We’re on the show with Cliff Hodges, wilderness survival educator, founder of Adventure Out, and former host of NatGeo’s Remote Survival.
You know the old question, “Who would you want to be stranded on a desert island with?” My answer—Cliff Hodges. Why? Because he will keep me alive.
But before we get to the podcast, I thought I’d let you know that, far from foraging for nuts and berries, Alyson and I set up GoPro cameras in our kitchen to show you how to cook quick and delicious meals in fifteen minutes or less! We’re calling the series the Wild Diet Cooking Class, and we’ll be sending a few of the videos to email subscribers for FREE over the next week, so be sure you’re signed up.
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Now, on to the show with Cliff Hodges, where we get into the nitty gritty of being a real human being, including:
- What to pack in your tiniest survival kit
- How to prepare for the zombie apocalypse
- How to stay alive when you’re stuck in the woods
- And much more…
CLIFF HODGES: ONE REALLY DIRTY GUY
I took a class with Cliff a while back, and one thing he does with a new group is ask them to rub dirt all over their faces. Dirty is good. Dirt under your fingernails will help you relax into the experience and get the most out of your hours of survival.
But Cliff didn’t always want to spend his days playing in the dirt. He is an actual smarty-pants with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT. He decided to teach outdoor survival classes after graduation so he could avoid getting a real job—ten years later, he has run Adventure Out for a decade, and has hosted a NatGeo show called Remote Survival.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that he created his own “real job.”
ANCESTRAL WILDERNESS SURVIVAL
According to Cliff, survival education is about getting back in touch with original humans. We’ve gotten so far removed from how to be human… that when the zombie apocalypse comes, we’re doomed.
But if you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, all you have to do is get your woodsman skills and survival skills up to par. Learn how to live in the woods– the zombies will stay in the cities. You’ll be safe.
SURVIVAL SKILLS ARE IN OUR BLOOD
Just a generation or two ago, human beings were really experiencing the elements. Even shovelling snow in New Hampshire we were exposed to the elements. How have we changed?
It used to be that kids would get out of school or be home on the weekend, and the parents would kick the kids outside. Now, it’s scary and dirty and you should avoid it because outside is dangerous.
“We’ve insulated an entire generation from experiencing the outdoors.”
When you spend time in nature, actually living in it and from it, you experience an important de-stressing, reconnecting, and re-energizing. It’s such a crucial part of being human that a lot of people have lost in their daily lives.
You start out on a survival trip worrying about the dirt under your nails. Over the course of a few days, no-one cares. You’re sweaty and stinky and you’re enjoying it. Somewhere in the middle your mindset shifts—and you’re like, oh yeah I know how to do this.Surviving in nature recalibrates your whole idea of what happiness is, what fear is, and what fun is. Click To Tweet
When you come back from a trip like this, you appreciate everything. Somewhere along the line you get an internal and an external shift:
Internal Shift—re-prioritization. People start to look at needs versus wants. In our daily lives, in an urban modern world, we seem to label a lot of things as needs… but when you’re out there in the woods, you don’t need your cell phone or your high end hair conditioner. It helps people get back to basics and you get this huge internal shift.
External Shift— For groups, one external shift is that everyone is kind of stripped down and equalized. When you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’re in a shelter cooking over the campfire, it doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or an unemployed college student. You both need to find food. You both need to cook it. There is an external equalization.
4 NECESSITIES OF WILDERNESS SURVIVAL
If you’re in a literal survival situation, like if you’re hiking and get lost or you’re in an accident, you priorities are:
SHELTER / WATER / FIRE / FOOD
In that order. You can go weeks without food and days without water—but you can’t be exposed to the elements. You have to assess your environment: Is it hot? Cold? Wet? Then determine what you need to do to insulate your body against it.
It’s super important to understand the elements. You can die of hypothermia at higher temperatures than you might think. In fact, you can die of exposure in 50-some degree weather if perhaps you’ve had a stream crossing and you’re wet.
The first thing that happens in a state of hypothermia is mental fog, poor decision making, and loss of body control. Once you slip into this state, it’s hard to recover. You can die of exposure on a sunny but windy day.
Some people get out on a survival trip and the first thing they want to do is make a spear and kill an animal… but that’s the last thing you want to do at that point.
You’re in the woods lost and it’s a nice sunny day, but you realize you have to get through the night. What do you do?
In North America, you’re dealing with cold survival at night. Your plan is to stay warm and stay dry.
Our bodies are really good at thermoregulation of themselves. As long as we’re properly fueled and we’re getting water, we regulate well. But when you’re exposed to the environment, your body can’t do that anymore. You need some shelter.
Get under a fallen log or into a cave. If you have time, build a debris shelter—leaves, pine needles, dirt, sticks – to put your body inside of.
Having proper shelter can make the difference between surviving through the night… or not.
THE (exaggerated) DANGER OF BUGS AND BEASTS
How has the fear of creepy-crawlies and man-eating beasts been inflated?
I don’t get bears, I get bug bites. You’re probably going to get more than a few bug bites in your shelter made of sticks and moss and pine needles, but…
“There’s a huge difference between being uncomfortable and being dead.”
You’re more likely to get a lot of mosquitos buzzing around your ear than you are to get a Mountain Lion stalking you. Except in a rare situation, we’re at the top of the food chain and most of those animals don’t want anything to do with human beings.
Probably the only one I don’t want to run into is a grizzly bear.
