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.

8 Ways The World Could Suddenly End

YouTube now loves to recommend TED talks to me and this one sure caught my attention since it talks about the END OF THE WORLD!

In any case, the following video was interesting, yet sober, look at eight specific ways the world could come to an end as we know it, including a pandemic, solar flare, we develop a new life form (not something I’d ever thought of), robots take over, volcanic eruptions, earth’s temperature rises, nuclear war, and asteroid strike.

Whether you agree with all the ways the world might come to end or not–along with his solutions–they’ll sure make you want to buy more beans, bullets, and bandages…

Updated EDC for 2019

This is a long video and he tends to take tangents, but I do enjoy seeing all the neat little tools and whatnot that he includes in his EDC carry. Granted, I think it’s a bit too much for my taste, but perhaps you’ll find a few new items you haven’t seen before. Skip to about the 3:00 mark to get past the unnecessary introduction and, if you like, you can find links to the gear he mentions in the video description here

Best SHTF Optic for Modern Rifles

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None of us truly know how a SHTF scenario will play out.  No one really knows what we will need and what will be worthless.  One thing is fairly sure, no matter the scenario, a good rifle will likely be a key component and that rifle will need to be accurate and efficient to conserve ammo.  That means an optic is a good choice but which one?

Optics can be broken down into a few categories based on function and broken out further based on intended use and strengths.  All optics have a place in the modern arsenal but not all will have the traits needed to make it an appropriate choice for SHTF.  That said, this article comes from a one-rifle perspective to determine the single best optic.  If you have multiple rifles with decent ammo stockpiles, you may choose several types of optics to meet different needs.

Optic Selection

So, if we pick a single optic, what traits does it need?  On what criteria do we choose what is the best overall?  There are many considerations but a few are paramount when it comes to a true SHTF scenario.


The first and overarching need that any SHTF gear will need is versatility.  We don’t know the situation and what we will have available to us when things turn south.  We may need to pack up and bug out.  We may not be able to take our stockpiles.  This should be a part of our weeding out process with all gear and optics are no exception.

This single rifle may need to serve as a hunting tool as well as a weapon for personal defense.  Many times, optics can be specifically intended for one of these uses.  Though it may be adapted to other uses, it can be hard to break out of specialization.  This is especially true of scopes made for hunting which can be overspecialized for our SHTF needs.

The primary culprit of overspecialization is magnification.  High magnification scopes are great for long-range shots but have little to no versatility.


All our SHTF gear may have to perform long term without the possibility of replacement.  Repair can be problematic and may require specialized machinery that may not be available to us.  All gear, rifle and optics included, needs to be selected based on how long it can withstand hard use in harsh conditions.  For optics, this can be a challenge.

The key to durability is to pick products made by solid manufacturers with impeccable standards.  They should have a reputation for toughness and durability.  Any company that manufactures military-level equipment is a good bet but not the only bet.  There is the old adage “buy once, cry once” but in SHTF that one chance to get the right product may be all you get.  Make sure you make a good choice.

Considerations for durability are the overall construction and the finer points.  At a minimum you want a metallic body that is sealed against moisture and dust.  The overall form should be one that lends its self to abuse without breaking.  And for your sake, make sure it can handle the stresses of the repeated firing of your chosen caliber.


I am choosing this term to represent use and wear on an optic where durability was prevention of damage.  The longevity is simply how long it can stand up to use and what other needs it has such as batteries that keep it functioning.  It is simply the truth that technology is ingrained in our lives to a level that even our weapons may need to depend on it.  SHTF may last a few weeks or years.  There is a place in our considerations for the higher-tech options.

Battery life is our number one contender for longevity.  We need to make sure we have plenty of spares but technology that uses less power overall and has the greatest battery life are optimal if we have to have batteries.  Don’t rule these options out for this reason alone.  We will get to that later.

Other issues of longevity are the brass gears in most quality optics.  Plastic isn’t going to cut it long term and even brass will wear.  Over time this can damage your optic making options that require little adjustment a better bet.  This is a minor point but one that should be in your mind when you make a purchase.

