Are wilderness skills & survival skills one and the same?

10:21 p.m. on May 5, 2013 (EDT)
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I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and there's something that just keeps bugging me.

It seems that everywhere I look someone, some website, or some organization is offering to teach newbies "survival skills" which is all good and well except that I get the distinct impression that many new people may not realize that "survival skills" are only a subset of a much broader subject and are only part of the skills they need to develop - IMO.

I think skills could be broke down into at least three major categories:

1. Planning & packing

2.  Wilderness skills - for everyday safety & self reliance

3. Survival skills - for emergencies

Here's where I'm going with this - are you really doing someone justice if you teach them how to splint a broken leg (survival skill) but they don't know not to pitch a tent under a big rotten limb (wilderness skill)?

I realize that some of this overlaps - e.g. first aid skills could be in all three categories I named. I also know that a lot of "survival courses" also teach everyday wilderness skills but it bothers me that the two get conflated.

It just seems to me that the word 'Survival' gets tossed around a lot, it's a major buzz word and an attention getter, not to mention being a big money maker.

 Some people just want to be Mr. or Mrs. Survival and then they get out there and realize there's a lot of every day stuff they don't know. They make mistakes and end up with hypothermia - but it's okay because they know how to rub two sticks together to make fire (thanks survival course!).

Doesn't it do a disservice if someone heads out into the backcountry knowing what to do in case of an emergency, but not how to avoid one?

What do you guys think?

Mike G.

11:47 p.m. on May 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Absolutely right.  And what's really galling about all of those so-called survivor shows is that they show people exactly what NOT to do...and then how to fix it when you've been idiotically stupid.

So wilderness skills are being smart--knowing how to stay safe, keep hydrated, warm and dry, and not get lost.  That means planning well, packing well, and staying smart. 

Survival skills are what you need when you have done something really stupid, and now have to figure out how to get back alive.

 

And don't tell me about the time you were in the woods after a plane crashed, and all you had was a coffee can, a D-cell battery, and a Swiss Army knife.  Please.  Never happened.

1:11 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Mike, I think the terms get used and abused a lot. Wilderness itself is a European term.  The FN say that it is just part of their home. Stefanson said that adventures happened to the unprepared. A number of people have gone into the bush in recent years with no clue about spending a year or two in those environs.  We take high tech gear into the bush in the summer and consider ourselves the princes of our domain. What about those that live day in and day out, trapping, hunting, fishing in an environment that many would consider harsh? 

9:27 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree completely with trouthunter.

I will add that even with survival skills one needs to distinguish between knowing what to carry for an unexpected event and how to use it, versus the "your plane just went down in the middle of nowhere now you have to turn seat cushions into stew" survival knowledge.

10:12 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I have an old copy of the US Army Survival Guide, the FM21-76, and it assumes that 'survival' refers only to staying alive long enough to get back to your unit. 

From that perspective, all the 'survival skills' are temporary, immediate solutions intended only to get you through one more hour or one more night, and leave you fit to move out the next day. 

Someone who is properly prepared, both physically and mentally, before they go into the bush should never find themselves in a 'survival' situation. 

10:27 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Call it whatever you want.  Being out there takes some skills if you want to come back.  I agree with Erich as usual.

11:27 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Mike, I think you are correct that whenever the term "survival" is used, it brings in an audience. Man against nature. Bear Grylls  conquering the savage land. For me the entire premise is flawed. The native people I know, and their ancestors, live with a deep understanding of their world. Dick Proeneke  understood it, and lived alone for 30 years. And his story is compelling, and more fun for me to see than Bear Grylls attempting  to carve a canoe paddle with a leatherman. Proeneke had solid bush skills. Survival/wilderness skills are the same, though Grylls glorifies the "barely making it out alive" motif. This attitude entrances viewers with the idea that we cannot exist comfortably in nature and need to leave it as quickly as we can. An interesting scenerio would have been to pit Bear(Barely Surviving) Grylls, against Dick Proeneke. Drop them both off in the bush and come back a year later. Perhaps we would find Grylls eating grubs and living in a cave, and Proeneke sitting front of his fireplace, writing in his journal. Along these same thoughts, canoeing legend Bill Mason said that camping was a poor term as it implies hardship. He preferred the term "living in the outdoors".

And Peter's comment that properly prepared, we shouldn't find ourselves in a survival situation, echoes my reference to Stefanson's "adventure" comment.  You shouldn't have them.

