Why Advice from Survival Ultracrepidarians Should be Avoided

by Todd Walker

[Edited 12/7/2014: After re-reading this post, and especially Blue’s comment, I realized that I may have come across as bashing ultracrepidarians. My intention was to motivate all who happen to stumble upon this post to start Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance and let the drama die. We all have to start somewhere.]

Wow! This is my new favorite word!

Ultracrepidarian – Pronunciation: êl-trê-kre-pê-der-i-yên

1. [Adjective] Is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge, experience, or expertise.

2. [Noun] Someone who talks about things of which they know little or nothing.

To hear this fancy word pronounced audibly, click here. Synonyms include:

  • egotistical
  • know it all
  • smarty pants
  • smartass

In matters of survival and self-reliance, you don’t have to look far to find keyboard commandos telling you how-to do stuff. In the world of survival, spewing advice with little to no knowledge, much less actual experience, is becoming epidemic. The imagery of Brad Pasley’s song/video Online comes to mind.

You’ll find this patch pompously displayed on Ultracrepidarian’s jacket sleeves as they talk down to you from their computer lair…


Who you choose to listen to is your choice. However, advice of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ is at times just plain stupid – and if practiced, could be deadly. So who should you listen to?

Trade Theory for Action

Knowing stuff is part of our educational journey to self-reliance and preparedness. Gain as much knowledge through books and/or other instructional materials as possible.

But here’s the catch…

Having knowledge in your head from a book or video will never be enough for some situations. Experience in the real world is 100 times more valuable than head knowledge. You’ve read articles or online discussions before that didn’t feel right in your gut. Then you realize it’s pure theory.

So how do we gain experience?

Answer: By Doing the Stuff.

It’s that simple. Learning through experience is the hard way. How will you know if you can start a fire in the rain or wet conditions until you test your fire craft skills and find the satisfaction and warmth of doing so. That may be why some choose knowledge over actual experience. It’s much easier to know about stuff than to actually do the stuff.

Three examples of Ultracrepidarian advice below are widely accepted as “normal” in a survival situation… but may end up killing you. Being dead is anti-survival.

A.) Wild Edibles

Survival students deem wildcrafting as a top skill to learn. So we go out and buy popular field guides which are basically regurgitated info from books written by original authors in the early to mid 20th century. “Facts” get twisted when field experience is lacking and publishing houses get involved.

Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest (which I highly recommend), points out many mistakes of the most popular wild edible field guides lining bookstore shelves today. The authors were observing and not doing the stuff in the field. They failed to verify through experience.

Remember, you can eat anything once.

Here’s an interesting take on eating (or not) during a short-term emergency event over at Master Woodsman.

B.) Bugging Out

4 Monolithic Myths About Bug Out Bags

Another area of Ultracrepidarianism buoyed by opinion is found in the idea of bugging out. Bug out bags or 72 hour kits have their place. And it’s usually not on your back. Let’s put to rest the romanticized notion of throwing a 70 pound bag on your back and humping it across 4 states. With a reliable means of conveyance, good fitness level, skill, and luck… maybe.

Sound advice in such an event would be to have a pre-planned, well stocked location as your destination and a way to get there. If you don’t, you’ll likely become a refugee. Here I am giving my opinion on something I’ve never had to do. However, two years ago I tested a 40 pound backpack on summer hikes. It’s physically demanding. Add survival stressors or young children to the equation and you’re cooking a horrible recipe. Just some food for thought.

C.) Bombproof Gear

The internet is full of untested shiny objects heralded as essential by Ultracrepidarians. Ignore this junk. Stick with basic gear that has been proven over time to work.

How’s a 5,000 year old test for you?

Otzi the Ice Man was discovered by hikers in the Swiss Alps in 1991. Otzi’s preserved remains show he lived around 3,300 BC. His core gear is not much different from what we carry today.

My entire B.O.B./72 hour emergency kit contains only 10 core items. Yup. My gear weight-loss program works. With proper knowledge and the skills to use available resources, the 10 C’s of Survivability is enough.

Here’s the multifunctional 10 piece kit I pack to stay alive if the need arises…

1.) Cutting Tool – Fixed blade knife

  • 5 to 6 inch blade
  • High carbon steel
  • 90 degree spine
  • Non-coated blade
  • Full tang

2.) Combustion Device

  • Bic lighter – thousands of open flames
  • Ferrocerium rod – 3,000 degree sparks

3.) Cover/Shelter

  • Proper clothing
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Clear 9×12 painter’s tarp
  • Two 55 gallon drum liners
  • Set up in 5 minutes or less

4.) Container

  • 32 ounce stainless steel water bottle with nesting cup
  • 30 liter dry bag

5.) Cordage

  • 36# tarred mariners line (preferred over paracord)
  • 25 ft. 550 paracord

6.) Cotton Bandana

  • Multiuse
  • Self-aid
  • Char cloth – next fire

7.) Cargo Tape (Gorilla Brand)

  • Shelter
  • Self-aid
  • Fire extender

8.) Cloth Sail Needle

  • Repair equipment
  • Self-aid
  • Navigation

9.) Candling Device

  • Self-aid
  • Signaling
  • Navigation

10.) Compass

  • Self-aid
  • Fire
  • Navigation

There’s no fancy shiny survival objects in my 72 hour kit. These 10 items see plenty of dirt time each week. They are light enough to carry in my haversack every time I’m in the field Doing the Stuff.

