32 Survival Skills, Camping Tips, and More Great Outdoor Advice from Field and Stream Magazine

compass watch, homemade compass, survival tip, tell direction, sun compass
Use Your Watch As a Compass
A watch set on standard time can be used as a compass on a sunny day. Lay the watch on a flat surface with the hour hand pointing toward the sun. Mark a spot halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock. A line drawn from the center of the watch face through that mark will point south.John Rice
torn grommet, torn tarp, hang tarp, tarp tip, set up tarp, camping tarp, monkey fist
Hang a Tarp Without Using Grommets
A "monkey fist" allows you to attach tie-down lines to a tarp or boat cover when grommets tear out or are missing. To make the monkey fist, squeeze a golf ball-"size stone inside the tarp at the attachment spot. Wrap your line twice around the squeeze point on the tarp to hold the stone in place, and tie it off. Attach the loose end of the line to an anchor point and tighten.John Rice
DEET free, homemade bug spray, homemade bug dope, bug spray, mosquito repellant, mosquito spray, black fly repellant, black fly spray, instect repellant, DIY bug spray, homemade citronella spray
Make DEET-Free Bug Spray at Home
If Deet-based insect repellents irritate your skin, you can still keep away blackflies with this safe make-at-home formula. Combine four parts vegetable oil with two parts aloe vera gel and one part citronella, cedar oil, or sassafras oil (available at pharmacies). Apply the repellent liberally on your face, hands, and hairline, and wear light-colored clothing. Blackflies are particularly attracted to dark blue, brown, and black.John Rice
chain saw tips, chain saw, cut firewood, firewood cutting, easy firewood, chainsaw bind
A Faster Way to Cut Firewood With a Chain Saw
To cut firewood with a chain saw, lay a deck of long logs on the ground, then build another deck on top of that one going in the opposite direction. Stack up several crisscrossed layers. This keeps all logs supported underneath so they will not bind on the saw when you begin to cut. Saw through the decks starting with the logs closest to you, clearing cut logs out of the way as you go through the pile.John Rice
camping meals, campfire cooking, camp cooking, camp cooking tips, campfire recipe, car camping tip, boat camping tip, camp food
Freeze Pre-Made Car Camping Meals in Zip-Loc Bags
Simplify campfire dining by preparing individual precooked meals at home before the trip and freezing them in zip-seal plastic bags. Label them for easy identification. Not only will the frozen dinners help keep other items in the cooler cold, but the packets are also easy to defrost. Just plop the bags in warm water.John Rice
dry wood, drying wood, wood shed, build shed, shed plan, woodshed plan, woodshed tip, firewood tip, fire wood, chop wood, chop firewood
Build a Better Woodshed for Drying Firewood
When you build a woodshed, leave both ends open and cover only the roof and sidewalls. Air will be able to circulate, drying the contents faster, and you'll have quick access to the best-burning wood. After the heating season is over, refill the end of the shed you've just emptied. Next year, start using the stack at the opposite end. You'll always be burning the driest firewood and allowing the newest to properly age.John Rice
dry boots, boot dryer, DIY boot rack, boot rack, wet boots, dry wet boots, hunting boot dryer, hunting boot tips, boot tips, boot care
Make Your Own Tree-Trunk Boot Drying Rack
Cut a 3-foot length from the trunk of a 6-inch-diameter fir or spruce tree. Then, with a chain saw, split the trunk lengthwise. Lay the split sections flat on the floor and clip off all but the sturdy branches that stick straight up. To make two boot racks, nail foot-long crosspieces of 1x3 lumber to both ends of the trunk sections for steadiness. Place wet boots upside down on the upright branches for quick drying.John Rice
logging road erosion, road erosion tip, erosion control, water bar, suspension saver, suspension tip, truck maintenance
Prevent Camp Road Erosion With a Better Water Bar
Reader Tip: You can damage your suspension by driving over a water bar, the wooden or metal barrier used to prevent erosion on camp roads. Make a better one: Sandwich a 12- to 16-inch-wide piece of conveyor belt rubber (find it at lumberyards, quarries, or farms) between two pressure-treated 2x6 boards. Bolt it all together and install so that just the rubber is exposed. It will direct rainwater off the road but yields to tires. -- Jason Knowles, Camden, MaineJohn Rice
