It’s easy to take the technology that we use every day for granted. In the past, spending a week in the woods meant exposing yourself to terrible bug bites, barely edible food and long, chilly nights spent shivering in your tent. These days, as long as you’re prepared, spending time outdoors is more comfortable and safe than it ever has been. From GPS to bug spray, we’ll take a look at 5 survival breakthroughs that have made roughing it much easier.
There’s no bigger breakthrough than GPS. The ability to pinpoint your location on a map used to take skill and training, but now it’s as easy as glancing at a screen. The system of satellites that makes GPS possible came online in 1995, but we’ve become so reliant on them for navigation that it’s hard to imagine ever going back to the way things were.
This miracle material is lightweight, waterproof, and reflects heat with incredible efficiency. Until mylar came into widespread use, the best way to keep warm was with layers of wool and thick sleeping bags. Now, everything from emergency blankets to entire mylar survival shelters are being offered online at low prices. This versatile material is key to being able to pack ultralight and effective bugout bags. Depending on which way they’re set up, mylar shelters and blankets can either keep you warm or reflect the hot sun away from you.
MREs and Wise dehydrated food are a huge step up in quality and taste from the stuff that we were eating 25 years ago. Trail rations have always been around, but typically they were bland, salty, and dry. Hard tack, jerky, and canned vegetables were the only options for a fast meal that wouldn’t spoil. Today, you can rehydrate a couple of slices of lasagna in 10 minutes and enjoy a delicious dinner on the trail. MREs pack food with preservatives, while Wise freeze-dries their entrees, but either way it’s a big improvement in flavor and texture over salting and canning.
Modular backpacks were unheard of in the 1960’s, and it wasn’t uncommon for every outdoors enthusiast to have to buy a few packs. MOLLE has made all of that outdated, though. Now you can buy a lightweight pack, like the sort offered by Lynx Defense, and customize it to your liking with additional storage as needed. A good MOLLE system can replace 2 or 3 traditional packs, expanding and shrinking depending on what the situation calls for.
DEET-Based Bug Spray
Nearly everyone takes bug spray for granted, but before DEET-based sprays hit the store shelves the options for keeping cloud of mosquitoes away were pretty limited. DEET can be toxic in large amounts, but compared to older repellents like dimethyl carbate or even birch tar, it’s a huge improvement. Until these sprays became widely available post-WWII, going out into the woods meant covering yourself in sticky, ultra-dangerous chemicals and still getting eaten up by mosquitoes and ticks.