Welcome to NW Survival.

We are a community dedicated to providing education and training needed for survival in the Pacific Northwest. We share our insights, opinions, and offer gear reviews as opportunities present themselves. We also offer firearms safety training for individuals and groups.

The importance of being there

So many times we race off to exotic destinations intent on maximizing the experience. In our hurry, we tend to neglect the importance of being there. We must always remember, it is the journey that is important. If we fail to remember this there is so much we will miss along the way.

I have so many great memories that would not have been possible if I was simply moving from one campsite to the next. Most often the best memories are when I chose to stop, look and listen to the world around me, to quiet my mind and spirit, allowing me to be present and engaged.

It has been proven through many studies, none of which I can site, you can look this up yourself, that it is inherently good for us to connect with nature through journeys in the wilderness. I think we all feel the pull of the wild, but so often we fail at the connection because we try to get too much from too little time. The solution to this dilemma is to simply choose to be present and receive whatever is given to us in the time we have.

So next time you have the blessing to be out in the wild, get up before dawn find a comfortable place to quietly sit and watch the world come alive around you. You just might be surprised by what you see and feel. The wilderness is a special place filled with life and energy you can not find anywhere else.

Always remember, the importance of being there! 

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared

Fire in the winter wilderness

Hello NW Survival enthusiasts, today we are talking about fires in the winter wilderness. When it is winter and the cold digs at your bones it’s nice to have a fire, knock the edge off the cold and raise our spirits, as fire always seems to do. Depending on where you are and how much snow is on the ground you may think a fire is not in the cards, well think again, you can build a fire on 7 feet of snow.

We recently went out to the Mt. Washington wilderness for our winter skills training. If you read our previous post you know we were on an 84″ base by Big Lake, it was fantastic and beautiful beyond measure. It was also cold, so we decided to put our fire making skills to the test. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to find dry wood and tinder, but where there is a will there is a way.

IMG_20170219_133228914-300x169 Fire in the winter wilderness

Base logs

The most important step for building a fire on top of snow is setting your base. The best way to accomplish this is to use several chunks of log 4″-6″ in diameter about 18″-24″ long. These pieces can be wet and/or green, please don’t cut down live trees for this project, but wood that isn’t dry enough to burn yet works great on the base.

Remember, when building a fire, no matter what the conditions are, it important to gather all of your supplies before you begin. Then you will have everything you need at hand, no scrambling around for more tinder or fuel, you are ready!

Once you have your base set, you want to put a layer of green down to fill the gaps and reflect the heat back into the tinder. Bark is an excellent reflector and nice surface to build on.

Quite often in the cold wet weather of the NW you have to find ways to dry your tinder and fire starter. Under the hat is a great way to dry out your moss, which is an effective fire starter.

IMG_20170219_133228914-300x169 Fire in the winter wilderness


It may take you a few times of trial and error to get his system down and actually have a fire to be proud of, so keep at it practice, practice, practice.

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared 


Winter training – Update

IMG_20170219_070621171_BURST001-cover-300x169 Winter training - Update

Good morning world

It’s time for our winter training update, we spent 3 days and 2 nights out in the Mt. Washington wilderness close to Big Lake. We had a great adventure snow shoeing in just over 2.5 miles. There was four of us on snowshoes pulling a sled of supplies in through the woods and over the hills.

As I sit here surrounded by nylon, fleece, Gore-Tex and wool, all in varying degrees of clean and dry, I reflect on our journey and all the ups and downs with fondness. Two of us had never been on snowshoes or snow camping, so we had lots of learning going on.

Our camp was on an 84 inch base of snow, and we received an additional foot during our stay, this gave us an opportunity to find ways to manage accumulation and set up additional shelter outside of our tent.

We practiced getting water from a frozen lake and discussed many ways to do it. We built a fire in camp to get a little extra warmth and build those skills. We had decent weather until the last morning, which is always a bit of a downer just because we have to leave.

IMG_20170219_070621171_BURST001-cover-300x169 Winter training - Update

Send-off sunrise

The last morning greeted us with a phenomenal sunrise, to give our spirits a boost. unfortunately it turned as quickly and chased us out with freezing rain and substantial wind, often biting our cheeks with the sting of the rain, it is these times that challenge your fortitude both physically and mentally. All of us are stronger for the experience.

