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Are you ready to survive an emergency at your location? Is your survival context urban or the wilderness? In recent days, I have read a few articles and watched a few presentations relating to urban or wilderness survival. It is interesting to notice one preference over another. These preferences are due to the leanings of those making their case. One’s environment influences the preferred approach to emergency preparedness. My own experiences with outdoor recreational activities, weather emergencies, military field training, and combat deployments accentuate this truism.

Thus, there are two basic categories of survival that are the most common in the literature: urban survival and wilderness survival. My article on survival approaches further breaks these down. However, in this article, I will discuss the urban and wilderness methods for survival planning from a broader perspective.

The Urban Survival Approach

The contemporary interest in urban survival is a more recent development in the survival and preparedness world. The popularity in the zombie genre of dystopian movies and television program seems to have been the impetus for the interest. The concern about the sudden collapse of modern society intensified with the Y2K scare of the late 1990s. Lofty Wiseman’s book, SAS Urban Survival Handbook (1996) discusses urban survival and is a standard read on the subject. Thus, urban survival became a hot topic in the early decades of the new century. What is urban survival?

The name, urban, implies the context in which one needs to survive: a city, town, or metroplex. The urbanization of the United States is a byproduct of its Industrial Revolution (1865-1920). The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that close to 63% of America’s population lives in urban and suburban areas. Furthermore, strategic thinker and author, David Kilcullen writes of the increasing urbanization of warfare in his book, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (2013). Therefore, urban survival planning a viable exercise for those living in that context.

The Uniqueness of the Urban Environment

There are many contrasts between an urban environment and the wilderness environment. The concerns of the urban environment are unique. For example, a person attempting to survive in an urban or suburban context does not have to worry about building a shelter in the same manner as their wilderness counterparts. One can occupy an abandoned building or house if necessary and if it is safe. The stories of urban survival from the siege of Stalingrad to the killing fields of Sarajevo give ample evidence of the peculiarities of urban survival.

A feature of urban survival are the kinds of items necessary for an emergency kit. Thus, urban survival requires some different things that are not present in a wilderness survival loadout. For example, most urban survival kits include a sillcock key. A sillcock key is unnecessary beyond the rural survival zone. Why? There are no commercial buildings with secured outside water faucets in the backcountry that require a sillcock key to access.

It is common for urban survival kits to feature lock picking tools. Again, these are unnecessary in the deep backcountry for living off of the land. Lock picking tools assist in getting into buildings to obtain food, water, or shelter in an urban or suburban survival zone. The movie, World War Z, has a good representation of the importance of accessing a grocery store or hospital pharmacy during a societal collapse. Lock picking tools enable that activity.

Some Observations About The Urban Environment

Additionally, the urban environment offers some infrastructure that is not available to those living near or in the wilderness. Cities and towns provide a utility grid (gas, water, electricity), if operational, which allows access to potable water, refrigeration, communication, sanitation, and emergency medical care. Stable buildings offer shelter and protection from the weather, predation, and criminal activity.

The main weaknesses with the urban environment are the available resources, like food, medicine, and water. In an urban collapse, such as that after Hurricane Katrina, those resources dwindle very quickly. It is estimated that major grocery stores only maintain about a 30-day supply of food and water. However, in a panic, the shelves and coolers in those same grocery stores will be stripped clean in 48 hours.

I witnessed this in Virginia when a named snowstorm was going to hit our area in 2016. The local Kroger’s, down the street from my apartment, was a chaotic mess in two hours. You would have thought the zombie apocalypse was upon us. My oldest son was with me in the store. I pointed out the barren bread shelves to him. I told him that this is what happens when people fail to prepare. They become very selfish and animalistic towards others when they are fearful of their mortality. Therefore, the storage of essential necessities becomes crucial in an urban survival zone.

The Wilderness Survival Approach

The wilderness survival approach is the oldest of the methods. Wilderness or frontier survival is as old as humanity from the Otzi Iceman to the modern bushcrafter. As its name indicates, wilderness survival refers to surviving in an outdoor environment. There are different kinds of survival considerations for various outdoor activities. Wilderness survival preparation may be as sophisticated as a modern ultralight backpacking kit to an extended hunting trip into the Alaskan backcountry. It can also be as simplistic as employing the survival skills and tools of the Native Americans or the Mountain Men of the early 1800s.

The Uniqueness Of The Wilderness Approach

The outdoor environment offers its own set of unique characteristics influencing survival and preparedness. Outdoorsmen must be able to survive and sustain themselves in the field for extended periods in remote locations. There is nothing “remote” about the urban environment. Moreover, wilderness survival requires one to carry all of the survival necessities within the limitations of your pack, pack animal, or both. Furthermore, the wilderness survival approach implies being able to access and create essentials from natural surroundings. For example, flint napping a knife blade or spear point is not necessary for an urban context.

Some Observations About The Wilderness Environment

The main difference in wilderness survival kits and those for the urban environment are the tools. Those going into the outdoors need a fixed blade knife as their primary tool. Urban survival kits can function effectively with only a multitool. A fixed blade knife is a core item for bushcrafters and hunters. Ferro rods and strikers are the tools of choice for making fires in the backcountry. Whereas, urban survival kits usually feature a Bic Lighter. Thus, there are some differences in kit components to enable urban or wilderness survival.

Some Final Thoughts

Is it urban or wilderness? Your location and type of survival concern will dictate your requirements. However, for those living in the transition survival zones, it is prudent to take a hybrid or blended approach of both urban and survival techniques and kit mentality. Sigma 3 Survival School offers a great blend of both urban and wilderness survival training courses. It is best to avail yourself of that training if you are able. You may have to traverse multiple survival zones to get to safety during a mandatory evacuation. Therefore, it is wise to gain as much field time, formal training, and individual practice in both urban and wilderness survival skills within your budget and time limits. These will enhance your chances of a positive outcome in your survival situation.

Further Reading

  • SAS Urban Survival Handbook
  • Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
  • Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood
  • Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla
  • Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
  • The Buschcraft Bible
  • Build the Perfect Bug Out Survival Skills: Your Guide to Emergency Wilderness Survival
  • Survival: U.S. Army Field Manual (FM 21-76)

Can you stay alive outdoors by assessing risks? The summer outdoor season sees an increase in reports about disappearances and accidents. A recent report from California discusses the disappearance of an experienced hiker at a campsite in the Bristlecone Pine Forest. She was later found alive after four days. The report reveals that she had to flee her location due to a threatening person. Another story relates the discovery of the body of a missing person on the Snake River in Wyoming. He was working at a KOA campsite. Outdoor activities can be great experiences. However, outdoor activities also have inherent risks. You should develop a risk assessment and reduction plan before you go on a wilderness adventure. The following principles can help you build your risk mitigation plan.

