Camping is more than just equipment – Here is a list of skills you need to have

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Have you decided to take the Survival Mom Family Camping Challenge?  If so, you might find this list interesting and helpful. How many of these skills do you already have? Which do other family members have and which will you need to learn?

Keep in mind that these skills aren’t just limited to camping. They are basic survival skills as well, which might come in handy someday if you or your children are lost or need to evacuate to a rural area.

  • Cook over an open fire
  • Know multiple ways to start a fire
  • Know how to safely put out a fire
  • Store food safely outdoors
  • Cook on a camp stove
  • Learn how to tie a reef knot, bowline, sheet bend, clove-hitch knot and when to use them
  • Correctly sharpen a knife
  • Safely use both a knife and a hatchet
  • Identify edible wild plants and use them in recipes
  • Take a wilderness survival course and assemble a basic wilderness survival kit
  • Learn to hunt both small and large game
  • Choose the best spot for a campsite
  • Pitch a tent correctly
  • Learn how to navigate using a compass
  • Know how to stay cool and warm when there’s no power available
  • Recognize tracks of various animals in your area
  • Know how to find water in the wilderness
  • Know how to filter and purify water
  • Know how to navigate using the sun and stars
  • Know how to survive outdoors in the winter
  • How to not get lost and what to do if it happens anyway

What other camping skills would you add to this list?


29 thoughts on “Camping is more than just equipment – Here is a list of skills you need to have”

  1. millenniumfly

    I’ve vowed to use my sun oven whenever we go camping. Figure it’s a skill worth learning too.

  2. My husband and I were born into camping families, so were our sons. I got a kick out of your list…. good on you encouraging others to get out AND live to tell. You are on your way to a fantastic time of building skills and memories.

    Let me just get past this…. be careful about encouraging wild forging. There are areas of the wild that have been stripped of some plants. Respect the wild, learn to i.d and even taste wild harvest foods but PLEASE bring hotdogs (or whatever food says camping to you….how did the cowboys live on beans without cans?) to fill up on. OK, done with that, the rest is kudos!

    This one is weird but I would add, know how to deal with human waste. There is an ideal depth of just a few inches in the woods, deeper in other places that promote break down of solids. Get over the squeamishness of putting TP (not to be confused with tipi or teepee) into a plastic bag to bring back and burn in fire. It might gross you out for a moment but finding all of this in the wild (really, TP takes a LONG time to break down) is gross for the rest of us. Whole books with titles that make me giggle have been written about this subject.
    [] cook over perfect embers with a small fire close by to keep the embers going. This is the difference between good food and black yet still raw food (even marshmallows can burn on the outside and still be solid inside from the wrong stage of fire when you cook)
    BTW where there are boys and matches, fires will start. The trick is staying calm while they get things going.
    [] Sometimes learning to start a camp stove is more difficult than cooking on one.
    [] In 50 years of camping and hiking the only knots I’ve needed to know are slip knots for staking tents and the twisty, woven knot that connects fishing lures to fishing line. A girl SHOULD know all those knots, I’m just saying.
    [] Know the 10 essentials and practice using them (can you make shelter from a tarp? it isn’t as easy as it sounds, we try to make it a fun practice when there is no emergency so the boys could be confident about this skill if they ever needed it…same with navigation. I would add a topo map to your compass, sun, stars list, make it fun, set up treasure hunts, teach your kids to work together AND get them to compete)
    [] Recognize hypothermia and know what to do about it, on the opposite side recognize heat sickness and heat stroke and know what to do about it. There are other wilderness medical skills you should learn but you are more likely to need these skills that any others.
    Learn birdsong and birds, enjoy the journey.

    Debs…..who can make a starch meal out of cat-tail roots

    1. Napoleon set up a research project into food preservation that eventually led to tinned food (the tin opener wasn’t invented until quite a while later). Tinned food was already in use in the Arctic explorations of the early 19th century.

  3. Camping gear helped me get comfortably through my first east coast crisis – a series of ice storms and blackouts twenty years ago. After that experience I accelerated gear acquisition with an eye toward dual-use for preparedness.

    We’re still camping – have a week-long trip in the mountains coming up in August. It is the best practice for bugging out by car and sheltering in at home. And it is a great vacation for us and the pups.

  4. I have to agree with Saboty, no such list is complete without ensuring you know at least a bit of first aid. How many people can even remember to tie a sling for example?

  5. Kids are too busy at sports camp to learn these things. These are basic things that Boy Scouts learn. Of course being a boy scout isn’t cool.

