In the Wilderness -- Essentials of Survival Instructor Certifications

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The Goal of In the Wilderness Basic Instructor Certification for Veterans

To train veterans to mastery in skills they have an interest in which are germane to our mission, in skills our students need, and identify skills they earned mastery in during their time of military service that is of value to our students. To prepare adults for mastery in the best practices and methods of mentoring combat veterans used at Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute and prepare the instructor candidate to use and teach the skills in EOS 01-07. At the end of their week of training they will demonstrate competence mentoring others these skills.

Our ultimate goal is to train staff for NOLI Campuses to train combat veterans.

Overview of the Essentials of Survival Block

Yes you should not go into the wilds without having mastery of these basic skills, you should not drive down a wilderness highway, and you should not leave your car without knowing these lifesaving skills. Mountain roads get washed-out, roads get blocked by downed trees and power lines, cars breakdown, hikers get separated from their group, leaders get the group lost or didn’t understand the difficulty of the trail, people get injured, the GPS may be wrong or failed. There are skills beyond survival we believe you should learn to have the most enjoyable wilderness experience each time you go out. We also go over the pros and cons of various gear for your own particular needs, you will get to try out gear before you decide to buy. You will discover the more you know the less you need to buy and carry.

This workshop is the starting point, these are the skills we want all my hiking companions to have before going out so we all have a good experience. After completing all of the workshops in Essentials of Survival and Deep Wilderness Access: Off Road Driving and Deep Wilderness Access: Backpacking you could start leading deep wilderness backpacking trips. You may also decide that you would like to get certified to teach any of the workshops we teach or become a mentor working with us; this is your starting point. The point is to have the skills to have great memories and continue to enjoy what wilderness areas offer for many years and to raise your bar to have new adventures with great experiences under our mentorship.

Overview of Veteran Mentor Certification

The priority of this class is certifying the vets to mentor EOS 01 Basic and EOS 02 Fire. After completion of mastery of the skills taught in these two workshops the vets may co-lead those two workshops. The vets may also work on the skills of workshops included in the Essentials of Survival Blocks (EOS 03-07)

The veterans will develop with their mentor a course of work to meet their own needs to meet their own personal goals. Sunday – Thursday with the help of their mentor, the vets will work on mastery of those skills, Friday through Sunday the candidates will demonstrate mentoring those skills they have mastery of to the participants attending EOS workshops.

In follow up trainings the vets will work on completing the remainder of the EOS block of workshops. The candidates may certify in individual skills or earn certification in all skills to conduct any or all of the following Essentials workshops.

After successfully co-leading 3 sessions of a workshop you may be certified to lead that workshop on your own.

Please Note: EOS 01 and EOS 02 are required before taking all other workshops we offer. You must have the basic skills mastered of E01 and E02 before moving on to additional skills workshops as they build on these essential basic skills.

“This training is total immersion and was recently described by a veteran as “field exercises without the push-ups.” Micheal Thornhill veteran


Session EOS 01: Basic Survival Skills

These are the most basic skills necessary to have as well as making informed decisions in selecting basic gear to have an enjoyable hiking, hunting, or backpacking trip or to survive if seperated from the leader, or to work to become a leader of groups.

Please Note: You must have these basic skills mastered of EOS-01 and EOS-02 before moving on to additional skills workshops as they build on these skills.

Demonstrate Knowledge of Hazards

This is an essentials skills of place and is specific for each venue the candidate will mentor in. Before teaching in a new location the candidate must do an assement with a mentor of the hazards of place.

Ethos of Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute

We teach the the tenits of Leave No Trace (LNT) but we also believe in and practice Leave It Better Than How You Found It (LIBTHYFI).

Good Hygiene in the Woods

Failure to follow good hygiene as simple as keeping hand clean when handling potable water or food can make a simple backpacking trip turn into a missurable if not survival situation you and others in your group.

