“I WANT to go beyond the bullshit gloss.”
That’s Cody Lundin’s philosophy in a nutshell—as well as “thermoregulate core body temperature” … but more on that later.
The proclaimed “Abo Dude,” who is the founder, director and lead instructor of the Aboriginal Living Skills School, takes survival seriously—it’s the man’s life. And beneath the reality TV persona is a man who wants to protect people lost in a world of delusion, hyped-up by the sensationalized “survivor” craze, by providing the correct information.
“I’m gonna be Cody because I’m a professional instructor first, TV personality second,” says Lundin.
“And that’s the way it needs to be, or people die. My first allegiance is to keeping people alive.”
So gear up. His larger-than-life personality isn’t for the faint of heart, but he might just help you remember the key to survival when you need it most.
With more than 27 years of wilderness experience and two books under his belt, Lundin certainly knows what he’s talking about.
But the man most known for his role on the Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survival” has a background in wilderness well beyond his TV familiarity (“I’m the conservative one who doesn’t take chances,” he says, if the trademark braided, golden locks, bandana and lack of footwear aren’t clues enough on which of the two of the show’s stars he is). Just don’t ask him about the show—he’s never seen it. He knows that editing tricks can make him appear to do just about anything.
When not filming, Lundin lives in a self-reliant, unconventional home that utilizes insulation and warmth from the sun.
“I don’t just teach this, I live it,” he says of his “simpler” existence.
His comical novels on serious methods to survive and his dealings with students are in a signature Cody-fashion—profanity and all.
“I write like I teach in the wilderness,” he says. “Humor is a great way to grease the wheels for students. And, imagery is everything,” he says about his books, which contain memorable survival cartoons and abide by his “Wayne’s World” way of thinking and take on life: Party on!
But there’s nothing light about the subject matter.
KEYS FOR COLD WEATHER SURVIVAL
Your trip is set.
The wilderness is going to be beautiful, but count on it being cold. Real cold.
You may not associate cold weather with dehydration, but it can be a factor.
“In subzero, 40-below temperatures, you can lose up to a quart of water just by breathing,” says Lundin, adding that in modern outdoor survival situations the most common cause of death is a too low or too high body temperature (hypothermia or hyperthermia).
Therefore, the following items are key for your survival, says Lundin.
- Appropriate clothing (staying warm so you don’t die of hypothermia)
- Water (to regulate the circulatory system and prevent dehydration)
- Ways to make fire (for your body temperature to stay up, disinfect water)
- Tarp (to provide shelter and heat)
- Ways to signal for rescue (could use fire, stated above)
- Candy bars/trail mix (food high in fat, proteins and carbs— though within a 72-hour period stuck in the snow, you aren’t going to starve, you’ll dehydrate much faster)
- Teddy bear (something for psychological comfort)
The Aboriginal Living Skills School (ALSS) provides four distinct types of courses that highlight a different genre of self-reliance: Modern Outdoor Survival Skills (like getting out alive and signaling for rescue when the Jeep breaks down), Primitive Living Skills (bushcrafting and catching fish with your bare hands), Urban Preparedness (such as in a natural disaster scenario, starting fire with a car battery) and Homesteading (permanent agriculture).
“I take my training very seriously, so it depends on the intention of the person to steer them in the right direction,” says Lundin, who trains in one-hour lectures, weekend courses or nine-day classes, depending on a client’s needs.
For modern survival, the keys to staying alive are water, signaling for help, shelter— which could be in the form of clothing—and fire. All of these relate to one thing: your temperature.
“The biggest killer in the outdoors is people dying of lack of thermoregulation—hypothermia, or low core body temperature, and hyperthermia, high body temperature,” says Lundin.
So, if sweating and beating the sweltering heat of the desert is what you had in mind, try the Arizona Combo special—a seven-day extended survival course through three distinct bioregions.
Travel through the Sonoran desert, woodlands and forest, feeling like you went from Mexico to Canada. Warning: Sweating, vomiting from heat, getting hit by hail or harsh weather and maximizing thermoregulation included.
All jokes aside, Lundin discourages people from enrolling in traditional survival schools that don’t provide a realistic scenario. This is because when you’re scared, that won’t cut it.
“Your motor skills go to hell when you’re under low level anxiety or fear,” he says.
Lundin, who teaches most of ALSS’s courses, has around 12 students per trip, with a class limit of 10 for rigorous journeys like that of the Desert Drifter—so you’ll be sure to get your hands dirty with Cody. And that’s important to gain any competency in the skills.
“You can get some education by a video, TV or book, but if you don’t get off your ass and get dirty, how can you expect to get anywhere when you’re really scared?” he says. “The military doesn’t do an online course on becoming a sniper. You don’t do an online course for kayaking. You get in the f#@king swimming pool first and then the river. But, you better not think you can go whitewater rafting.”
So his students get that realistic flavor.
“They have picked up some hard skills wired into the body,” he notes. “If the student learns to make fire after a crappy night’s sleep, with no food, dehydrated, getting bit by bugs in a vast wilderness area where they psychologically know no one can help them and they’re alone with the group, they get much, much more value from that experience.”
It’s Cody’s immersion training—isolated, hardcore, scary at times, leaving you dragging yourself through the dirt slightly bloody—that’s effective. Though you might shed a tear, at the end of it, you’ll be ready for much worse.
And remember the wilderness is not a controlled environment. “That’s why she’s the boss,” he says. “If you give up, you die,” says Cody.
Lundin designed ALSS’s courses based on what he knows about the land. He can turn a three-mile hike into a walk from hell, playing with factors like: a lack of gear, no sleep the night before, limited water, no food or being in a horsefly infested area.
And trust him, he will push your buttons to beat you down mentally. Tweak those variables in high temperatures and humidity, and you got a kickass course. Compliments of Cody Lundin.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in a 2013 print issue of American Survival Guide.