survivalThis week’s weeks installment of Self-Care Sunday continues this month’s theme of vacation. You’ll want to make sure you take these essentials on your next day hike. I learned from my Dad the importance of survival skills before I even started school. Thanks, Dad!

Survival Skills

“I think we need to cook them just a little bit longer,” my dad said, looking dubiously into the frying pan.

We giggled.

“It smells like chicken,” he assured us.

We nodded. I piped up, my voice filled with a ten-year-old’s iron-clad logic. “We don’t know what chicken smells like.”

My mom snorted delicately, and my brother and two sisters looked on in horrified fascination as my dad took a stick and stirred the contents of the frying pan.

The smoke from the campfire shifted and burned my eyes. Our golden retriever, Justin, wandered around camp, wondering what he’d get for supper. I wondered, too.

Mom started pulling potatoes wrapped in tin foil out of her backpack. “I’ll just bury these in the coals,” she assured us, “supper should be ready in an hour or so.” She turned to dig deeper in her pack, muttering something about, “Your father and his crazy survival book.”

I nodded and heaved a sigh of relief. We had joined in the hunt for supper with glee. Turning over old logs and digging in the bark had given us an hour of two of entertainment on our family backpacking trip in the North Carolina mountains.

But Dad’s idea of a survival supper? Not so entertaining. Especially since he and my mom had raised us vegetarian. When he’d announced his plan to teach us how to survive in the woods, we’d gone along. Learning about edible plants sounded fine. But eating grubs? Not so fine.

“Hmmm,” Dad murmured as mom nestled the potatoes in the coals. “What do you think, honey?”

Mom peered into the frying pan. “Looks like you burned them.”

“They do look a little dark. Rats,” he pulled the frying pan off the fire and stared at them.

Survival Fail

With a sad shake of his head, Dad tipped the blackened grubs onto the dirt. “Maybe Justin will eat them. Here, Boy!”

Justin sniffed the offering and dug a small hole in the soft dirt before nudging the grubs to their proper burial.

We laughed, and Justin looked up with an apologetic doggy grin and trotted off to find something more appealing.

Despite his never forgotten grubs-for-supper-fail, I learned a plethora of practical ideas for surviving in the woods. So, on this Father’s Day, I’d like to give a shout-out to my dad for all the time he spent teaching us to love the great outdoors. I’ve never tried eating grubs again, though.

My dad taught us all about hiking, edible plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, snakes, camp craft, backpacking, and orienteering. Most of all, he instilled in us a sense of adventure and you-can-try-anything attitude.

Learn what to take on your day hikes to avoid hitting the wall...or worse. #survival #hiking Click To Tweet

My Own Adventures

What should your kids carry on day hikes? Check this list of essentials. #survival, #kidsThat spirit of adventure has carried with me into my adult years. We’ve gone camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, canoeing, and mountain biking with our daughters. Dad taught us about adventure, and Mom taught us about preparation. He found the grubs, and she brought the potatoes.

When you feel adventurous, make sure you adventure prepared, though. Even a short day-hike can turn into a disaster if you forget the essentials. I’ve learned the importance of carrying a few items with me on our adventures.

Running out of food and water three-fourths of the way to my destination doesn’t turn out pretty. I don’t function well without those two things. If you’ve ever hit the wall, you know what I mean. If you haven’t hit the wall, let me explain. Your body will have a physical reaction to not having enough fuel.

For me, it looked like sitting in a ditch with my mountain bike flopped on the ground next to me. Standing up shot my heart rate above 180. And so I sat in the ditch, not caring much what happened next.

I learned the hard way that taking the time to fill a simple day pack or fanny pack with extra food and water would make a huge difference in the trip’s outcome. Finding a pack that fits comfortably on your hips will make a big difference, too (thanks, Dad, for teaching me this). A liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds, and that can really pull on your shoulders—especially if you have enough water with you!

