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Home > Magazine > Woodcraft > Jack-of-All Contests: Total Outdoorsman, Quadrathlon & Co.

Jack-of-All Contests: Total Outdoorsman, Quadrathlon & Co.
October 28, 2009

I like the Jack of All Trades concept. And specialized sports seems to work against this.

There are a few competitions out there that seem designed to measure the Versatility Quotient better than others do.

These kinds of contests have been around for 100+ years. They were held at the old Mountain Man Rendezvous. The earliest ski prizes, especially the overall titles for "skimeister," went to the skier who was best at alpine, XC and jumping. "All-mountain" skier was the standard, and they meant it. And Boy Scouts have been doing multi-skill contests for forever.

We've had tri's, bi's and duath's for over a decade now. But these still allow for specialization. What ya want is to pile on the skilz so that everyone gets put out of their comfort zone somehow, or so the specialists just don't bother showing up in the first place. Of course, what's funny is that those who do well in such events probably do just as well in specialties.

Here are a few of the breed being held today:

*The Field & Stream "Total Outdoorsman Challenge" is one of them. This is a national competition with a $25K top prize and qualifiers held in lots of places. This contest measures your skills in six diverse areas covering: *archery, *rifle, *skeet, *fishing (baitcast & fly), and *outdoor skills (like fire-building, ATV-riding, kayak endurance). It looks like the qualifiers cover 3 skills -- fishing, rifle, archery -- with a top score possible of 50 in each. I looked at the scores and it looks like about 15 competitors nationwide got more than 130+ points. That's about how many are profiled at the homepage. These are regular guys and they seem pretty diverse in terms of backgrounds. More at

*Mountain Man Rendezvous & Primitive Skill Gatherings: these often have a variety of contests like atlatl throwing, ax throwing, fire-building and muzzleloader marksmanship.

*Boy Scouts "Klondike Derby" -- held in many locations nationally each year. Each team has to be ready to be tested on a variety of the following: *scout-pulled dogsled and equipment inspection; *build a fire in the snow using only 3 matches and cook a complete meal; * Winter Survival Skill Tests; * Pitching a tent in the snow, frozen ground or ice; *orienteering; * First aid; * Knots - building useful projects; * Cutting wood with hachet, ax and bow saw; * Search and Rescue; * sled race with heavy load; * Four men walking on one set of skis.


*Boy Scouts summertime Jamborees often have session-long cumulative patrol contests.

*Adventure races: these are big worldwide. I notice that most seem to have entry fees at about the $300 mark. It seems like they're set up so that a team goes 2 days and a night and does the following: bike, canoe, trail-run, orienteering and some kind of mystery obstacle challenge (maybe a zipline or ropes-course).

*Diverse winter sports challenges: New Mexico's Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon has been around 25+ years. Ski to Sea. Pole Pedal Paddle events in Bend and Jackson Hole. These all seem to be combos of team and solo events involving bike, canoe, kayak, xc ski, downhill ski, run, snowshoe, maybe some speedskating. Then there's the old Stowe Derby that blends uphill, downhill, skate and classic in one big run. Here are some links:

Bend's PPP:

Jackson Hole's PPP:

Bellingham, WA:

New Mex:

Stowe Derby:

Stowe Ironman (alpine, XC, speedskate -- the same guy has won for 10 years!)

*Then there's the granddaddy of multisport events, the Olympic Decathlon and Pentathlon.

Reader Comments - Add Your Own Comment
kayakclc - , posted on Oct 29, 2009
I did a winter tri (paddle, snowshoe, xc ski) in Grayling a few years back. Funnest race I've ever done.

I'd love to do a pedal/paddle event.