living off the land where to start

11:37 p.m. on June 11, 2008 (EDT)
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i've been living in bc for 7 years now, born and raised in canada, and lately iv'e been finding my self extremely interested and keen on wilderness survival and how one can live off the land, i'm really just out for some good advise as to where a good place to start would be. i dont have alot of money, and i am in no rush

7:18 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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I can't advise you on where to start, I live in southeastern US, but if you have not already watched this documentary you will love it! "Alone in the Wilderness" the true story of
Dick Proenneke who moved to Alaska and built a log cabin by himself and ended up staying for 27 years!

8:47 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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First question to ask yourself is why do you want to live off the land and/or survive in the wilderness. It is a nice, romantic dream, but for the vast majority of people, just not realistic. The second question is where have you spent your life - city, on a farm, in a true wilderness situation, or what? By true wilderness location, I mean, have you had to hunt and/or fish for food, have you gathered wild nuts and berries? Have you dressed game and have you preserved the meat/fish such that it will last and not rot (you won''t have a refrigerator)? How familiar are you with which plants are edible and which are poisonous in the area you want to spend your time? You aren't going to have a grocery store within a couple miles, and you aren't going to have medical facilities 5 minutes away with a phone call. Can you do advanced first aid on yourself and your companions - severe sprains, dislocations, broken bones, flu, pneumonia, other infections? In BC, you will also have to deal with critters like grizzlies (same if you go farther north to Yukon or NW Territories - I assume you aren't Native, so you won't be going to Nunavut).

Have you built a permanent shelter that will provide protection against the kind of weather you will encounter year around in the location you are choosing (if it's BC, this means serious blizzards in winter, and that includes dealing with potential avalanches)?

Can you cook, sew, tan hides, do carpentry (ax only), grow your own crops (know the crops for the seasons and dealing with pests from mite to large 4-legged critters)? Can you maintain your tools? For your hunting, can you reload your shells, or will you use muzzle-loader, or make your own arrows, if you are bow-hunting? You can't depend that much on re-supply from civilization, especially in winter when the snow is on the ground.

Are you familiar with the regulations in the area you are intending to spend your time in (sorry, you can't get completely away from the government)? In some areas, you can do the "into the wild" kind of thing, but in others, it is not permitted - know for sure about the exact location you are choosing. The regulations may forbid you to kill the local game, or allow fishing only during certain seasons, and may require permits for any or all activities (including building a crude lean-to).

A lot of the knowledge and experience can be gained by apprenticing yourself to someone who has lived in the wilderness for many years - a hunting or fishing guide, or by enrolling in a wilderness management program in a university. Unfortunately, very few people grow up away from the comforts of civilization these days, and have their concept of wilderness survival and living off the land from TV "reality" shows. Those folks you see on those shows have all trained and studied for years and are backed by large, well-equipped crews. People like Dick Proenneke are rare (he had lots of experience and training before he headed out).

I grew up in a wilderness situation, though not in a "wilderness survival" environment. Much of our food was gathered by hunting and fishing, along with growing our own fruits and vegetables. But we were close enough to town with transportation that there was no serious problem with getting a lot of what we needed. And we have get electricity in the main house (not on the land my father had homesteaded, though). It was 25Hz, not 60Hz, which meant that the lights flickered (kerosene lamps were much nicer). I still enjoy getting out in late summer and fall to gather berries.

8:48 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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How far away from a source of tools and supplies do you plan to be? If you only plan to build and live ten miles from a village, that is very different than one hundred miles. You could tote gas for a chain saw ten miles and fairly easily stock up on flour or vegetables in the winter every week or so. However, if you truly wish a permanent departure like Dick Proenneke, you hope the float plane is able to bring you a few things every few months; luxuries like a chain saw, spare chains, gas, oil, chain oil, and file are not on the menu. Considering that good burning hardwoods are infrequent in northern BC (willow doesn't burn well, alder burns but is small) you would be consuming a lot of fast-burning softwood. A lot of your day would be using a saw and axe.

Lots to consider.

8:59 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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auhhhh, you guys mean it ain't like on grizzly adams?
flapjacks anyone?

9:11 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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Yup! You got it!

9:19 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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I lived in a megamid for 2 months one time, went through 5 lbs. of hydrocortisone.
True story!

Also, Forever Free, I suggest a good "sturdy" woman for wood chopin!

