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  • Survival Campout Ideas

    Hello Scouter Community -
    I am a Life Scout in a troop out of North Carolina. This is my first time using this website, so if this post is in the wrong place, please let me know so I can re-post it in the correct forum.
    A few scouts in my troop are planning a survival campout for March. This is going to be the first 'survival' event our troop has done, and it is actually going to be the first campout that is being planned just by scouts, so I want to make it as fun and as great as possible. If you guys have any feedback or advice, it would all be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • #2
    Hello Noah, welcome to the forum!
    This post would be a better fit in the "Camping and High Adventure" forum, you can re-post this there if you like.
    My Troop has done 3 Wilderness Survival campouts, ours were all focused on the Merit Badge.
    There are several variables that could affect your trip:
    1. How big is your Troop?
    2. Do you have folks with survival campout experience?
    3. Do you want a patrol based trip or individuals?


    • #3
      I'm gonna fold my arms and let the youth hash out a program plan with you.

      In general: have a "plan B", (E.g. emergency shelter you could hike to if needed, a first-aid kit. emergency phone. Etc ...) Your adults probably think of this stuff without telling you, but asking them for that plan will instill a lot of confidence.


      • #4


        2) I cannot resist this as I love Wilderness Survival weekends.

        I've seen it done a bunch of different ways.

        One way I've seen it done is by patrol. Patrol works together building the shelter, doing utensiless cooking etc. Meetings prior to the event were spent on lashings, shelter building, utensiless cooking etc. Morning of campout was spent building the shelters, afternoon spent doing pioneering competitions and having fun. As mentioned, have a back up plan, especially for food. I've seen food literally go up in flames.

        Another way I've seen is done individually, with each person responsible for their own supplies i.e. a set list of equipment to use in a survival kit and food. Weekend is every man for himself. In one case, adults did intervene when some of the Scouts, specifically new Scouts, didn't have the proper sleeping bags for the weather that came in. They brought some extra blankets, but not enough. Those that stayed in the shelters during the snowstorm are still proud of their feat to this day.

        Now if you got the time and resources, I think this final way is AWESOME ( caps for emphasis, not shouting at you, ok maybe a little 'cause when I saw this i thought it was "AWESOME" )

        Summer camp MBC took the group and I to the back side of camp. When we reached the final shelter before the wilderness area, he stopped, laid out an "amnesty sheet" and we sat for about 30 until all the contraband items were turned in. When we finally got to our location the group found some supplies strewn out over the field and given a scenario. Only what was in their pockets and in the supplies, some of which they had to find in bushes and other challenging areas, were they able to use. During the overniter, " jet fuel explosions," "snake bites," "earthquakes" etc occured that forced the guys to think and use their skills. Again I thought the event was AWESOME!

        One thing I remember that MBC telling me NEVER to do when doing this type of training: MAKE ACTUAL AIR TO GROUND SIGNALS VISIBLE IN THE AIR (all caps emphasis). He had them using dirt and making the sign very small on the ground, just enough to show they know their stuff. Reason being that when he first did this for the merit badge class, a helicopter, don't remember if it was state trooper or local sheriff, saw the signals and landed to see what the medical emergency was. Luckily it turned out OK.


        • #5
          Shelter Building....If Possible with Natural Gathered Materials. However if not allowed you could instead use Tarps or Sheets of Plastic
          Fire Building Starting..If Possible..No Idea if there is a Burn Ban where your Going
          Food Gathering...If Possible..Kinda hard to call it Survival if you have raided the Grocery Store..but you have to obey Laws on Trapping and Hunting and Fishing
          Map Reading
          Old Fashioned Compass Orienteering
          First Aid
          Cooking (without Mobile Kitchen and Pots and Pans)

          How Many Days are you doing?
          Where You Going?


          • #6
            Did some of this at our 2013 summer camp. As well as a lot of the stuff above which we could let the kids just get on with some of it was also run by specialist instructors brought in (it was a jamboree style camp so this kind of thing could be paid for en mass). Now I thought I knew quite a bit of this backwoods stuff. Till I met this lot! They were all ex armed forces and some of them special forces. They ran a fantastic session on natural navigation. Put maps and compasses away, this was all done with what you could see around you. Now I already knew how to do it with the stars and with the sun and my watch but from they showed at least 8 different ways of finding north from using the sun and no watch, to different kinds of plant to building your own compass. (If you know what you are doing you can extract a magnet from a cell phone and put it back together in full working order. Best tried with an old one rather than the latest iphone......) If you can find someone that knows what they are doing on this kind of thing it is brilliant to get them to teach the PLs and then the PLs pass it on. Different methods of water gathering are also great fun and is great for inter patrol competitions.