1:57 p.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Wilderness itself is a European term.

Not exactly. The first written record of wilderness, both as a term and a concept, can be found in the "Edicts of Ishoka" from the 3rd century B.C.E., in what is now India. People of all backgrounds and cultures have had a "wilderness"; that area lying outside their world view. Could the Mayan's concieve of the Barren Grounds? I don't think so, nor would it have entered into their lexicon. When George Back set off in search of Franklin, he was warned by the Aboriginal Peoples around Fort Resolution about entering the wilderness beyond the trees, saying that they would likely die. They did not, however.

Likewise, the Inuit had populated the forested areas to the south with evil spirits and little people. It was an area not to be entered. It was a "wilderness".

The term First Nations is a modern one, but it includes many different peoples, with many different cultures from many different areas of Canada. To say that all of North America was the home of any single group is misleading. Even today, there are Inuvialuit who feel uncomfortable entering the forests just as there are Gwich'in people who feel the same about the tundra. These areas still lie outside their prospective world views.

And, not to take anything away from Proeneke, but he had regular air drops of supplies and food. He also did not live in total isolation, either. He had visits from the Parks Service for whom he regularly took weather observations. There were also a few other cabin owners in the Twin Lakes area.

As for Steffanson, he was a bit of a self promoter and I would not exactly put him on a pedistal.

Call it what you will; survival training, wilderness training or wilderness survival, these are all words which can encompass the same meaning. In my youth, most kids would learn this stuff in Scouts. It was fun, and yes, a bit of an adventure because it allowed us to do things that were out of the ordinary. I have no problem using that word to describe something like camping and hiking. These days, when our adventures mostly come vicariously through watching television, I think we need a bit of real outdoor adventure in our lives. 

 

 

6:07 p.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the replies, and some good points brought up here. I certainly understand and agree about native peoples who have lived, or still live, off the land.

I think what I'm concerned about here is how skill sets are taught to new people (hikers, backpackers, etc.) through various program curriculums, books, TV, websites, etc.

Over and over I see people who are all excited to discuss their new skills and when you talk to them it is obvious all they have learned is how to handle emergency situations and a lot of that is far fetched IMO.

Maybe what I should say is that they do not possess a comprehensive set of skills - experience & common sense aside. They seem to have been duped into believing that taking a survival course or reading a survival book is adequate preparation and you just wing the rest of it.

Does that make sense?

Mike G.

 

7:50 p.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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It absolutely makes sense.  But it's not exciting to teach people how to make sure their boots fit or the tent doesn't leak.

 

Far more exciting to help them make a fire with two sticks and a boy scout.

5:14 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

..I think skills could be broke down into at least three major categories:

1. Planning & packing

2.  Wilderness skills - for everyday safety & self reliance

3. Survival skills - for emergencies...

  1. Survival skills – the art of keeping a marriage working.
  2. Wilderness skills – especially handy when the marriage doesn’t survive.
  3. Planning and packing – the art of getting out without getting killed, when the marriage fails.

I wonder if Bear Gillis ever endured the wrath of a woman scorned.

Ed

8:07 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I mention the FM21-76, and while it is called a 'survival manual', and hence one of the various books that Mike describes, it is meant to be used in conjunction with a hands-on training course. 

As North mentions, when I was younger we went camping every summer, and expanded our skills at outdoor living in the Boy Scouts. Where I came from, we went on canoe trips - young kids out on their own for a few weeks at a time, alone on a river.

There seems to be a lot less of that kind of practical experience going on nowadays, and more of the profit-oriented, organized training courses being offered by 'professionals'. Some of it's good - wilderness first aid or avalanche training courses come to mind - and they all add to a skill set that might let someone survive in both the long and short term. 

The skills being taught aren't the problem. The real difficulty is when someone thinks that an avalanche course makes them qualified to lead a group on a mountain skiing trip, or that reading a manual will let them survive a few weeks alone in the backcountry.

One of the best survival skills is just being able to relax in the outdoors. A familiarity with the environment means that people are less likely to panic if there's a problem, and someone who's spent a few summers in a tent or hiking a few trails is going to be less afraid of an unexpected shower or of getting off the trail a bit than someone who's never spent any time outdoors. 

