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10/20/2016 6:00 AM
 

Hey, was wondering how everyone learned survival skills before going camping and hiking? I'm looking to be a bit more adventurous (more than just 1 day hikes and camping and big camp grounds like I do now) and I'm thinking of doing a course to make sure I know what I'm doing (I feel I know a bit, but probably need more).

I found one course by the survival doctor (http://escapeevasionsurvivaltraining....) and the review looks really good, but I'm interested in finding as many options as possible.

Anyone have any good suggestions? 

 
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10/20/2016 11:20 AM
 

Well, I went through the SFQC (back when it had a serious survival phase) at 23 years of age and then went to Army SERE 14yr later, so I consider myself "trained".   Having said that, most folks get into a "survival" situation due to piss-poor planning (logistics) and lack of land navigation skills (turning a GPS on doesn't qualify), so I'd recommend starting there.  I was an infantryman in AK for a couple of winters and I rode the train from Fairbanks to McKinley Park every chance I had in all seasons.  I read Bjorn Kellstrom's "Be an Expert with a Map & Compass" and taught myself to interpret/visualize the contour intervals on a flat map and see them in 3D on the surrounding terrain.  The relief and openness of Denali was perfect for that.  When I got to the STAR(land nav) exam at Camp McKall, the relief of the wooded terrain there was MUCH more subtle, and harder to visualize.  I attribute my prior study and experience with making this a lot easier.

Of course, being able to build a fire, using a variety tools (and always carrying same) is a given.  In a similar vein, find out if conifer fatwood exists in your locale, and learn to identify it.

 
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10/20/2016 11:38 AM
 
Hi Kirk,

I am by no means a survival expert, and I have a hard time lighting a fire when wood is soaked, even if I have a lighter. I grew up car camping and fishing with my dad and brothers. and we spent a lot of time playing in the woods and exploring. I later enlisted in the Army infantry, but I can't really say I learned too many survival skills there, with one big exception - land navigation.

I can't say everyone would agree with me, but I think one of the most important skills to know is how to figure out where you are, especially in a survival situation. Obviously there are some things that are more immediately important - if you're freezing to death or dying of dehydration, knowing where you are dying isn't going to help you much. I don't know where you live, but I do know the local REI here offers into land navigation/orienteering classes. I've never taken one, but if you don't know land nav, it might be worth looking into. In my experience a lot of what people teach initially is dead reckoning, but I personally prefer terrain association, at least in my areas of operation. But if you're a novice... maybe just go with whatever the instructor is teaching.

One biggie I just thought of is your attitude - a great book I love is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Might one to check it out. $9 on amazon. Obviously it isn't some hands-on skill, but arguably it could be the most important thing. (So ... maybe more important than land navigation...)

Shelter, water, and fire - luck favors the prepared.

Getting a tarp and learning how to set it up in a few different ways (even in your backyard or local woods) would be cheap and easy to learn. A couple of my go-tos are A-Frames and a Forrester tent. Pretty easy to set up with a tarp and some cordage, and pretty easy to learn online and then go out locally and practice.

Water - finding it if you don't have it is really dependent on your location. I'm in Tennessee, and water is plentiful and easy to find. But again, something that can be really helpful is having a topographical map of your area. You find where you are, you find where a water source is... Learning watersheds, how drainage works, and how water moves can be helpful. Having a container is always important - a metal container is great so you can boil your water to purify it, which may or may not be a big deal in a true survival situation.

Fire - this, like tarp shelters, is easy to practice in the backyard or local woods. (If you're in somewhere dry and prone to forest fires... Be careful, right? Not a huge concern for me anymore.) I imagine this is easier to learn when you actually have someone to teach you, but with some persistence it is fairly easy to figure out. Carrying something with you helps immensely - matches, bic lighter, ferro rod, store bought fire starter. Learning how to use them is important. Carrying a knife is important so you can make fire food - tinder (itty bitty things that light easily), kindling (pencil size stuff that burns easily), and actual fuel (finger size to wrist sized pieces of wood). Continual practice will make you better, which will make it easier to light a fire in a survival situation.