            • #7
              For cooking - find a local farmer who might sell you some dead, but still feathered chickens. These could be the prizes for after building a snare trap. Then the patrols have to prep the wild game (yes, a chicken), and cook it over the fire you have built. I did this as a Scout for Wilderness Survival - it is still one of my favorite memories.


              • #8
                Originally posted by EagleScout441 View Post
                Hello Noah, welcome to the forum!
                This post would be a better fit in the "Camping and High Adventure" forum, you can re-post this there if you like.
                My Troop has done 3 Wilderness Survival campouts, ours were all focused on the Merit Badge.
                There are several variables that could affect your trip:
                1. How big is your Troop?
                2. Do you have folks with survival campout experience?
                3. Do you want a patrol based trip or individuals?
                To answer some of your guys' question,
                We're doing it in 4/5 patrols, with about 7 in each.
                We don't have anyone with a lot of survival experience, but we do have three or four LNT certified adults.
                And like I said above, this would be a patrol based trip.

                Since this would be the first time were doing this, I would almost consider this a trial run for future events like this. I don't want to do anything too extreme, like the chicken thing that Horizon said. The scouts that are going to be doing this are from 12-14, and they don't have any survival experience. My plan was to put the basic scout skills that they learn at the meetings (first aid, cooking, etc.) and throw a little survival twist into it.


                • #9
                  I would suggest you base it around the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge. In the MB, you've got first aid (requirement 1), survival kits (req. 5), fire building (req. 6), signaling(req. 7), shelters (req. 8), and water treatment (req. 10). That gives you a lot of the basic Scout skills(including knots for shelter building), I'd suggest you put a little orienteering in there as well.
                  As far as cooking goes, our Troop has always had each Scout bring minimal food for Saturday, then cook breakfast Sunday. I would always bring 2 Cliff Bars and some trail mix.
                  For the shelters, we would allow Star Rank and above Scouts go solo if they wanted and all other Scouts would either pair up, or build as a patrol.


                  • #10
                    March is a great time for survival camping in Carolina. Not too cold, no bugs yet. Our guys love doing this and put it on the calendar every year. Consequently, my greatest challenge as an SM is encouraging them to do different things every year to keep it interesting.
                    Start with some instruction time during the troop meetings leading up to the campout, especially since you've never done it before. One of the things we do is to have the Scouts put together a survival kit. The only limitation is it has to be something they will be willing to carry on every outing. Demonstrate some utensil-free cooking techniques. Build some shelters, even if your meeting location only allows small-scale versions. Make sure your instruction focuses on the real priorities -- water, shelter, rescue. If all your guys do is watch Discovery, they may get the idea that walking off a glacier is a good idea rather than going to ground, focusing on the basics and making sure SAR can see you.
                    As to the campout, location is important. Particularly with shelters, you need a site where the property owner is okay, especially if you are cutting material. We camp on tree farm (if you are in eastern NC they are everywhere) and the property owner encourages us to cut the hardwoods which compete with the pine trees he is growing.
                    As to program, folks have mentioned a number of good ideas. We like to give the Scouts some "found" resources to work with, like a tin can, a plastic bottle and food. We try to make the food similar to what the Scouts could manage in a real survival situation like a fish, shrimp (crawdads) a chicken filet or small steak (rabbit or squirrel). You may or may not allow them their individual survival kits or may have the whole patrol build one. If so, limit them by giving them something like requiring everything fit in a quart Ziploc bag. Then start throwing challenges at them. Make them run a short orienteering course -- no problem is their kit includes a small compass. Or first aid problems (again,what's in their survival kit makes a difference. Make them boil water -- tin can is easy, plastic bottle is difficult, nothing is really hard.
                    Use you imagination. All the guys watch the survival shows on TV, so you should have some ideas.
                    But remember, it's a drill. You don't want anyone sick from eating raw chicken, or hypothermic because their shelter leaks or even ruin expensive clothes or gear. No, you can't pull the wiring harness out of my truck to use for cordage.


