Anyone writing science fiction or fantasy ought to have a subscription to Backpacker magazine.
What do current outdoors tips have to do with what's usually in a fictional far past or far future, you ask? Well, strangely, a whole lot.
For you High Fantasy Writers
Ok, it also goes for you contemporary fantasy writers, too… but that should be an easy match. Now, you folks who are penning a quest of 3-7 heroes camping and traveling to save the world from Evil Antagonist of Doom, know that you won't have Gore-tex ® and LED flashlights. However, the many benefits of wool clothes or socks would still be related. You also ought to know how and when to make tourniquets, treat hypothermia, whether or not you can really suck venom out of a snake bite, proper rope tying techniques, and a safe guess of how long each character can safely hike carrying the proper equipment. (We're not getting into horses; that's another post.)
All of that info was just in this past month's magazine. It was really cool!
For you Urban Fantasy Writers or Steampunk Writers
If you've got characters surviving on gritty, grimy streets - whether they are now or some version of Victoriana, they still have to survive. Knowing how to tie knots and scale vertical surfaces comes in handy. So does basic first aid, scavenging food, and, if you're of the ilk where werewolves roam the streets, surviving a wild animal attack. Means to avoid hypothermia are also important, as are dealing with dehydration, cleaning water supplies, and how many things you can use a knife for might also come in handy in street smarts.
Steampunk writers might also pick a Wild West setting, which would definitely require outdoor survival skills. And those explorers - wherever they are bound in their airships - ought to know how to properly pack their bags so they don't throw their backs out and can maximize their limited space.
For you Apocalyptic or Post-Apocalyptic Writers
Life as we know has been destroyed, and your characters have to survive in harsh climates. Do I really need to elaborate? Yes, I've seen tips in Backpacker about dealing with heavy metal contamination and even possible radiation.
For you Space Opera or Space Cowboy Writers
Like any of the other spec-fic genres I've mentioned: first aid, survival in alien/harsh terrain, proper packing and loading, use of knives (primitive or laser knives), possible animal attacks are all potentially important. On top of that, take a look at some of the current gear we have! From Arctic sleeping bags that can fit in a pocket to footwear designed to support and protect feet without giving up benefit of toes, there's some pretty nifty stuff out there now - just extrapolate the coolness for the future.
Besides all that, just flipping through the pages and reading others' stories on camping adventures, or kick-ass jobs (this past issue), or hunting for the first time gives me a lot of new ideas for wonderful ordeals to put my characters through! (Let me tell you how they cringe at headlines starting with "Survive" and ending with an exclamation point.)
Now, I'm not affiliated with the magazine in any way, and it's Scott's subscription. My actual hiking happens maybe 3 times a year, max. I'm just suggesting this bit of research and reading as a fellow writer. Go have an adventure! (At least on paper… I don't want to hear how YOU had to get rescued in a few issues!)
* Photo by Scott Wooldridge: Compass at Wachusett Mountain.