About the Author

Chris Gilmour is the creator of ChangingWorldProject.com He has a diverse background in the study of ecology, teaching traditional wilderness & urban survival, consulting in modern-day emergency and disaster preparedness and has a passion for self-reliance such as growing food and the martial arts.

Jul 09

Urban Survival Journey: Part II

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorized

Urban Survival Journey

With Christina Yu: Part II

Christina is a civil servant who lives in a condo by the lake. She is an amateur naturalist interested in tracking and bushcraft, and her side-interests include martial arts and emergency preparedness. She wrote one of the post in my "Reflections on Resiliency and Optimism" series, which you should check out here.

I asked to her come in and write about one of her experiences we could all learn from. Here are her ideas on how we can all make ourselves stronger - in all the ways that count - and be more prepared for the curve balls life can throw at us.

Ten Strategies for Building Resilience and Connecting with Nature


Imagine you’re lost in the woods. It’s wet, cold, and the sun is setting fast. You’ve learned how to make friction fire using a bowdrill and you need to make a kit right now if you want to stay warm tonight.

Would you be able to make a functional kit?

Would you be able to drill long enough to start a fire?

You might know exactly how to make a bowdrill and get it to work. It won’t matter one bit if you can’t carve a straight spindle, or if you can’t move fast enough to create a coal. 

Coordination and fitness are extremely important in emergencies. Many people think that having the right kit or knowledge is all they need to save themselves. But your body is what holds the gear. Your body is your ultimate tool.

Every little bit helps. Is there a curb in your parking lot? How long you can walk along it without losing your balance? Is it cold out? How long can you stand being without mittens or gloves? Knitting is great for hand-eye coordination, as is sewing — one of the most underrated survival skills.

And remember to give your mind and body the fuel they need to function to their best ability: Good food and lots of sleep!


This neurolinguistic programming technique is known as Theatre of the Mind. It helps to bring both the “what” and the “how” of your personal goals into focus. In this example, we’ll use becoming a fire mentor as a goal. 

Picture yourself seated in a theatre. Your favourite fire mentor is on stage. They’re lighting a fire before your eyes. Notice every detail: how they move, what they pay attention to, their attitude and so on.

Now replace the image if your fire mentor with your own image. Now it’s you who’s lighting the fire. You move exactly as your mentor moved, you pay attention to what they paid attention to, and you have their attitude. What are you experiencing physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

Finally, ask yourself: What do I need to do to become what I’m imagining myself to be? What do I need to practice? Do I need any resources? Write down your answers, then set about meeting each need. Bit by bit, you’ll move closer to becoming the person you want to be.


I once heard someone describe using Google as “like fishing for trout in a landfill. Your chance of catching a trout is slim. It’s more likely you’ll come up with six million beer cans.”

It’s great that we have the ability to research anything online, but it can be very difficult to pick out legitimate information. Worse, websites tend to copy from each other, so if one espouses a certain way of doing things (e.g. using chocolate to polish the bottom of a soda can; don’t), soon hundreds more say the same thing.

Keep in mind that profit is made by enticing you to click on a link, and one of the strongest enticements is fear. Some websites hyperlink to their source material. Investigate to see if their conclusions are sound.

Published authors frequently have lived experience and/or academic degrees in the field they’re writing about. Read their biographies, flip to the appendix, look at their footnotes, and again, check out their sources.

Whether you agree or not with what you’ve read, seen or heard, if you do your research carefully, you’ll have a good idea of what you want to learn more about and lots of ideas on where to go next.

But don’t let that knowledge live only in your head! Make sure that you…


“Dirt time” is a saying my instructors use for getting outside and practising your skills. Applied knowledge always brings a new dimension of learning to academic knowledge, and that can only help you learn more and do things better. 

When I practise doing something I’ve read about (for example, identifying clouds), I find it helps to cement the knowledge and makes me curious to find out more. It grounds me in the present and reconnects me to nature. In those moments, I’m reminded of how much I love being outside — which is easy to forget in my busy day-to-day life.


Years ago, I was taught to debrief myself using these three simple questions:

What did I do well?

What can I do better?

What resources do I need?

You can apply them to any situation, on your own or in a group. They allow you to acknowledge your strengths, celebrate your successes, and show you areas for potential growth.

My favourite thing about this process is that if you commit to doing it long term, it’s a powerful tool to accelerate improvement. Remember: Mistakes are your teachers! Every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn.


One of my passions is tracking, which is a pretty niche interest. When I started out, it was hard to stay motivated because I didn’t know too many people who were into the same thing. I basically didn’t know how to become a better tracker. Without mentors or peers, I was determined, but rudderless.

That changed when I enrolled in Alexis Burnett’s Animal Tracking Apprenticeship. Alexis constantly challenged me to re-examine what I thought I knew and encouraged me to pursue the parts of tracking I was most passionate about. There were five apprentices in my year, and we were all keeners. Our excitement fuelled us to study, to look at the landscape more carefully, and to bring what we learned back to our “regular” lives. Whenever we saw each other, all we could think about was tracking, tracking, tracking!

Having a community of individuals who share your passion is immensely rewarding. You can talk about your interests, explore concepts you didn’t even know about, share big breakthroughs, and work together on problems. Make time to find your community, or perhaps even create one! I started my own tracking club a few years after my apprenticeship ended, and it is a source of great joy.


I had a lot of trouble getting a friction fire going on a course once, so I asked my instructor for help. They told me that all I had to do was more pushups, and I thought that was that answer for years — until I saw a YouTube video that clearly laid out proper bowdrill technique. I tried that technique and it was much more efficient. Then a lightbulb went off over my head. Technically, both instructors were right: Doing more pushups got me more friction fires, and so did having better technique. Yet only one instructor had me getting coals efficiently.

Be conscious of how you use your resources to achieve your goals. There are multiple paths to success, and you are by no means limited to only one of those paths. If you’re trying to do something over and over again and it’s not working, ask yourself: Should it be this hard? Is there another way to go about this? Have I exhausted this method of approach? Most of all, beware of anything that suggests that the answer is brute force. It’s easier — and more rewarding — to finesse your way through a problem than to force your way through it.


There’s a lot going on in the world right now that can seem negative, so it’s quite understandable when we want to tune it out by putting on our headphones, or turning on our smartphones, or just closing our eyes and catching a few Zs. These are all things we do to regenerate.

Another way to regenerate is to meditate. Meditation is simply the practice of being present in the moment. Your attention can be directed towards yourself or your immediate surroundings.

Here’s a story a friend shared with me about someone who meditated by observing his backyard. This gentleman recorded all the animal and plant species he saw on his property every day for years. When developers came to build nearby one day, he showed them his journals, which essentially documented his area’s rich biodiversity. As a direct result, the developers decided to build elsewhere.

If my friend hadn’t been paying attention to his environment — both the natural and the social one — he wouldn’t have been able to intercede. Maybe he wouldn’t have even noticed the development until the bulldozers showed up.

Be present. Look around. Enjoy this big, beautiful world. Never forget that you are a part of it, and you can make a difference in it. By paying attention, when the unexpected happens, you become an agent of change.


To grow is to exceed your limits. Therefore, if you want to grow, you need to be willing to go right up to your limits, then past them.

Any emergency situation is going to be challenging, mentally and physically. You may get cold, hungry, or be without water, and you will likely be under a lot of stress. So test your limits. See what your body can tolerate by fasting or taking cold showers, for example. It will be uncomfortable, but the benefits outweigh the discomfort, because the next time you get really hungry or cold, you’ll know you can push through it.

To paraphrase American Ninja Warrior Jessie Graff, when your muscles are burning and you’re feeling super tired, don’t focus on how hard it is; think about how much you’re growing! 


Life is short, folks, and as far as I know, this isn’t a trial run. I love tracking. I love nature. At the end of my life, I might say, “I wish I had spent more time doing what I love” — but if I had never done any of it, I’d be full of regret. 

Maybe survival skills aren’t your passion. Maybe they’re something that you know, in the back of your mind, you should get better at, in case you need them someday. That’s how I started! So next time you have a few extra dollars or a bit of spare time, ask what’s more important: practicing survival skills or watching Netflix; a new pair of shoes or an e-course on disaster preparedness? Maybe you can compromise. I watch BBC’s Planet Earth when I feel like I want to connect with nature AND chill out. Score!

Every little bit helps. You don’t have to set aside thousands of dollars, or months and years of your life. Just 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and a few bucks when you think of it. I promise you’ll make back what you invest with interest 

Combined with the other strategies listed above, I think you’ll find these little progressions really add up.

I would like to thank my editors, Andrea Jacobsen and Eli Fox. Their amazing advice vastly improved this blog.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider donating to the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station.

Resource Recommendations:

Earth Tracks:  www.earthtracks.ca

Canadian Bushcraft: www.canadianbushcraft.ca

Northern Karate Schools: www.northernkarateschools.com

Black Thunder Studios: www.blackthunderstudio.com

Outward Bound: www.outwardbound.org

White Pine Programs: whitepineprograms.org

Practical Primitive’s YouTube Video on proper bowdrill form

The Canadian Canoe Museum: canoemuseum.ca

Apr 23

Preparing Children for Being Caregivers

By Chris Gilmour | Prepared Lifetyle

Preparing Children
for Being Caregivers
If You Get Sick!
W I T H   S A R A H   F E I N E R

About the contributor:
Sarah Feiner is a student of traditional herbalism, a homeschooling mother, avid gardener, plant photographer and volunteer for residential hospice. She recently retired her registration as a health care professional to focus on therapeutic sound, clinical hypnosis, herbalism studies, collaborations with other wellness providers for community events, and her ongoing commitment to homeschooling her children. Inspired service and community care influence all of her work. For more information:

As a mother of three boys ages 9, 12 and 15, it had occurred to me several weeks ago the importance of their role in our home if both my husband and I were to become ill at the same time. Even in the best case scenario, we would both be stuck in bed for several days, although it could be longer, and our bodies would be busy fighting a virus and leave us unable to tend to our daily lives.

Statistics show that though a small percentage of children have been quite ill, the larger majority are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. This means that our children, given some simple skill-sets and guidance, can become perfect caregivers, and more importantly take care of the things we normally do - themselves.

It is an important time to be solutions-focused for your family and yourself. There have been mixed messages in the media regarding Covid-19, the severity of the virus and how it may affect you. Regardless of immediate risk, having several conversations with your children about preparedness and care-giving will help relieve some anxiety over these stressful concerns, and in setting them up to be an asset to your family’s health. There are several layers to this, so please take some time to digest and work through it in several steps.

Preparedness with Food Availability

If you are financially able, have two weeks worth of food at home. This food is specifically for if you and/or your partner become ill and go into quarantine. With this two week stash, it's really important to have a menu plan for each meal for two weeks (including snacks if your children are used to them). Then they don’t go through the food too quickly, and if you have multiple children it will greatly reduce arguing.

These meals should be something safe for your children to prepare. For example, if you have a microwave, does your child know how to open a can of soup or vegetables, put it in a bowl and heat it (without it being too hot?) Do you need to experiment with your child on being able to do this and find the perfect amount of time for heating? Does your child know what cannot go in a microwave, such as utensils?

Beyond the microwave, some children are ready to handle actually cooking food. Are they going to pan fry a salmon fillet? Not likely. But can they warm soup over low heat? With the extra time and gentleness, (and a timer on the phone that reminds them to turn the stove top off) for sure. There are stepping stones in terms of cooking. I would consider the oven at an advanced level, and don’t entertain that as an option unless we are talking about teenagers. As intermediate stepping stones, there are limited capability appliances (rice cooker, crock pot, pop-up toaster) that reduce safety risks and make the anxiety of a fire starting in the next room dissipate. They all have built-in timers, and all have easy to follow instructions.
Another option is freezer space and pre-made meals. You’ve already done the cooking, they only need to put the entire container in the fridge/on the counter the night before. This can even cut out any need for heating if it's eaten as a cold food (the secret to these meals is adding the word ‘salad’ at the end of warm foods you already eat, ie quinoa and sweet potato ‘salad,’ potato and tuna ‘salad’). Alternatively, it is a warm food like beef and barley soup and they throw it in the microwave/crock pot.

