National Pathfinder Youth Organization Teaches Kids to Survive

Self Reliance Outfitters Helping Kids Find Their Path

Many people have seen Dave Canterbury on his various TV shows and YouTube channel while many others are familiar with his Pathfinder School. However, the truth is that the entire Canterbury family and a large support team make the whole enterprise click.

Their home base is Self Reliance Outfitters, 6050 Churchman Bypass near the southeast corner of Marion County, an Indianapolis facility where the group both develops and markets the survival gear used in Dave’s programs. But there is more to these folks than just developing and selling outdoor gear: they truly care about the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.

While Dave heads up the Pathfinder School, teaching various classes on survival and educating people on his 10 C’s of Survival, the Canterbury team is working to ensure that future generations are excited about going outdoors and are confident they possess the core skills to stay safe when the need arises.  This is why the Canterbury’s have formed the  National Pathfinder Youth Organization (NYPO).

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The National Pathfinder Youth Organization is a not-for-profit organization started to help teach outdoor and survival skills to today’s youth. It is an all volunteer network of vetted, trained and skilled instructors who hold dear the values of self-reliance. The program is growing nationally, and the Indianapolis store has recently started a new chapter.

“These kids aren’t just the future of our business,” says team member and youth educator Jamie Burleigh. “They are the future of our country,” Burleigh said, “and the things we teach them are going to make them more self-reliant which translates into confidence that manifests itself in other aspects of their life. Knowing they can overcome the adversities we prepare them for gives them the ability to know they can adapt to and overcome other adversities that life throws at them”

While the National Youth Pathfinder Organization is teaching a system of core outdoor and survival skills that build upon one another, the benefits go so much deeper.

The group meets monthly for twenty month and each session is focused on the learning of one skill. The instructors use a simple but effective formula to teach the task; first, they educate the kids on why the skill is needed and what will be required of them to learn it. They then demonstrate how to perform the task and finally, the kids imitate the task until they have the concept down.

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This is where a second, deeper, benefit is realized. It is not necessary to master the skill at that time because they then have a month to practice and perfect their craft with their parent or adult sponsor. By doing so in this manner, both learn a new skill while building a tighter family bond. During this process of learning to be more self-reliant, the family unit is strengthened.

When the next “class” convenes the students are required to demonstrate their mastery of the skill in order to move on to the next lesson. But here’s the kicker: the tools needed to perform the skill are provided by the organization and, as the skills are learned, the kids get to keep the gear! Everything isn’t provided at once so it isn’t lost or forgotten at home before it is needed. This practice also gives the student both motivation to earn the next tool and a reward for their hard work.

At the end of the twenty sessions the students own a complete basic survival pack that gives them the ability to get outside, practice their acquired skills while having the confidence to know they can handle basic survival emergencies should the need arise.  The whole family benefits as mom, dad, or whoever attends with the youth also have a good understanding of the pack’s contents and their use. Best of all, all this comes at no cost to the family as everything is provided through various donations and support from Self-Reliance Outfitters.

Once a National Pathfinder Youth Organization chapter is established and gets underway they generally do not accept new members until the course is completed. This establishes continuity and order and helps to build bonds among the members as well.

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However, if you are interested in starting your own chapter you can contact NYPO or Self Reliance Outfitters. As mentioned before, they have a system in place to screen and train instructors and will advise you on how to go about starting your own group. You can contact them through either website at or but I highly recommend visiting the store any time you are in the area or in need of outdoor, trapping or survival gear.

Stop by and grab a new knife, book, cookset or anything else you may be searching for to enhance your outdoor adventures and ask them how you can get a chapter started in your community.

Engage your kids and they will engage life.


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Don Cranfill
A native Hoosier, and son of a tournament fisherman, Don literally grew up on the water. Early in life he developed a passion for two things, paddling and fly fishing. Don can often be found stalking the limestone creeks of southern Indiana for Smallmouth Bass, while the off seasons are spent crafting custom hardwood canoe and kayak paddles, making figured-wood fly tying bases and developing the ultimate fly. Contact: or at


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