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Bugs, It’s What’s for Dinner

Bugs, It's What's for Dinner

As a wilderness survival instructor, every so often I have the sense that a client believes that I’ve let him down when I fail to cover wild edibles as a food source.  Such an expectation, though, is understandable since the general consensus certainly seems to be that a knowledge of wild edibles is vital to properly dealing with an emergency outdoors.  After all, consider the millions of television viewers who tune in each week to watch a wide mix of survival reality shows as their hosts and contestants busily forage for plants, berries, and mushrooms during their scripted emergency.  In turn, there are countless books, articles, and websites that vigorously promote the topic.  But the actual reality is that I truly would be letting down my clients if I continued to foster this notion. That’s because in a survival situation, wild edibles should not be your primary food source.  In fact, at the risk of further appearing […]

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Tips: Cold Weather Sleeping

Tips: Cold Weather Sleeping

I know that it may be hard to believe, but activities that involve Winter camping offer some of the best opportunities of the year to enjoy the Great Outdoors.  There tend to be far fewer people on the trail, and one can, quite literally, see, hear, feel, and smell a world completely different than the one that more commonly exists during the warmer months.  But to be perfectly honest, I often need to remind myself of theses wonders in order to overcome my inherent resistance to sleeping overnight in the cold.  After all, sleeping when one is cold to the point of suffering doesn’t help make for a fun, or, from a wilderness survival perspective, a safe trip. So here a few simple tips to consider: Keep your internal furnace burning all night.  Before going to bed, eat (unless you have some kind of medical restriction) a high-calorie snack that […]

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Concept Product: Rescue Me Balloon

Concept Product: Rescue Me Balloon

In a previous blog, Rescue Signaling, I wrote about the importance in case of an outdoors emergency of being prepared to signal for help.  Particularly, I wrote that it is your responsibility, not that of search and rescue crews, to be found.  That’s because even with hi-tech equipment, which, despite common belief, they don’t very often have or use (relying to a great deal on “ground pounders” and visual sightings), you still remain the proverbial needle in the haystack.  After all, the Great Outdoors is so very big while we are so very small.  Anything, then, that you can use or do to be seen will improve your chances of going home that much sooner. Thanks to True North instructor, J.C. McGreehan, I just learned about a new product that might be coming to the market soon that could better help you accomplish this survival priority.  It’s called the Rescue Me Balloon. […]

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“Cotton Kills” … Truth or Exaggeration?

"Cotton Kills" ... Truth or Exaggeration?

In any of the survival courses that I teach, very seldom do I make absolute statements to a client like “Definitely don’t do this,” or “Always do that.”  After all, if a client finds herself  in an emergency situation, it’s likely unique enough on some level that absolutes are not helpful, perhaps even detrimental.  And when it comes to buying clothing and gear, every client has his own guidelines based on various criteria including their particular outdoor activity and interests, perceived needs and wants, and size of pocketbook.  Instead, I generally try to offer recommendations, within a general range of possibilities and points to consider, supplemented with an explanation for context. Except in two cases.  One of them being … Don’t wear cotton. By this I mean, never, or at least be extremely reluctant to, wear cotton clothing during your outdoors adventures. This “absolute” is given with the best of recommendations as there is a very […]

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More About the Chris McCandless Story

More About the Chris McCandless Story

Amazingly, at least in my mind, it has been 22 years since Christopher McCandless slowly starved to death, all alone in an abandoned school bus, in the Alaskan wilderness.  Many of you may have read about his story in the Jon Krakauer book, Into the Wild, or saw the movie of the same title.  Amazingly, he still remains to this day the subject of active, even fervent, discussions amongst those in the outdoors community. There is just something about McCandless’ story that touches something so visceral in so many.  The debate generally falls into two main camps.  The first tends to argue that his death was almost inevitable due to his selfish personality and reckless lack of preparedness.  The second tends to praise him for his free spirit and trust in the bounty of Nature, and views his death as an unfortunate accident.  For what it’s worth, my opinion tends to reflect those of the […]

