Basic Skills

Info and tips compiled over many, many years from dedicated educators and campers! 

Outdoor Manners 
  • I am an Old Time Country Lane from Forest Preserve District of Cook County
  • Right-of-Way on Bike Paths (walk to your left so you can see who's coming at you and single file as bikes approach)
  • Right-of-Way on Trails (give way to uphill travelers)
  • Leave No Trace frontcountry, backcountry, historical sites and more
Group Camping
  • Toast over coals, heat water over a teepee fire, build a log cabin fire for light and heat.
  • A Safety Circle is used for kitchen knives (and other sharp tools), around fires and cook stoves. Only firebuilders and cooks enter the SC around a campfire and cutting area.
Fire Building and Alternative Fuels
Minimize your use and impact of fires. Know what to pack that won't spoil and cooks/cleans up easily. Check local regulations and conditions for what type of fuels you can/can't use.

Try different cooking fuels and methods: charcoal, propane, and solar; one-pot, foil, and dutch oven. Cook brownies-in-a-box. A box oven that is!

Simple First Aid
Everyone in your group needs to know outdoor health practices and simple first aid.

Take a Basic First Aid/CPR course. As you progress in the outdoors take Wilderness and Remote First Aid.

Protect the Outdoors
  • plan how and where you'll travel, hike on the trail
  • know where you'll be hiking/camping and it's unique habitat requirements
  • think before you pack and pack it all out (including litter you may find along the way)
  • use established sites (trails, tent sites, fire pits, etc)
  • use a camp stove
  • know how not to pollute the water, air, forest and streets
  • keep chemicals (detergent, sunscreen, bug repellant, etc) out of rivers and streams
  • take only photographs
  • leave it better than you found it, as if you weren't even there!
Knife and Tool Safety
  • Safety Circle: everyone should be an arms length plus the imaginary opened length of the knife away all the way around you.
  • For Saws and Axe: arm length plus length of the saw/axe all the way around plus overhead.
  • Keep your tools clean and sharp. Use blade covers for transport and storage.
  • Know and PRACTICE various knots and when to use them: square (easily undone; not for life saving situations), clove hitch (attach rope to a post/tree), bowline, tautline, etc. 
  • Make something useful: a bracelet; water bottle carrier; a belt; paper towel holder; towel rack; tripod for a handwash station.
Dress for Outdoors
Think about layers and fabrics for potential weather conditions.

Look for wicking fabrics and fabrics that dry quickly, dense fleece and wool for layers and comfortable socks. Bring a hat year round.

If your feet are cold, put a hat on! How does that work?

Please note: cotton socks, shirts and jeans become uncomfortable on the trail and even dangerous because they won't dry if wet from sweat, rain or falling into a stream and should be avoided.

Know what's out there. While it's not necessary to purchase all the latest gadgets, knowing what's available can help you borrow, purchase, or find at a yardsale, equipment and clothing that will help make your outdoor experience more comfortable and safe.

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