6 Old School Skills to Master

Want to be like that old school, died in the wool outdoorsy veteran who’s been camping since the olden days? Master these skills, and you’ll impress your friends…and have a fallback when the batteries in your latest gadget die.

Master the Topo Map

In the age of GPS, understanding a topographic map is going the way of the slide rule. But maps have a kind of magic that a screen doesn’t. Learn what the shape of contour lines on a topo map mean, how to stay found, triangulate with compass bearings, and adjust for declination.

Dead Recon

The advanced version of topo map expertise, dead reckoning is how you find your way through a landscape without landmarks: forest, desert or the sea. Using a map, compass and watch, follow a bearing and see if you show up where you think you will.

Learn Your Clouds

Altocirrus, mare’s tails, stratocumulus, cumulonimbus, and lenticular are more than nifty names. They’re indispensable clues to what the weather will be later that day, and in the next few days to come. And weather moves faster at high altitudes, so if you’re in the mountains pay close attention to what those shapes are telling you.

Rig a Tarp

Whether you know how to rig a tarp can be the difference between lugging a heavy pack with a beefy tent or traveling fast and light. It’s also the difference between getting rained on while cooking dinner or not. A few stakes, some cord, and some handy knot knowledge are all that the skilled tarpologist needs.

Start a Wet Fire

When the wood’s wet, chances are that you’re wet too. When you really need a fire, you probably need to know how to start one with wet wood (and without cheating by using white gas). Learn how to use lots of kindling, quick aids like candles or Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, and know-how to get a fire going. Then use hot rocks to keep it that way.

Feed Yourself

Learn to hunt and gather: Catch fish, learn what plants, berries and mushrooms are edible, and how you can supplement your diet in the outdoors. There’s no better form of self-sufficiency than getting a personal harvest from the woods.

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