BOSS's reputation may have been created by its Field courses, but we soon discovered that many people want to learn traditional wilderness skills without the necessity of hiking miles and miles each day. As a result, Primitive Living Skills courses were created in the late 1980s. In the decades since, the curriculae of the courses have grown to include a list of topics that is both broad and deep, giving students a solid introduction to and advanced instruction in primitive living skills.
The course is now offered in two lengths, a 7-day format that delivers a solid foundation of basic wilderness skills and a 14-day format that builds on that foundation, adding more advanced skills and additional wilderness experiences. On both courses, students are expected to participate proactively and enthusiastically.
Since 1968, BOSS courses have set the standard for low-technology camping and desert hiking techniques, where instruction is conducted with minimal intrusion of modern technology in environments that allow course content to be experienced first-hand. Our commitment to quality and to our core philosophies has earned BOSS its reputation as the survival school to go to when you want to learn from the best in the industry.
The Course Location
Primitive Skills courses are taught in two possible settings just outside of Boulder, Utah: the Boulder Mountain basecamp and the desert valley basecamp. Both locations provide students with comfortable, natural shelters (wickiups, caves, etc.), free-flowing streams and spectacular scenery. Instruction is focused in the basecamp areas, but some travel is likely necessary to acquire materials or information not immediately available. Students should plan on bringing hiking boots suitable for day trips that may take us in knee-deep water and over rocks. Be advised: Our basecamps are simple teaching areas in pristine environments – without electricity, telephones and developed buildings.
7-Day vs 14-Day Course
The 7-Day Primitive Living Skills course typically includes instruction in primitive skills such as: bow drill friction fires, basic lithics, debris shelters, cordage methods, basic edible plants, trapping, and basic hunting tools. Other primitive skills may also be covered based in the time available based on the energy level and skill level of the students. Modern topics such as poncho shelters, camp hygiene, knife safety use and maintenance, priorities of survival, thermo-regulation of the body (dressing appropriately for the wilderness, sleeping warmly, external heat sources) and campsite selection are also covered on this course.
The 14-Day Primitive Living Skills course contains all of the content of the 7-Day course, plus additional skills relating to a Solo wilderness experience. The second week of 14-Day Skills begins students being placed in their own solo site, giving each a chance to put his or her previously learned skills to the test while enjoying some solitude.
Once Solo ends, students return to the basecamp and build upon the skills covered during Week One. Skills covered during Week Two vary depending on the interest of the students and available resources but may include: additional friction fire methods, primitive hunting and trapping tools, primitive pottery, primitive textiles such as felting or weaving, primitive basketry, hide tanning and primitive cooking methods using clay pots and a “Dakota stove” and food preparation techniques such as pinole, jerky or pemmican preparation.
Learning by Doing
At BOSS, we strongly believe in learning by doing. While at times, instruction will be done in lecture format, it will be done in the field where students can see what they are learning in situ and can practice their skills in a natural environment. BOSS course enrollment is designed to provide each course with a student-teacher ratio conducive to hands-on instruction. Our courses typically have 9-12 students and 3 staff. This ensures that our staff are available to students to help guide them through the lessons as needed or sought.
Health and Safety
BOSS requires that all Primitive Living Skills course applicants undergo a complete physical examination and receive their physician's approval in writing prior to final acceptance on the course.
Please keep in mind, despite your physician's approval and BOSS's acceptance of you on the course, there are no guarantees. Health and participation risks (inherent and otherwise) remain. It's up to you and your physician to determine if a BOSS course is an appropriate choice. All participants must be aware of these risks and embrace them. Please contact us if you have any questions.
On BOSS Field and Explorer courses, the minimum age is 18. On Skills Courses, the minimum age is 15 as long as participants under 18 come with a parent or guardian for the course. The key for Skills courses is a student’s maturity and interest in learning in a skills-intensive environment, so please ensure that any children you are bringing with you are 100% committed to making the most of their time with us.
Dates and Prices
Course dates, prices, and availability are listed to the right, at the top of the page. You can also download our complete course calendar in Adobe Acrobat PDF by clicking here. If you have any questions, please submit them via the Contact BOSS page or call us at 800.335.7404 or 303.444.9779.