Interest in getting out of the network, being a survivalist who grows during the pandemic

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As Canadians retreat to their homes away from family and friends or sweep grocery store shelves without toilet paper, others have taken pandemic precautions one step further this year, turning to life. off-grid and learning survival skills.

Chuck Wrathall, a survivalist and photographer from Cape Breton, runs an Instagram account dedicated to his adventures and has received an influx of messages from people wanting to learn the ropes since the COVID-19 hit.

“The bushcraft has exploded. People love wilderness skills. They want to know how to survive, how to feed themselves, how to get out, hunt and gather,” he said. “Plus, they want to know how to be self-sufficient, which could mean being off-grid or self-sufficient, having solar power, or having water harvesting.”

Wrathall can’t say for sure what attracts so many people to the survivalist community he’s been a part of for 10 years. He frequently travels to the woods where he searches for food and purifies his own water, sets up basic shelter and cooks over an open flame – outdoor escapades he documents on social media.

Charles Moffat’s Facebook group, Off the Grid: Eastern Canada, had around 300 members before the pandemic. As 2020 draws to a close, the group’s membership has grown to around 1,500.

Moffat’s group focuses on everything that comes with off-grid living, from farming and purifying water to advice on sustainable living.

His group isn’t the only one to see an increase in membership lately. Facebook groups like Canadian Prepper, Canada Emergency Preppers and Preppers & Survivalists of Canada have also seen a slight increase since the start of the pandemic.

The International Canadian School of Survival, a Manitoba organization specializing in skills such as bushcraft, land navigation, wildlife awareness and survival training, said although the pandemic has prevented people from following in person, there were many requests for information.

“There has been an increase in a lot of different areas, a lot of different people, a lot of different backgrounds,” said Dave MacDonald, head instructor and school president.

Although not able to organize face-to-face classes, the Canadian International School of Survival has received numerous inquiries from people wishing to take survival courses, said Dave MacDonald, president. and principal instructor of the school. (Submitted by Dave MacDonald)

MacDonald, a former Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue technician, said the school’s wilderness safety and survival course has generated a lot of interest. The course focuses on first aid, injury prevention, foraging, and shelter construction. He also saw a growing interest in navigation and the use of maps, compasses and GPS.

As well as being one of the few outdoor activities people can do during the pandemic, Wrathall said that being a survivalist teaches ingenuity – a skill that always comes in handy.

“This kind of TV shows like Preparers for the end of the world and stuff like that… made a mock preparation documentary and everything, ”he said. “So, enough pandemics and who is involved right now? The guys who were getting ready. “

Preparers for the end of the world was a reality TV show that featured survivalists, but was criticized by some for exploiting and ridiculing its subjects.

But preparing for a disaster is not an unconventional idea.

Organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross regularly recommend that people keep disaster preparedness kits in their homes with enough supplies, food and water to meet their needs for at least three days. Earlier this year, when the pandemic escalated, many Canadians found themselves empty their local stores of Lysol disinfectant wipes, toilet paper and hand sanitizer before quarantine.

Psychologist Simon Sherry said anxiety about running out of essential supplies may cause some people to prepare.

Prolonged contact with nature has restorative benefits for mental and physical health, explains psychologist Simon Sherry. (Photo submitted)

“Not all who store may be irrational in the face of the shortage,” said Sherry, professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University.

He said that in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder can lead a person to fall off the grid or engage in survival behavior. Likewise, fear and anxiety can cause people to behave differently than they normally would, including engaging in more excessive shopping to allay their fears.

Sherry said of examples in popular culture like Preparers for the end of the world have greatly contributed to the way people in the survivalist community are viewed. But like any other behavior, there are various reasons why people do what they do, he said.

“Well-adjusted humans often have a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency… We are increasingly learning about the importance of time and nature, and the restorative benefits of contact with nature in terms of mental and physical health. “, did he declare.

“A self-sufficient lifestyle that involves prolonged contact with nature could very well be better than grinding it up on 102 on your journey to your nine-to-five.”

Wrathall supports this sentiment, saying that for many people like him, practicing things like bushcraft and survival skills is more than a precaution in a pandemic – it’s a way of life.

“Every time I go out into the woods it’s my escape. After work you have a bad day, I can go and practice my bushcraft skills,” he said. “I’m just completely isolated in the desert. There is nothing better than this.”

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