What I Learned in the Woods

Nature Reliance School located teaches students the invaluable skill of how to survive in the wilderness.


The Nature Reliance School located in Winchester, Kentucky, was founded by Craig Caudill who has a lifetime filled with experience of surviving in the wilderness. Caudill has taken multiple 30 day period trips in the woods with only a knife, devoting his time to using his survival skills to his advantage, and he said he does it “just for fun.”

With Caudill’s impressive resume in mind, my parents decided to take me to one of the classes. I’m glad I went because I learned a lot.

One of the most important things Caudill taught me is SOPA or “Stop, Observe, Prepare and Act.” When in a stressful situation, I learned to first stop and think about what happened as well as how to solve the problem. Next, I learned that I need to observe what resources might help me survive. Finally, I learned that I need to take action by setting up shelter, finding food and water, and figuring out how to stay warm.


Before three days pass, he taught me that I must find a source of water. This number three is an important number according to Caudill because a person can only live three days without water, and three weeks without food. Trees can be used as a tool to navigate when looking for the nearest stream. Make sure to search downhill first- that’s where bodies of water usually flow. Look for huge, thick, white trees. These types of trees always stay near the water to get their nutrients faster. When searching, try to find moving water. “If it flows, you’re good to go,” he said.

Choice of clothing is another important factor in bracing for the cold weather. It’s better to wear or keep clothing made of wool and polyester in your car’s trunk. Since these materials are insulators, they will keep you warm for a longer period of time, whereas cotton material doesn’t. And remember: layers, layers, layers.


Although clothing is an important factor, having the skill to start a fire is extremely helpful in staying warm. Caudill taught me a way to use modern tools to start fires that would replace the traditional method of striking two sticks against each other. He told me to purchase a fire-starter rod and striker, two pieces of metal that creates a spark and ultimately ends in a warm campfire.

Caudill also taught me how to tie three kinds of knots: clove hitch, half hitch and trailer hitch. He told me to use two trees to set up our tarp tent and to secure the tent by tying knots into the string. Since the ground is uncomfortable, I also learned that it’s wise to use dry leaves as bedding.

If you’re interested in learning more about survival skills or just want to have a fun-filled educational day, visit Nature Reliance’s Facebook page. Don’t want to go outside? No problem. The school also has a YouTube channel with videos on how to find edible plants, tie knots and more.