We will be posting individual write ups on fire building, water retrieval, selecting a good spot, cooking in the snow and perspectives from a first timer.

Stay tuned for all these great write ups, until then.

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared

Winter Training

It is time again for winter training. The NW Survival crew is headed out to the wilderness for some winter weather survival training. We will be practicing all the basic winter survival skills and reviewing some new gear. We have been cleaning, testing and preparing our gear for the trip.

IMG_20170206_143030807-300x193 Winter Training

Our 4-season Igloo

We will be snowshoeing 3.5 miles into the Mt. Washington wilderness with only what we can carry and fit on our sled. The weather forecast says the night-time temperatures will be in the 20’s so it will be relatively mild. This will be nice for the rookies, a great way to expose them to the wonders of winter camping.

We will be practicing our water management skills. How best to find water, gather it and keep it from freezing before we use it. We will be practicing the art of building a fire on the snow and improvised shelter.

It is very important during the cold weather to remain hydrated, it is very easy to not drink enough water. The cold weather is sneaky at stripping the moisture from us without being warm, so we don’t think about hydration. When you get dehydrated it is very difficult to keep warm.

We are looking forward to a great trip, with lots of training and skill building. Stay tuned for our update after our return.

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared

Weekend workout

OK, with a good portion of the NW buried under snow, your weekend workout is, Snow Camping!! Now is when you can get creative, setup your snow camp in your yard, test out your equipment and skills with extremely low risk or commitment.

So, get out there and have some fun, build some skills and test your equipment.

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be prepared

Water, Love, and Wilderness

IMG_7459-300x199 Water, Love, and WildernessAt the foot of North Sister looking Northwest

My dad always told me, “Three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food.” Well, 3 hours without water in the ancient lava flows of Sisters Wilderness is both agonizing and wondrous. There were four of us: Scott, Michelle, Samantha, and Chris (me).

Scott Lake Trailhead, Hwy 242, Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

The plan, by way of government instruction, was to show up the morning of at the ranger station. The point of this, as the government-operated website told us, was to purchase overnight camping passes on a first-come-first-serve basis… Of course, passes were sold out. The individuals at the ranger station laughed, ‘Reservations are made online, up to one year in advance.’ We had to go out to the van to calm down (and conspire to just say damn the passes, and stay in the protected area anyway). The Obsidian protected area is about 3 square miles – allowing 30 day-hikers and 40 overnight visitors. We deliberated for a while on how to reapproach the trip; Do we break the rules? Or do we lay our tents down outside of the protected area, just north of Obsidian falls by about two miles. We sat in the van for some time making fun of the ranger station and creating numerous inside jokes about pretending to be a group of lost Austrians or a rag-tag stoner family with no ID or know-how when it comes to reading maps. We decided to go the legal route and head to the Scott Trailhead. Scott Trail follows the lava flows and links up with the Pacific Crest Trail just a short hike Northeast of Obsidian. Our maps showed plenty of rivers crossing the trail. Here arose trial number two: We assumed with all the river crossings that there would be water along the way. WRONG. It was the middle of summer. All river beds were dry. Even though they made no mention of this at the ranger station, we shouldn’t have made any assumption. Always know where the water is, and plan accordingly to fuel you to your next source. I certainly hope future summer backpackers in this area are properly warned by rangers, and conduct proper seasonal planning (i.e. reading this article).