10:29 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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North, I didn't intend to imply that FN refers to a single group. And traditionally, most aboriginal cultures, did not often venture outside their territory. Stefansson was a self promoter, as have been many, Byrd, Peary, Speke.. But I think his comment about having an "adventure", holds true. With careful planning even the unpredicted careful accident can be dealt with. Proeneke had visitors and did not live in total isolation. My point is that his skills were not just about surviving, implying that he was on the edge of perishing. He was living. Peter's point about relaxing, echoes Bill Mason's comment about camping. I would rather be stranded with someone like Proeneke than Grylls. Not in the desert, or the jungle perhaps, but in the environment he is familiar with. 

The more time we spend in the bush, natural lands, wilderness, whatever we call it, we are more experienced in understanding it, and learning to work with it. Is the goal to survive? Certainly on a basic level. However, I would prefer to say we relax and live in relative comfort.

11:38 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Erich, I think our discussion is being hampered by semantics. What ever we choose to call it, wilderness skills, like any other skill, is just one step of a life long journey of learning. When ever I go away from home, with either pack or paddle, I always find myself learning new things, about the land and, perhaps more importantly about myself, and I hope I always do. Because when we no longer learn from our experiences we might as well quit the game all together.

Words these days are taking on new meanings. When I did a solo canoe trip down the Back River I described the land as "awesome" using the true meaning of the word, 'awe inspiring' as opposed to the watered down and overused definition of today's younger generation. It was also an adventure. But then, I don't think of an adventure as a plane crash, starvation, etc. type of experience. To me, an adventure is simply never giving up on than indiscribable zest for life and learning. So, I try to make every day an adventure.

As for the OPs observations, maybe part of the problem arises from the fact that our demographics have changed in Canada and undoubtedley the US as well. Our nations have become far more urbanized over the last couple of generations. Where as, once we lived on farms and homesteads in the country, now the majority of us live in cities. Maybe these organizations are simply trying to exploit yet another niche market by attempting to reconnect us with the land or nature or what ever you wish to call it.

I had the good fortune to grow up in what was refered to simply as "the bush", but I have also spent time in the city. Making that transition between the Urban environment and the Rural became effortless over time. I am equally comfortable in either, although I prefer the latter to the former, but now feel at home pretty much anywhere. This ties in with what Peter said above in that survival skills are more about comfort levels and familiarity. But, familiarity doesn't come from taking a course, but rather from experience. 

So, to make a long story short, taking a wilderness skills course, no matter what the particular name is, is just the first step; we still have to learn to apply it and expand upon it.

12:16 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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North, I totally agree, especially that last statement. Courses can teach, but it is time spent in the bush that truly teaches. Along these same lines and your reference to changing demographics, many people just want a quick fix. Here in the Seattle area, the land of Microsoft, we have lot of young people who, if they do engage in outdoor pursuits, are often out for incredibly brief periods. Part of their lifestyle and generation certainly, but I feel that even though they have taken an avalanche course, or survival course, they are still not really experiencing what the mountain, the ocean or the desert can teach us about the world and ourselves.

9:13 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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yet another marketing gimmick. the "survival" fad is just that. they leave out the experience, and the takers of these courses are getting ripped off because of it. pretty sad commentary.

12:37 p.m. on May 8, 2013 (EDT)
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There are many levels of understanding when it comes to the outdoors.  Popular culture and the media use terms like "the wilderness"  and weekend "survival skills."  The newbies are easy to spot by their lingo. 

Most outdoor users probably fall in the second category.  They day hike, car camp and like to fish and ride bikes, and mess around in the outdoors.  They have a casual approach and don't like anything "too hardcore" like cold weather or too remote. 

The last group are the long trip takers and people that work in the oudoors.  Living outdoors changes one's perspective in a big hurry.  Mason was a great philosopher without working at it very hard.  It only usually takes about 5 minutes to be able to tell the difference.

1:57 p.m. on May 9, 2013 (EDT)
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I think I'd break it down even further. There are the people who drive to the campground, set up their tent, gen set and music system, then spend the rest of the day drinking beer and driving their quads around. The maximum level of their physical activity might be exploring a trail running through the campground or walking down to the shower building.

I don't have a problem with dayhikers. While some few are idiots, those ones never seem to get far from the trailhead. Most backpackers start with dayhikes, and a select few try harder hikes or backpacking once they've had a chance to decide whether they really enjoy it. In terms of developing wilderness skills and getting comfortable in the outdoors, everyone is lot safer starting out with dayhikes on marked trails than heading out alone on something beyond their reach.

