#

← Back to news

Learning these wilderness skills can save your life

Published: September 25, 2014

Learning these wilderness skills can save your life

Charlie Sowell  Greenville News

These are the skills that will save your life in the wilderness and none of them involve anything more complicated than a good fixed blade knife and the knowledge of how to use it.

Alex Garcia of EarthSkills founded the company in 2013 to reintroduce people to the skills needed to prosper on the frontier and in case of an emergency.

Last year was the first classes Garcia taught at Hagood mill. This year he’s coming back with a more advanced series of courses once a month starting Sept. 27. The classes start at 9 a.m. and last until 4:30 on the 4th Saturday of the month. Class size is limited to 10.

 

“The two most important skills people need to acquire to survive in the wilderness are building a fire and purifying water,” said Garcia. “I’m an Army veteran (he retired as a major) and I can tell you these are not the kinds of skills you get in the military.

“The military issues all of its people with survival kits that contain a good fixed blade knife, waterproof matches or a lighter, basic medical kit and water purification equipment,” he said. “In my course students learn how to make most everything they need with some common items most have with them.”

 

For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control, bringing water to 160 degrees for one minute purifies water of all but contaminants like metals, he said. To remove metals you need a micro-porous water filtration system.

 

If you can build a fire you can purify your water, he said.

 

“The secret is in the bubbles,” he said. “Once the water hits 140 degrees you start to see tiny bubbles sticking to the sides of a metal container. When you see large bubbles forming at the center and rolling to the surface, you’ve hit 160 degrees. No watch? Can you slowly count to 60?

 

These basic survival skills are simple, but they are not easy.

 

“Everything I teach requires practice to master,” said Garcia. “People are going to be very disappointed to believe this is as easy as it is portrayed on television.

 

“Starting from scratch, it can take hours to days in order to make a fire,” he said. “First you need to get some poplar bark, shave it off the tree, and cut it into strips. Once it is dried, you have the base for a fire bundle.”

 

Once the poplar is dry shave the outer bark, saving the powder, and roll the bark between your hands until you have a bundle of fluff left, he said.

Take the fluff, form a sort of bird’s nest, and pour the powder inside. Put the fire bundle to one side.

 

Taking a small stick and a shoelace, you form a bow. With your fixed-blade knife you make the spark stick and starting blocks.

 

Honestly, most of his students take as long as several hours to make a smoldering bit of fluff and transfer it to the starter bundle and produce a blaze. It took Garcia about 10 minutes.

 

On October 25 students will be challenged with Trapping Fish and Small Game, hands-on instruction on using natural materials to provide meat for your meals. The fee for this class will be $60 per student.

 

November’s cooler weather will be the perfect time to sign up for Creating Fire: Part Two. This last class on November 22, 2014 will provide in-depth knowledge on how to identify and gather fire-making materials and create a fire using several natural methods. There will be a $65 fee for this class.

 

Please visit www.visitpickenscounty.com/calendar for registration and payment options or call the Hagood Mill at 864.898.2936.