1. Assess the level of wilderness experience and field skills of yourself and others

It is terrific to have a desire to spend time outdoors. There is an increasing number of people heading to the wilderness to hunt, hike, camp, or fish. The growing popularity of survival-related reality television programs and the rising interest in survival and preparedness are motivating people to get outdoors. However, the reality of being in the wilderness is different from how it is portrayed in the mass media. There is a danger of overconfidence in one’s abilities.

It is prudent to be realistic in assessing the level of wilderness experience and field skills of yourself and those in your group. The less wilderness experience and skills that one has should be an indicator that they are a high risk to themselves and others. Therefore, it is imperative to take a partner with you into the outdoors. Your partner should be more experienced and have more field skills than you to compliment your weaknesses. As a matter of safety, you should never go into the wilderness by yourself regardless of how skilled and experienced you are with the outdoors.

2. Know the level of health and physical fitness of yourself and others.

It is vital to know your level of health and physical fitness. Health and physical fitness play an important role in determining the kinds of activity and locations that one visits. For example, people with high blood pressure might have limitations as to the types of trails that they can trek on a backpacking adventure.

3. Understand the natural or man-made dangers of the area of activity

One of the common characteristics of negative experiences in the outdoors is a lack of awareness of the risks. More specifically, there seems to be a lack of knowledge of the natural and man-made dangers in the area of activity. One type of natural hazard involves predatory animals, such as mountain lions or bears. Other inherent threats are those relating to the terrain such as cliffs, bodies of water, areas of deadfall, or unstable ground. Man-made dangers are those pertaining to human activity. These can comprise logging areas, areas of construction, or even previous criminal activity.

4. Analyze the local weather and weather anomalies of the area of activity

Weather is a contributor to outdoor risks. There are reports of sudden fog, rain, or dropping of temperatures even in the summer months in some locations. It must be remembered that some local weather patterns cannot be found in a national or local forecast. The people who live near the area of your outdoor activity can provide useful information on local weather activity such as afternoon thundershowers. Analyzing the local weather traits will help make decisions about what to put in your backpack, such as rain gear or a light fleece jacket.

5. Identify the level of access to emergency help in the area of activity

Sometimes people, who go outdoors, do not take into account the availability of emergency help. It is essential to have a good understanding of what kind of emergency help is available. Additionally, it is crucial to know how to access emergency help in your planned area of activity. The importance of knowing how to contact emergency help is a critical part of your outdoor planning.

For example, one of the areas near me does not have a large number of park rangers. They tell you when you come into the park that most emergency help will be by airlift. They do not have the personnel or transportation available to come to your aid if you call for help. Thus, an expensive life flight to a local hospital awaits, should you dial for help. That kind of information influences your activity and what you have in your gear.  Some wilderness areas have no cell phone access. How will you get help in an emergency?

It is recommended that you develop a first-responder contact card. This card should have contact information for park rangers, first responders, and area hospitals. You should include emergency radio channels on the card if you are carrying a handheld ham radio two-way transceiver with you.

Final Thoughts

Risk reduction is an important skill to develop and exercise for those who love the outdoors. Your risk reduction plan has its limitations. However, without one, you may find your activity being less than enjoyable. Once you have identified the risks for your planned wilderness adventure, then develop and implement measures to reduce that risk. One of the best techniques to consider for risk reduction measures is the PACE plan. Additionally, your risk reduction plan should take into account the kind of activity (Mission), local and area dangers (Enemy), time of day, month or day (Time), the people involved (Troops), location (Terrain), and accesses to emergency help (Civilian Considerations). Once you have your risk mitigation plan complete, give a copy to whomever, you will be making your communication checks while you are outdoors.

Three popular survival approaches for the outdoors are commonly discussed in the literature of wilderness and outdoor survival. Outdoor sports are gaining in popularity. For example, in 2017, over 44 million people went hiking and backpacking. It represents an increase of over 12 million participants from 2009. The Outdoor Industry Association’s annual report for 2017 shows that spending on outdoor recreation is $887 billion per year. This means that interest in outdoor emergency survival is also increasing. Therefore, it is essential to know that there are several common approaches to wilderness survival.

1. Military/Tactical Approach

The most popular approach to survival is the military or tactical framework. The popularity of dystopian and apocalyptic-themed television programs drives much of this interest. The military or tactical approach to survival finds its genesis in the Cold War. At that time, people feared a nuclear weapons exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. The nuclear winter scenario is implied in the famous novel and movie The Road. Thus, learning to use military tactics and equipment are the keys to preparing to survive such a comprehensive event.

Those who focus on military or tactical approaches to survival sometimes fail to understand the limitations of military survival. Military survival is designed by the militaries of the world to ensure a soldier survives in combat. The U.S. Army survival manual, FM 21-76, and the SAS Survival Handbook are core pieces of literature in this approach.

A Weakness of The Military Approach

The weakness of military or tactical survival approaches is they have a limited effectiveness of 3-10 days. Military survival assumes several conditions will exist. There will be a resupply of the unit. A soldier can return to friendly forces if they become separated in some manner during combat. The servicemember will be able to be rescued if they follow protocols. The intent of military survival training is not surviving the apocalypse and to reboot human society. It is to help the soldier live in a combat field environment, which includes urban areas. Moreover, those with more specialized skills receive more intense survival training.

2. Bushcraft/Woodsmanship Approach

The next survival approach is bushcraft or woodsmanship. It is enjoying popularity in the last several years. Bushcraft survival centers on living in a general field environment. The main difference between this approach and the military-tactical approach are the tools and techniques. Additionally, the bushcraft approach is not concerned with surviving a prolonged engagement with opposing military forces.

The bushcraft approach sometimes goes by the name of frontiersman or mountain man approach. The primary skills of this approach are hunting, blacksmithing, trapping, and fishing using the tools and techniques of the nineteenth-century frontiersman. Fieldcraft for bushcrafters focuses on surviving and being self-sustaining for extended periods in the outdoors, much like the trappers or mountain men of the 1800s. The use of various cutting tools, tanning hides, preserving meats, hunting with black powder rifles, trapping various animals, and building temporary shelters or camps are a focus of the bushcraft approach. Consequently, this approach helps people to survive and sustain themselves with a basic set of tools and handcraft techniques such as wood carving.

The Weakness With Bushcraft

One weakness with this approach is that it assumes a continuing availability or accessibility to raw materials, fish and game, or edible and medicinal plants. A worst case scenario of a nuclear winter will contaminate or kill hundreds of square miles of water, plants, fish, and game. It also may result in large areas becoming inaccessible to raw materials, such as iron, copper, shale, or coal due to radiation contamination. Those depending upon this approach to survive should consider an alternate survival method if those natural resources suddenly become unavailable.

