Top 5 Essential Skills for the Everyday Man to Enjoy the Outdoors More
You don’t need to be the ultimate nature-man to enjoy the outdoors, but you will enjoy it much more with Mark Smith’s 5 essential skills for the everyday man.
There is so much to see and do when experiencing the great outdoors. Everyone should be able to have an enjoyable and enriching experience outdoors. However, if you are ill-prepared or lacking certain skills a fun and exciting time can turn into a miserable, or in some cases even a life threatening endeavor.
Here are a few skills necessary to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest. This list is just the basics; we are talking about what is needed to have a good time and hopefully avoid a bad time. Never underestimate the outdoors; things can go south in a hurry even to the most experience and accomplished outdoorsman. Take my word I have been there.
What this article is NOT is a survival guide for a worst case scenario (I will cover that topic in an upcoming article). Today we are discussing what skills that the “everyday man” needs to enjoy an outing.
#1: You Need to Be In Pretty Good Shape
There is no need to discuss any others skills or attributes if you aren’t at a level of conditioning to enjoy the outdoors. I am not talking about mountaineering or rock climbing “El Capitan;” just a nice little day hike with the wife and kids or some buddies.
The sad truth is that the average American Joe would be greatly challenged hiking a moderate mountain trail. Another advantage of being more physically competent is you won’t be crippled sore the day after, which is crucial if you are on a multiple day trip. Let’s say it’s a three day weekend and you and some buds decide to grab a campsite and do a few different hikes and explore the area, sounds freakin’ awesome to me. So you get out there the first day trekking about, scamper on some rocks, cross a few logs, make camp etc. The next day you are so sore you can barely move.
Now everything you do the next day is going to be a struggle. There have been many times I have been on trips with other guys that this exact situation happened. It just isn’t that fun for them. The third reason why you need to increase your physical capacity (if it’s not there already) before enjoying the great outdoors is, being able to DO MORE; if you can do more then you have more options and less limitation and that is a certain recipe for a great time. Giving people the ability to do more is the whole reason I became a Movement Coach in the first place. I want everyone to have such freedom to live a fuller life. So if you are planning on hitting the great outdoors make sure you have a reasonable level of physical competency first.
#2: You Need to Know How to Build a Fire
The ability to create fire is one of the top “life skills” in my opinion. Guys, learn how to make a fire. Seriously, learn how to find the right tinder, the right fuel source. Know how to light a fire when it is wet, when it is windy, when you don’t have ideal fuel sources available, and for all that is good in this world learn how to start a fire without a match or lighter (I carry a sparker with me everywhere, it’s in my 72-hour bag* that goes where I go).
Fire is very important to man. I will save my super amazing but rather lengthy discussion on fire’s significance in our evolution for later. This article is about enjoying the outdoors; honestly what is more iconic of the great outdoors than sitting around a fire relaxing, shooting the shit with some mates or just gazing into the embers lost in thought? Learn to make a fire and exponentially increase the enjoyment of any outdoor experience. I even made a video to show you how: Click Here
Don’t be the guy sitting in the dark or the cold because you couldn’t make a fire. Now if you want to take it to the next step learn how to cook over an open fire!
#3: You Need to Know How to Swim
The Earth is 71% water. If you spend enough time outdoors you will eventually encounter a body of water. Chances are that at some point you will get wet. Fishing from a boat, crossing a river, walking along side a lake, or enjoying a day at the beach involves a chance of either falling in or deliberately going into the water.
It doesn’t matter what the scenario is knowing how to swim is super vital for the outdoors. Again, just like making a fire I rate swimming at the top of my list of “life skills.” Whether it be for recreation and leisure or a life saving situation you NEED to know how to swim.
A vast majority of my outdoor adventures have taken place on some body of water, mostly rivers. On more than one occasion knowing how to swim saved my life. One final note, NEVER underestimate the power and force of water, ALWAYS respect it, even the strongest swimmer can drowned. That said, water can be super fun and make for a very good time in the outdoors.
#4: You Need to Know How to Use a Map & Compass
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Where do I even begin? The number of people that cannot read a map is frightening and it is growing rapidly. The number of people who can read and use a compass is now equal to the number of unicorns I have milked and made cheese from said milk in the last year. Ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly but not much.
The issue is that we have become so heavily dependent on technology (mainly our phones) that we have forgotten the basics. I have seen folks that can’t read the maps on their phone because they can’t read a map. It doesn’t matter if it is on a piece of paper in your hand or an image on a screen; if you can’t read a map you can’t read a map.
The same goes with a compass, the iPhone has one on it but if you don’t know what to do with it what it the point? My issue isn’t with technology; I think it is terrific thatwe have these conveniences. GPS is an amazing thing especially if you are in the deep wilderness. We need to get back to being able to do basic navigation. I think I would be happy if people got comfortable just reading a trail map at a state park and managing to not get turned around or lost.
Listen, I am not saying you won’t ever get lost. I am a whiz with a map and compass (I also have a decent sense of direction) and I have gotten lost before, a few times. Sometimes this has made for a wild unplanned adventure and other times it was arduous experience. Yet, even though I got lost, my ability to read a map and compass helped get me un-lost.
Again, I want you all to have the best time possible when getting outdoors and getting lost is not usually a good time. Learn to read a map, learn directions and how to find out which way North is, which way West is, etc. Learn to understand the topography on a map as terrain features are great land markers, and learn to read and use a compass. Knowing basic navigation is critical for enjoying the outdoors.
#5 You Need to Have Awareness
I am going to end this piece as it began with more of a mindset rather than a tangible skill. I thought long and hard about this attribute, above all else it might be the most important. Awareness is an umbrella term that I use to cover everything from identifying inherent dangers, knowing poisonous plants or venomous snakes, risk versus reward assessment, knowing when to rest, being mindful of your footing, and basically any sensory information pertaining to your surroundings and situation. Essentially using common sense and judgment to avoid putting yourself in a precarious situation while enjoying the outdoors. Being aware is the ultimate skill to maximizing your outdoor experience.
There you have it! My top five skills needed for the “everyday man” to enjoy a fulfilling outdoor experience. By having these skills you can minimize your chances of bad things happening while outdoors and maximize the good times. I want everyone to enjoy nature and the wilderness more. Get outside, play, explore, have an adventure! *Here is a really good video on what is in a 72-hour bag: Click Here