The first in a series of Pro Tips gleaned by me from my lifetime of Bushcraft and Survival training, Wilderness Expeditions, Teaching and Instructing. I work with some amazing people with some amazing experience behind them and I make a point of making sure that I learn from them so that I can benefit from their experience too. I want to pass this on to you too so that you can get access to this hard to come by information that can only be learned from the best.
Before making camp, stop, sit, listen, look, breathe and take ten minutes to tune into the place and take in the details. You will be amazed at the extra things that you will become aware of, the ants nest by the sleeping spot, the firewood availability, the proximity to other wanted or unwanted things that are important may not be obvious at first glance.
I was on an expedition in the Arctic at the end of summer and we were finding it difficult to find a good campsite that head everything we needed. It was cold and it was raining. We all just wanted to get the camp set up, warm up, dry out and have dinner. We settled on an area by a river but it looked like firewood was going to be scarce.
Everything was wet, we couldn’t see anything suitable to get the fire going. To dial up the urgency of the situation, it was getting dark so we knew that we had to get a move on and get enough dry wood to last us the night.
We frantically scoured and search the area, nothing. We ended up several hundred meters from the campsite, chopping, sawing, lifting and carrying only to find that what we had collected was damp and no good.
Tired from the days exertion and the past 45 minutes of frantic effort, we decided to take a break. We rested at our chosen camp site, I let my mind wander as i looked around and took in the view. A massive river was by my side, several hundred meters across and the far bank gave way to a series of mountains with snow on the summits.
I watched as some bird flew around nearby, a Robin was switching between branches around us and angrily chirping away trying to scare us off. I like it when they do this, I find it endearing. As my mind drifted back to our predicament, I noticed a very old fallen pine tree a few meters away. The stump of this was bone dry and saturated with pine resin. The stump was splintered into perfect sized kindling, i did not even need a saw to collect it. next to that was a fallen branch that once cut up, would be good for a few hours of firewood.
My team mate had a similar experience of his own and found several standing dead pine right there next to our camp, once cut, these would fulfill our firewood needs for the night.
The moral of the story, if i need to point it out, is that everything that we needed was right there in front of us but we were so rushed that we failed to notice this. By sitting for ten minutes, slowing down and finding the rhythm of nature again, we were able to see things that we had not seen before and everything suddenly got a lot easier.