Optics Types

With our criteria out of the way, optics can be mainly broken down into red-dot style sights and traditional optics.  They can be further broken down from these main categories into more specialized products.  Each subsection has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Red Dot Sights

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Red dot sights is a generic term often used to describe reflex sights, holo-sights, and prism scopes.  Though all function in a similar faction, the way they function and the traits of each can vary significantly.  Though most of these use electronics and require batteries, their effectiveness and versatility warrant consideration.

The reflex sight is the most common model of red dot and the one that most of us think when the term red dot is used.  These come in two varieties but each functions the same.  The difference is in construction and it can be a big difference.  Some use a tube style body much like a shorter, standard scope where others are a simple frame style like those often used on pistols.

The benefits of a reflex sight vary between the two and for our purposes, the frame style design is not suitable due to its fragile nature.  The tube style sights benefit from better durability, a more simplified function, robust electronics, and exceptional battery life.  The latter of these is the primary concern of most people but optics like the Aimpoint have battery life measured in years while others use tritium for lighting that will last for a decade or longer.

The main downfall of these scopes is the lack of magnification in most cases.  Some may have a very small amount but not enough for any longer shots.  You don’t want much magnification or you lose versatility but the option of a 3x or 4x can be very helpful.

Holographic sights like my beloved EOTech are great choices in general but perhaps not optimal for SHTF.  The battery life is lower and the technology more complex.  Though I have had the same EOTech for almost 20 years without a hitch, it has been treated well.  I would worry if it were to be in a situation where it was banged around much or left in the elements for too long.

Holo-sights are very fast and the battery life isn’t terrible unless compared to a reflex sight.  They are a midrange of durability.  One of the better traits is the reticle which can be more complex than a standard reflex sight.  These are strengths but not ones that would elevate these scopes to the status of ‘best’.

Their downfall is their shape which is more prone to breakage.  Couple this with a more complicated set of electronics and you could have some issues.  They also lack magnification which is a minor downfall.

Prism sights are not a common option either but they are available and have many of the strengths of both the above sights but are often far more expensive.  Like a reflex sight, they can have very long battery life or use tritium to remove the need for batteries at all.  They can have more complex reticles than a standard reflex sight.  And they are inherently durable in the better-made models.

Unlike the above sights, they also have the option of magnification.  Essentially, they remove all of the above negatives but have a couple of their own.  The primary negative is the slowness of use of a prism sight.  They have eye-relief like a standard scope though it is often longer by a small margin.  Some even see the magnification as a negative as they are often not adjustable to no magnification which hinders close-quarters effectiveness.

The overarching negative for these sights is the use of batteries.  The need for power is a big consideration.  This means you will need to stockpile replacements and carry them with you.  Many advances in technology have extended battery life but, with a few exceptions, batteries are needed or the scope does not work.

Traditional Scopes

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Though all traditional scopes function by the same principles, they can be broken down by variable power and fixed power models.  Each has their strengths.  But before we do that, there are some considerations that are universal to both types to meet our criteria above.

The first of these is that power should be limited.  Shooting through a 20x scope is a blast but when it comes to versatility a scope that power has almost none.  Anything less than 100 yards, which is likely to be your most common need, will be impossible or very difficult at best.  Those scopes make locating targets and following them as they move at moderate ranges very, very iffy.

The second is durability overall.  A scope that is shockproof, waterproof, and at least fog-resistant is best.  It should be made of a 1-piece tube that is sealed to prevent dust and moisture intrusion.  The reticle needs to be etched on the glass its self.  The internals should use brass or bronze mechanisms for wear resistance.  This usually equates to an expensive scope to get one with all of these features.  And even with that, alignment is vital in these optics so even a small shift can ruin them.

With those two main points covered, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of a fixed power optic.  These have become a rare option but one that can still be found.