4:47 p.m. on June 14, 2008 (EDT)
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i am greatful for all of the advise you guys have given me, however i just wish to learn right now, i am not planning on entering the wilderness on a serious note any time soon, i'm feeling like this day n age it might be a good asset to have, there are many things i would like learn, this one by far, being the most beneficial i feel.

bill you said one can hire someone who has lived in the wilderness, to teach the skills of survival, do you know roughly how much something like this would cost, and do think it would be a fulltime commitment.

7:22 p.m. on June 14, 2008 (EDT)
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I didn't say "hire someone", although going through training programs like National Outdoor Leadership Schools runs gives a good introduction, as does going through a university program where you get a degree in related topics. A warning, though, about university degree programs (which I am sure kutenay will repeat more strongly) - a lot of academics have an agenda and a lot of them think they know more than they do (I spent 20+ years in academia myself). There are far too many who sit in their office or lab, or go out heavily equipped with all the latest comforts, while teaching someone's pet theory. You have to actually get out there and live it, not just read books (or in the case of some of the academics, write books).

I do not condemn all or even most academics. In fact some of the most knowledgeable and experienced wilderness people I know have spent and continue to spend a lot of time out there, really learning what works and what doesn't. And some of us who spent time in academia got our start growing up in wilderness or near wilderness situations.

What I suggested was apprenticing yourself to someone who works and lives in the wilderness on pretty much a full-time basis. You will have to do a lot of scouting around and talking to people to find someone willing, and you will have to demonstrate your genuine sincerity and willingness to endure the hardships. You might receive a subsistence wage, if you don't get yourself fired in the first season.

Living off the land involves a lot of manual labor, and dealing with new dangers (new to anyone who has spent their life in the city, or even on a farm). Of course, someone who grew up in the hills and is seeing city traffic at rush hour for the first time is dealing with new dangers (if you never saw a car before, how do you anticipate how fast it can move?)

If you are lucky and can really demonstrate your interest and that you aren't just a dilettante, some soft city kid with some romantic idea, you will still have a hard time of it for the first 5-10 years. Although I look askance at "reality" shows, you can get some idea of the wilderness folks attitude about city slickers from the History Channel's Ax Men, and the way they acted toward the young college kid who wanted to work for the summer. Remember, by taking you on, your mentor is not only exposing you to dangers you aren't familiar with, you are putting him/her at risk through some dumb, ignorant stunt you pull without realizing what you did that could kill or seriously injure him/her as well.

Cost? You can find out what NOLS courses cost by going on-line. But you can't buy a mentor like you would buy a backpack.

Full-time commitment? You betcha, for 5-10 years at least.

Yeah, you can learn backpacking, or river rafting, or hunting or fishing (sport-type) from a professional guide, given a couple of full seasons. But not all the things you need to live off the land.

2:35 p.m. on June 15, 2008 (EDT)
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forever free, If you want a good read by someone with practical experience in your neck of the woods, find a copy of
The Wilderness Survival Handbook, by canadian Alan Fry.
I understand the book may no longer be in print, but you can get used ones fairly cheap online.
Make sure you get the revised edition. I have read his book several times and found it to be a great source of sound practical advise that came in quite handy.
Also check out, Bushcraft: Outdoor skills & Wilderness Survival, by Mors Kochanski who is also a canadian I've been told, and teaches courses in bushcraft.
I just got my copy a month ago for 15.00 online and have not read it yet. But it was highly recommended by a friend.
While I have never lived in the wilderness long term, I have done a few two month outings.
In 2005 I stayed on an island on one of our local rivers for six weeks and had a friend of mine, who travels the river every day crab fishing, bring me supplies. I had plenty of food brought to me so I would not call that a survival situation!
I also had a crab trap and fishing gear to catch redfish and flounder. Great fun! But it did get old and I really just wanted a warm shower and soft bed!
Of course, as Bill S. said, learning from someone with firsthand experience is the only way to go.

8:04 a.m. on June 16, 2008 (EDT)
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"Great fun! But it did get old and I really just wanted a warm shower and soft bed!" - yes it does get old after a while, when the novelty wears off.

When I was younger a friend of mine did some long term (4 week) wilderness survival trips. We took nothing but a pocket knife, a small cooking pot and a canteen with us, we lived off of what we could dig up, catch or snare, slept in shelters we made ourselves and started fires with flint and steel - it was a lot of very hard work - we were either looking for food or gathering fire wood - we emerged both times in pretty good shape but quite a bit lighter and smelling a bit ripe! Chipmunks, by the way, don't make a satisfying meal.

