Stuck at home? Some skills to learn

More and more areas are going to lock down for obvious reasons. Outdoor time is now limited for many people.

Though people will rail against the legality or the wisdom of these lockdowns (I don’t), these lockdowns are happening.

So, what to do?

While talking to my friends and family, many people are using this time to catch up on projects. One friend is redoing his bathroom, another did some yard work, and many people are organizing their gear and performing some overdue maintenance.

But now is also a time you can use to learn new skills or brush up on current ones that you can do at home.

Skills are the ultimate in lightweight gear: Skills weigh nothing, make you efficient in the backcountry, and add to your overall enjoyment of the activity.

And better than maxing out your credit card with gear purchases for a temporary dopamine fix.

And what skills to learn or brush up on?

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Navigation 

Learning to read a map, use a compass, understanding the terrain, planning out a route, and using modern tools such as GPS and mapping software are skills needed for any modern outdoors person.  My favorite series for this type of instruction is by the Columbia River Orienteering Club.  Their extensive, and free, 18 part video series covers these topics in five to ten-minute chunks. Perfect for learning and absorbing the materials at a pace that works for you.

  • Knots

Knots eliminate the need for hardware, futzing with clunky setups, and let you set up shelters and campsites more efficiently.  Or if you learn them, and don’t use them (as happened to me recently with some climbing knots beyond “Figure 8 on a Bight”. Doh! 🙂 ), you’ll need a refresher.   Animated Knots by Grog makes an excellent instruction site for basic knots you’ll using when hiking, backpacking, and camping, or a refresher for when you have to re-learn how to make a Prusik! 

Use it or lose it…And if you climb once every couple of years or so, you lose it! 🙂

  • Leave No Trace training

Did you know the Leave No Trace (LNT) folks have a basic LNT awareness workshop online? Until last year, me neither! If you guide, lead trips for your local outdoor group, perform outdoor education, or just want some basic LNT awareness, the Leave No Trace Awareness course works well for you. This free and informative course even gives you a PDF perfect for, er, putting on your website!

  • Work on your backcountry cooking

The ideal backpacking meals are nutritious, tasty, filling, and simple to make.  After hundreds of clients with various trips over the years, well-known backpacker Andrew Skurka has these recipe types dialed in quite well. I know; I tried these meals myself while guiding for clients.  He has a lot of these recipes online, and a free recipe booklet for downloading, too.

And once you get these recipes and booklet? Learn to make them yourself with the equipment you’ll use in the field.  The Skurka “Beans and Rice” became so internet famous; it started its own meme.

  • Sharpen the mind and think about the WHY of the outdoors. 

I enjoy taking a deeper dive into outdoor issues and tend to read books about those topics myself.  Gear and places are good, but the background of the outdoors always intrigues me.

Where to start?

I have a few suggestions for both my current home on the Colorado Plateau and what I consider my personal library of classics.  And don’t forget to use one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear to access these books. Though local governments closed many libraries, more and more libraries have an extensive eBook collection. 


Though more states are curtailing backcountry activities,  you can still learn or expand some skillsets during these interesting times. The above ideas may assist a bit with that goal.

And when we can get out there again? You’ll enjoy the time to the fullest.

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Dirty bird
Dirty bird
4 years ago

Meal sounds yummy. My favorite trail meal is instant Idahoan potatoes with stuffing all dumped together and some kind of meat or veggie if you want to carry it. You can even throw in gravy. It’s like thanksgiving.