Skills to learn at home for your next outdoor adventure

 

Kathmandu ambassadors Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and founders of adventure travel blog NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off-the-beaten-path destinations.

 

While we might not be able to go out on adventures right now, we can still prepare for a return to the outdoors.

Rather than sit back and binge-watch Netflix, use this time to brush up on these handy skills for the next time you’re on the trail or chilling around the campsite.


Wilderness skills

Being confident and prepared when going on backcountry adventures can make all the difference between having a fantastic time or having an experience you’d rather forget.

First aid

You can’t go out and do a basic first aid course right now, but there are plenty of blogs and YouTube videos that can teach you the basics. Check out how to:

  • Treat a snakebite
  • Properly bandage a wound
  • Create a stint for broken bones
  • Treat conditions such as hypothermia and heatstroke

Don’t forget to invest in a first aid kit. You’ll never know when you’ll need it.

We were once in a head-on bus crash in Myanmar. With no paramedics around, we had to bandage the driver’s wounds until he could get to a hospital.

Cooking

You’ve probably had to compromise on cooking supplies to reduce weight while camping or hiking – plus tiredness and limited ingredients can be a recipe for the same old camping food. Pasta and salami every night might fill your belly but it definitely won’t inspire your taste buds!

Learn a few different one-pot recipes that are not only quick and simple to cook, but are tasty, nutritious, varied and only require a few ingredients.

 

We personally never go camping without hot sauce and a few herbs and spices – they’ll bring any meal to life.

Repairs

There’s nothing worse than getting to camp and discovering you have a rip in your mosquito net, a snapped tent pole or a broken jacket zipper. Luckily these problems are easy to fix.

If you have any damaged gear around your house, repair it with a simple kit that you can take with you in the outdoors. Some super useful items to add to your kit include:

  • Duct tape
  • Needles and thread
  • Waterproof patches
  • Cable ties
  • Nylon cord
  • Safety pins
  • Tent pole sleeves
  • A knife

Navigating

Don’t always rely on Google Maps to get you around when out in nature. Learn how to navigate the good old-fashioned way – with a compass and a map.

Using a topographic map and compass isn’t complicated, but it does take a little practice. Once you have it figured out, you’ll minimise your risk of getting lost in the backcountry.

We once mapped out a brand new three day trek in Kyrgyzstan using just these items – and a can of paint to mark the trail for people to follow in our footsteps!

For a fun challenge, learn how to find the cardinal directions using only the stars.

Knots

Working with rope and knowing knots isn’t just for sailors and riggers. It’s a handy skill to have for a whole range of everyday activities.

Buy yourself a rope and knot book and spend a few hours learning some useful knots like the:

  • Figure 8 – the most popular knot, used extensively by climbers
  • Bowline – makes a loop at the end of a line
  • Slip knot – great for animal snares
  • Clove hitch – for quickly securing your rope to a pole
  • Square knot – ties two ends of a rope together
  • Trucker’s hitch – lets you easily secure a load under heavy tension
  • Sheet bend – joins two ropes of different diameters together
  • Man’s harness – puts a loop in the middle of a rope, which is perfect when you need a few people to drag something

We were hiking in El Salvador when a lady collapsed due to exhaustion. We gathered some branches and made a stretcher with rope to carry her out. The knots we used allowed us to trust that it wouldn’t fall apart while she was on it.

Campfires

Building a campfire isn’t rocket science, but it can be easy to stuff up. You need the right mix of fuel, oxygen and heat to get things going, and a solid structure that will continue to burn.

If you have a backyard and can find firewood and kindling, get outside and practice making small campfires using a range of different techniques and fuel.

If you don’t have an outdoor space, watch a few videos on how to correctly build a campfire so you’re prepared for your next adventure.

We were dog-sledding in Canada’s Yukon and stopped to have lunch. We built a fire in the snow to warm up our sandwiches and boil water for coffee, which was a real joy in -30°C!

Don’t head into the backcountry without this fantastic survival kit.

Personal skills

Once you’ve mastered the skills to survive out in the wilderness, here are a few personal skills you can work on.

Music

If you’ve always wanted to pick up a musical instrument, you’ll literally find thousands of free video lessons on the internet to help you learn pretty much anything.

A lot of instruments can be cheap to purchase and are perfect for sitting around a campfire. Order a ukulele or harmonica, get some practise in, and bring it with you on your next overnight trek.

 

Photography

Whether you love landscape photography, want to get into photojournalism, or just want your Instagram feed looking lit on your next trip, pick up a camera today and learn all about how to take better photos.

The technical side of photography shouldn’t take too long to get your head around. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focus are all pretty easy to understand with a bit of reading.

Once you learn the basics, start to read up about:

  • Composition
  • Framing
  • Lighting
  • Editing

Then it’s a simple case of practising.

Try a few photography experiments. Take photos of your pet or a random item in your house using different apertures to learn about depth of field.

Take pictures of moving objects, like water running over a tupperware container, using several shutter speeds to find out how different exposure lengths change your image. You never know where it'll take you.

In 2014, we'd never used cameras before. These days we work as professional travel photographers – and have discovered a new passion.

 

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