The Strength of Bushcraft

One strength with the bushcraft approach is that outdoorsman, especially hunters, gain added skills to help them on long, multi-day treks into the backcountry. Bushcraft skills enable those backpacking or hunting in austere environments to survive or sustain themselves in the event their equipment fails while in the field. Outdoorsman, who become skilled at improvised tools, traps, first aid, and shelters, enhance their chances of survival in an emergency situation.

3. Primitive/Minimalist Approach

The third survival approach that also is enjoying some contemporary popularity is the primitive or minimalist approach. Primitive survival focuses on learning the survival and sustainment techniques of the Native-Americans or other primitive peoples around the world. Primitive methods feature flint knapping, hand drill or bow drill fire making, simple trapping, handcrafted weapons and tools, gathering and processing edible and medicinal plants, and building primitive shelters, such as wickiups. Woodcraft techniques also are part of learning primitive approaches to survival.

The Weakness Of Primitive Skills

A weakness with the primitive approach to survival and preparedness is that it takes considerable time and dedication to master these skills for them to be useful in a survival situation. Furthermore, those who suffer from impaired mobility may have limitations on the primitive skills that they learn. However, if one takes the time to master some basic primitive skills, they will be able to exercise more adaptability and flexibility in an emergency situation.

The Strength Of Primitive Skills

One strength of this approach is similar to the bushcraft approach. It allows for flexibility and adaptability in the field. If one loses their knife, they can make one through flint knapping. One can make cordage from surrounding vegetation when necessary. Simple but effective weapons from natural materials can be made should the need arise. One lesson from the Vietnam War is that booby traps made utilizing primitive techniques can be just as effective as sophisticated land mines. Thus, the primitive skills approach to survival in the field is a viable means of ensuring one makes it through an emergency.

Some Final Thoughts

There are several ways to approach survival in the outdoors. These approaches have strengths and weaknesses. Some require more time than others to master if they are to be of use in an emergency situation. It would seem, though, that a hybrid approach (multiple techniques) will ensure the greatest amount of flexibility and adaptability in the outdoors. By contrast, the method that one prefers will be one that enhances one’s field strengths rather than weaknesses. It is important to consider that strengthening your weakness while maintaining your survival strengths enhances the possibility of survival in the outdoors. You will have a higher number of skills to employ with a hybrid approach rather than focusing on a single method. Thus, choose your approach wisely, continue learning and improving, and enjoy your next outdoor adventure.

There are 3 outstanding wood choppers you should consider for your survival, bushcraft, or emergency kit. There are many varieties, sizes, levels of quality, and prices for these tools. These essential tools were developed to address specific local or regional requirements. The ax and machete are pretty standard solutions for most situations. Let us look at the top three outstanding wood choppers that you should consider adding to your field gear packing list.

1. Ax/Hatchet

Background

The ax or hatchet is one of the 3 outstanding wood choppers. They are the standard wood processing tool in North America and Europe. This tool has been in use and in various forms since the Neolithic Period (9500-2000 B.C.) of human history. There are many forms of the axe. The type of bit informs the purpose for their use. The basic types of axes are the felling ax, splitting ax, broad ax, adze, hatchet, carpenter ax, hand ax, mortising ax. Additionally, the hatchet and hand ax are just shorter handle versions of the felling ax.

Purpose

However, the kind of ax that is most popular for outdoor survival is the felling ax. Other names for the felling axe are the woodsman ax or single bit ax. These axes were developed to cut down and process trees common in the forests of North America and Europe, such as conifer, birch, holly, or oak.

Features

These axes usually have two main parts: the handle or haft, and the head or bit. The blade of the ax is the cutting edge of the ax bit. The handle, in a modern two-piece ax, is made of wood or fiberglass. The ax handle averages between 24-36 inches in length. The ax head averages between 1.5 and 3.5 pounds in weight. Some of the best axes and hatchets of this type are sold at the Sigma 3 Survival Store: Hults Bruk Akka Forest Axe and Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet.

Kit Compatibility

Thus, a good, high-quality ax is a must if you live in the forested areas of the United States or Europe. The Hults Bruk Akka Forest Axe is the perfect fit to carry on the outside of a backpack or to fit the vehicle emergency kit of your truck or SUV. The descriptions and pricing for these axes can be found at the Sigma 3 Survival Store. An ax is an outstanding wood chopper for your kit.

2. Machete

Background

The next type of the 3 outstanding wood choppers that you can consider for part of your survival or outdoor kit is a machete. Machetes have been in use around the world for many centuries. There are different styles of machetes with differing blade lengths.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the machete is to clear jungle vegetation. Other models of the machete are used to remove brush or cut small trees in the more arid parts of the world where wooded forests do not exist. Machetes with shorter blades are sometimes used to process game, harvest fruits or vegetables, and to prepare food for cooking. The machete is a very versatile tool. The machete is also an instrument that can be used for self-defense, as is the common practice in other parts of the world.

Features

One of the better machetes on the market is the Ontario Knife Company (OKC) Military Machete. This machete has a blade that is 18 inches in length. The blade material is 1095 high carbon steel. This is a traditional looking machete. It is the same machete currently in the inventory of the Department of Defense (DoD) with an assigned National Stock Number (NSN): NSN 5110-00-813-1286. The military sheath for this machete has the stock number: NSN 8465-00-926-4932. OKC sells a Chinese made nylon sheath separately for their machete. A machete is a valuable tool in any survival or emergency kit.

Kit Compatibility

The machete is an excellent consideration for vehicle emergency kits, backpacking, survival or emergency kits or bags, or a home emergency kit. It has its limitations but it is a versatile tool that that can handle most field and emergency needs. This is one of the outstanding wood choppers that you should consider for your kit.

3. Parang

Background

The parang is a type of machete and it is also an outstanding wood chopper. The parang is the wood cutting tool of choice in most places in South East Asia such as Indonesia or Malaysia. Whereas, the machete is more associated with South America and the Amazon basin.

Purpose

The value that this tool has is its ability to cut desert vegetation such as mesquite trees or creosote bushes. It can process wood for making fires, process food for cooking, and it can function as a self-defense instrument in an emergency.

Features

The significant difference between a parang and a traditional machete is that the parang blade is shorter, with a shallow curve at the cutting edge, and thicker. It looks like it is more akin to the conventional meat cleaver.

A parang has several types and varieties. The blade length usually averages between 12 and 18 inches. The average thickness of the blade is around 3/16 of an inch. The most common blade materials are D2, 1075, or 1095 tool steel. The Condor Tool & Knife Bushcraft Parang and the Ka-Bar Adventure® Parangatang are good examples of quality parangs.

Kit Compatibility

This wood chopper fits well in most backpacks. That is why, depending on where you live, the parang is a viable alternative to the ax or machete as your wood cutting solution for your BOB, INCH, or GHB bags. You will not go wrong with this outstanding wood chopper in your kit.

