Survival expert preaches practical approaches at sportsmen’s show

People attending the Washington Sportsmen’s Show, which opens Wednesday, would be wise to take in one of Peter Kummerfeldt’s seminars. Not just because this will be his last time at the Puyallup show, but because it could save lives.

“I think people, by and large, don’t do enough to prepare enough for themselves, their families, their cars,” Kummerfeldt said by phone from his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “Very few people have any kind of emergency supplies in their home, or have taken some kind of wilderness first aid course.

“The people who come to my seminars, they come back year after year because they want to learn something new. They have accepted the responsibility of being prepared,” he said. “Those that walk past the door of my seminar, they’re the ones who are going to be the casualties.”

Kummerfeldt has been teaching outdoor survival for 50 years, first for the U.S. Air Force and then on his own since 1996. He is the creator of outdoorsafe.com and the author of “Surviving a Wilderness Emergency.”

His approach to surviving — in the woods, in your vehicle or a natural disaster — is keeping it simple and practical.

People attending one of his five seminars during the five-day show won’t learn how to rub two sticks together to make a fire or what bugs to eat.

“I don’t see people out there teaching practical tips of survival. When it comes to keeping people alive for a night or two, the average person, no one seems to be doing that,” he said.

Kummerfeldt doesn’t shy away from criticizing television shows such as “Survivorman,” “Man vs. Wild” or “Naked and Afraid.”

“I don’t teach living off the land because, for the most part, it is too difficult to do,” he said. “To expect that a person can replicate that process (rubbing sticks to start a fire) in a life-threatening situation in poor conditions is ludicrous.”

He is just as quick to tell people to dump the space blanket, hand ax and snake bite kit.

“The first piece of equipment I would get rid of from every survival kit and store shelf, if I could, is space blankets. They are absolutely worthless,” Kummerfeldt said.

Surviving an accident while hunting or after an earthquake is not magic. It’s taking practical steps to deal with the situation.

“It’s being able to maintain your body temp as long as you can. It’s being able to deal with whatever injury you might have,” Kummerfeldt said. “The other huge issue in outdoor safety is hydration. You have to stay hydrated so you can think clearly.”

As proof that his approach works, Kummerfeldt cites the letters he has received from people who have survived based on what they learned at one of his seminars.

“Since 1996, we’ve had 41 people come back and say ‘Thank you, it worked.’ It’s pretty humbling, it makes you feel good. It reinforces that what you are doing is correct.”

Kummerfeldt said the decision to cut back his seminar schedule after all these years is an acknowledgment of his age and ailments. Still, he will spend the next month on the road doing shows in Puyallup and Portland, and a wilderness medicine conference in Park City, Utah.

“I can’t quit completely. Too many people out there are getting in trouble when they shouldn’t get in trouble,” he said.

“They will not accept the possibility they will be the ones getting in trouble. They just bury their heads in the sand.

“It’s been a frustration for all my career that the people who come to my seminars aren’t the people who need the help. They are prepared and know what to do. It’s the ones who walk by that need the help. But it’s easier to deny it’s going to happen than accept the possibility it will happen.”