Like a BOSS (Boulder Outdoor Survival School)

The days are dictated by the sun, and there are many skills to learn. That being said, little is more rewarding than providing for yourself in the wilderness, especially in the 21st-century world of modern luxuries. Hard work? Yes. One heck of a time? Most definitely. Learn rugged survival skills from the masters in extended field courses at The Boulder Outdoor Survival School, Inc. (BOSS). There are lots of ways to learn, but no matter the course choice, the school isn’t for the faint of heart. There are good reasons for that:

In 1968, survival specialist Larry Dean Olsen was a professor at Brigham Young University (BYU), where a handful of students were failing. Olsen thought that perhaps the constructs of our modern society were part of the reason these young adults couldn’t handle the stress of college. He proposed that the school let him take these failing students into the wilderness for 30 days to push their mental and physical limits. After the trip, the students had a renewed sense of commitment to their studies as well as an improved self-esteem, and they all passed.

It was this trip that inspired a wilderness course at BYU, which was eventually turned into the private Boulder Outdoor Survival School, Inc. (BOSS) in 1980. BOSS is now run by Josh Bernstein, former host of History Channel’s Digging for the Truth and Discovery Channel’s Into the Unknown with Josh Bernstein.

While it’s often lumped in with programs like Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the courses at BOSS focus more on primitive techniques and survival skills, and include everything from trapping to making your own weapons. That said, the field courses, which take place over 7, 14, or 28 days, appeal to a wide base of citizens looking for something adventurous, and yet do not require prior knowledge or experience.

When you set out on a Field Course, the pinnacle of BOSS’ offerings, you’ll carry little more than a knife, a poncho, and the clothes on your back. The courses are physically and emotionally gruelling. They are designed to educate you not only on wilderness survival skills, but also to instill an appreciation for indigenous cultures and the environment (in this case, the beautifully harsh and rugged terrain of Southern Utah). Beyond hard skills, the program fosters camaraderie and community among participants, and builds a strong sense of self-esteem.

Your Field Course curriculum will depend on the length of the course, but in general, you can count on learning to make fire with bow drills, to identify and interpret animal tracks, and to use handmade bows and arrows, spears, and atlatls. Furthermore, you’ll trap rodents and other wild animals for food, spear fish, and forage wild edibles for sustenance. Of course, you’ll also sleep under the starry Utah sky each night.

Aside from the Field Courses, BOSS also offers a Skills Course, where you will deep dive into survival skills from your basecamp on Boulder Mountain. Another option is an Explorer Course, which is educational, but has less of the physically-demanding components of the field courses. Explorer courses are themed around the hunter-gatherer, desert navigator, and survival rescue. You can also work with BOSS to create a customized course that can range from a couple hours to seven days.

Plan Your Course

To register or find out more about the courses at BOSS, call 800-335-7404 or fill out the contact form on their website. Most participants stay in Provo, UT before their adventure, and then either take a shuttle arranged by the company ($170 round-trip), or drive out to BOSS to start the program. BOSS is located at 615 North Highway 12 in Boulder, Utah. If you drive to Boulder from Provo, you will head south for a little more than 200 miles on Highway 12. Once you get into Boulder, the entrance to BOSS will be the first driveway on your right after crossing the cattle guard. Courses run May-October.

GPS Coordinates: 37.914119, -111.424423

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