Final Thoughts

The subject of wood processing tools is one that will continue. This article discusses those tools most commonly used for chopping wood for various reasons related to survival. The preferred choice for a tool that is best for that task is going to fall on a matter of preference, most of the time. As with any tool, there are good manufacturers and poor ones of wood chopping tools. The location that you live in and the types of vegetation that is common there will determine which of these three outstanding wood choppers that you incorporate into your kit.

Over the ages, nature has helped evolve the best solutions for survival in the very animals that live off the land. Every species must adapt to it’s environment and find a way to stay warm in the coldest environments. So when you are looking for the warmest fibers on the planet, it makes sense to look at animals that survive in the coldest, nastiest environments on the planet. The one domestic animal that survives at the highest altitudes, experiences the biggest temperature changes, and endures constant moisture is the sheep. Sheep are purpose bred to survive in the highlands and grow a fiber that is natures miracle to mankind. The wool fiber truly is an amazing thing to behold once you really study it on it’s deepest levels.

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And I definitely consider myself a wool dork.

Check out this diagram of the breakdown of whats actually in a woolen fiber. Then it all begins to make sense on why this fiber truly is the king of all fibers for cold wet weather. As outdoorsmen, we tend to be in wet cold weather when pursuing our passions in the wilderness. The real difference between wool and other synthetic options is performance when wet, durability, fire resistance, and the anti-bacterial properties. The real problem with synthetic fibers is that over time they will begin to stink and there is never a good way to wash clothes in very cold weather. You don’t encounter the same issues with wool and I’ve owned my WeatherWool anorak for over a year and wear it on average three days a week and it doesn’t smell.

Lanolin, the wool fibers secret?

The real key thing that separates wool from many other fibers that are available is that it is coated with lanolin and each type of wool has different amounts of it. I’ll let Wikipedia define exactly what lanolin is.

Lanolin (from Latin lāna ‘wool’, and oleum ‘oil’), also called wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Historically, many pharmacopoeias have referred to lanolin as wool fat (adeps lanae); however, as lanolin lacks glycerides (glycerol esters), it is not a true fat.[1][2] Lanolin primarily consists of sterol esters instead.[3] Lanolin’s waterproofing property aids sheep in shedding water from their coats. Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin. There is an inverse correlation between wool fiber diameter and lanolin content.

A little known fact about winter camping is that it is essential to have an oil coating on your skin to stay warmer. That can be done in two different ways, either by  build up of the skins natural oils over time or the by rubbing your skin with natural oils. Either will produce a similar result, though putting natural oil on your skin is more hygenic than natural oils, its not sustainable in the field long term. I always tell instructor course students before long stays in the cold, that they should not take showers and allow the oil to build up on their skin to protect them. And it’s definitely key to make sure you aren’t taking hot showers because that will de-acclimatize your skin to the cold conditions around you. In fact, getting in cold water can help you acclimatize your skin to very cold conditions and will cause a rush of blood to your skin. It helps you build that natural comfortable cold you get from a long time in the woods in winter. And like the oils that protect our skin, the lanolin in the wool protects the fiber.

Different types of Wool Available?

Alpaca- I’ve used Alpaca wool for years and it has some amazing properties. Alpaca socks are hands down some of the warmest socks I’ve ever worn in my life and I still prefer them for many things. But the main problem I’ve had with it is durability issues. You can’t hike long distances in these socks without wearing a hole in them quick. There also isn’t a lot of options on the market right now to even purchase Alpaca wool clothing or socks. The fiber just isn’t used that much by American companies for durability issues, so that limits the products you could hope to purchase.

Yak Wool- This is something new to the market and hasn’t really been utilized much yet. There is one company that I recently purchased some base layers from that I haven’t used in the field yet that is making yak wool products. Kora is making a revolutionary new Yak wool that is suppose to be much warmer and more durable than other fibers to date. It makes sense considering Yak’s are exposed to the siberian tundra and the worst winter conditions on the planet as their daily life. But none of this has been substantiated in field testing yet and since they are the only company I’m aware of offering these products. It makes your selection extremely limited!

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Merino- The most used type of wool on the planet is merino wool by a landslide. One of the reasons is that it is a commonly kept domestic animal and have been raised for generations by farmers. These sheep have survived in all types of conditions to high mountain fields to low land wet weather areas. They are one of the best overall fibers you can choose from for several reasons. It is a thinner,  softer, and more workable fiber that can be processed into tougher outer garments or soft undergarments to wear next to the skin. In essence, its one of the more versatile wool fibers and their is a huge plethora of products to choose from on the market. Almost anything you can think of can be had in this wool fiber.

Rambouillet Merino- This is a big upgrade from the standard merino wool and rambouillet are bred in order to produce the highest quality wool fiber you can get. With the main goal in mind being performance in the elements and softness against the skin. WeatherWool is  the only brand using this material and they only choose the top 1% of the top 1% of any merino wool available. There purchase costs for this fiber are 5 times higher than any other type of merino available to date. In fact, this material wasn’t really available before WeatherWool came along and Ralph Dimeo is a pioneer of it. With the sole goal of building a garment that performs flawlessly in any environment, looks good, and is comfortable to wear. Because lets be honest, if the wool is itchy and scratchy, you’re less likely to wear it. Finding high quality wool that you can wear directly on your skin is difficult, meaning you’ll have to wear warm base layers to keep your skin away from it. And that means you might get to hot and makes the garment less flexible for use in the field. This is my favorite wool so far by a landslide and I’ve owned all the competitions stuff. If you have an interest in learning more about the WeatherWool fabric and the tedious process of selection they use then visit: WeatherWool Fabric

Mouton- Mouton is French for sheep. In the fur trade, Mouton refers to an extremely select pelt of a lamb that has evolved to offer some remarkable properties to the outdoorsman.

Here is an excerpt from WeatherWools fabric page:

“Like all WeatherWool components, our Mouton is pure American. Americans have very little appetite for the meat of adult sheep. Virtually all sheep that are raised for meat in the USA are processed as lambs at about one year old. The pelts of all these lambs are used. Those pelts that are of the very highest quality; less than 1% of all pelts, are selected for processing into Mouton. Mouton was originally developed as an alternative to wild furs such as beaver and seal.

There are several steps in the creation of a Mouton Fur.  First, the lamb must grade out to ‘Mouton potential’.  Only one in one hundred lambs will have the dense, soft, and uniform fleece necessary for Mouton. When the raw pelt is shipped to the tannery, it is graded again, and about 15% of the Mouton candidates are rejected at this point.  Acceptable pelts are tanned, then heat treated to make the wool fibers relatively water-resistant and straight, and extremely soft and glossy.  The fleece is sheared to a uniform length of 5/8 inches (1.6 cm) and dyed. Our favorite color is a rich BROWN, but BLACK, WHITE and GRAY are also available. Wool, and therefore Mouton as well, is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic. Mouton cannot be washed, because of the leather, but does resist soiling fairly well. If necessary, it can be cleaned by professionals who launder furs.”