If you're planning to go alone you'll be facing some serious psychological issues as well. If you're going with one or two people the chance for interpersonal conflict is very real and very serious, magnified by the stress of finding that next meal -

Check for outdoor survival skills classes - give it a shot under professional guidance for a week or two - see how you feel about the experience and about yourself when you're done - if it still feels right then strive to learn more.

10:50 a.m. on June 16, 2008 (EDT)
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When I think of living off the land, I think of Thoreau's experiment at Waldon. He wasn't a total hermit, but he did have a garden, ate what he could catch / trap, and built his own cabin.

This is certainly different than living deep in the wilderness, but would make a good "trial run."

9:36 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
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I grew up on the edge of BC wilderness, have worked and lived quite extensively in really remote wilderness in BC, AB and have been in the YT and a MWT camp. I am now almost 62, spent dozens of years doing this and learned from old-timers who would only teach me because they respected my pioneer family, these were guys who started in the BC wilderness before 1910.

Every time I read one of these threads on any 'net outdoor forum, I have to laugh like hell. Living in the wilderness is hard, lonely, dangerous and scarey; it is NOT romantic and/or "cool". Start learning to be a proficient backpack camper and gradually extend your skills/trips by experience and forget trying to do that which is essentially impossible now due to laws, urbanization, resource development and changing demographics.

Try to live WITH supplies, for a single MONTH ALONE in a forest near home, where you can bail if it becomes too much and THEN see how you feel. I have been totally alone, but, with radio contact, for periods of three months without break in VERY isolated BC wilderness.....if, you think that this is "easy", I can tell you that you won't last a week camping solo.

If, you can, try to get a job planting trees in a camp-out situation, work as a "wrangler"for a Guide-Outfitter and see how hard, dirty, dangerous and lonely work suits you....and these are the EASY jobs......good luck, but, maybe think about what you want to do before trekking off into the Muskwa-Kechika, alone and with no experience, the taxpayer's get tired of paying to heli out corpses......

10:52 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
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There you go forever free, go stay with kutenay. ha.

Kutenay, I always enjoy your posts.

7:16 p.m. on June 21, 2008 (EDT)
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I guess I'm out... The state / national forests around me allow someone to camp there for only 14 days max in any 30 day period. :-)

11:27 a.m. on June 22, 2008 (EDT)
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Get the SAS Survival Handbook. You certainly wouldn't learn everything you ever need to know to survive in the wild, but it's a pretty cool book for a beginner with straight forward explanations and lots of pictures. You could probably go backpacking and use some of the tips without really exposing yourself to the real dangers of living in the wild. I love the outdoors, but after a few consecutive days outside, I really just want a hot shower and a prepared meal. Still, as a backpacker, it's nice to know some wilderness survival techniques in case you get lost or something goes wrong. Sounds like you're not trying to rush yourself into anything, so read a couple of books and see where your interest level goes from there.

2:24 p.m. on July 22, 2008 (EDT)
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I love a man who wants to move to Alaska and live off the land, it is his dream and I want it for him but afraid I will loose him to the hunting, fishing and dogs..what is a girl to do?

2:06 p.m. on July 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Join him. It's that simple.

7:02 p.m. on July 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I'd say that's some pretty solid advice from Bill S and Kutenay!
I'm no way a survival expert but have spent and do still periodically spend periods in the 'bush', and apart from one particular favourite area that is abundant in fish and shellfish, am always very mainly supplied by the food I have hauled with me. One thing I've noted, is that for the animals and insects that inhabit any remote areas that I know, life for them is a never ending daily mission to find food - and they are the ultimate experts!
Providing yourself with a degree of shelter I would think would be the easiest of your tasks, then there will be the hunt for a continuous (and suitably nutritious) food supply combined with a capability to deal with solitude and all the other factors that have been mentioned. I suspect too, that as the decades pass and wildlife/plantlife become less abundant due to man's encroachment, it becomes more and more difficult to survive comfortably in many 'wilderness' areas.
Survival skills are a great 'string to your bow' though and if nothing else, going bush for a while is a healthy wake up call that makes you appreciate the 'basic' comforts of modern living that are taken for granted!

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