Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Recreation/Wilderness Leadership

Wilderness Leadership
General Conference
See also Wilderness Leadership - Advanced
Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: 1976

1. Have the following honors


2. Know and practice the principles of health, safety, and rules of conduct to be used when in the wilderness with a youth group.


The principles of health apply whether you are in the wilderness or not. A healthy diet should be maintained on any wilderness outing. Regular medications (if necessary) should be taken as prescribed. Personal hygiene should be practiced, including washing the hands frequently, and brushing the teeth regularly.

The danger of being in the wilderness is that it is remote. Ambulance service is not available in a forest, and transporting an injured person to a facility where professional medical care is available is likely be a time-consuming proposition. Furthermore, the more time that elapses between an injury and treatment, the less positive the outcome is likely to be.

Therefore, extra care should be taken, and the risks should be evaluated with the remoteness of the location in mind. Be conservative, and minimize risk wherever possible. This means you do not jump from high places. A sprained ankle can lead to disaster. Remember that if a person is injured badly enough to become immobile, someone will have to carry him out, along with his gear and their own gear, especially if that gear is critical to survival. If everyone is already fully laden, this can be a tremendous problem.

This is also the reason that "horsing around" should not be tolerated by a leader. Horseplay can lead to injury, and injury is to be avoided.

Fire safety should also be practiced, as should ax safety, and knife safety. Remember that an injury in the wilderness is always more serious than an equivalent injury at home.

The 7 Leave No Trace Principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                      
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

3. Know and demonstrate the principles of signaling and rescue.


Make a distress signal

Make a distress signal on the ground by piling rocks, branches, or other debris to form large letters spelling "S.O.S." This is the universally recognized signal for help. Try to use materials that contrast with the surrounding environment. In winter, you may be able to stomp an SOS into the snow. Make the letters read from east to west (or west to east) so that the shadows catch the letters better.

Light three fires

You may also light three fires to signal for help. Build them either in a line or in a triangle, and get them good and hot. When you see a rescue plane during daylight hours, add green plant matter to the flames. This should cause thick smoke. Be careful to not extinguish the fire by doing this.

Signaling mirror The emergency signaling mirror is approximately 3 by 5 inches and consists of an aluminized reflecting glass mirror, a back cover glass, and a sighting device. It is used to attract the attention of passing aircraft or ships by reflection, either in sunlight or in hazy weather. The reflections of this shatterproof mirror can be seen at a distance of 30 miles at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Though less effective, and with possible shorter range, mirror flashes can also be seen on cloudy days with limited visibility. To use the mirror, proceed as follows:

  1. Punch a cross-hole in its center.
  2. Hold the mirror about 3 inches in front of your face and sight through the cross at the ship or aircraft. The spot of light shining through the hole onto your face will be seen in the cross-hole.
  3. While keeping a sight on the ship or aircraft, adjust the mirror until the spot of light on your face disappears in the hole. The bright spot, seen through the sight, will then be aimed directly at the search ship or aircraft.

4. Assist in planning and participate with a group in a mock demonstration of what to do if lost, stranded, or injured in the wilderness. Assist in planning and participate as a leader in a search and rescue operation involving a hidden "injured" person.




The best advice about being lost, is - DON'T! And the best way to keep from getting lost is to stay on the path.

If you suddenly realize that you do not know where you are, then here are some things to do:

  1. Don't panic. You can't think clearly when you panic, so take a deep breath and relax.
  2. Pray. You may not know where you are, but God does, so talk to Him.
  3. Stay where you are. It is a lot easier for someone to find you if you stay put.
  4. Listen for the sounds of other campers, traffic, waterfalls, rivers, airplanes or anything that might help you find your way back.
  5. Look around - maybe you'll recognize something that can guide you back to civilization.
  6. If you have a whistle, blow on it. If you don't have a whistle, yell loudly. Someone in your party might hear you. Repeat this every 15 minutes or so and be sure to listen after each sounding. (three of anything is universally recognized as a call for help, so three whistle blasts, or three shouts)
  7. If you have a map and compass, try to locate your position by looking for hills valleys or streams.
  8. You can try to relocate the trail, but you do not want to get any further away from your last known location. Mark your location with something - a backpack, hat, or a large rock - but make sure it's something unmistakable. Then venture 10 meters out, and circle your marker, all the while looking about to see if you recognize the trail or a landmark, and always keeping your marker in view. If you do not see anything you recognize, widen the circle by another 10 meters and repeat. Continue circling your marker at ever wider intervals, but stop when continuing would cause you to lose sight of the marker.
  9. Climb a tree or hillside. A higher vantage point might reveal a landmark you missed from a lower elevation.
  10. If it's an hour or less until sunset, prepare to spend a comfortable evening. Make a shelter, and light a fire. Things will look better in the morning, and your fire may attract a rescuer.



If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, the first priority should be to find (or make) shelter. The cause of death for most stranding situations is exposure to the elements. Shelter is more important than water or food. A person can die of exposure overnight, whereas death by dehydration takes a day or more, and death by starvation may take several weeks. If possible, find or build a shelter well before nightfall.

If you have a cell phone with you, try calling the emergency service (911 in most places) and let them know of your predicament. Give them as accurate a description of your location as possible. If you cannot get voice service, try sending a text message instead - these are more reliable when the signal is weak.

After shelter has been secured, the next priority should be to build a fire. A fire serves many functions, the primary one being the provision of heat. This is especially important in winter conditions. A fire will also provide a visual indication of your whereabouts to any search party that has been dispatched to find you. Fire will also keep wild animals away and will provide a morale boost.

When day breaks, assess your situation. If the weather permits, venture out and see if you can figure out where you are or if there is anything you can do to improve your situation. Do not venture far from your shelter, or if you do, leave an indication of where you are headed. If you feel you need to leave your shelter, head for higher ground where cell phone reception may be better (again, use a text message instead of voice). It is far easier for a search party to find a person who stays put than it is to find one who is roaming about.

Try to make your location visible to aircraft. Keep the fire going even in the daytime. Make an S.O.S. in the snow or sand, or use rocks to spell out the letters. Drape brightly covered cloth over shrubbery. Do whatever you can to make your presence easily detectable. Then wait for rescue.



In a bleeding injury, your first priority is to stop the flow of blood. Do this by applying pressure to the wound and by binding it with bandages. Review your first aid procedures before setting out. If you are injured and stranded, stay where you are. This is the quickest path to rescue. Do not attempt to traverse treacherous territory if your are physically unable to do so. This could lead to further, more serious injury.

