Your Most Important or Favorite Wilderness Skill

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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As a leader of Boy Scouts I'm going to doing something different this year. On each of our trips we're going to devote some campfire time to learning an important outdoor skill.

So I'm curious, what is the skill you possess that you feel is most important to your backcountry experience?

Explain what it is and how you would teach it to others. Do you have a link where it is explained or demonstrated? Share that too.

Thanks
 

LarryBoy

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Improvisation.

Something always always goes wrong during a trip. Maybe not wrong, but certainly not according to plan. At that point, the external circumstances matter a lot less than how you deal with them. Examples -
  • Getting off course on your route. Use an arroyo as a navigational "handrail" to find your way back to the trail
  • Underestimating nightime temps on a backpacking trip. Wrap yourself in your tarp inside your sleeping bag, put your raincoat on, and sleep with your feet inside your pack to add another few degrees to your sleeping bag.
  • Carrrying less gear. Use the trash compactor bag that you use to line your pack as a groundcloth, and bring a half-sized piece of tyvek as the other half
  • Mental flexibility. If your trip is cut short or doesn't go well, focus on the good times that did happen, and lessons learned for next time.
 

Ben

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walking, for both.

sorry, not the answer you're looking for, but i fully believe it.
 

steve

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Also check out treadlightly.com. tread lightly does a lot of work with the bsa.
 

Parma

@parma26
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I would say sense of location.
For this I study the topo maps of the area I'm going over and over and over again.
My favorite mapping site is http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php
I bring a map, GPS, and I have my iPhone with the maps downloaded on it too. The phone is used primarily as my camera in the backcountry though.

I also second @steve and having the right attitude. For boys this can be tough.
 

steve

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an orienteering course would be really good for them to learn how to use a map and compass (though it seems like nobody uses a compass anymore. ) :)
 

steve

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Another good scout night activity would be making little kits for each boy with the 10 essentials in it (including first aid). Once I made my little 10 essentials bag, the time to pack for a trip went from 2 hours to 10 min. For someone like me who often forgets essential things (headlamps, lighter, neosporin, etc), it gave me great peace of mind to just grab my little essentials bag (basically "the dinky stuff" Mike Clelland shows on his video). I always have my esseential stuff ready to go at the drop of a hat. To totally pack I just need to throw in a bag, pad, tent, and a few clothes. Bam. 10 min.

You could also have another one on cold weather camping, and what gear (and why) keeps you warm.

And you could have another one on pitching a tarp a few different ways.

I think wilderness survival would be far more fun on a campout than what they end up doing at scout camp (which usually involves sleeping in their buddy's lean-to that was left standing from the day before).

Another fun one would be teaching them to make dehydrated meals, then taking them somewhere to eat.

And snow caves, while often impractical, are always fun for scouts to mess around with.

Did you know that you can sleep at one of the picnic areas up north fork of AF Canyon in the snow? You have to get a pass from the ranger in PG, but you can have a nice overnighter there with the car nearby and a fire in the fire pit.
 

Hurakan

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I think learning to have the right mindset while outdoors is pretty important. Teaching them bush craft is awesome, but they need to be self aware of there surroundings, pay attention to not getting hurt, and above all never lose hope if they get lost. Do they know basic first aid? CPR is critical if you get struck by lightning as its pretty common to have the heart stop.

Thats asking a lot from scouts so you have your work cut out for ya. I tend to find another lake when they show up so I can get some sleep lol. All kidding aside, have them read some books like Endurance, its an amazing story of when Edward Shackleton got his ship stuck in Antarctica. Jack London is always a good one, or any book you find that can get them to see the outdoors in a different light.
 

steve

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i firmly believe that scouts rise to the quality of their leaders and experiences they're given. If their leader takes them backpacking a lot and they see his passion, love, and respect for the outdoors, they learn from him. The more you take them backpacking the more they'll love it. The first two trips will be rough, but they'll learn fast.