When I showed my children the supply and talked it over with them, I visibly saw a greater sense of ease that I hadn’t anticipated. They are hearing our conversations, they need to know they will be safe and that they are able to manage within their abilities.

Also consider that they will be cleaning up if you can’t help them for a couple days at a time. Dishwashers and soaking in the sink are good concepts for them to understand. But this is child-style domestic maintenance, so maybe they just take all the plastic containers into the bath with them, and give themselves a scrub while they’re at it.

Preparedness with Daily Activity Plan

I have homeschooled for over 12 years and a plan of the day is huge in creating a feeling of safety in knowing what to expect and how they can anticipate their day. If you do not currently have a routine (of some sort!), I would really encourage cultivating one. I also work and I volunteer outside of the home, so my children need to know how to function safely on their own for hours at a time. It is possible. Most farmers need to leave children to attend livestock or do other chores. Our children are incredibly resilient if we give them boundaries and a sense of what they can do.

Your activity plan might include when to feed the pets, who is doing the dishes, or if you want them to do a 10 minute tidy of a room. Include how often they are on the computer, if there is alone time for reading and playing (this is helpful for each child to have their own space), if they are doing online school

work, and if there are shows to watch and exactly how many shows or movies. Self-care is especially important to block out, not only ensuring their well being but giving them a sense of pride and self-reliance. Depending on how involved you are able to be given the severity of your symptoms, you might want to go hard on personal hygiene - down to the hand wash. Teeth brushing, picking clean underwear, face washing, include it all in the plan. And be sure that when you are preparing your two weeks of food, you are also stocked up on two weeks of personal hygienic supplies.

Your children can’t be outside unless you live on a large property, as your children will most likely be asymptomatic carriers. This can get intense for them even with you in prime health, nevermind being bed-ridden. All humans need to use their bodies, but double that need for kids. Indoor physical activity is not out of reach however, and is easily woven into the daily routines. Doing chores is getting them moving, and is fun if there are music and games associated with it (collecting laundry becomes basketball, and playing the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy while they wash their lunch dishes still makes them feel like superheroes). And if we are being honest, there isn’t a good reason not to include dance parties and youtube-guided-animal-yoga in the activity plan (as with all media, observe it yourself beforehand).

As alternatives to screens you can tell them where to find a new deck of cards, books, lego and age appropriate puzzles. Stories.audible.com is a free online website with audiobooks for children, and it is fabulous! Adults would appreciate most of the stories as well.
Remember, this isn’t an exercise in militantly perfecting a schedule - they are children, and they will make mistakes. This is about setting up a ‘container’ that gives their day shape and meaning the same way you otherwise would. And at the end of that day, it really is okay if they watch extra movies and are eating a lot more cereal or snacks. Whatever works for the safety of your child(ren), given its only for a limited time. You can breathe.

Take heart, if you are very unwell, your children will likely be fighting less. Sometimes they fight to get attention, and when there is none they may work a lot more harmoniously. This has happened in many homes in times of family crisis.

Preparedness with Support & Help List

Make a list with everyone you can call on it, and specify what you can call them for. Have you talked to your friends or family about how they can be of help if you become unwell?

Then this list needs to make sense for supporting your kids in their new life situation: the household caregivers. Is there someone that your children can call, someone they have built a relationship and trust with? If there is someone that in turn will call them and talk to your children, give encouragement and inquire about your health? Can you brainstorm how they can be of help, to fill in the gaps your kids aren't ready for or need adult assistance with? Are these friends letting you know if they are sick? Can you ask how you can be of help to them? 

Does your child need to go to a care-giver? Is that person low-risk for complicated infection? Your child can not go to their grandparents or those with compromised health. Now is the time (rather than when you actually get sick) to reach out to either the food-bank, your child's school, the local girl-guides group, mothers-at-risk groups, Children's Aid Society, other community organizations or local churches to see if there are volunteers who your children can call if you are sick, especially if you do not have reliable friends or family and you are a single parent with young children or children with special needs. These volunteers can bring food to leave at the house, and some churches will do wellness calls if you ask. Some churches are keeping track of which members have gotten Covid-19. These members may be willing to come into your home for quick check after they themselves are well. There are absolutely major risks with this scenario, but I recognize some people are really alone in their life situation and are needing some options.

Do not leave your children alone with any strangers either on an online-chat or physically in your home. Please do not trust strangers whom you’ve met online for health-checks. I’ve heard of personal situations that did not go well. You need to personally let the person in your home and you also need to have them validate who they are before you open the door.

Preparedness with Caregiving Skills

Taking care of your health right now will be the most helpful for your children. Getting enough quality sleep if possible, drinking enough water, reducing sugar and processed foods.

When you are unwell, check-in with your support friends/family/organization right away. Give them a heads-up. From there, self-isolate and monitor your symptoms. If things are mild then you can be drinking herbal teas and resting. If things worsen, again you must touch base with those around you. 

If you become bed-ridden or very limited in movement, let your children know what they can prepare or bring you (such as apple juice or apple sauce to keep your hydrated). If your child is old enough to bring you water, that will help them feel capable. Some individuals find that a cool cloth on the forehead helps to control a fever or at least bring some relief. They should know where the thermometer is, extra tissues, cough candies, herbal teas, etc. This will help them feel connected to you, and will also make your life that much easier, speeding along your recovery. 

Try to let the child know how you realistically feel. Another part of care-giving under quarantine for them can be relaying essential information to another adult. If you are sleeping and a friend calls the home, your child may give an inaccurate interpretation of what they have observed, so maybe they are writing the things you say down in simple language, and reading the notes over the phone.

Make sure your child can dial emergency services for your area. This is just a valuable life skill. Have them practice by calling you/a friend instead, and role-playing. Look up a 911 script online so the kid knows what they are getting into. Life sometimes gives us tough situations where there might be a great deal at stake and your child is now in the position to save your life.

Resiliency and Service

When feeling overwhelmed with the idea of these scenarios, the best way to deal with them is just one step at a time in creating a plan. Just one step at a time. It may take several days to have things in place. Recognize what is a priority for you and your family, and remember that there are people who are wanting to be of service. Let them safely help.

Our children are watching how we prepare, how we serve, and how we accept the assistance of others. Our process of becoming prepared contributes to strengthened resilience within them, which will carry over to other areas of their lives.

Empower your children. Include an encouraging note that outlines the strengths of each child. They need to be reminded of the good that they carry and the abilities that they have. Just like the rest of us, they have inner strength with which they can rise to this challenge.

Be safe and be well, we're in this together.

If you found this post valuable please share your comments below.

You may also enjoy our post, "Preparing Kids for a Changing World & Climate".

Share with a friend.

Leave your ideas below

in the comments section.

Jun 28

Urban Survival Journey: Part I

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorized

Urban Survival Journey

With Christina Yu: Part I

Christina is a civil servant who lives in a condo by the lake. She is an amateur naturalist interested in tracking and bushcraft, and her side-interests include martial arts and emergency preparedness. She wrote one of the post in my ​

Part 1 of this post is a fascinating account of Christina being brought up in the city and having to seek out the knowledge and skills she needed. Part 2 is  on Christina's "10 Strategies for Building Resilience and Connecting with Nature." 

It’s morning, the first in my new condo. My friend Duncan has stayed overnight to keep me company because I’m nervous about being there on my own for the first time. We’re looking outside as we discuss what to get for breakfast. We can see all the way to the CN Tower. It’s rained all night. The sky is grey and dim, but the city is dotted with thousands of lights. That’s when it happens. 

As we watch, all the lights – all of them – shut off in a wave, moving from the downtown core towards us. The wave reaches my building and our lights go off, too. A moment later, they all turn on, then off again, as though the entire city blinked.

Duncan and I look at each other, awestruck. We’re about to have an adventure! We race downstairs to his truck and go on the hunt for breakfast.

I don’t know it yet, but for the next five days, I and thousands of others will be without power. It’s December 23, one day after the ice storm — the first day of the 2013 blackout.

My name is Christina Yu. I live in Toronto and work full-time for the Ontario government. My extracurricular pursuits include volunteering for my faith organization and my dojo, organizing my own tracking club and working as a part-time instructor for Canadian Bushcraft.

I’ve been interested in survival skills since 2008, when I took my first course at Sticks and Stones Wilderness School with Skeet Sutherland and Chris Gilmour. Chris has asked me to write this guest post to share some of my survival skills journey and the strategies that help me stay connected to nature and resilient in the city.

My journey has been long, and it began when I was quite young. I’ve learned a lot along the way that I hope will help guide you on your journey, too, and I welcome your comments below. If you’d like to read more about me and my story, continue on. However, if you prefer to skip this part and go straight to the strategies, you can find them here in Part II.

I grew up in the ‘80s in a small town in rural Ontario. My father was a minister and my mother worked part-time at a doctor’s office. They had three kids: my sister, my brother and I. We didn’t participate in many extracurricular activities. I took piano lessons, and that was about it – no hockey, no summer camp, no art classes. For entertainment, we either watched TV or were sent outside. One of my favourite memories was climbing up a “mountain” on the side steps of our church, wondering why the “dirt” was so crunchy — only to discover when we returned home that we had been up to our elbows in very old pigeon poop.

As a child I was not encouraged to be independent. Typically, Asian parents will do things for their children as a sign of caring — both the “It would be my pleasure to help you” kind and the “You won’t do that right, give it to me” kind. So I didn’t pick out clothes, or do chores, or try new things because someone else was always doing it for me. Over time I became very anxious about doing anything on my own. Combined with an overactive imagination, shyness and 1980s fantasy films, that upbringing produced a girl who wanted to be Atreyu from The Neverending Story (I was convinced that Atreyu was a girl because of the long hair), but was too insecure to actually do anything about it.

It is against this backdrop that I can tell you about what gave life to my survival skills journey. It was a death. One of my best friends died from a brain tumor at the age of 32.

At the time I was in university. I lived with my grandmother in Toronto’s Chinatown, taking Medieval Studies because I loved castles and King Arthur. I no idea what I would do after graduating; that aversion to risk, that fear of independence had stayed with me.

This was the first time someone close to me had died, and it seared a terrible, beautiful message into me: Life is short. Life is precious. Life is fleeting.

What was valuable to me in my life? Was it physical security? Was it mere peace of mind? Or did I want more? I thought about that often. When I went out alone at night or when I felt impatient with my grandmother, I would think to myself, “Our time here is short. This is worth it.”

Still, it would be several years before I felt confident enough to venture out on my own for my first solo course: dog-sledding in Algonquin Park. It was there I met Chris, one of two incredible trip leaders from Outward Bound. On our last day, he mentioned that he was teaching a survival course and, if I was interested, I should come check it out.

I was interested. I had read Robinson Crusoe and The Hobbit; I had watched The Swiss Family Robinson and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Surviving! Against all odds! In the wild! By myself! Who WOULDN’T want that?

That’s how I found myself at Empowering Ancient Ways with Sticks and Stones Wilderness School — my first ever survival course. It was a five day tour de force through basic survival skills, from debris shelters to friction fire to plant identification — and it was not at all what I expected.

For one thing, there was way, way more to know about survival than I thought. Fire, water, shelter, food: I knew about those already. But tracks? Stalking? Wind direction?! I mean, I knew what they were, but I hadn’t known they were related to survival.

Then there were the physical and mental challenges. While trying to get my first friction fire that week, I found out my arms weren’t as strong as I wanted them to be. Another night, I tried to sleep out in the debris shelter we made, but biting mosquitoes kept coming inside, and a few hours later I gave up and went back to my cabin, defeated. Some survivor I was.

Yet the week was also full of small victories, and through them I experienced some of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. One morning my instructors covered themselves in coal dust, mud and greenery, and hid on the forest floor so completely that none of us could see where they were. That afternoon I covered myself in coal dust and got a red squirrel to do a double-take. Later that evening we went on a night hike, without lights of any kind. After standing still for 20 minutes, our vision adjusted enough to allow us to see the eyes of the local night life moving around, glancing up at us bipeds every so often, as we stood awkwardly with our mouths agape in the dark.

On our last night together, we went around the fire talking about how the course had changed us and what we would do when we left. Each of us spoke about how moved we were by each other and by nature, and promised to carry that forward into our lives … somehow.