Interesting fact about Mouton and sheeps pelt jackets is they were worn by World War 2 bombers. The guys flying at the highest altitudes, with the windows opening and blaring machine guns under Japanese fire, chose to use sheeps pelts and leather jackets. Why is that? Warmth when wet, the leather stops the wind, and good breathability under tense conditions. And all these mouton clothing options from WeatherWool are just a modern and elegant version of those. They can be worn in the arctic circle or in the finest restaurants because of their beauty and comfort. You might think they are overpriced, but there is really no mark up on this product. The company makes almost nothing for their efforts, but Weatherwool is committed to making the highest quality garments you can get, regardless if they make much on it or not. And I can tell you from personally wearing these mouton items, that they are hands down the warmest garment I’ve ever put on.

What is wool not good for?

There is no one tool option for outdoor clothing and each item you purchase should be well thought out and something you’ll wear regularly. And as always, I’m a buy once cry once kind of guy, so always buy the best you can afford. As survivalists, we choose wool because of it’s wet weather performance, warmth under the wettest conditions, durability, fire resistance, and long term hygiene benefits in the field. That being said, wool is the heaviest and least packable of all the products available. It is also much heavier when wet than almost any other garment out there. Its not recommended for long hiking expeditions, where speed and staying lightweight is the key. It is however the king of camping and any kind of sedentary outdoor usage. Unless are you choosing lightweight performance hiking wool products, you’ll find most wool products have limited uses for people moving long distances. But the upside, is the main outer wool clothing you use can be worn under almost any temp conditions and you don’t have to put it in a backpack or worry about shedding it much. So packability becomes less of an issue when you use wool base layers and proper choice of outer garments.

I’m a big believer in mixing fibers to combine the best of both worlds. My favorite non wool clothing brand is by far and away Fjallraven outdoor clothing, and I like too wear Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants with wool under garments and wool jackets. The pants are the best hiking pants I’ve ever used, they shed water easily, and dry even faster than nylon does. Combine these pant options with wool outer garments and base layers and I promise you that you’ll love them. Lightweight, packable, tough, and they have the best fit and tailoring I’ve ever seen on any pants.

So my philosopy on outdoor clothing is to mix and match these fibers for optimal performance for your specific outdoor trip. But just remember that wool is always your fall back clothing or you base foundation. Base layers, socks, wool caps, scarfs, underwear, tshirts, and much more are available in wool today. Use the wool products for the areas close to your skin. And then combine the wool with fjallraven pants, goretex shells, ponchos, and other garments that compliment the wool for each specific trip you take. Mix and match different materials for optimal performance. Just remember there is no one tool option, but if there was one, it would be wool.

Difference in Design?

So one of the big problems with most wool designs is that many manufacturers use cotton in their apparel. Cotton stitching, cotton liners, and some even use cotton inside the actual wool material. That isn’t a big issue until you get wet. I’ll give you a for instance, the Columbia wool clothing I own has a cotton lining in the hood of the jacket, and if I was to fall into a creek or get rained on that cotton would begin to freeze. And once that cotton freezes, it eliminates the benefits of having the wool in the first place. Remember that we choose wool because of it’s wet and cold weather performance. So ask yourself why a huge majority of the manufacturers out there would have large amounts of cotton in their apparel. Why? Because its WAY WAY cheaper to do it that way for one. But the sole purpose for adding liners is because the wool fabric they use is so scratchy that it will irritate any skin it touches. So why buy rough wool when you can have soft wool with much better performance? The only reason to buy rough wool is if you just can’t afford wool that is soft. Which is fine because budget is the single most important factor when purchasing something like this. Some guys will never be able to afford the higher quality performance products, so they should stick with surplus stuff and not feel bad about it all. But if you have the money, and if you travel to places where the cold can kill you, then get the best you can. I promise when your warm at deer camp and everyone else is freezing their ass off, I promise you’ll then begin to appreciate the purchase. And the big difference with WeatherWool, is that you can wear your hunting equipment EVERYWHERE up to 80 degrees.

Price for Premium Wools?

What most people fail to understand is there is a big difference in rough run of the mill production wool and a high grade premium option. If you want real wool and the performance of it, there is no getting around opening your pocket book for a big hit. Whether it’s buying base layers or a fullweight jacket, they aren’t going to be cheap. I recently paid almost $300 for just some baselayers in Yak wool, and that is only one layer in the wool options. If you’re going to have an entire wool outfit, there isn’t any way around spending a $1000 or more unless you go for recycled or mixed blend wool options that don’t perform as well. And I’m of the mindset, that if you’re going spend a lot of money, I’d rather spend a little more and get something that will last a lifetime. The only cheap option available for 100% wool is thrift shops and european military surplus, which can be found in abundance all over the web. And I’m not going to say the performance of these items are bad because they are good for what they are. But they will all universally feel scratchy on the skin, sizing can be difficult, and performance has improved incredibly since the invention of those older garments. But those garments are a testament to how long wool clothing lasts. It doesn’t matter where you go to find wool, it’s expensive everywhere. The cheapest wool product available in our industry is the Lester River Wool Anorak and I own one of them. It’s an okay piece of equipment, but it’s a cheap and scratchy military wool blanket of the lowest quality. It will get the job done in cold weather, but it won’t be a piece of equipment you wear often. Whereas high end WeatherWool is a piece of clothing you’ll wear year round to all your life events. It’s comfortable to wear in temps up to 80 degrees because of how well it breathes. You can wear it directly onto your skin with no base layers, unlike most other wool. So all in all, I’m a component for spending more for wool equipment and have something I’ll pass onto my kids. Versus something that will sit in my closet most of the time.

Conclusion:

Wool is natures answer to all things cold and wet. It is the base fiber to build all your other fibers upon. Learn to mix and match fibers for different performance in different environments. Remember that you always wear wool socks no matter the climate hot or cold. Wool next to the skin will help the most of any fiber with long term hygiene issues. And weatherwool garments are the top choice for no scratchy, high performance wool outwear. I personally own most of the major companies wool products available and choose weatherwool hands down over the other guys. If you’re interested in purchasing some WeatherWool gear, click the links below or visit:

WeatherWool Our Fabric: https://weatherwool.com/pages/the-weatherwool-difference

WeatherWool Anorak: https://survivalsystems.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-anorak

WeatherWool Pants: https://survivalsystems.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-pants

Jungle Survival, Living Off the Jungle, Wild Foods, and Jungle Bushcraft

Numerous SIGMA 3 cadre have just returned from a jungle survival trip deep in the Nicaraguan jungles and have gained an awesome sense of empowerment knowing how well they can live in the jungle with a few tools. This October 2015 we set out on a jungle survival trip to practice bushcraft with the Rama Indians in the Southeastern section of Nicaragua, near the little town of San Juan Del Norte. This is the last stop when traveling into the jungle where there is nothing but indian settlements along the river.
We took an epic multi-day trip up the Indian river to get us into the deepest jungles we could find. We wanted to see what the jungle really had to offer in the way of food and we weren’t let down. These jungles are literally a treasure trove of food, resources, fish, wild meat, and the best diversity of wild plants anywhere! You can literally eat like a king in these jungles and have want for nothing. Jungle survival can be so easy with the right skills and few tools.

