“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it”
From Woodcraft by George W. Sears aka Nessmuk
Defining the Advanced Bushcraft Course offered by Randall’s Adventure & Training is a difficult task. Over the the three day period the instructors delve into a variety of topics that all seem to float between knowledge that could save your life in an emergency situation, but also skills that will help you smooth any hiccups in your trip or impress your adventuring partners around the campfire. The course is taught by instructors Patrick Rollins and James Gibson, and assistant cadre Casey Wynn. This trio bring vast wilderness experience and countless hours of instruction in a wide range topics.
The weekend began with group introductions where we learned the students were from a wide geographic range and varied backgrounds. A number of the students were returners to the Randall’s Adventure & Training headquarters that is affectionately dubbed “the farm”. After this brief classroom session the group trekked out to the camp area, where the next three days would be a continuous curriculum of skills explanation and hands on practice. The basis of the class covered the survival essentials of shelter, fire, water, and food, but to say that was all we learned would be an oversimplification of the whole experience.
The first practical lesson was a debri shelter. A type of emergency shelter that can be constructed without tools or cordage in practically any location that has vegetative debri. James walked the group through each stage of the construction with a hands on approach. From how to appropriately size the shelter, to the finer points of constructing a door, to lashing the frame with vines or other natural cordage. The group made quick work of the build process and then everyone had a chance to see just how warm and dry the hut really was. Personally, I had built and used this type of shelter before, but James offered detailed explanations to every aspect of the construction to the point where I felt like I had only grasped the basic concept before that morning.
From there the group moved right into knife work. Regardless of the skill level of the student everyone took away some pointers from Patrick’s session as he explained safety, cutting positions, and different types of notches and carvings we would continue to use throughout the weekend. While this might seem like a prelude to the real lessons, Patrick’s instruction covered everything you needed to know to fashion a quick and efficient set of tent stakes if you just happen to leave them behind, build a pot hook to cook over the fire, and most importantly to keep you and everyone around you safe while working with a blade.
Spread throughout the weekend the instructors covered a wide range of fire starting skill sets. This being Advanced Bushcraft these sessions went far beyond your proverbial campfire toolbox. Under the tutelage of Patrick, James, and Casey the majority of the class coaxed flames from the bow drill, the hand drill, and the seemingly mystic fire roll. Once again the varying skill levels of the students was not an obstacle, and the instructors made sure that beginners had the proper tools to succeed, and those with experience took away knowledge to refine their craft.
While I won’t reveal the entire syllabus, I will say that from morning until the dinner hours each day was packed full of instruction. The group learned how to improvise a variety of equipment, several methods of procuring food, and the previously mentioned skills all with the idea of making a stay in the wilderness, whether it was planned or unplanned, as comfortable as possible. After full days of instruction the group gathered back at camp to share meals, swap stories, and reflect on the lessons of the day. Even though it felt like an extremely full three days the overall atmosphere was relaxed and well paced. If you’re looking for a more intense training session Randall’s Adventure & Training also offers the flagship Field Survival course as well as a follow up Survival Intensive experience. Visit www.randallsadventure.com to see a full list of courses offered at the farm. Regardless of the course you decide to take, you’ll undoubtedly come away with expert knowledge and the motivation to push your training even further.
* OutdoorX4 Magazine – Promoting responsible 4×4 adventure travel and outdoor recreation