                    • #11
                      I certainly don't claim to be a survival expert, but I'll admit my Survival MB skills came in handy during Air Force Survival School. Was always one of my favorite lessons.
                      When I was a Scout...we used to do 'Pocket camp-Outs.' You were allowed to wear military BDU pants, and fill them with your supplies. Then.. you had to survive on those items. Breakfast on Sunday was provided by the parents...who set up their own campsite nearby (in case of emergency) That being said...I like some of these idea's about field stripping chicken...classes about required lessons/items BEFORE the campout, etc. I would caution EVER letting scouts go off totally on their own. Send them off in pairs...allow them to camp in their own shelters, but remain close enough for help if needed. Also..this was one of the rare campouts we allowed (almost encouraged) sheath knives...due to usefulness and ability compaired to regular pock-knives


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by NoahBWarren View Post

                        We don't have anyone with a lot of survival experience, but we do have three or four LNT certified adults.

                        That will come in real handy when you get lost in the wilderness... rescuers won't be able to find ya because LNT .... good news your body is biodegradable and plenty of animals will love to snack on ya.


                        • #13
                          It's good to see youth posting. Way to go on building your own event; this is want scouting is all about!
                          As has been stated, my days as an SPL are long gone, so it's not for me to give you specific program ideas. I will give you a framework you may consider using. Read the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Book; not only could you build an event around the Merit Badge, but it's full of information you'll find useful, as is the Fieldbook. Yet your imagination be your guide and go have some fun.


                          • #14
                            BSA's Program Features volume 3 has meeting and campout ideas on the wilderness survival theme, you can download a copy at

                            Since you're running the trip and you've got until March, you need to make sure you know the basics. Get a survival book (Tom Brown's "Field Guide to Survival" is what I read as a scout, amazon has used copies for $6) and read through the Wilderness Survival merit badge book.
                            Daniel Carter Beard, one of Scouting's lesser known founders, has 3 books that are diagram/illustration-rich that you should check out: "The Book of Camp-Lore and Woodcraft," "The Field and Forestry Handbook," and "Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties" You can view his books here: I like DC Beard's books because his style of writing is fun to read and he has LOTS of illustrations so you know what he's talking about.
                            BSA has released a wilderness survival book for sale in Barnes & Noble right now, but I don't care for it, it's all illustrations and no instructions.

                            Speak to your treasurer about reimbursing you for the books. Explain why you need them and that they will be troop property when you're done.

                            I stress this preparation reading because you can plan a great campout, but your boys will only enjoy it if they've got the skills necessary. Use the 4-5 meetings ahead of your trip to make sure they know how to build different kinds of shelters; show them different kinds of fires; show them different ways to cook without a stove; show them some edible plants that they can find in March (don't tell them all about berries and things that won't be out til months later); show them some ways to start fires with just one or two matches, and no matches; show them how to fold blankets into a sleeping bag. Make sure you know how to build a trench latrine and a lashing seat for it.
                            Show, show, show, don't talk. And have them do, do, do.
                            If your meeting place doesn't have a wooded lot behind it, then you need to have a meeting somewhere that does so they can practice shelter-building (and so you can demonstrate it).

                            If you have not already booked/paid for your camping place, see if you can find a private landowner who doesn't mind if you're out there cutting down small trees and tall grass; it's difficult to build great shelters while you're constrained by LNT, and in a real survival situation LNT is out the window. If your campout was in the fall, you would have lots of dead fall, but in March the leaves (your main insulation) have been on the ground for 4 months already (remember that when you're planning for next year), so it would be helpful if you can find a landowner who will let you cut things.

                            As for the actual planning, you will find your own ideas as you read.

                            Since you're concerned about their lack of experience, this first time maybe make some of the more advanced elements into games, while making allowances for their lack of experience in their actual camping. For example make a patrol competition out of building a fire without matches, but let them light their cooking fires however they need to. Or, use games to enhance their camping, like rewarding them with meat like Horizon mentioned (I know you can buy frozen rabbit and quail in the grocery store down there).
                            BUT, also keep in mind that no scout ever starved to death in 2 days. It's OK for them to be uncomfortable as long as they're having fun and learning--if they're having fun, they will tolerate some discomfort, but if they feel cheated by the situation (poor preparation), then they will get angry.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jpstodwftexas View Post

                              That will come in real handy when you get lost in the wilderness... rescuers won't be able to find ya because LNT .... good news your body is biodegradable and plenty of animals will love to snack on ya.
                              Ha, funny. Thank you. In our troop, we just have to use what we've got.