Just because you’re hacking it in the wilderness doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the comforts of home. Wait, we take that back – it definitely does. You should probably be prepared for some rough times.
However, a seasoned survivor with the right know-how can still have some creature comforts. It’ll make hacking it in the woods feel less like … well, hacking it in the woods. But with a nice, hot drink and a comfortable bed.
Wake Up with a Hot Cup of “Coffee”
Face it – unless your survival experience is taking place in the tropics, you’re going to have to kick the caffeine habit. That said, you can still make yourself a satisfying hot drink that will taste sort of like the real thing.
Chicory is a plant that’s added to coffee throughout the southern United States. Its deep, dark flavor complements the taste of the brew. Chicory happens to grow wild in many parts of the world, and the roasted roots on their own make a delicious, coffee-like hot drink. Just gather, roast, and steep in hot water.
The dandelion is a much easier plant to find, and many foragers swear by the taste of dandelion coffee. You can use the same process you’d use for chicory. If you’re out of chicory and dandelion root, feel free to get creative – nutshells and other organic materials can be roasted and brewed for a variety of flavors.
It may not jolt you awake, but it’ll still be good to the last drop.
Just because you’re out sleeping on the hard, cold ground doesn’t mean you have to sleep directly on the hard, cold ground. Using natural material to create bedding is not only more comfortable but helps prevent you from leeching your body heat into the ground.
Assuming you didn’t care to pack a sleep pad … Create a mattress in your shelter by stacking pine boughs or live branch tips in a herringbone pattern – the pattern makes the already springy material feel even softer. If you have a plastic bag, placing it between your bedding and the ground will help to insulate you further.
Weave a blanket or pillowcase from leaves or reeds (cattail reeds are excellent) and stuff it with leaves, bark, or other plant matter for insulation and cushioning.
If you’re lucky enough to catch or find a large enough animal and talented enough to process the hide for bedding … then you don’t need us. You have probably already dominated the wilderness and we’d love it if you could send us some tips.
A Nice, Hot Shower
While it wouldn’t make for a particularly attractive home bathroom renovation, all you need for a backcountry hot shower is some sunshine and a plastic bag.
Fill a garbage bag with water and leave it in the sun to warm. Tie it to a tree, poke a hole or two, and you’re showering. Remember to take off your clothes before getting in the shower for more effective cleaning. (If you’re a fancy man, invest in a proper solar shower)
Making soap is somewhat of a luxury, but it’s also an important way to stay at a lower risk of disease and infection.
If you’re in an area where the yucca plant grows, then you have the simplest natural soap there is. Just harvest and chop the root and squeeze a piece on your hands with some water. The natural suds will clean you. By soaking several pieces in water and using the suds, you have an effective shampoo.
The rest of us will have to do things the hard way. Basic chemistry dictates that soap is a mixture of fat and lye, and it just so happens that hardwood ashes naturally contain lye.
Mixing ashes from your fire with the grease in the bottom of your cooking pan will create a rudimentary soap that can be used for cleaning cooking gear, tools, and knives. If you want something suitable for those hot showers, though, you’ll have to get a little more involved.
Boil water with ashes to make lye. You can skim it off the top of the pot and collect it. Then add rendered hot animal fat to the boiling lye and stir. You’ll get a soft soap. While it won’t smell like cucumbers or melons, it will prevent you from smelling much, much worse.
People might not consider mosquito repellent a luxury when they’re sitting in their living rooms. But a night spent camping near a marshy area will change anyone’s mind.
Bloodroot and catnip serve as useful insect repellents and grow wild in North America. Simply crush the plant’s leaves, stem, or root to release its juices and rub the plant on your exposed skin.
Be aware that bloodroot will stain your skin red, making it additionally useful for backwoods theater renditions of Carrie or for scaring off any teenagers you may find on camping trips.
According to several incredibly wealthy people who we did not interview for this article, a yacht party is the ultimate luxury and the best way to enjoy the water. We don’t agree.
Instead, paddle into the middle of a lake or pond in your homemade canoe or pole out in your raft. Hell, swim out there and float in the water. The only noises you’ll hear are the chirping of the birds and the sloshing of the water. The view will be stunning. This is a million times better than anyone’s yacht – the ultimate luxury is the freedom and beauty of nothing standing between you and nature.