Joe O'Leary - Wilderness Survival Instructor

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Joe O'Leary has been a soldier, carpenter, furniture maker, café owner and full time wilderness survival instructor running his own busy bushcraft school for 16 years but the one thing that has remained constant throughout his life is his passion for the great outdoors and an overwhelming desire to learn everything there is to know about self-reliance in the wilds.

As a boy, Joe spent as much time as possible exploring the local woodlands, inspired by books such as Danny, Champion of the World and Brendon Chase, in fact any source of countryside knowledge and tales of carving an existence from the natural world.  As soon as he was able to spend nights out in the woods (which involved some carefully planned fibs in the early days) almost every weekend was filled with campouts and hare-brained adventures.

Nights were spent in natural shelters, food was nearly always caught in a variety of ingenious ways, everything cooked on an open fire, much of it spent hiding from the local gamekeeper. These early experiences stood him in good stead for an eight year stint in the Army during which time he met his wife, learnt his trade as a carpenter and joiner and greatly expanded his knowledge of field craft.

After leaving the Army he continued to develop his knowledge of survival skills learning first hand from some of the best bushcraft instructors in the UK. Taking his inspiration from these experienced practitioners and deciding that the best way to learn is to teach, in 2002 he became an instructor for a well established survival school where his reputation for hand carving wooden cups, bowls and spoons through the night whilst eating vast amounts of chocolate became legendary.

Keen to go beyond basic survival training and with a deep rooted passion for wilderness living skills, traditional woodland crafts and ancient technology, in 2007 he started his own company 'Wilderness Survival Skills' which has grown to become one of the most well known and better respected bushcraft schools in the UK.

Bush 'crafts' feature heavily in his course program, woodland workshops and lifestyle. Working with materials found or sustainably harvested from the countryside (and sometimes reclaimed or upcycled) he has developed a broad skill base, crafting all manner of items for using in the woods or even bringing a bit of the woods into your home.  He believes that this crafty mind set is hugely valuable for helping people to better understand, respect and fully appreciate how important wild places have been to us in the past, are now in the present and will be in the future.

The Wilderness Survival Guide by Joe O'Leary


Joe is a published author with The Wilderness Survival Guide and has been a regular contributor of articles and advice for magazines such as The Bushcraft Journal, Bushcraft & Survival Skills, Trail and EQPD forces magazine. He's currently working on a follow up book, focussing on advanced wilderness living skills, handmade crafts and making your own kit and equipment.