First Supplement Your Wilderness Survival Knowledge

Learning to survive in the wilderness can be a life-changing experience. A survival situation is a challenge that you confidently survive or an ordeal that saps your energy and overpowers your brain with stress. Each year at least one person dies in the Canadian Wilderness because they did not know how to light a fire or build a proper shelter.

I believe strongly that basic survival skills are not hard to learn, but that few people actually get the opportunity to learn those skills properly. Learning basic survival skills requires clear explanations, proper demonstrations, and time to practise those skills in a relaxed atmosphere. Anything less than this is selling you short.

“Basic Wilderness Survival Skills will Save your Life”
Double Super Shelters at a Survival Camp with Fire

Through two decades of being a student of wilderness survival and an additional two decades of teaching I have seen, talked to, and dealt with a number of types of non-professional survival instructors. These non-professional instructors and their philosophies of training can be broken down into three main groups:

Gung-Ho Survival Boot Camp

This is where you show up, are given little real instruction, dumped in the woods with limited gear, and told to survive. Normally you get whatever the instructor had when he went through the same poorly thought out training. “Remember survival is tough; if it was easy you wouldn't be learning anything”.

With luck you get your poorly built fire going, set some snares, and crawl into your cold shelter. Then you can repeat again and again whatever silly survival credo they made you memorize to replace proper instruction. I strongly advise repeating it until you fall asleep or the sun comes up. In the morning the instructors may come by and critique your attempt at shelter building and perhaps teach you a few skills.

Great emphasis is placed on hunting or gathering food. This normally wastes more calories than you gain back. Escape and Evasion is often taught as well. This is totally counterproductive as it is teaching you how to avoid being found.

Many of these instructors don't have a depth of wilderness survival knowledge. They often teach a whole potpourri of skills they learned in the military. Unfortunately most are unrelated to wilderness survival.

I Just Read about this Last Night

These have to be the most dangerous type of instructors because they are just a few nights in front of you on the learning curve. One small advantage is they will rarely charge you much for their courses. They also won't run many courses before they give up.

I have met a few in this group who later claimed to have been “A Survival Instructor just like you”. When pushed they admitted that they had taught only one or two weekend courses and only to a few students. The biggest problem with these instructors is that they teach straight out of the SAS Survival Handbook and what they saw on Man vs. Wild.

Few in-depth explanations will be given and the longer the course runs the more fluff you receive. “Gee, what can we do now that they got the fire going? Maybe we should build a raft?” Learning to instruct Wilderness Survival can take years and most don't have the patience to master the skills necessary.

Split Paper Match & Loin Cloth

This group has you start with nothing and you do everything from scratch. This may even be possible in a few areas of the world with very rich biomes and warmer temperatures than Canada. It is also a useful exercise after you have received expert instruction in a variety of survival techniques and had years to practice those skills yourself.

You suffer a lot of needless depravation very early while you are learning basic skills. Many students give-up long before they have really mastered the skills needed to survive comfortably in the wilderness. This technique also makes the Instructors look very skilled.

A few instructors even purport to have learned their skills from ancient sources or a native elder. The stories are always similar; an elder taught a chosen disciple his secret knowledge of survival. “The elder blessed me with his vast ancient knowledge before he passed on.” This type of myth making is very dangerous and pure hogwash.

It also puts you on a path of needlessly taking further advanced courses. On these courses you are lead to believe the instructor “may” let you into the secrets of why they can survive so comfortably. The secret of course is a lot of survival training. The instructor was ready for what you were just put through. You, on the other hand, needed more time learning to walk comfortably through the forest before you start to sprint.

Proper Wilderness Survival Instruction

I cannot teach you all the skills that I have learned about Wilderness Survival in a week of training and neither could any of the other instructors at the Boreal Wilderness Institute. In fact, no professional survival instructor could really pass on all their survival skills during any particular course.

We cannot teach you everything for a number of reasons. First, some skills are environment, season or condition-specific. I cannot teach you to build an Inuit Snow Shelter (i.e. an Igloo) without 1 to 2 metres of properly windblown snow. Many skills are not really relevant to basic survival training. Some hunting skills may be illegal for non-natives to practise in Canada. Finally other skills cause excessive damage to the training environment for little gain in real experience.

That there is more knowledge or skills than can be taught in a single session holds true whether you are taking Modern Wilderness Survival, Bushcraft or Primitive Living Survival Training. A good wilderness instructor will place you on the right path towards lifelong learning. He will prepare you for the test of your survival skills that nature will eventually provide as you travel and work in the wilderness.

“Nature will provide all the nessessary Surival Tests, we don't have to”

Remember practice makes perfect. If you want to master basic survival skills like Lighting a Fire with a Striker you need to practice. What is important is that after you have completed your survival training you feel confident in the wilderness. You should be able to light a fire, build a shelter, and know to carry the proper equipment.

“I like learning the practical side of survival i.e. Fire Making & Shelter Building skills.”
— Survival Core Seminar Participant

The first step in survival training is to start supplementing your present wilderness survival knowledge and wilderness living skills with professional survival training. Everyone has some level of basic knowledge already and proper instruction works to supplement it and fill in the missing pieces. It does not take weeks in the bush and it can be easily split apart into smaller bite size pieces.

“Informative and fast. Packed with Info.”
— Survival Core Seminar Participant

I have designed the Wilderness Survival Core Seminar as an excellent first step in learning proper wilderness survival skills. When you complete your Wilderness Survival Core Seminar you will understand how to light a fire, build a shelter, and carry the right Critical Items when you travel through the wilderness. Come join us for a Real Outdoor Education because professional survival training is a lifelong investment. Register now for the Survival Core Seminar and first step in your training.

"Definitely worth taking. One would be very surprised as to how little they actually know."
— Winter Field Session Participant

Additional Resources

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Chief Instructor of the Boreal Wilderness Institute