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Survival Expos and Outdoor Gatherings Are a Great Way to Learn Skills and Become Part of the Preparedness Community

tents set up by a pond
My favorite gathering is near my home in Utah.

When I started my preparedness journey, I did so with the help of the internet and books. While informative, these sources don't provide the opportunity to create a sense of community and personal connections.

It wasn't until I moved to Utah that I started attending expos, such as Preppercon, and outdoor gatherings. For two years in a row, I was honored to moderate the celebrity author panel at Preppercon, some of whose work I mentioned in a previous blog. Indoor expos are a great way to meet instructors and retailers and put your hands on a wide variety of gear without the time commitment of travel and camping - you can simply make a day of it.

Available for purchase are food storage products, emergency foods, outdoor survival gear, fire starters, (PureFire Tactical is my favorite!) books and even home and wellness products. The hosting organizations usually provide a list of vendors, so you can plan around what they offer and pick where you want to go. They also offer classes where you can learn about herbal medicine, preserving food, emergency medical care, water purification, and foraging, for example. If you're into television survival shows, you can also expect to see some familiar faces! Below are some photos from the Homestead, Bushcraft and Preparedness Expo in Kentucky. The organizers have another event scheduled this October. Naked and Afraid legend EJ Snyder was on hand selling merchandise and teaching kids' classes, and of course, he was a huge hit!

We couldn't pass up the Mountain Readiness event in May. It was nice to take a break from Utah's endless winter to enjoy the warm air of North Carolina. I loved this event because it was held almost exclusively outdoors, so it had the feel of both a gathering and an expo. Great classes, products, celebrities, authors and food trucks, all located in a lovely setting. And we got to see our friends again and make a few new ones! Mountain Readiness is hosting an event in September called Protecting the Homestead, so check out their link if you want to learn security strategies from some of the best in the business.

Outdoor gatherings, also called "wilderness gatherings," offer an opportunity to learn skills and check out products, but the experience is very different. Many last for a week, so you have the opportunity to really settle in and immerse yourself in the experience. Attending these events involves more planning and preparation, but they are so worth the effort. Being outdoors, different learning opportunities are available. Here you will be exposed to a wide variety of primitive skills. Often an animal (such as a goat or sheep) is processed. Some offer the opportunity to process your own chicken or rabbit. I've been to events where already butchered ducks were cooked and shared, and at one gathering I was offered a piece of rattlesnake!

Projects such as tanning hides, blacksmithing, leatherwork, making pemmican, drums, drinking gourds, netting, fish traps, ceremonial pottery, flint knapping, carving spoons, and making your own long bows are a few examples of learning opportunities offered at an outdoor gathering. You sit together and work on your craft while enjoying relaxed company and good conversations. This is where lasting friendships are formed. Learning how to make fire using a hand or bow drill is my favorite example of a primitive skill that can save your life in the modern world, and it's so fun to cheer someone on when they make their first ember!

night scene showing illuminated tent and moon
Night sky on the summer solstice

Outdoor gatherings allow a connection with nature not available at indoor expos. I love to stare at the night sky, and this year we were fortunate to experience a full moon on the summer solstice. One evening we experienced wind gusts of almost 70 mph, which made for an amazing night in the tent, where I was cozy and enjoyed the thunderous sound of the canvas swaying while firmly secured. During the warm days I spent time in the river, with friends, and also sitting alone, up to my shoulders in the bone-chilling waters of the Duchesne River, which was running fast from the snow melt. The sound of the birds singing, the water flowing by, and the gentle breeze invigorated my body and brought forth mental clarity. Every night we were treated to a spectacular sunset.

Outdoor gatherings provide an unrivaled opportunity to connect deeply with others. (I suggest you leave your political ideologies at home and enjoy people for who they really are and get to know them aside from political tribalism.) If you have a hobby craft, can food, or have items to trade or sell, bring them for the trade blanket or barter fair. Nightly fires and drum circles are unique experiences that will leave lasting memories. You can attend sound baths, breath work sessions, or schedule time with healers. I love the sound baths and I was told that an hour of the sound vibrations is equivalent to 6 hours of REM sleep. Do I have the scientific links to prove it? No. But it sure felt like it! If none of these appeals to you, sitting by a fire, under a tree, cooking with friends and sharing meals (and desserts, like Chanelle's lava cake cooked in a Dutch oven!) in a beautiful setting are reason enough to attend a gathering. There are many to choose from and a few examples are Fire2Fire in Utah, Rabbitstick in Idaho, Winter Count in Arizona, Birdsong in California and Sky Earth in Texas.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and the images; they fail to capture the true spirit of the events, but I hope the love and friendship are apparent. See you by the fire!

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