3 classic ‘musts’ for outdoor survival

3 classic 'musts' for outdoor survival

For a true outdoors experience, there are no limits to the benefits of a trusty compass, backpack and walking stick.

The compass on your wrist

A compass is the standard tool for guiding your way in the wild, but you don’t always have one at hand. And that can be a problem when you want to find your way out of the wilderness before a bear or bobcat finds you. Luckily, your wristwatch and the sun can come to your rescue, so use them to get your bearings. Here’s how:

  1. Point your watch so that the hour hand faces the direction of the sun.
  2. Find the midpoint of the smallest section on the watch face between the hour hand and 12 o’clock — and you’ve found due south. An example: If it’s four o’clock, due south is midway between the four and the 12, at the two; if it’s 10 o’clock, due south is midway between the 10 and the 12, at the 11.
  3. When daylight savings time is in effect, add an hour. So, if it’s four o’clock, point the five at the sun, and you’ll see that the midpoint between the two and the three points due south.

Mr. Nelson’s backpack

In the spring of 1920, Lloyd Nelson, inventor of the modern backpack, set off to explore the Alaska wilderness for oil. After an Indian lent him a sealskin pouch stretched across willow sticks strapped to the back, Nelson decided his fortune might lie instead in designing a pack that could be carried over the shoulders for support and comfort. Soon he was sitting in his basement sewing together canvas packs and mounting them on wooden boards. Before too long, forest rangers and Boy Scouts were toting what was then known as Trapper Nelson’s Indian Pack Boards. In the 1960s, backpacks began showing up in college bookstores, where they were an instant and enduring hit with students setting off to explore the world.

The merits of a walking stick

The humble piece of gear known as the walking stick is easy to come by and needn’t cost you a penny. It can also make you feel like the lord of the manor or one of those stalwarts who hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.

How to obtain one? Just find a suitable piece of wood that’s not too heavy, easy to hold on to, and, so that it won’t be unwieldy, no taller than you are — a broomstick, a fallen branch, a dowel, or a piece of thick moulding. If you want to get fancy, carve convenient hand grips in the stick and sand the wood down and varnish it. Or visit your local vintage shop and walk away in style. Among the stick’s many merits are these:

  • A stick helps you keep your balance when you’re out walking, especially when you cross streams and rocky terrain.
  • It reduces stress on your knees, legs, hips, and back as you climb uphill.
  • It’s a handy poking stick for checking crevices, ledges, tall grass and underbrush for snakes and other creepy-crawly creatures.

The stick needn’t sit idle when you aren’t walking. You can use it to lean against when you want to stop and enjoy the scenery; as a pole to hold up a tent or tarp; and as a prop to keep a heavy backpack from falling over when you set it down.

There’s nothing like the great outdoors and these three must-haves will have you really prepared for your next hike or camping trip.


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