If a scout leader's idea of a "campout" is visiting his cabin in St. George, and watching movies, then they're never going to learn to love backpacking and solitude. I love scouting when done properly, but it's sadly been getting more and more watered down. I blame lawyers, lawsuits, and lazy scout leaders for that, but that's another topic for another thread. The good news is that you have the power to give them a proper scouting experience.

My local troop gets out a lot, but they don't do the backpacking thing; it's all car camping. That's fine, but very few of the boys have ever been backpacking. Scouting isn't all about backpacking, but I think it's one of the great things we can share with them and expose them to.

My brother's troop, on the other hand, has been backpacking since day one and it seems like he has backpacked more places in Utah than I have. He got a great scouting experience, and went on to get his Eagle without any help or pressure from his parents. I'm proud of him.
 

Mike K

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I think the planning aspect is extremely important. It would include knowing the area/ studying the maps (like @Parma said), packing the right stuff, knowing the possible conditions, knowing the abilities of people in you group, etc.

I think to teach this skill you'd have to: include the boys in the planning process as much as possible, provide a good gear list, show them your current location and destination on the map during breaks along the trail, etc.
 

andyjaggy

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The most important thing I think you can learn from scouts is a love for nature. As far as actual outdoor skills, I would say finding water, shelter, and navigation, in that order.
 

gnwatts

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Respect.
Of the environment, and of others you encounter.
Kind of re-states what others have said I guess....
 

Scott Chandler

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As someone who is paid to contact people outdoors I have a few perspectives:

As a wilderness ranger the "skill" I wish more people had is what we call a "wilderness ethic." This includes what many on here have said: LNT, respect, value of time outside, responsible recreation so the future can enjoy it as much as them.

I consider my personal "most important" skill to be able to orienteer and travel well. Getting lost is not only something I don't want to do but is something that leads to many other issues (like people building cairns...)

My favorite skills as a wilderness recreationist are flyfishing and photography :). Both are darn fun skills and honestly those other skills I mentioned can be worked into these two pretty well.

A "skill" I do not encourage: developing such a need for a campfire that they can't camp without one. It's good to know how to make one but too many recreationists seem to think "fun outdoors=campfire" when its only really slightly less fun without. Again, this ties in perfectly with wilderness ethic.

Another skill I discourage... cairn building. No. Just no.
 

John Goering

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A "skill" I do not encourage: developing such a need for a campfire that they can't camp without one. It's good to know how to make one but too many recreationists seem to think "fun outdoors=campfire" when its only really slightly less fun without. Again, this ties in perfectly with wilderness ethic.

Another skill I discourage... cairn building. No. Just no.

2x The need to build a fire just smacks inadequate planning, or perhaps buying into the ultra light thing a little too far-but maybe that is one and the same. Certainly unnecessary and one of the most destructive thing you can do unless you are also maybe packing a chainsaw. Can't say I even miss a campfire in the backcountry.

I don't build cairns either but have been thankful the FS did provide a few in some wet meadows I've been in. Then there is that poop disposal thread. Can't think of too many things more gross than T paper festooned excrement piles and used tampons behind every tree and shrub at some trail heads.
 

LarryBoy

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I would say sense of location.
For this I study the topo maps of the area I'm going over and over and over again.
My favorite mapping site is http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php
I bring a map, GPS, and I have my iPhone with the maps downloaded on it too. The phone is used primarily as my camera in the backcountry though.

I also second @steve and having the right attitude. For boys this can be tough.
Ever given Caltopo a whirl? I absolutely love it and will rarely if ever buy commercially made maps again. There's just so customization possible with these maps. My favorite trick is to set a slope gradient layer to about 40% opacity and overlay it on a USGS quad layer. Makes it much easier to read at first glance. Grab somebody's gpx track online and add that to the topo, and you have a perfectly scaled topo with a trail marked, printable in whatever size you prefer. Technology's great, huh?
 
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