The wilderness survival skills which abound in old Boy Scout manuals could help us all become more prepared for an emergency.
Modern scouting workbooks and badges may focus a lot more on technology merit badges, but the old training manuals offer a multitude of back-to-basics skills in easy-to-understand step-by-step instructions.
Old Boy Scout manuals prioritize wilderness survival tasks in a no-frills manner that we should still be mimicking today.
Here are 10:
1. Security is the immediate need which must be assessed during any type of emergency scenario. Getting away from danger as quickly and quietly as possible will likely save lives.
2. Emergency first aid should be addressed second. It may be difficult to fight the urge to patch up a gunshot wound before leaving the area, but if the entire group spends just a few seconds working on a patient at the scene, more victims and potential fatalities could likely occur.
3. Self-protection, and by extension, self-defense issues should be tackled next. If you and those in your group are possibly at risk from predators of either the four or two-legged variety, you need to arm everyone in the group. Yes, everyone. Even the youngest members need to possess some item that can be used for self-defense. If everyone is not in possession of a firearm, or is too young to safely carry a gun without training, then do as the Boy Scouts instruct and sharpen a stick into a weapon or secure a knife with a rope to a pole and use it to defend yourself.
4. Once reaching or establishing a safe zone and taking care of weapons and first aid issues, other physical needs now need to be addressed, according to old Boy Scout manuals. You and members of your group are now encouraged to construct a temporary shelter, gather wood for a fire, find or evaluate available water, and address any hygiene matters which could impact your ability to function – bandage changes, wet socks or clothing, and cleansing hands before eating to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness.
5. The first Boy Scouts of America handbook issues in 1911 encourages all troop members to eat whole wheat for its “muscle-building” properties and because it is easily digestible. “It is ready-cooked and ready-to eat. It has the greatest amount of body-building nutriment in smallest bulk,” the manual said.
6. Old Boy Scouts manuals also note that the way to achieve big things is to prepare yourself for doing all of the big things. Training and observation are noted as the best way to survive in the wilderness. Learning about the woods and animals in your area and watching the creatures in their native habitat will reportedly enhance tracking and hunting skills, as well as an awareness about finding your way in the woods. The old manuals also encourage the study of woodcraft, as well as animal signs and tracking to determine how fast an animal was going, if it was frightened when running, and to determine how long ago the tracks were made. Such knowledge may enhance your ability to hunt and to know if possible other people or natural elements (fire, earthquake tremors, etc.) are an immediate danger to address.
7. Woodcraft skills outlined in the old training manuals also teach users about edible roots, nuts, bark and fruit which are found in the woods. Knowing not only what is safe for you to eat, but what is routinely consumed by animals, may also help in the tracking and hunting process.
8. Knot tying instructions in old Boy Scout manuals will guide users through the steps necessary to complete the type of knots necessary for building a shelter, a snare, a slingshot, and even a primitive rod and reel.