This weekend I went with a good old friend to a survival camp in the Westerwald forest. With a very nice guide and a pleasant group of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts, we spent two days in the wilderness. We learned an incredible number of useful tips and tricks for survival far away from civilization. Do you want to know why you should always have a tampon with you in the wilderness?
Our guide’s name was Marcus and he came from Northern Norway. Based on his many years of experience in the wilderness and at very low temperatures, he could tell us a lot of anecdotes and share many useful bits of knowledge. Our first priority was always to leave the terrain exactly as we found it: No damage to the surroundings, no garbage, and if possible, leave no traces behind. This was also very important to me personally. After all, our irresponsible and disrespectful behaviour led to the fact that wild camping had to be prohibited in most European countries.
Orientation in the wilderness
One of the most important contents of our weekend at the survival camp was the orientation in the terrain. We had various tools at our disposal. First, we tried to find a viewpoint with the help of the hiking map only. In doing so, we had to orientate ourselves according to prominent landmarks such as streams, hiking trails, meadows, deciduous or coniferous forests. Then we added a compass. We learned how best to match the compass to the hiking map and how to aim for certain points and reach them reliably on rough terrain. Marcus also showed us different ways to determine the cardinal points (at night he also demonstrated a method using the stars). That was incredibly exciting and interesting!
Light a fire without a lighter
When we arrived at our camp in the late afternoon, we first learned different techniques of lighting a fire. With fire iron, flint, birch bark, tinder fungus, hay, etc. Finally, each of us got a tampon and we all wondered what we should do with it. The solution: Tampons are packed waterproof and therefore stay dry in all kinds of weather. If you open them and pull them apart, you will get the probably best burning material you can imagine. A single spark is enough to make it burn brightly for a few seconds. So, I absolutely must get a pack of tampons for the next tour!
Construction of an emergency shelter
When the campfire finally was burning, we all got the task to build an emergency shelter made of natural materials. With different techniques, we built a small hut for the night from branches, tree bark, leaves, grass, and a few ropes. Ideally, the roof should be waterproof just by the composition of the materials. But if necessary, we all had a tarp with us. However, since we had wonderful summer weather and hardly any clouds in the sky, we did not have to expect rain. Making a fire as well as building an emergency shelter was a lot of fun. I can hardly wait to make my next tour in the wilderness.
Cooking at the campfire
Using a simple but extremely good method, we built a large tripod out of tree trunks and a rope and used it to prepare a vegetable stew in a cauldron. We also mixed a bread dough and made stick bread over the flames. When it was finally dark, we all crawled into our sleeping bags. The night in the self-built hut was really great!
Knot tying techniques, water purification and transport of injured persons
The next morning, we made fresh coffee and delicious porridge with fruit by the fire. Afterward, there was a bit of survival theory. Marcus showed us different knots for different situations. Then we talked about the purification of drinking water. How do you find freshwater? How can you filter it from dirt? How can you clean it from viruses and bacteria? We even built our own water filter in a plastic bottle. Finally, we learned how best to transport an injured comrade in an emergency situation. In Germany, you will probably hardly ever need these things – but I definitely want to travel to other and less populated countries as well. That’s why the knowledge I gained is extremely interesting to me.
The way back to civilisation
Around noon we started our way back to civilization. Therefore, we had to abseil down a steep mountain slope. Then we followed a dried-out stream down to its mouth into the Ulmbach river. A brook-walk through the water back to the village followed. Tired but completely happy, we all sat in a circle and looked back on our common experience.
I can fully recommend such a weekend at a survival camp to each of you, regardless of age. I believe that living, eating, sleeping, hiking, and orientating in the great outdoors is deeply rooted in our humanity. Over the centuries, however, we have moved further and further away from this life – even from our own inner nature. Such an experience has the potential to bring us back into balance. It makes us aware of the excess in which we are used to live. And it lets us experience the happiness that lies in the simplicity of nature.
Based on my experience, I can now highly recommend the organisation Wildnistraining Westerwald. Check out their website!