Search and Rescue Drill


In wilderness areas searches are conducted in an ever widening circle normally. All available resources are used including hunting dogs, aircraft, search hikers, and mounted search personnel. When a person is lost in the wilderness there is rarely any expense spared in the search for the person. If details are known about intended camping sites and hiking routes then teams will be sent to investigate those locations directly while others are sent into line of site search patterns where from the best known location for the missing person(s) was outward with each searcher being within site of the next. This will also be done in staggered waves so that any evidence overlooked by one searcher might be found by the next. When the area becomes large enough to make line of site searches impractical the teams will be broken into zones using a search grid. A team of two or more will be assigned some small piece of the map area to search, all areas will be searched repeatedly for missed evidence or people. All the while roadways and known paths will have searches, or outposts on them in case the victim is still mobile and trying to work his way out of his circumstance. Aircraft will search in grids as well when weather provides. At night some aircraft may utilize heat sensors to try and identify people in the wilderness, this has proven effective at times and at other times not. When an aircraft identifies a possible victim a search team in the grid will respond to the location, sometimes they find nothing; other times they find animals. If a person is seeking shelter in a very cold area, he may have burrowed deep enough into a location as to defeat the heat sensors on any aircraft as was the case with a child in Arizona who hid among some cactus which cool greatly at night. This particular child had evaded rescuers intentionally for more than a day because he was not supposed to talk to strangers.

Of course, for a mock search, you may opt out of using "all available resources," such as dogs and aircraft. For this requirement it will suffice to conduct a sweep of the area and if that fails, conduct a grid search.

5. Demonstrate some skills necessary for wilderness leadership in one of the following areas


Imagine yourself going into the wilderness with a group of people. Of all the people in the group, one seems to know nearly everything about staying comfortable and surviving in that environment. Whom do you think the group will follow?

Of course there is more to wilderness leadership than knowing how to thrive in the environment. A good leader will also know how to persuade people to follow. This is accomplished through competence and respect. But these qualities of a good leader are common to all of the areas listed below. Therefore, in the sections below we will focus on the skills necessary for comfort and survival but that are unique to the area being discussed.

a. Tropical


Immediate Considerations


Take shelter from tropical rain, sun, and insects. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes and other insects are immediate dangers, so protect yourself against bites.

In the tropics, even the smallest scratch can quickly become dangerously infected. Promptly treat any wound, no matter how minor.

Getting Water

From Banana or Plantain Trees
Wherever you find banana or plantain trees, you can get water. Cut down the tree, leaving about a 30-centimeter stump, and scoop out the center of the stump so that the hollow is bowl-shaped. Water from the roots will immediately start to fill the hollow. The first three fillings of water will be bitter, but succeeding fillings will be palatable. The stump will supply water for up to four days. Be sure to cover it to keep out insects.
From Bamboo
Green bamboo thickets are an excellent source of fresh water. Water from green bamboo is clear and odorless. To get the water, bend a green bamboo stalk, tie it down, and cut off the top. The water will drip freely during the night. Place a container directly below the cut top to collect the water as it drips. Old, cracked bamboo may contain water.
From Streams and Lakes
Often you can get nearly clear water from muddy streams or lakes by digging a hole in sandy soil about 1 meter from the bank. Water will seep into the hole. You must purify any water obtained in this manner.



With practice, movement through thick undergrowth and jungle can be done efficiently. Always wear long sleeves to avoid cuts and scratches.

To move easily, you must develop "jungle eye," that is, you should not concentrate on the pattern of bushes and trees to your immediate front. You must focus on the jungle further out and find natural breaks in the foliage. Look through the jungle, not at it. Stop and stoop down occasionally to look along the jungle floor. This action may reveal game trails that you can follow.

Stay alert and move slowly and steadily through dense forest or jungle. Stop periodically to listen and take your bearings. Use a machete to cut through dense vegetation, but do not cut unnecessarily or you will quickly wear yourself out. If using a machete, stroke upward when cutting vines to reduce noise because sound carries long distances in the jungle. Use a stick to part the vegetation. Using a stick will also help dislodge biting ants, spiders, or snakes. Do not grasp at brush or vines when climbing slopes; they may have irritating spines or sharp thorns.

Many jungle and forest animals follow game trails. These trails wind and cross, but frequently lead to water or clearings. Use these trails if they lead in your desired direction of travel.

b. Desert


This section borrows heavily from the U.S. Army's FM21-76 Survival manual, which is in the public domain.

Intense sunlight and heat increase the body's need for water. To conserve your body fluids and energy, you will need a shelter to reduce your exposure to the heat of the day. Travel at night to lessen your use of water.

General Guidelines


Understanding how the air temperature and your physical activity affect your water requirements allows you to take measures to get the most from your water supply. These measures are--

  • Find shade! Get out of the sun!
  • Place something between you and the hot ground.
  • Limit your movements!
  • Conserve your sweat. Wear your complete uniform to include T-shirt. Roll the sleeves down, cover your head, and protect your neck with a scarf or similar item. These steps will protect your body from hot-blowing winds and the direct rays of the sun. Your clothing will absorb your sweat, keeping it against your skin so that you gain its full cooling effect. By staying in the shade quietly, fully clothed, not talking, keeping your mouth closed, and breathing through your nose, your water requirement for survival drops dramatically.
  • If water is scarce, do not eat. Food requires water for digestion; therefore, eating food will use water that you need for cooling.

Thirst is not a reliable guide for your need for water. A person who uses thirst as a guide will drink only two-thirds of his daily water requirement. To prevent this "voluntary" dehydration, use the following guide:

  • At temperatures below 38 degrees C, drink 0.5 liter of water every hour.
  • At temperatures above 38 degrees C, drink 1 liter of water every hour.

Drinking water at regular intervals helps your body remain cool and decreases sweating. Even when your water supply is low, sipping water constantly will keep your body cooler and reduce water loss through sweating. Conserve your fluids by reducing activity during the heat of day. Do not ration your water! If you try to ration water, you stand a good chance of becoming a heat casualty.

Take extra care to avoid heat injuries. Rest during the day. Work during the cool evenings and nights. Use a buddy system to watch for heat injury, and observe the following guidelines:

  • Make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Watch for signs of heat injury. If someone complains of tiredness or wanders away from the group, he may be a heat casualty.
  • Drink water at least once an hour.
  • Get in the shade when resting; do not lie directly on the ground.
  • Do not take off your shirt and work during the day.
  • Check the color of your urine. A light color means you are drinking enough water, a dark color means you need to drink more.

Getting Water

Below-ground still

To make a belowground still, you need a digging tool, a container, a clear plastic sheet, a drinking tube, and a rock.

Select a site where you believe the soil will contain moisture (such as a dry stream bed or a low spot where rainwater has collected). The soil at this site should be easy to dig, and sunlight must hit the site most of the day.