Every year, I do a 'backpacking prep' so that the dayhikers in in my groups can try it out in a safe environment. Perhaps 3/4 try it and decide the amount of work is more than they want to tackle again. That means that when I do a longer trip, I'm not saddled by people who can't keep up or who  just aren't strong enough.

Backpacking adds a whole extra set of skills: having to carry a heavy load, including tent and stove, being prepared for more difficult weather conditions or injuries that might unexpectedly arise, and having no easy escape route in case of trouble. Because of those factors, equipment selection becomes much more important, as do experience and physical strength.

I absolutely agree that working in the bush helps with familiarity, although I have to say that the skills need to do so have changed drastically in recent years. Once upon a time, working there meant packing gear in on foot or on horseback, and living there for months at a time.

However, a number of years ago, I spent a couple of winters on the muskeg in Northern Alberta. While there wasn't much hiking going on (or even walking - very few people got out of their pickup trucks unless they absolutely had to) the outdoors became less frightening to the kids who'd grown up in a city and a more normal environment for them. That's the comfort level I was talking about. At least they wouldn't panic if their truck got a flat!

On the other hand, all the navigation was done by GPS or using LSD maps, and everyone slept in a cozy trailer and ate in a cookshack, so I wonder how much working in those conditions actually helped people develop wilderness survival skills. Interestingly, the best people were the kids from rural backgrounds, including the ones from Newfoundland, who seemed to be less urbanized. 

11:45 a.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter, I would have to agree with you in regards to working in the bush. Times, and technology, have certainly changed alot.

As a kid I would work summers around the Quetico area of Ontario. We would use canoes, set up our own camps, cook our own food over a fire and generally be alone all summer. All navigation was done with a map and compass, there was nothing else in those days, and every now and then a plane would come in with supplies. It was great! And it was a real learning experience at that young age. I remember taking the canoe out in the early mornings, out onto the lake or river while the mist was still hanging in the air and the sun was just rising. Or, on other occasions, go for long hikes after work to pick blueberries.

In more recent years, I have come across camps in the middle of nowhere, that had all the amenities of home. Satellite television and phone, e-mail and internet, etc. I remember asking people I met in such camps if they ever did any hiking on the land and I would always get the same response, "why?". Nature, it seems, has largely become a back drop, little more than a stage upon which we go about our work. Technology has, in many ways, become our new "reality". This is why it is so important, perhaps more so now than ever before, to get outside and away for an afternoon, a day or longer. 

4:35 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Than you, North 1. I couldn't agree more. 

Been to the Diavik or Ekati diamond mines yet? 

5:28 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Been to the Diavik or Ekati diamond mines yet?

They are in the Lac de Gras area. I have never been there personally, but on my way to the headwaters of the Back River I passed through Clinton-Golden Lake to the east of Diavik. I generally stay away from places like that. The chance of a good hot meal is often too tempting.

I find that part of the world to be very beautiful, though. Good paddling, crystal clear water, great fishing. Lots of rapids though with some rough portages. But, then that's what it's all about! I spent many years tramping around that area.

7:07 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

trouthunter said:

..I think skills could be broke down into at least three major categories:

1. Planning & packing

2.  Wilderness skills - for everyday safety & self reliance

3. Survival skills - for emergencies...

  1. Survival skills – the art of keeping a marriage working.
  2. Wilderness skills – especially handy when the marriage doesn’t survive.
  3. Planning and packing – the art of getting out without getting killed, when the marriage fails.

I wonder if Bear Gillis ever endured the wrath of a woman scorned.

Ed

 That was funny..... I am done for the day in the garden and this thread is making my eyes bleed.  Good thing no one is getting into doomsday prep skills to boot.

7:27 a.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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North1 said:

Been to the Diavik or Ekati diamond mines yet?

They are in the Lac de Gras area. I have never been there personally, but on my way to the headwaters of the Back River I passed through Clinton-Golden Lake to the east of Diavik. I generally stay away from places like that. The chance of a good hot meal is often too tempting.

Fly-in/fly out, private rooms with bath and maid service, hot meals, movies, gyms, running tracks and fitness centres, hi-speed internet, big screen TVs...  Even the haul trucks have MP3 players.

So much for isolated northern living. 