Looking back, I realize that what I took away from the course was not at all what I expected to. I thought that by the end of the week, I’d know how to survive with a capital S: “Drop me into the wilderness with nothing but a knife in my hand, and I’ll come out alive!” Well, I came away with an academic knowledge of how to survive, for a few days. In that sense, you could call it a success. But my most precious takeaways weren’t about survival at all. They were about community, and how to fail.

I’m walking across a woodlot, somewhere in Hiawatha, looking for a good place to set up camp. It is springtime, and I am doing my first solo no-tent overnight.

Before sending each of us to our designated zones, the lead instructor asks what our biggest concerns are. “People with bad intentions, and bears,” I say. One of the other participants, James, says, “If you’re feeling nervous, just sleep with a knife next to your head!” I do, and it works. I get really cold at night when my fire goes out, but I’m not frightened.

When we gather the next morning, I ask James how he slept. Casually, he says, “Oh, I didn’t sleep. I stayed up because you said you were scared, just in case you needed me.”

The survival skills community in Ontario is made up of many different sub-groups, and I fell into one of those groups right after EAW ended: the Hippies.

Hippies can be very annoying. They’re flakey. They’re often late because they can’t drive themselves anywhere. They smell, and sometimes they need a shower. And they sing. All the time. About everything.

Hippies can also be astonishingly compassionate, forgiving and insightful.

In a community like that, to flip a saying on its head, suddenly failure IS an option. “You couldn’t make it for 8 o’clock? Then we’ll wait till 9.” “You couldn’t catch a ride? This person’s got room in their car.” “You didn’t bring enough food? That’s okay, we’ll share,” and so on and so on. I don’t say this to depict hippies as people waiting to be taken advantage of; I say this because I think there is a certain generosity that can grow inside when you don’t have a lot. Then you realize that giving anything, material or immaterial, is a privilege.

To be serious about learning survival is to admit that, left to your own devices, there’s a possibility that you won’t survive in a disaster. So if you want to learn, you need to be willing to put yourself into a situation that risks your safety, however slightly, so that you can find out what you need to do to survive. Put another way, if you want to learn to use a knife, you need to risk getting cut. You’ve got to have some skin in the game.

So many of my friends say they want to do the things I do, but they always have a reason not to. Bears is a popular one, and now ticks. But even when I explain how to mitigate those risks, most of my friends still won’t go out into the wild. Even more worrisome, I find that the number of children I teach who will make a consistent applied effort is decreasing. I’m not talking about going on a survival quest; I’m talking about doing push-ups and simple drills. They say things like: “They’ll make fun of me.” “I’m too tired.” “I can’t do it, so why bother?” I can sympathize, because I think about those things too. Here’s why I push past that: 

After we finished EAW, Skeet invited all of us back as course volunteers. I returned twice, for a total of three visits. During the third time, Skeet asked us to come up with a skills challenge for ourselves to complete during the week. My challenge was to make a fire by friction and brew some tea over it.

I almost didn’t complete that challenge. It took me right up to the very last day to finish it, and pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I sprained my ankle very badly. Then my cooking apparatus fell apart. Then when I got my first flame, I was so excited I dropped my fire on the ground. I also forgot to put any tea in my bush pot.

Someone shot a video as I began making the fire, and from start to finish, you can see everyone around me supporting me in some way. They’re giving words of encouragement, or they’re holding something for me, or they’re hurrying over to pick something up. Watch the video again and you’ll notice that at no time does anyone try to take over or tell me exactly what to do; they just see that I need help, and they support me without judgement.

I’m not sure who said it, but very early on in my journey, I learned, “Mistakes are our teachers.” It stuck with me, and I truly believe it is written in the heart of this community. What they deliberately and graciously gave me was the ability to fail at whatever task, safely — without shaming me or patronizing me — the option to ask for more help if I needed it, and unconditional support. Each time I failed, they helped me to examine what went right and what went wrong, and gave me the space to try again. They taught me that solo survival is possible, but community is the soil that you need to grow.

Without a doubt, my journey would have ended very shortly after it began were it not for this community. They were there to cheer me on in every attempt I made, successful or not — in bow making, plant medicine, basket weaving and tracking. Most courses drop you back into the world with no one to talk to, no matter how life-changing the experience was. That’s not what happened to me. Instead, I found my people

I’m back at the Wolf Den, where I took EAW, but this time it’s not for a lecture. George Leoniak, a Cybertracker evaluator, has just finished tallying our scores for the track and sign evaluation and he’s about to read them back to us. 

Cybertracker is an internationally recognized tracker certification program. Anyone interested can do the evaluation, including biologists, hunters and naturalists. My tracking mentor, Alexis, organized this one for a dozen people, including some friends and two former instructors: Chris and Skeet.

George is reading the scores from lowest to highest. He finishes with the 80% group and announces that the next set is for those who scored 90% and above. 

“Chris Gilmour.” Gulp. 

“Skeet Sutherland.” Double gulp. Oh my. 

“Christina Yu.” <hysterical blindness> 

Did that just happen? Did I just outscore my instructors? In TRACKING?! 

George finishes up and we walk around congratulating each other. Chris runs up to me and slaps my shoulder. “Heya, Christina! Way to go! Congratulations! I’m super proud of ya!” He’s actually more excited about my score than I am. Once again, I am profoundly grateful to have Chris Gilmour as a friend.

One evening close to the end of Empowering Ancient Ways, I remember being explicitly told that not all of this information would stick. Most likely, we would find only two or three subjects that really captured our attention, and those were the ones we should pursue when we went home. For me, those subjects were fire and tracking, and I pursued both with a passion.

Bowdrill was my focus for years, and every winter I ran a women’s bowdrill challenge, taking my first steps as an instructor. Tracking was not as easy to engage in. Tracks were everywhere, but trackers? Not so much. There was one course I knew of and then a monthly tracking club. That was all. Eventually, a friend told me about a week long winter tracking course in Algonquin. I went, and it was the trip of my dreams. But when I returned to the city, I faced a community problem: I was wound up, full of passion, but had no one to share it with.

Enter Alexis Burnett. In 2012, I enrolled in his Tracking Apprenticeship, a 10-month program that ran one weekend each month, with optional take-home assignments and phone calls to check on our progress.

Finding a way to commit such a significant amount of time and money was honestly very difficult. This was very different from taking a one-day workshop, and I had a full-time job in the city, no car, and a full social life. Fortunately, my good friend Bill had also been invited, and as we commiserated about how hard it would be, suddenly we both said: “I’ll go if you go.”

For the next 10 months, no matter how far it was, no matter how early I had to wake up, no matter how cold, wet, or buggy, I was committed. I wanted to graduate from this program because I wanted to know how to track, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. The results speak for themselves. I graduated third in my evaluation and got my Cybertracker Level III, making me one of the highest ranked trackers in North America.

How did I stay motivated? I firmly fixed in my mind an image of what success looked like: I would be able to look at a track, know what made it and be able to follow it. As I learned more about tracking, that image of success grew and took on more details: I would know how old a track was, what the animal was doing, how it was moving and so on. If I was interested by something that wasn’t strictly tracking related, I would investigate it outside of the apprenticeship. In this way I learned about clouds, winter tree ID, mushrooms and bird language.

As a result, my journey felt completely natural, always interesting and endlessly engaging. I never made a formal plan; if I had — with each step written out and dates to finish by and checkboxes to tick off — it would have drained the life out of it. It wouldn’t have been fun. And for me, fun is a big source of energy.

Every day now, I look out my window to see what direction the wind is blowing in, hoping to see the red-tailed hawks that nest on my building. Over lunch, I take a walk, always on the lookout for the baby raccoons in the park, listening for the taps of the woodpecker and sniffing the wind for the scent of Bergamot. About once a week, I grab my binoculars and camera and see what I can discover in the parks by my condo. Once a month, I’m in Hiawatha showing my friend Caleb the latest project I’m working on. Every few months, I’m out with my tracking club somewhere in the GTA, looking for deer, or ducks, or tracks. Once a year, I’m back in Algonquin for a weekend of winter tracking. I love it all. It is all worth it. 

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’”

I think less about survival now and more about being comfortable in the bush. Yet somehow over the past 10 years, I’ve gathered enough resources that if I were to be put into a survival situation, I wouldn’t just survive, I’d do pretty well. Still, over time, I’ve realized that mere survival isn’t enough. The topic is much wider and deeper than that.

What is your goal? Do you want to learn how to survive in the wilderness, like I did? Do you want to start homesteading? Are you preparing for the zombie apocalypse or the next financial recession? The answer could be setting you up for a short trip of “there and back again,” or it could send you on a life-changing journey.

As you travel towards it, I offer some lessons from the animals I've tracked.

Find your people. You are more resilient in a group than on your own.  

Keep your destination firmly fixed in mind.  But if you get distracted by sights and sounds along the way, enjoy them. They will make the journey more interesting.

Finally, continue moving forward. Even a small step will take you closer to your goal. Like our wild brethren, may you survey your environment, gather your energy, and move, fully committed, to make the next track on your trail, the next mark on your life's journey.

I would like to thank my editors, Andrea Jacobsen and Eli Fox. Their amazing advice vastly improved this blog.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider donating to the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station.

Resource Recommendations:

Earth Tracks:  www.earthtracks.ca

Canadian Bushcraft: www.canadianbushcraft.ca

Northern Karate Schools: www.northernkarateschools.com

Black Thunder Studios: www.blackthunderstudio.com

Outward Bound: www.outwardbound.org

White Pine Programs: whitepineprograms.org

Practical Primitive’s YouTube video on proper bowdrill form

The Canadian Canoe Museum: canoemuseum.ca

Share with a friend.

Leave your thoughts and inspirations below

in the comments section.

May 18

The Survival Pattern & Priorities

By Chris Gilmour | Disaster Survival , Nature's Lessons , Prepared Lifetyle

The Survival Pattern & Priorities

Search & Rescue Mission

Guest Author Trevor Page on a Search & Rescue Mission. 

Todays post lays out some very core concepts and skills when it comes to survival. Do you know the basics of all of these?

I asked Trevor Page to write a guest post for our Changing World Community. Trevor is a Wilderness Safety and Survival Instructor with the International Canadian School of Survival (ICSOS), found at Survivalbytraining.com

Here is what Trevor had to say about Survival priorities and  what you can learn from emergency responders in being better prepared in our quickly changing world!

Written by Trevor Page

Our Own S.O.P.

We’ve often heard emergency services talking about Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) such as: IAs (Immediate Actions), Contact Drills, and the like. The reason they have so many SOPs (and so many acronyms for them) is that in an emergency the rational mind goes into a form of shock; it tends to quit, freeze, delay, etc. This is normal.

The major difference between someone who effectively responds to an emergency, and someone who reacts with hesitation, is their level of training.

First-responder professionals are trained to the point that they don’t need to think. It becomes automatic. Emergency services will likely be able to rationally respond faster than your average civilian (and all the varying degrees between them) because they’ve received the training and experienced it before.

Most “survival situations” actually occur when someone becomes lost, and - instead of stopping themselves when they are simply disoriented, finding clarity, and retracing their path - they reactively push forward until they’re risking their life.

So what can the average person do, short of joining the military or the Emergency Services profession, to be ready for an emergency?

You can still prepare, plan, and drill. No matter what the emergency or situation, even in daily life when something’s gone awry, we can follow our own “Standard Operating Procedure”: S.T.O.P.!

S - Sit

“take a knee”, sip some water, grab a snack, breathe, rest, and lower the heart rate. Uncontrolled movement is panic. An elevated heart rate without purpose is panic. You must become calm, cool, and collected. 

T - Think

what has happened, what is happening, what will happen next, and what needs to happen soon

O - Observe

tiers of gear/circles of survival: ­ what do I have: “on me” (clothing, pockets), “with me” (backpack or daypack, etc.), “within reach” (office desk, buddies, if driving ­ your vehicle, etc.), “within sight” (look around you, what can you see (x­-ray vision is helpful but not necessary). You’re looking for resources, but you’re also looking for additional hazards (i.e., rushing river, sunset coming, looks like rain, wildfire, etc.)

