For the last few weeks, I’ve been exploring a list of skills that I plan on learning or mastering in 2013. This process is part of the 13-in-13 Challenge run by the 13Skills.com website. The seven skills I’ve described so far revolve around Home Preparedness skills – blade sharpening, first aid, composting and the like. Today, I move out of the house and into the great outdoors to concentrate on the next two skills I want to improve on – Camping and Fire Making!
My Outdoors Background
In my younger days, I was involved in Boy Scouts. A big part of the Scouts was learning outdoor skills by real world experience. My troop made a point of doing at least one weekend camping trip every month, regardless of weather or temperature. During this time, I learned a lot about camping, fire making, cooking and general outdoor survival skills.
As happens with a lot of guys, the lure of sports and girls pulled me away from Boy Scouts before I achieved the rank of Eagle. I don’t have any regrets about that – I had a very limited time to play sports at a competitive level and I could enjoy the outdoors for the rest of my life. What I do regret, however, is that I let my outdoors skills lapse over that time. I haven’t camped in probably fifteen years and the only fires I’ve built are in my backyard fire pit – usually with the very heavy assistance of a lighter and a Duraflame® log.
As has become pretty obvious on this blog, I’m a family man now. I have two little girls, a wife and two dogs. The ability to ‘disappear’ for a weekend for an intense backpack trip somewhere in the remote wilderness on a whim just doesn’t exist. Camping trips need to be much more structured and planned out. That being said, camping trips don’t necessarily need to be the large-scale adventures that you might imagine. They could be as simple as a night sleeping under the stars with your kids in the backyard. Likewise, fire making skills don’t need to be learned in the great outdoors. I can use that firepit I have in the backyard to learn the skills I would need with I’m off on a hiking or camping adventure.
A slow build of my ability level will be how I approach these two skills. Camping in particular is going to be a family activity. The girls have already shown interest in ‘camping’ with daddy. We’ll probably start with pitching a tent in the living room and spending a night indoors. We’ll move outside in the backyard during the summer when it’s nice and then, eventually, an overnight off the beaten path somewhere. Whether the girls join me or not is still up in the air. They are still pretty little for that kind of thing, but we’ll gauge it as we go. Fire making skills will be used at all of these milestones to build my skill set.
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about how measurable, well defined goals will help me gauge my progress, but I think it’s important to use them. Without a solid definition of completion, how can you say you’ve achieved your intended goal? Here are my goals for these two skill sets:
- Purchase a tent capable of housing the family by April 1, 2013
- Have a living room ‘camping adventure’ by May 1, 2013
- Have a backyard ‘camping adventure’ by July 15, 2013
- Camp overnight in the woods by August 31, 2013
- Purchase a flint and steel set by March 1, 2013
- Purchase a magnesium bar by March 1, 2013
- Purchase an ‘emergency fire’ kit by March 1, 2013
- Research homemade quick fire starting methods by April 1, 2013
- Start an individual fire using each method learned by June 15, 2013
- Build a fire starting kit for my BOB and GHB by July 1, 2013
Both of these skills are not a ‘set it and forget it’ skill. They build on the amount of times you use them and, as you progress, you learn little intricacies on the way. The idea of both these skills is not to become a master at them – I don’t believe you can ever know everything there is to know about either – but to increase my skill set so much that I am much more proficient than the average outdoorsman.
Come back tomorrow when we wrap up the Outdoor Skill sets with two things I’m not very experienced in – Land Navigation and Tracking. I’m very excited about learning these skills and plan on using them thoroughly through the next year.
One quick request if you’ve gotten this far: I love to know what you think. Please leave a comment on what you’ve liked about this series so far and even what you haven’t liked. If there are particular parts of the skills I’ve identified that you want more information on, please let me know and I’ll be sure to write a post – or series of posts – on it!