantage too, although you’ll want to be careful to check whether trails remain open, understand park laws and regulations and bring plenty of lighting equipment if you’re planning to night-hike.

Even though heat is the primary antagonist when it comes to desert trekking, it’s not the only one. Flash floods and monsoons can make your sandy hike into a sloppy nightmare. Understand if your hike crosses land where flood weather can manifest, and whether it’s flood season when you hike. If you get caught in a flooding trail, move to high ground as quickly as you can and wait for help or better conditions.

Have a Trail Map

Getting lost anywhere is frightening and dangerous. In the desert, it can be deadly. Before heading out on your hike, make some time to look at a topographical map of the trail. Print or acquire a trail map beforehand, and regularly track your progress using GPS if possible.

This advice is particularly relevant for longer hikes like the Grand Canyon’s Rim-to-Rim adventure. Even if it’s reasonably straightforward to see which way the trail leads, you need to have an understanding of your progress. If you find yourself moving too slowly and don’t have the supplies or energy required to finish the hike, you should call for help.

Don’t Hike Alone, and Leave Your Itinerary With Emergency Contacts

Like most activities, hiking is better with friends. When you go out alone, your risk of getting lost with no one able to find you increases significantly. Solo hiking trails you know and can complete in a relatively short period are OK, as long as you notify someone you’re going. Unless you’re a highly skilled hiker and camper, do not attempt long distances alone. And regardless of whether you bring company, always tell at least one person outside your party where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Dress in Layers

Layers are always a smart idea for physical activity. For desert hiking, you’re looking for the ability to add some warmth if things cool off quickly, or shed layers to a breathable base if it warms up. Go for moisture-wicking technical fabrics that will dry quickly if you need to douse yourself to bring that core temp down. Want a pro tip? Moisture-wicking underwear from brands like Exoficcio and Patagonia can help make your day more comfortable when it’s warm on the trail.

A backpack is another essential part of your kit that can contribute to overheating. Technical hiking packs will often incorporate breathable fabrics, and you should only choose a pack as large as you need to accommodate the supplies you’ll bring on the trip. Also, many modern hiking packs include water bladders, which are the simplest way to bring along critical hydration during a warm-weather hike. Have some extra water with you to refill your bladder and help cool yourself down if you’re planning a longer hike more on that later.

Wear Sunscreen and a Hat

This tip probably seems obvious, but when you hike in the desert, you’re signing up for a whole lot of sun exposure. Your head, along with any other exposed skin, is likely to absorb some UV rays. So slather on some SPF a good trick is to put your first application on before you leave for the trail. Doing so will allow it time to absorb before you’re in the heat, which will help you stay comfortable.

Keep your SPF with you on the trail. Some hikers like to bring multiple types of sunblock, including zinc, aerosol-based spray and more conventional cream for re-applying to their face and body throughout the day. Don’t forget lip balm with SPF as well. And, of course, a wide-brimmed hat will go a long way to shield your head, face and neck from the sun’s rays. Even a ball cap is a great addition to your kit if you haven’t got something a little more David Attenborough.

Pack Food and Water

Dehydration can be a killer when you’re hoofing it through the desert. You can die of thirst in a matter of days, so do not leave home without plenty of water. A good rule to go by is to bring about two cups of water per hour of estimated hike time. If you’re always thirsty, bring more. If you’re planning to camp out, have a good understanding of where you can find fresh water, and bring a means of filtering it to make it safe to drink.

If you’re bringing pets along, don’t forget plenty of water for them to drink, as well as a vessel for them to drink out of. We’re not always advocates of bringing pets be sure it’s safe for your four-legged friend to come along. Overcommitting your dog to a long hike in the heat can be dangerous, because dogs can’t sweat and don’t know when to stop following their owner if they get dehydrated.