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True North on CNN

True North on CNN

After spending forty-eight days on the run after gunning down two Pennsylvania State Troopers, Eric Frein, an apparent “expert survivalist,” was finally arrested by U.S. Marshalls on October 30 at an abandoned airplane hanger in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Since then, law enforcement and media alike have been working hard to determine how Frein not only committed the crime, but how he was able to remain on the run for so long.  In as much, I continued to be interviewed this week by various journalists from such news organizations as The Morning Call, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and CNN who asked for some insight into Frein’s survival abilities. In fact, on Thursday, I was privileged to be interviewed live by CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin on her show Newsroom.  You can watch it for yourself as part of her report, “100+ Items Found at Frein’s Hideout.”  You can also read the transcript: BALDWIN: If you do not need a passport to access […]

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Survivor v. Survivalist: What’s the Difference?

Survivor v. Survivalist: What's the Difference?

Going into it’s eleventh day, the manhunt continues for Eric Frein, the self-styled survivalist who ambushed two Pennsylvania State Troopers, killing one and injuring another, then apparently slipped into the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania to escape.  In addition to the swarm of state and federal law enforcement officers intensely searching for Frein, there is a swarm of media in the vicinity intensely searching for any information that may help the general public better understand, not just the mind of this killer, but for how long he may be able to avoid arrest.  As a result, my telephone has been repeatedly ringing almost everyday for a week as journalists from across the state and country ask for my “expert” opinion about the manhunt, in particular, what skills it takes a “survivalist” to successfully hide and evade.  I detest the term survivalist. Before I explain, though, let me make two points clear, just as […]

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Bees, Hornets & Allergies … What Do I Do?

Bees, Hornets & Allergies ... What Do I Do?

Bees, yellow jackets, hornets and other insects that bite or sting have been in the back of my mind all Summer.  So as the season wanes, I thought that I would finally share with you a few thoughts and pieces of information that you might find helpful when you are out on your next outdoor adventure.  This way, you will be better prepared to keep yourself, and others, safe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been thinking of them because I am particularly fearful of insects, I’m not.  In fact, I am fascinated by bees and love to closely watch them flit from one wildflower in my backyard to another.  In turn, considering the huge number of folks who play outside, few are actually stung, and even fewer suffer any life-threatening effects.  However, I must admit that even that one isolated sting or bite can suddenly have a huge impact on your […]

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Rare Opportunity: A First-Hand Survival Account

Rare Opportunity: A First-Hand Survival Account

Do you really want to know what it takes to survive? Do you want to listen from a first-hand account?  Then join me on August 25 at 7:00 p.m. for a truly rare chance to listen to a story that will not only inspire you, but could also help to protect your life one day. During his lecture, On the Ledge: Surviving Six Days in No Man’s Canyon, David Cicotello will discuss the events of March 2011 in a Utah slot canyon that left him to spend six days alone on a ledge following a climbing accident that sadly killed his brother, Louis. The lecture will be held at REI Settlers Ridge, located in Robinson Township, just south of Pittsburgh. While it is free, space is limited.  Out of the initial 40 slots, just 22 were left this morning when I registered … and I just took two of them. Topics […]

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Are You Ready for a Challenge?

Are You Ready for a Challenge?

Anyone who regularly reads my blogs knows already that I am not a fan of “reality” television, particularly those focusing on wilderness survival.  After all, reality television is not reality.  At best, it’s entertainment, plain and simple.  At worst, it can get someone, who attempts to replicate what they have “learned” while watching it, hurt, even killed.  Sadly, this has already occurred in at least a few instances over the years because viewers sometimes don’t appreciate how reckless the so-called expert is being, or that the scenario presented has in fact been manipulated for effect.  Happily, though, there are exceptions. When created and presented in the proper spirit, television programs can be a wonderful supplement to actual hands-on learning, particularly from a qualified instructor.  For example, I must admit that I respect Les Stroud of Survivorman, and I especially like watching Animal Planet’s I Shouldn’t be Alive series, which provides a pretty fair account and analysis of […]

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