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#264528 - 10/20/13 06:18 PM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Fyrediver]
Russ Offline
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5338
Loc: SOCAL
Yep, I've met some really smart people who could not teach. Looking through the NOLS website I found a youtube video titled "Wilderness Medicine Courses at NOLS". Toward the end she describes the instructors as, "professional educators who have backgrounds in the outdoors and medicine". Knowing how to do is not the same as knowing how to teach.. You need an instructor who knows how to teach. FWIW
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Better is the Enemy of Good Enough.
Okay, what’s your point??

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#264529 - 10/20/13 06:55 PM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
Pete Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1372
"Maybe you're comfortable taking days off from work and dropping $600 just to find out whether this guy actually knows what he's doing, and whether he knows how to teach what he knows. "
-------------------------
Let me try to offer a couple of helpful comments.

I think you will make better progress if you see your overall learning experience in the wilderness (incl. survival) as a series of small steps ... rather than a big leap. with that in mind, doing a local course isn't such a bad idea at all. i have no idea why the course you are describing costs $600 - but that might be a very reasonable question to call and ask about. also ask what equipment is needed (stuff you need to bring).

YES - i do believe that excellent instruction is worth every penny that you can spend on it. and the same goes for time - worth the extra time that you dedicate to it. as i think back through my own life - the people who trained me in wilderness, survival, and self-defense skills - I am extremely fortunate I got those people. by sheer random luck (and not my brilliance) they were all excellent. and without a doubt, if I had not got the instruction they had offered, I would be dead now. i just woundn't have made it.

so the question I ask you in return is this - how much is your life worth to you?

cheers,
Pete2


Edited by Pete (10/21/13 01:40 AM)

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#264533 - 10/20/13 10:15 PM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078

Quote:
I'm planning to call him up and talk to him before I sign up for his classes. But I'm not sure how to vet a survival instructor. What questions would you ask him? How do you tell a good survival instructor from a bad one?


Ask him if you can bring along your tent, gas stove/pot, map and compass, sleeping bag and some French RCIR 24 hr rations or are you paying $600 for some sleepless nights being cold, tired, hungry, dehydrated (chances you won't catch or trap anything), headachy, nauseous whilst being seriously lost and disorientated.

If you have $600 to blow on an unhappy camper weekend, then I would actually spend it on some high quality kit. Even Super Army Soldiers have been known to expire due to the lack of a sleeping bag or Goretex Bivi bag etc.

True Wilderness is somewhat rare today, would the video below be considered Wilderness? If it is then bringing along similar gear would be prudent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fhiav90QQdM

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#264536 - 10/20/13 10:58 PM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor]
haertig Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2221
Loc: Colorado
What I would like to find are a bunch of mini-schools on single topics. That way you'd be more assured of getting good training (and practice!) in what is being taught. It seems to me that an instructor could easily hide their inexperience or incompetance in a generic weekend long "survival school". When your BS runs out on one topic, just switch to another. It is easy for incompetant people to apear competant using this switch-a-roo technique. Try that with an eight hour class on "fire making". It would be much harder for an instructor to BS their way through something like that. Give me a one day course on "fire making". A one day course on "shelter construction". A one day course on "obtaining water". One day may not be long enough to cover these (and other topics), but you get the idea. The course will be long enough, on a single topic, that the BS would run out early and an instructor would have to have something of substance to back it up.

For example, I could really use a course on "fire making". I have no trouble making a fire under good conditions. But, I have little practice doing it in wet windy conditions. And I have zero practice doing it with no pre-prepared tools what-so-ever (like no firesteel, no matches, etc.) While I always carry a firesteel and BIC lighter while hiking, I would still like the instruction and practice to attempt fire using friction. The actual utility of friction fires might be questionable for someone who is routinely prepared, but it would still be fun to learn, and you can't discount that it will never be of practical use. But before getting to the friction fires, I would want lots of time to practice using "easy" methods - BIC lighter, firesteel, etc. - under adverse conditions. I don't think a firesteel with only soggy natural materials in wind would be considered "easy" anyway.

IMHO, you're not going to get good at any kind of fire making in a one hour subsection of an overall generic survival course. Ditto for other skills being covered in a short time.

I haven't searched for survival courses. But if I did, I would be looking for what I describe above, if such courses actually exist.

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#264538 - 10/20/13 11:58 PM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Russ]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7367
Loc: southern Cal
Originally Posted By: Russ
I have a feeling hikermor was being facetious when he mentioned the "American Society of Survival Schools (ASSS)" I think he meant to say that there is no such thing.


Who, me? Facetious? What ever is the world coming to...
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#264539 - 10/21/13 12:13 AM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: haertig]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7367
Loc: southern Cal
Given the lack of certification, fairly high prices for instruction, and availability of good literature on the subject, why not just get out in the woods and work on techniques. Everyone, if they do enough trips, will sooner or later come up against a dicey situation, and will need experience and a set of well honed skills.

Haertig's example of fire making is a perfect example. A lecture in class or even a demonstration won't really do much for you - you need to get out and light fires, especially in less than optimum conditions. You also need to recognize, for that matter, when conditions are not right for making a fire and to do so would be extremely hazardous and unwise. You also need to keep in practice. i used to e quite good at building a fire from available items, but I am now quite rusty. It is so much simpler to carry any of various small stoves and commercial or easily fabricated tinder and firestarter. Same with shelter, accumulating water, etc.