The main benefit of a fixed power optic is the simplified function.  The alignment of the lenses is set in a more durable way than a variable power optic.  It’s simply a more durable setup and the lack of a magnification adjustment means that the focus is more simplified and there are fewer parts that can break.

The downside is that with a set magnification, you lose some versatility.  You either pick a low or moderate magnification and that is all you get.  In this case less is likely better.  Something in the 4x or less range allows you to use the scope close in but extends range an acceptable level.  It may not be optimal for some situations but it will give you some benefit for a variety of situations.

For variable power scopes, you have the exact opposite.  They are more complex, more prone to alignment issues, and have more parts to wear out.  Conversely, they are far more versatile.  You can get an optic that has a 1x magnification at the bottom end and goes up to 7x at the top.  This would greatly extend range while preserving the majority of close combat needs.  If you can get past the durability issue, this could be a good option.

The ‘Best’ Option

While I know my region, weapon system, and expectations, I do not know yours.  The information above is presented to show the strengths and weaknesses of various options to help you assess your personal needs and make a decision.  Deciding for you is not something that can be easily done and depends greatly on your skills, location, and a variety of other factors.  But I am not going to cop out on this!

For my purposes, the reflex sight is the best option.  It has the versatility to hunt and defend myself in my location.  Magnification is not that important to me as the woodlands where I live doesn’t permit many shots greater than 100 yards and often far less.  The batteries are lightweight and easy to stockpile and with my chosen optic, they last for years.  For about $50.00, I can purchase enough batteries to last for 20 years.  That is far longer than most ammo stockpiles are likely to last.

But one this is certain, with my option and any other above you want a good set of backup iron sights.  Things go wrong and even the most durable optics break.  Two is one and one is none.  My number two option is always a set of good quality metal iron sights.  For those interested, my number one is the Aimpoint PRO.

Author Bio:

About Eric Patton

Eric has been an avid hunter and outdoorsman since his childhood in Appalachia. Having spent the majority of his time in various outdoor activities in many regions of the U.S. he has gained an appreciation and insight for the challenges of hunting different environments and game animals. He is an avid archer, fisherman, hunter, and gun enthusiast. Currently he devotes most of his time to education for young hunters and teaching outdoor skills for local scout troops and Search and Rescue orginizations. You can find more article from Eric on https://www.outdoorsbest.com/

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Breakthrough Technology: Slice of Wood Makes Saltwater Potable

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I came across this in my news feed yesterday and it caught my attention and, so, I thought I would share an excerpt of the article here with a link to the full article below:

“Filtering the salt from seawater can take a lot of energy or specialised engineering. A thin membrane made of porous wood may be able to fix that.

In membrane distillation, salty water is pumped through a film, usually made of some sort of polymer with very narrow pores that filter out the salt and allow only water molecules through. Jason Ren at Princeton University in New Jersey and his colleagues developed a new kind of membrane made of natural wood instead of plastic…”

Read the full article here

Why 90% of Prepper Bug Out Bags Will Be Useless

Interesting take on why the items you already have in your bug out bag may not be the only ones you want to have ready to go. That is, it’s the many other important items you may not want to leave behind, particularly stuff for your pets, gold and silver or cash, passports, heirlooms, one of a kind photos… and the list goes on, that you may want to include as well.

To me, it sounds like he’s talking less about a bug out on foot and more about a bug out by vehicle where you might have the time-even 15 minutes or less–to gather these types of items. And, while he does discuss ways to make gathering of these special items happen faster, I would encourage you to make a list of additional important items and then rank them in order of importance, like I discuss in my 27-day course, so that you don’t waste time trying to remember what you wanted to take and where it is.

What you’ll do with these items and how you’ll gather them (or if you’ll even bother) is a good topic to consider if you haven’t done so yet, especially if you have a lot of extra stuff that you may want to take with you. But I will warn you: it can become too much very quickly! I’d say that, in a way, “less is more” during a bug out. Here’s his take on the subject…

Everything You Need to Know About Catching and Eating Fish

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If you’ve ever been fishing, you probably know why it’s called “fishing” and not “catching.” The challenge for luring and catching good fish is what makes it a sport, but when your well-being depends on catching fish for food, things become a little more intense.

