SKOWHEGAN — Community members were invited to learn outdoor survival skills through a beginner clinic put together by a local organization.
Skowhegan Outdoors offered a clinic Saturday at Coburn Park, where community members were taught the technique, methods and forms of outdoor sheltering before trying their hand at building their own. Each family learned how to build a tube tent, made out of a rope and trash bag; another tent with a tarp, weights and rope; and then a shelter made out of snow.
The efforts were led by Emily Schachtman and Sage Walker, both outdoor recreation coaches and AmeriCorps volunteers.
“Today we’re going to try three different snow shelters,” Schachtman said. “There are a few things to remember when you’re building a snow shelter: you don’t want to lay on the ground because you’ll get cold really fast, you want to protect yourself from the wind and if you can, try to find a forest and get some sticks and some leaves that you can lay on.”
Using a trash bag, Schachtman taught the group to cut the bag so both ends are open and then strung a rope through the bag and added weights to create a makeshift tent. After this instruction, she then showed a similar method using a larger tarp.
“It’s important to pay attention to the wind,” Schachtman told the group. “For a fire, you want to make sure that the wind is blowing the smoke away from your shelter.”
Attending the event were Kelly LaCasse and children Eban, 11, and Tucker, 7; and Jyll Goodwin and son Trey Ivey.
After a brief tutorial, Schachtman and Walker both directed participants on how to build each of the structures. Along the way, each participant was able to share their own knowledge and life skills on how to best stay safe and warm in an outdoor setting.
Schachtman also taught the group how to build shelter without supplies and using snow to build a structure from the ground.
“If you’ve ever been to the beach and played in the sand, you have already started training for this,” Schachtman said.
To build the snow shelter, she instructed the group to begin digging into the snow to build up a wall, aimed in the direction that best blocks the wind. Once a foundation is established, the snow acts as a wall that can continue to be built upon.
If snow isn’t an option, she added, sticks and leaves can also be used.
Skowhegan Outdoors was recently named a nominee for a Maine Outdoor Brands collaboration award, which recognizes brands or organizations that have developed “outstanding product or service in the past year.”
On Maine Outdoor Brand’s website, Skowhegan Outdoors was named a finalist because of its efforts to provide the community free access to outdoor activities.
Skowhegan Outdoors, a project of Main Street Skowhegan, hosts three activities a week and also has a gear library that is continuing to accumulate items that are then available for the local community to borrow for free. Their outdoor recreation activities, clinics, outings and workshops are all free to the community, with the goal of providing equitable access to the outdoors.
A schedule of upcoming events can be found at SkowheganOutdoors.com.