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When you’re facing austere conditions, whether you’re camping in a remote area or facing a long-term survival situation, there’s rarely a shortage of things that need to be done. Building and reinforcing a shelter, feeding a fire, obtaining clean water, and hunting or foraging for food are obviously top priorities. If you neglect any of these, you’ll be in a world of hurt. There are also many additional tasks, which may include scavenging for resources, maintaining your gear, and watching for predators.
This work is likely to keep you fairly busy, but as you surely know, all work and no play is a recipe for misery. It’s critical to set aside time to maintain your physical and mental well-being. One way to accomplish this is through pastimes or morale-boosting activities. We’ll discuss a few below — many of them have value for survival purposes, but don’t put too much emphasis on this aspect, or your R&R time may start to feel like work. Also, focus on activities that can be done in the light of a campfire, since daylight hours are likely to be dedicated to more important tasks.
Sitting down with a good book is a great way to relax and take your mind off other priorities. The downside to reading is that books are heavy, and you may run out of reading material quickly. If you have access to electricity or a solar panel, a fully-loaded ebook-reader or smartphone could provide thousands of pages of reading material.
Journaling is a time-tested way of staying sane and motivated in difficult situations. You could also write short stories, poetry, or take notes on the flora and fauna you observe.
Drawing, Painting, or Sculpting
Even if you’re not a master artist, doodling and sketching can be a lot of fun. Get your caveman on and do some painting using all-natural materials, or try sculpting pottery or figures from clay.
Whittling and Carving
Here’s another classic that’s easy as long as you have some wood and a sharp knife. It’s also applicable to making useful tools, like cooking utensils, weapons, traps, or signaling devices.
Rope-Craft and Knitting
There’s a lot you can do with a simple strand of paracord, including lanyards, bracelets, keychains, zipper pulls, and so on. This also includes weaving or sewing items from natural materials such as grass or animal hides.
Singing or playing an instrument is another campfire classic. Les Stroud is famous for his love of the harmonica — lightweight and durable instruments like this are ideal to bring along in your pack, or you can try crafting your own in the field.
In a true survival situation, you probably will be burning more than enough precious calories just staying alive, so recreational exercise would probably be off the table. But in more casual settings where resources are less scarce, jogging, calisthenics, bodyweight exercises, yoga, and other simple workouts can keep you fit and focused. Just don’t overdo it and hurt yourself.
Whether it’s a full-fledged board game, a card game, dominoes, dice, or something improvised from sticks and stones, games make for a great way of passing time. If you’re with a group, simple forms of sports may also be a possibility.
In a survival situation, it’s probably unwise to burn through your limited ammo supply plinking for fun, but there are plenty of other ways to hone your marksmanship. Becoming a slingshot expert is one example; you can also practice throwing a tomahawk or spear, or using a bow, sling, or atlatl.
Conversation & Storytelling
If you’re lucky enough to have companions, you’ll be able to pass many hours telling tall tales, ghost stories, jokes, or simply chatting about whatever comes to mind.
Even if the only resource you have is your mind, you can improve your focus and use your imagination while your body rests.
Let us know your favorite wilderness pastime in the poll below. If we missed anything, leave a comment.