To construct the still--

  • Dig a bowl-shaped hole about 1 meter across and 60 centimeters deep.
  • Dig a sump in the center of the hole. The sump's depth and perimeter will depend on the size of the container that you have to place in it. The bottom of the sump should allow the container to stand upright.
  • Anchor the tubing to the container's bottom by forming a loose overhand knot in the tubing.
  • Place the container upright in the sump.
  • Extend the unanchored end of the tubing up, over, and beyond the lip of the hole.
  • Place the plastic sheet over the hole, covering its edges with soil to hold it in place.
  • Place a rock in the center of the plastic sheet.
  • Lower the plastic sheet into the hole until it is about 40 centimeters below ground level. It now forms an inverted cone with the rock at its apex. Make sure that the cone's apex is directly over your container. Also make sure the plastic cone does not touch the sides of the hole because the earth will absorb the condensed water.
  • Put more soil on the edges of the plastic to hold it securely in place and to prevent the loss of moisture.
  • Plug the tube when not in use so that the moisture will not evaporate.

You can drink water without disturbing the still by using the tube as a straw.

You may want to use plants in the hole as a moisture source. If so, dig out additional soil from the sides of the hole to form a slope on which to place the plants. Then proceed as above.

If polluted water is your only moisture source, dig a small trough outside the hole about 25 centimeters from the still's lip (Figure 6-8). Dig the trough about 25 centimeters deep and 8 centimeters wide. Pour the polluted water in the trough. Be sure you do not spill any polluted water around the rim of the hole where the plastic sheet touches the soil. The trough holds the polluted water and the soil filters it as the still draws it. The water then condenses on the plastic and drains into the container. This process works extremely well when your only water source is salt water.

You will need at least three stills to meet your individual daily water intake needs.

c. Swamp


Saltwater Swamps


Saltwater swamps are common in coastal areas subject to tidal flooding. Mangrove trees thrive in these swamps. Mangrove trees can reach heights of 12 meters, and their tangled roots are an obstacle to movement. Visibility in this type of swamp is poor, and movement is extremely difficult. Sometimes, streams that you can raft form channels, but you usually must travel on foot through this swamp.

You find saltwater swamps in West Africa, Madagascar, Malaysia, the Pacific islands, Central and South America, and at the mouth of the Ganges River in India. The swamps at the mouths of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and rivers of Guyana consist of mud and trees that offer little shade. Tides in saltwater swamps can vary as much as 12 meters.

Everything in a saltwater swamp may appear hostile to you, from leeches and insects to crocodiles and caimans. Avoid the dangerous animals in this swamp.

Avoid this swamp altogether if you can. If there are water channels through it, you may be able to use a raft to escape.

Freshwater Swamps


You find freshwater swamps in low-lying inland areas. Their characteristics are masses of thorny undergrowth, reeds, grasses, and occasional short palms that reduce visibility and make travel difficult. There are often islands that dot these swamps, allowing you to get out of the water. Wildlife is abundant in these swamps.

Swamp Bed


In a marsh or swamp, or any area with standing water or continually wet ground, the swamp bed keeps you out of the water. When selecting such a site, consider the weather, wind, tides, and available materials.

To make a swamp bed--

  • Look for four trees clustered in a rectangle, or cut four poles (bamboo is ideal) and drive them firmly into the ground so they form a rectangle. They should be far enough apart and strong enough to support your height and weight, to include equipment.
  • Cut two poles that span the width of the rectangle. They, too, must be strong enough to support your weight.
  • Secure these two poles to the trees (or poles). Be sure they are high enough above the ground or water to allow for tides and high water.
  • Cut additional poles that span the rectangle's length. Lay them across the two side poles, and secure them.
  • Cover the top of the bed frame with broad leaves or grass to form a soft sleeping surface.
  • Build a fire pad by laying clay, silt, or mud on one comer of the swamp bed and allow it to dry.

Another shelter designed to get you above and out of the water or wet ground uses the same rectangular configuration as the swamp bed. You very simply lay sticks and branches lengthwise on the inside of the trees (or poles) until there is enough material to raise the sleeping surface above the water level.

d. Mountain (rocks, ice, high altitude)


Falling rocks

Rocky mountains tend to be hazardous.

Every rock mountain is slowly disintegrating due to erosion, the process being especially rapid above the snow-line. Rock faces are constantly swept by falling stones, which may be possible to dodge. Falling rocks tend to form furrows in a mountain face, and these furrows (couloirs) have to be ascended with caution, their sides often being safe when the middle is stoneswept. Rocks fall more frequently on some days than on others, according to the recent weather. Ice formed during the night may temporarily bind rocks to the face but warmth of the day or lubricating water from melting snow or rain may easily dislodge these rocks. Local experience is a valuable help on determining typical rockfall on such routes.

The direction of the dip of rock strata sometimes determines the degree of danger on a particular face; the character of the rock must also be considered. Where stones fall frequently debris will be found below, while on snow slopes falling stones cut furrows visible from a great distance. In planning an ascent of a new peak or an unfamiliar route, mountaineers must look for such traces. When falling stones get mixed in considerable quantity with slushy snow or water a mud avalanche is formed (common in the Himalaya). It is vital to avoid camping in their possible line of fall.

Falling ice


The places where ice may fall can always be determined beforehand. It falls in the broken parts of glaciers (seracs) and from overhanging cornices formed on the crests of narrow ridges. Large icicles are often formed on steep rock faces, and these fall frequently in fine weather following cold and stormy days. They have to be avoided like falling stones. Seracs are slow in formation, and slow in arriving (by glacier motion) at a condition of unstable equilibrium. They generally fall in or just after the hottest part of the day. A skillful and experienced ice-man will usually devise a safe route through a most intricate ice-fall, but such places should be avoided in the afternoon of a hot day. Hanging glaciers (i.e. glaciers perched on steep slopes) often discharge themselves over steep rock-faces, the snout breaking off at intervals. They can always be detected by their debris below. Their track should be avoided.

Falls from rocks


The skill of a rock climber is shown by one's choice of handhold and foothold, and their adhesion to those once they have chosen. Much depends on a correct estimate of the firmness of the rock where weight is to be thrown upon it. Many loose rocks are quite firm enough to bear a person's weight, but experience is needed to know which can be trusted, and skill is required in transferring the weight to them without jerking. On rotten rocks the rope must be handled with special care, lest it should dislodge loose stones on to those below. Similar care must be given to handholds and footholds, for the same reason. When a horizontal traverse has to be made across very difficult rocks, a dangerous situation may arise unless at both ends of the traverse there are firm positions. Mutual assistance on hard rocks takes all manner of forms: two, or even three, people climbing on one another's shoulders, or using an ice axe propped up by others for a foothold. The great principle is that of co-operation, all the members of the party climbing with reference to the others, and not as independent units; each when moving must know what the climber in front and the one behind are doing. After bad weather steep rocks are often found covered with a veneer of ice (verglas), which may even render them inaccessible. Crampons are useful on such occasions.



