Last weekend I participated in Bushcraft Yukon's one-day Winter Survival Course with Fabian Schmitz. Better late than never! This course is in hot demand and rightfully so. The course is full of hands-on activities to help with daily life in the Yukon and emergency situations. This blog is NOT a guide to winter safety. Please take safety information from a professional. This blog is about my personal experience from my one-day beginner course and is by no means a replacement for taking the course yourself.
Some of you Southerners (anyone who lives south of the territories is considered a Southerner) may think it’s a little late in the season to be doing a winter survival course, but we are still going strong on the winter front! On my drive out to Vista Outdoor Learning Facility (where the course was being hosted), my car’s thermometer said it was -21 without the windchill. No better way to test out your clothing layering system than spending a whole day outside, but while still being in the safety of civilization. I may have looked like a marshmallow, but my gear held up pretty well for eight hours outdoors.
A large focus was placed on fire-starting. In theory, I knew how to start a fire, but I have never actually tried to do it. I had the chance to try different tinder to start my fires. For the first time, I tried using a ferrocerium rod and striker. It took a bit of finesse, but not much. I was able to get my tinder to catch- no problem! There are huge benefits to using a ferrocerium rod and striker.
1- They can work at all temperatures (not like lighters that won’t work below a certain temperature)
2- Wet or dry, they work
3- You won’t run out of sparks (like you can run out of matches or fuel for your lighter)
4- Super compact and will easily fit into a fire-starting kit or on a lanyard with your other small easily accessible items
5- Pretty inexpensive and loads of variety available
I was impressed by the different types of tinder we tested out. I think the most impressive was using a new unrolled and fluffed-out tampon. It took only a few strikes before I was able to ignite it and the flames lasted quite a while- plenty of time to get some kindling going. Also, cotton balls fluffed out with a bit of Vaseline on them work well too. They hold the flame for a surprising amount of time, are super-compact, are easily pre-prepped and they are inexpensive to create!
We did some knife work too. We created feather sticks to use as tinder, learned how to split wood using a knife, we each had to fell a tree using a knife (after instruction and a demo) and of course, knife safety. The trees we fell were used to create our Mors Kochanski’s Super Shelter. I was shocked by how comfortable our “bed” was and by how much warmth our shelter held- even without our long fire going. We practice different knots while making our lean-to version of the Super Shelter and that was the perfect shift towards learning about pulleys and winches. After learning about the Z-Drag pulley system and the flip-flop winching system (and a few others that I can’t remember their names) we were able to put our newfound knowledge to practice. It’s so neat to try out the winches and pulleys you created. Physics is so cool!
After a day spent outside in the cold, with my brain trying to take in as much as I could, I sure slept well that night! The course was amazing and I can’t wait to take some other courses with Bushcraft Yukon. Not only do I feel more confident in my abilities, but I also learned a lot! Hopefully, I will never need to use any of the knowledge I gained in an emergency situation, but I will be the one who lights our next campfire and I’ll help to split the wood using my new knife. Remember to always test your skills and gear in a normal situation, so you are prepared in the case of an emergency. I may not be a full bushperson yet, but I’m getting closer- one course/experience at a time.
Hero Picture- A surprise anniversary gift from my husband, Adam. Mora/Light My Fire collab to create The Swedish FireKnife. Knife handle hides the fire starter when not in use. Photo taken by me