Women at Work: Herbalist & Survival Skills Instructor Dr. Nicole Apelian

What does a day in your work life look like?

Varied! I could be at home making herbal infusions, in the woods teaching people how to build survival shelters or in the Kalahari with the San Bushmen, practicing skills...or you may find me filming a TV show about survival or helping behind the scenes on a movie set. I love the variety! 

dr nicole apelian survivalist dovetail workwear photo by leah nash

What made you start doing the amazing things that you do? 

I was always an outdoors gal. Growing up, my stepfather helped fuel my passion for the outdoors by taking me camping, canoeing and hiking.

Nicole forages in the Britt Utility in Natural Stretch Canvas.

After graduate school I joined the Peace Corps, which started my long love-affair with Africa. Being connected to nature makes me feel healthy and happy. 

Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn survivalism?

I have classic graduate school training for biology and anthropology but my outdoor skills were learned with great mentors and a lot of "dirt time" - time spent on the land trying skills out with my own hands. I owe a lot to the Kalahari San Bushmen elders for accepting me into their community and allowing me the opportunity to learn from them. 

Nicole wears the Freshley Overall in Dark Grey

What does workwear designed for women mean to you?

I spend a lot of time outside. I teach wilderness survival skills, I have a large property that I manage and work on, and I am often out foraging and gardening.I need gear that matches what I do. In the past that meant wearing men’s clothing because women’s gear was not rugged enough. I’m also not a fan of bright pink or purple colors often used for women’s clothing. Now with Dovetail gear, I finally have clothing that is tough enough for my needs, superbly functional, and also fits my female figure. 

Plus… The pockets are wonderful! Never underestimate the power of a good pocket.

Speaking of... what are the top five things in yours? 

  1. Knife
  2. Ferro rod
  3. Firestarting tinder
  4. Tourniquet
  5. Lighter
Dr. Nicole's emergency kit

I also carry an emergency field bag with a LOT of things in it at all times. I love being prepared and teaching people how to be ready for any emergency they may face.

What are you doing when you’re not working hard?

Reading, walking my land and playing board and card games with my kids. I also love to travel and learn from other cultures about how they live with nature. 

How do you encourage other women to learn new outdoor skills?

I love empowering women to learn outdoor and survival skills. My classes do just that 😊

Take a course or attend a traditional skills gathering. Also, get outside as much as possible!

More About Nicole

Nicole wearing her namesake Apelian Utility Work Fleece
Walk softly and carry a big knife. That's Nicole Apelian. Survival skills specialist, herbalist, mother, anthropologist, tracker, wildwoman. There's no single word to describe her skills. There are many arrows in her quiver, and yes, she has a quiver and you can bet she makes her own arrows too! From taking travelers on tracking safaris with the Kalahari Bushman in Botswana, to teaching emergency preparedness and survival skills in her home state of Washington, Nicole is a leader in the field of transformative nature education.

A star of the History Channel's reality show, Alone, Nicole spent 57 days by herself on Vancouver Island, with little more than her knife and her wits. She was also the field consultant for the movie, Leave No Trace. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000, Nicole uses her connection with nature to find alternative healing modalities, which she shares via her online herbal apothecary.

Follow Nicole @nicole_apelian. Photos by Quinn Apelian-Rasmussen