Fish is a great source of nutritious protein and essential amino acids. If you’re in a wilderness survival situation, it can be an essential part of your diet. But you’ve got to understand how to go about finding, catching, cleaning and preparing fish with minimal tools to be realistic about incorporating wild fish into your meal plan. Let’s unpack the biggest challenges in catching and eating fish in the wilderness.

Where to Find Fish

Before you can enjoy a delicious meal of home-cooked fish, you need to locate some fish to catch. The last thing you want is a wasted day tossing your line out to an area where there aren’t any fish. Where you fish will determine the type of fish you catch as well, so if you’re aiming for a specific species like trout, which prefer fast-moving clear water to the more covered habitat of bass, plan accordingly.

It’s a good idea to read up on the more popular types of fish to catch before heading into the backcountry so that you can consider what you’d like to catch if you’re planning to fish for food. See if you can learn what they like to eat, when they’re most active during the day, what water temperature they prefer and what type of cover they seek out.

When you’re traveling through the wilderness, it’s a fair assumption many of the major lakes, streams and rivers you’ll encounter do hold fish. You just have to find out which parts have the most. To maximize your chances, seek out clear, fast-moving water or cold high-altitude lakes. The lower water temperature helps these locations hold more oxygen, which is attractive to fish. Of course, you might not have the luxury of selecting from multiple locations, and that’s OK.

Basic Fishing Equipment

If you’ve got the opportunity to plan your backcountry fishing expedition, you’re going to want to bring some essentials with you. The first things you’ll need are a fishing rod and reel. A bait rod or spinning rod is the most versatile type of fishing rod, and preferable for most outdoorsmen because of its ease of use. If you’re handy with a fly rod, you can make use of this more advanced technique fishing in those faster-moving backcountry streams we mentioned earlier.

In addition to your rod and reel, you’ll need some basic fishing tackle. Typically, that consists of fishing line rated for the size of fish you plan to catch, weights to help keep your line down, swivels, hooks and lures. Bait is the final, and arguably the most crucial, component. Worms are some of the easiest live bait to transport, while you might need to catch other options such as baitfish in the field. You can also try out soft bait like salmon eggs or Powerbait, which lasts longer than the live worms.

Waterproof wading equipment is a wonderful addition to your kit if you can afford it and know you’ll use it. It will help you access difficult areas where fish like to hide. However, it might be unrealistic to pack this on a backpacking expedition. If you have access to a boat, kayak or canoe, you’ve hit the jackpot. Using a boat will greatly increase your ability to catch fish, but you’ve got to know how to use it right.

Putting a Line in the Water

With all your gear assembled, it’s time to get down to the business of fishing. Select an appropriate location and rig your fishing rod with the bait and tackle you’ve brought.

If you’re in a real survival situation, there are several options to make yourself a simple set of fishing equipment, including hand-lining, fishing with a spear and building a fish trap. Depending on the location, you may also be able to legally fish using a net. However, if you’re unsure of the area’s fishing laws, we recommend making this a last resort. Fines for illegal net fishing can be pricey.

To fish off the banks of a lake or stream, choose the appropriate time of day, and select a spot where you can cast out past visible cover where fish might dwell. It’s best to look for a place where the water is fairly deep right off the bank, which affords fish the colder water they prefer. Using your spinning rod, cast out in front of the target location.

The next stage of the process is what separates master anglers from novice fishermen. There are a variety of techniques to “work” your bait and entice fish to bite. One is to do absolutely nothing, and that often can be the best approach. Fishing requires patience. The type of behavior you want to display with your bait will again depend on what kind of fish you want to catch and the bait itself.