The avalanche is the most underestimated danger in the mountains. People generally think that they will be able to recognize the hazards and survive being caught. The truth is a somewhat different story. Every year, 120 - 150 people die in small avalanches in the Alps alone. The vast majority are reasonably experienced male skiers aged 20–35 but also include ski instructors and guides. There is always a lot of pressure to risk a snow crossing. Turning back takes a lot of extra time and effort, supreme leadership, and most importantly there seldom is an avalanche to prove the right decision was made. Making the decision to turn around is especially hard if others are crossing the slope, but any next person could become the trigger.

Dangerous slides are most likely to occur on the same slopes preferred by many skiers: long and wide open, few trees or large rocks, 30 to 45 degrees of angle, large load of fresh snow, soon after a big storm, on a slope 'lee to the storm'. Solar radiation can trigger slides as well. These will typically be a point release or wet slough type of avalanche. The added weight of the wet slide can trigger a slab avalanche. Ninety percent of reported victims are caught in avalanches triggered by themselves or others in their group.

When going off-piste or travelling in alpine terrain, parties are advised to always carry:

  1. avalanche beacon
  2. probe
  3. shovel (retrieving victims with a shovel instead of your hands is five times faster)

It is also important to have had avalanche training! Paradoxically, expert skiers who have avalanche training make up a large percentage of avalanche fatalities; perhaps because they are the ones more likely to ski in areas prone to avalanches, and certainly because most people do not practice enough with their equipment to be truly fast and efficient rescuers.

Even with proper rescue equipment and training, there is a one-in-five chance of dying if caught in a significant avalanche, and only a 50/50 chance of being found alive if buried more than a few minutes. The best solution is to learn how to avoid risky conditions.

Ice slopes

Mountaineers descending mixed rock, snow and ice slope in winter High Tatras.

For travel on slopes consisting of ice or hard snow, crampons are a standard part of a mountaineer's equipment. While step-cutting can sometimes be used on snow slopes of moderate angle, this can be a slow and tiring process, which does not provide the higher security of crampons. However, in soft snow or powder, crampons are easily hampered by balling of snow, which reduces their effectiveness. In either case, an ice axe not only assists with balance but provides the climber with the possibility of self-arrest in case of a slip or fall. On a true ice slope however, an ice axe is rarely able to effect a self-arrest. As an additional safety precaution on steep ice slopes, the climbing rope is attached to ice screws buried into the ice.

True ice slopes are rare in Europe, though common in mountains in the tropics, where newly-fallen snow quickly thaws on the surface and becomes sodden below, so that the next night's frost turns the whole mass into a sheet of semi-solid ice.

Snow slopes

Part of the Haute Route between France and Switzerland; two alpinists can be seen following the trail in the snow.

Snow slopes are very common, and usually easy to ascend. At the foot of a snow or ice slope is generally a big crevasse, called a bergschrund, where the final slope of the mountain rises from a snow-field or glacier. Such bergschrunds are generally too wide to be stepped across, and must be crossed by a snow bridge, which needs careful testing and a painstaking use of the rope. A steep snow slope in bad condition may be dangerous, as the whole body of snow may start as an avalanche. Such slopes are less dangerous if ascended directly, rather than obliquely, for an oblique or horizontal track cuts them across and facilitates movement of the mass. New snow lying on ice is especially dangerous. Experience is needed for deciding on the advisability of advancing over snow in doubtful condition. Snow on rocks is usually rotten unless it is thick; snow on snow is likely to be sound. A day or two of fine weather will usually bring new snow into sound condition. Snow cannot lie at a very steep angle, though it often deceives the eye as to its slope. Snow slopes seldom exceed 40°. Ice slopes may be much steeper. Snow slopes in early morning are usually hard and safe, but the same in the afternoon are quite soft and possibly dangerous; hence the advantage of an early start.



Crevasses are the slits or deep chasms formed in the substance of a glacier as it passes over an uneven bed. They may be open or hidden. In the lower part of a glacier the crevasses are open. Above the snow-line they are frequently hidden by arched-over accumulations of winter snow. The detection of hidden crevasses requires care and experience. After a fresh fall of snow they can only be detected by sounding with the pole of the ice axe, or by looking to right and left where the open extension of a partially hidden crevasse may be obvious. The safeguard against accident is the rope, and no one should ever cross a snow-covered glacier unless roped to one, or even better to two companions. Anyone venturing onto crevasses should be trained in crevasse rescue.



The primary dangers caused by bad weather centre around the changes it causes in snow and rock conditions, making movement suddenly much more arduous and hazardous than under normal circumstances. Whiteouts make it difficult to retrace a route while rain may prevent taking the easiest line only determined as such under dry conditions. In a storm the mountaineer who uses a compass for guidance has a great advantage over a merely empirical observer. In large snow-fields it is, of course, easier to go wrong than on rocks, but intelligence and experience are the best guides in safely navigating objective hazards.

Summer thunderstorms may produce intense lightning. If a climber happens to be standing on or near the summit, they risk being struck. There are many cases where people have been struck by lightning while climbing mountains. In most mountainous regions, local storms develop by late morning and early afternoon. Many climbers will get an "alpine start"; that is before or by first light so as to be on the way down when storms are intensifying in activity and lightning and other weather hazards are a distinct threat to safety. High winds can speed the onset of hypothermia, as well as damage equipment such as tents used for shelter. Under certain conditions, storms can also create waterfalls which can slow or stop climbing progress. A notable example is the "Foen" wind acting upon the Eiger.



Rapid ascent can lead to altitude sickness. The best treatment is to descend immediately. The climber's motto at high altitude is "climb high, sleep low", referring to the regimen of climbing higher to acclimatize but returning to lower elevation to sleep.

Common symptoms of altitude sickness include severe headache, sleep problems, nausea, lack of appetite, lethargy and body ache. Mountain sickness may progress to HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), both of which can be fatal within 24 hours.

In high mountains, atmospheric pressure is lower and this means that less oxygen is available to breathe. This is the underlying cause of altitude sickness. Everyone needs to acclimatize, even exceptional mountaineers that have been to high altitude before. Generally speaking, mountaineers start using bottled oxygen when they climb above 7,000 m. Exceptional mountaineers have climbed 8000-meter peaks (including Everest) without oxygen, almost always with a carefully planned program of acclimatization.

e. Temperate forest




Small fires are better than large ones as they require less fuel and make less smoke. Sit close. Less fuel means less work in gathering fuel. Review the answers in Camping Skills IV to refresh yourself on how to build a fire in wet weather.



