15 Skills Every Adventurer Needs

Use these essential abilities to slay your next big trip.. If you’re well prepared for adventure and can find the humor in things not going according to plan, you’ll never stop exploring. To understand just what will get you to that place, we spoke with endurance athletes, gear gurus, and elite climbers about how to physically and mentally ready yourself for your next great journey—whether it’s a multi-day trek, afternoon bike ride, or overnight camping trip.
Here are the 15 skills every adventurer needs to know.


Appropriate clothing can be the difference between singing in the rain and struggling to survive. When it comes to braving the elements, the base layer is most important. You want resilient fibers that efficiently manage moisture and body heat, and wool is Mother Nature’s original performance fiber. “It does everything naturally that many of today’s synthetic fibers try to match,” says Smartwool’s Molly Cuffe. “Wool warms in the winter, cools in the summer, and it even warms the body when it’s wet.”

In addition to being naturally biodegradable, wool is antibacterial, so you can continue to wear the same layers without worrying about body odor. Steer clear of cotton, which stops insulating when wet and can lead to hypothermia. Opt for a versatile, well-insulated, and compactable down jacket like the water- and wind-resistant Evertherm from Eddie Bauer or Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear.


“Every outdoor enthusiast should be able to read a topographical map and know how to use a compass,” says Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mashawn Butler. While it’s easy to rely on your phone’s map or GPS, it’s also a dangerous dependency. When your phone dies or you lose a signal, it’s vital that you can get your orientation, take a bearing, and navigate yourself in the direction you want to go.

Ahead of your trip, buy a topographical map and study the terrain or download a map of any area in the country on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website. If you need to refresh your skills, REI outdoor school instructor Paige Guthrie recommends reading Be an Expert with Map & Compass, getting a Suunto M3D Leader compass, and taking REI’s nationwide map and compass navigation class.

Avoid easy yet potentially fatal mistakes when going to the bathroom in the wild by telling a “pee buddy” where you’re going and tying a long string to your pack so you can reel yourself back to the trailhead when finished.

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