What Good Are Primitive Living Skills”

hemp clothing
Thirty-six hours in that beige ONNO hemp shirt, and still no stink.
primitive living skills
A little post-course goofing off with Cody.

You might think primitive living skills experts like Cody Lundin and his co-instructor Mark Dorsten would have a specific end game in mind when they pass their knowledge to students at the Aboriginal Living Skills School. And you’re absolutely correct.

But the end game isn’t what you might expect. They’re not – repeat, not – aiming to make you live the rest of your life barefoot, using a Paiute deadfall trap to catch rats that you’ll eat to stay alive. Nope. They’ll consider themselves successful if A) whichever course you take makes you better appreciate your modern conveniences and B) makes you better aware of your surroundings.

I can’t speak for the other students who took the primitive living skills course. But for me, I’d say they accomplished their mission. Since experiencing The Provident Primitive course back in August, I see a few differences in myself. Like what” So glad you asked.

Everywhere I Go, I’m Looking at Every Plant

During the work week, I generally walk to lunch. I amble along sidewalks, and take shortcuts through landscaped areas. And I constantly spot plants and think things like “Hey, that would make a great hearth” or “I could make a rabbit stick out of that.” My eyes lock onto everything that I could turn into a tinder bundle and every seed pod I could munch on.

English: Food dehydrator Français : Déshydrateur
Food dehydrator: Money well spent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m even worse when I actually hike. I stop to sample plants I learned about during the course (and make my wife do the same). We left for a hike without any tissues, and she got sneezy. Sure enough, I found some mullein (aka, cowboy toilet paper) and it was problem solved thanks to primitive living skills. Just don’t mention that time she had to pick a prickly pear thorn out of my tongue, OK”

Switching My Food Habits

Since I started mountain biking in the early 90s, “energy bars” (I really hate that label because anything with calories is an “energy” food … it just allows marketing geeks to fool us) have been a staple of my snack arsenal. That’s since changed because of The Provident Primitive: Cody made an off-hand reference to pemmican, the trail food of North American natives.

English: Illustration of a Paiute Deadfall tra...
Look out, rats! I’m comin’ for ya! (taken from U.S. Army Field Manual, No. 21-76, Survival. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided to give it a shot. I found a pemmican recipe, bought a food dehydrator and went to town. I’m still experimenting with the right ratios and fat sources. But every batch of pemmican has powered me up and tasted better than carb-based food bars.

The dehydrator also inspired me to try apples and other fruits. Right now, my dehydrator runs more often than it sits idle. If you want to get away from snacking on crap, get a dehydrator. Fill it with organic fruit and look out – you’ll have a lot fewer urges to fork over for stuff with high-fructose corn syrup.

Oh, and jerky – even if you don’t turn it into pemmican, it’s an awesome snack. DIY jerky is far less expensive ($7 for a few ounces versus $8 for 2 pounds of flank steak) and better tasting than the store-bought variety, too. No contest. I also love throwing it in my camping food. It soaks up the water and adds a nice protein punch.

I Like Being Outdoors More Than Ever

So I have some new observational skills, some new food ideas — this adds up to more fun when I hike or camp. There’s something to be said for better understanding your surroundings. Knowledge shows you possibilities where none existed before.

I’ve also bought a few books about edible plants to find in the region, and look for hikes where there’s running water; the best way to have enough water is to hike/camp where there’s water, and to be sure you have the means to treat it.

I also practice with my fire-making methods every week. I still suck at the hand drill and have yet to start a full fire with it, even though I can make plenty of smoke (UPDATE: Fire achieved 11/28). I’m really hoping to have a breakthrough. But I’m handy with the flint and tinder bundle.

This post just might contain affiliate links. Fear not, they’re non-spammy and benign. Hey, I have to keep this thing running somehow!

By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.


  1. My son would love a course like this! He does a lot of survivalist type trainings as part of his job in the Air Force. I always feel safe around him because he’s always so resourceful and knowledgeable. Even if he never has to use these skills to survive, there’s that.

  2. You have such a wide-ranging and fascinating set of skills. My idea of starting fires is shooting laser beams out of my eyes. Oh wait, no, that’s Superman. Okay, so I guess that without matches, I am pretty ineffective when it comes to fire. Seriously, you make your own beef jerky. That is pretty cool!

  3. I do have a weird, varied and kind of arcane skill set. Which is what makes some of my so-called friends (Brooke!) laugh at me and call me a hipster. But drinking my delicious homebrewed beer and non-storebought jerky eases the pain of social rejection and isolation!

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