In a world where we are surrounded by technology and information on our screens it's actually becoming more difficult/uncommon to acquire practical skills in the outdoors.

What would be a good starting point for an adult to start learning skills required to enjoy and understand nature and also increasing skills in safely camping in nature?

For example, being able to identify edible food, reading maps and using a compass correctly, discover wildlife without causing them distress, and identifying safe places to camp in the wild.

I don't aspire to be a hunter, but more of an explorer.

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    If you could give us more information, especially the general area where you live and how old you are, we could be more helpful. For example, if you are in college, your school might have an outing club. And if we knew about where you lived, there might be easy hiking trails that we know of that you could start on.
    – ab2
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 15:09
  • I live in lawton oklahoma. I'm 20 years old. Im not really a hunter or anything. More of an explorer you know.
    – DeusIIXII
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 15:19
  • I put your comment into your question. Have you explored the outdoors around where you live? Do you feel comfortable setting off on a day hike in your area? Sorry to ask so many questions, but I'm not sure if you are asking about a career in the outdoors or how to work up to, say, hiking the John Muir Trail, or how to develop skills in outdoor survival.
    – ab2
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 16:17
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    Sorry guys im new to this. I think a better question would be, where can i go to learn more about the outdoorsman lifestyle and activities?
    – DeusIIXII
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 17:30
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    Welcome to TGO! We're a place for you to learn, but as others have said, we need a more specific question. You could pick one type of activity you like and ask how to learn to do that. Please check out our help center. How to Ask is a good place to start. This explains why questions get closed for being unclear. That might happen, but we can still help you fix it. Don't apologize for having trouble with your first question, it happens to lots of us! Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 18:30

4 Answers 4


Start with making a better list of skills to learn. Identifying edible foods is nowhere near skill #1. I occasionally pick berries, and even more rarely catch and eat a fish, but you can have decades of wilderness fun without ever eating wild food.

So, step 1, read some trip reports, books about long trips that relate to your planned excursions. For example if you want to canoe camp, read about a long and epic canoe trip somewhere near your target area (the Amazon is very different from Northern Ontario.) If you want to hike, read about a through-hike. If you want to climb mountains, read about mountain climbing (but don't read about Everest if you want to do something around Tuscany.) From these you will develop your actual skill list.

Step 2, do some of this in a supported way. Ideally, get someone to take you on a short trip where you can practice things and get help if you're not doing them correctly. If that's not possible, practice when you're not on a trip: put the tent up inside, cook on your camp stove on your apartment balcony, try packing into your backpack and walking around the block with it for an hour. Here if you can't do something properly there's no harm done, you just return to your safe warm house and your fridge full of food. Make a packing list, and then for a few days try using only things that are on the packing list. When you reach for something you hadn't listed, you can add it to the list.

Step 3, do some of it for real, but still somewhat supported. For example, when you canoe in Algonquin Park, the portages are all marked with large signs. You can generally find them by just observing where the 5 or 6 other canoes on the lake are headed. This means your map skills don't have to be amazingly great yet, you just basically need to know north from south. Also the campsites are marked (and on maps you can buy) and fire rings are already built. This means "Choosing a safe place to camp" reduces to "evaluate if you would like this camp site or want to keep going to another one." This should be a trip with at least one other person, even if they too are a complete beginner. Solo camping requires you to carry much more weight and requires more skill.

Through it all, keep reading - "how to camp" books if you like, or just inspirational stories. Do small practice trips. Three days without shaving or brushing your teeth won't kill you, and next time your packing list will be a little more complete. You will learn how to get your tent up quickly, and what time you have to start making dinner so you're not eating in the dark. You'll spend the night somewhere buggy or noisy or otherwise non ideal, and next time you'll choose a better campsite. You'll see some wildlife but do something that spooks it, and next time you'll do better. As you get more skilled, you can take longer trips. And at some point you'll realize you're getting good at this.

  • Amazing steps. Thank you friend ill start now. I want to get more into hiking found an easy trail near me.. You guys here are a big help.
    – DeusIIXII
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:56

While there are many helpful books on a variety of outdoor subjects, the best way to learn outdoor skills is to do. Just like working in a shop, you don't get all the tools then start doing work. First you find a task that you want or need to do and acquire the tools to complete that task.

I would recommend starting small. Go for a short hike.

That will require you to:

  1. Find a trail head
  2. Estimate time on trail
  3. Plan for weather
  4. Plan for food/water requirements

After hiking review how you did and adjust the next time. In general I think you learn, what types of hikes you like, how to dress and trail snacks that work for you.

When you find success with your baby steps pick a larger goal like an overnight backpacking trip. Try to plan for that. Before you commit to a trip try carrying that much weight. Make sure you know how to make a fire in a no pressure scenario before you need to make one to cook dinner. The back yard is a great place to learn these skills.

The reality is you can spend a lifetime outside, be a titan of outdoor knowledge and skill, yet still learn new things all the time. That's part of the joy and wonder of the nature.


One possibility is to look into doing some volunteer work in a National Park or other park or organization. You will get outdoors experience and, more important, get connected with people who have a great deal of outdoors experience. The work might be physically hard, for example trail maintenance, and will pay little or nothing; you have to save up some money to be able to afford to be a volunteer or intern.

Some organizations where you can volunteer also offer classes in many aspects of outdoorsmanship. There are also some that have immersive experiences, like weekends outdoors, camping, snow-shoeing, birding, foraging, and animal tracking. You can get a taste of a number of different choices while not having to commit to any one thing.

One organization you might like is Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. They're involved in many aspects of being a responsible citizen of the outdoors. As part of that, they do a lot of education at every level, and excursions and experiences in just about any outdoor activity you can imagine. This is a link to their Oklahoma Branch. I see some exciting things coming up which might interest you.

I googled "volunteer opportunities national parks" and came up with several hits, for example Volunteers-in-Parks. On that site, if you click on Volunteer.gov, you can find volunteer opportunities by state; there are several in Oklahoma.

If this appeals to you, you need to figure out what you have to offer as a volunteer.

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    Thanks. Sorry guys for my bad question. I am a complete noob who has no idea about any of this stuff.
    – DeusIIXII
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 17:28

This answer is kind of tailored to kids but it might be so obvious that it's actually easily missed:

For kids wanting to learn about TGO or for parents who'd like their kids to experience TGO having them join a scout organization will be one of the best and most comprehensive TGO experiences they can get.

I guess this depends a lot of the kind of scout organizations you have around and the activities they do - but I'd assume that most of them will spend a great amount of time in TGO, building camps, making fires, cooking outdoors, hiking, navigating, braving wind and weather, learning about local flora and fauna, etc.

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