Understanding the Three Core Competencies of Wilderness Skills Fundamentals

By Nick Italiano

When I began designing the Wilderness Skills Fundamentals program I thought about what someone with little to no experience in the outdoors needed to be safe and begin building towards being an accomplished outdoors person, as well as the mistakes I’ve seen many novices make. I wanted to develop a program that would help people not only develop the basic skills they need but also avoid spending money on equipment that they didn’t need or couldn’t use.

I decided on creating a three prong approach in order of importance.

1. Mindset

2. Skill Set

3. Gear Set


I started with mindset, because as with anything, the individuals state of mind is the key to success or failure. This has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather it is training your brain to prioritize certain things, identify potential threats, and fully utilizing our senses to avoid those threats.

The first part of mindset is knowing yourself. Taking a mental inventory of how you react to high stress situations, how aware you are of your surroundings, and understanding how you react to risk taking. By making an honest assessment of yourself you can begin to identify areas in which you need to improve upon to ensure that you can be safe and truly take in all the amazing things the great outdoors has to offer.

The second part involves using that honest self assessment and improving in areas where there may be deficiencies. From experience with many people some common areas of improvement are situational awareness, proper planning, memory, remaining calm in emergency and high stress situations, reducing risk taking behaviors, and general mindfulness and being present.

An additional area that I include in mindset is the utilization of our senses to identify and avoid hazards. If you lack any skills and any equipment you must rely on what you have available to you and that your senses to identify terrain and environmental hazards.


Your skill Set is something that you will spend your life developing and improving upon. My goal is to help people get the basics down so that they can operate safely and efficiently. Some of the basic skills people need include:

1. Making Fire

2. Getting Clean Drinking Water

3. Basic Shelter

4. Basic First Aid

5. Basic Food Fundamentals

6. Basic Equipment Maintenance

7. Wild Animal, Plant, and Fungi Safety

While this is not an full list of what the course will cover these basic skills will help keep you safe and provide a solid foundation to build upon over a lifetime of outdoor adventures.


Now that we have a solid mindset and a foundation in basic wilderness survival skills we can talk about gear. The most common mistake novice outdoors people make is they start with gear and they either buy things they don’t need or buy things they don’t know how to use. This is not only a waste of money, but leads people into a false sense of security.

This section will focus on guiding individuals to find the right gear for them based on their planned activities, environment, and level of skill. It will also provide guidance on how to properly utilize many essential pieces of equipment.


I believe with theses three core competencies, a novice outdoors person will have what they need to be safe and enjoy the great outdoors, as well as have a solid foundation to build on.

There is a wealth of skills that people may aquire including primitive fire, bushcraft, foraging, hunting, herbalism, and so many more. While we will touch upon many of these during the course, most of them will require years of study and practice to master. Being a competent outdoors person is not a race and it certainly isn’t a competition with others.

Stay safe, Stay Wild!

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