It doesn't take much to get me to agree to go camping on a weekend, and as we've said many times on our blog, regular camping trips are a great way to build your basic survival skills. But once you're confident about spending a night or two in the wild, there's a neat way to level up your camping game. Go camp somewhere for a week. Spending a large amount of time in the wild changes the situation completely. Despite how well you thought you had it planned, there will always be items you've forgotten or didn't realize the importance of bringing, and things you plain just get wrong. Don't beat yourself up too badly, this is also a great reason to organize these trips, so you can learn and adapt before a real crisis hits. After spending a wonderful ten days off-the-grid in the wild, here's my lessons learned.
A gallon of water per day is not enough Many survival sites use the "gallon of water a day" rule to help you estimate what you need to store against a crisis, but this is definitely not enough. It'd be better to have at least 2-3 gallons per person per day, or ensure you've got a reliable source to refill what you're using. We went through far more water than we had planned, especially if you're wanting luxury items like a shower. Our camp shower uses about 2 gallons to get you through a proper shower (even when you're trying to be quick), which is simply not possible if you're on ration-levels of water.
Be ready to deal with the worst of nature On our second day, a storm kicked up that was so windy it actually snapped one of the fiberglass rods in our tent, in addition to tearing the fabric on the side. Not fun. Both of these needed to be fixed on the fly, which we improvised with a tent peg and a hefty amount of duct tape. We then went on to jerry-rig a windbreak with our car, and a surprisingly amount of ropes and heavy duty tarps to keep us sheltered and protected against any further damage. Luckily the worst was over in the first night, but without the extra gear we would have been unprotected against the storm, and needing to cut the trip short.
You quickly learn what's really important Well, in addition to spending quality time with your family, you'll discover what's really critical to your survival and your comfort levels. Water, food, shelter and heat are all pretty high up the list, as well as being able to get a decent night's sleep, especially by the third or fourth night. Bringing along luxury items like portable speakers, a French Press for coffee and 37 different facial scrubs and hair products is unnecessary. Instead, focus on core items like having a couple of ways to filter water, a backup fire-starting method for when your trusty lighter finally runs out of gas, and a waterproof roof over your head so you're not getting dripped on when the rain starts bucketing down.
Take responsibility for your camp, equipment and supplies When you're out in the wild you need to take responsibility for your own actions. At all times. It doesn't matter if you're cold, wet, tired and hungry, pay attention to what you're doing, and do it right the first time. If you don't scout out the right campsite, you may find yourself under a foot of water when the rain brings the river up a foot or two. The widow-maker you set-up camp under will make for a bad time when the wind picks up and branches start coming down. Even small mistakes, like not tying your canoe up right will cause problems once it drifts away, so pay attention, be a responsible camper and do things right the first time.
Appreciate how time slows down You won't notice this one on an overnight trip, but when you're on day four, with your smartphone battery long dead and you're not wearing your watch, time really does slow down. Quick trips are more about cramming as many activities in as possible, but you gain perspective the longer you spend in the wild. Life slows down and becomes calm. Perhaps you start putting a little more care into cooking your dinner, or you're spending higher quality time with your kids because no one is rushing and running off to swim class or trying to watch the latest sitcom. My favorite lesson from the trip was realizing just how precious time is, and there is definitely an alternative out there to the rat-race we live in today. Long term camping is a must for anyone looking to hone their survival skills, and see if they've got what it takes to make it in the wild. You've not got running water, plumbing or electricity, and the grocery store isn't right around the corner for you to grab an ice cream. Your supplies consist of what you packed in your car, period. It forces you to adapt and become a better survivalist as the days progress. Personally, I believe the people who make camping a regular hobby are going to fare far better should a SHTF event occur, because of the skills and techniques they've learnt along the way. Campers know how to find and purify water, setup camp in a good location, are able to stay warm and dry in bad conditions. Campers already have the experience and the right gear, plus they've got a good general knowledge of the woods and forests in their local area. So why not push yourself a little? Perhaps it's time to take your family on an extended camping trip and see just how well you would fare. Who knows, you may just surprise yourself with the results.