When travelling for extended periods of time in the wilderness, it is not practical to carry all the water you will need. Happily, it is not necessary to do that either if you know how to make the water that is available suitable for drinking. There are generally three ways to purify water: chemically, by boiling, or by filtering. The most reliable method of purifying water is by pumping it through a filter. Chemically treating the water is also easy and convenient until you run out of purification tablets. Boiling water requires that you stop long enough to build a fire and bring the water to a boil. Then you are faced with the problem of carrying boiling water. For these reasons, filtering is the preferred solution. Be sure to refill when water is available, and think ahead to when water may not be plentiful (such as near the summit of a large hill or mountain), and make adequate preparations.

Bear Danger


Bear danger is the risk encountered by humans while interacting with wild bears.

Although some bears are alpha predators in their own habitat, they do not, under normal circumstances, hunt and feed on animals of their own size (including humans). Therefore, the most important cases of bear attack occur when the animal is defending itself against any possible threat. For instance, bear sows can become extremely aggressive if they feel their cubs are threatened. Any solitary bear is also likely to become agitated if surprised or cornered by a threat maker, especially while eating.

Dealing with bear encounters

Before backpackers are allowed to enter an area with bears, they may be required to watch a video that teaches how to avoid encountering or agitating bears. Experts emphasize keeping your distance and making noise to avoid startling a bear as the best ways to avoid a bear attack. If a bear does become confrontational, the usual advice is to raise the arms above the head so as to appear larger, and to yell at the bear. Running away can activate the bear's hunting instincts and lead to it perceiving the human as prey. If a bear does charge, persons are advised to hold their ground, as most bear charges are bluffs. Finally, if a bear does attack, the usual advice is to curl into a fetal position so as to shield vital organs and appear non-threatening. If this is not effective in stopping the attack, the only option left is to fight the bear in any way you can. The ideal place to punch a bear is the snout or eyes. This advice applies to omnivores such as brown and black bears; the best way to avoid being attacked by the completely carnivorous polar bear is not to enter any area where polar bears live, or at least remain inside a hard-shell vehicle or building.

Food storage and garbage disposal

Bears have an excellent sense of smell, and are attracted to human and pet foods as well as refuse. Improper storage of these items can allow bears to eat human food and become dependent on it, increasing the probability of encounters with humans. Most brown and black bear encounters in human-populated areas involve so-called "trouble bears", usually young males who have just left their mothers and do not yet have a territory of their own. If they wander close to human settlements, the smells of cooking and garbage can cause them to ignore their usual instinct to avoid humans. Many parks and persons in areas with bears utilize bear-resistant garbage cans and dumpsters for this reason, and many areas have laws prohibiting the feeding of bears, even if unintentional. Campers can access bear-proof containers from many parks to store their food and trash. The containers are then buried or strung on a rope between two tall trees, out of bears' reach. They are also instructed to put their containers, campfire, and tenting 90 meters   away from each other, forming a triangle.

f. Plain and tundra


Snow Blindness


The reflection of the sun's ultraviolet rays off a snow-covered area causes this condition. The symptoms of snow blindness are a sensation of grit in the eyes, pain in and over the eyes that increases with eyeball movement, red and teary eyes, and a headache that intensifies with continued exposure to light. Prolonged exposure to these rays can result in permanent eye damage. To treat snow blindness, bandage your eyes until the symptoms disappear.

You can prevent snow blindness by wearing sunglasses. If you don't have sunglasses, improvise. Cut slits in a piece of cardboard, thin wood, tree bark, or other available material. Putting soot under your eyes will help reduce shine and glare.



Dried moss, grass, and scrub willow are other materials you can use for fuel. These are usually plentiful near streams in tundras (open, treeless plains). By bundling or twisting grasses or other scrub vegetation to form a large, solid mass, you will have a slower burning, more productive fuel.

Warm Clothing


Dress in layers and avoid cotton. Wool or synthetics are warm even when wet, but when cotton gets wet (even from sweat), it effectively conducts heat away from the body. Wear a waterproof outer layer. If you find you are beginning to sweat, remove a layer of clothing or vent it. It is common for a person carrying a heavy load or doing heavy work (such as with an ax or shovel) to sweat even on a very cold day. Keep adjusting your layers until you quit sweating, as you do not want to be wet. When the exertion comes to an end, sweat-soaked clothing will quickly chill you.



Travelling in the snow is in many ways easier than travelling over solid ground if you have the right equipment. Snow shoes will keep you from sinking into the snow making it far easier to walk. Skis will speed you along even faster. Load your equipment on a sled and pull it along behind you. In this way you can carry far more equipment (or small children) than you could with a backpack.

6. Understand and demonstrate wilderness and camping etiquette regarding the preservation of the outdoors.


Be considerate of other campers. When purchasing tents, buy ones in muted colors that will blend in with the environment. Blues, greens, and browns are preferred to reds and oranges. People go camping to escape the garishness of the city—leave that behind.

Also be mindful of the noise level made in your camp. Don't be a nuisance. If camping in the wilderness, be sure to make your camp out of sight of the trail. Most National Forests have guidelines for where you can camp in relation to the trail. Find out what those guidelines are and follow them.

Do not enter anyone else's camp site without their permission, especially when traveling to or from your campsite to other places on the campground. It is very rude to cut through another camp. Use the road or trail, even if it will take longer.

Leave the area cleaner than you found it. If you are leading a group of youngsters on a campout, have a contest before you pile back in your cars to go home: see who can collect the most litter (define "most" first though - it can mean by volume, by weight, or by item count). Offer a prize to the one who collects the most (such as getting to choose which seat he or she will sit in on the trip home).

7. Identify in the wild, prepare, and eat ten varieties of wild plants.


We present some of the more common edible plants here. For more options see the Edible Wild Plants honor in the Nature chapter of this book. Incidentally, once you have met this requirement, you will be well on your way to earning the Edible Wild Plants Honor.


Description: Acorns are the fruit of the oak tree. They are a very important food source for wildlife. Creatures that make acorns an important part of their diet include birds such as jays, pigeons, some ducks and several species of woodpeckers. Small mammals that feed on acorns include mice, squirrels and several other rodents. Large mammals such as pigs, bears and deer also consume large amounts of acorns; they may constitute up to 25% of the diet of deer in the autumn. However, acorns are toxic to some other animals, such as horses. In some human cultures, acorns once constituted a dietary staple, though they are now generally only a very minor food.

Where found: The oak is native to the northern hemisphere, and includes deciduous and evergreen species extending from cold latitudes to tropical Asia and the Americas.