vacuum seal thaw, thaw meat, thaw venison, thaw fish, freezer tip, meat freezer, meat bag, vaccum bag, vacuum bag, cooking tips, wild game
The Proper Way to Thaw Vacuum-Sealed Meat
Vacuum-seal bags are a great way to store frozen game and fish, but only if you know how to thaw the contents. You must poke a few small holes in the packaging first. This breaks the vacuum and permits normal defrosting to occur. If you do not release the seal, the juices will be sucked out of the food, leaving your fish or meat dry.John Rice
pack list, hunting pack list, fishing pack list, camping pack list, backpacking pack list
Store Your Pack Lists For Camping, Hunting, and Fishing Trips
Reader Tip: After a big hunting or fishing trip, I make a list of everything I brought, stuff I could've left behind, and what I wished I had taken with me. I also write a brief trip summary, including weather conditions. When all my gear is unpacked, cleaned, and ready to be put away, I tuck my list in the box, too. That way the next time I'm ready to take a similar trip, I know just what to pack, even if it's a year later. --Steve Cannon, Sacramento, Calif.John Rice
camping table, backcountry table, woods table, outdoor table
Make A Table For Your Camp Site
Give a 2x4-foot piece of 1/2-inch plywood two coats of poly-urethane and take it on camping trips. On site, cut sturdy table legs from driftwood or deadfall. Sink these 8 inches into the ground for stability, then drive a nail through each corner of the plywood into the top of a leg. Discard them at the end of the trip and cut new ones next time. You'll find this table so convenient you'll end up making a couple of them.John Rice
axe head care, axe head rust, axe rust, rusty axe, axe handle, broken axe, broken axe handle, oil axe, axe oiling, axe tips
Keep Your Axe Head From Falling Off (and Rust Free)
Pour a quart of used motor oil into a bucket of clean sand and store it in the woodshed. Each time you finish using your axe, plunge the head into the oily sand and rub it back and forth. This will clean the blade of dirt and debris, prevent it from rusting, and keep the shaft swelled tight in the axe head. To prevent the handle from drying, apply linseed oil annually.John Rice
fry fish, campfire fish, fish fry, cooking fish, fish camp, fish recipe, campfire fish recipe, fry oil, hot oil, oil temperature
Campfire Cooking: How to Tell When Your Oil is Hot
Reader Tip: When you heat oil over a campfire to fry fish, place an unlit wooden match in the pan to determine when it's ready. Once the oil reaches 350 degrees--the optimum temperature--the match head will ignite and then fizzle. Scoop out the match and throw in the fish. --Eli Ricke, Bagley, Minn.John Rice
emergency rain shelter, rain shelter, tarp shelter, rain tarp, emergency tarp, hang tarp, put up tarp
How to Make An Emergency Rain Shelter Using a Tarp
A tarp makes an ideal shelter against unexpected rain. Stake one corner of the tarp facing the wind. Prop a pole under the opposite corner, then fasten a line from the top of the pole to a ground stake or tree. Now pull the remaining two corners tight and stake them to the ground. The resulting half-pyramid shape provides excellent drainage and stands up well to high winds.John Rice
split wood, chop wood, split big log, split log, axe tip, how to use an axe, firewood, chop firewood, split firewood, firewood tips
How to Split Big Logs with an Axe
Never try to split a large-diameter log down the center with an axe. (You'll get the axe stuck or, worse, damage the handle.) Instead, whack slabs off the sides until you have reduced the remaining core to a manageable size. To split the core, strike the top of the upright log midway between the center and the edge nearest you, so that the axe handle follows the open split.John Rice
store rope, rope tangle, tangled rope, rope storage, wrap rope, wrap line, line storage, line tangle, cord storage, store cord, wrap cord, cord tangle
How to Store Ropes and Cords Without Tangling
Camping ropes, anchor lines, and electrical cords wrap neatly and easily on V-boards. Cut a 20-inch length of 1x6 board. Drill a 1-inch-diameter hole 6 inches back from the center of each end. Draw lines from the holes to the nearest corners of the board and saw out the resulting wedges. Wind the cord in the notches. Longer boards can accommodate greater lengths.Field & Stream Online Editors
camping wok, best camping pot, best camping pan, camp cooking, camp cooking tip, wok tip, wok cooking, campfire wok, campfire cooking, backpack wok, pack wok