Shelter

The jungle trees provide such great leaves for providing thatched roofs that with the right knowledge you can thatch a roof that will withstand hurricane level rains. The royal palm is so amazing to work with and a roof can be thatched quickly that is totally waterproof. There is no doubt that this is one of the easiest places on the planet to survive. It’s really refreshing to enjoy a place with so many resources for bushcrafting that it makes life simple. The vines of the jungle are a wonder to behold because they are like free rope everywhere you look. Vines of all sizes and strengths can be found in overwhelming abundance. These vines are strong enough to lash any shelter and build almost anything you can imagine. The abundance of them is so staggering that you almost don’t even need to bring much cordage with you.

We built several types of jungle survival shelters during our time in the jungle and by far my best learning experience was helping construct this traditional hut. The uses of Royal palm are almost to many to mention and it makes the most wonderful thatched roofs. It is what all the homes are thatched with to include the Rio Indio lodge and you would be surprised at how well a thin layer of palms can repel water.

We also thatched with other palm types like the Sweeta palm which is abundant all over the jungle. This type of palm leaves proved to be extremely easy to use as well because of the way we thatched them. These leaves easily made a waterproof shelter in very little time at all. You can complete shelters in literally a 1/3 of the time you can most typical survival shelters in the United States. It really made life easy to have these plants everywhere you look so you could just whip up a jungle survival shelter at will.
where most of the resources are located.

Water

There was no lack of water in the jungle that is for sure but it can be difficult to find in certain places. It’s always best to stay close to the rivers but sometimes overland travel doesn’t allow that. Best plan of attack for water procurement is to just have a good sawyer filter or two. We used a camp sized gravity filter for most of our water needs for the group and it worked well for what we needed. If primitive skills is all you have then you’ll have to find a patch of bamboo to make a container and boil some water up. Always stay close to the rivers because they are the highways of the river and where most of the resources are located.

Fire

Most people think the jungle is a very difficult place to get fire in the jungle and it can be if you don’t have some basic skills. The jungle has so many so woods that if dry are fantastic fire starting materials. These soft river woods are perfect for friction fire kits but it can be difficult to find a dry piece to use immediately for bow drill. The great thing about the jungle survival is there is palm everywhere and dry palm can almost always be had for quick cooking fires. Long burning fires are not needed down there and it is to difficult to burn them indefinitely anyway. Usually the only thing you need fire for is cooking and boiling water. A lot of people think that smoke will keep away bugs but it will only knock down the number of them minimally at best. Using fire is not a great method for dealing with bugs and you shouldn’t depend on the ability to repel mosquitoes naturally as your only method for dealing with them. Rubbing mud on your body also doesn’t help much in reducing bug bites.

Food

Food was by far the easiest thing to get in the jungle and with some good survival skills you can actually get fat in the jungle. This is one of the few places on the planet where you could go totally vegetarian for months if needed. Very few places on the planet can boast this kind of food diversity. The easiest thing to get besides wild edibles is definitely fish because they are in great abundance in any riparian area you find.

While down there we ate all types of fish to include: Snook, Rainbow Bass, Brim, and much more! The preferred method for cooking it was to de-scale it then make small cuts in the flesh all up and down the fish. Then we would season it and either grill it or wrap it in palm leaves and steam it. The snook was by far the best fish I have ever eaten in my life and I’ve been fishing since I was 3 years old.

There is also a bounty of red meat to be had and we had not problem getting large rodents like the Agouti. The Agouti is like a mix between a giant rabbit and a large rat; the meat tastes similar to steak with a chicken like texture. These rodents and many others are in great abundance all over the jungle.

Tools

Really the only modern equipment you need in the jungle is a good machete, tarp, mosquito netting, water container, and fire tool. But you can survive easily with nothing more than a machete if you have good bushcraft skills. What surprised me in the jungle was just how soft the wood was and how even a dull machete will quickly fly through large trees. This is an environment where you truly can walk into with just a blade and survive like a king.

The single most important luxury jungle survival tool I took with me was definitely my Warbonnet Blackbird XLC. We had numerous people with Clark hammocks while there and they are the most expensive hammock system you can get. They were all jealous of my Warbonnet hammock because it is much larger, more comfortable, and has way better bug protection. I stayed in the Clark hammock just to try it out for awhile and it was so small it felt like a coffin. I personally do not like them at all and all the guys that tried our Warbonnets now own them lol. A lot of the guys using Clark hammocks got bite up on there back by mosquitos because it is only one layer, while the Warbonnet is a double layered bottom that prevents bug bites. I spent a lot of time in my hammock at night because it gets dark there about 5:30 pm and everyone goes to bed early during the rainy season. So being comfortable in miserable conditions was a life saver! Never got wet or bug bite once over a 2 week periods in some tough jungle inside my Warbonnet Hammock system. We have more reviews of using it doing jungle survival coming soon!

Where can I get a Warbonnet Hammock? Click Here!

Jungle Tarp Making

Probably the most amazing piece of equipment I saw while in the jungle was a homemade tarp. It was simply a bed sheet that had been coated with the latex of the rubber tree and this substance turned the sheet into a totally waterproof tarp. It was amazing how they had a process to make waterproof tarps as good as our modern equivalent and they did it almost completely primitively.

Dangers

The jungle may be a haven for bushcraft resources but it is definitely a very dangerous place to survive. The biggest jungle survival danger is by far and away the wild hogs and the monster herds they roam in. These herds of hogs will roam in numbers of excess of a thousand animals and they are very aggressive. These aren’t the large hogs like we have in the United States, they are a smaller Peccary sized hog that usually won’t get over 100 lbs. Don’t let the size fool you though because what they lack in size they make up for in numbers.

One of the Rama indians told us a story about how he was hog hunting and witness a full sized jaguar get attacked and completely eaten by hogs. The jaguar killed 14 hogs right before his eyes but they eventually overwhelmed the jaguar. The same Rama guide also told us a story of how he was attacked and his leg mauled by a large hog. These animals are not to be trifled with and when you see them it is time to start climbing a tree. Don’t wait for them to get aggressive, you start climbing as soon as you see them. They also have this crazy technique to get you out of the tree once your in it that you need to be aware of. The hogs will gather in mass under the tree and begin to urinate everywhere. This causes massive amounts of ammonia to filter up into the tree tops and will cause you to pass out. They use this technique when hunting other animals that run into the trees and it is very effective. When hundreds of hogs pee in the same spot, you need to be tied to the tree in case you pass out.