Availability: Fall

Use: The acorn contains tannin, which is very bitter and slightly toxic. Luckily, tannin is easily removed by soaking in water. Acorns from the white oak family have far less tannin than acorns from the black (or red) oak family, so if you have a choice, opt for white oaks. The first acorns to fall from the tree are likely to contain worms and moth larvae. Most of these bad acorns will float in water, while most good acorns will sink. At the beginning of acorn season (late summer or early autumn) you will find that most of the acorns will float and very few will sink. As the season progresses, you will find that most acorns will sink and few will float. Once you have sorted them, shell them. They can be opened with a pair of pliers or a nutcracker. Remove the meat from the shell, crush it into a fine powder (use a mortar & pestle or a food processor), and then soak it in water for about a week, changing the water twice a day. If you choose to, you can speed this process by boiling the shelled, crushed acorns in several changes of water. Native Americans would put the crushed acorns in a sack and then place the sack in a swift stream for several days. If after soaking, the acorn mush is still bitter, it needs to soak longer. When they are no longer bitter, spread them out on a cookie sheet and dry them in an oven at 120°C  for 90 minutes. They can be used as flour or to make acorn mush - a staple of the Native American diet. You can also skip crushing them and eat them as nuts, but uncrushed acorns will take much longer to leach.


Description: The blackberry is a widespread and well known shrub; commonly called a bramble in the eastern U.S. and Europe but a caneberry in the western U.S. growing to 3 m (10 ft) and producing a soft-bodied fruit popular for use in desserts, jams, and seedless jellies.

Where found: Throughout the non-polar regions of the world.

Availability: Fall

Use: The berries are fantastic eaten straight from the cane, cooked into jelly, or baked into pies.

Typha latifolia - Cattail

Where found: in wetlands throughout the Northern Hemisphere

Availability: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

Use: In early spring, the shoots and stalks can be pulled up and eaten raw or boiled for 15 minutes. In late spring, the spikes can be gathered just before they break out of their papery sheaths, boiled for a few minutes, buttered, and eaten like corn-on-the-cob. In early summer, the spikes produce large quantities of pollen which can be gathered by covering the top of the plant with a paper bag, inverting it, and shaking vigorously. The pollen can be used as flour when mixed half and half with wheat flour. In fall and winter, the roots can be gathered. Wash them and then soak them in a bucket of water. While still submerged, crush them to remove the fibrous covering. Then let the starchy portion of the root settle to the bottom. Skim off the fiber, strain out the water, and use as flour.


Description: Chicory is a spindly plant with purple (though sometimes pink or white) flowers. The petals are narrow, notched at the tips, and numerous. The flowers fold up in the afternoon, opening again in the morning.

Where found: Originating from Europe, it was naturalized in North America, where it has become a widespread roadside weed.

Availability: Early spring (leaves), Fall to Spring (roots)

Use: The roots are washed, roasted, ground, and brewed as a coffee substitute (use 1.5 tsp per cup of water). In the spring the white, underground portion of the leaves are an excellent addition to salads, and the green above-ground portions can be boiled and eaten as greens.


Where found: Found worldwide in fields and yards

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall

Use: The flowers can be eaten raw, added to salads, boiled in soups, or dried and ground to flour. They can also be used to make fritters. Red clover is shown here, but white clover is just as good (but a little smaller, so it takes more work to collect). The leaves and stems are also edible in salads or as greens.


Where found: Throughout Asia, Europe, and North America

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall

Use: Add the young, tender leaves to salad raw, or boil and eat as greens. The roots can be roasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute.

Day Lily

Description: The alternating lanceolate leaves are grouped into fans (a clump also containing the roots and the crown). The crown of a day lily is the small white portion of the stem, between the leaves and the roots. The name "day lily" reflects the fact that the individual flowers last for only one day. The flowers of most species open at sunrise and wither at sunset, to be replaced by another one (sometimes two or none) on the same stem the next day; some species are night-blooming.

Where found: Originally from Eurasia, native from Europe to China, Korea, and Japan, their large showy flowers have made them popular worldwide

Availability: Early Spring (shoots), Summer (buds and flowers), All Year (tubers)

Use: The early shoots make a good addition to a salad. The buds and flowers can be prepared by boiling or be made into fritters. The tubers can also be added to salads or can be prepared like corn-on-the-cob.


Description: Goldenrods are easily recognized by their golden inflorescence with hundreds of small flower heads. They have slender, usually hairless stems. They can grow to a length between 60 cm and 1.5 m. Their alternate leaves are linear to lanceolate. Their margins are usually finely to sharply serrated.

Where found: Found in the meadows and pastures, along roads, ditches and waste areas in North America and Europe.

Use: The flowers can be steeped in boiling water for 10 minutes to make an anise-flavored tea.


Description: On their own, Smilax plants will grow as a shrub, forming dense impenetrable thickets. They will also grow over trees and other plants up to 10 m high using its hooked thorns to hang on to and scramble over branches. The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species. The leaves are heart shaped and vary from 4-30 cm long in different species.

Where found: Eastern United States

Availability: Spring, Summer

Use: The shoots and leaves are delicious eaten raw on the trail or in salads. They can also be boiled and eaten as asparagus and greens.


Description: Common milkweed is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from a rhizome to 1-2 m tall. The stem is very hairy, and all parts of the plants produce a white latex when broken. The leaves are opposite, simple broad ovate-lanceolate, 7-25 cm long and 3-12 cm broad, usually with an undulate margin and a red-colored main vein. They have a very short petiole and a velvety underside. The flowers are grouped in several spherical umbels with numerous flowers in each umbel. The individual flowers are small, 1-2 cm diameter, perfumed, with five cornate hoods. The seeds are attached to long, white flossy hairs and encased in large pods.

Where found: Native to most of North America east of the Rockies, with the exception of the drier parts of the Prairies. It grows in sandy soils and appreciates lots of sunlight.

Availability: Spring, Summer

Use: The stems, shoots, leaves, flowers, and young pods are all edible after they are boiled in several changes of water. The milky sap tastes bitter and is mildly toxic, but boiling removes it completely.

Pine Trees

Description: Pines are evergreen and resinous. The bark of most pines is thick and scaly, but some species have thin, flaking bark. The branches are produced in regular "pseudowhorls", actually a very tight spiral but appearing like a ring of branches arising from the same point. Many pines are uninodal, producing just one such whorl of branches each year, from buds at the tip of the year's new shoot, but others are multinodal, producing two or more whorls of branches per year. The new spring shoots are sometimes called "candles"; they are light-colored and point upward at first, then later darken and spread outward.

