A week or so ago a twelve year old boy wandered away from his camp site during a campout with his Boy Scout troop. He was homesick because some of his friends had not come on the campout and thought he would walk to a road and hitchhike home. After four days of searching with weather that neared the freezing mark at night, the search and rescue party found the boy less than a mile from his camp site. He was tired, cold, hungry and dehydrated, but otherwise seemed OK. Things could have gone much worse.
It’ easy to “Monday morning quarterback” situations like these. Certainly there should be some counseling about leaving a campsite and wandering off alone; the dangers of hitchhiking on back country roads (or anywhere, really); and a review of basic survival skills and techniques. We’ll leave the discussion of the first two points to Dad and will focus on a review of survival skills.
There are a lot of sites that discuss survival skills. Some of these skills are discussed in earlier articles. A link to the survival section of this site is at the end of this article. Children surviving in the woods are a special situation that we adults often overlook. At his site “Survival Information to Help You Survive in My Woods,” Bill Sanders has an entire section that focuses on children surviving in the woods. Highlights from that section are outlined below. Direct links to his site could not be made
The initial consideration is to prepare both yourself and your child for a survival situation. People don’t expect to get lost, but sometimes they do. To survive, a child needs the assistance of an adult. Bill offers his Nine Rules for Survival:
1. Stay together- do not separate
2. Stay in one area- do not wander around
3. Stay warm
4. Find a cozy resting place- not a hiding place
5. Put on something bright
6. Make yourself look larger to searchers
7. Do not lay on bare ground
8. Don’t eat anything you are not sure what it is
9. Stay away from large rivers or lakes
There is also a recommendation for a simple survival kit:
1. A zip lock bag for drinking
2. A zip lock bag of high energy trail mix
3. A whistle
4. A signal flag
5. A reflector
6. A large, bright colored garbage bag for a poncho
The survival kit is simple to assemble and doesn’t take up much room in a back pack or a day pack. Reviewing the rules of survival can help keep your son or your Scouts safe.