At the beginning of June 2023, I was able to take part in a survival training course in Thuringia with Ronny from Team-Survival. You can read about my experiences and the challenges I had to overcome in the following lines. It’s not giving too much away when I say that it was a unique experience for someone who spent the summer vacations in a tent camp as a child (not entirely voluntarily either), but otherwise avoids the outdoors.
In August 2022, a carefree birthday party came to an abrupt end when I unwrapped a present from my brother and cousins. It was a voucher for survival training in beautiful Thuringia. My joy was limited. I knew that I couldn’t influence the course of events and that I would be plagued by plenty of insects. I didn’t even want to think about sleeping outside.
Survival training or 16 vs. wild
Anyway, as I like unredeemed vouchers even less than sleeping bags, I booked my voucher straight away and secured myself a weekend in the new year. At this point, I was just hoping for good weather. As the weekend approached, I got some outdoor gear including gloves, sleeping bag and a knife and hoped that I would be ready for the survival trip. To be on the safe side, I watched 7 vs. Wild as a final preparation and then the time had come.
The course takes place on the grounds not far from Gleichenstein Castle in Wachstedt. The group of 16 people was a colorful mix of women and men; experienced and inexperienced survival artists; but definitely a cool group to spend a few hours in the forest with. After a short round of introductions, we got straight into the knowledge transfer and practical application.
Navigation and orientation
The first challenge was to get to a predetermined spot with the help of a compass and map. As a group, we mastered this task with flying colors. It may have taken us twice as long as usual, but in the end it’s the result that counts and in the glorious weather we had, you can walk a few extra kilometers through the forest.
With information on water treatment, orientation based on the sun and a sip from a flowing stream, we headed back to camp. It was time to hang out a bit. We practiced crossing a gorge, i.e. getting from one side to the other using only a rope. Here we were once again struck by the amazing realization that a lot can be achieved with technique rather than strength.
Shelter and fire
The day was drawing to a close and the afternoon was in full swing. It was time to take care of our accommodation for the night – the shelter building. Seemed that I was the only one in the group who had no idea what to do. It wasn’t that the others were purposefully getting started and building their premium apartments. No, there was also the time pressure to finish if you didn’t want to sleep unprotected tonight. Despite the dryness and warmth during the day, I was particularly concerned about protection from the wind.
After a lot of swearing and even more desperate steps in search of materials, the shelter was ready and I hadn’t been so proud of myself and this magnificent achievement for a long time. The thing that stood more or less stable in front of me was my place to sleep for the coming night. If the shelter remained stable through the night, it would only be because I had built it. If the shelter collapsed and I was killed, it would be because I had built it. A great and at the same time terrifying thought.
The night of horror
No time to worry. The journey continued and nature does not wait for the weak. The next highlight was on the program. Making a fire. With a flint, small branches and tree bark, it went pretty well and it was warm under my hands in no time. The second feeling of happiness of the day was literally ignited. We gathered around the campfire to have dinner. Everyone had brought their own food and I took the opportunity to roast marshmallows over the fire. Now I could shine and explain to the folks what a S’More is.
Grasshoppers and mealworms could also be tasted before I went to bed completely exhausted. The shelter stood and it was great to fall asleep with all the sounds of nature in the forest. Nevertheless, it was one of the worst nights of my life and I flew over 11 hours from Rio to Frankfurt with a stomach bug. It was hard, it was cold and it was cramped. Nevertheless, I crawled out of my sleeping bag with a smile and welcomed the morning sun – simply wonderful.
Survival training – That kicks
So it was time to brush our teeth, make some coffee and start the eventful second day. There was still a lot to do, including the correct treatment of foot and leg injuries, self-defense, handcuffing and building traps. Building traps in particular required a lot of skill, strength and precise thinking. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to kill a small animal with my self-made trap. But I could at least perhaps win its recognition.
So the second day gradually drew to a close and the survival training was successfully completed. I can definitely recommend this course (and Ronny anyway) to everyone. I have rarely started a Monday so motivated and pushed. Once you have built a shelter with your own hands ( which lasted) and spent a night there, it puts the importance of many an Excel spreadsheet in everyday office life into a different perspective.
But Germany doesn’t just have Thuringia to offer – here are some more impressions.
Survival training focuses on teaching people the necessary skills to survive in extreme environments, whether in the wilderness or in emergency situations. Examples include:
1. making a fire
2. obtaining food
3. obtaining water
5. building shelter
6. first aid
7. survival psychology
8. tools and knives
Surviving an emergency situation.
Overall, it can be said that survival is aimed at surviving in emergency situations, while bushcraft encompasses a broader range of skills aimed at developing a comprehensive understanding and deep connection to nature.