As for food, will you need snacks for a two-hour jaunt, or is this going to be a longer-distance journey? You can probably guess what kinds of snacks work well on a hot trail. The typical selection of fruits, trail mix, energy bars and dried foods comes to mind. Don’t go overboard with caffeinated gels and snacks, because they can lead to dehydration if you use too many. Always pack more snacks than you think you’ll eat. You don’t want to get caught in a pinch if there’s an emergency or you have to stay out longer than planned.

If you’re planning a longer-duration hike, you should think about meals to bring. The time-honored tradition of sandwiches can make for a fun trail lunch and should provide enough protein and carbohydrates to get you through a longer pull. You can meal-prep ahead of time or find some pre-made at a nearby market.

If you’ll be spending the night on the trail, there are many tasty options to cook up. Depending on the size of your pack, you may be able to bring a legitimate camp cooktop and grill up some meats or veggies extra points for s’mores.

Those who are more interested in saving weight should check out a camp stove such as a Jetboil or MSR. You can use these highly packable stoves to boil water, which you can then use to rehydrate freeze-dried meals. The selection of these types of meals is impressive these days, with everything from chicken casserole to beef stroganoff to mac and cheese and even stir-fried vegetables. Not willing to pay the premium for fancy backpacking food? A box of dried pasta and dehydrated vegetables cooks up in a snap, too.

Bring First-Aid Items

A basic kit with bandages, a tourniquet, cold compresses, tweezers and painkillers is probably all you need for shorter hikes. If you’re staying out longer, it’s probably smart to come prepared with additional supplies. Treatment for foot conditions like blisters can come in handy if you’re covering lots of ground, as can aloe vera gel for sunburns. Make sure you have a supply of any medicines you need to take regularly, even if you don’t plan to stay out long. In case of emergency, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Go at a Safe Pace

Even if you feel like you typically keep a fast pace, the effects of the sun and heat can slow anyone down. Moving too quickly can cause dehydration, cramping and other issues. Ultimately, your best bet to complete your hike in a reasonable amount of time and still feel good is to go at the pace your body tells you is OK. If you’re part of a group and need to move slower than your friends, say so. They should understand you don’t want to push yourself too far, and should be willing to adopt a slower pace if you need to.

Treat Wildlife With Respect

There’s a real chance you’ll see some wildlife while you’re on the trail. It might even be part of your motivation to go hiking. However, remember when you spot wildlife on the trail, you’re not looking at a domesticated animal. The best policy is always to remain at a safe distance. Don’t pursue wild animals, which could turn aggressive or could hurt themselves while trying to evade you. Many endangered species are under legal protection, and you’ll be breaking the law if you bother them but more importantly, trying to force a wild animal encounter could have negative consequences for everyone involved.

That rings true of all animals you spot on the trail, but use particular caution when you encounter larger animals and predators such as bears, mountain lions, coyotes or even larger herbivores. It is not safe to approach these animals. Remember, you’re a visitor in their habitat. Be respectful and don’t attempt to bother them. Doing so could result in a tragedy.

Have a Supply Stash in Your Vehicle

Imagine taking a wrong turn on a hike. You recognize you’ve made a mistake, but not before you’ve made your way far off the trail you had planned on taking. You’re going to have to dig into your extra supplies, which means by the time you get back to your car, you won’t have anything left, and you’ll have had to make the extra effort to get back. In this scenario, you can understand why it’s critical to keep extra supplies in your car.

Extra water, snacks and even a change of clothes are all great things to have on hand in your car for when you return from the trail. If all goes as planned, you may never use them, and that’s OK. It will give you peace of mind to know they’re at the ready in case you or a fellow hiker needs the help.

Know How to Get Help

Cell phones have made venturing outdoors much less daunting than it once was, and that’s all for the best. Before you head out, though, make sure you have mobile service while on the trail. Many remote locations still lack cell coverage, which is why it’s smart to have a radio or GPS beacon, some additional means of summoning help if you need it. If you find yourself on the trail with no means to reach anyone, go back. It’s not worth the risk.

Have Fun!