You might find fishing with a worm to be less of a challenge than using a spinning lure. The worm is alive and will wiggle enticingly or, to a fish, lunch when you put it in the water. That means less work for you. It’s also worth noting you will sometimes be able to gather live bait on location. Insects and baitfish that inhabit the area are typically good eating for the predatory fish there, and you won’t have to worry about carrying bait in that way.

A spinning lure designed to resemble a flitting minnow works based on the resistance created when you pull it through the water. As you reel it in, the lure will rotate and catch the light. The idea is that this will get the attention of a hungry fish and entice them to strike. However, critics of lures will note a piece of metal and plastic doesn’t offer the smell live bait or soft bait does. That makes lures more popular for species of fish that are optical hunters. Lures are also effective in fast-running water, which will keep the lure active without you having to continually reel it in and recast.

Fishing From a Boat

Access to a boat can be a tremendous help when looking to find fish because it allows you to reach areas you couldn’t get to from the shore. Not only can you get into open water on a lake, but you can also travel to distant fishing holes much more directly. A secluded corner that’s heavily wooded and inaccessible from shore, for example, makes a perfect hiding spot for fish.

You may have experienced fishing out of a powerboat in the past. Having an engine, fishfinder, trolling equipment and other amenities can be convenient. However, powerboats can be loud and frighten fish away, and you’re unlikely to have easy access to one in the backcountry unless you’re quite well-connected. A more realistic scenario might be to fish using a kayak or canoe.

A kayak makes an excellent fishing vessel because of its small size and stealth. You can maneuver quietly into the backwoods areas fish like to hide in and wait without making a sound. Make sure you have a good understanding of how to pilot the kayak safely before you go out. Reeling a fish in can be quite the workout when you’re not on solid ground, and it would be terrible to get soaked and lose your dinner in the process.

Landing Your Catch

Since this article is about finding fish for food, there’s no catch-and-release happening here. Know how to recognize a bite and set your hook when a fish is interested in your bait. Bites can be faint through the interface of a rod and line, but will feel like a slight tug. When the moment comes, give your rod a firm pull up to set the hook in the fish’s mouth before it swims away with your bait.

Once you get a fish on, check the drag setting on your reel to ensure it can’t strip the line too quickly. Many fish fight, which might encourage you to muscle them in by reeling back as much line as you can, quickly. This approach can backfire by removing the hook and costing you your catch, so use some finesse. Allow the fish to run a little, then collect your line slowly at first. As the fish tires, you can collect more line until you see it by the side of your boat or fishing spot.

A net is convenient for collecting your catch, but not ultimately necessary. You can keep reeling in until the fish comes up out of the water. In most situations, you’ll need to kill the catch immediately if you plan to eat it. You can accomplish this by way of a blow to the head using a heavy object like a rock or club. Now, it’s time to prepare your catch so you can cook it later.

Cleaning Your Catch

You’ll need to clean your catch as soon as possible to be ready to cook and to keep animals away. Use a bucket or clean rock if you have none, and scrape the scales off the fish’s sides. Next, use a sharp fillet knife to make a shallow incision in the fish’s belly from mouth to anus. Avoid going too deep because it can pierce the intestine, which will taint your meat and require significant cleanup.

Use your fingers or a spoon to pull out the fish’s entrails. Everything needs to come out, so be sure you inspect the incision once you think you’re finished. The kidney and organs located particularly close to the sides of the belly can be persistent, but should come out with a little tug. If the fish has an inner membrane, scrape that out.

If you don’t wish to prepare your fish with its head on, remove it by making a cut right behind the gills. However, many people consider the eyes and “cheek” meat to be the tastiest part of the fish. You can also remove any fins with snips if you have them, and then rinse the inside of the fish again before you’re done.


You can saute or grill most fish in foil without a whole lot of work. You’ll want to have a basic selection of spices, but it’s reasonable to think you can make something quite tasty in the backcountry if you catch a good fish.