The Basic List of Survival Essentials for Adults

The difference between disaster and delight lies in a little planning before your hike. What to take. #survival, #hikingThe number one-thing you need to make sure you take with you? Water. I prefer a bladder with a wide-mouth, such as the one made by Platypus. If you have a longer expedition, take along a light-weight water filter such as this one by Sawyer Products SP129 PointOne Water Filtration System with 32-Ounce Squeezable Pouch. You should carry 1-2 quarts of water with you for each hour you plan to hike in warm and hot weather. According to the National Park Service, hikers lose between one and two quarts of water each hour as they hike during hot weather. If you’re hiking with young children, plan your trip (and your water) accordingly. They may not be able to carry the amount of water they’ll need. Make sure you encourage them to drink often.

The second most important thing you can take with you? Food. Lots of it. Bring a variety of salty and sweet snacks—even for short hikes with your kids. Hangry kids whine and complain. Keep your kids well-fed on the hike, and they’ll have more fun! If you’re hiking in hot weather, read this post for more information.

You’ll also want a basic first-aid kit. Mine includes alcohol wipes, band-aids, elastic bandages, Super-glue, compression pads (sanitary pads work well, too), and wet-wipes. You can take care of most accidents on the trial with these items. When my husband shattered his collarbone on a mountain bike ride, I put the elastic bandages to use by using them to tape his arm to his body. The ER staff was impressed with my wrap job.

Simple tools. Bring along a knife or multi-function tool, as well as waterproof matches or a lighter. Make sure you and your kids know how to start a fire (as well as how to SAFELY build a camp fire or signal fire). Other essential tools include a whistle and/or a small mirror for signaling for help, a flashlight with spare batteries, zip ties, and an emergency blanket.

List of Survival Essentials Your Kids Should Carry

Things your kids should carry with them (and know how to use).

• A whistle—make sure your kids understand what to do if they get lost. Don’t move! Use the whistle (three blasts/pause/three blasts/pause). You can find more on universal distress signals here.  Practice before you go out on a hike. Review the steps for what to do when they are lost before each trip.

• Flashlight or head lamp with spare batteries. At night time, they can use the flashlight as a distress signal. If the family gets caught on the trial after dark, it’s nice for everyone to have their own source of light.

• Emergency blanket. Make sure your kids know about hypothermia. A person can get hypothermia on a warm day under the right conditions (if they’re wet or damp and a light breeze kicks up). The blankets weigh next to nothing and can also provide visibility in a distress situation.

• Water and a snack. Kids don’t need to carry pounds and pounds of water. But teaching them about the importance of water and food at an early age never hurts.

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  1. When I read the word “hike” in this space, Anita, I get the same uneasy feeling that I get when my marathon-running son and daughter-in-law ask us if we want to go for a “walk.”
    Thanks for the cautionary words in this post! You certainly come from sturdy stock!
    Michele Morin recently posted…Where Wrath and Love Run WildMy Profile

  2. Thanks for the kind words for the Dad of your childhood. You have been pretty much of a delight in our “pack.” Repelling off of covered bridges in Oregon and waterfall faces in Virginia made your presence a delight wherever we hit the trail.
    Your sharp eyes for spotting four-leafed clovers and dollar bills beside the road added interest to our hikes.
    Your continued interest in the oddities of life continue to inspire. Thanks for this reminder.
    Love, Poppy

  3. Thank you for the tips. I have to admit I have come to love hiking in my later years and after reading your article, I definitely go unprepared. Love the tips. I did get a great backpack that fits nice on my hips but what I take with me is not sufficient.

  4. Oh, how I enjoyed this, Anita. I enjoyed the memory you shared and (because I tend to set off on the trail both overburdened and unprepared) the information. And I enjoyed reading about outdoor things on someone else’s site. Thanks for all of that.
    Natalie recently posted…Why We Don’t Feed the AnimalsMy Profile

    1. Baaaw Ha ha! Beth, I think I’ve had Anita out of her “comfort zone” more often than she would admit. That may be why she is the well-rounded woman that I’m proud to call daughter.

  5. Dear Anita, all these decades later, so many of the things Tom and I learned from Scouts and Camp Fire Girls still hold us in good stead. Like you, we learned the value of preparation. Thanks for sharing your lists for the current campers among us.

  6. What adventures you must have had growing up! We only went camping once as a family when I was a child, and my dad was so miserable that we all were miserable. ha. Fortunately, my husband had much more positive experiences as a child, so when we married, we created fun camping experiences with our own kids. 🙂
    Lisa notes recently posted…Are Your Words Bullets or Seeds?My Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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