I don't want to say that survival stuff isn't important, but good preparation makes it getting into a situation like that much less likely. Carrying - and knowing how to use - essentials is important. Water, water container, knife, fire making, shelter, land navigation, having a map of your area, etc. all make being in the wilderness easier and more enjoyable, as there is just that much less risk of anything happening. Lately quite a bit of my hiking is in the Smokies; staying on the trails and having a map of all the trails has resulted in me having Zero problems. Until you get a little more comfortable being out there, maybe staying on trails would be a good start.

Carrying a decent medical kit is also always a good thing. There's a pinned topic in the general part of the forum on medical kits that might give you some ideas, and taking a first aid course or wilderness first aid course would be a good idea eventually.

Sorry if this isn't what you were looking for, but I have no experience with classes for survival. Hopefully someone else can weigh in on that. Nothing I said is trying to assume you don't know any of this, just giving my thoughts. The majority of my survival skills have been learned through practicing in the woods in "safe" situations. The time to learn how to light a fire isn't when you're facing hypothermia, the time to learn to carry a water bottle isn't when you're dying of dehydration, and the time to try and figure out how maps and compasses work isn't when you're lost in the woods. All common sense stuff.

Maybe I should look into taking survival classes, maybe that's a gap in my outdoor skills. But that's my experience, and in over twenty years of playing in the woods going on everything from day hikes to week long backcountry trips, the only emergency I've encountered was first aid related (my brother nearly cut off his finger once... Fun times...).

Hopefully some other people chime in with their thoughts.

- J
 
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10/20/2016 1:42 PM
 

GoKartz hit the nail on the head. All of this survival stuff is usually prioritized incorrectly. First learn how not to get in trouble with a course like our Intro To Backpacking, then learn about survival as the exception, not the rule. Bart Combs of SOLKOA is one of the foremost SERE experts in the country. Bear in mind that he makes a living teaching survival and selling survival supplies. Here is what he observed to me on the matter (I'm paraphrasing because it's been a couple years) -- "What is the number one reason that civilians end up in survival situations? [insert VERY high percentage that I don't remember] of civilians end up in these situations because they get lost. So that tells you that the first thing you should be worried about learning is land navigation. All of the arts and crafts stuff is a distant second in terms of importance."

ETA - GoKartz AND TAK both hit the nail on the head. In short, land nav is what you should care about right now.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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10/20/2016 2:34 PM
 

Just to add a bit more to the mix.  By focusing on the skills to prevent the survival situation from ever happening....i.e. - proper navigation training, Situational Awareness, planning, preparedness, et al, one can then thrive in that austere environment.  Then, if "The Bad Day" (or days) ever happens, the skills to get through it are there, because the foundation has already been built.  In the courses I teach for US DOJ folks, we spend a lot of time teaching our students how to stay left of the event.  That can only be accomplished by continually building and maintaining one's ability to be "switched on".  I like to say Situational Awareness is the cup, and all of the other skills and knowledge are what goes in it.  End up in a new environment?  The SA cup needs re-filled, to the brim if possible.  All of the hard skills, soft skills, book learning...all of it....applies. It is continually updated and given the attention it deserves.  


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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10/21/2016 9:36 AM
 
Wow, so many great responses. That book certainly looks a good read. I need to take a moment to digest all of this! Thanks guys!
 
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10/21/2016 10:06 AM
 

You asked about a class and it took me down a certain road in my mind so I missed the obvious. If you haven't gone through it yet, there is a whole lot of information in our Equipages Section. Also, we're slowly putting a lot of lecture curriculum online in our new HPG Longhouse Video Series.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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10/21/2016 7:46 PM
 
This was something I read a little while ago and had saved it, and your question brought it to mind. Might give it a look. I liked how he outlined everything. I'm not a terribly organized person, and after a little bump to my head I've had more problems being organized, but I really appreciated his organization.

http://masterwoodsman.com/2014/outdoor-skills-to-learn-first/

- J
 
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10/31/2016 10:47 AM
 

If safety were the only variable, I probably wouldn't leave the shelter of my house. I go the the wilderness principally for enjoyment. Personally, I wouldn't take that course because it doesn't look enjoyable.

 
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10/31/2016 9:42 PM
 
Alex wrote:

. Personally, I wouldn't take that course because it doesn't look enjoyable.

 What course?  The link was to a suggested list of skill by an outdoor author.

 
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