Would you know what to do if you were dropped in the middle of the woods (or desert, or mountains) with only the clothes on your back and—maybe—a knife?
If you’re an urban-dwelling ape like me, you’ve likely shared this fear-slash-fantasy and wondered how you might make out without society’s lifeline. Could you figure out how to build a shelter, find potable water, forage for food and build a fire in the short time it would take nature to kill you?
Probably not without a little help.
Lucky for you, help is a wilderness survival school away. As so-called primitive skills like flint knapping (making tools out of stone) and making fire by friction are lost to technological advancement, a handful of schools around the country are keeping them alive and passing them on to new generations.
Some, like Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the Maine Primitive Skills School, emphasize this ancient connection with nature, and teach their students not only how to survive in the wild, but how to live there.
Others, like the Pathfinder School in Ohio and the Mountain Shepherd School in Virginia, emphasize the survival angle more heavily, focusing on the crucial first 72 hours after getting lost or stranded, during which you have a high chance of rescue.
For our list, we picked 12 survival schools that cover a wide range of philosophies and skills. Learn to how to survive the scorching desert heat at Arizona-based Aboriginal Living Skills School; follow survival regimens that are used to train the military at the Survival Training School of California and Ancient Pathways in Arizona; you can even take urban survival classes in the heart of Manhattan if you're worried about the next superstorm.
Whichever you choose, you'll probably face the challenge of your life—and one that might save it, too. Take a look at our slideshow.