Learning about Wilderness Survival (Part 1)

What if you got lost in the boreal forests of Alberta in winter in minus 20 degree Celsius weather without a tent or a sleeping bag? If you had an inexpensive portable survival kit, then staying alive is possible… even comfortable!

This past weekend I went on a field trip as part of the Wilderness Survival Course taught by Dudley Driscoll through the University of Calgary. It was a thrilling experience especially for a dedicated urban dweller like myself (my brother is the serious outdoor enthusiast in the family). I found every aspect of the outdoors fresh and exciting to me.

I have long been fascinated by the question of survival. I spent many years training with the Progressive Combat Academy to learn about surviving urban violence. It seemed only natural to learn about wilderness survival.

Why the fascination with survival you may ask and what does it have to do with the human venture?

Survival is a fundamental aspect of who we are as human beings. Our species spent millions of years surviving as hunter-gatherers. Only in the last ten to twenty thousand years did we adopt an agricultural civilization, and only in the last two hundred years did cities grow into prominence. Strip away the technologies that we have become dependent upon and you rediscover the roots of humanity. Rediscover survival and you rediscover your power to adapt to life-threatening and life-engaging situations.

To be clear, I am no hurry to return to the wilderness living as primal man. Civilization has brought us incredible gifts of culture. However, it is the wilderness that puts into context how we as a human race got here and it is the wilderness that grants us leave to exist.

I digress.

In this introductory course, we looked at how we could create and use an inexpensive and compact survival kit that would help us survive for 72 hours in the Alberta forest long enough to be rescued. The idea is that the survival kit is something you can always take with you. Whether a day trip goes awry or a car gets stranded, you can have confidence that your kit will be there.

Now imagine the scenario I discussed in the beginning. Imagine being out in the forest in minus 20 degree temperatures and all you have is what is pictured below. How would you survive? What are your priorities?
Think about it. Test the thought experiment out. What don’t you know that might be useful?

Now if you’re thinking it would be easy to survive with all of the materials above, gradually take away each item and re-assess. At some point in human history, we did not have easy access to any of the above materials, yet we survived. If we had none of the materials, is it even possible for you to survive for 24 hours? 72 hours? One week? One month? One year?

Have fun playing this scenario out in your mind. In the meantime you will have to wait for the pictures from the survival course.

Chris Hsiung BSc. CPCC
HUMAN Venture Coaching

Chris Hsiung graduated with distinction from the University of Calgary in Electrical Engineering. He is a certified professional coach through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). He is learning, teaching, presenting curriculum through Leadership Calgary. Currently he runs a practice (U Venture) guiding and coaching professionals who are choosing to engage in pioneering life challenges.

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