Survival Skills Teens Should Learn – Before Any Others

teen hiking in the wild

“I think” type articles are always subject to personal preference, bias, and belief.

That said, here are the basic skills every kid should know based on what they might encounter in terms of a survival situation.

Lighting a Fire

By lighting a fire, I don’t just mean learning how to make a flame without matches or a lighter. Yes, learning to use a Ferro rod, flint, or any of the other ways to light a fire is certainly important.

But many kids don’t even have a clue on how to get the fire lit.

Case point: That time I went camping with an adult neighbor who tried to use his lighter to ignite a branch the diameter of my thumb!

If an adult couldn’t light a fire, then I’m guessing that most teens think “tinder” is just a dating site!

Building a Fire

Fire is such an important aspect of survival that I think it’s important to list fire-building as a separate skill.

Building a fire is actually one of my favorite parts of camping outdoors. I find the act of arranging the tinder, kindling, and fuel wood very calming. I love to build up a beautiful structure.

The sad irony is that building fires is something that comes naturally to kids. Give them a bunch of sticks and a brief lesson about air flow and they’ll figure it out on their own.

Instead, we are warning kids against the dangers of “playing with matches” and I even saw one article talking about the “how bonfires damage the eyes.”

Make sure your kids don’t lose out on important survival skills because of overblown safety concerns.

I know that kids today are really good at using GPS and navigation apps (which are admittedly things which still cause me problems – I suck at technology). But give ‘em a map and compass and they would probably ask where to plug it in.

One UK survey found that 4 out of 5 young drivers can’t read a map. I doubt that kids in the USA are any wiser.

How do you teach kids map skills? One way is to take them orienteering. It’s fun, active, and a good way to get outdoors. If anyone knows of any map reading games for kids, let us know!

First Aid

If you were to suddenly suffer a heart attack, would your family be able to save you? According to one survey, probably not because only 18% of people know first aid.

In some countries (such as Germany and Switzerland), first aid is actually a requirement in order to get a driver’s license. I personally would love to see something like that enacted in the USA. If we are going to put kids behind deadly vehicles, we should also teach them how to save lives if necessary!

If you want your kids to learn first aid or want to improve your own skills, read The First Aid Skills Everyone Should Know and this post about How to Take Your First Aid Skills to the Next Level.

Purifying Water

We don’t often think about it, but there is a long history behind water treatment. As early as 1852, all drinking water for London was filtered. Later on cities began using chlorine to treat water.

Because of this and the fact that pretty much everyone in Western society has plumbing, today’s generation has grown up taking water for granted. No wonder they get so confused by boil alerts.

Teach your kids the importance of drinking water and how to clean it!

How Not to Panic

This very well might be the most important survival skill your kids should know. And it is the one that Millennials are severely lacking!

When a problem arises, the reaction is to run to some authority figure to solve it.

When no authority figure exists to fix the problem, they simply panic.

I personally teach my kids not to panic by using what I call the Problem-Solution Approach.

Here’s how it goes:
Something bad happens (like a toy breaking).
Panic (they start to cry).
I tell them to identify the problem.
I ask them, “Does crying solve the problem?”
What are some possible solutions to the problem (fix the toy).

Only when we’ve gone through multiple possible solutions and none work do I say it is okay to start crying. After all, not all toys can be fixed and tears over loss are acceptable – they just aren’t acceptable as a first-line emotional response to problems!

Again, personal opinions are not objective.

The purpose of this article is to lay out survival skills kids need to know, based on the scenario of a hiking trip gone awry.

What skills do you think are most important for kids to learn? Tell us below and if you want more skills your kids should learn that are not primary, check out Primal Survival.