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Learn to survive like a CIA spy.

navigating by the southern cross

In 1951 CIA instructors were on a mission to transform Agency officers into wilderness wizards. They produced "Introduction to Survival," a course designed not just for mere survival but for thriving amidst the untamed wilds. The nearly 300-page survival manual, covered important skills like parachute jumps, ground navigation, hunting and stalking, fire-building, personal hygiene, and a smattering of first aid wisdom.

The manual sternly declares, "It cannot be too strongly impressed on all personnel that what they are learning in this course is for their own personal benefit." It's like a personal insurance policy – a survival toolkit for anyone, ensuring they can hold their own in the desolate expanses until help arrives.

We present to you seven key takeaways from the CIA manual, the info that could be your lifeline if you ever find yourself stranded in the wild.

  1. Be Patient: The Tortoise Beats the Hare

In the rush to escape the wilderness, it's easy to overlook the power of patience. The CIA manual emphasizes the art of methodical movement and intentional action. So, next time you're three hundred miles from the nearest habitation, channel your inner tortoise. Take the time to clean those binoculars and analyze what you are seeing. The experienced survivor knows that patience isn't just a virtue; it's a survival superpower.


  1. Be Observant: Nature's Clues Are Everywhere

The wilderness is full of secrets waiting to be unveiled. According to the CIA, intelligent observation is the key to decoding these secrets. From distant landmarks to a broken twig at your feet, every detail matters. So, sharpen those observational skills – they might just save you from a wrong turn, or worse, an encounter with unfriendly locals. “Where populations are unfriendly,” the manual notes, “it will be necessary to travel at night.”


  1. Don't be a Jerk: Survival, the Kiwi Way

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, but there's no excuse for being a jerk. The survival manual dishes out a foolproof list of 'do nots' that will keep you in good standing with your fellow adventurers. Remember, cleanliness, sharing shelter space, and avoiding constant complaints can make all the difference in a tight spot. In other words, don't be a bush diva – it could literally save your life.


  1. Practice Your Skills: Because Practice Makes Perfect

Survival skills aren't like fine wine; they don't get better with age. The CIA survival course was their 'personal insurance policy,' and just like any policy, you need to pay your dues. Practice land navigation, shelter building, and fire-making until they become second nature. After all, you wouldn't drive without insurance – why navigate the wild without survival skills?


  1. Take Care of Your Gear: Gear, Your Wilderness BFF

In the wild, your gear is your lifeline. The CIA stresses the importance of proper cleaning, protection, and maintenance of your clothing and equipment. It's a lesson straight from the Kiwi playbook – respect your gear, and it'll respect you back. After all, a soggy sleeping bag won't keep you warm, and a blunt knife won't catch dinner.


  1. Stay Clean: Because Filth Isn't Fabulous

In the wild, cleanliness isn't just about looking good; it's about staying healthy. The CIA manual points out the importance of personal hygiene in preventing infections and diseases. So, even when you're three days into an unplanned survival adventure, take a moment for a quick scrub – your body will thank you.


  1. Stay Calm: The Zen of Wilderness Survival

When the going gets tough, the tough stay calm. The CIA's golden rule for survival is to keep your cool and use your common sense. A level-headed approach is your best weapon against the unexpected. So, take a deep breath, Kiwi adventurers, and remember: staying calm today means savoring the victory tomorrow.

While technology propels us forward, timeless survival wisdom hinges on patience, keen observation, camaraderie, and determination. Preparedness remains a cornerstone not just for intelligence officers but anyone that spends time in the outdoors.

In our exploration of CIA survival secrets, we've emphasized 'soft' skills crucial for conquering the wilderness. However the 1951 manual harbors a wealth of 'hard' skills. Such as shelter building, hunting, fishing, or mastering land navigation, the full document is a comprehensive guide. 

For those keen on exploring the original 1951 manual, click here

This has been a fun look at an old manual, if you are serious about expanding your survival skills checkout the excellent folks at the NZ Survival Academy and learn skills specific to New Zealand.

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