Survival 101 – Course review

Class 38/32 all agreed that the “Ultimate Survivor” award went to the writer of this review. Like a sleeping angel, here he is, still sleeping soundly after a comfortable night in his shelter. He actually placed his backpack in front of him to shield him from the radiant heat of his well built and maintained fire, a complete contrast with the epic adventures of the SC Trio.
This review was a little long for the website, so I thought I would post it here and  just link to it.
“It was about 35 degrees and pouring rain in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 14, 2013, and I admit I was questioning why I was driving to the Bigpig Outdoors facility for a two day survival class where I’d spend the night out without a sleeping bag and submerge myself in icy cold water. Thirty-six hours later, I knew exactly why I did it. 
Upon arrival I was greeted by Andrew and two other students. After introductions around a campfire we dove straight into an eye opening team exercise. This lesson showed us the effects of the often subconscious social and interpersonal connections that allow humans to function in a civilized society, and how these relationships can be both an asset and liability in a survival situation. Most importantly, it clearly defined the common thread for the rest of the class. The Mind is the most important tool in any survival situation.  
Over the next couple of days we worked through a progression of practical survival skills. This wasn’t basket weaving or bow making. It was a no nonsense course on staying alive in a dangerous outdoor environment. We covered the science of heat loss, fire-building, shelter building, water procurement, survival kits, signaling, and land navigation just to name a few. I particularly enjoyed Andrew sharing his personal experiences from law enforcement and search and rescue as they related to the skills we covered. 
I am not a tough person. I like comfort. Prior to the class, I had two primary concerns; Firstly, will I spend the night shivering miserably without a sleeping bag when temps are in the upper 20’s? Secondly, how long will it take to stop shivering miserably after submerging in icy cold water for the final exercise? My first fear quickly subsided Saturday afternoon after building our super easy “super-shelters”. I don’t believe I’ve ever been that warm on such a cold night even with a sleeping bag! That should have assuaged my anxiety for the water test, but as I entered the frigid water Sunday afternoon, I wondered if I’d ever be warm again. The cold sharpened my mind and the simple application of the techniques that Andrew taught us allowed me to stay focused, get a fire built, and warm up in a matter of minutes. As the flames of my fire grew, I realized I wasn’t too uncomfortable. The “Aha!” moment of this “graduation ceremony” hit me. Surviving is little about being tough and everything about being knowledgeable. 
“It won’t happen to me.” We quite rightly tell ourselves. Millions upon millions of people enjoy the outdoors every year and make it home safely. So why do it? Beyond the practical benefits, I believe no matter how much we embrace the comforts of civilization, we can only stretch the umbilical cord that sustains us so far. We can never break it. We depend on the Earth and we camp, hunt, hike, boat, climb, animal watch, photograph, and explore, to experience this connection without the distractions of civilization.  Learning to survive in the outdoors is an incredible way to develop this relationship more deeply. It is practical and gratifying and, like investing in any relationship, makes our experience richer.  
Now I’m three weeks from taking my family to one of the most inhospitable winter environments in the continental U.S.- Yellowstone National Park. I’m comforted that Andrew has provided me the knowledge tools necessary to create and execute a strategy to keep my family safe on our adventure, and when I ski past a snow-ladened pine, it will no longer be just another pretty tree. Instead, I’ll think, “I could make a fire in three minutes with that.” – C. Magli

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