Selecting and Assembling

(Winter conditions is covered in advanced training)

The Basics of Keeping Your Head in an Emergency – S.T.O.P

The Most Basic Knots for Survival

Building a 5 Minute Shelter

Using only a poncho and cordage the candidate will build a shelter that will withstand wind and protect the candidate from wind and rain. The candidate will take their shelter down without cutting any cordage and pack it so that the shelter can be erected again at a moment’s notice.

Exposure – Hypothermia, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke

The candidate will understand the causes and symptoms exposure emergencies and will be able to describe the relationship between wet bulb temp and humidity and how that affects exposure.

The candidate will understand fully how to make layering effective, the properties different materials, and how material choice will contibute to comfort or heat exposure

Basic Navigation Using

Basic Wilderness First Aid

Must have wilderness first aid, CPR, and Stop the Bleed Training before taking this class

Signaling for Help

Surviving a Unplanned Night

Demonstrating staying warm on a cold night with only your street clothes

Selection of a Backpack

Selection of Hiking Boots

Selection of Bedding

Rain Protection


Session EOS 02: Fire

Humans evolved with fire it is key to our survival and growth. It keeps us warm, sterilizes water, it cooks our food; it signals that we need help, it is necessary to make tools, and it changes the brain chemistry. Yes an evening fire triggers the brain to release hormones to provide a good night’s sleep, to heal our bodies, to bond us, and to stimulate conversations of the past. The confidence you get when you know you can build fire with only that which you can find in nature raises you to a new level; this confidence will make you walk taller. Emergency fire making, primitive fire making, making earthen and hobo stoves and of course safety with fire.

We are living with the effect of over 100 years of fire suppression in our forest; we are living in the era of mega fires therefore fire safety is more important than at any other time in human history. This class has something for the newbie through that which will challenge a master. You will not only have these new skills but will build friction fire kits.

Fire Safety

Backpacking Stoves

Candidates will compare and contrast the pros and cons of various fuel and configuation options when selecting and using backpacking stoves

The Missing Component

What they never taught you about fire, the missing component – organization

The Relationship of Heat and Temperature

What is the difference between measuring heat and temperature?

Heat Transfer Physics

The Slowing of Heat Transfer

The Value of Fire, its Effects on the Brain

Fire First Aid

Fire for a Purpose

Not one fire for all situations not one given fire for any situation, be it…

The Value of the Candle

The Tinder Bundle

Making Char Cloth

Ignition Sources

Primitive through modern and many you may not have thought of:

Fire from a Spark

Fire from Friction

Other Methods of Starting Fire

Not required skills

Finding fire starting material in nature

Basics of Cooking with Fire

The participants in this certification class will help cook meals in earthen stoves, dutch ovens, on hot rocks, on wood, in insulated boxes, over flame, and with various types of makeshift and commercial stoves. The skills of this fire class leads into the In the Wilderness Cooking Certification

5 Minute Fire Challenge

The challenge is to walk into the forest with nothing and have the knowledge and skill to find the proper materials and make fire in 5 minutes.


Session EOS 03: Shelter

You can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, but only 3 hours without shelter from cold or heat. Next to panic exposure is the number one killer in the backcountry. Every year people die in the US; this workshop will teach you all how to make a 5 minute shelter that will keep you dry and alive. We will also build various shelters for longer stays. Our K-12 school is outside rain or shine and in a comfortable environment. Brian has lived and taught and made and stayed in shelters to protect himself from the hot blowing sand of the deserts of the Owens Valley to subzero blowing snow of the mountains of northern Utah.

