Interview with Creek Stewart…and a Contest!

Posted on: September 24, 2012

A few weeks ago, I did a review of a great book titled Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart. You can find that review here. I was so impressed by this book that I tracked down Creek to ask him a few questions. He was kind enough to not only answer all my queries but provided a signed copy of his book to give away to one of my readers here! How do you win the book? Details after the interview below.

Survival Weekly: Let’s start with how you came to be where you are today. I know you started teaching survival skills at a fairly young age, right? How did you get started with learning those skills yourself?

Creek Stewart: I grew up in a very self reliant home. We farmed, hunted, gardened, burned wood for heat and gathered wild edibles on a regular basis. I was taught early on that if you wanted something then you worked for it. I was actively involved in Boy Scouts as well which is where I really got my first taste of basic outdoor skills and camping. I loved nature from a young age and have always been a very independent, self reliant person. The interest in and study of survival skills was a passion of mine from childhood. When I was in college, I decided to write a survival manual detailing the skills I knew at the time. That same year (1997) I taught my first basic survival skills course on my parents farm and the rest is history. The one thing I can say about survival skills is that the only way to learn them is to get your hands dirty and do it. Videos, books, articles and even personalized instruction only go so far. Without practicing these skills over and over with your own two hands, they will not become a true skill – only a false sense of security. I’ve spent 1000s of hours in the field honing my skills to the point where I feel comfortable and competent teaching them to others.

SW: Please tell us about Willow Haven Outdoor. What classes do you offer? Have you seen an increase in attendance over the last few years, since prepping has become more mainstream?

CS: Willow Haven Outdoor is part school, part community and part resource center. Our mission is to promote, teach, share and preserve outdoor living and survival skills – encompassing topics from primitive skills to urban preparedness.

With a focus on wilderness survival and self-reliance, areas of instruction through scheduled courses at Willow Haven encompass a huge gamut of skill-sets including but not limited to: primitive shelter building, fire building, hunting, trapping, wild edibles, basketry, weaving, cordage, hide tanning, survival mentality, lashing & knots, and primitive tools. We also have coursework that covers more modern survival topics such as Bugging Out and Urban Preparedness.

Our 10,000 Square Foot Willow Haven Lodge is located on 21 of Indiana’s finest acres. Our land has a unique mix of meadows, forest, ravines and low-land swamps that collectively provide a variety of survival training environments. Killbuck Creek (named after Chief Killbuck of the Delaware Indian Tribe) also flanks our property.

A unique feature of Willow Haven is an abandoned home on premises which serves as our “Post Disaster Urban Classroom”. It is the perfect training ground for how to find and use resources from buildings in a post-disaster scenario.

Besides wilderness education, Willow Haven Outdoor is also a community of individuals passionate about and interested in outdoor living and survival skills. not only serves as a sharing and communication hub for course participants and guests, but is also an on-line community for anyone who has an interest in learning, sharing, posting, viewing or reading about primitive wilderness skills.

In addition to the School & Community, the WHO Store offers quality outdoor products that are favorites of WHO instructors and participants alike. From survival gear to custom made WHO goods, quality, craftsmanship and value are the staple values behind each product in our line-up.

SW: Are there any certain specific skills students seem most interested in learning?

Yes, FIRE. Specifically, starting fire in nontraditional ways is always at the top of the list. Primitive hunting, trapping and wild edibles are also very popular subjects.

SW: One thing I particularly liked in your book, Build The Perfect Bug Out Bag, is that you sort of combined the focus between wilderness survival skills and things that are perhaps a bit more practical for the inexperienced prepper. For example, rather than spending a lot of time explaining how to get a fire going with a bow drill, you list things like lighters and a firesteel. Personally, I think that’s an excellent approach and one I use myself when teaching or writing about disaster readiness. Do you think though that perhaps we are doing a disservice to people by eschewing some of those more primitive skills?

CS: Not at all. Disaster Preparedness and Primitive Skills are both under the Survival Umbrella, but are quite different in nature. We would be crazy not to include modern survival tools when teaching Disaster Preparedness. By definition, Disaster Preparedness and building Survival Kits are both done IN ADVANCE of something bad happening. We have the luxury of including modern items in those kits to prepare for the worst. It would be silly and irresponsible to not include a ferro rod or lighter in a prepared kit and consequently depend on an impromptu primitive method of starting fire to potentially save our life. Even our primitive ancestors who used fire by friction techniques did not do this. They had prepared bow drill or hand drill kits as a part of their “forage bags” and protected them with great caution. They knew that Mother Nature is a cruel opponent and there are certainly no guarantees of tinder or friction set materials at any given moment. Not including the best materials available to you in preparation for a disaster and relying only on your wits and random available resources is reckless and a display of arrogance that will only get you killed.