    1. But when dad and son find an old BS handbook at a 2nd hand store and go out every 3rd weekend or so to practice the knowledge found in those amazing books (Ray Jardine is excellent for modern back-woods survivalists), THEN no one will care about sports-camp or boy scouts (or girl scouts). Own your life instead of giving it to the professionals (I know you do not do that, but it is easy to slip into). Besides, sports camp is one week out of the year isn’t it? (It has been 19 years since my oldest graduated, so things may have changed)

    2. I’ve been a scout parent volunteer for many years. The scout core values are not “cool” to many people. But the concept of wilderness survival is, and that’s where parents can hook a kid in the scouting program.
      In Troop 18, we can promise a boy that within one year of joining, he will have had the chance to build and sleep in an igloo, learn map and compass land navigation, build a fire under any circumstances with a flint and steel kit; sharpen knives, cook in a Dutch oven or on a campfire; and make a useable shelter using a tarp.
      Kids are looking for challenges, and a good scout program can provide that!

    3. Craig L Johnson

      You’re right Larry…Boy Scouts are not cool. Im an Eagle and my son flatout refused to get past his second class and has shown no interest towards rejoining the troop even though he went to Philmont last summer. Athletics is important but Scouting teaches a wide array of skills that is priceless. Too bad its not cool anymore. God Bless the kids and parents involved with it who dont care if they are cool or not!

  6. I’d say knowing what to do when faced with an animal encounter or possible attack would be important, as would building different shelters based on the environment you are in, etc. Also, to strengthen your navigation skills, try the international Fun family activities… 🙂

  7. In terms of camping/survival clothes, wick-away socks are worth their weight in gold. I always kept them on while sleeping and if I needed to dash to the biffy, I came back with dry feet, no matter if there was morning dew or a slashing rainstorm. I have been camping for sixty years, lived off the grid for several and loved it, but hard to run a homestead from the wheelchair a drunken driver put me in so I moved to town. (praise God for the miracle at spinal care) I found (the hard way of course) that one has to be very creative. For example, we lost most of our food supply when we were washed halfway down a mountain, and my children were pre-teens and always hungry. Cooking reminded me of a book I had many years ago called “You have nothing in the house but…” and incorporated native flora with what I had to work with,

    I would also add that I assume you had basic first aid covered, but I added several things to my basic kit I never go without: oil of cloves and q-tips for toothache, and oil of peppermint -you use one or two drops in a cup of hot water which clears up indigestion from cooking experiments, I still go camping, and my bag is also my bob, partly to turn over the supplies, partly to experiment with new products on the market, and partly because I am paranoid (am I paranoid enough? I keep asking myself,,,)

    I also keep all essential oils in my bugout bag, they are small bottles but truly essential. I would add to your list of skills at least a basic knowledge of herbology and bug out bags should have heritage seeds of the most needed herbs for healing and cooking as well as vegetable seeds. You never know if that is all you are ever going to get to keep from civilization. But that is for another column. Keep up the good work, Survival Mom, you are doing a fantastic job

  8. if you have a boat big enough to live on, start doing it. i learned to be a live aboard on a sailboat. i loved it. the one i lived on had a large solar panel on the starboard side to recharge batteries powering the boat. conserve water stores etc. it had no refrigeration so cooler was used. winter time-no ice needed. cold water makes things cold too, just have to change it to keep it fresh and cold for food storage. some parts of a sail boat stay cool all the time (bow storage). heating and cooking with propane or an outdoor grill on a boat for cooking also. keep boat stocked with fishing gear,crab pots etc.

  9. Craig L Johnson

    I agree with others basic first aid is important. However if you are in a protected area such as a state park, wildlife refuge, etc please check your laws as to whether you can gather or not. It will save you embrassment, a fine/ticket, and leave something around for future generations. National Forests usually not a big deal but parks/refuges…better safe than sorry.

  10. Learn foraging where you live not in some wilderness. You’d be amazed at how much can be foraged in civilization. Though being able to identify edibles and medicinals where you will bug out to is wise.

  11. Nancy in Alberta

    This list scared me! Makes me realize how much I sit around visiting when we camp. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I could be seizing the day! Some of us are camping this week, and I think I’ll plan some fun skills sessions. Knots, fires, maybe a shelter, and some first aid. We have a fire ban on, so no open fire cooking. I need someone to teach me all the hard core practical stuff, like Leon was talking about. I was a Girl Guide (Canadian equivalent of Girl Scout) and got my Canada cord…definitely nerdy, but it instilled in me love of the outdoors (even winter camping), and a certain amount of confidence that it CAN be done.

  12. Do you know that i have been thinking i have some survival tips in camps and outdoors, not until i read through these long list of interesting ideas on how to make life quite easier.
    I know just one means to make fire quickly but i can learn more means.

    Again, finding my way with a compass is what i can do perfectly well.

    These skills have helped me beyond measures in every swift lifestyle.

    Thanks a bunch for this valuable information.

  13. Field dressing and preparing the animals you’ll eat. If you don’t do it right the meat may not be edible and could make you sick. Also learning what animals/reptiles you can and cannot eat.

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