Why a Wok Makes the Best Camp Cooking Pan
A Chinese wok is the most versatile cooking utensil you can take on camping trips. This single item can be used for stir-frying, deep-frying, boiling large amounts of water, making soups or salads, mixing dough, cooking pasta, and washing dishes or small clothing items. When you're traveling, pack the rigid steel wok full of crushable items that require protection.Field & Stream Online Editors
weather prediction, weather advice, predict rain, sun halo, moon halo
Predict Approaching Rain Using Moon and Sun Halos
A halo around the sun or moon is caused by the refraction of light through ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. Its presence indicates that low pressure is approaching and rain or snow can be expected within 24 to 36 hours. If the halo is broken, the open side indicates the direction from which the storm will come and signals that precipitation can be expected soon.Field & Stream Online Editors
spill fuel, spilling fuel, lantern fuel tip, stove fuel tip, spill stove fuel, fill lantern fuel, camp fuel tip, how to pour fuel, pour white gas, pour kerosene, pour stove gas
Pour Stove and Lantern Fuel Without Spilling
When pouring camp stove fuel or motor oil from a can with a spout at one end, hold the container with the spout at the top. This allows air to flow through the opening smoothly, permitting the liquid to exit in a steady, consistent stream. If the spout is positioned at the bottom, air enters in gulps, causing an erratic flow that is impossible to direct without spilling.Field & Stream Online Editors
campfire cooking, cook over coals, coal fire cooking, wood fire cooking, fire building, fire building tip, campfire building, campfire cooking tip
Design Your Campfire for Cooking Over Coals
When you're cooking over a campfire, make your fireplace a double-wide. Build a fire on one side of the pit and keep adding wood to maintain a constant blaze. Rake coals from under the burning wood and spread them evenly on the other side to provide steady, even heat. Replenish the coals as needed. You'll have much greater control over how fast food cooks and can avoid burned meals.Field & Stream Online Editors
lost tips, finding bearings, sense of direction, tell east from west, lost without compass, no compass navigation, no compass tip, survival tip, lost survival tip
Find Your Bearings When Lost Without a Compass
To determine direction without the aid of a compass, drive a 3-foot stick into the ground in a sunny location and set a stone at the tip of its shadow. Wait 20 minutes, then place another rock where the tip of the shadow has moved. The first marker indicates the west end of a line running between the two points; the second marks the east.Field & Stream Online Editors
smoky fireplace, smokey fireplace, chimney smoke, smoking fireplace, smokey stove, smoking stove
Keep Fireplace and Woodstove Smoke In Your Chimney
If smoke puffs into the room from a fireplace or woodstove, light a sheet of newspaper and hold it up the chimney. The bright burst of heat will reverse the draft and send the smoke upward. To be sure your chimney draws properly when you start a fire in a cold fireplace or woodstove, begin burning with small amounts of crumpled newspaper and thin strips of dry wood. Don't add heavier wood until the smoke is drawing briskly up the chimney, not escaping into the cabin.John Rice
boots untied, how to tie boots, hunting boot tips, hunting boot tie, boot tips, bird hunting tip, bird hunting gear, best boot knot, boot lace knot
Use Duct Tape to Keep Your Boots Tied When Hunting in Brush
To keep bootlaces from snagging and becoming untied when you're walking through brambles and clinging vines, wind them once around the boot top and tie them with a tight square knot at the back. When you're hunting in particularly brushy country, fold the tops of your socks down over the knots and secure them with a wrap of duct tape.Field & Stream Online Editors
tool organizer, workshop organizer, garage organizer, work bench organizer, bullet box, cartridge box
Use Bullet Box Dividers to Organize Tools
Can't keep your tools in order? Here's a solution. The compartmentalized plastic dividers that high-powered rifle bullets are packaged in make excellent holders for small workshop items. Mount a few bullet dividers on the wall in your workshop and use them to hold pencils, screwdrivers, small chisels, files, awls, and drill bits.Field & Stream Online Editors
