The biggest problem with survival "instructors" is there is no state license to practice, no diploma from an accredited college or university, and no standardized certification course. So, it's up to the potential student to educate themselves BEFORE they pay their money! Even so, you would be hard-pressed to find a survival instructor who is CLEAR on what the curriculum should include (or NOT include!).

There are some warning signs to look for; if they tout their military background/approach... FAKE (as in a previous post, military survival is irrelevant!). If they are obese... FAKE (They don't have to look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they DO need good lower-body strength and good cardio). And if they can't even adequately explain the difference between bushcraft and survival... FAKE! In fact, "lessons" typically take the form of wilderness hiking/camping outings. Moving on, here are the subjects that should be included:

- THE FIVE ESSENTIAL STEPS: 1- Planning (research intensive), 2- Preparation (gear and supplies), 3- Proficiency (physical and abilities), 4- Back-ups (active and passive), 5- Basic Survival (strategies and concepts).

- THE FIVE BASIC SKILLS: 6- Signaling (standardized and improvised), 7- Shelter (types and techniques), 8- Fire (methods and materials), 9- Water (sources and treatment), 10- Food (sources and science)

- THE FIVE ADVANCED SUBJECTS: 11- Wilderness Survival Psychology, 12- Mind-Body Sciences (nutrition and neuroscience), 13- Wilderness Survival Case Histories, 14- Advanced Wilderness First-Aid, 15- Wilderness Conditions (terrain and weather). And especially...

16- Wilderness Survival Training (physical and survival).


I have read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wilderness survival stories, AND interviewed dozens of wilderness survivors. Once you've read about 100+ cases, you begin to notice there is a certain pattern of behavior among survivors both in what they did before they went out, and what they did after their ordeal began. The Five Essential Steps, then, are NOT a random collection of suggestions, they are the result of the noticing the commonalities I've noticed both in they way wilderness survivors behave and how they got into trouble in the first place. But it's much more than that, The Five Essential Steps should be compulsory among ANYONE who ventures into the countryside! (That goes double for day hikers!!).


This is where the unsophisticated confuse "bushcraft" with "survival." In essence, wilderness survival includes basic bushcraft, but bushcraft does NOT include wilderness survival! Bushcraft is typically about STAYING in the wilderness in some creative comfort, in other words, it's a CHOICE. As mentioned, wilderness survival is a life threatening EMERGENCY situation that MUST be ended as quickly, as efficiently, as safely, as possible. Anyone trying to vet a potential instructor should be clear on the similarities and differences.


While The Five Essential Steps should be compulsory for anyone/everyone (especially day hikers!) wanting to hit the trail, and The Five Basic Skills should be included in any/every student's course, The Five Advanced Subjects are primarily for instructors and those who simply want to know more about what they're doing.


Of course, NO course is complete without regular, varied, training in an environment similar to that which the student is anticipating on a future outing (which is why there are NO obese survival instructors!). As I often say, The Four Cornerstones of Survival include knowledge, skill, experience and common sense. Knowledge (through study) is the mental database about a thing. Without it, you cannot hope to completely understand a thing. Skill (through practice) is the application of knowledge, without it, you cannot test what you've learned. Experience (through training) is the practical application of knowledge and skill, without it, knowledge and skill is just theory. And finally, common sense. Common sense is intelligence, but it's PRACTICAL intelligence. It's what allows you to think about alternatives, think about and apply alternative solutions in place of standard solutions that don't/won't work.

LOTS of room for further discussion here!