Desert hikes can expose you to vast arrays of plants and wildlife and bring you to new and fascinating places, all while you’re getting fresh air and good exercise. You’ll have the chance to spend some quality time in the great outdoors with your friends and family, in places many people never make an effort to enjoy. So get outside and have a great time just keep the tips we mentioned in mind to ensure things go smoothly and safely. Where’s your favorite desert hike? Let us know in the comments below.

15 Items Every Prepper Should Hoard

I tend to agree with most everything on the list, especially batteries and toilet paper, as one can NEVER have enough of either, lol. I was glad to see he included items like tarps and cordage since these items can be more useful than most folks realize during a SHTF emergency.

I do, however, take issue with two items, in particular, that being candles (because they’re a significant fire danger) and I wouldn’t suggest bleach as the best long-term option for water treatment, though, there are plenty of other potential uses for bleach around the house.

Perhaps the only two items that I was surprised to see included were socks (it’s not something I tend to stockpile) and propane (mostly because propane can be used up fast when there are better options) but, honestly, it doesn’t much matter what finite items you choose to include so long as you (1) have a plan to utilize them and (2) have plenty!

How to Survive in the Woods at Night

Exploring the wilderness is a pastime for people around the globe. A routine day hike, bike ride or climbing excursion is as far as most people ever go. But what if you want to stay out longer?

Enjoying wilderness areas after dark is quite possible, but without the proper knowledge and education, it can be intimidating. You’ll want to practice a few essential skills and have the appropriate equipment. Get caught in the dark without them, and you could be in for an uncomfortable evening.

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Plan Your Outing

Spending a night camping should never be an off-the-cuff decision. Even a seasoned woodsman, able to get organized and execute an overnight trip with a few hours of planning, has a strategy before heading out. Communication is the first component of your plan.

Have at least two friends or relatives record the location to which you’re traveling and let them know how long you expect to spend in the field. Check in with them once you’re back. If they don’t hear from you, make sure they know to follow up and get help from the authorities if you’re unreachable. If you’re going alone, a rescue beacon is an expensive investment, but the best way to ensure people can find you in remote areas.

On a less anxious note, planning is a smart idea so you’ll understand your surroundings. What is the climate like this time of year in your wilderness zone of choice? What is the elevation? Where are the best natural sources of water? If you’re planning to stay out overnight, you’ll probably choose to filter or treat water instead of bringing everything.

Will this be a backpacking trip? A hunting expedition? Are you going to tackle the latest and greatest climbing locale? The answers to all these questions will inform what gear you bring and who’s coming with you, which influences how fast you can move, the size of campsite you need and the type of shelter you’ll employ. Allowing your trip to take shape spontaneously is a good way to forget things, and it’s something you should avoid.

Pack the Right Gear

Specific items probably spring to mind when you consider a trip into the wilderness. When the aim is to stay comfortably overnight, shelter should be the first thing on your mind. Even if you’re trying to save weight, gram-light solutions can provide a much more restful evening then camping out beneath a sheltering rock. Some areas won’t have natural shelter whatsoever. Select a practical tent or bivouac, or if you’re doing the ultralight thing, you can use a shaped waterproof fabric such as silnylon to lash to the surrounding topography.

You’ll likely need a backpack to carry your gear, and you want something comfortable and not over-sized for the expedition. Never go camping without a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and then, of course, you’ll need whatever cooking equipment you plan to bring along with your food supply. For quick trips, you could attempt to make do with only dry food that requires no cooking, but it can be great fun to enjoy a hot meal cooked on a camp stove not to mention hot coffee or a mountain mocha in the morning.

Additional supplies to consider are:

  • A small first-aid kit
  • Lighting such as a flashlight, headlamp or alternative lighting solutions to provide visibility in camp and on the trail
  • A whistle to call for help if needed
  • A knife and eating utensils and a water filter or treatment solution we’re fans of the filter, since you can avoid adding chemicals to your drink that way.
  • A compass or way-finding tool such as a handheld GPS your cell phone may not have service once you’re off the grid.

