So this last weekend I got to go out on the first camping trip of the year, none of my normal camping buddies were available so I ended up going it alone. Each time I get to spend a weekend out in the woods I try to learn more survival skills, I always have a big long list of what I would like to accomplish and I tend to do a small handful of them.
For this trip, the skills I worked on was:
- Building a primitive shelter
- Purifying my own water
- Building my fire with a firesteel
- Living only in what I carry in my GO Bag
The obstacles I had to work with on this trip where:
- I came down sick on Friday, not a good way to start the weekend
- Because I was sick I changed plans and headed out to the woods after work on Friday, this meant I was rushed for time to setup camp and be ready before dark.
- Rain, Rain and more Rain.
My destination for this camping trip was the Minister Creek area in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. I got to the parking lot at the trailhead of the Minister Creek trail (I believe it is a 7 mile loop) at around 6:30, this meant I had roughly 2 hours to hike in, find a good camping spot, build my shelter, get a good fire going and get the camp prepped for the night. This was my first time to this area of the forest so I couldn’t rely on what I knew of the area either.
I ended up hiking for about half an hour and decided to camp on a pretty steep hillside, I went up probably about 200 feet and found a nice flat spot to build my shelter with a depression about 25 feet away I could build my fire at, also there was a small stream running downhill about 100 feet from my campsite. I immediately went to work building a shelter I have read about on www.survivaltopics.com but have never tried myself, it was warm enough I was starting to sweat just from the hike in which I knew would be a problem come nighttime as I didn’t have room to pack extra clothes in, so I had to sleep in the clothes I had on, if there is one thing I have learned from watching Survivorman on TV, its that sweat is deadly if its going to be cold out (predictions for the first night were for low 30’s or high 20’s). I ended up taking off my shirt and build my shelter and built my fire, I didn’t put my shirt and such back on until after I was finished and cooled down. I think that ended up being one of the wiser decisions of the night.
By nightfall I felt I had done well, my shelter looked fairly decent, my fire took under 5 minutes to build with my firesteel (you can see a picture of it on the valentines day post as that was my gift from Meagan!), and I had packed my GO Bag back up for the night and had a place for it in the foot of my shelter, I also had a pretty good pile of firewood for the fire.
Mistake #1, I crawled into my shelter at about 10pm and immediatly realized in my haste I hadn’t actually tried it out as I was building it, it was not all that sturdy (the side supports kept falling over) and the worst part, my head was lower than my feet! I tried to sleep in here, but since I was already sick having my head being lower than my feet meant my lungs were filling up with liquid causing me to cough alot and not be able to sleep at all, long story short, I didn’t end up sleeping in the shelter that night.
After about two hours of trying to sleep in the shelter I finally decided to just stay up for the night around the fire, turns out the shelter was better at burning than keeping me warm and happy! So after one of the longest nights in history the sun finally came up and it was time to start my first day out.
I am not much of a fan of the ready to eat meals you can buy, they are expensive, a bit complicated sometimes and not altogether small to pack, thus I went a different route. For breakfast I had a can of smoked oysters and a can of sardines packed in mustard and dill. To drink I had some of the freshest water you can get right out of the stream beside me (boiled at first). I warmed the sardines and oysters over the fire before eating, and after that warm meal along with some warm water I just boiled I was feeling much better. I packed up camp and headed out on my hike.
Before I left on the trip I looked to see if there were any Geocaches in the area and found out there were several along the trail I was planning on hiking, so right off the bat I backtracked a bit to pickup the first one and then after logging that find headed back down the trail. I had decided to just walk the loop and then see if I felt like doing any more as there are more trails in the area.
Mistake #2, I live in Ohio and have forgotten the concept of hills, that leisurely 7 mile walk I had envisioned didn’t go as planned. The entire walk was either walking up a very steep mountainside or walking immediately back down the other side of a mountain. I don’t remember the last time I have been that tired, on top of that, my backpack is probably about 35 pounds so I was lugging that up and down as well. Well into the trip I was thinking I might have to setup camp and continue the walk the next day. I was wishing for a way out for about the last three miles. I was very lucky I have been doing the workouts I have been doing since new years or I don’t think I could have finished the loop.
Mistake #3, Not sure if this is a mistake, but throughout the previous night and then also during my walk the weather report for the area kept getting worse, what started out as scattered showers was turning into predictions for at least an inch of rain overnight with no real breaks. During my walk I decided I was going to cut the trip short and try and beat the rain as I was not carrying a tent along and my trust in building a survival shelter was not to good given the previous nights events. The one good thing I had going for me though was being prepared in having my handheld ham radio which I can get the weather reports on, otherwise I would not have known the weather report had changed.
Needless to say, I did make it out of the woods, I got to my car at about 12:30 Saturday afternoon. The camping trip did not end up being very long and I had several issues while on the trip, however I did enjoy the trip, I got some great pictures and experience and I have things to work on the next time I head out.
The main takeaways from this trip:
- My pack is too heavy, I need to really evaluate what I need and how to cut down what I am carrying, one of the first things will be getting a hennessy hammock, they are lighter and much more comfortable than carrying stuff to make your own shelter.
- I need to work a bit more on my primitive shelter building skills, I liked the one I built, I just think it needs some tweaks.
- I need to keep working on getting into better shape.