For Eagle Scouts, being out in the wilderness is a frequent occurrence. Eagle Scouts spend a lot of time establishing a relationship with the great outdoors and building upon the skills that are necessary to safely enjoy the wilderness. Although a lot of time is put into ensuring that Eagle Scouts are prepared for any event, it is always a good idea to brush up on the basics before starting any outdoor activity. The outdoors are unpredictable, and Eagle Scouts must learn to expect the unexpected.
Eagle Scouts must plan and prepare for outdoor activities accordingly; whether camping or canoeing, the equipment and supplies that are brought along could make the difference between getting lost and being thrown into a survival situation or safely making it home. The most important aspect of any wilderness trip is ensuring that basic human needs are met. Shelter, water, and food are essential to the safety of humans in the wilderness. Shelter is important for a variety of reasons, although these reasons can vary depending upon the time of year and location. Common threats in the wilderness include extreme heat or cold, storms, and predatory animals. An adequate shelter can ensure that one is given protection from the sun in the summer and the snow in the winter, which can prevent severe sunburns, heat exhaustion, and frostbite or hypothermia. A shelter can also help in the event that predatory animals, such as mountain lions, are around. Being secured inside of a shelter makes being spotted and targeted by an animal less likely, although the risk is still high.
Water is a huge necessity in a wilderness environment, but unfortunately, it can be difficult at times to find water that is suitable for drinking. Some water sources in the wilderness are not suitable for human consumption and can make a person very ill if they are contaminated by bacteria and parasites. Drinking water that contains bacteria or parasites will quickly result in diarrhea, which is a sure way to become dehydrated. Stagnant water from a pond and salt water are never safe to consume and can quickly result in death in a survival situation. Ideally, all water sources should be purified in case they have been contaminated. Water can be purified most simply by bringing along a personal water filter, but when water filters are not available, water can be purified by boiling the contaminants out of the water. Boiling water requires the use of fire, which is a basic skill that is taught to Eagle Scouts. There are multiple ways to create a fire in the wilderness, but the most common and basic way is through the use of flint and steel. Eagle Scouts should carry these materials with them in a survival kit or backpack whenever venturing in the wilderness.
Food is also a vital part of survival in the wilderness. If one does not bring enough food to survive in the wilderness, it becomes necessary to search for food sources. Being able to safely identify edible plants and insects is a skill of huge importance in a survival situation. This skill can also help to identify harmful plants/insects as well as ones that can be used for medicinal purposes. It may also be helpful to bring the proper tools (or have knowledge of how to make tools) to catch small animals in the event that hunting animals becomes a necessity. While one is lost in the wilderness, one begins to burn an extreme amount of calories. All of the extra walking, scavenging, and hunting mean that a lot of calories must be consumed in order to maintain weight and energy and prevent starvation.
If proper shelter, food, and water sources can be obtained, the wilderness can be an exciting place for exploration and outdoor activities. While no one ever expects to become lost or thrown into a survival situation in the wilderness, it can happen. With the proper knowledge and tools, an Eagle Scout can ensure that they will enjoy many more adventures in the great outdoors.
- Survival Skills 101 (PDF)
- Edible Plant List (PDF)
- Camping Safety Tips
- Food Safety While Hiking, Camping and Boating
- Top 10 Wilderness Skills
- Wilderness Survival and Safety
- >Essential Wilderness Cooking Tips
- Outdoor Survival Quiz
- A Scout’s Guide to Boating Knots
- Hypothermia and Cold Weather Injuries
- DIY Survival Kit
- Toxic Plants
- 8 Common Wilderness Survival Mistakes
- Lost in the Woods! Now What?
- Surviving Nature
- Wilderness First Aid
- Surviving a Wilderness Emergency
- Getting from Lost to Found
- Building Shelter and Other Survival Tips
- Must Have Survival Skills
- Surviving Outdoor Adventures (PDF)
- Need to Haves for Your Outdoor Survival Kit
- Survival 101 (PDF)
- Edible Forest Insects (PDF)
- Wilderness Short Cuts
- Winter Camping
- First Aid Tips