Finally, dress for the occasion. We recommend technical fabrics that will wick moisture and potentially some insulation if it’s going to get cold. Dress in layers for colder climates so you can easily regulate body temperature. In warmer climes, shorts, a lightweight shirt and sunscreen are essentials, and don’t forget the sunglasses. If you’re prone to insect bites or know you’ll be around lots of creepy crawlers, permethrin-treated clothing offers protection without having to soak yourself in bug spray. You can also treat your clothing at home if you plan far enough for it to dry.

Practice Essential Skills

Have you ever made a fire? It’s one of those things that sounds simple however, a small change in conditions can make it extremely challenging. Practice starting a fire with the gear you’re going to bring. Some outdoorsmen like to use greasy corn chips as tinder because they can double as a ration. Maybe you’re carrying flint and steel, which you’ll want to practice with if you are. Or, perhaps you prefer a good old-fashioned lighter and white gas, which can be helpful as long as you’re mindful of the environment.

Whatever you’ve got, gather firewood early and know how to start your fire. Be sure to put it out safely with water, and avoid making smoke in designated areas.

Know how to set your shelter up. This task is another one you can practice at home ahead of time, and depending on the type of shelter, it can be simple or complex. Know whether your shelter is waterproof on its own or requires a rain fly. Understand the best way to situate your sleeping equipment in it, and how to face it into the wind.

Be familiar with how to set up your camp stove and how to prepare the food you’re planning to make. If you’re cleaning water using a filter, practice using it with tap water, as it may require some assembly or could need a change of element. Know how to recognize a contaminated or cracked filter element, two things that can render your filter ineffective in the field.

Reading a map and making sense of landmarks can be challenging. Those who came before you may have left markings on the trail in the form of blazes. Understanding how to orient yourself and use these simple markers can make the difference between reconnecting with the trail and winding up more lost. Study up beforehand and only go off-trail if you’re very competent at navigation.

Of course, whatever specific reason you’re on the trip will require preparation, too. Let’s assume if you’re going to hunt, climb, fish or birdwatch, you have those skills well-honed. But they’re worth brushing up on and nothing to downplay if you want to enjoy the trip and stay safe.

Prepare to Encounter Wildlife

You’re venturing into the natural habitat of wild animals when you go on an outing. Never forget that. While it’s true many people spend years taking trips to the great outdoors without ever giving a second thought to the animals they encounter, seeing an animal can go from a pleasant surprise to a dynamic situation quickly. Always respect wildlife around you for example, by securing any food you bring to areas designated for bear canisters in a locked container far enough off the ground.

Be aware of the types of wildlife you might see before going on your expedition. Not only will this inform you of any potentially harmful or poisonous critters that inhabit the area, but it will also make the trip more exciting. Have you ever come across an animal, only to say to yourself, “What is that?” Telling the story of the amazing woodland creatures you saw on your trip will be difficult if you haven’t got a reference to call them by.

If there are dangerous animals, understand how they behave toward humans and how to resolve an encounter with one. Rattlesnakes make a noise warning you to get away, and that’s exactly what you should do. A territorial bear might give you a harsh look, but turning and running isn’t a good idea. Puff your chest up and make yourself appear larger than you are. Some animals are more dangerous than others, and if you know that the area you’ll visit includes a risk of encountering large predators, you should consider bringing a firearm.

It’s best to avoid feeding or consciously interacting with wild animals while you’re in the wilderness. You don’t want to draw more attention to yourself while out and about, and you also don’t want to create a dependency for wild animals. If they learn to gather food from humans, animals will continue to do so, which makes it more difficult for them to survive as they should and also creates pests for your fellow outdoorsmen.

