Start a Fire
According to Wilderness-Survival.net, "in many survival situations, the ability to start a fire can make the difference between living and dying." Ergo, one of the most elementary survival skills is how to start a fire without the aid of a lighter or matches. For beginners, this activity can be limited to starting a fire with flint and steel, or perhaps a Swiss Army knife magnifying glass. This skill focuses mostly on finding dry tinder in the wild, or always-flammable materials like pine resin. For something more advanced, try constructing a bow and drill, hand drill or fire-plow. These are the famous methods for starting a fire using only two pieces of wood and the force of friction. A related activity involving a little geology is how to find flints in the wild.
After building a fire, the next step to survival (and survival activity) is to treat drinking water. With a fire going, water can be boiled to kill harmful microorganisms, but this is not the only thing fire is good for when it comes to water purification. It also creates charcoal, which can be used to make a field-fashioned carbon filter to remove pollutants. This activity consists of crushing the charcoal down into either small chunks, and then improvising something to hold the charcoal to use as a filtration device. Both boiling and constructing charcoal filters are methods recommended by the U.S. Army's Survival Field Manual.
Bear Grylls once used a simple straw stuffed with charcoal as a field carbon filter on his Discovery Channel program "Man vs. Wild." Another idea is to fill scavenged or recycled plastic bottles with charcoal and punch a small drainage hole in the bottom. This activity encourages creativity, since the participants must use whatever is available to fashion the filter housing.
Forage for Food
Foraging for food is another wilderness survival activity, and can be used to create the challenge of putting dinner on the camp table. This activity requires research into what wild foodstuffs are available in the area. Nettles for soup, potato-like wood sorrel tubers, wild onions, nuts and berries are all examples of things that can be collected in a big, educational scavenger hunt through the wild.
If the activity leader is not already an expert in collecting wild foods, however, it is a good idea to stay away from mushrooms. As indicated by the Forager Press, although "only a small percentage of North American mushrooms are deadly, your first mistake could be your last." Another activity in this vein that can be undertaken separately or as part of the larger program is teaching participants how to fish with basic or improvised materials. An advanced activity for groups that are not squeamish is to teach how to make and lay animal snares.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.