By John Campbell
I have noticed in recent years the huge number of survival schools and instructors just coming out of the woodwork. I mean seriously people they are everywhere today. For me I have been active in the world of outdoor self-reliance and as known today as bushcraft for a very long time. Today however, I see so many “experts’ merging into the field and offering all kinds of helpful advice and teaching little tid bits here and there. I remember a very good individual and instructor telling me that when you take someone into the field you are affecting their lives in more than one way. First off, you as the instructor have their life and safety in your hands while in the field. Secondly, long after they leave your class you are still responsible for their lives. The seed of knowledge you planted in their heads is still growing whether is it is a good one or a bad one. This has really frightened me…no joke, it has literally scared the living be Jesus out of me.
Personally, I am very confident in my skill set and training abilities. However, another issue is one that cannot be over looked, which is the whole sign this waiver mentality. People…please understand that just because your students sign the dotted line does not mean that you have now invoked the sacred cloak of invincibility. If anything at all goes wrong, it does not matter what it is; a student carving a trap trigger and slips you can still be healed liable. It only takes that one person in class to change your entire life forever.
Today with more and more instructors taking to the field, I am leery about the outdoor wilderness education scene. I know there are great instructors out there, I know several; but how can you take the word of anyone that says they have over 20 years of experience? How can we have them prove this for everyone’s safety? With this huge increase of “new” instructors, just wait…first time something happens the GOV will step in and make it impossible to teach in the first place. Regulations in this case I think may be a good idea to ensure that when someone takes a student into the field that they can be guaranteed the training they receive is proper, safe, and accurate. I do not believe that many of the “new” instructors have any idea what can happen when you are only tying to seek fame and recognition in this field. There is a lot more to teaching survival than knowing how to tie a knot, carve a stick, and make a fire. There is no room in this field for a glory hound!
Back on the subject of bushcraft, please understand that survival skills and bushcraft skills are NOT one and the same. Back in the day, and I mean my day we did not call it anything; it was simply just being in the wilderness and living off the land. I grow increasingly tired of hearing people being lumped into these categories describing their skill sets. Oh, this person does bushcraft, or that person is a survivalist, and he is a primitive technologist. People, its all crap; we all learn to do the same things. The method of getting there may be different but in the end, it is the same thing.
I will call it living, no matter what we do, regardless of its title; we are living. Many of the skills that are around today were living skills at some point in history. Prepper or urban survival skills is really nothing more than the old adage prepare in summer for winter. Everything has its place and when you stand back and look at the entire picture they are all still the same skills. I will use food-preserving methods such as caning and freezing to make my grocery money stretch a little further. This has worked for me to make the produce last instead of having to throw it away because it went bad. With all this being said, survival is the basis of our skills, to me it comes first. For a lot of us it isn’t just a hobby, we live it every day. There are not many people in the Western part of the US that can support a family on less than 10,000 a year comfortably. I do it and I make it work. It is a different way to live and it is very humbling, it even changes your idea of what is important. Learn life skills before you try to teach anyone anything!