What to Do If You Get Stuck in the Woods

Until this point, we’ve focused this guide on situations where you’ve planned your trip and have a working knowledge of the area you’ll visit and what to expect. But what should you do if something goes wrong? What if you’re on an outing and you get lost? What if your planned day hike takes a frightening turn, forcing you to spend a night in the wilderness? Stay calm. You won’t perform well with anxiety. Chances are you can see your way out of the situation if you make it through the night.

Finding water is critical, and this scenario is why it’s a good idea to carry a small kit with basic first-aid materials and purification tablets anytime you go out. Include hand sanitizer, which can keep you from ingesting more than is necessary if you must resort to the best drinking water you can find. Look for clear, fast-moving water, ideally at high altitude. In places where snow is available, it can also constitute a good source of drinking water, but you should put it in a container and allow it to melt.

If you cannot find a good water source, don’t climb attempting to locate one. Instead, move downhill looking for areas of vegetation and dark spots, which might indicate water nourishing healthy plant life. You can also get water from certain types of tree, which have watery sap that will sustain you. Cut a slit in the side of the tree and position a container beneath it to collect the sap.

Edible plants can add to your sustenance if you don’t have any food with you. Many types of berries and nuts, including elderberries and walnuts, grow in the wild and are safe for human consumption, although some require knowledge of how to process them correctly. Avoid hunting game even if you have the means, unless you know it’s legal in the area and you have the required equipment to process your kill and turn it into food.

Find shelter beneath the topography somewhere protected from wind and rain. If you’re in a cold area, it’s possible to stay warm by building a snow cave, but be sure you know what you’re doing to prevent a cave-in that could leave you buried. You might have to sleep on the ground. We recommend doing so with your clothes on to give yourself some skin protection from biting insects and weather.

Being stranded in the wilderness is an ideal time to use your beacon, whistle or signal mirror to reach out for help. If you have no other means, the smoke from a fire can be one way to get attention, but be warned you will likely be guilty of a crime in the aftermath, unless authorities have declared the area safe for burning.

Remember, this situation should never happen. That’s why it’s critical that even when you go hiking for the day, you let a friend know. Ultimately, the wilderness is not something to fear, and we want everyone who ventures forth to enjoy themselves safely. It just takes a little preparation, and you can ensure that will be exactly your experience.

[Note: This was a guest post.]

DIY Solar Tracking System Inspired by NASA

I just love DIY ideas like this, don’t you? After all, I wrote an entire book about DIY survival projects, so it only stands to reason that I would, lol.

In any case, the neat thing about this solar tracker is that it doesn’t need any GPS signal or computers to work but, instead, simply “follows” the movement of the sun using small light sensors throughout the day!

Apparently, he got the original idea from this video which includes more details about the build, if interested…

How to Find and Dig a Shallow Well From Start to Finish

I’ve never tried to dig a well myself nor have I ever tried dowsing rods, but this guy apparently swears by them. The first several minutes of the video is him finding the best place to dig, while the rest is him digging the well and installing the piping and pump. It’s a pretty neat process to watch straight through…

Survival Water From Your Hot Water Heater

Image credit: https://www.askaprepper.com/survival-water-from-your-hot-water-heater/

In the video I posted the other day about 7 steps for emergency water preparation, I don’t recall it saying anything about how to get water out of the water heater. The following post covers that crucial knowledge in detail…

Probably the first thing any of us will notice in a post-disaster scenario is the lack of electrical power. The second thing we will most likely notice is that there isn’t any water. We’ll go to the sink, expecting the water to come out of the faucet, like it always does, and nothing will happen. For many, that will be the moment they wake up and realize that the brown stuff really has hit the rotary air movement device.

Water is one of our top survival priorities, beaten out only by the ability to maintain our core body temperature. Yet it is often overlooked in our day-to-day lives. We are so accustomed to having water at our fingertips, that most people don’t have any idea where to get water, other than bottled water, in the case of an emergency which shuts down the city water.

Yet most of us have a number of water supplies readily available, within walking distance of our homes. We also have clean water in our homes, ready for our use. All we have to do is find a way to access it…

Read the full article here