The process begins with breaking down the carcass, which means fileting or cutting steaks. Fileting is cutting along the fish’s side using the backbone as a guide, while you’ll cut steaks perpendicular to the backbone. Typically, you will only be able to cut larger fish into steaks, so backcountry meals will likely be filets. Once separated from the backbone, lift the rib cage out of the meat to minimize the number of bones in your meal. Bones can hurt you if you don’t realize they’re in place.

You can cook trout, salmon and bass in a saute pan with salt, pepper, butter, lemon and dill to make a tasty and simple backcountry dinner. To make this same dish using a grill, create a foil pack with the filet of fish and fill it with your butter and other seasonings. Place the foil directly on the grill or on a cooking sheet in an oven to bake. Smoking is another excellent way to prepare these fish one we encourage if you have the time and equipment because it adds tremendous flavor.

Bon appetit! You’ve found, caught, prepped and cooked your first meal of fish in the backcountry. We think you’ll agree it’s a whole lot more fun and tasty than edible plants, so keep practicing, and maybe you’ll have a good fish story for the comments section someday.

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.

7 Unusual Survival Items for Your Bug Out Bag

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Do you really have everything you would need in your bug out bag? Enough to last you at least 72 hours, possibly even longer? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing your own research and picking the most appropriate bug out bag backpack, which you can do so by checking out the post here. Choosing the correct bug out bag (along with the correct gear and supplies) will surely increase your chances of survival if and when you must evacuate.

After choosing your bag, it’s time to consider what you need to put inside it. Most folks include common items such as a flashlight, poncho, water filter and so on, as well they should. In this article, however, we’ll explore something different: those unusual items that you could pack in your bug out bag which could potentially save your life! Or, at the very least, make life a bit easier.

Have you ever wondered what additional items you may need to pack inside your bug out bag, especially those unusual items that you may not have thought of? Here are the 7 unusual survival items that you need to pack in your bug out bag…

[Editor’s note: If you’d like my take on the subject, consider these 53 essential bug out bag supplies.]

  1. Alcohol (vodka)

Besides using alcohol for drinking–which I wouldn’t suggest during a bug out–you will find a few additional benefits of storing a spare bottle of alcohol in your bug out bag. For instance, due to the high alcohol content, liquor, such as vodka and rum, are highly flammable which means you can use them for fire starting. Soak a piece of cloth with alcohol and put your tinder on top of the soaked cloth, the alcohol vapor will help you to start a fire easier.

Alcohol can also be used as a disinfectant. Dousing your open wound with alcohol will help clean and disinfect the injured area before protecting it with a bandage. Similarly, if you need to disinfect your survival knives, simply add alcohol into a container and soak the survival tool inside for a few minutes.

[Editor’s note: I’m not sure I would use just ANY alcohol for this purpose. Something which is, say, at least 80 proof and doesn’t contain any dyes or additives would be best. Vodka or gin, for instance, would likely suffice.]

Finally, alcohol can also help to remove any bad odor from your body, clothing or equipment. It would be handy to have a spray bottle in this situation to ensure the deodorizing agent is spread across a larger area. Otherwise, simply put on a rag soaked with alcohol and apply it to your body. In fact, you can also rinse your mouth with alcohol to flush out any bacteria in your mouth.

[Editor’s note: You would’ve had to stumble into something REALLY smelly for this to be the better smelling option, lol. Use as an oral disinfectant could be useful though.]

  1. Pocket Chainsaw

A pocket chainsaw, as the name implies, is a “chainsaw” that fits in your pocket. It is basically made of a chain of blades attached to a pair of handles at both ends. This design is particularly handy due to its compact and lightweight features which allow a person to cut firewood or logs without an axe. For bushcraft, I would recommend getting a folding saw instead which has a better cutting efficiency compared to the pocket chainsaw.

With that said, a pocket chainsaw does make a good lightweight alternative cutting tool. Simply wrap your chainsaw around a tree branch and start cutting by pulling it upwards left and right alternately. A few features that you will want to look for when purchasing a pocket chainsaw is the length of the chain. A 36-inch chain would have faster cutting time with blades sawing 3 sides of a limb at once compared to a shorter chain like the 24-inch. Make sure the saw is made to cut in bi-directional with teeth that are made of high carbon steel. Before cutting, ensure the piece of log is well-supported to prevent injuries when using the pocket chainsaw.