Revisiting the Importance of Shelter

Knots for Shelter Building

Revisiting the 5 Minute Shelter

Shelter for Only a Single Night

Shelter for Extended Winter Stays

Making appropriate shelter for extended foul weather stays with what is in the forest for comfort

Making Shelters in Other Biomes

Heating your Shelter Safely

Using Anemometer and the Psychrometer to Determine Wind Chill


Session EOS 04: Thread, Cordage, Rope, Knots, Rigging, and Glues

Universal to all facets of survival and thriving is thread, cord, rope and glue. The use of knots and lines is integral to the success of making shelter, equitation, access, making clothing and gear, animal processing. This topic is definitely one of those that demonstrate the more skills you own the less gear you need to own or carry. We will learn to make these from fibers found in nature. We will learn to apply those tools to stitch, tie, bind, suspend, heft, fish, trap, and restrain. If the knot spills, the rope brakes at the knot, or the line must be cut because the knot has seized the wrong knot was used for the application.

Choosing the material – must know advantages, disadvantages, and appropriateness of each common material in relationship to common applications and conditions

Categories of Knots must be able to demonstrate the following knots in common applications and explain the advantages and disadvantage in various common applications

Stopper Knots & Hefting – Fig 8 and monkey fist

Loops At End of Line – tugboat, bowline, double dragon

In a Bite – Lineman (alpine butterfly), bowline in a bite, bell ringer’s with toggle

Multiple Loop – Spanish bowline, bowline in a bite

Hitches – Clove (including slippery clove hitch), Toggle, manger, and timber hitch

Fiction Hitches

– Prusik - Taught Line

Mechanical Advantage

Truckers Hitch from

Bends – double sheet bend, figure of eight water knot


– Single Binding - Single Slippery Binding

Basic Rappelling and Belaying

Basic Rigging

Techniques for Making Thread

Techniques for Making Cordage

The meaning of synergy and how it is applied to cordage and teams and how to maximize synergy in making cordage and teams

Techniques for Making Rope

“Harvesting” of Synthetic Fibers

Harvesting and Prep of Plant Fibers – Stinging Nettle, Dogbane, Yucca, Douglas Iris

Harvesting and Prep of Animal Fibers

Sewing with a Sail Makers Awl – Running and locking stitch

Making and using Soaproot Glue

Making and using Hide Glue

Making and using Pine-pitch

Make Soaproot Brushes, Arrows, or…


Session EOS 05: Potable Water, Finding and Making Drinking Water

We don’t need to tell you the importance of water, this class is all about having water to drink and bathe. We start with locating surface water, determining the safety of the water, and making the water safe. You will learn to use store bought chemicals and equipment, making water safe with what you have in nature, making fresh water from sea water.

Locating Ground Water

Determining the Safety of the Water

Making the Water Safe with Store Bought Filters Comparing by Hands-on use of

Making Water Safe with Chemicals

Making Water Safe with Distillation

Making Water Safe with What You Have in Nature

Collecting Water from Air and Soil


Session EOS 06: Navigation

Many people get themselves in trouble relying on electronic devices for navigation and seeking help. In this session we will go deep into finding your way in and out of unfamiliar territory using the basic navigation tools. We will determine your location from an object off in the distance without using a map. We will also develop skills in map making so you or others can find a given location, basic navigation with the stars, and telemetry.

Finding the North Star

Following a Storyline

Blazing a Trail

Determining Direction with an Analog Watch and the Sun

Determining Time with the Sun and a Compass

Choosing a Compass

Using a Compass

Choosing and Reading Maps

Setting Declination on Your Compass

Taking a Reading

Determining a Heading

Finding a Reciprocal Heading

Mapping a Trail with Multiple Way Points

Orienting the Map

The Altimeter

Finding Yourself on a Map Using Compass and Altimeter

Using Radio Telemetry

Determining Latitude and Longitude

Calculating Movement with Longitude and Latitude

Using Trig to Determine how Far You are from a Distance Object


Session EOS 07: Cooking On the Fire

This class goes deep into cooking in Dutch ovens, cooking directly on the fire on rocks or planks, and cooking in pits. We will cook everything from game meats to pastries. No freeze dried food in this class. Depending on the time of the year and location of the class we may do some foraging.

In the Wilderness


"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!"
—Hunter S. Thompson
"Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival"
—W. Edwards Deming