However, with all of that said, Primitive Skills have their place in the study of survival – though not necessarily a prerequisite to modern Disaster Preparedness. It is my opinion that studying primitive skills gives one a more thorough survival knowledge base in general. Mastering a skill on a primitive level gives a level of understanding like no other process. Primitive skills require the most basic understanding of principle and theory. For example, you must intimately understand the most basic principles of fire to generate an ember with friction and blow that ember into flame using a tinder bundle. Modern tools can compensate for one’s lack of understanding basic principles. Learning a skill on a primitive level gives one a much richer understanding and appreciation of both survival principle and modern tools.

I get a lot of questions from people who are just starting out in preparedness about how and where to start. My answer is to always start with Disaster Preparedness because this area is the most timely and immediate. Then, move to more primitive skill sets to broaden your knowledge base.

SW: Let’s talk a bit more about the book. What prompted you to write it?

CS: I’ve been blogging and writing survival themed articles for many years and have done a couple self published books along the way. A couple years ago I wrote a fairly detailed article about how to Build a Bug Out Bag right around the whole Japan earthquake, tsunami, meltdown mess. A publisher saw this article and asked if I thought I could write a book on the subject. I knew there were a TON of survival books on the market and many of them mentioned a Bug Out Bag – some even had a dedicated chapter. However, surprisingly, there wasn’t an A-Z book on the subject that could really help a novice prepper wade through the building process. I’ve always believed the ideal place to start in Disaster Preparedness is to build a BOB and I set out to write a guidebook that someone with little to no survival experience could pick up and use to get started in their preparedness journey.

SW: Are you a fan at all of survival fiction? If so, what are some of your favorites?

CS: I’m a fan of survival anything. I can appreciate almost anything that has to do with survival (at least some elements). Some of my classic favorite books and movies are:
– Hatchet
– My Side of the Mountain (from when I was a kid)
– Red Dawn
– The Road
– Book of Eli
– Alone in the Wilderness
– And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Zombie movies

I just finished writing my 2nd book titled “The Unofficial Hunger Games Survival Strategy Guide” which is a guide that will teach and illustrate the survival skills mentioned in the best selling book series ‘The Hunger Games’. The Hunger Games book series has prompted many thousands of young adults to study survival skills and my survival strategy guide (released Spring 2013) was a really fun project because I had the opportunity to write about real skills detailed in a fictional world.

I’ve been working on my own survival fiction book for over a year so hopefully you’ll see my version of survival fiction on the book shelves one day.

SW: If you were placed in charge of disaster readiness awareness for the United States, what would you do differently, compared to the current focus and such?

CS: As many bad things as I have to say about our government, I’ve been pleasantly pleased with the web-site. Their guides, while fairly basic, offer some really great information for families or individuals who are delving into the preparedness abyss. I’ve been involved with several county health departments holding preparedness events for the community to build awareness of potential and imminent threats and these have been very successful on the local level. I’m a huge fan of local vs. federal government so I would be likely to push for more events like this versus more federal spending.

SW: What would you say are the five most critical items to have with you at all times in terms of being prepared?

CS: Knife, Ferro Rod, Tinder (ie. Cotton ball w/ petroleum jelly), Stainless Steel Bottle, Paracord

SW: What do you feel is the single most important thing the average person should do to be more prepared for what may be down the road?

CS: Build a Bug Out Bag

SW: Obviously, the last few years in particular have seen a huge increase in interest in all things survival. Books, TV shows, movies, we are deep in the throes of what we might call a “golden age” for us preppers and survivalists. Do you think this peak in interest is going to stick around a while or do you feel it is more of a fad, doomed to fade away in the near future?

CS: I believe that the increase in (and success of) survival themed books, tv shows, and movies are a direct result of society’s general awareness of the problem. The fact is that natural disasters are more deadly and more frequent than ever before in our history. Let’s face it – we live in an increasingly unstable, overpopulated and highly weaponized world economy. Countries are going bankrupt, terrorism is at an all-time high and you can cut the political tension with a knife. There also seems to be very thin lines of order between many other categories of people – race, religion and class warfare make national headlines almost every night on the news. It is undeniable that something unhealthy is brewing. Our world is in a pressure cooker and at some point a seal on the lid is going to blow. It certainly isn’t a bad idea to have some basic survival skills under your belt just in case the steam reaches your doorstep. Unfortunately, some people ONLY glean their ‘skills’ from tv shows and movies and never really truly learn survival skills.

We, as a culture, will remain generally enthusiastic about survival themed entertainment until there is no ‘real-world’ reason to do so. So my prediction is that we will only become more hungry for survival entertainment – because in my humble opinion, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s coming. And, I am an optimist.

I’d like to thank Creek for taking the time for this interview. I and my readers here truly appreciate it!

Now, how do you win the signed copy of Building The Perfect Bug Out Bag? Very simple and easy. Share the link to the interview on Facebook and/or Twitter. Be sure to tag me in your post or tweet. If you’ve done so already, you’ll need to friend/follow me.

Here’s me on Facebook —

Here’s me on Twitter — @SurvivalWeekly

You need to tag me in your posts/tweets so I can keep track of the entries. You have until midnight tomorrow (Tuesday, 09/25) to enter. The following morning, I’ll pick the winner at random from all entries. Good luck!

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