Wilderness Trek: Could you survive it?

Every semester, a few students at Brigham Young University learn about edible plants, skinning animals, setting traps, building shelters and making fire without matches through BYU’s Wilderness Trek class.

The final this year was particularly eventful. The podcast below gives an inside look into the individual stories of some of the students who participated. At the bottom of this article you will also find a gallery of pictures that were taken during the final.

This article also features two instructional videos showing skills similar to those learned in the class. The first video demonstrates how to build a fire using friction. The next video illustrates how to build a yukon pack using a wool blanket and a few other materials.

The photo gallery did not format correctly on the preview page. It needs to be a scroll one where we can view the captions. Please add photo credit to every photo. Also I think it would be better to move the photo gallery to the top of the story and the podcast at the bottom.

Your videos are just kind of thrown in there. They need more of an intro to them. It may be better to put them at the end before the podcast and explain these are examples of things you learn in the wilderness class. The music really doesn’t match the task being preformed. A more relaxed acoustic sound would be better.  didn’t change the sound. there are some cool page links to them though now.

All the names should be first names instead of last names because you use the couple who is married. Change where it says Davis to Kendra, etc. Done

Jake Paul started teaching Wilderness Trek in 2008, but he said that he had already been involved as a TA before that. He said that he started studying wilderness survival about 32 years ago as a cub scout. He said that his interest in wilderness survival stemmed from his Native American heritage. “I always had a fascination of how they lived, what they did, how they made things, how they made their tools, their weapons, their homes, how they trapped and tracked and found food … medicine, everything they used.”

Jake said that he used to scare his scout leaders, by showing up with less gear than they thought was necessary, but that in his mind he had everything he needed.

Wilderness Trek has a long history at BYU.

“The class started in 1965 with Larry Dean Olsen and became the disciplinary class for BYU, because they had a lot of really good success with the therapeutic side of things. Students that took the class came back and did really really well.” Jake said. He went on to say , “And so anyone that was put on academic warning, probation or suspension had to complete the 30-day trek before they were allowed back into BYU, and it got so popular that a lot of people wanted to take the class so they opened it up to a lot of people and not just people with disciplinary problems.”

Jake also explained that even though the class was mainly used a disciplinary class in its early years, that other students wanted to participate

Kendra Davis, was a TA for the class this year. She said that years ago, the class was worth 12 credits. Students learned the skills they needed to live outside and ventured into the wilderness. Incrementally they were separated from the rest of the class until they were finally alone. At which point they would have to trek to a specific location on their own.

Can you add some direct quotes from Davis? It looks like you paraphrased a lot of what she said.

Kendra went on to say, BYU recognized that the time commitment required to take the class in its old format was unrealistic. Now students spend a few hours in class each week, and, toward the end of the semester, participate in a final where they are taken to an undisclosed location to survive with minimal gear for four days, Davis explained.

All types of students participate in the class, but Kendra noticed that the class can normally be split into three types of students: What are the three types? I can get that by the 28th – Coby

outdoor enthusiasts who want to gain more outdoor skills or become better prepared for emergencies; students who come into the class with something to prove; and students, “that sign up for the class and don’t realize what it is, but they’re so intrigued after the first day they stick around.”

“A lot people leave this class realizing they can do hard things,” Kendra said, “And I think that’s possibly the greatest outcome of this class is just people walking away realizing that maybe the boundaries they have set in their head aren’t as unattainable as they thought they were.” Can you add a break in between this quote? 

Kendra Davis
Kendra Davis has been a TA for the Wilderness Trek class for about a year and a half. (Jenna Barton) Photo Credit?? She didn’t give me a name – Coby Ask her for one, if she doesn’t know then put her name as the credit, since she gave it to you.

This semester Michael and Miranda Ormsby took the Wilderness Trek class as a married couple. They said that they had planned on going to an outdoor camp in Colorado, but chose to take this class through BYU.

Miranda said, “We thought it was going to be wimpy.” Michael finished, “But it turned out to be pretty cool. It was pretty challenging and really fun.”

Miranda said that taking the class as a couple was both fun and frustrating, because they had different skill levels. Miranda said that one asset of taking the class with her husband was that they were able to see the other’s strengths and weaknesses.  She also said, “It was cool to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” paraphrase this quote. Would that work? 

This year’s class final was particularly challenging. The students were drenched and cold due to bad weather conditions. Though they were separated like all of the other students during the final, Miranda said that it was comforting to know that her husband was there and would look out for her specifically if something happened.

Michael said that going through the final as a couple was difficult for him because he worried about Miranda. He said that he wasn’t worried about her ability to cope with the situation, but more because the situation was difficult.

Miranda recommends that couples take the class together. Both because it is fun to take as a couple and because it gives couples the opportunity to see each other in a stressful situation, more severe than most couples hope to encounter.


In the end they both recommend taking the class. Michael said, “Take the class. It’s awesome.”


Students used Yukon packs such as this in the 2017 final. The packs were made of wool blankets or tarps, and cordage, shemaghs were used for the shoulder straps.

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