P - Plan

what will you do in the next '30': 30 seconds, 30 minutes, 30 hours, 30 days (if realistic)


get ‘er done, make it happen, act!

Survival Priorities

Alright, you’ve STOP(ped)! You’re calm, cool, collected. You’ve made a plan, but is it an effective plan? Is it the right plan? It is if it works. There is no other goalpost, no matter how much others may question it. However, it may not work ­- and you might die. So let’s come up with some helpful guidelines: the Priorities of Survival. In survival situations, you can live:

  • Seconds without your mind. If you can’t think straight, you might do something stupid. We’ll call this the “Hold my Beer” syndrome.
  • Minutes without air in your lungs and blood in your heart. The first step in administering first aid (after scene survey) is always, more or less, check for breathing, stop the bleeding, address critical problems.
  • Hours without protection from the elements. You’ll die of “exposure”, a collection of various effects on your body usually culminating in hypothermia (or hyperthermia / heat stroke)
  • Days without water. Humans are about 70% water; it’s used to digest food, circulate blood (and warmth), lubricate joints, conduct neural messages, and so much more.
  •  Weeks without food. 3 weeks. Not the best idea, but doable.
  •  Months without rescue. (Remember we’re talking survival, not a planned expedition.)

If all these needs are meet, you can then move onto a discussion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,­ but we’ll leave that for another article.

The Survival Pattern

These priorities can now provide a basis for our “Survival Pattern”. Fun fact, this pattern is taught by NATO militaries (including the Canadian Forces), because it works. 

The Survival Pattern:
Our Needs In The Order They Present Themselves
  1. 1.   First Aid - As stated above, Critical Problems only give you minutes to treat. We’ll survive the rest -­ though it might hurt - but severe injuries must be treated immediately to prevent them getting worse.
  2. 2.   Fire - Fire is added because in cold weather you can’t build a fire if you’re frozen! It also acts as a signal, cooks food, boils water, and serves as a morale boost.
  3. 3.   Shelter - Protection from the elements in whichever shelter will be effective and easy for the environment with the materials/resources at hand.
  4. 4.   Signals - We want to be rescued (we did not choose this situation), so once the immediate (less than 24 hour) needs are met, we focus on signalling. The sooner we are found, the sooner we get to go home.
  5. 5.   Water and Food - Finally we shift our attention to upcoming needs: collecting water and gathering what food we can to survive for however long it takes rescue to find us. (You left a trip plan with a contact person right?)

Now, since I primarily teach Wilderness Safety & Survival, students sometimes say, “well, this is great when I’m outdoors, but this has no relevance for the rest of my life.”

What a time to be alive, when survival is no longer a daily task. We live in a society that has developed such an extensive and complex level of infrastructure that such mundane tasks such as water procurement and food storage can be taken for granted with barely a thought.

And yet, even less than 100 years ago (and still many places on the planet today), most people needed to plan their daily life: buckets of water from the well, food canning for the winter months, ice blocks for the ice house in the summer months, firewood for heating and cooking; the 'daily survival task list' goes on and on.

Again, such thoughts and tasks in today’s setting seem unnecessary, turn on the tap, flick the switch, etc.

However, the big question is: what would you do if public utilities and infrastructure collapse?

Whether for a day (in the winter!) or a few weeks? We may take it for granted, but infrastructure is given, it is not guaranteed (ask your utility provider if they will renew your contract with a 24/7/­365 guarantee!).

In the last twenty years, we can look at the:

  • Québec Ice Storm
  • Southern Ontario Black Out
  • Winnipeg Boil Water Incident
  • Water problem in Walkerton
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Southeast Asia Tsunami
  • Japanese Earthquake
  • Haiti
  • Puerto Rico
  • Many, many other scenarios

With luck most of us will never experience such events, and yet ­somebody somewhere is usually living through one of these every day.

So you’re in an urban setting, you’ve accepted “the event” could happen. How does the Survival Pattern apply here?

1. First Aid

No matter where you are, First Aid is always your first priority. Are you hurt? Do you have a well stocked first aid kit? Have you used it? When was the last time you refreshed your first aid skills such as CPR? Do you require certain medications (eg. diabetes, chronic pain, etc.)

Check out the Gear Store for useful supplies.

2. Fire

Of course, you could light a Fire in the backyard ­ who doesn’t enjoy that? But: how long would your firewood supply last? Do you have a secondary means of heating yourself/home? Or cooking your food? And could you light a fire in the rain without modern fire starters? 

3. Shelter

In the urban setting, Shelter is usually easy, stay home! But what if your house sustains damage? What if you need to evacuate? Where will you go? Do you have a Ready­Bag to grab? Does it have some minimal shelter, bedding, or privacy supplies?

Check out Changing Worlds post on the different Layers of Shelter and our video on building a shelter inside of your home if the power is out and the temperature drops. 

4. Signals

Day-­to­-day we live in a world rich in communication and information technology Signals. But what happens when they get overloaded or damaged? How can you communicate with family and loved ones? Do you have a means of knowing what’s going on in the community, region, world? The first disaster is “the event”, the second disaster is always misinformation. Do you have a battery operated radio? Do you know where there’s a community poster board?

5. Water​

A steel vessel can be used to safely boil water.

The water main breaks, the sewage system backs up; you now have no reliable potable Water source. Have you stocked water? Can you get water (before the grocery stores sell out)? Can you collect rainwater or other sources? Can you treat the water so it’s safe to drink? Okay, you have water ­ now what about washrooms and waste: how will you store or dispose of waste (both “regular” garbage, and human)?

We are a big fan of Berky Water Filters for back-up & everyday use, especially in Urban settings. Check them out through our affiliate link. 

6. Food

Okay, you’ve easily made it through “the event”, your immediate needs are met. A few days have gone by, emergency services are organized and reaching the community. Unfortunately, they may not reach you for another few days, maybe even a week.

Do you have enough food stocked to last? A garden to supplement your meals? Could you forage from natural landscape?

Check out this post on food security here: Survival Gardening in a Changing Climate

The better prepared you are, the less likely you’ll be hit with the consequences.

Make a plan, but don’t agonize over every little detail; the benefit is in the planning. Any action, every action puts you one step closer to preparedness.

 Yes, the Survival Pattern was developed with respect to wilderness survival situations, and yet it addresses our basic needs regardless of where we might find ourselves. The next time you hear that a community is facing a major natural disaster or infrastructure failure ask yourself: what would I do, what could my family do? What can we do before it happens?

Get Your Friends and Family Involved, Thinking and Planning

Share Your Thoughts and Comments Below!

How to survive a flood and flood safety tips
Apr 23

How to Survive a Flood, Overlooked & Essential Safety Tips

By Chris Gilmour | Disaster Survival , Extreme Weather

How to Survive a Flood, Overlooked & Essential

Safety Tips

2017 and 2019 brought large scale and many record-breaking floods across Canada, the United States, and the rest of the world. How to survive a flood, and knowing what to do before and during a flood are becoming essential knowledge. Many of the deaths that occur are preventable with these flood safety tips. 

In this new era of climate change, it is integral for people to be proactive about their safety. This can be done by developing increased situational awareness, learning self-reliance skills, and making a conscious effort to adapt and thrive as the world changes. The Changing World Community is here to help! 

Did you hear about (or experience) 2019's massive flood in the states? Here is one person's account and a summary on lessons learned.

A New Normal

Although massive floods have occurred since the beginning of time, several variables are causing larger floods to happen more frequently. Massive floods may be the new normal around the globe. Three of the leading variables include:

1. Climate Change - one of the main predictions is increased rainfall in certain parts of the world.

2. Human Development & Poor Landscape Design - a reduction in wetlands, loss of forests, and soil being developed and paved over, lead to less ground absorption and thus more flooding.

3. Reduction in Government Spending - Here in Ontario, Canada, the Provincial Government has cut spending on services that help control water levels across the province as well as funding for emergency preparedness and prevention. Similar trends have been occurring in the United States.

This year, along with billions of dollars in damage, there have also been several deaths due to the floods. Some of them were preventable.

The below video discusses some of the often unknown hazards associated with flooding and how you can keep yourself and family safe. Below the video are several less known flood safety tips to consider along with a flood preparedness checklists to help you survive a flood and be better prepared for climate change.

Flood Survival & Preparedness

1) Heighten Your Everyday Situational Awareness

During the 2019 floods, several people died from roads collapsing while they drove over them. There was no flagging tape marking the hazard or road closure sign.

As much as we may expect governments to notice the danger in the road before it becomes an accident, history and thousands of case studies show us this is just not reality.

Below is a picture I took of a road being washed out from underneath. You can see the pressure cracks starting to form. It is an accident waiting to happen. What was a little mind-boggling to me was that I witnessed car after car drive over it without slowing down or showing any awareness of this quickly developing hazard.

What to do during a flood

The signs were there in nature, you need to choose to be aware of them. In our rapidly changing world and climate, there are consequences to not being aware of your surroundings and assuming the government can protect you from all hazards.

At Changing World we believe people need to take some ownership for their own safety and well being. To be the highly alert, skilled, and addable beings that humans are designed to be. Remember our ancestors lived amongst grizzly bears, lions, and natural disasters. They did so effectively without bright flagging tape, helmets, and most of the safety infrastructure we now have in place. 

Want support in developing your situational awareness?

Try the free first lesson from our Survive the Storms video training for free. It comes with a free audio track to help you start mapping both hazards and resources in your community while expanding your awareness and ability to read the signs of the natural world. 

If you do try it, please come back and leave a comment about what you learned from the activity!

2) Be Aware of Hidden Hazards.

With an excess of water in the landscape, many new hazards are created, and some of them are often unknown until it is too late. Here are a few important ones to consider:

Electrically charged flood waters - Electrical shock is a common cause of deaths during floods. Downed wires in the street can create a deadly electrical current in the surrounding waters. A flooded basement can also become charged from damaged wires or a wall socket under the flood waters if the power is still on.

Practice situational awareness and make sure your kids know to stay out of the basement and away from flood waters!

Toxins & Debris in Water - I often see people wading through floodwaters in their regular clothing. In some cases, this may be unavoidable, such as escaping a car trapping in the currents.

Remember these flood waters may be a toxic slurry of chemicals, heavy metals, and more, acquired from the surrounding landscape. There also could be sharp objects under the water you can not see.

Severe infections and even chronic illness can be a result of exposure to flood waters. If you have to contact them, take extra precautions to protect your skin, eyes, ears, nose, and midsection.

Avoid moving through flood waters at all costs, and if you have too, practice situational awareness and watch for these new threats.

The Survive the Storms eCourse goes into more details in learning about these new emerging threats and how to protect yourself. 

3) Too Much Water & Not Enough

During a flood, it is common to focus on the threat of excess of water. However, one serious problem people often face during/after a flood is not enough water. Even with all that H2O flowing through, there can be limited access to clean drinking water and water for sanitation and hygiene. The rest of the water around you has been contaminated by the toxic environment mentioned above. 

Do the following things Before the Flood:

  • Fill your bathtub to the top 
  • Fill freezer bags with water and use them to fill empty space in your freezer. Now, these can be melted for clean water, and they will also help keep your freezer cold longer if the power goes out.
  • We recommend having a 5-gallon jug of water stored for every member of your family. Keep this in a crawl space or closet and forget about it until you need it.

Finding Clean Water During/After the Flood:

The water in your hot water tank should be the same water that comes out your taps and thus drinkable. Most hot water tanks have a valve and spout at the bottom that allows you to drain it manually without electricity.

The water in the basin behind the toilet should not have come in contact with your waste water yet. I’d purify it for safety measures, but this is also a source of clean water.

To learn how to catch rainwater from the land, check out this video on making an improvised water catchment system. 

4) Download our Flood Survival Checklist at the top of this article

Know what to do during a flood. In our flood preparedness checklist, we have a list of essential emergency items to keep in your car and home. 

We also have a list of other actions and tips to consider in knowing how to survive a flood and prepare for one.

Spread the Word to Those You Care About!!

Floods are a possibility everywhere, and we need to be prepared for more of them. Share and Comment below to keep the conversation growing. 

