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How to Start a Wilderness Survival School

A wilderness survival school teaches valuable skills for surviving in all sorts of wilderness conditions. Starting a wilderness survival school is not a small task. However, it can be as simple or as complex as you decide to make it. A basic understanding of three things is important: the wilderness itself, how to survive the elements, and how to convey that knowledge in the simplest and most interesting manner to students.

Determine the age group you plan to teach. Will your wilderness survival school be for kids, teens and/or adults? Do you plan to tailor your classes to people of all ages and genders, or not? Determining the type of school and students you want to teach will help you tailor your curriculum to that audience. If you plan to have various wilderness training for all age groups and genders, you can tailor your field and coursework, as well as each level (from basic to advanced) to that particular target group.

Decide where you plan to teach your wilderness skills. Do you have a piece of land? Will you lease land or pay a fee for certain weekends, weeks or several spring/summer months at a time? Are you teaching a winter wilderness survival course? If so, is the camp accessible during the winter months? If you own your own piece of land, determine what sorts of facilities will be required. Will people need to bring their own tents and equipment? Do you need bathroom and kitchen facilities, an office or an indoor gathering place?

Figure how much to charge. You can charge anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per person, depending on what you offer, the length of time your course runs, and your educational background and experience. Research your competition and various wilderness survival schools across the country. See which ones are closest in coursework to your program, and find out the costs and anything else that might be helpful.

Plan your survival courses. All survival schools begin with a basic wilderness survival course. Your class should cover basic techniques of surviving in the wilderness, as well as specific information related to the particular state and terrain your courses are in. Basic survival courses usually cover things like how to make a fire, constructing a shelter from natural materials, purifying water, reading a map and compass, navigating by celestial means, tying knots in ropes, making tools, utilizing the various elements to benefit you in surviving, identifying edible and medicinal plants, basic ways of creating signals, fishing/trapping/hunting and how to avoid getting lost. You should provide materials as well as give hands-on exercises and training. You should also prepare advanced survival coursework. You can include additional education on all of the above and add other training, as well as give actual tests related to surviving in the wild. In other words, you would have your students stay 1 to 3 nights in the wilderness with limited supplies. Creating winter survival courses are a good idea as well, especially in locations where cold winters are normal. These courses would cover types of clothing needed in extreme weather, dehydration, shelters, footwear and precautions needed. You can also provide more specific coursework on designing shelters, identifying plants for food and other important skills needed.

Attract your students. A great way to attract students is to offer a free seminar outlining the survival skills that your school teaches. You can give this presentation at libraries, churches, schools, community centers, or anywhere your target market resides. Create a dynamic website, brochure and other publications. Share them with Cub Scouts, adventure groups, youth groups and clubs. Offer a special introduction presentation at your camp, and invite participants to register for your wilderness survival school. If you are remotely located, create an online educational course and invite participants to download materials. Charge a fee, and then invite them to your camp for the advanced coursework.


Patricia Williams is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous magazines including "Missouri Impact," "Travelhost," "Careers & Colleges," "Career Focus," "Small Business Journal" and many online sites such as Trazzler, AssociatedContent, Bright Hub, LoveToKnow, and Williams has Bachelor of Arts degrees in communications and English from the University of Missouri - Kansas City.