I just wanted to say how fantastic your help was when we were filming in Sweden. You gave us so much useful advice about working in extreme cold and supported us brilliantly during filming. The crew and I learned so much from you about how to cope with a host of issues that can become show-stoppers if you get them wrong. The filming could have been an ordeal in those conditions but instead went amazingly smoothly - and a huge amount of that is down to you. Thanks again.
- Matt Barrett. BBC Producer/Director 'The Secret Life of the Sun'
Survival is survival. Mindset outweighs skill and skill trumps equipment. Any instructor can recommend gear and teach you to conserve warmth. Toby will teach you how to think.
- Rory Miller. Acclaimed Author, Violence Dynamics Instructor
I have been consistently impressed with Toby's ability to teach; not only does he clearly and concisely convey necessary information, he manages to create an environment where students want to participate in the teaching, thereby learning things better. He provides enough of a safety net that you don't fear for your life, while pushing each individual to recognize that their safety and comfort are their own responsibility- a crucial point when the topic is wilderness safety and survival. His sensitivity to the balance of acquiring skills, getting practical experience, and having respect for situations and environment is excellent.
- Dr L. Coray M.D
Toby Cowern led survival courses at my organization, North Valley Aikikai, in the last three years.
The courses included:
- Wilderness Survival courses (2 and 3 days)
- Urban Survival Courses
- Wilderness Survival Courses for families
The courses were taught in a friendly and most professional atmosphere. Toby is a fountain of valuable knowledge with a tremendous amount of expertise to share with both beginners and advanced survivalists alike. Toby is a teacher that teaches beyond the book and encourages the students' creativity and critical thinking. His courses leave the students with essential survival information as well as some exciting hands-on experience. Mr. Cowern is an excellent instructor and I recommend his courses wholeheartedly.
- Sensei Lee Lavi
I had an incredible time on the course, a week I'll never forget! I learnt a lot about surviving in tough Arctic conditions (and survival in general) and really enjoyed how hands-on the course was. Toby was very encouraging and clearly knows his stuff, and the course fitted a lot in while leaving us time to practice the techniques. Particular highlights for me were cross-country skiing through the stunning forest while learning which woods were good for fires, and sleeping out under the clear sky (having carefully practised the bivvy routine first!). The location by the frozen lake really is amazing, and the initial crossing into the Arctic circle and the final meal were great ways to start and finish the course too!
- Robin Davies
The course was brilliant and far exceeded my expectations. From the outset Toby took what I was looking for and ensured that during the course that these areas were thoroughly covered. The structure, organization and course content was an ideal introduction to Arctic Survival. The location was beautiful, and if you are lucky, like us, the Northern Lights may also appear
- Simon Hosking
Really great experience !! Learn a lot of things, had a lot of fun. I couldn't expect more !! Thanks to Toby, and everyone who was there for this great time we shared. I hope we will meet next time again !!
This was a fabulous first outing for me, and Toby is an amazing leader! There were so many things to learn... Thanks to all!
- Dr D.Wren M.D
An absolutely phenomenal experience! I learned so much not only from Toby, but also from the mistakes and successes of everyone on the trip. Can't wait to practice everything! Huge thanks to Toby... and all my fellow survivors!
Very informative and productive, we were busy every second of the day, and night. On Saturday, mother nature took care of us- we were wet , cold and miserable for about 5 hours, that gave Toby a break from having to do it himself... The group was awesome, I would get lost with any of you anytime. Thanks Toby for a great "miserable" 4 day survival course. I think I am beginning to understand how it feels to be lost and stranded and hungry and tired and cold and desperate to come back to civilization.
- Deb Martin
Loved Toby's real-life, grounded teachings. Improvisation is not a four-letter word; if it works when it matters, you win.
- David Long
Very informative - Toby's a phenom instructor. Am so happy I participated in this outing. I much better equipped for outings in the woods with the survival skill set Toby and all his senior students taught us.
Excellent! Learned many life-saving skills and improved my confidence in being in the wilderness.
- Jonathon Leung
I've been through two of Toby's survival courses and I highly recommend them. When I went on my first trip two years ago, I had never even been camping before (so yes, you REALLY CAN come even if you know nothing about outdoor survival). The experience of actually building shelters, sourcing water and having to adapt to changing conditions, along with the knowledge of what items to always carry with me in the woods in case of an emergency, has made me much more comfortable out in nature. Now I love hiking and minimalist camping.
What I've learned in just a one day lecture from Tread Lightly survival was that I do not NEED fancy survival gear, high-speed training, or special skills to survive. Although these things help, what I needed I already and have always had! The "Will to Survive", the psychological aspect that forces us to keep going, to keep pushing, to never quit. Toby brings all this light, thank you kindly sir!
Tread Lightly Survival is by far the best of what other's are willing to skip over. Mr Cowern goes into detail over the very essentials of surviving, he explains things in a simple and comprehensible manner that others forget over time.
