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Tips From The Trail

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Many of us have devoted a good portion of our lives to becoming better prepared for anything Mother Earth and the cosmos have in store. Without fully realizing it until recently, I have been using something as simple as a daily walk with my dog as a valuable opportunity to keep my survival skills sharp. That might seem like a stretch, but let me explain things further.

I recently moved to a neighborhood in South Austin that was previously unfamiliar to me. There are a series of moderate hiking trails nearby, so my Chocolate Lab Atticus and I have been exploring them since we made the move. I’ve tried to become more accustomed to my new surroundings, and in doing so I’ve increased my navigational skills and self-awareness.

After only two weeks, Atticus and I have covered just about every inch of those trails, and I’ve found myself looking for other ways to become a more rounded survivalist and naturalist.

For example, on several occasions I’ve taken a compass with me to stay oriented with my direction and location. I’ve even challenged myself to determine specific directions without the compass, and then used it to check my accuracy. It’s helping me learn how best to use the compass, and how to get by without one in a pinch.

You could take this idea much further; I’ve even considered bringing a survival knife with me and trying to fashion things like a fishing pole or wild game snare from the trees and plant life I find as I stroll through the trails.

Disorientation, even in a familiar area, can happen to the best of navigators. In instances when a walk or hike begins in daylight but extends into dusk or the dark of night, it can be easy for anyone to get lost. The best way to combat this notion is to stay alert and keep your head up as you walk or hike, making sure you’re making mental notes of landmarks, trail or street intersections, and cardinal directions.

Mental notes are also useful for merely thinking through potential situations and trying to problem solve with a prepper’s mindset. Ask yourself what you would do if you were stranded on your hike. Where would be a good place to build a shelter? Could you start a fire with the materials you see around you? Are any of the plants on your hike edible?

This last question is an important one: If you were completely out of food and had to harvest your own from the wild, do you know the difference between what will give you nutrients and what will make you sick? Could you identify the plant life around you, and could any of it serve some sort of survival purpose? Knowing as much as you can about the native plants and animals in your area will help you in a lot of ways.


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Also, keep an eye out for any sources of water while walking or hiking, as this will almost certainly be one of the main concerns should home water supplies be interrupted or compromised.

While I’ve got the luxury of uninhabited space with genuine hiking trails, this kind of skill-sharpening doesn’t have to be limited to the wilderness. Even if you live in an urban area, taking a daily walk through your neighborhood can help you in a lot of ways.

You could discover alternate evacuation routes from your home, learn the locations of things like hospitals and police departments, and even find things like payphones or local businesses that could be of help if a disaster were to hit your locale.

If you’re like me and have a canine companion with you on your walks, there’s something to be said about a dog’s keen sense of direction. Not a year goes by without hearing a touching news story of a dog that travels hundreds or even thousands of miles to find its way back home after getting lost.

You may not have the sense of smell or hearing that your dog has, but taking some cues from him might help you orient yourself in your surroundings. Atticus is only a year old, but he’s already got a strong natural instinct for getting around. When push comes to shove, I’d trust him over plenty of humans if I needed to get home after losing my way.

What other ways can you use a part of your daily routine to help sharpen your survival skills? If you’ve got ideas, drop them in the comment box below.

Above all else, make sure you’re maintaining a prepper mindset throughout your everyday life, and you’ll be helping increase your survival skills if you ever encounter a need to use them.

Here are some other survival skills articles that you need to know:

5 Survival Skills You Can Practice While Camping

Survival Skills and Hobbies That Can Save Your Life

Long Lost Native American Survival Skills




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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Doug

    December 3, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    Good article. You can use your watch instead of carrying a compass on sunny days, analog is best. Using standard time point the hour hand at the sun and 1/2 way between there and 12 is south. Try it , you’ll like it. And most people are more likrly to carry a watch than a compass.
    If you use a digetal watch you can draw a pix of an analog watch face either on paper or in the sand to begin with and with practice some can do well enough drawing a mental image. Not quite as accurate for me put it works.

  2. Eric

    December 4, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Cool trick Doug, I never thought of that. Thanks for reading!

  3. Donna

    December 7, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    I found tree fungus usually grows on the south side of trees if the tree is out in the open with no hills or other trees shading it. 6 years ago a friend who said he knew his way around a particular wilderness forest took me on his hike with no trails, straight in the woods on a cloudy day. He got lost and tried to lead me in the wrong direction to go back. He was stubborn. I pointed it out to him he was going the wrong way back and it was getting dark, so I left him using the tree fungus for direction. When I found a familiar landmark tree stand, I looked back and he was following me. I was afraid I would have to call rescue to find him.I found our way back. He finally admitted to me last time he was there, he was lost for 4 days without food.

    • Peter

      December 11, 2012 at 3:48 AM

      Men can be stubborn when it comes to listening to women. I think that it’s called EGO. That’s why we’re never supposed to ask for directions. Lol.

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  10. Thomas

    June 14, 2019 at 6:44 PM

    All my hiking trails are paved or graded but still have to carry a gun for wild hogs several people have been snagged by a tooth when a hog ran by them and hit them a glancing blow.The hogs are afraid of people but will attack the unsuspecting. The hog population would probably feed us through a depression. We “ my neighbors “ kill hundreds every year and haven’t put a dent in the population.

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