Other animals to worry about are the man eating crocodiles, bullet ants, army ants, numerous poisonous snakes, mosquitoes, and poison frogs. Even though there is a lot of animals that can kill you in the jungle, its a great place to survive!

Conclusion:

This was the absolute best trip of all the participants lives and the adventure factor can’t really be rivaled anywhere else. You can catch epic sized fish, explore remote jungles, live off the land like kings, and bask in the beauty that is the jungle. Jungle survival isn’t hard with the right guide and some basic training. If you want some real adventure in your life for a reasonable price. We can book custom trips for you anytime of the year. If your interested then just click below!

FOR MORE INFO ON JUNGLE SURVIVAL ADVENTURES!

 

 

Sure there are tons of articles and info out there on the subject of fatwood, so what makes this one different. In this article, we plan to reveal a few things you probably didn’t know about it and what works best when using it. This survival blog will even show you how to make it on your own if you can’t find any  good fatwood.

What is Fatwood?

Fatwood, is a resin impregnated pine wood that can be found on pine trees and is probably the best natural fire starter available. It’s waterproof, rot resistant, extremely flammable, and in abundance when pine is in the area. Most evergreen trees contain terpene in their tree sap. This sap flows to an area that is scarred and damaged, attempting to heal that area. As the terpene evaporates in the sap it will harden, becoming resin and over time it will not be sticky any longer. The resin at all stages is flammable and burns well. This same resin can be used for pitch glue and all types of bushcraft needs.

Fatwood more detailed info!

Where to find fatwood?

The best way to find fatwood is to find fallen dead pine trees that are on the ground. When a tree dies the terpene in the wood will move to the interior heartwood of the tree and it will saturate the inner wood creating fatwood. Sometimes you can find sections of it the size of a small tree, within the inside of a large fallen rotten tree. You can also dig around rotten pine stumps to find large sections of it as well. Remove the punky rotten material from around the fatwood and this wood will be golden in color and very resinous in feel. You will also smell a heavy scent of turpentine in the wood and the stronger the smell the better the wood.

Fatwood can also be found in the lower branches of the tree in the small node that connects the branch to the tree. Where the tree connects to the trunk, is usually where it is found and most times it can be 2-6 inches in length out along the branch. Spruce fatwood is found only a couple inches up the branches and does not have as much fatwood as pine. Having some fatwood in a tinder box or tinder pouch , can be very useful in all type of weather conditions. So see if you can find some in your area then you definitely want to store it for later fire making uses. Fatwood makes a great tinder anytime, it will burn long and hot. When in wet conditions, its used for drying damp materials so they will combust into flame and this can make the difference with marginal wet tinder material. It will catch almost anything on fire if you have enough of it.

 

Other Uses

Large sections of it can also be used as a torch for lighting purposes around camp. Put the fatwood into the spears we make on the youtube channel and have a portable torch you can use for light in the woods. These can be used to attract fish for night time fish spearing as well! Since the fatwood puts off a tremendous amount of toxic smoke, this can also be used to combat mosquitoes in your camp. You do not want to breath fatwood smoke though, so caution should be used when in primitive shelters. Some people even take large sections of fatwood and make them into walking sticks so they are insured to always have a great firestarter.

How to make your own fatwood?

If you can’t find any fatwood in your area then you simply need to make some. It is so simple to make fatwood and you will have the same types of results as the natural fatwood. All you need do is melt your sap down in a container large enough to soak your sticks into. Once the sap is melted completely in the container, then add your finger sized sticks of cedar or dried pine to the melted sap. Lightly simmer the sticks in the sap for around 30 minutes and make sure you don’t get fire to hot or the sap will ignite into flame. Once the sap has soaked into the pre-cut sticks, then all you need do is let them air dry and they are ready for fire making.

You’ll need the following 3 items:

  • Sap from pine, cedar, or fir tree
  • Good flammable dry wood such as white cedar or dried pine
  • Boiling container; preferably something you don’t mind ruining such as an aluminum can.


How to Prepare it?

Methods to prepare fatwood for fire starting is most commonly done in a two ways. The first is by taking a knife and thinly shaving off the fatwood to make shavings. The shavings should be thin and usually will be curled. A small pile the size of a golf ball or larger is a good amount. The shavings will light easily by using a flame or even sparks from a ferrocerium rod.  The second way is by taking a sharp edge on the spine of a knife and scraping the fat wood to make a sticky dust. Also, the fine dust can be scraped off with a sharp stone, a piece of broken glass or other sharp object. After getting a small ball of dust in a pile you will be able to light this with a flame or ferrocerium rod. The SIGMORA (Official S3 Survival Knife) has a custom scraper on the back that makes perfect scrapings of fatwood for catching sparks and it is our preferred tool for this job.
Conclusion:

Fatwood is probably the single best fire tinder you can carry with you and is usually in great quantity if pines are in the area. This tinder is even better than birch bark and many modern tinders as well. It’s free, abundant, and one of the most useful fire making tinders you can harvest. Go out and get some and try it today!

 

Elm Bark Quiver

Willow Basket Quiver

You’ve made yourself a workable bow. You fashioned some fine primitive arrows. You camouflaged yourself and you’re ready to go hunt some meat. You carefully stalk up on a deer. You knock an arrow and prepare to aim, but wait. You have a handful of arrows. What are you going to do with them? You can’t hold them while you shoot and if you drop them you will spook the game. You just discovered an age old problem experienced by ancient and modern hunters alike. Something to carry arrows in is essential to good hunting. A primitive arrow quiver is a must have if you going to be primitive bow hunting.

To solve this problem you are going to need primitive bow quiver. There are many different varieties of primitive bow quivers, the world over, but the quiver we are going to make today is a basket quiver. I prefer to use willow for this type of quiver, at least for the spokes, but you can use nearly any type of flexible twigs or vines. The reason I prefer willow is because you can bend it sharply without it breaking and it looks nice. Now you can make primitive arrow quivers out of a lot of primitive materials such as elm bark, birch bark, leather, vines, flexible twigs, or even roots. Almost anything flexible will work. Check out the Elm Quiver to the right!

The steps to making a primitive bow quiver are pretty simple. First you have to gather and process material. Now you choose your five thickest willows for your spokes. You make a cross alternating your willows from the thick to thin. Three spokes, north to south and two spokes east to west. You wrap the cross with your thinnest willows, over the north and south and under the east and west spokes several times, to hold it in shape. You remove one of the spokes to make an odd number of spokes. Then you wrap the spokes, over and under alternately, until you have a round base. Then you fold your spokes up and keep weaving until the basket is the height you want. You tuck your spokes in and make a rim. And finally you attach a carrying strap. Of course this is an overly simplified explanation but you can find the details in our attached video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now when you take aim at your game and reach for your arrow it will be waiting patiently next to all of its brothers in its handy carrying case that you made with your own hands. And you will look amazing wearing it. Please share your successes and failures with us and feel free to ask us any questions.

