Mors Kochanski’s Grand Syllabus Instructor Trainee Program – A Review

Survival, Wilderness Living Skills, Bushcraft

Mors Kochanski’s enthusiasm for wilderness recreation, his extensive knowledge of the field, and his desire to learn everything there is to know about the wilderness has made him one of the foremost authorities on wilderness skills in the world.

And it’s no wonder, he has been an outdoor educator and survival instructor for over 40 years, twenty three of which as a sessional professor for the University of Alberta; a few months of which were at the Canadian Department of National Defense Survival School at Jarvis Lake, Alberta. For many years Mors instructed courses at the Blue Lake Centre run by the Alberta Department of Culture Youth and Recreation, and finally 17 years for School District 59, at Dawson Creek, British Columbia to the benefit of thousands of elementary school children. All the while, this tireless scholar did copious research, freelanced as an instructor, and wrote numerous magazine articles for Alberta Wilderness Arts and Recreation Magazine, various popular aid-memoir booklets and the instantly classic “Northern Bushcraft” (now known as Bushcraft).

Today, if a course or instructor has any solid foundation in modern survival skills or Bushcraft, the odds are that they are likely based on a teaching, a skill, or idea that Mors had some input in developing – whether they know it or not. I state this and have included just a handful of Mors’ outdoor education accomplishments in the above to preface his new book that is published by Karamat Wilderness Ways, cover below.


syllabus – noun – an outline or other brief statement of the main points of a discourse, the subjects of a course of lectures, the contents of a curriculum, etc.

In a time when much of today’s literature is a regurgitation of skills and repackaging of methodology, The Grand Syllabus is as original as Kochanski’s Bushcraft. Those familiar with that book will corroborate with its tested and matter of fact approach. If one didn’t know better, you would swear Bushcraft was written in the early 20th century by one of the Master Woodsmen of yesteryear as it is so timeless and genuine.

Cut from the same cloth of succinct practical and tested information as Bushcraft, The Grand Syllabus is a compilation derived from the four courses (The Introduction of Outdoor Education, Cold Weather Outdoor Living Skills, Warm Weather Outdoor Living Skills and Primitive Pioneering and Natural Crafting) he taught for the Faculty of Physical Education, The University of Alberta, Edmonton for 23 years. Each course was of 80 hours in duration; being ten-8 hour days, thus the syllabus may cover at least 40 days of instruction given over a two year period.

Truly complimentary to the informative material he has already produced such as his classic book BushcraftThe Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook as an eBook, numerous booklets, DVD’s, and various YouTube videos, this syllabus is what Mors would say is a list of specific skills you would need to become a well-rounded instructor. As a whole, it is a compilation of wilderness knowledge and skills of special interest to instructors (at an advanced level). While not intended for the beginner, should they decide to purchase, they will have a longtime reference in which to grow.

Part One of The Grand Syllabus contains a detailed Instructor Competency Outline and Checklist. Important information and considerations are given to Survival and Exposure, the Tools of Survival, and the Tools of Survival Training.

Part Two, Hints to Competent Instruction, offers pertinent advise and hints of the instructor or leader of a group. This includes specific considerations in adverse environments including Mountain Terrain, Snow, Cross Country Skiing, Canoeing, River Crossings, and Conduct around cooking and clothes drying fires. There is also a section on Mors’ thoughts regarding Survival Instructor Certification.

Part Three concludes the eBook with advice and the importance of keeping a logbook on wilderness experiences.

At just over 19,000 words and many sections divided into checklists, it is not a long read. However, the breadth of wilderness skills knowledge Mors shares from his exhaustive research and 40+ years of experience, the Grand Syllabus provides a lifetime of reference (for the professional) as well as a guide map to instructor competence. A must-have for the instructor, would-be instructor, wilderness group leader, and serious student of wilderness living skills or survival.

Available at Karamat Wilderness Ways and Amazon.

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

8 Responses to Mors Kochanski’s Grand Syllabus Instructor Trainee Program – A Review

    Steven M. Watts March 17, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    A gift to all from a modern master of the craft.

    • Christian Noble March 17, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      “A gift to all from a modern master of the craft.” Well said coming from another master.

    Steve March 23, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    Chris, thank you for writing this informative review.

    Is the book just the outline of topics that should be covered by a comprehensive course? Or, does it also contain instructional material for teaching the skills? If it is simply a course outline, does it refer the instructor to references he/she can use to “add meat” to the outline’s bones?

    Good outdoor instructors should be well-grounded in their skills. But it is illogical to assume that all readers know all the skills that Mors does. So does he point instructors to information about items in the syllabus, in case they are unfamiliar with them?

    • Christian Noble March 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Good questions Steve. The skills are mostly an outline, but there is a lot meat in putting those skills into context. Many instructors have the skill as you say, it’s the many years of experience that allows Mors to add context like very few can. There is also a tremendous amount of substance in what is shared in instructorship and leading a group. Hope that helps!

        Steve March 25, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

        Chris, thank you for the helpful reply.

  3. Alan Halcon March 23, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Steve, having read the book, I can say it is an outline of skills the instructor should have. Certainly not every skill will be needed by all, as Mors’s area is different than say my area. The syllabus does not contain references that can help the would be instructor find the knowledge. I think this was taken from his personal journal to help him with his career, so a lot of it is bullet points.

    He does touch on teaching style of the instructor, which, honestly, is pretty important. I’ve met far too many people who were masters at their craft, but were lousy instructors. On the flip side, I’ve met master instructors who were not necessarily masters of the craft, but conveyed the instruction in such a way one learned a lot, certainly enough to pique the students further desire for learning.

    I found very interesting Mors’s thoughts on certification. He agrees it should not have any government intervention rather taken up by an existing non-governmental agency already in existence, or one created by peers.

    My personal feeling… I found it insightful, because it delves into his mind. It allows others to get a sense of what he feels is important.

    Is the booklet a good teaching aid? It’s kind of a loaded question… If you’re looking to learn skills, then the book is not for you (speaking in generalities, not directed at you personally). I find it more on the order of his personal philosophy

      Steve March 25, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      Alan, I appreciate your thoughtful answer very much.

      It sounds like a combination skills inventory, “soft skills” guide, and philosophy of teaching. From the title, I was expecting a course syllabus in the same way that chefs publish cookbooks. Very interesting!



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