Survival Training for Kids Series
Clothing, Shelter, Water, & Fire
So let me start this blog off by telling you a little bit about my daughter Shyloh. She is the spunkiest, most independent, hard-headed, little redhead that you have ever met. But she is as sharp as a tack and she knows it. She is about to turn 4 and I feel like it is time to start her training into the world of wilderness self-reliance. By the time she is 10 I will have her smoking most of the survival instructors in the country. Guaranteed. This little girl loves animals and she loves the jungle. She calls the woods, The Jungle, compliments of Dora the explorer. She tells everyone that her daddy lives in the jungle and eats snakes, LOL!
Anyway, I am going to start making a video and blog journal of my training endeavors with her and hopefully this will make you want to get your children involved in the outdoors. The only reason we have the beautiful wild resources that we have today is because we have motivated people like yourself that are willing to instruct the kids to love the land as much as you do!
So where do we start in training a kid in how to survive? Well I think you have to start at the most very basic level. Our first line of defense against mother nature is our clothing and we have to have the right clothes for our kids in the woods.
A good pair or rubber boots, some camo cargo pants, t-shirt, and a light jacket is a great start. But don’t forget some wet weather gear like a poncho. Wouldn’t spend much on them, you know how these kids grow like weeds. Just get something that will last awhile. Once you get these items lined out for your little one, then you have to teach them how to wear it and why we wear the clothes we do. Teach them to tuck their pants into their boots, and their shirt into their pants and that will really help keep the bugs off them. But to really make sure they don’t get ate up by bugs, you should treat their outdoors clothes with Sawyer brand Permethrine from Wal-Mart. You can pick the treatment up for about $10 a bottle. Read our preventing bug bites article for more info.
Once we teach them about how to wear their clothing then we got to show our little ones what else we can do with our clothing to keep us safe from the elements. Let’s throw out a hypothetical and say the child is lost and cold front is coming in and they only have that lightweight jacket. Well anything we can use to create dead air space can provide us with warmth. So all we do is find some kind of debris like dry leaves or any kind of debris that will keep us warm. You stuff your clothes up with the debris and I promise it will keep you warm even if it’s wet. All you have done is created dead air space in your clothing and increased it insulation.
You also have to teach them that it is very important to not get wet if you in a survival situation. So they should always have a poncho in their little survival kit with them. Without a doubt you have to get them a little survival kit to practice with. I have a little survival backpack that I put together for my daughter for only a few bucks.
My 4 year old daughter’s survival kit:
-small camo backpack
-stainless steel canteen
-flint and steel rod
-brightly colored poncho
These few little items don’t cost much at all and will give small kids a since of pride in doing what their parent does and having their own gear. The makeup of the kit should really be determined by age and skill level in the woods. But every kid needs their own tools and they must be taught how to use them safely. Knifes are the most dangerous thing you can give them and they will require a lot of instruction on using it. I am starting Shyloh with a butter knife and will work my way up over the next few years to letting her have her own Mora knife.
Once you have their gear lined out and you have given them some training on how to use it, then it is time to move on to the priorities of survival. And your first priority in any survival situation is to get shelter. More people die of exposure to the elements than anything else. So if you teach your kids nothing but how to dress and how to get shelter then you will have significantly improved your kid’s chances of surviving in the woods alone. If they can stay warm and dry then that is 90% of the survival battle.
Shelter is far more important than people might think! Exposure to the elements in the number one reason people die in the wilderness. Not snakes and scary looking bugs! But it’s probably best to teach them to first look for natural shelters and where to look for them in your area. Bluffs, overhangs, caves, and natural shelters like this will serve them best for short term survival. But if they can’t find natural shelter then they have to know how to build a good survival shelter. The best shelter to show them is the common lean to, but don’t teach them to build a lean to for your size. Make it kids size only! Small shelters are warmer, dryer, and simpler to build. Watch the video below to see how we make a great kids shelter with very little tools.
Once your kids have mastered the skills of staying warm and dry then you have given them the ability to survive most situations until they can be rescued. I can’t say it enough that your personal clothing and shelter from the weather are the two biggest priorities when training our young ones. If they get those two simple concepts, then they can surely stay alive until someone finds them. But we don’t just stop at teaching them the most basic concepts; we want to prepare our kids to the maximum so they are prepared to live in this harsh world.
The next most important step after training them in shelter, then they must learn to safely procure water in the woods. There is literally a million techniques for doing this but my favorite has to be the sip well. It is not 100% full proof by any means. But the two greatest dangers we need to worry about in North America are giardia and cryptosporidium. By digging a sip well we can almost completely eliminate our chances of getting those two bugs. The water will still have bacteria, but it very unlikely that it will be in high enough concentrations to bother our immune system.
The number one thing we need to remember about water procurement is that it is all about reducing your overall risk. When we drink water out of the tap we are getting e-coli and many other well known bacteria in our water. And they don’t hurt us because they are in small concentrations. So our goal is to reduce concentrations of bacteria in any way possible. Now don’t get me wrong, if I have the time and means to boil the water then I will definitely do so. So keep in mind that this is a technique to use when you can’t boil water for whatever reason. Because boiling is the only fool proof technique for purifying water in the woods. Please watch the video below to see how to do it.
Fire is such an important skill that it can sometimes be the biggest priority even though its third on the list. This is probably one of the most difficult skills to master in the woods and can really frustrate some people. And friction fire is really difficult. So I always like to start kids out on the flint and steel. They a low tech, inexpensive, relatively easy to find, and will always work. Once you understand a few things about tinder then you will understand how to make fire every time. Your fine tinder must be light and airy, thoroughly dry (if not dry it before hand, after processed), and you must fluff the tinder before ignition. When I say that you have to fluff it, you have to physically lift the tinder and create lots of air pockets in yours birds nest. Just doing this will certainly get you fire every time! Watch this video below to see how Shyloh and I got fire with our flint steel and cotton in wet conditions.
MAKE SURE TO STAY TUNED FOR MORE ARTICLES AND VIDEOS ON THIS SUBJECT! IT IS AN ONGOING SERIES DOCUMENTING MY DAUGHTER’S SURVIVAL TRAINING.
FYI: All of our wilderness survival courses are open to children if you want to have the SIGMA 3 team train your family! Contact us to see what courses would be best for your family!
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