12:03 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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That's exactly why I stay away from sites like that. Fortunately, the land up here is vast and swallows you up pretty quick. We still have only about 40,000 people in over a million square kilometers, most of whom live in Yellowknife. A man can lose himself so thoroughly up here it's like he never existed.

12:20 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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North1 said:

A man can lose himself so thoroughly up here it's like he never existed.

If I wasn't married and had the responsibilities to others that I do that is exactly what I would do. 

1:14 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I am very glad to have had the opportunities I had at an early age to travel and experience this part of the world. Over all, it has been a great adventure and I have learned a lot. I married much later in life but am fortunate enough to have found someone who enjoys the same things I do, all be it in a limited capacity.

Of interest to this thread; many companies up here have necessary wilderness training for their employees. Arctic Response, in Yellowknife about 1200 km to the south of where I am writing this, is one of the major companies offering such training. They call it "Arctic Survival" and "Wilderness Readiness".

In spite of the amenities offered by camps in the North, there are still inherent risks involved in working here. After all, it isn't downtown Toronto.

Yes, many places do have satellite tv and phones and the Internet, but travel outside is still limited by the vagaries of the weather, which is often bad, especially during the long cold winters.

9:48 a.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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North1 - I like the term 'Wilderness Readiness'.

To me the terms survival or wilderness survival  conveys a sense of apprehension or imminent danger.

When I am out in the backcountry I am enjoying myself, observing nature, relaxing on non hike days, & eating well - (not that there isn't work required).  To me the skills required to be self reliant and comfortable are just basic everyday skills. I don't ever feel as though I am in 'survival mode'.

I think part of this may be because I live in a mild sub-tropical type climate, maybe people who are out in sub -zero temps have a different perspective (?).

Mike G.

 

1:08 p.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

...maybe people who are out in sub -zero temps have a different perspective (?).

That may well be the case.

Even the morning drive to work can be white-knuckle all the way, with black ice, zero traction, and  poor visibility, and the potential for disaster is much higher. There are many days every winter when the difficulty of the drive can be effectively rated by the number of cars in the ditch. 

When I was a kid, I had a friend who was found in a snowbank in the spring after trying to walk home from a party, and getting lost on a country road in winter can easily be fatal. A number of homeless people freeze to death in Edmonton every winter. 

That might be why some of us get out skiing and snowshoeing, both to get acclimatized, and to get more comfortable with being outside in winter. 

6:48 a.m. on June 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I like the idea of "Comfort and Safety in the Backcountry" as a goal, as we individually learn to appreciate our interaction with flora, fauna, fungus, funks, and weather.

Today we assume that fly fishing for trout can be taught in two eight-hour sessions, it can't. We need to relax and enjoy the slow, patient acquisition of knowing-by-doing, over a lifetime. 

So much of true backcountry skills lies in common sense and improvisation. Our disposable society doesn't teach the true value of duct tape and baling twine; if something breaks we toss it and buy new. "The grommet tore out of my tarp and it will rain soon, what will I do?" shouldn't even be a question voiced; just pick up a small smooth stone and carry on.

10:38 a.m. on June 3, 2013 (EDT)
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overmywaders said:

I like the idea of "Comfort and Safety in the Backcountry" as a goal, as we individually learn to appreciate our interaction with flora, fauna, fungus, funks, and weather.

Today we assume that fly fishing for trout can be taught in two eight-hour sessions, it can't. We need to relax and enjoy the slow, patient acquisition of knowing-by-doing, over a lifetime. 

So much of true backcountry skills lies in common sense and improvisation. Our disposable society doesn't teach the true value of duct tape and baling twine; if something breaks we toss it and buy new. "The grommet tore out of my tarp and it will rain soon, what will I do?" shouldn't even be a question voiced; just pick up a small smooth stone and carry on.

 Oh come now, in this modern age a torn out grommet means almost instant death :)

I still don't know how to address this thread. Woodland/ wilderness skills are just some thing to learn for those who wish. There is no more wooly or mammoth left to hunt.

3:00 p.m. on June 4, 2013 (EDT)
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they did find a wooly mammoth so well preserved it's blood was still liquid. who says there's no more mammoth to hunt...problem is there all DEAD already!

5:21 p.m. on June 4, 2013 (EDT)
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bring on the BBQ sauce ...

Say i wonder what that was like 10,000 years ago? Surf and Turf would have had a whole different meaning I guess.

