Knowledge of some basic rules for wilderness survival can help your children stay safe no matter what circumstances the wilderness throws at them. Even if a camping or hiking trip goes smoothly, everyone who uses a wilderness area benefits from fellow visitors who follow the rules of outdoor safety and behave responsibly and respectfully while enjoying the outdoors.
When Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, was questioned about the meaning of the Scout's motto, "Be prepared," he replied that you should be prepared "for any old thing.” The heart of preparation for an outdoor experience is safety, regardless of what unpredictable circumstances come your way. Planning ahead helps you anticipate the weather, the terrain, potential medical emergencies and pack the essentials that your child needs to survive should she become lost or stranded while in the wilderness. Every child should carry a backpack or waist pack containing some basic survival supplies at all times when hiking or camping. The Boy Scouts recommend first aid supplies, extra clothing, rain gear, a filled water bottle, flashlight or head lantern, trail food, sunscreen, map and compass, and a whistle.
Live Reponsibly Outdoors
The primary rule for wilderness exploration involves consideration for the wildlife and other visitors that will come after you. Keep the noise level down when others are camping near you, pack out trash you bring in, stay on marked trails and paths, and don't move logs and rocks or collect samples of the flora and fauna to take home. Leave what you find so future visitors can enjoy the beauty, too. Your children will learn to use the wilderness responsibly when you set the example and make it a family habit.
If You Are Lost or Stranded
The most important rule to teach your child is not to panic and to remain where she is, if she is separated from you. Teach her she has a much better chance of being found if she stays in one place. This is the time to use the whistle from the outdoor essentials kit. She should take stock of her circumstances and solve any immediate problems and rank her needs. The first aid supplies can treat minor injuries, and with proper training, she can even immobilize a broken bone or stop the bleeding of a more serious injury while she waits for rescue. If the sun is setting and she thinks she might be there after dark or overnight, she should seek shelter in a cave or under a tree or rock hang, away from water's edge. Teach her to stay away from animal dens and poisonous plants. She can also build a simple shelter from the natural materials on hand or wrap herself in a rain poncho, garbage bag or emergency blanket to stay warm. If she has the training and materials, she can build a signal fire to help searchers spot her after dark.
Food is an important part of helping your child stay calm and positive. Teach him how to ration his food and water supply to last as long as possible. If the duration of the survival experience outlasts the food supply, knowing how to recognize and forage for food in the wild can keep him busy and increase the odds of survival. With the ability to build a campfire, he can boil or toast green and brown grass seeds, young dandelion shoots or sunflowers, cattails or pine needles. Teach him that he should sample only small amounts and wait for any adverse reaction. Conserving his energy is paramount so he should stick to foods that he can collect easily and eat small portions to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea, which can put his health at risk.
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- KidzWorld: Great Survival Stories
- Equipped to Survive: Stay Alive
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: Kids' Wilderness Survival Pocket Guide
- Boy Scouts of America: Teaching Leave No Trace
- Los Angeles Unified School District: Wilderness Survival
- Scouts South Africa: Traps and Snares
- Scouts South Africa: Water Filter