Where found: Pines are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, they range from the Arctic south to Nicaragua and Hispaniola, with the highest diversity in Mexico and California. In Eurasia, they range from Portugal and Scotland east to the Russian Far East, Japan, and the Philippines, and south to northernmost Africa, the Himalaya and Southeast Asia, with one species (Sumatran Pine) just crossing the Equator in Sumatra. Pines are also extensively planted in many parts of the Southern Hemisphere

Availability: All year

Use: The needles can be eaten year-round. The young shoots can be eaten as candy when stripped of the needles, peeled, boiled until tender, and then simmered for 20-30 minutes in a sugary syrup.

Pine Nuts

Description: Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of value as a human food. The nuts are located at the base of the scales of the cones.

Where found: Temperate areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.

Availability: Fall

Use: Pine nuts can be eaten raw or baked into a casserole.

Plantago Major, or Broadleaf Plantain

Description: The Broadleaf Plantain or Greater Plantago (Plantago major) is a member of the plantago family, Plantaginaceae. In North America, this plant is primarily a weed, though it is edible and is used in herbal medicine. The plant is native to Europe, and is believed to be one of the first plants to naturalize in the colonies.

This plant does best in compacted soils, and hence is sometimes called "roadweed". It is commonly found on field boundaries as it is tolerant to pesticides and herbicides. It is wind-pollenated, and a cause of summer allergies when in flower.

Where found: Common lawn weed found throughout

Availability: Best in Early Spring, also usable in Summer and Fall, but tough and stringy.

Use: Crushed leaves can be applied directly to the skin to stop bleeding, bee stings and insect bites. Psyllium seeds are a bulk laxative. The young leaves are delicious raw in salads. In summer and fall the leaves can be eaten when boiled as greens.

Sheep Sorrel

Where found: Throughout the Northern Hemisphere

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall

Use: Nibble on the raw leaves - a great addition to a salad. They may also be boiled and eaten like greens, or steeped to make a tea.

WARNING: Sheep sorrel contains small amount of oxalic acid which gives it its pleasantly sour taste. If eaten in large quantities over a period of time, however, may inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium.

Wild Strawberry

Description: Similar to the domestic variety, but the berries are quite a bit smaller, measuring about quarter inch (6 mm) in diameter. The Woodland Strawberry was widely cultivated in Europe before being largely replaced by the Garden Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa and other hybrids), which have much larger berries. Woodland Strawberry fruit is strongly flavored, and is still grown on a small scale commercially for the use of gourmets. Unlike most commercial and garden cultivars of strawberries, Woodland Strawberries rarely form runners, and are usually propagated by seeds or division of the plants.

Where found: Throughout the Northern Hemisphere

Availability: Summer

Use: The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked into jellies and jams. It can also be baked into pies. An herbal tea made from the leaves, stems, and flowers is believed to aid in the treatment of diarrhea.


Description: It grows to 3-10 m tall, and has alternate, pinnately compound leaves 25-55 cm long, each with 9-31 serrate leaflets 6-11 cm long. The leaf petioles and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. The fruit of staghorn sumac is one of the most identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small red drupes at the terminal end of the branches; the clusters are conic, 10-20 cm long and 4-6 cm broad at the base. The fruit appear during autumn, at which point the foliage turns a brilliant red. Sumacs are considered some of the best fall foliage around. The fruit has been known to last through winter and into spring.

Where found: From Ontario and Quebec south to northern Georgia and Mississippi.

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Use: The fruit drupes can be bruised and then soaked in water to make a refreshing lemonade-like drink.

WARNING: Avoid the Poison Sumac tree which is easily identified by its white flowers. Contact with poison sumac will cause a rash (like poison ivy).

Wintergreen, or Teaberry

Description: Wintergreen (also called Teaberry) is a low evergreen plant that grows in wooded areas. It produces red berries in the Fall, and they remain on the plant through the winter until the plant flowers again in the spring. The crushed leaves have a medicinal smell very much like peppermint (or surprise! wintergreen!) It is also used as the flavor of Wrigley's popular Winterfresh chewing gum.

Where found: Primarily found in the Northeastern United States, but it also grows in Minnesota, south to Mississippi, east to Georgia, and north to Maine.

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Use: The leaves can be picked and chewed raw like a chewing gum. The leaves can also be finely chopped and steeped in boiling water to make a tea. The berries can be eaten as well.

WARNING: Wintergreen is endangered in Illinois, so if you find it there, leave it be!

Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's Lace)

Description: It is a biennial plant growing up to 1 m tall, bearing an umbel of bright white flowers that turn into a "bird's nest" seed case after blooming. Very similar in appearance to the deadly poison hemlock, it is distinguished by a mix of bi-pinnate and tri-pinnate leaves, fine hairs on its stems and leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in its center.

Where found: Waste ground, fields, throughout

Availability: Fall to Early Spring

Use: The roots of the wild carrot can be cleaned and used as regular carrots. They are quite a bit smaller than domestic carrots, but the flavor is unmistakable. It is best to use the roots of the plant during its first year.

WARNING: Do not confuse the wild carrot with poison hemlock. The root of the wild carrot smells like carrots. Also the bracts beneath the flower heads are three-forked. Poison hemlock has a smooth, hollow, jointed stem and often has purple spots. Queen Anne's Lace has none of these characteristics.

Wild Garlic

Description: All parts of the plant have a strong garlic odor. The underground bulb is 1-2 cm diameter, with a fibrous outer layer. The main stem grows to 30-120 cm tall. The leaves are slender hollow tubular, 15-60 cm long and 2-4 mm thick, waxy textured, with a groove along the side of the leaf facing the stem. The flowers are 2-5 mm long, with six petals varying in color from pink to red or greenish-white. It flowers in the summer, June to August

Where found: Northern Hemisphere

Availability: All year

Use: Use the tubular leaves and bulbs in salad or in soups.

Wild Onion

Description: Wild Onion has an edible bulb covered with a dense skin of brown fibers and tastes like an onion. The plant also has strong, onion-like odor. The narrow, grass-like leaves originate near the base of the stem, which is topped by a dome-like cluster of star-shaped, pink or white flowers. It typically flowers in the spring and early summer, from May to June.

Where found: Throughout North America

Availability: Spring - Winter

Use: Use the leaves and bulbs raw in salads, or cook them in a soup. Basically, use them as you would domestic onions.

WARNING: Though the plant is edible, it pays to be careful in identifying it as there are several look-a-likes. So be sure to do more research before eating plant.

Wood Sorrel

Where found: Occurs throughout most of the world, except for the polar areas.

Availability: Spring, Summer, Fall

Use: Use the raw leaves, stems, and flowers as a refreshing, sour addition to a salad. Steep in boiling water for 10 minutes to make a tea.