I hold his skill and tutelage in the highest regards, I only wish we could have him in North America more often.
- Michael J Gonzales, United States Marine Corps Veteran, Principal Instructor / Owner - San Antonio Systema,
I met Mr Cowern in the spring of this year (2013). At first he seemed unassuming, with an open visage and ready smile, but I quickly came to realize the dastardly nature and Machivellian brain that lay beneath.
Under the mild mannered exterior lies a devious mind - Do not be deceived! Mr Cowern is stealthy and needs little sleep. He is a sneaky f*cker who likes to set fire to things and is certainly not to be trusted after dark, especially if in possession of a couple of q-tips and a plastic bottle.
He mixes a superb Gin and Tonic and knows all kinds of interesting stuff one can do with sticks.
It is also worth pointing out that mosquitoes love him, and they are never wrong.
Thanks for the memories!
My arctic experience became much more fun and educational because of Toby's expertise and knowledge of arctic regions. The highlight of the trip however was his demonstration of fire lighting in a knee deep snow trench. Learning this primitive skill proved to be as personally thrilling in comparison, as to the first time I held a human brain in my hands.
-Dr. A. Tripathi PhD
I asked Toby to do an urban survival seminar for my training group in Austin Texas. I asked him to focus on strategy rather than tactics. What Toby delivered was hours of information packed training. He managed to cover threat analysis, threat management and resources acquisition and management at a depth that I had not even considered. He delivered training that you simply CANNOT get anywhere else. He made it easy for us to assess our needs and gave us clear and concise directions on what it takes to meet those needs. I'm not speaking here of zombie apocalypse fantasy, I'm talking about right now, real world survival. I've had extensive experience and training in survival, and Toby is the best I've ever trained with....no one else even comes close.
- G.Smithson, Owner/Chief Instructor Systema Austin, Texas
As a martial arts studio owner I look forward to working with Toby because of his easy manner and professionalism. He presents his (urban) workshop subjects succinctly keeping in mind a diverse student body - not an easy task. On a personal student level, Toby simplifies complex subjects with ease, clarifying questions students should ask themselves, not lecturing to them. I enjoy and learn easily with his teaching style and am in the process of collaborating with him on a variety of future projects.
- Peter Ajemian, Founder Soja Martial Arts Studio. Oakland, California
Having attended some of Toby's (more) advanced courses, when asked to write a testimonial it was hard to resist the urge to be a smart-ass; The first thought that popped into my head was "Toby can be a bit of a c*nt at times, but it's all for the greater good"
The above statement should be qualified though; To truly appreciate the lessons and challenges presented in Toby's advanced courses, one has to be open to appreciate the "Cry in the Dojo, laugh in the field" experience and realize that mother nature is far less forgiving when you mess up and find yourself in a real survival situation.
Without giving away too many details, several of the exercises that we've gone through in the courses have run the gamut of controlled, but very real survival scenarios; from developing the mental fortitude to deal with the 'This sucks, why is this happening to us? What do we do now?" shock of the being confronted with the situation, to formulating a plan and applying the skills we had learned and practiced to solve it.
I'm a firm believer that the most valuable learning and training, including understanding the consequences of failure, happen outside of your comfort zone and that there's no substitute for first-hand experience of 'the suck' to drive these lessons home. Toby's courses have been able to impart these invaluable, life-saving lessons with a healthy dose of reality while still maintaining a fun and safe learning experience.
Toby's courses are... well, challenging. And if you choose to attend one, you will be challenged but I can guarantee that apart from having tons of fun, you'll come away not only having greatly improved your survival skills; you'll have earned them.
- T. Haring
It doesn't matter if you have no experience or lots of experience, if you are interested in seeing how you would do in a survival situation; take one of Toby's courses. They are a stimulating mix of instruction and challenges, a little philosophy, and a smattering of comedy. Toby has the unique ability to push you to your limits without breaking your spirit. As an utter newbie, I was able to develop personal skills in a serious environment but with complete confidence that my safety was being guarded. The level of camaraderie will stay with me forever as I hope to remember a fraction of the lessons I gained at each of the courses that I've taken. And if you think this review is too flowery to be sincere, just contact me directly.
- Mare (ER Registered Nurse)
I've spend quite some time playing with Toby in the woods. Toby teaches me how to do proper research. He never believes something until it's proven by himself. If there is an unanswered question Toby challenges you to find out the answer yourself. I also really enjoy challenging myself physically and with Toby's supervision I can do so safely.
- Tim (PhD student)
Toby is an incredible instructor. It's his ability to TEACH that makes him stand out. Plenty of people have wilderness education and survival skills but Toby can transmit that knowledge effectively which not all instructors can. I've even seen him teach an intermediate class where everyone got their own customized lesson plan. What other instructor is going to build a customized curriculum for each student.