Wilderness skills to me are things like knapping stone points, ID ing wild plants that are tasty, first fire by friction, weaving a grass basket so tight you can hold water in it and boil that water dropping hot rocks into it, and use the basket again.

Everyone has another idea on what wilderness skills are.

10:58 a.m. on June 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Part of the skill set, is being in tune with the world around us. The pressures  that are put on us, or we put on ourselves in the urban world, are in contrast to the pressures of the natural world. Living in nature and being part of the ebb and flow is a survival tool. The bear has no watch, freeze up doesn't happen on the same day. A colleague spent last winter living with an Inuit family. One morning, the elder looked out the window on a horrendously cold and miserable day and he commented, "Only a white man would go out on a day like this". We need to learn patience and be comfortable that learning to fly fish will take a life time, not a few hours.

4:25 p.m. on June 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Erich,

Whatever you want to call the course, training or skill set, it is a matter of semantics. The important part is what's being taught. But, like any good salesperson, you need a hook by which you can attract potential clients or customers, hence the term "Survival" in a lot of these on-line advertisements, and elsewhere. Survival has become sexy. We are, after all, living in a consumerist era and I am sure that most of us in the Western world (North America and Europe, but increasingly so in Asia, now) buy far more junk than we need under the premise that it is essential for our wellbeing. To paraphrase Eisenhower, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the consumerist-industrial complex”.

I think it is far more important to just get out there and experience Nature in all its moods whether under the guise of a Survival Class or what have you. After all, if every day was a sunny day, how would you know it was a sunny day? If all we ever experience is the product of our own creation then what is the true measure of ourselves in the grand scheme of things?

So, I agree in part with you, Erich in that survival anywhere is a matter of being within one’s comfort zone. I have known some prairie dwellers who feel absolutely claustrophobic in the mountains and some highlanders who feel too exposed on the prairies. The same occurs out here in the Western Arctic with some people feeling out of place if taken out of their home environment. With their environment limited to a 50km radius, this is not an enviable position to be in for reasons beyond the scope of this forum. Most people up here will not travel at all when the weather is bad, while some of my most enjoyable and memorable moments have been camping out during a storm or a blizzard. But then according to the local people I am crazy and should have died many times over because the gear I carry, the same gear I have used successfully for the past 30 years or so, does not work up here. This includes my tent, clothing, stove, etc. Yet, time after time, I have wondered off for a week, a month or longer and always come back safe and sound. Safe and sound and happy. Why? Beats me, but maybe it is as another wise person said “what people say you cannot do, you try and find you can.”

9:57 a.m. on June 6, 2013 (EDT)
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North, many of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences are the more extreme ones, as well. Not the life threatening ones, though they were memorable. I wonder about the preceding comments, about people in the north, native and non-native, perhaps being less in tune with the environment because they no longer have to be. I have friends in the Selkirk FN, and some years ago we were talking about the lack of interest in hunting that most of their family had. Only their grandson was interested, and that made them sad.

Perhaps your affliction and mine, and many others on this site, is wanderlust. And among the native people that affliction exists as well in small numbers. For generations we are fascinated by, yet society often call crazy, those who seek the solitude of a mountain, an ocean, a desert. To seek and perhaps to find, a little bit more about the world we live in, and at the same time, a little bit more about ourselves.

Climber Lionel Terray wrote a wonderful book entitled, "Conquistadors of the Useless". While your neighbors may not venture more than 50 k from home, or the prairie dweller feels uncomfortable in the mountains, others, a few in each place want to see what more is out there. In my college days, I took a summer and traveled to England, and then to Ethiopia and the Yemen. While in Africa, I met and traveled with a Brit from the Midlands. He had spent several months traveling in Africa. He was not born to travel, he wasn't wealthy, his parents didn't travel. He was curious. In contrast, in England on that trip, I picked up a hitchhiker on his way to London for the first time. He was my age, lived 40 miles outside of London, and yet had never left his village before. Perhaps he had been bitten by the bug, wanderlust, curiosity, to seek out more about the world around him.

So if survival is being within one's comfort zone, then perhaps there are some who want to expand that comfort zone, to learn. After all, the moon was outside everyone's comfort zone, and yet some few stood there and we are richer for that.

10:42 a.m. on June 6, 2013 (EDT)
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North,

Perhaps it was a typo, but I enjoyed your sentence -

Yet, time after time, I have wondered off for a week, a month or longer and always come back safe and sound.

August 30, 2014
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