This subject is near and dear to my heart. Both as a forever student and as a co-owner of American Survival School and Wilderness Survival and Firearms training teacher.
Look, I get it, we all have budgets. Sometimes, “training funds” are not at the top of our expenses list for the month. So, how do we continue to improve ourselves with training and practical application when the funds just aren’t there? Well, let’s dive into that!
First, we should talk about what kind of training you’re looking for because pricing for different types of training will vary. It can often be overwhelming figuring where to start when it comes to “training” so, to keep things relatively simple here, we’ll cover just survival (wilderness, urban, etc.) training.
Let’s start by talking about what good training costs these days.
Survival Training Costs
Typically, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 – $150 per day for training with an established survival/self-reliance school for most classes. That price can go up if there is special gear or equipment provided by the school/instructor or if meals are provided, etc.
So, is that a lot of money for a day of training? Well, that’s a question that is always relevant to each person’s individual budget. Either way, as a consumer, it is easy for us sometimes to forget the years of money, time, and labor spent by the instructor to acquire the skills we want to gain.
Consider the experience the instructor brings to the table. They may have years of military operational experience or law enforcement experience where they had to be very resourceful and solve problems daily. They may have spent years in the backcountry navigating dangerous situations, etc. The point is, the lessons they learned and are willing to share are probably more valuable than the price they are charging for the class.
The instructor’s goal should be to help you filter out the nonsense and shave off years of trial and error learning. They should teach you the little details, safe & acceptable short cuts, and true practical information that’s going to be most relevant to helping you reach your training goals. When I look at things from that context, $100 – $150 per day doesn’t seem like much money, but again, we all have our budgets.
If funds are low but you really want to draw from the experience of an instructor, consider asking them to barter for training. I have had people offer to barter in the past and have often been happy to do so. I’ve traded training for training from martial arts instructors, firearms instructors, and for items I thought were valuable. I’ve even had people offer to work around base camp mowing or clearing brush as barter for training. Whatever you offer as barter, just make sure that it has value equal to the training cost you’re asking to barter for.
Having said that, it’s still a reality that extra money for training just might not be a reality for some folks so, what other options do you have?
Welcome to the internet! I mean hey, you’re here, right? Survival Dispatch is a great resource for information on all things self-reliance, and it’s pretty dang reasonably priced! Of course, YouTube is also a great resource! In fact, SURVIVAL DISPATCH also has a lot of great videos on their YouTube channel! There is a ton of great information on YouTube and other media platforms, but, there are also some channels that put out nonsense and impractical ideas about self-reliance. My point is that if you’re going to get your info on the cheap, sometimes you’re just going to have to filter out the nonsense.
What is “Training?”
I want to point out a critical piece of information at this point in this article. You can watch a thousand hours of YouTube videos or other instructional videos, but unless you actually field test those skills and ideas with your own hands, they are just a theory.
“Training” is a verb, an action word. It requires action on your part to master or “own” the skill. There is simply no substitute for dirt time or hands-on experience. Getting hands-on experience is very important. You don’t want the first time you’re testing out how to make a bow drill fire to be when you’re lost, wet, cold and on the edge of hypothermia. Learn these skills before you find yourself in a situation where it really counts!
The best part about training is that ideally, we are “training” within a safety net of sorts. Meaning, it is a controlled environment. For instance, wet weather and cold weather training are super important to do because you will encounter problems or new challenges with the bad weather that simply won’t be there when training in pristine conditions. However, you should position yourself so that if you have a failure point in training, there is shelter to get inside or a fire already burning so that you can get dry, warm and try again later.
That leads me to one more point! If you are scheduled to take a class, don’t cancel or reschedule simply because it’s raining, cold, or snowing (aside from canceling due to dangerous travel conditions). You’ll get far more out of the class than any student that trains in favorable weather conditions. What does that mean in terms of training on a budget? You’ll get more than you paid for!
Other Places to Find Training
So, aside from YouTube, what are some other options for getting some quality training on the cheap? Often times, outdoor gear stores will bring in subject matter experts and offer free seminars or even hands-on training sessions. I have attended these myself (and still do when I have time) and have found a lot of great information presented. I really like these types of seminars/events because you can actually ask questions.
This is great for two reasons 1. YouTube videos might leave out critical details to a particular subject where just one more little detail might mean the difference in failure and success. 2. It allows you to get a feel for the instructor/ presenter. Are they someone you’d be comfortable training with? Are they down to earth and easy to talk to? Do they display an expert level of knowledge on the subject when presented with questions? Is this someone you would consider spending money training with in the future when your budget allows? Of course, the downside to these types of events is they are typically short (an hour or two), and you’re usually left asking for more!
State parks are also a good source for free training! Often, you can find presentations on wildlife, plant information, gardening, and other various things being taught for free on weekends at conservation centers and other state or federally owned and operated parks. This is a useful resource, and if the training isn’t free, it’s usually dirt cheap.
I have a group of friends with different backgrounds and specialties. We share knowledge and information. Sometimes, we’ll all pick a new subject to learn and have a round-robin of sorts teaching each other new skills. It keeps fresh information coming and helps keep things fun.
Lastly, there’s always the option of just going out in the woods or training area with a new idea and putting it to the test to see how it works out. Depending on the type of training you are doing, be sure to consider possible dangers and if heading out by yourself, let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back!
There are tons of low budget training opportunities out there but don’t forget, they all require the same thing, actual handson experience. Remember, without the hands-on experience, it’s just a theory!
The cost in training for survival, land navigation, friction fire training, etc. is much less than the cost of perishing in the wilderness due to lack of knowledge or skills.
This article was written by Matt Tate and originally published in Survival Dispatch Insider magazine Volume 3 Issue 8.
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