Family Communication During a Disaster
Mar 07

How to Communicate with Your Family During A Disaster

By Chris Gilmour | Disaster Survival , Prepared Lifetyle

How to Communicate with Your Family During a Disaster

if Separated

Not being able to communicate with your family during a disaster or emergency is a terrifying scenario. You should know however, the panic that comes from this scenario is often preventable. Yet so few people take the small steps it takes to make communication during emergency situations ready and accessible.

This post will help you take some quick steps to make sure you are not complacent and caught off guard. We will also touch on cell phone use during a disaster, gathering other relevant information, and best practices for communications during emergency situations. 

There are a lot of potential scenarios in which you could be separated from your family when an unexpected disaster strikes. From a local evacuation of your neighborhood due to a contamination issue (ex: flipped truck leaking toxic chemicals at the closest major intersection) to a tornado, earthquake, or even a power outage. 

Now imagine any one of these scenarios, but the internet and phones are down. There is gridlocked traffic across the city, and you do not know where your family is or if it is even safe to return home.  

Lessons from the West Coast Wildfires

During the now-famous California Camp Fire (a deadly and record-breaking wildfire) of 2018, separation and no way to communicate became a scary reality for many families that had to evacuate their communities with little notice. 

“Sheriff Kory L. Honea [of Butte County, California] said his office had received 35 reports of missing persons… For many family members, that meant desperate searches for loved ones missing amid the chaos.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (New York Times, Zaveri, Miller, “Families Search for Missing Loved Ones Amid California Fire Chaos,” Nov 10, 2018)

Can you imagine the number of scenarios that would be going through your head if you found yourself in a situation such as this?

Another scenario to consider is being at home with your family, the power has gone out, you can tell something significant has happened, but you do not know what. You do not see how it will impact your family or how long it will last for.

Let’s take a few steps to prevent the chaos, having a plan to get back together with your family and to gather other critical information on communicating during a disaster.

Communicating During a Disaster 101

1. Decide Who You Need and Want to be in Communication With

The first step is to consider who you would want to be communicating with during a disaster.

Once you decide on your who, include them in conversations around the these four points. I suggest hosting a dinner or gathering where one aspect of the evening is a 30 - 40 min conversation around how you would communicate in a disaster, just in case!

If you are concerned that your friends or family members may think you are paranoid, this should not stop the conversation from happening. Instead, approach it causally, but sincerely. Start the invite by citing all the families that got separated in the California & British Columbia Wildfires. Then "... I got thinking, what if something happened here? It really would only take a short conversation to make sure we all had a plan of getting back together and supporting each other..." is a natural place for the conversation to go.

Here is a link to the article I referenced in the intro if you want to share it as part of your justification for bringing people together: Families Search for Missing Loved Ones Amid California Fire Chaos

Here are a few examples of people and information sources you may want to include:

  • Immediate family or household members
  • Family or real close friends around town
  • Elderly or particularly vulnerable people from your community (ex: the elderly couple or single parent that live by themselves down the street)
  • Daycare providers for your children

2. Meeting Locations and Ways to Communicate without Cellphones 

A lot of people count on reliable cell phone use during disasters. Cell towers could, however, be down entirely from the damage. If they are still running, so many people may be trying to make calls to Emergency Services and loved ones, that the bandwidth becomes jammed and you can not get through to anyone.

Two quick strategies you can implement in just a short conversation are:

A. Create a back-up meeting place

Imagine your home or community is evacuated for whatever reason and you can not return home. Or maybe you are in one part of town and your kids and partner in another. A tornado rips through and destroys your neighborhood, and cell phones and internet are down.

How are you going to get back together with your family?

Create an agreed upon meeting place at least 1 - 2 km from your home. This is the place you will meet if you can not get home or need to evacuate your home and everyone is not together.

Ideally, this place is at a location that has a substantial storm-resistant structure, has water and possibly even an emergency food stash. If this is a friend or family members home, make sure they agree to have there home as a meeting location.

If possible, arrange to have a well-hidden key available for your family at this location.

B. Leave a paper trail. 

If you have to leave home and the phones and internet are down, have an agreed upon place in your home to leave emergency notes. Make sure everyone in your emergency communications plan know where this is.

Also, pick a location at your back-up meeting place where a note could be left. Make sure whoever lives there knows that place as well in case they need to leave a note for you.

Do not leave the note on an outside door in case wind, rain or an unwanted stranger were to remove or destroy it.

3. Know the Local Stations from Emergency Alerts & Information

We live in an era where information is often abundant and sometimes overwhelming. During a real disaster, you do not want to be wasting time sorting through conflicting reports. Unfounded rumors can also be rampant during an emergency situation.

It is crucial to know where to get “official” reports and updates from. I also recommend following a few alternative outlets that have proven track records for accuracy. There are a few places you can look to get the information you need to keep your family safe and improve your incoming communication during a disaster.

Visit your municipality and state/provinces website and look at the “Emergency Preparedness” page. Most Municipalities will have a website with useful public information. Some even have copies of the official emergency management plan available for you to look at. 

Here is an Ontario Town with an excellent page. It has:

  • A tool to make a basic preparedness plan
  • Important numbers to call
  • Which Radio Stations will be releasing Official Information Statements
  • Twitter and Social Media Channels that will be broadcasting information.

The Municipality of Victoria, British Columbia is in a potential Tsunami Zone. As a resident or tourist, you can sign up to get Tsunami alerts right to your phone. In a situation where every minute counts this could be life-saving.

What does your community have available?

4. Using Radios for Communicating During a Disaster

There are two different types of radios you should consider having on hand to help you receive (and in one case transmit) critical information. 

A. Hand-crank or Battery Operated Radio with Built-in Weatherband Station

Remember, phones and internet may be unreliable. Knowing what is expected around the next corner, how long a situation may last, and the weather can help you make critical and even life-saving decisions. Understanding the scope of a disaster may also help you in understanding the possible impact on friends and family and relieve worry as you learn certain areas were not affected.

I recommend getting a hand crank radio to allow you to listen to local news and weather. Make sure the radio also includes reprogrammed “Weatherband” stations. The Weatherband broadcasts weather and emergency alerts 24/7 across all of Canada and the United States. Even if the local radio station has been shut down from the incident, it is likely the Weatherband will still be broadcasting.

The back-up radio I use is the "Eton - American Red Cross Weather Radio".

The link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase through the link I get a small commission to help support all the free content on this blog. 

B) Handheld radios.

During Hurricane IRMA that struck the United States in 2017, a friend of mine said she was very grateful to have a set of handheld radios. She passed them out to neighbors and close by family before the storm, so they communicate during and after the hurricane, check in on each other and call for help if needed. She said this offered HUGE peace of mind for her.

In this video, I interview an OPP Officer and Owner of Rapid Survival, an emergency preparedness gear store. He talks about why a family may want to have radios and the basics of emergency radio communications.

5. Develop a Proper Family Emergency Communications Plan

I hope by now you recognize the importance of having a plan for communication during emergency situations. This does not take a lot of time or money and could save you a lot of panic stress and even save lives. 

The four suggestions above just scratched the surface of family emergency communications planning. There are a bunch of other quick and simple steps that can create real peace of mind and preparedness for a host of possible scenarios.

We have created a fun, entertaining and super practical online training program called, “Survive the Storms.” The course (it’s more of an interactive adventure than boring course) will provide you a template for all the critical information that should be in your family communication plan and walk you through step by step all the other essential pieces.

It also walks you step by step through creating an emergency kit and some essential survival skills.

The course will be going live March 26, 2019 so stay tuned. Feel free to email me at chris@changingworldproject.com if you have any questions or you want to be on the waiting list to get first notice when it is released. 

Here is a sneak peak at the Trailer!

If you implemented even one action item from this list,

write “Getting Prepared” in the comment section.

Also, feel free to ask questions and leave your suggestions.

Feb 21

Ideas on Preparing Our Kids for a Changing Climate & World

By Chris Gilmour | Climate Change , Nature's Lessons , Prepared Lifetyle

Preparing Our Kids for a Changing Climate & World


I’ve come to interpret climate change as being about a lot more than the weather. If you look it up, climate also means "the prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place (Dictionary.com)." By that definition "climate" can refer to many things, and "climate change" therefore is a fast and powerful shift in the many different domains of our modern lives.

In the recent post, Preparing for Prosperity, and How to Plan for an Uncertain Future, I talk about some of the biggest shifts we are experiencing. Disruptors in the climate of the seasons and weather, the economic climate, the social climate, the climate of technology, etc. The article outlines some of my actions to adapt, prepare and thrive in this changing world. I also write a lot about how we as individuals can stay protected and empowered, and extend that resilience to our family and friends. 

One of my big questions and personal interests these days is "are we keeping up with the changes and adapting quick enough?  Are we doing what we need to in order to keep our families safe and set them up for success in the world of tomorrow?" (which is really here already).

Changing World & Climate

Allow me to add another layer to all of this. If climate change means a myriad of things, then what does it mean to our children, to the next generation? And what can we do to not only protect today's youngsters, but how can we help them grow into people who have the abilities to adapt and thrive in this changing climate?

This is obviously a huge topic, an ongoing conversation. Please share your thoughts, questions and learned lessons in the comments below, and in your communities. As always, we have to work together on this one.

As for me, I've been working with youth for a couple decades now, and would be honored to share these three thoughts on preparing kids for a changing climate and a rapidly changing world with you.

1. Help Kids become Intuitive Problem Solvers

As far as the economy goes, and even the physical climate we are living in, we do not know what is around the next corner. All we do know is tomorrow (which is coming fast) is not going to look like today. 

A lot of progressive entrepreneurs believe the old path of going to college/university to train for your career is becoming outdated. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in which students are paying large amounts of money to train for in school right now are going to be replaced by machines in the next ten years. This is a problem.

How do we prepare kids for a workforce that is changing so quickly? 

One way is to focus on helping kids be innate problem solvers. To think out of the box and know how to overcome challenges both with their minds and bodies. To look at challenges and figure it out.

This may seem simple or like common sense, but in my work with young adults, I am commonly working with students that lack the ability and personal drive to face any discomfort or challenge. If the answer is not apparent immediately, they give up. Our society makes instant gratification a priority, a priority that is just starting to reveal it's consequences.

When I was a child, my Dad and I had a weekly “Science Club.” We figured out how to do things together. We built rocket ships, fixed the home toilet, nailed boards together, and in general, just got curious about how things worked and figured out how to make and fix things. My Dad included me all the time in fixing things around the house.

This obviously isn't me... but it looks like they're getting it!

This early childhood brain patterning has equated to being a person who just figures out how to do things. I taught myself carpentry, how to build furniture and basic structures, how to do basic plumbing, how to grow food, how to edit videos, how to design websites, basic accounting, and a host of other things. I believe this makes me very adaptable and resourceful. These are all skills that can go on resume, be used to make a few extra bucks her and there, and they help me overcome the many challenges life brings my way.

I work for myself, but if I ever had to apply for a job, there is A LOT I can put on my resume of practical skills.  Even more importantly, I have the confidence to know I am capable of learning almost anything I need to get by in life. I love figuring out how to do things and rarely use Google for it.    

Teaching kids to fix things, build things, and come up with solutions to problems is a priceless skill set. One with practical applications to almost every aspect of life.

There is a lot of reasons to suspect there will be less “jobs for hire” in the future economy. Especially good paying jobs. There will however be no shortage of problems. People who know how to solve problems and are ambitious and creative in their problem-solving pursuits are likely to create a job for themselves in any economy.

How could you mentor children in entrepreneurial skills?

I will use the classic lemonade stand for an example. Selling lemon aid to earn money is excellent. But if Mom and Dad cover all the expenses, and the kids keep all the profits, how is this preparing them for the "real" future?

Help your kids understand the concept of a profit margins, gross vs net profits, the end of the day balance sheet. Challenge them to leverage their newly made money. Kids need to learn to work hard, but they also need to learn to work smart to survive the future economy.

It is a great lesson to work hard all day, and have little to show for it after expenses (or taxes). You can be defeated with this - or you can get creative.

What are they going to do with the lemons life gives them?

What did they learn from this experience and how do they work smarter next time?

This is where leverage and system design comes into play. How could they invest a small portion of their earnings back into their own business to make it more efficient or profitable? Or, could they invest into creating a new business that will bring more significant returns while also helping people in the community with a problem and freeing up more of their time? 