Advice is plentiful. Sound advice is hard to come by. Don’t trust anything read here or anywhere else without first verifying the info for yourself!

Just for fun, the next time your involved in an online survival discussion, tell the know-it-alls you enjoyed their ultracrepidarian advice. They’ll take it as a compliment.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Education | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Why Advice from Survival Ultracrepidarians Should be Avoided

  1. Pingback: Why Advice from Survival Ultracrepidarians Should be Avoided | Modern Homesteader

  2. wryter2012

    Just wondering if by “candling device” you actually mean a lantern or flashlight. I ask because in the U.S. candling devices are normally used to check eggs for fertility and embryo development.


  3. Murray

    Yup. Its good to hear this once in a while. Im about to go do my anual gear / prep test overnight in the snow in the backwoods next week. Always a cold and hard time, but nessesary for me as a reminder what im really training for…


  4. THANKYOU for your no-nonsense common sense.


  5. dthomasdigital

    I took up hiking with my bag to figure out exactly how much weight works for me. First go it was way to heavy, second go I took out too much. The short story, I’m still experimenting looking for that Goldilocks moment, where it’s just right. But you right until you go outside and hump up a hill or two in your BOB you’re just asking for trouble.


  6. SmOakle

    The wise speak because they have something to say, the unwise speak because they have to say something.


  7. Blue

    I love the 70 pounds across 4 states comment!! A typical Marine, at one point in their career (the very beginning) will carry a 70 pound pack for about 12 miles – and I am here to tell you, these young 18-20 year old kids are smoked at the end of that ordeal… Granted, Infantry, once in the Fleet will carry their field gear based from a packing list of required gear, that required gear gets worked over real quick. After 20 years, I still don’t own a toothbrush that doesn’t have holes drilled in them, nor a pen… Every flashlight (candling device) is small and as light weight as could be found… Ounces equal pounds, cut the weight where you can is the best advice any one can get. Now if we can just get the armchair commandos on board…


  8. RedStone

    The things you did at 15-25 years old are nowhere near the things can do at 45-55 years old (no matter how good your condition and fitness is). Adaptation is the catch word. Actual hands on experiences will dictate your do and don’t.
    A) Wild Edibles_ Never ever consume a new food until you have been mentored by someone who is experienced or better yet, actually witness the harvest, process and eat it in front of you.
    B) Bugging Out_ Do it for real. Have a friend go with you out for a 5 miles round trip with your 1st time bug-out gear with you. Then choose to go further out or a lighter load. Once you find your ‘can do range and weight ‘ then you are ready for multi-testing yourself. Do this in all weather conditions and seasons. Amazing how a 25 lbs X 10 mile RT in summertime is easy compared to the same, in misty cold day or in 6 feet of soft snow. That is why Bug-Out is on my list of options, but not the first one (unless necessary for survival). This leads to the next one.
    C) Bomb-proof Gear_ Survival Sherpa and Blue said it best. Keep it simple and as light weight as possible. A 2ft bucksaw is a part of my gear. Why ? I have used a bucksaw only to cut 10 cords of 6 ” diameter or less for the home’s firewood for years, until a buddy brought me a chainsaw after losing an arm-wrestling match with me.(his way of giving me a gift without me feeling like I did not earn it. 🙂 ). Emergency shelter building a breeze with this tool, and quiet also. Again, learn from those who actually have hands on experience and practice, practice, practice.
    Note; No expert can honestly say they never screwed-up or have a good tale about such. I know I have my fair share of tales.


  9. Scott

    Does Dave Canterbury know you are ‘borrowing’ his “10 ‘C’s of Survivability”, without acknowledging him??


    • Hi Scott, I want to thank you for stopping by and reading our blog. By your comment, I know that you must be new to the site. If you spend a few moments searching my site, you’ll find many of my posts referencing Dave’s system crediting him for teaching me personally.

      Also, if you knew me or spent time reading here, you’d know I’m a student of self-reliance, always learning from as many sources as possible. I respect and regard Dave as a friend and mentor. Dave will be the first to tell you that there is nothing new about the 10 C’s. Ever heard of Otzi the Ice Man? He used these items over 5,000 years ago.

      My intention here is to share my journey as a student. I invest countless hours and my own money pursing this passion and attempt to share my learning experience here. To date (over 3 years now) I have never made a single dime from this blog. So I’m not in this to make money, though it would be a nice reward for all the work I put into my writing and videos. More than money, freely sharing the small amount of knowledge and skills I’ve learned and continue to learn is my reward. I hope it benefits one or two folks.

      Crediting my mentors and teachers along the way is my practice. Please spend a little time reading my articles before making assumptions of “‘borrowing’, without acknowledging.” After reading more of my writing and you still are not satisfied, I encourage you to take the matter up with Dave. Tell him I said hello.

      Gotta go. Been up since 3:30 a.m. writing an article about a new mentor whom I’ll be “borrowing” knowledge. Hope you’ll hang around to read it.

      And, as always, keep doing the stuff of self-reliance, Scott.

      Todd Walker
      ~ The Dumbest Man Around the Campfire


  10. Frank

    Hi, I love this article and your site.
    Because the article is simple straight forward advice, it makes sense.
    I’d bet the late Euell Gibbons would have appreciated it.


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