For over 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America have been teaching young men a variety of skills, from civic duties to craftsmanship to outdoors survival. With a strong emphasis on camping and other outdoors skills, the Boy Scouts encourages its members to get out into nature. These experiences include short weekend camping trips, advanced backpacking trips and even some week-long trips for the more advanced scouts. Boy Scouts learn skills like building and maintaining a campsite, building fires, self-sufficiency and leaving no trace, which make for great outdoorsmen later in life.
Leave No Trace
The “leave no trace” principal is fairly easy to understand, but can be harder to implement. To leave no trace is to make sure you have as minimal an impact on your surroundings as possible. This includes not leaving trash, minimizing any damage you might cause by setting up your tent and preparing your campsite in ways that don’t harm the outdoors in general.
If you are backpacking, it is important to only bring necessary supplies. Remember you have to bring home whatever you bring out for your trip, such as trash and equipment. When at a park, remember to follow all the rules and curtesies that are set out to make sure your fellow campers have as good a time as you do. Not littering, keeping the noise down (especially after dark) and sticking to marked paths and areas ensures that the people after you can enjoy nature like you did. You also need to make sure you don’t start a wildfire by keeping campfires contained in a designated area or by building a proper fire pit.
In case things go wrong while you are out in the wilderness, the most important thing is to not panic. Remembering the acronym S.T.O.P. can get you out of a bind and save your life.
- Stay calm. Once you realize you are lost or in trouble, you need to take some time to regroup. Eating a bit of food or drinking some water is a good way to start that process. Then, spend some time gathering your thoughts.
- Think. Think about how you got where you are. Look around you and figure out where you are on a map or GPS device. Take some time to figure out what kind of supplies you have, such as food, water and tools, and if they can help you get out of your current situation.
- Observe. Look for signs of where you were, such as footprints or disturbed areas. Keep in mind the time of day and how much daylight you have, as stumbling around in the dark is never a good idea.
- Plan. If you decide to find your way back, make a plan so you won’t get yourself into even more trouble. Leave a trail by marking where you’ve been to find your way back to the original spot if need be.
It’s good practice to keep a whistle and mirror or other reflective object on you when you venture into the outdoors because both are easy, low-effort ways to get attention if you need help. Whistles can make a much louder sound than yelling and take much less effort. Mirrors can be seen from miles away.
Multitools are an essential tool when hiking or camping. These allow you to have many different tools, including knives, saws, fire starters and compasses, while minimizing the amount of weight and space they take up.
Being in the outdoors is a great experience. Organizations like the Boy Scouts teach the principals of making the most of your experience as well as making sure nature is as enjoyable today as it was yesterday.