If you’re worried about weird bird flus or bug bites infesting you with some rare crippling disease… don’t. You’re not likely to get sick from a mosquito or killed by a spider.
“I’m way more afraid of touching the little credit card machine at Walmart than I am of getting sick out in the wild.”People are so much more disgusting than nature. Click To Tweet
Okay, the biggest thing you have to fear in nature is water. Not rapids or floods, but drinking water, which carries a lot of risks for disease.
How do you find clean water?
“The things that you can see aren’t the things that hurt you,” Cliff says, “Barring the rare poisonous plant or something.”
It’s the small bacteria and viruses that can be in the water that can make you sick—the diarrhea and vomiting caused by drinking contaminated water… people die from that.
How to purify your water—you can assume that any water you find in the wild is contaminated. If you find a spring at its source, you can probably be alright or at very very high elevations where animals aren’t pooping in it. Otherwise, don’t drink it straight up.
You can treat your water and make it drinking using water purification tablets or filtration pumps, UV purifiers (miniature light sabers), or by boiling it. You’ll have to use your survival skills to build a fire and create a vessel to hold the water. Then heat some rocks piping hot and get them into the water—the hot rocks will boil off the bacteria and make the water safer for drinking.
Having a filter pump is a lot easier.
If you’re biking, hiking, or running in the woods and you don’t have much space, what should you put in a little pack?
The Tiniest Survival Kit should include:
- Knife—such an important tool for everything from shelter-building to fire-starting and even in hunting for food.
- Cord– like a paracord, which can also to be used for fire and shelter.
- Bottle of Water Purification Tablets—they take up the least amount of space. They are the size of a half a roll of quarters. They don’t break and they don’t lose charge. And they work.
What have you learned from someone who has done something spectacular or amazing?
What I find most impressive are the people who have mastered primitive hunting skills. Being able to fabricate stone tools, wooden bows, and other hunting weapons are some of the absolute most difficult and advanced indigenous survival skills.
The absolute expertise of the native people utilizing these skills is amazing—I’ve seen them use slings to throw little rocks over 50 yards and shoot birds or monkeys out of trees. It’s incredible.
When I take people out in the wilderness, it’s mind-blowing that someone could go from freaking out over bug bites to taking out an animal to eat.
“The thing I try to impress the most is that these survival skills are a part of you.”
In North America, we associate these skills with Native Americans. But you are a direct descendant of people who built their own shelters, built stone tools, hunted wild game, and more. We’ve just moved too far away from it. Before I teach the skills, I talk about how this is a part of their heritage and lineage no matter where they are or are from, we’ve just moved away from it.
You start eating a lot differently out in nature. How do you feel when you’re out there?
I eat a lot less. One of the big rules of survival is conservation of energy. You’re not running around doing all the crazy stuff we do in our lives. You don’t need to eat your three square meals a day or your five portions a day.
Eating in the wilderness ends up being kind of like involuntary intermittent fasting. If you wanted to eat as much as you do normally, you’d be hunting and gathering non-stop.
There’s about a 72-hour adjustment period where it’s a little bit miserable. People find themselves unable to think of anything other than food and why they’re not eating all that time. After a couple of days, people can get by on less food—often one meal a day or two, and then no meals the next day, then one … you can’t be hunting and gathering at all times.
For me it breaks a lot of paradigms and templates for how people normally lead their day to day lives.Domesticated people would never even consider not eating for a day. Click To Tweet
It provides an amazing feeling of freedom. Some people feel like prisoners of their own bodies. It’s empowering to feel like you can do a whole lot more than sitting at a desk all day and eating three meals and doing it again the next day.
It’s an appreciation thing. Needs/wants… all of a sudden every meal becomes special and amazing and incredible.
“Can you imagine what it would be like if everybody in society was walking around looking at every meal or drink of water like it was an incredible gift?”
How have you changed as a person?
It is my life, so it’s hard to give you a succinct answer. It’s given me a lot of purpose.
Never in my childhood did I think I wanted to grow up and be a survival instructor. I did it as a summer job because I didn’t want to get a “real job.” People just kept signing up and slowly the business built. It’s also given me a lot of patience. I got that from my students… when I first started, I expected everyone to just do what I did. But it made me realize there were varied backgrounds and not everyone grew up like I did spending time in the woods.
What are some of the things people just starting to enjoy nature should go see?
What an amazing park system we have. I think we take it for granted, and it’s not something that exists all over the world.
“Start with the park system because it’s the most packaged and presentable thing to do.”
My personal favorite– The northern, kind of western states, like South Dakota to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming. This area has some of the most pristine and vast wilderness I’ve ever encountered in my life. You can see buffalo and wolves and wildlife and space that goes on so far you can never imagine its end.
Suggestions for people in Urban Mode?
Start with whatever is closest to you. Some areas do have great resources and some have parks coalitions… you can pull up Google Maps and look for the green spots. They’re always labeled with “recreation area” or county park or state park. Then, if you’re not quite sure, you’ll get the name from the map and then Google that. There will be someone who manages it. They’ll have trail maps and regulations. They’ll tell you exactly how to get there and how to use it.
FIND CLIFF HODGES
You can find Cliff at AdventureOut.com.
His company has been in business for ten years with tons of opportunities for people who are beginners or advanced with outdoor recreation. The next step is guide training, where you can learn the whole business aspect of it to start your own guiding business.
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