Having a summer survival party is a great way to get your children involved in learning
wilderness survival basics while having some fun along the way. During the party, I wanted to focus on a few specific skills. The first thing an individual needs to know when stranded in the wilderness is how to build a shelter. A shelter is essential to keep individuals dry, shaded, protected and safe. The next order of business is finding water and purifying that water. After securing water, a fire needs to be built. That will require the materials to start and maintain the fire. Individuals in a long term wilderness survival situation will need food and defenses to stay safe and well fed. Here's how we set up the party to start building knowledge of wilderness survival skills for these young men while they played and had fun.
The first task we completed was hanging a tarp shelter. We used the method of securing a rock in the middle of the tarp and then tying down the corners. The boys had fun climbing in the trees to secure some corners. I also explain how to tie on additional tarps to the sides so that they could have a walled shelter with a nice roof that sloughs the water off, rather than sinking under the weight. I also explained how they wanted to build their shelter close to an area where a fire can be build safely in such a way that the heat and light would reflect off of the surrounding material, as illustrated in the photo to the right.
There are many other types of shelters that you could build during the party and many of these do not require the use of a tarp, although the tarp sure does make it easier. Off The Grid News has a great article on how to build a debris shelter and although this would be a great idea for the party, I have a few warnings. First of all, it looks easy to build this shelter and after you have practiced it is but if you think you are going to build one for the first time ever during the party you will be in for a big surprise. Make sure you practice and have the materials to build it on hand so the kids don't have to run around looking for the materials. Having the kids find the materials and build the shelter will be a major test for their attention span. It depends on how into survival the children attending the party are. If it is a first time introduction I highly recommend you just go for the tarp shelter.
After we had the shelter built it was time to secure water. I took this in a different direction then just simply finding water, because there is not much water to be found on our property. Given the lack of unfiltered water we constructed an obstacle course and the boys had to carry the jugs of water while navigating the obstacle course. The course is designed for balance and it was fun to see how each boy handled the course. We also timed them to add an element of competition.
There are lots of ideas for incorporating water purification during the party. Boiling the water is a simple process that most people should be familiar with. Instruction on how to use iodine tabs and then tasting the water after the process has been completed is another idea. If you have extra cash to spend you could purchase a Lifestraw or Sawyer Mini filter for each child and show them how to use it. If you are really ready to go all out, the best water purification method is distillation and you could set up the equipment to perform the distillation ahead of time and show the children how it works during the party.
When I threw the party it was a rather warm day in sunny Cal so we put off making the fire until later in the evening and turned our attention to defensive skills! Under close parental supervision we made smoke bombs together. It was a rather easy method to make a smoke bomb, involving a Ping Pong ball and tin foil. Basically, a whole is made in the ping pong ball and the tinfoil is formed into a chimney around the ball (see the video for full details). It is a fun trick and the boys loved it.
The smoke bombs are kind of hard to light on a windy day and the smoke from them is limited. I made a game of it and the boys had to see who could throw the smoke bomb closest to a cup. The highlight for them was when one landed so close to the cup it burned a hole in it.
The next defensive drill the boys delighted in was playing Lazer Tag. We have four guns and the boys went out the door ready to face the assault of the opposing team. They used communication strategies and team work unknowingly as they laughed and ran outdoors. For bigger children or adults you could use Airsoft or Paintball but the Lazer Tag guns are safe to use and don't require extra gear to make sure your son's friends don't go home with any new injuries.
After Lazer Tag it was time for food. I was going to show them how to make some simple traps, like a dead fall trap but at the age of fifteen I was kind of concerned for the neighborhood cats so we opted to make pizza instead. You can visit curious.com for a great explanation on how to design a dead fall trap. I had also considered having them eat freeze dried foods and prepare it themselves over the fire but in the end my son ruled and he voted for pizza (I can't say that I blame him, plus I didn't want to break into my long term storage supplies).
The sun was setting as they finished gorging on pizza so they headed out to the fire pit. I had given them each ten matches which were more than enough to get the fire started. We had discussed what materials they would need and how they should build it earlier. I left them in charge of figuring out the details and actually getting it done. At fifteen you should already be efficient at building a fire as long as you have the right tools. If you don't know how to do it, shame on you, here is a link to learn how to get it done! Survival Basics - Fire Starting They roasted marshmallows, had s'mores and laughed long into the night.
The icing on the cake of the survival party is that instead of giving them gift bags as a parting gift, I gave them all edc (every day carry) starter kits. Now I know this sounds expensive but if you really do your homework on Amazon you can put this together for just a few bucks a piece. I found really nice pouches for around $.40 per pouch that go on a belt. I also bought a little pocket knife and a little can opener for each one. I found a really cool tool that is a whistle, flashlight, canister, magnifying glass, mirror, compass and thermometer all in one piece. I also included a paper clip (can be used to pick hand cuffs), 10 strike anywhere matches and safety pins. Now if I was made of money I would have also included a Lifestraw, a walking stick and about 50ft of good paracord. The boys loved my streamlined edc kits and they were a complete success.
Get out there and get your kids involved in developing their survival skills. I am eager to hear your feedback on how your party went!