Watch the video for exact details on how to build this nifty little bow quiver!

Good Luck and Good Hunting from us here at Sigma 3 Survival School
Joshua G. Hamlin

The Shocking Truth About Survival TV Shows

Being someone who has dabbled in survival TV and had a lot of experience in dealing with Hollywood producers, I feel more than enlightened to the ways of the Reality TV world. And since I’m not under

contract, like so many people on TV, I can actually tell you how it is behind the scenes. No confidentiality contracts here! So many people watch TV and see these so called survival shows and think they are learning realistic skills. When in reality almost everything on reality TV is faked and the people producers pick for the show are based on character content and not for their actual survival skills. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but not many! Producers couldn’t give two shits if you have real survival skills and experience. Their vetting process is ridiculous! For instance, a recent show that I was picked for had a recognized survival expert call me and ask me about 10 questions over the phone to determine if I could survive. None of those questions related to any technical skills, just really broad questions that wouldn’t really determine anything about what I could do at all. And then from those questions I would be touted as a top tier survival expert that you should listen too. Well, maybe they are right that I’m the best of the best, but they sure as hell don’t know that from proper vetting. They see me on camera and say “this guy will make good TV, lets pick him and pair him with his total opposite so that there is controversy.” That is how it works folks! Really, the only thing they care about is how you’re going to interact with other members and if are you going to do something crazy from time to time. Because if you do that, they are going to get the ratings no matter what your skills are. So that is why I tell people that there are only a few real deal guys on TV and they are few and far between. I am personal friends with a lot of the TV personalities that you have seen out there, and even many of them will admit openly that they don’t know a ton about survival. Just the broad strokes, their claim to fame is TV personality and not a survival expert.

Survivorman

Probably the most popular show among survival enthusiasts is Survivorman. While I consider Les Stroud to be one bad-ass mofo, I don’t think that even he would say he is a bushcraft expert. He has trouble with even the most basic of skills such as primitive bow drill fire. I have beginner students that are more proficient than he is at bow drill. But do you know what? Les Stroud has an amazing mental survival game and sometimes that is all you need. That guy can just about endure anything and many times that is all it takes, especially if you combine it with some very basic skills. But you won’t learn much in the way of bushcraft from his program, so I recommend that everyone take everything they learn on TV with a grain of salt. It might be good stuff, but it also might get you killed! So Caveat Emptor or buyer beware!

Man vs Wild

Man vs Wild is a great example of a show that is entertaining but will probably get you killed if you take it seriously. Just look at the name of the show and you will know that this isn’t about true survival. Hell, I’m not even sure that Bear would call it a survival training show if he wasn’t under confidentiality agreements. The show is about doing stunts related to survival skills to get awesome ratings and showcase Bear’s amazing physical skills that he demonstrates over and over. That is more the basis of the show; doing exciting stunts and not real world survival. That is why Discovery Channel is always looking for the next Bear Grylls, because his show lasted the longest and smashed the ratings. It is stunt based TV that gets viewers excited and keeps them entertained, while showing very little real world skills for survival. And its all done under the guise of being a documentary, when its really not. That’s a perfect blend in most Hollywood yuppy producer’s minds. Honestly, Bear is a bad-ass and one of the strongest guys on TV but even he will admit that he isn’t a bushcraft expert. He is a great TV personality with a skill for presenting things in a fashion that everyone wants to watch him. Remember the talent controls no aspects of how the show looks or really what is done. As a TV personality  you are a subcontractor of your production company and are required to perform the tasks asked of you.

Naked and Afraid

I’d say the only real deal survival show out there right now is Naked and Afraid. It’s about the most hardcore show that has ever been on TV and there was no faking anything with the exception of some serious medical emergencies. You know you got a real survival show when the producer almost dies from a snake bite, another guy almost dies of dengue fever, one got extremely sick from food poisoning, and another almost most bites the bullet from infection. But even Naked and Afraid has its limitations on skill demonstration and many of the people on the show aren’t true experts. Or maybe they thought they were experts and found out differently under stressful survival conditions. Then again, some people on the show are amazing and you wouldn’t even know it because of editing. Many of the shows like this one actually down-play the success of the survivalists to make it look like they struggled a lot more than they did. Because suffering and problems is more interesting than winning and kicking ass in the bush. They pick and choose the winners based on how presentable they are on TV. You have to remember that every show has a story line and that the producers need to tell you a story filled with drama and then show a couple of skills on the side. That is the winning business model for survival TV. Drama, stunts, entertainment, and then education in that order of priority. Also, remember that even the best survivalist can get a bad edit. Many times when doing these shows I am asked what is my biggest fear. Every time I tell the producer my biggest fear for survival TV is getting a bad edit. I could literally go out there and live like a king and they can edit you to make you look like a total jackass! So when watching these shows you need to remember that some of the people that looked bad on the show actually did good, and some of the people that look fantastic actually sucked at the skills.

I have found a few exceptions to the rule about TV personalities, because I know some instructors on TV that are the best of the best. And guess what; I hired them! Laura Zerra and Eugene Runkis are the real deal and have the legitimate experience to tout their resume and what they have done. Not only on TV but their entire lives has been a journey of self reliance and testing yourself against the wild. That is the way real survivalists are forged! Laura completed 21 days naked in Panama under some of the worst conditions ever with the worst bug bites I have ever seen, and they didn’t even show the worst of it. Not only did she have amazing mental fortitude, she had the bushcraft skills to eat well while there on the island. They don’t show it, but the team actually ate really well and Laura only lost 12 lbs because she was eating crab/lobster, coconuts, and various other wild foods most of the time she was surviving! That is how you separate the winners from the losers on the show. I always tell my students what separates the men from the boys is the ability to eat well while in the bush and Laura lost the least weight of anyone of the show under some of the worst conditions. That is how you know she kicked ass!

Now, I’ve been on more than one survival TV try-out and I was the only real survival expert there on the final cut. You get all types, but rarely do you get the true sage bushmen on a TV show. Most beginners don’t know how to tell the difference because you will only see it in the minor details of the skills demonstration because editing really is a magical art. I’m just telling you this from the perspective of a full time survival instructor; take what you see and hear on TV with a grain of salt because most of it is faked. The number one rule to remember when watching these shows is that they are for entertainment only! The only way to get real survival training is to get some instruction and then get out in the woods and get some dirt time. Dirt time is the only thing that will lead to a truly well rounded survivalist that can live off the land indefinitely. And that is our ultimate goal as instructors, to pass on the old school tribal knowledge that will enable you to live like a king in the bush. So if you want to learn survival, don’t do it on TV. Get training, get dirt time, and get in the woods!

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