Men, are you tiring of the sedentary pleasures of the modern world? Are you wearied by web surfing? Bored of the vicarious thrills offered by the shoot-’em-ups and racing games on your console? Jaded by life among the MTV generation, so that even the videos of Lady Gaga do nothing for you now?
Of course, there are many things in today’s world for which the modern man should be truly thankful—delivery pizza, GPS, five-blade disposable razors, painless dentistry, and Megan Fox, to name but a few. But they have come at a price—our ability to go out and create our own adventures and to deal with danger. However, your ennui is telling. I do declare that you are ready to write your own stories of derring-do and to reconnect with a more noble past where a boy grew up learning all the skills needed to be a real chap.
Not so long ago, our fathers and grandfathers could light fires in the rain, deal with a blown-out tire, replace a missing button, come up with a tasty supper out in the wilds, even land a light aircraft in an emergency. In short, they knew how to do lots of things that so many men today simply don’t have a clue about. Yet, this pool of invaluable knowledge was not garnered at special, secret, evening classes or from a sweep of the internet, nor were boys born with it somehow prebuilt into their DNA.
So how did they come to know the best way to deal with an angry bull or to save a drowning man? Well, many of them picked up know-how during a childhood in the Scout movement (back in the days when health-and-safety regulations had not begun to strangle us). Still more skills were drilled into them or learned by necessity when they were serving their country in the armed forces. The rest were simply passed on from father to son.
Add to this the fact that young men now travel further to college, university, and work. Gone are the days when many a son neither expected nor wanted anything more than to follow his father into the local factory or to take over the family farm. In itself, that is no bad thing, and how many of those old factories or farms are still there anyway? But with them went a great deal of tradition, including the gradual passing on of life skills from one generation to another.
This book cannot replace that sacred relationship, but within its pages you will find a plethora of hints and tips not only on how to cope when you have to face up to things without the help of modern technology, but also on how and why you should learn some of those important little gems that a young man of years past would almost certainly have known—with some twenty-first-century twists thrown in for good measure.
The skills that will serve you best are universal. First, you must always keep a calm head. Getting into a stew never helped anybody. Secondly, you must prepare yourself as best you can for what lies ahead. That does not mean that you won’t find yourself in a situation somewhere along the line that is wholly unexpected, and that is where your calm head will come in. However, ahead of most expeditions, you can equip yourself for a great number of the eventualities that you might meet.
Naturally, what you should have in your kit will depend very much on the particular circumstances of your trip and the environment in which you will be exploring. There are a few staples that should serve you well almost anywhere though. Chief among these are suitable food and drink supplies, compact enough to fit in your kit bag and full of the energy and nutrients you need. Water or sports drinks will always serve you better than alcohol or sugary pop. A survival bag—a man-sized plastic bag that folds up very small—can be used not only to preserve body heat, but also as the roof of a bivvy and for a variety of other purposes.
A few other tools are of obvious value. For instance: a flashlight, a button compass, a distress whistle, a first-aid kit, and water-purification tablets. A flint-and-steel, matches, and a birthday cake candle will give you the power of fire, while a tampon (yes, you have read correctly) can provide you with a compact supply of tinder. And what of condoms? They are not carried simply in the hope that a chap might get lucky in the woods. A nonlubricated prophylactic will stretch inside a spare sock to make a useful water carrier. It can also keep essential items dry (such as matches) and is elastic enough to be used as the sling in a rudimentary catapult.
Some cord (or twine or string) will come in useful as a means of lashing or for a rudimentary fishing kit, while a stout stick is worth its weight in gold (as is a really decent pocketknife, but take due notice of the law relating to carrying knives). Not only does a stick offer a source of support, but you can use it to check the ground in front of you, clear away undergrowth, reach out to someone in distress, repel a predator, knock wooden stakes into the ground, dispatch a snared rabbit…the list goes on. And never, ever underestimate the value of a sturdy and comfy pair of hiking boots.
You may now begin your education in earnest.