Survival camp teaches women important skills this fall

WILDERNESS SURVIVAL EXPERT Jessica Krebs teaches a group of Vermont women at a Vermont Outdoor Guide Association class how to stay alive and get found in an emergency, outdoor situation. Photo courtesy of Graydon Stevens

The beautiful foliage this time of year draws many people into the Vermont woods from some leaf peeping and maybe a little exercise in the crisp autumn air. Monkton-based Vermont Outdoor Guide Association is inviting women into the woods next month for something a little more strenuous that just enjoying the fall colors.

In October it will host two weekends of survival classes designed to equip women with the skills and confidence they need to survive emergency, wilderness situations. The classes, scheduled for Oct. 7-9, 15 and 16, will be led by wilderness survival expert Jessie Krebs.

The courses are part of VOGA’s Survival Doe Camp, an initiative that marks the resumption of outdoor retreats and programs for women in Vermont. For over 20 years, VOGA hosted a multitude of these retreats for women through its Vermont Outdoors Woman program. These retreats were called “Doe Camp” and offered campers outdoor activities and training they might not otherwise experience.

The success of these retreats led VOGA to form a nonprofit in 2018 fully devoted to organizing Vermont Outdoor Woman programming. Unfortunately, the well-loved retreats did not survive this transition and there was a high demand to bring them back.

“We were contacted by a large number of women and instructors who requested that we rebuild the program. VOGA still owns the trade name ‘Doe Camp’ so as a test, we developed a women’s private community on Facebook called ‘Doe Camp Nation’ and in 10 months we have had 700 individuals join,” said VOGA Executive Director Graydon Stevens.

STUDENTS AT A previous Vermont Outdoor Guide Association Doe Camp retreat learn how to build a shelter in an emergency, wilderness situation. VOGA is bringing back outdoor survival classes like this one for Vermont women next month with two weekends worth of outdoor survival courses taught by Jessie Krebs.
Photo courtesy of Graydon Stevens

With support from the outdoor recreation industry and a long list of Vermont women eager to learn outdoor survival skills, the association was able to restart this program under the name Survival Doe Camp.

“Survival Doe Camp is just the beginning of our efforts to bring back the original retreats,” Stevens said. “Although our first effort failed, we are starting over due to encouragement from the public.”

Krebs, a former U.S. Air Force S.E.R.E (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) specialist and survival skills expert, will be leading three outdoor skills classes next month to kick off the return of this program. Krebs has appeared on National Geographic TV’s “Mygrations” and the History Channel’s “Alone” demonstrating her expertise in survival skills. She is also the founder of Outdoorsy Women Learning Survival (OWLS) Skills, a Denver-based school that teaches women and other underrepresented demographics tools for surviving emergency, wilderness situations.

She’s been leading outdoor survival classes sporadically for the past 18 years and aims to encourage and educate women through her teaching.

“I hope they walk away with a larger sense of confidence and empowerment and feeling like they know how to take care of themselves and what to do in an emergency,” Krebs said.

She also hopes to offer a positive environment for her students to learn in.

“I usually pack a lot of information in these classes and I want them to be fun. We’re laughing and having a good time. It’s a fun and safe environment for people to learn these skills, without all of the man-splaining,” she said.

JESSIE KREBS MODELS rope working techniques for students in a previous outdoor survival class hosted by the Vermont Outdoor Guide Association. VOGA is hoping to offer more of these classes, starting with two courses taught by Krebs next month, to women throughout the state in the future.
Photo courtesy of Graydon Stevens

VOGA has collaborated with Krebs for classes in the past, and Stevens said the association is excited to welcome her back for the relaunch of Doe Camp retreats.

“Bringing Jessie back to Vermont is always a treat for myself, our organization and the women who attend her classes. Survival skills are important to anyone who enjoys outdoor activities and Jessie’s infectious style of teaching keeps her students captivated while they learn important skills,” he said.

The classes offered in October will focus on general survival skills like staying warm, how to get found as soon as possible and rope-working techniques. These skills will be taught in three different courses:

  • Oct. 7-9: A stand-alone course designed more hands-on practice and coaching through lectures, demonstrations and student practices. The weekend of camping addresses a survivor’s five basic needs: staying warm, health concepts and techniques, what to do if you are lost or disoriented, finding and consuming food and water, and how to get found quickly.
  • Oct. 15: An eight-hour rope-working class that focuses on different knots, hitches and lashings. Hands-on application will allow students to practice rope-working in scenarios like shelter-building, making tripods and emergency ascension or rappel.
  • Oct. 16: An eight-hour crash course in basic wilderness, survival skills. Made up on mostly lectures, this course will offer training on how to stay warm, build fires and using navigation concepts.

There is no upper age limit on the classes, which are open to women of all ages, though Krebs recommends students in the overnight class be 10 years or older as the stand-alone course is geared toward adults and some of the concepts may be harder to grasp for younger children. Those interested in signing up for a class can find more information at

And for those who can’t make it to next month’s classes, Stevens said VOGA is committed to bringing Doe Camp back for many years to come.

“This program marks a new beginning for what we hope will be a continuance of women’s outdoor programming throughout the state,” he said. “We are in the process of forming a new nonprofit with a new board of directors in order to achieve this goal.”

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