dry camera, wet camera, dry wet electronics, dry wet gps, wet gps
Dry Wet Digital Cameras, GPS and Other Electronics Using Rice
If your handheld GPS, digital camera, radio, or other electronic equipment gets an accidental soaking, try packing it in a zip-seal bag full of dry, uncooked rice for 24 hours. The grains will absorb moisture without applying heat, which can cause parts to warp. More often than not, your valuable gear will be back in operating condition after this treatment.Field & Stream Online Editors
campfire cooking, campfire cooking tip, cook site, camp cook site, cooking outside, outside cooking tip, camp organization
Use a Tool Belt to Organize Your Camp's Cooking Site
When camping, tie a many-pocketed carpenter's apron at eye level on a tree trunk within reach of your cooking site. Fill the pockets with cooking utensils and a pair of long-handled pliers for handling hot pots and pans. The apron pockets provide a means of organizing utensils so you will always know where they are and have them close at hand when you need them.Field & Stream Online Editors
dry wet feet, wet foot tips, sandy feet, beach feet, dry socks, keep socks dry, baby powder tip, foot fungus tip, foot fungus prevention
Dry Wet Feet With Baby Powder Before Putting On Socks
Wet, sandy feet are a nuisance to outdoorsmen-"difficult to wipe dry and nearly impossible to pull socks over. A liberal sprinkling of baby powder, however, will absorb moisture instantly and allow you to brush the sand off. Socks are easier to pull on over powdered feet, and dry feet are essential for fungus prevention.Field & Stream Online Editors
plank grilling, plank grilling tips, plank cooking, cook with plank, grill fish, fish grilling recipe, fish recipe, cook oily fish, grill oily fish, oily fish recipe, grill salmon, grill bluefish, grill mackerel, grill shad
How to Plank-Grill Salmon, Bluefish, Mackerel, and Shad
Oily fish like salmon, bluefish, or mackerel taste better when plank-grilled. Marinate a fillet in soy sauce and lemon juice. Lay it skin-side down on a 1/2-inch-thick hardwood plank that you've soaked in water. Put the wet plank on a gas or charcoal grill, cover, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. The plank will steam, then emit just enough smoke to flavor the fish perfectly.Field & Stream Online Editors
Keep Track of Time When Hiking or Hunting
Always make a note of the hour before you set out hunting or hiking in remote country. Knowing how long you've been on the move tells you how much time you must allow to retrace your route, should waterways, rough terrain, or other obstacles prevent you from taking a compass-line shortcut. You will then be able to get out of the woods on schedule.Field & Stream Online Editors
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Test Image Alignment Before Buying Binoculars
Bargain binoculars sometimes produce images out of alignment, making it impossible to get a perfect focus. Test before you buy by focusing on a distant horizontal line, such as a rooftop. Still looking through the binocs, slowly move them away from your face until the view splits into separate images. If the line remains straight, the glass is properly aligned. But if it's higher on one side, the prisms are faulty.Field & Stream Online Editors
foggy glasses, fogproof glasses, glasses fogging, fogging up, fog up, lenses fogging, fogging lenses, fogged lenses, fogproof lenses
Keep Your Glasses from Fogging Up
To prevent your glasses from fogging up, rinse the lenses thoroughly with water. While they're still wet, apply two drops of liquid dishwashing detergent front and back. Dry them with a clean lens cloth. Polish the lenses until all the streaks are gone. -"Peter Mathews, St. Louis, Mo.Field & Stream Online Editors
paper towel holder, fish sinker
Make a Better Paper Towel Holder Using a Fishing Sinker
Make a paper-towel holder for outdoor use by fastening a 12-inch piece of 1-inch-diameter dowel at the center of a 7-inch-square wooden base. With a screw and washer, attach a piece of 30-pound-test monofilament leader to the top of the dowel. Tie a 2-ounce sinker to the loose end. The weight and leader will prevent gusts of wind from unwinding the towels.Field & Stream Online Editors

Jerome B. Robinson has been writing about all aspects of the outdoors for more than 40 years. He started at F&S in 1989 and remained a regular contributor for many years. Although he is a generalist, Robinson is best known for his writings on dog training and on hunting and fishing in the Far North.