“It May Hurt a Little...”

The motto of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, created by the British extreme survivalist, adventurer and television personality, is not exactly comforting.

But jolting people out of their complacency is exactly the point. The academy’s programs are held around the world and aim to get kids and adults outside and out of their comfort zone. Custom corporate packages can also focus on teambuilding and leadership skills.

“If people are strong leaders in survival scenarios when they’re cold, wet and tired, they are typically strong leaders in the office,” says Scott Heffield, project development manager for the Academy and an experienced wilderness guide and survivalist.

I participated in a 24-hour-long adult course, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just outside Yosemite National Park. After a quick briefing and introduction to the survival needs hierarchy (Shelter, Rescue, Water, Fire, Food), we grabbed rucksacks and ran (literally) into the forest carrying little more than a sleeping bag, canteen and spare pair of socks.

The first day’s itinerary included lessons on knife skills, water purification, fire-starting and setting traps.

As darkness fell, we hunkered down for the night in pine needle-covered lean-tos we built ourselves.

The second day was more rigorous and adrenaline-filled as we tested our new skills; rappelling down rock walls, wading across deep water and practicing emergency response scenarios.

After 24 hours, our group was “rescued” and returned tired and bruised, but invigorated and inspired by the outdoors.