I’ve known Mark Hunt, owner of Precision Survival, for a while now. This summer I was lucky enough to be invited to come spend some time in the woods, and get an idea of what Precision Survival is all about.
Mark is a very interesting character. He has a huge amount of experience, and a very broad skills base. When you start chatting to him about how he has acquired his skills you get tales of adventures all around the world. Add to that his Cockney charm & wit, and you get a very engaging instructor.
I will be at pains to stress, as would Mark himself, that he is not a Bushcraft Instructor. He is a Survival Instructor. The skillsets he teaches gives you a hell of a lot more capability than a weekend in the woods. The baseline course will give you the skills you need to last two weeks or more in a survival situation.
For full details on the courses available, you will need to take a look at the website.
The courses range from a two-night basic course, to an advanced 6-day course, to a hardcore survival challenge where you can test the skills you have learned.
There are one-on-ones and corporate team building on offer too. Mark is also an accomplished tracker and offers a 12-hour introduction as well as longer, more detailed training by private arrangement.
My course was a taster of all of these.
The first thing that is different from other courses is that Mark provides you with ALL the kit you will use. He doesn’t want any one student to have an advantage based on having bought a ton of high-end gear. Each student is provided with a set of basic equipment that is used for the duration of the course. You receive a bag which contains a sleeping system, a knife, a saw, a pot, a water bottle, mug, Millbank Bag, ferro rod, and a tarp. Your knife and ferro rod are a bright orange. Having just re-watched the first season of alone, and having seen Joe Robinet quit on day three, because he lost his ferro rod, I can understand why this is the case!
The equipment is all good quality and more than adequate for the course.
The course itself takes place in a fantastic location. Mark uses a set of woods on the Welsh Border, not far from Ross-on-Wye. It’s a mixed woodland, surrounded by farmland, and is ideal for these courses. It is remote enough from the nearest house to feel like you have “got away” from society. There are plenty of resources to exploit for training purposes. Deadfall for firewood, hazel for nice straight staves, running water for purification etc. It is also a great location to learn some tracking skills, but more on that later.
We started the course by going back to the basics. The first thing we did was spend a bit of time going over the theory side of survival. This is where we were introduced to Wilson… I was already familiar with the rules of three from previous courses. But I wasn’t aware of what three months without human contact does to you psychologically. Three months without the stimulus of conversation or other interaction is permanently damaging. We were given the example of Bush Pilots in Alaska dropping supplies in remote areas to trappers or prospectors and describing them as having gone “bushy”. Wilson comes in as a means to stop you dropping off of the edge if you are on your own. Even chatting to an inanimate object can keep you from the brink.
Once we had been issued our kit, we went into a tarp set up. There are a million different ways to set up a tarp. Each time I’m shown a new way I learn something useful. This time it was a quick release knot I hadn’t seen before. I also had an object lesson of why you should always check for widow-makers when a beech tree decided to drop a large branch right next to my tarp without any warning.
After this we moved onto fire and water purification. Like everything Mark does, it’s all about the KISS principal. The simpler something is, the less equipment you need, and the easier it is to survive and thrive. Yes, we lit fires using a ferro rod but, as Mark says, it’s a lot easier to carry a lighter…
For the water purification, we gathered water from a river, filtered it with a Millbank Bag, and then boiled it. We were responsible for gathering the firewood and lighting the fire, as well as gathering the water, so that we understood how much effort went into ensuring we had clean water. We were also introduced to a Gypsy Well. I hadn’t seen this before, so I was very interested in how effective it proved to be.
For feeding we were given a 24-hour ration pack. We were told that this was to last us the duration of the course. This was very effective at getting us into the survival mindset. Planning for being hungry is very important. You need to be aware of when you will have the most energy so that you can then plan to do the most work at that point. As we were on a taster course and Mark wanted us to have our wits about us for the next stage, we were given a further ration pack the next morning. But, the lesson of planning for hunger was still learned.
The second day was devoted to tracking. This was by far my favourite part of the weekend. Mark is an excellent instructor. He doesn’t just focus on ground sign. With Mark we were pulled into discussions on likely behaviour from different types of people we might want to track, and how that behaviour would translate into physical signs. We learned the importance of working in teams, and how you can use that team effectively. Over the course of the day, we went from never having tracked at all to successfully tracking someone through dense bush, at night! I fully intend to spend more time with Mark working on this skill further. It really does change the way you view the world. I now find myself reading the ground when I am out walking the dog….
Whilst I have spoken mainly about Mark, he was aided by his colleague Ian. Ian is the foil to Mark’s rapid-fire cockney wit. Ian is a softly spoken Welshman, who has also had a lifetime of adventures. The pair of them complement each other very well, and draw the most out of the students.
Sitting around the campfire in the evening, or on a brew break, conversation with Mark and Ian turns up endless extra pieces of valuable information. Mark’s anecdotes of his adventures over the years very rapidly highlight why he has such a varied and in-depth skillset. I won’t drop any spoilers here, but you will definitely enjoy the stories.
The 48-Hour Survivor course offers 2 nights in the woods and will equip you with the skills to survive for 2 weeks or more. The cost is very reasonable at £179. Especially if you consider that you will not need any equipment at all for this course. You can literally turn up with appropriate clothing and get stuck in.
The Survivor Advantage course is also very reasonable priced at £445. With 6 nights in the woods and a much-expanded syllabus, you get great value for money.
Other courses, as well as corporate, and on-on-one training are equally well priced.
It is very clear that you are spending time with some VERY accomplished outdoorsmen. You get in-depth knowledge, good quality equipment, and great value for money. I will definitely be back to spend some more time with Precision Survival!