Seven Priorities For Wilderness Survival Every Adventurous Kid Should Know

Teach your children the seven priorities of survival.
Teach your children the seven priorities of survival.

If you are the parent of a boy scout, you are probably familiar with the seven priorities for wilderness survival.  The Boys Scouts of America requires that scouts attempting to earn their Wilderness Survival Merit Badge know and understand these priorities.  The priorities are easy to understand, are built on common sense, and can easily be taught to young people whether they are boy scouts or not.  Listed in order of importance, these priorities are:  keep a positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, fire, signaling, water & food.

Keep a Positive Mental Attitude:  If they panic and lose control, they are likely to make the situation worse.  The best thing to do is to adopt the S.T.O.P. rule.  Stop, think, observe, plan.  Explain this concept to your children as it is a good one and can be used during any crisis situation.

First aid:  If anyone in the group is critically injured, first aid becomes the next priority.  Teaching children basic first aid is a crucial wilderness survival skill.  Topics to cover would be minor health issues including insect bites, blisters, dehydration, hypothermia, cuts, scrapes, and bruises.  You can also cover larger health problems such as broken bones and snake bites.  The Red Cross is an excellent resource for first aid training.  JM Cremp’s also sells a waterproof Pocket Guide to First Aid that is an excellent addition to any backpack.

Shelter:  The third priority is to find or create shelter.  The ability to protect yourself from the elements is crucial in any survival situation regardless of the weather.  The next time you are out with your children, ask them how they would find or build shelter.  What materials would they use?  How would they build it?  You can learn more about finding shelter in the book Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters.

Fire:  The ability to build a fire in a survival situation is critical.  Fire provides warmth, can cook food, purify water, can be used as a signal device, and will most definitely boost morale.   Show your kids how to build a proper fire in the woods and you will teach them a skill that will last a lifetime.

Signaling:  The most effective tools for signaling are a signal whistle and a small mirror.  Teach them that three blows on the whistle means “help”.  The mirror can be used to signal aircraft, helicopters, or people far away.

Water:  A human being can survive approximately three days without water. Teach your children how to find a clean water source, how to purify water, and how to draw moisture from the ground.  The book, Essential Survival Skills, is an excellent resource for all of the topics discussed here including how to procure safe drinking water.

Food:  People can go several weeks without food in survival conditions.  Knowing what plants to eat in the wilderness requires some more extensive training.  The book, The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants is an excellent learning resource.  Also, if you are a family that hunts and fishes, use that hunting and fishing time to discuss procuring food in a survival situation.

As always, JM Cremp’s is an excellent resource for survival gear for kids and adults of all ages.

The Hidden Benefits of Survival Skills Training For Boys and Girls

Bear Grylls Survival Guide for Life
Bear Grylls once said, “I hang out all the time with kids and young scouts and I never meet kids who don’t want adventure.” As a childhood adventurer himself, Bear knows what he is talking about. In his latest book, he discusses the life lessons learned from his epic adventures and the effect that his training has had on his entire life.

When we discuss “survival skills” and “survival training”, we are usually referring to the mechanics involved in wilderness survival situations.  Survival trainees need to know how to build a fire in less-than-perfect conditions, what supplies should always be in their pack,  how to find or build a shelter, and on and on. The amount of books, websites, and videos devoted to survival skills training is growing every day.  Of course these are the nuts and bolts necessary to stay safe in less than optimal conditions, and the benefits derived from possessing these skills can be lifesaving.  However, there is one intangible aspect to teaching your children survival skills that is rarely discussed, and it is equally as important.

There are enormous benefits to be derived from the actual process of learning and practicing survival skills that are life-changing and ultra rewarding.  The survival skills training process reaps great rewards on its practitioners in the form of:

  • increased self-esteem
  • enhanced self-confidence
  • reinforced character
  • a greater appreciation for the outdoors
  • the ability to be self-reliant and to trust in one’s own abilities
  • the ability to calmly and rationally analyze a situation and act accordingly without panic
Survival Skills Training leads to happy healthy men
Yes, they may come home dirty, but the boost to their self-esteem, confidence, and mental stature is worth a bit of dirty laundry.

As a mom whose boys have learned and practiced survival skills for several years, I’ve seen firsthand their intellectual and personality growth during this process.  The boost to their self-esteem and confidence has been no small thing.  In the rare times that their skills have been put to the test, it has warmed this mother’s heart to see my boys step up to the plate.

Very recently (as in during the middle of writing this article) my boys were splitting and stacking wood when a split log crushed my son’s finger breaking it and opening it to the bone.  Without panicking, the boys cleaned it, stabilized it and wrapped it as best they could.  When they arrived home, marched into my office, and calmly shoved the mangled appendage under my nose, I will admit that it was mom who panicked a bit.  However, my injured son calmly assured me that it was cleaned, stabilized, and likely broken, so I bit back my motherly “OH MY POOR BABY” response, grabbed my purse, and drove him to the emergency room for some proper medical attention.

When I started to write this article, I didn’t except to prove my point with a real world example mid-article, but I guess that truth IS stranger than fiction!  Without having to experience this example yourself, keep it mind the next time your kids show an interest in camping out, scouting, learning survival skills or simply starting a fire with a piece of flint.  It may be worth considering the long-term benefits.  Then, grab the fire extinguisher, make sure the first aid kit is up-to-date, and indulge them in their adventurous spirit a little bit.  There may be more to be gained in such an endeavor than is readily apparent.  In hindsight, I can say that my calm “we’ve-got-the-situation-in-control-mom-so-don’t-panic” sons did a good job in a less than optimal situation.

Now if I can just find a way keep the broken-finger kid occupied and still long enough to let that finger heal….

You can read more about Bear Grylls new book, Bear Grylls:  A Survival Guide for Life on our website.   This latest book focuses on the life lessons Bear has learned as an extreme adventurer and survivalist.  At  you can also find all types of survival gear, survival books, and resources for parents.