I started my outdoors career before there were commercial classes or schools available, so I am essemtialy self taught. It worked well enough. Just be suitably cautious. The money you save can be spent on suitable gear.
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Geezer in Chief

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#264540 - 10/21/13 01:12 AM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2921
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Another "divining rod" to consider: ask about insurance. If this little venture is a genuine business instead of a hobby, it would have to account for the possibility that there is a substantial risk for injury for the customers. A credible instructor/school would likely to be insured up the wazoo to avoid losing the farm in the event that somebody stubs their toe etc. And the insurer would ask a lot of very pointed questions, and require documentation, before signing on. For better or worse, this is the world we live in.

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#264542 - 10/21/13 03:06 AM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
Bingley Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1451
You got me good, Hikermor. You got me real good with that ASSS thing. Thanks for clarifying, Russ. Sometimes a fool needs to get kicked when he's already down. Humiliation is not complete until then.

As for DIY -- I don't think I'm alone in this. I read survival books. I buy gear. I stock up. But it's hard to drag myself out, train myself and practice. I don't get out to nature much as it is, thanks to my job and my duties. Paying good money for a class and having an instructor and fellow students will drag me away from work. It will be good for morale, and it will provide a reasonable learning curve for those of us who are less experienced. I definitely could use the practice time.

Montanero, Hikermor, & Fyrediver -- Asking for references and details about the course seems like the way to go. This is the best suggestion! It will give me a good idea as to whether I should proceed. I have gone through Lundin's book, so I'll know the basics (or at least I'll have heard of them).

Haertig -- You've got a great idea! I'll check the school more closely, with that in mind. It actually seems like they structure their curriculum like the "mini courses" you have in mind.

Doug -- Good business insight! Insurance will definitely tell me something about how serious they are.

Pete -- Thanks for the help!

Liath -- I can't tell which one of your scenarios is better for me. Would I learn more from a high-tech weekend, or a "rough it" weekend? smile $600 isn't high for training, as far as I can tell. For example, BOSS tuition seems to be in the four-digit range, with many days taken off from work, not to mention travel. The total cost (including lost income) can be several thousand dollars. With some schools, it almost seems like you basically have to put your life on hold and move there. Pretty hardcore.

Your collective input will help me figure out whether this school is worth my money. I am optimistic that this instructor will be able answer the questions satisfactorily and rise to the occasion.

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#264543 - 10/21/13 03:15 AM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
Pete Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1372
haertig

you raised a good question. if someone is caught in wet stormy conditions in a forest that has been soaked in rain - how do they start a fire and survive? i bet the number of survival instructors who could do that using just primitive methods is only a few in the whole country. that's a tough situation. once you get behind the ballgame, the danger of wet clothes, hypothermia, and inability to start a fire becomes a major risk to survival.

what we learn to do - is what hikermor said. you learn by experience to NEVER get into such a critical situation. even the N. American Indians would carry a small amount of tinder if they knew a storm was approaching ... and often anyways.

my solution is as follows:

1. I can make very good tinder just by using lint from the dryer at home. lint burns extremely well, it can be compacted, and has almost no weight. so I carry some if fire starting is an issue. I ALWAYS have some lint or professional tinder in my backpack.

2. to make sure the fire will start, I also have a combustible liquid. in my case, I will always have "Jungle Juice" on me (100% DEET) because I use it as a bug repellant and never leave home without it. it also burns well. so a few drops of DEET on the lint will make a very effective way of starting a fire from a spark.

3. I carry emergency matches always, but also have my magnesium fire starter as well. both work fine with good tinder.

4. If I was in the woods and knew a storm was coming, then before the rain came I would gather small sticks for kindling and a few large pieces of wood. I would wrap them in a plastic trash bag (to stay dry) and tie them to the outside of my backpack. That way I am 100% positive I can get a good fire going - enough to warm myself while I change into dry clothes, make a good hot drink, and feed myself a good hot meal. Those things - new dry clothes, warm drink and hot food, will turn the situation around completely.

In reality, experienced woodsmen will start this whole process well before the rain ever arrives. They will already have chosen their campsite for the night and they will have built a good shelter - before the raindrops fall. They will have stacked enough wood for a good long fire, and put all their essential gear (incl. clothes) in a safe dry place. That is why the experienced people don't get into trouble out there.

The key is to stay AHEAD of trouble.
Don't let trouble get ahead of you.

BTW, I do agree that 1-day survival courses that go into a lot of detail on particular topics would be very useful to a lot of people. I include myself on that list.

Pete2


Edited by Pete (10/21/13 03:20 AM)

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#264544 - 10/21/13 05:39 AM Re: How to vet a wilderness survival instructor? [Re: Bingley]
haertig Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2221
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By: Bingley
You got me good, Hikermor.


(Ring, ring, ring...)

"Hello, 'Live or Die' survival school. May I help you?"

Bingley: "Yes, I have a few questions about your operation."

School: "Sure, go ahead."

Bingley: "Are you a certified ASSS?"

(Click)

Bingley: "Hello? Hello?"

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