We all could benefit from a strong dose of reality. As we travel down this path of preparedness its easy to get wrapped up in ideas and philosophies. You start to tell yourself how a disaster will play out instead of realizing that we have very little control, in terms of outcome.
To truly understand how you will react to times of scarcity and struggle you must place yourself in that situation. Now, you could buy a plane ticket bound for Damascus and experience life in the Syrian civil war or you could head down south to Venezuela and get a taste of a true economic collapse. Both experiences could cost you your life, however.
There is one place that is free to enter and can offer you as much risk, scarcity and struggle as you care to allow. That is the wilderness. Thanks to Theodore Roosevelt and his incredible conservation legacy we are the owners of 230 million acres of public land.
Next to the bill of rights, this is probably the greatest gift a governed people could ever receive. It’s a powerful offering that we must protect. Roosevelt said it best himself:
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
While the woods offer up great beauty, they also offer up great danger, and, in a way, you are looking for that, too. Wilderness exploration offers you a whole host of opportunities for prepping training that will benefit you in the long run.
Finding Toughness and Willpower in the Wilderness
Above all, wilderness exploration puts your body and mind to the test. Climate controlled living spaces make people weak to the trials of the natural world. The moment you lose the ability to heat or cool the air around you with a switch, you can start understanding the basics of survival.
Skills like shooting, stockpiling and gardening can be practiced in a controlled environment. Though gardening happens outside, you are just a few steps away from the warmth or cool of the home. There are a couple of attributes that we all need to work on. Those are toughness and willpower in the face of adversity.
The best place to go find adversity is in the wilderness. When you are responsible for your shelter, food, water and warmth you realize that life is no picnic. You will have to struggle with a pack on and you will have to shiver while you start your fire. You will come to appreciate what a warm cup of tea can do for you. The wilderness makes us all better survivors.
Wilderness Resources for Preppers
Along with building character, you are also going to meet a number of valuable resources that exist out in the wild. You will be able to practice skills in a situation where you have no other options but success. The stakes are raised when you get out in the wilderness for a few days.
You can spend hours walking by trees looking for wild edibles. Most people don’t look at trees as resources, beyond firewood. Trees are the best resource in the woods. They are always around, and Dave Canterbury calls them a 4 seasons resource for good reason. When all the wild plants have succumbed to frost you will still have bark and inner bark.
White Willow gives us salicylic acid which can treat pain and fever
Honey Locust give us Spearpoints and fish hooks
Oak gives us acorns and firewood
Black Walnut gives us dye and foot treatment healing.
Pine gives us a powerful Vitamin C boost from needle tea
That is just a little slice off the top of what trees can provide you with.
Fire at home, in the backyard or in the fireplace is a very different creature compared to fire in the wilderness. The pressure is what makes it tough. You can run into all sorts of issues when you are starting a fire in the wild. Tinder might be wet, you might be cold, or it can be raining! What happens now?
These are the questions that you will be forced to answer in wilderness exploration.
Take your best and most effective methods for making fire. Bring tinder from home but also try and make your own bird nest or find and use other natural tinder. Your parachute will be that dryer lint or other tinder you bring from home.
Whether you are in the cold melting snow or by a creek filtering water, finding your own water and treating it is a great way to put yourself to the test in the wilderness. I always enter the woods hydrated and with a little water to start. That is my parachute. One of the first things I do is seek out a water source.
You need a gallon a day of fresh sanitized water. A quality filter is going to make that water much more palatable.
What most modern people struggle with when they are in the woods is the time. When you are on top of a mountain you are confronted with all sorts of things. It is a time for deep self-reflection. You are also faced with free time. People don’t understand what to do with time anymore. I have decided that whittling is a great little activity to both enjoy the wilderness and maximize your time in the wild. You can make some cool little forest gnomes with little skill or just practice basic skills. Manipulating wood, or any raw resource for that matter, is a skill you are going to want to practice.
Shelter in the wild can be made or found. We put a lot of emphasis on made shelter and for good reason. Your eyes should always be open for shelters that exist. Of course, the big issue with found shelter is that it could be someone or something else’s. Bears and caves come to mind.
Wilderness exploration will give you the ability to find pre-existing shelters or recognize easy shelters that already exist or might give you a better starting line.
If you are unpracticed building shelter can take a long time. Even something as easy as a lean-to could take a few hours if you spend too much time looking for raw materials or insulation and roofing materials. To make a shelter that is not a toy for pictures and is an actual structure to keep you dry and warm will take time. Factor that into your plans.
If you are out and looking to depend on natural shelter you should also bring a simple shelter option in case, you run out of time or daylight or if the weather turns on you.
One of the biggest benefits to wilderness exploration is the ability to practice map reading, compass use and navigation. You can build shelters and start fires in your backyard, but you can’t orient yourself or use true navigation methods, with risk, unless you are in a place where you need a map.
If you can find yourself on a map, consistently, then you will be able to find your way out of any situation. If you can find North, East or West using the natural world, then you can also put the odds in your favor.
Navigation is tough and its something you need to practice. You need to get out in the woods and get a map and a compass in your hands.
Wilderness exploration is real. While the prepping community is made up of diverse populations, there are some armchair quarterbacks out there. There are some people who read a lot and watch a lot of videos but have very little hands-on experience. To those people, I am sure you know who you are, be very careful when taking on a wilderness adventure.
The only thing I have done consistently in these situations is fixing problems. There are always circumstances, even if you are skilled and practiced. The best and safest method for taking these wilderness adventures is to stay close to your car. It might seem silly, but you can hike a mile in and feel good about yourself.
Just be sure you have a parachute to pull. If you get too cold you need to get warm again. If the fire doesn’t work out or the shelter doesn’t work out then you need options. Be sure you have the ability to pull the parachute on these early trips. Don’t underestimate the danger that exists. The elements, the cold, the wind and the rain can snuff you out quicker than any wild animal interaction. It’s an unassuming killer from a distance.
We all want to get better. Prepping is a many-tiered process that can often be frustrating. It’s easy to stagnate and it’s easy to get hung up on little things. I have been here in the past. The very best way to get out of these ruts is to test yourself. Test your skills and your plans. Wilderness exploration will always teach you something and give you a new project. Whether that is the realization that your fire craft skills are not up to par or that your ability to process firewood is not working, you will find an area to improve.
While the wild will not offer you food storage or ammunition it will introduce you to the secrets of the natural world. It will open your eyes to the trees and how they can heal us, the waters and how they can sustain us. Most importantly, you will come to understand just how fragile we are in the face of real danger.
James Walton is the host of the I AM Liberty Show (www.iamlibertyshow.com) a podcast about 21st-century freedom. He is a freelance writer in the prepping and survival niche and likes to keep a healthy balance between prepping and enjoying life.