IMG_7459-300x199 Water, Love, and WildernessSunset from a ridge west of camp

This all brings up a third trial or in this case a lesson: Solutions to problems are all around, and very likely right in front of you. For example, being open minded to the possibility of snow in glacier country, even in summertime, can save your life. Even though glaciers are receding all over the world right now, there might be some packed snow behind some nearby trees against a shaded bank. In our case, there was some snowpack, and Sam and I cruised past it in our hurry to find a river somewhere down the trail. We pushed ahead of Scott and Michelle in order to (hopefully) find some agua at the Sawyer Bar/PCT junction but it was dry riverbed after dry riverbed. We became slightly skeptical after seeing no other hikers for the entirety of Scott Trail (of course not – there is no water!). The packs on our backs seemed heavier with every turn in the path. We took frequent stops to catch a moment in the shade, but mostly to convince each other that it’s okay to cry and that heaven will have tons of water. At this point, Sam and I were well on the Pacific Crest Trail and I was asking each passing through hiker how much further the water was. Each new answer was more maddening than the last… It was always ‘Bout point three miles’ or ‘Yeah, you got three-tenths of a mile to go.’ After definitely hiking more than one-third of a mile, we finally reached Scott Spring, where we ended up making camp. It was like we’d never experienced the luxury before in our lives. We splashed in it, dunked our faces, and kicked off our shoes and soaked our aching feet. Our first instinct was to quench our thirst and immediately head back down with full water bottles and snacks, which is what we did. Luckily, it turns out the two we left behind had the keen awareness to look for snowpack. Where we marched past valuable trail resources, they found and melted snow with camp stoves. The water they procured was enough to power them on to meet us near the junction at PCT/Scott Trail on our way back down the trail.

IMG_7459-300x199 Water, Love, and WildernessPCT/Scott trail Junction pink ribbon message

Lesson four: If you decide to split from your party to find water or shelter, have a plan to communicate. We used pink ribbon and varied the length to suggest our action. Short strip meant we haven’t found water and were continuing to look for it. Long strip meant we found some and are on our way back. Fortunately, Sam brought a pen and literally wrote a note of intention on the long pink ribbon. Also, once you find the glorious ice-cold spring and you feel that victory has been won. You’re ready to embark upon your rescue hike… Think again! You surely want to bring clothes that will protect you from a drop in temperature and shoes that will conduct carrying some gear or someone – in case of injury or pure exhaustion. Don’t forget headlamps!

Freeze dried meals were the cuisine of choice on the trip, along with trail mix, Clif bars, and the occasional sour gummy. Food tip: Always stir and mix your boiling water into every inch of the dehydrated food mixture before squeezing out the air and closing. If you can handle carrying it, some extra cheese goes a long way with certain meals like chili, pasta, or soup.

Many of you may know this, but binoculars are worth their weight in gold. From the bluffs surrounding our camp at Scott Spring, the glassing was spectacular. The views soar up to 100 + miles. To the Northwest you can gaze at Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Jefferson, Hood, and even Mount Adams on a clear day. To the South you can get detailed impressions of North Sister, Little Brother, and Middle Sister. From our camp, you could day hike to Lava Lake to the north, and Obsidian Falls and the protected area (as long as you don’t stay there) to the South. This a great place to jump from if you wanted to summit North or Middle Sister during your trip.The hike down took us half the time it took to venture up, including lunch, which was a delicious chicken gumbo (freeze dried).

IMG_7459-300x199 Water, Love, and WildernessView from camp at Scott Spring – Three Fingered Jack

PCT/Scott Trail Junction looking South at North SisterIMG_7459-300x199 Water, Love, and Wilderness

Not only was I blessed just to share in the joy of the backcountry with the love of my life and her family, but she made sure we will have it for all-time, by proposing to marry me and merge our families – A fantastic lesson (and adventure) indeed. I can’t wait to go back to Scott Spring for years and years to come. Without intending it, a familial backpacking tradition was born.


As the year comes to an end, now less than 12 hours left, we tend to look back. But, I’m here to tell you, it’s time to look forward, not back. Many of us will follow the tradition of making New Years resolutions, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, it is, dare I say a misused. We make commitments to lose weight, get in better shape or learn a new skill, these are all good ambitions, but are doomed to failed without the single most important ingredient, self-discipline.

So, my new years resolution is to have more self-discipline in my life! With this I will increase my chances of attaining any goal I set. Which takes me to goals, now that I am resolute in being more disciplined, I can set some goals, all of which will benefit from self-discipline.

I won’t bore you with my personal goals, because they are just that, personal. As all of yours should be too. Set goals that are personal and growth oriented, make them attainable. If you have lofty goals, break them into smaller chunks, set yourself up for success, not failure. You will have enough of that, it a part of the journey to success.

Set goals to be stronger, healthier and more prepared for the challenges ahead. But, resolve yourself to have more self-discipline, it will make your path to attaining your goals more fruitful.

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared

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