WARNING: Wood sorrel contains small amount of oxalic acid which gives it its pleasantly sour taste. If eaten in large quantities over a period of time, however, may inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium.

8. Learn some of the wilderness leadership qualities of two of the following


a. Moses


Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt and lived in the desert for 40 years. During the whole of this time, he was their leader. Moses demonstrated both patience and wisdom. He cared for the people he led, and was constantly trying to help them both physically and spiritually.

b. David


During the time of King Saul's reign, Saul was determined to kill David. As a result, David fled to the wilderness where he was joined by a band of men. David demonstrated patience, cunning, and forgiveness. He was willing to let the Lord place him on the throne in His own time rather than taking matters into his own hands.

c. Elijah


Like David, Elijah fled to the wilderness to escape the wrath of the king. He lived by the brook Cherith for two years during a time of drought. The Lord provided his food, and his water was supplied by the brook. When the brook dried up, Elijah was sent to Zaraphath, and was present when the Lord performed a miracle for a widow and her son living there. Elijah lived with this widow until the drought ended.

d. Joshua


When Moses died, Joshua took over as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua showed wisdom and patience as Moses did, and was faithful to Moses' legacy.

e. John the Baptist


John lived in the wilderness before he began his ministry as "the Elijah to come."

John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4 NIV

It takes a wilderness leader to be able to make clothing of this sort and to survive on his chosen diet.

9. Lead a group in a weekend wilderness camping experience, applying the principles and skills learned in this honor.


This is where all that knowledge is put to use. Wilderness camping is different from "camp ground" camping and offers the Pathfinder many opportunities to practice group dynamics, responsibility, and build self-confidence. A well-organized trip is a joy to experience, whereas an ill-organized one can be a seemingly unending series of mishaps and misery.

As the leader, it is important that you do not do all the doing. The other participants will feel that they are merely so much luggage and begin to act as if they have no responsibilities. One of the most difficult lessons I have learned as a leader is that a leader should really step back and lead rather than jump in and do. When doing instead of leading, it is too easy to become absorbed in the task at hand and lose track of the overall picture. While you're busy doing, other people finish (or abandon) their tasks, and you're too busy to give them their next assignment. Rather, you as the leader should direct the activities of the others. Know what needs to be done next, and assign someone to do it. If they are having trouble, help them, but do not take over. If helping them becomes too involved, assign someone else to help them.

A highly effective way of doing this is to make a set of cards describing each task that needs to be done when setting up (or breaking) camp. Each task should be doable by a team of three or four kids with advice and guidance from an adult mentor. Sort the tasks into groups by priority, so that the things that must be done first are in one group, the things that should be done second are in another, and things that should be done last are in the third group. Label these groups A, B, and C. The number of tasks in each group should be equal to the number of 3-5 person teams that will be camping with you. Do not include pitching the sleeping tents in this list of tasks (more on that later).

Each card should also be marked with "points" to be awarded to the team who completes that task. Difficult, lengthy, or unpleasant tasks should be worth many points. Easy, quick, and fun tasks should be awarded few points.

Before you leave for your trip, assemble the kids into teams and assign to each team and adult mentor. Each team should have a mix of kids - some who are experienced or skilled, and some who are inexperienced or have not yet developed camping skills.

Choose the teams wisely. Best friends have a tendency to goof off. When I was a teen, my brother and I had been hired by an uncle to do some farm work. When we suggested that he should also hire our other brother, he responded with this gem that I will never forget:

"A boy's a boy, two boys are half a boy, and three boys is no boy at all."

I understand that far better now than I did when he said it. Knowing about this tendency will enable you to head it off so you don't have to work against it. Assign juniors to teens, and assign teens to adult mentors. Go over this with the teens ahead of time so that they will have an idea of what they are to teach the juniors to do as they do it. This will not only introduce the juniors to new knowledge, but it will reinforce it in your teens.

When you arrive at your camp site, instruct all Pathfinders to pitch the tents they will sleep in, and then stow their sleeping bags and personal gear in them. When they are finished with that, have them assemble near the remaining equipment. As soon as a complete team has finished pitching their tents and stowing their gear, they may choose one of the A tasks. When they finish their A task to their mentor's satisfaction, they may choose a B task. When they finish their B task, they may choose a C task. When they finish their C task, they may choose another C task if one is available (and thereby improve their point total).

Be sure to let your Pathfinders know how the points will be used ahead of time, otherwise they will not serve as an effective incentive. You could award the team with the highest number of points the privilege of being dismissed to eat first, followed by the team with the second highest number of points, etc. Console the team scoring the fewest number of points by reminding them that the staff actually eats last.

When we implemented this plan in my club we found that it made a remarkable difference in getting the kids motivated and focused on setting up the camp site. Instead of finding kids to do the tasks I was coming up with on the spot, the kids were coming to me for their assignments. Instead of goofing around and doing a poor job, they were executing their duties with enthusiasm and efficiency, and upon completion, they were eager to take on the next task.

To give you an idea of what tasks might be described on the cards, the tasks we used are listed below. Though the tasks below are suited more for "Campground camping" rather than "wilderness camping", they still give a general picture of what is to be done. Not all of these tasks are required at every camp out.

A Tasks Pitch kitchen shelter
10 points
Pitch dining shelter
10 points
Build latrine
8 points
Sort camp chairs
5 points
B Tasks Set up tables (1 point/table) Set up hygiene stations[1]
4 points
Prepare dishes[2]
7 points
Fetch water[3]
0-8 points
C Tasks Put totes in kitchen[4]
5 points
Propane equipment[5]
6 points
Gather firewood[6]
3-7 points
Build fire ring[7]
3 points
  1. ^ Hygiene stations include the dish washing station, trash receptacle (lined with a trash bag), and possibly a hand washing station.
  2. ^ "Prepare dishes" includes hanging a dish line, pinning mesh bags to it (in numerical order), and sorting all the eating utensils & dishes into the mesh bags.
  3. ^ Points awarded for fetching water depend on how far away the water is and how much is needed.
  4. ^ "Put totes in kitchen" means the tubs of food, coolers, and kitchen gear (other than camp stoves and lanterns). Note that only the food needed for the first meal should be put in the kitchen unless it can be secured against invasion by "critters." Otherwise it is best to leave it in a vehicle, equipment trailer, or placed in a bear box.
  5. ^ Propane equipment includes the camp stove(s) and lanterns.
  6. ^ Points awarded for gathering firewood depend on the difficulty of the task. The task might entail nothing more than buying some at the camp store, unloading it from a trailer or vehicle, or gathering it from the woods (if permitted).
  7. ^ It might not be necessary to build a fire ring, in which case this task should be omitted from the deck.

Once you are happy with the cards you have come up with for your club, laminate them so that they can be reused in the future.