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Boy's Life Survival Article & Outdoor Essentials Question

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I enjoyed reading this month's (March, 2006) Boy's Life article by Peter Kummerfeldt about survival. To those who haven't seen it, here is the "outline":


#1 Tell someone where you're going.

#2 Build a survival kit: 1 heavy-duty 4mil orange plastic bag, approx. 38"x65", 1 metal match with scraper, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, 1 plastic whistle, and 1 glass signal mirror.

#3 Stop moving around.

#4 Think about what needs to be done.

#5 Observe your surroundings.

#6 Plan a course of action and implement it.

#7 Stay warm.

#8 Hydrate or die.

#9 Start a fire. Be careful!

#10 Make yourself BIG.


This matches pretty closely with the little survival kits I had my Cub Scouts create a few years ago. They had a 33 gal. orange trash bag, a whistle, and a small LED light. They were too young to mess with firestarting, and we didn't include a signal mirror, though I did have them use one in the den meeting.


Last weekend I went on the first weekend campout as an assistant Scoutmaster with my son's new troop. Each of the boys carried a pack or duffel with camping gear and a separate daypack which I assume carried their outdoor essentials (I ask about that at the upcoming troop meeting), BUT I couldn't help but be concerned that while the boys were outside of the cabin doing activities and exploring the scout camp, 100% of the daypacks were neatly stowed away under their bunks inside the cabins. Since it was my very first campout with the troop I kept my mouth shut, but I'll discuss this with the leaders at the next troop committee meeting.


QUESTION: Do you have your Scouts carry their outdoor essentials with them 100% of the time while outdoors?


I'm struggling to imagine that these boys would be willing to wear a daypack ALL the time, and wondering if it might be more realistic to have them carry a certain subset of the outdoor essentials (maybe a pocketknife, whistle, orange trash bag, and fire starter) ALL the time instead.

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It is kind of funny that you ask that. I actually had one more paragraph in my post explaining where I get my orange trash bags, but I deleted it just before posting because I feared it might look like spam.


I got my orange trash bags from http://www.spectrumbagsonline.com . They have:


-33 gallon 2 mil orange bags, 33"x39"

-55 gallon 2 mil orange bags, 36"x56"

(my 8 year old daughter is 56" tall)


They also have 1.5 mil bags. I can't remember if the 33 gallon bags I bought were 1.5 mil or 2 mil. If I bought now I'd probably buy the 55 gallon 2 mil bags.


Be careful you don't accidently order the assorted color option (listed first).


Also, they are not as transparent as they appear in the site's photos. They are very nice bright orange color.


By the way, you might also be able to get orange bags for little or no cost from your local highway department.


Also, I bought the whistles from http://www.orientaltrading.com'>http://www.orientaltrading.com . Do a search using 'whistle' and you'll see ones that are labeled as "Whistle Expando Key Chain Bracelets" for only $2.95 per dozen. These are really suprizingly loud whistles and the coiled bracelets make them much easier to carry.


I put all of this inside a little fanny pack also sold by http://www.orientaltrading.com , but I don't see them there anymore. They looked like the "Jesus Loves You" packs but without the message.


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A survival kit shouldn't be so big as to require a day pack. A small "fanny" pack should be plenty large to carry the essentials - mine is in a pocket of my many pocketed day pack (which I call my "possibles" bag - it carrys everything I could possibly need while I'm out hiking - and even some things I don't "need" but its nice to have handy if I want it (like one of my Native American style flutes to play, a pair of binoculars, a paperback book (the current book is The Journals of Lewis and Clark), a silly dice game, a deck of playing cards, and my journal - but come to think of it, my journal is a "need" for me rather than a nice to have). My essential kit has a fire starting kit (flint/steel/char cloth/rope pieces for tinder), a compass, small first aid kit (there's a slightly larger one person first aid kit in the bigger bag), a length of nylon cord, a whistle, a space blanket, a small Swiss Army knife and a small led flashlight.


Now even though I have all that, the only piece of equipment you really need for most places your scouts will camp is a whistle. Why do I say that you ask? Because most places you're going to camp are going to be relatively small in size (it looks huge to a scout with a typical suburban 1/4 acre lot but its quite small when compared to the larger public and private lands out west. If a scout gets turned around (I don't like the word lost - they aren't lost, they just don't know where they happen to be at the time) all they have to do is stay in one place and start blowing on that whistle. I never taught my scouts to do something fancy like try to blow SOS or something like that - just take big breaths and blow long sustained blasts as much as you can. Whistles are easy to carry, and easy for a scout to get in the habit of carrying.


The second piece of equipment I might consider a neccessity is a compass - most people who move around trying to get found get more turned around because it's hard to walk a straight line in the woods. Again, for most places you'll camp (wilderness areas, BLM land, large national parks and forests, and if you're lucky, large private ranches out west excepted), if you follow a compass point, you'll eventually come to a road.



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  • 2 weeks later...

As far as whistles go, I favor the orange whistle that has a compass,waterproof match safe with a mirror,compass and a little flint stuck to the side. I hang it on a neck lanyard made from parachute cord along with a mini swiss army knife and a tiny caribinar. In it I carry a small wad of lint,some small strike anywhere matches, a nonblowout birthday candle and a striker cut from a large box of kitchen matches. The lint will keep the matches from being beat up and serve as a fire starting aid. Granted the compass isn't orienteering quality but it will keep us pointed in the right direction, and it is always on me when on a hike. I am not sure as to how loud the whistle is compared to the other survival whisles. Do any other scouters have comments?

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I usually have a miniflashlight hooked to the keys in my pocket, I suppose I could attach the flashlight to the lanyard also. Carry a waterbottle and a good space blanket,a map, and you are pretty much set as far as equipment.

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Seems odd that there is no mention of a buddy!!

Most Scouts I know don't carry very much of anything if they are just planning on not going anywhere.

Location of the camp needs to thought about. While a Lad could walk around in circles for a very long time, in our area he would almost certainly end up at someones house or on a highway.

I have not as yet read that issue of B/L


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My fanny pack (which I use like a small day pack) is a two-Nalgene bottle pack with a pouch in between. One of the two bottles is my survival kit. It contains an orange whistle thing (as previously described, with matches and lint), a small knife, twist ties, an orange bag, parachute cord, a small flashlight, flint and steel, a couple of feet of duct tape on a pencil, some paper, and a couple of ziploc baggies (to hold the gear if the bottle needs to be used as a bottle). There's a lot of room left over, because I no longer put one of those silvery survival bags in the bottle (it's in the fanny pack pouch). I've been meaning to put some First Aid-y stuff in there, but I'm not sure what'll fit....



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If you are carrying a dry bottle, you might want to pack some water purification tabs. Seems to me that if you are scrounging water you may want to kill the bugs in it. I saw the premade survival kits at the sporting goods store (gander mountain)and thought the kits were a great value.

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