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Dirtlab Bushcraft Offers Classes to Help You Survive in the Wilderness

Anne Evans Anne Evans Dirtlab Bushcraft Offers Classes to Help You Survive in the WildernessLearning how to be self-reliant in the wilderness. Photo courtesy Dirtlab Bushcraft.
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Even though during my childhood, I often went on hikes and explored nature, these days, I most likely would not have a clue about how to survive in the wilderness if I had to. The first thing that pops into my head is, I sure hope I have unlimited arrows and one of those tree taps to stick into a tree like Katniss did in Hunger Games! So, it goes without saying, that I’ve been a little disconnected from nature after moving to the city. With his new business, Dirtlab Bushcraft, Jonathan Tepperman wants to help people rekindle that connection to nature.

Tepperman grew up exploring nature and national forests. His path in life eventually led to him learning wilderness survival skills. Combining those skills with his love of teaching, he began Dirtlab Bushcraft as a way of teaching others how to survive and thrive in the wilderness. The first class is this Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Camp Mary Orton.

Jonathan Tepperman, of Dirtlab Bushcraft.

Jonathan Tepperman, of Dirtlab Bushcraft.

“Growing up in California, I spent a lot of time exploring vast agricultural landscapes and national forests,” says Tepperman. “While hiking with family and friends, I developed a love for the natural world and I continued to hike, backpack, and travel the world, while starting to learn about edible plants, wildlife and camping.”

As time passed, Tepperman began to think about where his food was from. Influenced by Michael Pollan’s earlier books, Tepperman taught himself how to garden, and then educated himself about wild edible plants. That led him to explore plant medicine, which led him to think about the meat he was eating.

“I began to feel that if I was gong to eat meat I should understand what it means to kill, skin, butcher, and eat an animal,” he says. “This led me to learn how to hunt deer where I then thought, if I am going to hunt deer, I need to learn how to hunt with a traditional bow and stalk it from the ground. I then thought, if I am going to do that, then I need to learn how to carve the bow starting from a tree. I then wondered what I would do if I became lost or hurt while hunting, and that is how I decided to learn wilderness survival skills.”

Learning how to make shelter for survival in the wilderness.

Learning how to make shelter for survival in the wilderness.

Tepperman has been studying bushcrafting -how to thrive in the natural environment- and wilderness skills for five years. He started out watching YouTube videos, reading books, and experimenting on his own. Then he found the Pathfinder School.

“The Pathfinder School is an amazing school in Southeastern Ohio run by Dave Canterbury,” he says. “It’s been the most rigorous time I have spent in the woods. During my training, we would spend up to five days with only minimal gear, no food and only the water we could find off the landscape. There were also various tasks designed to test my knowledge and push me to my edge while enduring adverse weather.”

Tepperman is working toward Phase Three at the Pathfinder School, which will make him a Master Instructor, the highest level of certification that all instructors can achieve.

“One achieves this by demonstrating that you have a mastery of skills that would allow you to be dropped off in a remote wilderness area with minimal gear and not only survive but thrive,” he says.

dirt_lab_colorTepperman has been in situations that have pushed his limits before. His study of the arts, earning an MFA in glass from Ohio State, proved to him that he could do things that pushed him to his limit and succeed.

“Working with molten glass is a focused, demanding pursuit,” he says. “Through my experience teaching glass at OSU and running the glass program at San Francisco State, it became clear to me that teaching was my passion and life goal. Practicing and teaching wilderness survival is similar to art because it requires you to think creatively with limited resources.”

Combining his passion for wilderness survival with his passion for teaching made the decision to offer classes through Dirtlab Bushcraft, the art of bushcrafting and the science of self reliance, an easy one.

“I believe that people have become disconnected with the natural world,” he says. “I teach these classes so that people can relearn the skills that we as a species have grown up knowing for thousands of years. With that knowledge comes a feeling of familiarity and comfort which can lead to a deep connection with nature. Once you start to become self reliant in nature, you may realize other areas in your life where you can become more self reliant.”

The first class will give you an introduction to wilderness survival, and guide you through the first 48 hours. Some of the topics to be discussed include building a basic survival kit, how to maintain your body’s core temperature, building fires under adverse conditions, and identifying natural resources and how to use them.

You’ll also learn how to deal with the number one mistake most people make when they find themselves in an uneasy situation: feelings of panic.

“Once [people] start to panic, they make bad decisions that then can put them into danger,” says Tepperman. “It’s important to stop, calm down, asses your situation and come up with a safe plan. Ultimately, people need to be aware that things can go wrong very quickly while out in the wilderness or even while taking a short hike.”

If you often are in the wilderness, or hiking, Tepperman shares that it is helpful to keep two tools with you – a combustion device, such as a lighter or a ferrocerium rod, and a knife.

“Those are the two hardest tools to replace from natural resources and can assist you the most,” he says. “In the Eastern woodland it would also be helpful to carry some kind of covering such as an emergency space blanket, wool blanket or a tarp.”

A Bahco Laplander saw, the industry standard for the bushcrafting and self reliance community, housed in a leather sheath made by Tepperman.

A Bahco Laplander saw, the industry standard for the bushcrafting and self reliance community, housed in a leather sheath made by Tepperman.

Classes with Dirtlab Bushcraft will be offered in Central Ohio, and will build upon each other, offering people a chance throughout the year to increase their wilderness skills while staying close to home. Classes range from general skill building to specialty skills such as primitive fire, tool making, and foraging medicinal and edible plants.

“I hope my class sparks an enduring interest in nature that continues to grow,” he says. “I want people to gain a sense of self awareness, self reliance and show them a glimpse of the wonderfully complex, mysterious and dynamic natural world. Wilderness skills are a language and I want them to start a conversation. Leave with a desire to not only survive in the wild but to thrive.”

Photos courtesy Dirtlab Bushcraft.

To find out more about Dirtlab Bushcraft and to register for classes, visit DirtlabBushcraft.com.

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