Outdoor Survival Skills, 6th edition, by Larry Dean Olsen (1997; Chicago Review Press, Chicago, IL; 800-888-4741; $14.95).
Primitive Living and Survival Skills, by John and Geri McPherson (1994; Prairie Wolf Publishing, Randolph, KS; $9.95).
The Tracker, by Tom Brown Jr. with William Jon Watkins (1986; Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY; 800-631-8571; $6.99).
Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, by Tom Brown Jr. with Brandt Morgan (1987; Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY; 800-631-8571; $12.95).
Wilderness Survival, by Gregory J. Davenport (1998; Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA; 800-732-3669; $14.95).
With no agencies regulating the survival school industry, just about anybody can hang a shingle that says “Wilderness Survival Training.” That means you need to do your homework to find a reliable school that’s worth your time and money.
Start your search the old-fashioned way: Talk to friends and acquaintances who have first-hand experience, and look for brochures at your local outfitters. Then check the Wilderness Schools Home Page on the Internet at www.geosmith.com/wilderness. Survival schools aimed at outdoor recreationists are listed based on recommendations from Web site viewers and the brochure and promotional materials of the school.
Once you’ve found a few schools you’re interested in, study their Web sites and request brochures and course schedules. Most schools aimed at outdoor recreationists clearly say so in the mission statement.
Call the school and ask about the balance between teaching primitive living and modern survival skills to see if the school’s education priorities match yours. Also ask for a list of satisfied customers, and make sure the course is at least 70 percent hands-on training.
Ask how the school deals with environmental impact during field courses. Building fires, foraging, and constructing debris shelters can damage sensitive environments. Responsible schools have a method for mitigating impact on the outdoors.
To get you started, here are some wilderness survival schools, all geared toward backpackers and all with established reputations. This list is by no means inclusive, however, and there are many quality survival schools across the country that aren’t mentioned here.
Aboriginal Living Skills School, P.O. Box 3064, Prescott, AZ 86302; (520) 636-8384; firstname.lastname@example.org.; www.alssadventures.com. Instructor/owner Cody Lundin offers courses in both modern survival and primitive living skills, centered around the Southwest desert environments. Prices range from $230 for a two-day course to $830 for an eight-day course.
Ancient Pathways, 5205 E. Cortland Blvd., #395, Flagstaff, AZ 86004; (520) 526-4218. Anthropologist Tony Nestor uses his knowledge of ancient Native American traditions to teach survival skills and animal tracking techniques. Prices begin at $65 for a one-day field course.
ANEW/Simply Survival, P.O. Box 1159, Stevenson, WA 98648; (509) 427-4340; www.ssurvival.com. All courses taught by school owner/founder Greg Davenport, a former U.S Air Force survival instructor and author of Wilderness Survival (see Resources on page 150). Focus is on modern survival skills and group/corporate leadership training. Prices are approximately $120 per person, per day.
Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS), P.O. Box 1590, Boulder, CO 80306; (800) 335-7404; www.boss-inc.com. Field courses teach students how to survive in the Utah desert with little more than a wool blanket. Some “skills” courses focus on teaching traditional living techniques used by primitive cultures across the globe, while allowing students to take modern backpacking and camping gear. Prices range from $535 for a four-day course to $2,425 for a 27-day course.
Desert Survival Workshop, Big Bend Ranch State Park, P.O. Box 2319, Presidio, TX 79845; (915) 229-3416; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Courses in modern survival taught by Australian bush veteran and Texas State Park Ranger David Alloway. Cost is $350.
Earthwalk Northwest, P.O. Box 461, Issaquah, WA 98027; (425) 746-7267; www.EarthwalkNorthwest.com. Primitive living skills with an emphasis on learning how to identify edible and medicinal plants in the Pacific Northwest. Prices range from $225 for a two-day course to $650 for a week.
Headwaters Outdoor School, P.O. Box 1698, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1698; (831) 423-3830; www.hwos.com. Primitive living skills classes emphasize tool making and wildlife observation and tracking. Prices range from $125 for two days to $590 for a weeklong course.
Mountain Shepherd, 220 Regal Oaks Way, Amherst, VA 24521; (804) 929-5309; www.mountainshepherd.com. Courses in modern and primitive survival skills, plus a family camping seminar that teaches outdoors skills to all ages. Prices range from $78 for an overnight course to $125 for a two-night class; family discounts available.
Northwest School of Survival, 39065 Pioneer Blvd., Ste. 200, Sandy, OR 97055; (503) 668-8264; www.nwsos.com. Courses in both primitive living and modern survival. Other outdoors skills classes include mountaineering, avalanche/rescue training, and using a GPS. Survival course prices range from $375 for a two-day class to $1,150 for a five-day class.
School of Forest Princess Peers, R.R. #1, Peers, AB, Canada, T0E 1W0; (780) 693-2428. Classes in modern and primitive wilderness skills taught by Mors Kochanski, an international authority on cold-weather survival. Prices are approximately $60 (Canadian) per person per day.
Tom Brown’s Tracker School, P.O. Box 173, Asbury, NJ 08802-0173; (908) 479-4681; http://members.aol.com/trackerinc. The beginner’s survival course provides instruction in primitive skills including shelter, fire, tracking, trapping, and tanning. A new course, called Coyote Camps, is aimed at teaching nature observation and survival to children. Prices are approximately $700 for a weeklong course.
Wilderness Heart Awareness and Survival School, P.O. Box 598, Buckner, MO 64016; (816) 650-3600; www.sound.net/~wheart. Courses in primitive living skills, focusing on environmental awareness, for adults and children. Prices range from $100 to $150 for two-day courses.
Woodmaster/Hoods in the Woods, P.O. Box 383, Lake Hughes, CA 93532; (888) 257-BUGS; www.survival.com. Former U.S. Army Special Warfare Team member Ron Hood teaches primitive skills with a “tough love” approach, including sleeping on hot coals to stay warm and in hollow logs. Prices are approximately $1,000 for a weeklong course.