Growing up in Alaska equips you with smarts that will set you up for life. Here are a few essential life skills that are second nature to Alaskans.

1. Building a fire.

Between tending to the woodstove in the winter, and bonfires and cookouts in the summer, the average Alaskan has tended to roughly 5,486 fires by the time they reach adulthood. Alaskans rarely leave home without a lighter, and even if you’re not the primary one in charge of the fire (a position of pride that occasionally starts pissing contests) you pick this up by osmosis.

2. Pitching a tent.

Ok – so this isn’t that difficult, even for the non-Alaskans. Still, we spend nearly every free summer weekend in the woods, so we can pitch and stake a tent in approximately a minute and a half flat. We’re truly baffled when we encounter people from the lower-48 who don’t know how to do this…or even worse, people who “don’t camp,” or try to bring up glamping.

3. Fishing.

A full of 95% of households in Alaska use fishing for subsistence purposes. (And really – who makes up of this 5% that doesn’t?) So whether your family’s livelihood is commercial fishing, or they spend the summer on rivers, lakes, or the deep sea, it’s safe to say Alaskans live and breathe all things fish. Picking the proper bait. Tying flies. The best time, river, and tide for any given expedition. Filleting anything from a Dolly Varden to a Halibut. Also, commercial fishing wear has a cult-like status in Alaska, so we’re dressed to go fishing about 95% of the time.

4. Driving in the snow.

Photo: Jack Ross

Sure, we have a leg up on this department compared to the rest of the world – come November, you won’t find a vehicle on the road without studded tires or four-wheel drive. But this is mostly a matter of attitude. We’re not about to let a little snow get in our way, even if it means we need to drive a little slower. We get confused when we see whole cities shut down over the threat of snow… but we also laugh extra hard at videos of people failing to drive in it.

5. Behaving ourselves around wildlife.

In Alaska, encounters with wildlife can be moving and terrifying, but they’re usually pretty mundane. Moose munch on tree shoots in the backyard; the occasional bear descends from the hills and picks over trash that’s been left out; herds of caribou cozy up to the highway. These animal crossings are a part of daily life, and from a young age, we’re taught to give wildlife the respect – and distance – they deserve. So we are rightly filled with ire when over-eager tourists mosey straight up to moose…and honestly, it’s hard for us to muster any sympathy for people who meet their end by behaving poorly around bears. Tragic as it is, we know not to mess around when it comes to wildlife – and we always carry bear spray in case we find ourselves in a pickle.

6. Entertaining ourselves.

Outside of the big city, most of us grew up with no cable and spotty cell service, but there was always plenty of wilderness nearby. Alaskans don’t really do “helicopter parenting,” so we were encouraged to spend all day outside, where we climbed trees, ate wild berries, fenced with dried pushky sticks, built snow forts, or just sat out in the stillness. We’re comfortable with solitude and we can entertain ourselves, especially out in nature. We’re also pros at keeping busy on road trips since any major destination is a minimum of an hour and a half’s drive.

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