Challenge them to look for problems they can solve and create sustainable economic systems to address them. This is the entrepreneurial spirit, and it will be very valuable in our changing and unstable economy.

2. Get kids out into Nature, A LOT, and go Camping

Where can I even begin this one? Let's take a look...

Mental Health

Childhood (and adulthood) mental health issues are becoming an epidemic. As someone who has worked with thousands of youth and adults over my career, it is scary to see the trend of people being unable to sit comfortably in their own skin without distractions. I commonly see people have mild to severe panic attics when they have to sit quietly without distractions in the outdoors.

For most of human history, the peace of the outdoors has been one of the most powerful tools we as a species have to escape the stresses of day to day life. A way to quiet our racing thoughts, and seek insights into our next steps in life. And in a blink of an eye, people are losing the ability to sit in peace in nature and take in its vast wisdom.

On top of the mental heath benefits of knowing you can always sit in nature to get a break, and get insights into your life challenges, nature is also an incredible teacher of… well… a million things.

Nature's Classroom

How do we live healthily and sustainably if we do not understand the intricacies of the ecosystems that support every aspect of our lives?

We learn about those intricacies from spending time out in nature, interacting with and observing it. Some of the most amazing solutions to our words biggest problems are being discovered in seeing how nature solves similar problems. If you want to learn more about this, look up the science and concept, of "Biomimicry."

The experience of camping also teaches an incredible number of basic life skills. From learning how to cook over a fire, to removing ourselves from the comforts of modern urban life to gain perspective on where things like water, food, light, etc., come from, to following the complicated instructions of tent manuals, to swimming, to...

Dealing with the challenges that come up camping is also an amazing teacher in creative problem solving, resiliency, and creates an appreciation for modern conveniences.

One of my favourite articles on the topic is, "25 Survival Skills for Kids" from the blog, "The Rustic Elk". 

Learning to paddle white water is another great skill for older kids to learn. White water is full of risks and fun. Learning to navigate a white water risk safely teaches problem-solving, risk calculation, hard work and is rewarded with incredible pleasure.

When I hire staff, I look for white water paddling and backcountry camping experience, regardless of the job I’m hiring for. I have found people with these life experiences are generally very competent, hardworking and have naturally good critical decision-making skills.

I fear a world where kids know nothing more than modern digital life. To live in a world dependent on natural ecosystems, but oblivious to the essential give and take relationship we all have with nature, is a recipe for disaster.

Take your kids camping and send them into the woods to play weekly if not daily and the learning with happen naturally.

For older youth, I highly recommend doing a longer out trip adventure with a reputable organization. Going on a three week plus Wilderness Adventure is nothing short of life-changing for most people.

Youth are likely to be pushed in ways they never new were possible. They will have to dig deep to find inner strength and courage they never new they had. They will have to overcome social problems because there is no other choice but to keep traveling together. They will also experience incredible beauty and reverence for the simple things like a good nights sleep, a simple, healthy meal, the safety of returning home, a quiet view of the star or rising sun, and so much more. This is a priceless perspective in our world of convenience and often entitlement.

A few organizations to explore are:

3. Role Model/Encourage Objective & Two-Sided Thinking

The digital age is having implications on the development of the human mind, how we think, reason, and interact with each other. In the short time I have had a smartphone and been on Facebook, I can already notice the impact these tools are having on my mind.

What does this mean for the youth of today who take this as normal? 

This is a massive experiment in phycology, brain chemistry, and even sociology and culture. Nervous to see the results?

We have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips, and simultaneously we live in a world where our world view and personal bias is being exasperated, built by social media and digital profiling at an alarming rate.

How can we live in a world with access to so much information yet witness open arguments and the citing of incorrect information ever where we look on the internet?

The fear I have is that people are unaware of how much our personal bias and opinions are being influenced by the digital culture we immerse ourselves in.

People are increasingly able to find articles and other people to support their word view, labeled as fact as opposed to opinion. The more I search a particular topic, and the more my friends share a specific world view, the more all my online interactions become biased to favor that world view (even what google and my social media feed 'decides' to show me is bias-affirming).

Another point to consider is the reliability of the information we get in the first place. The new 'normal' involves looking at inclusive, emotional debates, then making important life decisions based on the conflicting data we see. Assuming one even looks at both sides before making the decision.

So how do we give children and youth the tools to discern through this information age?

  • Challenge your kids to research opposing points of view to their (or your) own opinions. Identify your/their assumptions about the other sides argument. Then, fact-check those assumptions, making sure no critical information was missed. Its amazing watching someone's incorrect judgment dissolve when they find the flaw in their assumptions on their own, rather than being told that they are wrong. 
  • Look at topics with conflicting science and be open to the fact that there is a grey area in science. Science is relative to the variables being studies. Change a variable, and the outcome may change as well. Maybe it is not as simple as right and wrong, black and white. Could both answers be right? Could they both be wrong? Could they both have a little of each?
  • Speaking of science, understand and point out the importance of the scientific method, (in this case questioning, and having only one true certainty: I could be wrong) and how that differs form what is often advertised as 'science,' 'fact,' or 'truth.' 
  • Role model being aware of your own personal bias and be clear when you are stating facts vs. stating opinions and judgments. Opinions and judgments are normal human tendencies, but when we mistake them as facts, we limit ourselves from learning and growing.
  • For older kids, encourage them to join the school debate team. Challenge them to argue the opposite side of their own stance on something, and help them understand there are two sides to any story. This kind of reasoning only helps their world view in the long run by refining its accuracy.
  • When you read and discuss articles from the internet (or anywhere really) ask what assumptions the author may have? What influences their world view and writing? Most reports and studies (including Government and University studies) will have some degree of bias in them. This is normal. It's pretending that bias is not there that's the dangerous part.
  • Remind them, you do not have to believe in or support someone else view to try to see it through their eyes and challenge your own assumptions of their opinion. Or, to ultimately continue acting with compassion and respect, despite the disagreement.

Let’s teach children to ask good questions before forming assumptions and opinions, and defending their positions on things. This kind of objective thinking will help them navigate the often heavily biased information age we now face. It is also a skill that will help them make better decisions in work and life in general. 

We do not know what is around the next bend in this quickly changing climate. Kids and people will need to be resourceful, adaptable, cooperative and confident in themselves to succeed and thrive.

Nature is an incredible teacher of all these traits, and you can help consciously bring in some of the other pieces. I know this is a complex topic with many possibilities, and the conversation is far from over. Let's learn from and inspire each other.

Share your ideas, projects, techniques, resources, etc. in the comments below!

Feb 16

How to Stay Warm in Winter, Mind, Body, Shelter

By Chris Gilmour | Extreme Weather

How to Stay Warm in Winter, Mind, Body, Shelter

In this post, I would like to invite you to deepen your relationship with a fundamental human need, How to Stay Warm in Winter and Shelter. Knowledge of the principles of shelter is something ALL humans used to have as an essential human know-how. It was (and still is) a part of everyday life and survival.  

Knowing the basics can help you survive a disaster, a night in the woods, design a more energy efficient and disaster resilient home, or just be more comfortable on an excessively hot, cold, windy or rainy day.

** Make sure to check out the "Home Survival Shelter Video" at the bottom of this post

What would you do if the power went out for an extended period of time, lets say 4 days+, and temperatures were in the -20 range? In the video I’ll show you how to make a survival shelter inside your home to keep you and your family warm. This is a great disaster survival skill.

I like to break shelter into 3 different layers:

  • Layer 1 - Mind & Body
  • Layer 2 - Clothing
  • Layer 3 - Physical Shelters ( A building, home or survival shelter we built)
Igloos are great survival shelter designs

A Little Context...

In the world of survival and disaster preparedness, there is a commonly used concept called the Rule of 3’s. People can survive approximately:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without adequate shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

As you can see, shelter is high on the list of priorities. People are often surprised that shelter comes before food and water, yet you only have to think about the toll of the elements, wind, rain, heat, to realize what is dangerous versus what feels uncomfortable to you right now. 

Principals of Shelter 

The following are points I use when teaching wilderness survival shelter building. They are just as relevant when considering your clothes or the design of your home.

A. Heat Source

When it comes to humans, heat comes from one of two categories, internal or external. Internal heat refers to the heat our own body creates through the

burning of calories and the functioning of all our organs and internal systems. External heat refers to any other source, including the sun, a fire or the multiple options to heat our homes such as propane, electric, gas, etc.

How to stay warm during a blackout, woodstoves

B. Insulation

Layers of fibre that create pockets of "dead air space” to allow heat capture and slow down heat loss, or materials that act as thermal mass, storing and slowing the movement of heat.

C. Drainage

The ability of our shelter to shed water and keep us dry.

D. Durability

The ability of our shelter to hold up under duress and friction from the elements and other activities.

E. Efficiency

Does the amount of resources (could be physical work or $$$) put into the shelter warrant its ability to provide adequate shelter?

There is a book I recommend, by educator Tomas J. Elpel, about these principles, called "Living Homes." A good read if you want a deeper understanding of these principles.

The Three Layers of Shelter & How to Stay Warm

Let’s now take a deeper look at the 3 Layers of Shelter and how we can make the most of them and prepare for prosperity in a world of climate change and uncertain times. 

Layer One: Mind & Body

The first line of protection from the elements is your own body and mind. What are they capable of enduring, or even enjoying? Remember, your body has been adapted over a long time to handle stress (physical and mental). Your DNA has a blueprint for resiliency. You should be able to rely on your mind and body as a protective layer, at least to some degree.

Humans have lived in harsh outdoor environments for hundreds of thousands of years. We are capable of training our bodies and minds to be very resilient and hardy when it comes to extreme conditions.

I would purpose that the comforts of our modern world have made us relatively un-resilient and even soft. This is compared to our generational predecessors who lived outside 365 days a year regardless of the weather.

As I make that point, please know I recognize there are many legitimate reasons people may not be as resilient to the elements as our ancestors, such as a medical condition or living situation. This statement is non intended to shame anyone for being “soft”. It is a statement about the general trend of humans becoming less resilient to the elements as the world becomes more modernized, as we drift away from our ancient and important connection with nature.

How do we increase our resilience to the elements?

When exposed to small amounts of certain types of stress, our bodies natural response is to adapt and bounce back stronger.

This is one of the reasons why exercise, a type of low level stress, is so beneficial to our health and makes us stronger over time. There is a ton of research coming out these days on the health benefits of saunas and cold exposure as well. These are also low level stresses on our bodies that trigger a regeneration process that makes us stronger.

Most people are capable of intentionally training themselves to be more resilient to the cold, the heat, going days without food, and other stressful situations. This training is the same as push-ups or crossword puzzles: reaching the potential of your body and mind.

  • You might ask, well why the heck would I want to do that? That does not sound fun. I’ll argue the contrary.

The benefits are immense and can positively impact many aspects of your life.

From your ability to focus and achieve goals, to the ability to enjoy the outdoors regardless of weather, or your ability to thrive in an unchosen stressful situation such as a disaster or extreme weather event.

Learning to regulate your emotional attachment and relationship to hot, cold, stress and hunger is incredibly empowering and brings a greater sense of freedom.

