If you want to learn survival skills, be it low or high tech, Reggie Bennett is the man. Friendly and unassuming, at first glance you may not realize that he is the quintessential survivalist. But with U.S. military training that taught him how to brave some of the globe's harshest conditions, and his time spent instructing Air Force pilots on how to survive, he is uniquely equipped to teach others at his Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia. On a sprawling 100 acres, Reggie and his wife Dina host everyone from housewives to schoolkids, CEOs to active-duty armed forces, and one lucky Yahoo! News host — yours truly.
The open spaces in Virginia make a great location for this kind of training. It's close enough to Roanoke that it's easy for guests to fly in. But it's remote enough that you feel at one with nature — even if that does mean I spent hours searching in vain for a cell phone signal.
[All original art is by the talented Zach Sheehan. Contact him here!]
To sum up Reggie's vast knowledge in one training session would be impossible. So he makes his survival tips simple, boiling them down to seven key priorities. They involve the basics, like finding food, water and shelter. A bit more complicated — starting a fire, signaling for help and providing first aid. But the most important aspect according to Reggie: maintaining a positive mental attitude. It's a perspective that's accessible to anyone braving the elements. And without it, he says, surviving becomes significantly more difficult.
Reggie's training taught him how to make it out of the wilderness with nothing but the most primitive tools. But with the help of a little technology, we can increase our odds of survival in almost any situation. Modern water purifiers use advanced filtration methods to keep us hydrated. Cell phone and GPS technology can help us find our way, or help rescuers locate us more quickly than ever. Today's compact, efficient batteries and solar power units keep our gadgets charged, long after the power — and cell phone signal - has gone out.
(Low tech or high tech, Reggie has found a way to make the idea of surviving fun. His school takes all comers, from those wanting to learn simple camping tips to mountain men looking to conquer the wild. I highly recommend meeting Reggie and checking out his survival school. Maybe I'll even see you there… just keep your eyes peeled for the slightly lost Yahoo! host, desperately seeking a cell phone signal.
Video produced by Will Lerner and Jennie Josephson. Production by Josh Simmons, Charles Debold, Abe Dollinger. Editor: Nolan Cooper. Sound editor: John Adams. Original art by Zach Sheehan. Graphics by Todd Tanner, Matt McDonald and Howard Kim for Yahoo! Studios.