Have you ever wondered why it is that most so called survival schools don’t really post any kind of a real resume about their instructors? They all seem to be so cookie cutter, saying all the same things or they don’t say anything at all! Here is the most common description, “I grew up in the woods as a boy and learned to love the outdoors from an early age”, blah blah etc. Now, I am not going to knock that experience in life because that is what rooted me in this industry to begin with, but that doesn’t make you an expert survival instructor. So how do you know if someone knows their stuff or is a total fraud? Whether they are an arm chair survivalist expert or the real freaking deal! Because there isn’t any regulating body or set of skill standards that instructors have to pass in order to be able to call themselves legit! You just have to take their word for it. I would say as many as 80% of survival school founders are students that attended The Tracker School owned by Tom Brown, Jr. But does taking a few of his thousand dollar survival courses that are half power point and half watching someone else demonstrate skills make you an expert. I think not!
True skill can only come from true grit and passion for what they do. If they don’t truly love every aspect of survival then they will never truly be great at it. Greatness can only be accomplished with great determination and passion for what you do. And I think you will quickly find that the best instructors in the industry are the ones that give their knowledge away for free through blogs, youtube videos, and other forms of social media. According to Cody Lundin in a recent article, youtube videos don’t give a person any credibility whatsoever. But I would disagree and say that it is one of the only true ways to be able to really demonstrate what you are capable of doing to your customers to provide credibility for what you say your capable of. My advice is simply this, “Don’t take their word for it, and make sure in your mind that they are proving their skills through demonstration”. Survival instructors should have something that proves they can do what they do well and know their stuff, since we have no regulating body for this sort of thing. There is no government body or private institution saying, “hey this guy’s a badass, he can survive anywhere”. So here is some stuff you need to think about when picking a survival school for your personal preference because there is a ton of different styles of thought in this industry. Bush hippie and military mindsets pretty much dominate the industry so you will most likely have to pick between one of the two perspectives. (Or you can find one that blends the two, like SIGMA 3. We take the best from both worlds; shameless self promotion, lol) Okay so here it is:
Do your homework:
- LOOK OUT FOR SHORT NON DESCRIPTIVE RESUMES THAT DON’T LIST THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS! If they only say a few words about their past, then I wouldn’t trust them with your future survival.
- Look for people who do it full time and don’t have a second job. It should be there specialty!
- Do they own their own property or are they doing their courses in the national forest or somewhere else? If they don’t own property for their school, then they’re probably a fly by night company and might even get you in trouble with the forestry department practicing these skills on public lands. There are rules in the national forest about cutting trees, harvesting wild plants, etc. So Caveat Emptor! Buyer Beware!
- Check their resumes! If they only list a short paragraph of un-verifiable accomplishments then I would be leary. But honestly, you will find that most schools are exactly this way. I can’t say it enough, compare resumes and look for legitimate survival experience.
- Do they have lower prices but expect you to bring tons of different survival equipment? It’s a common hook in the industry to require students to purchase expensive gear for their courses. Because most students don’t show up prepared for these courses (and they know it), they are happy to provide you with the required equipment for the course and make exorbitant amounts of money off equipment you may not need. (SIGMA 3 requires almost no equipment and has some of the lowest prices in the industry)
- Do they have any unique survival stories that they actually had to employ their skills to save their life? Have they ever actually been in a survival situation?
- Is the school local or would you have extensive travel costs in attending their courses?
- How long has the school been around and do they employ top instructors in their specialties? Because no one has mastered every skill in the survival community. Instructors are usually great at a certain set of skills and lacking in others. So look to see if the school employs a diversity of instructors with varying backgrounds. If they don’t then move on!
- Do they only teach primitive survival or do they teach a mix of things that will appeal to the average person? It can take a lifetime to master primitive survival skills. So unless you want to spend forever learning this stuff, you should pick a school that teaches a wide range of modern and primitive skill sets.
- Do they offer certifications for their courses?
- Do they have any medical training in case someone gets hurt?
- Are they a bush hippie or military style school? Or both?
What to look out for:
- Ex military doesn’t mean they know survival! The military doesn’t emphasis high level survival training in almost any mainstream program they offer. Primarily only high level SOF and recon units get any kind of real survival training. And there is a huge difference between combat or tactical survival and true wilderness survival. Everything with tactical survival is always short term in nature and they don’t train longer term aspects of survival.
- SERE Instructors/ most SERE guys usually don’t have any more skills than a basic survival student. So look for other training outside of that!
- Look Out for Ridiculous prices! Don’t think you’re getting more because you’re paying more. This is a common misconception and many schools monopolize on it. Many guys in the construction industry use to say to me, “Bid all your jobs high, so that if you only get 1 in 10 jobs you make so much more off the one job, than you would off doing all ten jobs at marginal profits”. They were literally betting on the fact that a sucker is born every day! Don’t be a sucker. You shouldn’t be paying more than $100-200/day for normal survival instruction, even if they are the best in the world. Compare our resumes to the competition and see if you’re getting more experience for the money!
- Do they incorporate religious beliefs into their teachings? Surprisingly some of the biggest schools in the country do this heavily without the student knowing it upfront. Whether it is Christian or more pagan centered beliefs, all kinds of schools exist and they do try to preach their beliefs. The Tracker School is probably the best example of this style of school and they have a heavy emphasis on spiritual things in their teachings. The more advanced the course the greater the amount of spiritual teachings. So if getting a lesson in the spiritual aspects of life isn’t your bag, then make sure you do research on the core principles behind the school’s teachings.
- Look for legitimate reviews and see what people say about the reputation of the school and its individual instructors.
This article is not to promote what we do, but just to make buyers aware of the mindset and what to look out for when choosing a school for your preferences. Every school is different and has a different philosophy, so it’s pivotal that you decide what skill sets primarily interest you. I wrote this article not to promote our own business, but to bring up some important points about what you should look for in a legitimate survival school. Because many people struggle with finding a school that fits their personal needs. Thanks for your support and if you have any questions about us, other schools, or things relating to this article I would be happy to help. I’m not going to say bad things about my competitors but it is my business to know what they teach, how their courses run, and what they specialize in. And you may or may not be able to attend our school because of travel issue or philosophy differences but either way I can point you in the direction of a good school. So if you want my two cents then, Just Contact Us!
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