Here a few suggestions for getting started:

  • Putting the right fuel in your body as well as having a healthy cardiovascular system (good blood flow) can go along ways in this. I eat a TON of healthy fat in the winter and it makes a HUGE difference in my ability to stay warm and my energy level. Check out this article where I discuss lessons from Nature in staying warm.
Edible Acorns as Survival Food
  • If you live in a cold climate that experiences winter, try to avoid wearing a jacket as long as possible as winter begins. People are always amazed about how few layers I wear in the winter time and how comfortable I am outdoors. I intentionally under-dress in the first month of winter. It is kind of like when you leave a dog outside all day, day after day at the start of the winter. It will grow a thicker coat then a dog left inside. The same goes with humans. Mid winter when everyone feels the cold is unbearable, I finally put on a jacket and I’m quite comfortable and able to enjoy my time outdoors. Please keep in mind this kind of training compounds over time, doing it for a week is unlikely to show you amazing results. The key is commitment, consistently and knowing your why.
  • Start with short exposures to temperatures outside your comfort zone. This could be turning your shower water on cold for 30 seconds and forcing yourself to breath normally (this part is important) under the cold temperatures. Or go stand outside in shorts and a t-shirt for a few minutes a day in the winter and again focus on your breathing. Increase the duration of this over time.
  • Learn to regulate your internal temperature and stress response through breathing. An interesting starting point in cold exposure and the power of breath work is researching the work of  “Ice Man, Wim Hoff.” Wim Hoff holds many world records including feats such as sitting in ice water for over an hour and ten minutes, climbing part way up Mount Everest wearing only shorts and shoes, and running in the dessert with no water. He has trained thousands of people around the world to endure extreme temperatures through intentional exposure to stresses such as cold or heat, intentional breathing techniques and the power of the mind. Training your body and mind to be more resilient gives you a HUGE advantage when it comes to survival.
Layer Two: Clothing

The next line of defense is the clothing you choose to wear. Not all clothing is created equal when it comes to extreme (or any) weather and the elements. Remember our principles of shelter when choosing the best clothing to invest in: Heat Source, Insulation, Durability, Drainage, Efficiency. All of these = effectiveness to protect you from the elements.

Have you ever heard the saying, “cotton kills”?

 Wet cotton has no insulation value. It has the reverse effect and draws warmth out of your body. Moist or wet cotton (even just a little sweat) can cause you to get colder even faster. Thus avoid wearing cotton if you anticipate inclement weather or being in a cold environment.

This even goes for being inside your home if the heating system is not functioning. Even normal, non strenuous day to day activities, cause small amounts of sweat to form on our bodies. Before you go to bed, change to a fresh set of clothes and ideally out of cotton for a warm night sleep.

Wool is the Winner!

Wool on the other hand is still very effective in helping you retain body heat even when it is wet. 

Wool is often very durable compared to cotton and will better hold up to wear and tear in a post disaster landscape. Tight nit wool is even mildly water resistant to a light rain. The downsides are when wool gets wet, it can be quite heavy and take a long time to dry out, it can be expensive, and it may be itchy. Thrift stores and army surplus stories are great places to find good deals on wool clothing.

How to stay warm in winter with wool clothes

I went through the ice on a -15C day once while out in the woods. I got soaked from neck down but had wool socks, long johns, pants and multiple layers of wool shirts and sweaters on.

Although my wardrobe was now much heavier due to water retention, I decided to test it against the cold. I stayed out side for over an hour in wet clothing in minus temperatures and was plenty warm. It works and is now the main fiber I wear in the outdoors.

Merino wool is very popular amongst outdoor adventures and athletes as it does not cause the same itchiness as traditional wool. It will usually dry much faster, and still helps retain body heat when it is wet.

On Synthetic Clothing...

Synthetic clothing (ex: polypropylene) often dry out quickly and some help wick moisture away from your body, thus being better than cotton for insulation and drainage. The durability of these layers will not be as strong as wool. Also, if you are going to be around open fires or hot heat sources, remember synthetic clothing can melt.

The key takeaway here is to consider what types of clothing materials you are wearing if you may be facing inclement or even extreme weather or temperatures.

Do not be complacent if traveling via a car, cab, or subway and underdress, relying on the vehicle to protect you from the elements. Always assume you may have to travel outside and be ready for this.

In 2010, a snow storm struck London Ontario during the evening commute. It brought significantly more snow than forecasted and over 300 cars got buried on the highway. People driving home from work had to spend the entire night stuck in their cars in a snowstorm. How would you far in this situation?

When selecting any clothing, consider these factors:

  • Durability: Will it stay together if exposed to a higher than normal amount of friction and abrasion due to a disaster or extreme weather event?
  • Insulation: How well will it keep you warm if wet? Will it protect you from the sun and keep you cool during extreme heat?
  • Dry time: how long will it take to dry when wet? You may not have access to electricity or even sunshine for days to weeks.
  • Efficiency: how do all the above factors combine to determine how efficient and effective your clothing system is?

People often comment about how it appears that I am wearing very little clothing in the winter and rarely wear a coat even at -20C. This is due partially to my mind body relationship with the cold and partly to a really good layering systems. Here are my winter layers:

-   Merino wool t-shirt and long john layer

-   Thin merino wool hoodie

-   Thicker army surplus full wool sweater

-   Outer fleece hoodie

-   Wool plants

-   Thin merino wool base layer socks

-   Thick full wool socks

-   Wool hat

-   Snowmobile mits

Layer Three: Structure

The next line of defense is any larger physical structure you can get inside of to help protect you from the elements. Just like clothing, not all physical structures are created equally either, and the same principles apply.

One often overlooked variable to consider in construction design it how the structure is built into the landscape. Whether building a survival shelter out of branches and debris or a home out of lumber, consider the following:

  • How is the drainage of the surrounding landscape? A lot of home basements flood because the home is in a bad location to begin with and the design did not take that into consideration.
  • Where does water go when it drains off of the roof?
  • Are the tree’s and shrubs planted around the shelter species that absorb large amounts of water?
  • Which way does the predominant wind of your area blow from? Is that taken into consideration for the homes design and just as importantly, landscape design?
  • When does the sun hit your shelter and how does this change throughout the seasons?
  • Is the greater landscape exposed to the wind or sheltered from it?

You'll notice that most primitive/regionally traditional architecture meets all of these needs... historical or fantastically!

Applying the Principals to Your Home

When we bought our homestead I took many of the principals I teach in wilderness survival workshops and applied it to assessing the location of our home before purchasing. Here were a few of the main selling features for my wife and I:

  • The house was on a sand mound - really good drainage and protection from flooding and moldy basements from excess moisture.
  • The house was in a small valley - Protection from strong winds, reduced risk of tornadoes and better protection from forest fires.
  • The house was close to a clean natural water source - during a prolonged blackout we would still have access to clean water.
  • The house had a wood stove and forest around it - We will always have access to wood for heating and cooking even during a blackout and a plethora of other resources from the forest.

There are many good resources out there on wilderness survival shelters and more efficient and disaster resistant home design. For now I hope the previous questions get you thinking a little bit about how your knowledge of the surrounding ecology is useful in choosing where and how to build any kind of structure.

The last thing I will leave you with is a video on applying some of the principals of shelter to blackout during a cold snap. What do you do if your furnace stops working for several days or longer and it is very cold out? In this video I demonstrate how to build a warm survival shelter inside of your home.

If you found this valuable, please SHARE!

How to Stay Warm Pin

What are YOUR tips for Staying Warm? Comments and Thoughts Below

how to prepare for an uncertain future
Jan 19

Preparing for Prosperity, How to Plan for an Uncertain Future

By Chris Gilmour | Prepared Lifetyle

Preparing for Prosperity
How I'm Planning for an Uncertain Future


This post was written to start a conversation in the Changing World Community around some of the major shifts happening in the world right now.  Let's discuss what is changing and how we can all plan for prosperity in uncertain times. 

**Share you thoughts and ideas in the comments! 

  • Climate Change,
  • Increasing extreme weather events,
  • Significant shifts in the ecology of our environment,
  • Major shifts in the foundations of how our economy and workforce work
  • Massive changes in technology that will impact every aspect of our lives and future.

This is the reality of our rapidly changing world!

adapting to climate change

The article has four sub-topics to get the conversation going:

          1. Economy 

  1. 2. Climate & Weather
  2. 3. Health Care System & Emerging Health Issues
  3. 4. The New Era of Digital Life & Emerging Cyber Threats
how to survive a recessions

In our busy modern world, with bills to pay and countless things fighting for our attention, it is easy to miss just how fast things are shifting. It can also be challenging to find time to consider these changes when our days are already so full of essential things to do. 

BUT... if you get blindsided by one of these changes, such as losing your job to a machine, finding yourself in the middle of a natural disaster, having your identity stolen online, etc., you will have no choice but to consider it and the consequences of not being prepared. 

Many people do not fully grasp the scope and scale of how quickly life as we know it is shifting. When I talk about changes, it’s not all bad, unless you don’t see it coming, and it blindsides you. 

To be resilient and adaptable we need to play two chess games at once, the short term game and the long term game.  These are some of the "chess moves" I am playing in 2019. I'd like to hear and learn from some of yours as well. 

Please share your thoughts in the comments so we can all learn from each other. Also please share and invite others into the conversation.

4 Ways The World is
Changing Fast
& What I’m Doing to Adapt 

1) The Economy

Uncertain Economic Times

This one I believe is going to blindside and create challenges for a lot of people. The economy and workforce are shifting fast. We are already witnessing MAJOR disruptions in this domain, and many more are coming in the not so distant future. 

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • Very few jobs come with pensions, benefits or even real job security anymore. We need to re-asses how we save for later life stages and plan for disruptions in the economy and workforce.
  • Technology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence is on the verge of disrupting millions of jobs around the world and replacing humans with machines. 
  • Start-up's like Uber, Air B&B, etc. are disrupting entire industries and millions of jobs and changing the way everyday life looks. 
  • The world as a whole (countries and people) have acquired an unprecedented amount of dept. There is WAY more money owed than physical dollars that exist in the world.
  • We are just on the threshold of the cryptocurrency revolution. Cryptocurrency is likely to change the way the global economy works. At the moment it feels like the wild west so it is hard to anticipate exactly what this will look like. 
  • The U.S. dollar is loosing global strength, this is creating a massive shift in global politics and control. MANY countries have moved away from a U.S, backed dollar in recent years which is shifting the political dynamics of the entire world. The impact of this will be is felt in many areas of our day to day life. 

If we had another major recession like, “The Great Depression” of the 1930s, we now have:

 1) a WAY higher average household debt load, 

2) Many people do not have the self-reliance skills they had in the ’30s. It is a different time, and very people are prepared for it.

Uncertain Economic Times

What I'm doing to prepare & adapt:

  • Encouraging the youth I mentor to develop entrepreneurial skills. Making sure they are not afraid to fail and that they know how to learn from these failures, get back up, and try again. Teaching the art of strategy and leverage, problem-solving and leadership skills. Taking your destiny into your own hands. 
  • Increasing my Financial IQ, so I better understand how the economy and rules regulating how my own money works and is manipulated. The economy has become a giant game, a handful of ppl are good at it, most are not (me included). By better understanding the rules, I hope to be better able to leverage the money I do earn and maximize any assets I acquire making me more resilient finically.
  • Assessing my existing income streams and being realistic in assessing their vulnerability to some of the changes I mentioned above. For example, my wife and I run https://www.wildmuskoka.com. If we had another major recession, which of our products would be likely to stop selling and which may still be in demand? What about my contract teaching jobs? Which would have funding even in a recession and which would get the ax? 
  • Trying to create multiple streams of revenue and using the influence of the internet for some of them. By having multiple streams of income, if an event impacts one, hopefully, I do not lose my monthly cash flow and become unable to pay bills and maintain my quality of life. It is kind of like planting a monoculture agriculture crop and having a disease or the weather wipe it out, vs. planting a diverse permaculture food system where something is always ready to eat. 
  • Always learning and developing new skills, so I have lots of experience and options to fall back on. 
  • Constantly networks and helping others out, this often pays itself back tenfold! 

2) The Climate & Weather

Prepare for extreme weather

We are coming out of a wild couple of years of extreme droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and more. These events are nothing new, but what is new is we see changes in the frequency and intensity of some of these extreme weather events.

We are also starting to see some of these storms take on untraditional behaviors such as:

  • How slow Hurricane Harvey traveled (coupled with un-resilient urban design practices i.e., lack of wetlands and green space to absorb excess water) in 2018, allowing for unprecedented flooding in parts of Texas 
  • The speed that some of the wildfires were traveling in California in 2018, and their ability to sneak up and devastate entire communities with minimal warning. According to Wikipedia, "The 2018 wildfire season is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha)" 

* Two Hurricanes changing direction and traveling the “wrong way”  according to historical patterns in the Atlantic Ocean.  One of these was Hurricane Ophelia in 2017, which according to Wikipedia was the “easternmost Atlantic Major Hurricane on record.” 