  1. Pstyle or SheWee

If you are female or have female family members who are bugging out with you, consider getting a Pstyle or SheWee as a personal hygiene product which aids women with urinating while standing up. With this device you would not have to worry about poison ivy, trouble squatting due to weak knees, or even any creepy-crawlies waiting below you on the forest floor.

I would recommend getting one of these devices as it allows you to urinate while standing and without removing any of your clothing. They are reusable, washable and highly functional.

  1. Tecnu with Wash Cloth or Loofah Sponge

If you expect to bug out into the woods, it is not uncommon to stumble upon poison ivy at some point, a plant which produces an oil called urushiol and leaves a rash if the oil had remained on your skin for a lengthy period of time.

Including some dish soap or, better yet, a bottle of Tecnu would be useful to remove the oils from your skin, clothing and gear. Liberally apply the dish soap or Tecnu with a wash cloth and scrub the contacted skin area thoroughly. Rinse and repeat to prevent any severe rash from occurring.

If you ever had a bad case of poison ivy rash then you know just how important quick removal of the oils can be! The key is to scrub thoroughly as soon as possible to remove any oils which leads to the allergic reaction.

  1. Shoe Goo and Duct Tape

Another important aspect in a survival situation is to take great care of your feet and, by extension, your shoes.

Imagine that as you are evacuating one of the soles of your shoe began to come loose! Of course, you shouldn’t be walking around in the woods with one shoe falling apart. Therefore, keeping a tube of shoe goo in your bug out bag may be the solution. The adhesive will not only affix your soles to the upper part of the shoe again, but it also offers a protective or waterproof coating for your footwear.

Alternatively, you can opt to use duct tape to secure the soles of your shoes. These strong, cloth-backed and waterproof adhesive tapes have numerous uses and you might be surprised at just how many. For example, duct tape can be used for making a rope by twisting the duct tape into a cord, repair your tent, as a makeshift bandage, remove warts, sealing food packages, remove splinters, repair leaking items and the list goes on and on. Pack duct tape in your bug out bag and you will be glad you did.

[Editor’s note: I would suggest that duct tape is a far more expedient repair for shoes than shoe goo which, in my experience, takes several hours to a day or longer to fully cure.]

  1. Safety pins

Safety pins can also come in handy due to several potential uses. You can store your safety pins on your key chain or hook it on your bug out bag so you know where to look for them when you need them. It would be even more useful if you have some thread and needle with you that can act as a sewing kit but, for our purposes, safety pins are the faster repair.

Safety pins can be used to pin gear to your bag out bag, repair tears in clothing, create a fish hook or just simply used to hang lightweight items on a line to dry overnight. You could also use safety pins to remove splinters under the skin and create an arm sling from a T-shirt, if you have no other choice.

Because safety pins are cheap and readily available make sure you include several safety pins of varying sizes into your bag today.

  1. Sarong (or Shemagh)

The final unusual item on our list is the sarong. Sarong is a large fabric that is usually used to wrap around the waist worn in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands. Essentially, a sarong is a big piece of fabric that you can use as a towel, blanket, shelter, hammock, bandage and makeshift carry bag. Sarongs are also a great way to carry small children when used like a maya or moby wrap. Make sure your sarong is made of sturdy material like rayon fabric so that it would not easily tear in an emergency.

[Editor’s note: you might actually be better off with a Shemagh for such purposes, though, I don’t personally have one and it seems they’re all made of cotton these days.]

I hope you found the list interesting and useful as I did. There were a few additional items that I had left out which I felt were interesting but might not be as unusual, such as tablet towels (very compact towels for camping, hiking, etc.) and waterproof socks.

So, what did you think? Are these bug out bag items THAT unusual? What items would you have included that weren’t?

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.