What I'm doing to prepare & adapt: 

  • Making personal emergency preparedness a higher priority for 2019. I am:
    • Making more advanced emergency communications (phone & wifi down) plans with my family & community.
    • Restocking and upgrading our car emergency kits, grab and go bags & home emergency supplies.
    • Filling in all the holes of areas of emergency preparedness where I know I should be better prepared.
    • Meeting with neighbors to talk about our communities ability to support each other in the event of a larger or longer-term disaster event.
  • Launching “Survive The Storms”, a 7-day interactive eCourse Adventure to help walk people through getting all their plans and kits together & learning essential survival skills in a fun, timely and engaging way.
Survive The Storm

You can follow along with our process of creating a more resilient garden by following our blog category, “Survival Gardening” https://camerainthewoods.com/category/survival-gardening/  

You may also enjoy the post, “6 Tips for Growing Food for Climate Change, Food Security & Disaster Survival”. - https://camerainthewoods.com/growing-your-own-food-survival-gardening-climate-change/ 

3) Changes to the Healthcare System and Emerging Bacterias, Diseases & Viruses 

Learn herbal medicine for uncertain times

This is a BIG topic in the health care community and amongst Emergency Management Professionals. It is one many individuals outside of these professions know little about yet it is starting to affect us all.

Here are a few examples:

  • A rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These are strains of bacteria resistant to all know antibiotics. Examples include C Dificile, MRSA, antibiotic resistant eColi and more. 
  • The spread of emerging diseases such as new strains of Influenza or tick-related diseases and tick population expansion. 
  • The baby boomer demographic. In North America, we have a historically unprecedented number of people moving into later life stages. They bring a lot of additional needs to a health care system already struggling with long wait times, being understaffed and often aging infrastructure. 
  • Modern medicine is fantastic and saves lives. It also does NOT have all the answers, especially when it comes to chronic disease. Sometimes modern medicine can make things worse and sometimes the best doctors in the world don’t know what is going on with your body or how to help you.
  •  In an extreme weather event or disaster it is possible you will not have access to advanced medical care such as hospitals and doctors. 

What I'm doing to prepare & adapt:

  • Remembering there are no guarantees of a long life. Making sure that I take time to enjoy life now, spend time with the ones I love, and give back to my community and the environment. 
  • Taking full responsibility for my own health. The doctors are part of the team but I no longer rely on them for all the miracle answers and cures. This includes:
  • Making my health a TOP priority. Eating well consistently, not over costume food or alcohol, getting lots of exercises and enough sleep.
  • Continuing to learn more about my body and anatomy.
  • A big one for me is working on my fear around health issues. Our minds are so powerful. They can make symptoms worse or make us more vulnerable to a disease in the first place. Simultaneously our mind can trigger the healing process. Fear does not help our immune system and it takes concious work to re-pattern our brains around fear.
  • Studying herbal medicine to be used in conjunction with the best of modern medicine. I believe this is SO important at this point in history. Three of my favorite books related to some of these emerging health challenges are Stephen Burners: 

** The three book links above are Amazon Affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links a small portion of the revenue get redirected to help maintain this website with no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting our work!

4) The New Era of the “Internet of Things,” Digital life, and New & Emerging Cyber Threats 

Cyber Security

This topic feels a little like being the frog in the soup pot as it is being brought to a boil.

I think we are close to boiling point and many of us never got to vote (or were informed of what this means for our privacy, rights, health, security, future) on whether we want this new digital era we are now embarking on. 

Like many, I have become desensitized a bit to how quickly technology is creeping into every aspect of our lives, how quickly privacy is creeping away and some of the unforseen impacts of a digital world. 

In the few years since I got my iPhone, I can feel the way it, combined with social media, is changing the way I think. I feel a difference in my awareness, my attention span, and my body. 

Some of the significant challenges I foresee here are:

  • The continued rise of mental health issues and social anxiety in youth (and adults) that is being shown to have a direct link to screen time, social media, etc. 
  • Social Media and Search Engine Algorithms that are designed to support and strengthen our world views without objectivity. If all my friends are liberals, then I am inundated with liberal arguments for why I am correct. If all my friends are conservative, it does the same. If I’m depressed for a year and spend a lot of time looking at depressing things, social media will begin to show me more depressing things and help my brain hardwire this as truth. The impact of this on society is already showing itself, and it is not pretty. 
  • Digital propaganda and “big data” being used to help influence elections, popular opinion on issues, etc., without us even realizing we have been influenced to believe something without all the facts. 
  • Literally EVERYTHING we say and do on and around modern computers and phones is recordable and trackable. I am not saying every moment of your life is being watched. I am saying we are in a world where that is possible without you even knowing. Big Data collection is way beyond what most of us can even comprehend. 
  • There have been multiple websites shut down that were streaming peoples random webcams from around the world without them knowing. Imagine you are being live streamed and do not even know? Or your Alexa device is transmitting your conversation to someone who is planning on stealing your identity or wants revenge against you? 
  • The impacts of being able to “Google” things in an instant or scrolling a social media feed and being fed more random information and stimulus than our brains are designed to handle. What are the impacts of this on our brains? Our ability to think objectively? On our attention spans? Our mental health and more? 
  • So much of our infrastructure is now tied together by the web and “Internet of Things.” A significant security breach, cyber attack or even a massive solar flare such as the one of 1859, could bring a major city to stand still and impact critical infrastructure or the infrastructure of our own home and even our identity and bank records. 
  • Identity theft and manipulation is becoming much more common. 

* A new era of cyberbullying 

What I'm doing to prepare & adapt:

  • Not being complacent when it comes to cyber security. I have no interest in being an expert in the domain but I believe we are in an area where everyone should know the basics for their own safety.
  • Assuming that NOTHING I do online or on my phone is truly private. For example, if I am going traveling and leaving my home empty for a month, I won’t share this over social media even though “theoretically" only my friends are supposed to see it. I also assume my webcam is ALWAYS on and my phone is ALWAYS recording. 
  • Putting emergency preparedness measures in place that would allow me to live comfortably for days to weeks if a surge or cyber attack impacted critical infrastructure. 
  • Being conscious that my newsfeed and search engine results are being tailored to fit my (and my friends) existing world view. Doing my best always to ask, “what is my bias in this opinion I have?”, and "what information or perspective am I missing?” Being open-minded in general an assuming the information I consume is biased and not complete. 
  • Committing to 3 - 4 screen free nights a week, no phones, no internet, no movies. Reclaiming my brain patterning! 
  • Continuing to read paper books and doing research on topics via books to maintain these skills sets and counteract the brain patterning caused by my computer. Reading paper books is very good for developing attention span. 
  • Not looking at my phone when socializing or eating meals. The text can wait till after dinner for a response. Not checking social media first thing in the morning or before I go to bed. Allowing my brain to be deprogrammed from these mind and life-altering habits . 
  • Spending time out in nature daily. No phones, no taking pictures, just observing, being in the moment, getting exercise, using all of my senses to experience the magic of the world. Letting nature program my brain instead of a digital device being manipulated by... a million different interests. 

While in nature I like to:

  • Tune into all my senses and clear my thoughts of everything but the stimulus of that moment and place. 
  • Look for patterns or things that stand out in the trees, plants, mammals, birds, etc 
  • Notice which way the wind is blowing from, what the clouds are doing, and make predictions about the weather. 
  • Look for signs of animal tracks and listen to what the birds have to say. 
  • Ask questions about the ecology of the place I'm in. 

- Allow nature, the original teacher, to pattern my brain! 

Please invite your friends & family to this important conversation!

Preparing for an uncertain future

  • What challenges do you foresee in our Changing World?

  • What are YOU doing to adapt?


Share your thoughts and comments below!

Best Emergency Preparedness Gifts for Family
Dec 01

Best Emergency Preparedness Gifts Ideas for Family & Friends

By Chris Gilmour | Prepared Lifetyle

12 Great Emergency Preparedness Gifts for Family, Friends or Yourself 

Want to Skip to the Gear & Gift ideas? - Scroll Down

A common question I get asked is, "How do I get my family better prepared if they do not see the importance?

My family, like many others, recognize the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and know things happen sometimes. But they are not as passionate about it as I am and thus are not going to give a lot of attention.

A few years ago I was considering what to get them for Christmas; they do not need (or even want) anything. I realized this was perfect; I'll build them emergency kits.

The first year I got them a barrel of freeze-dried food. Here is why this is so awesome:
- It contains several weeks of food in case there was ever a more significant emergency such as the Ice Storm of 1997,
- It has a 30-year life span. Thus you can stick it in crawl space, forget about and hope you never need to use it (but sleep better knowing it is there!)
- The food is premixed ​Pasta Alfredo, Enchilada Beans & Rice, Cheese & Broccoli Soup & more. 

I also include two 5-gallon jugs of water. With the water already in their house, this should get the two of them through a week.

Year two I made them two emergency car kits — nothing fancy like the one I carry in my car, just the basics so they could survive a night. If they got caught in a snow storm had to spend the night in their cars, like the storm that buried 300 vehicles on the 401 some years ago near London, Ontario. Or if any other unexpected situation came up, it would give them some

Top 12 Emergency Preparedness Gift Ideas

I've broken this section down into 3 categories with a few recomendations for each

6 Stocking Stuffers for Emergency Preparedness & Survival 

Resque Me - Car Escape Tool

This is must have for anyone who drives. Small, inexpensive and could save lives. The ResqMe goes in the car door and can cut your seat belt and break a window if your in a car accident and trapped in car. 

It is such a simple and brilliant idea, I think everyone who drives should have one just in case!

SOL Emergency Bivvy Bag

I keep one of these in each car and another one in my outdoors day bag. If you ever had to spend a night in your car due to a blizzard, spend a night in the woods, or even a cold night in your house without power, this is a game changer.

This reflective bag holds in a TON of your body heat, is durable and waterproof.

Fish Yo Yo - Survival or Ice Fishing

This one is for more of wilderness survival kit and it also great for any outdoor enthusiast or fisherwoman/man in the family. I keep these in my grab and go kit and outdoors bag. I've also caught a bunch of trout ice fishing with them. 

Berky Sports Water Bottle with Filter

This great water bottle comes with a built in water filter that removes bacteria, viruses, and even reduces chlorine, fluoride and a host of chemicals.  Just fill it up in any fresh water source or questionable tap water. This is great for outdoor expeditions and in a car or other emergency kit. 

Best Emergency Water Filter

Mora Knife & Fire Starter

You can't go wrong with a Mora knife. Great quality steel and this one comes with a ferro rod fire starter build into the sheath. 

Great for the outdoor enthusiast and a knife is an essential survival tool. 

Book - When Disaster Strikes

This is a very comprehensive book covering a plethora of information related to natural  and man made disasters and survival in general. It is my go to text book for disaster survival referencing. 

6 Awesome Preparedness Gift Ideas

Royal Berky Water Filter

I got this one as a gift and it is one of my FAVOURITE pieces of gear and a preparedness essential!

The Royal Berky is a gravity fed filter that we use for our tap water (it removes lead, heavy metals, pharmeceuticals, 

Emergency & Disaster Water Purification

Grid Down Emergency Weather Radio

This is another one of my "Must Have" for me. When the phones and internet go down you want to be able to stay informed.

This is a hand crank radio that allows you to listen to the news, Weather band for weather updates and has a flashlight.

Leatherman Wave Multi-tool

This is part of my EDC (Every Day Carry). I keep in my pocket and use it almost ever day for something. This is a super practical day to day tool that would also be SO VALUABLE in a disaster or emergency.

Emergency Food Cache - 25yr Lifespan

This makes preparedness simple. Stick it in a closet and forget about it for the next 25 years. And if a prolonged disaster ever occurs you know you won't starve.

BioLight - Camp Stove & USB Charger

I got this as a gift a few years ago and love it. The stove uses literally a couple small handfuls of twigs to bring water to a boil and will charge your phone while the water is boiling. Even in an urban setting you should have no problem scavenging enough wood to cook if the power is out. 

Tactical Flashlight - Self Defence & Light

I also got this as a gift and it is also part of my EDC (Every Day Carry). It sits nicely in my pocket when ever I leave the house. I use this almost daily as well just for the flashlight. BUT... At 1000 lumens, it will temporarily blind someone giving you an opportunity to escape from an attacker. 

Please share some of your favourite gear in the comments & PLEASE SHARE THIS POST to help Changing World keep growing!

1 2 3