Practicing Outdoor Survival Skills with Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah

Have you ever wondered if you would be able to build a fire or a shelter to keep yourself warm in the wilderness? Or if you would be able to find your way without using your phone?  This winter I got to visit some parks to learn about different outdoor survival skills, including building a shelter, cooking over a fire, and orienteering.

At Brandywine Creek State Park (Wilmington, DE) I got to learn about shelter building and how to cook over a fire.  In the shelter building class, I got to help build two different types of shelters: an A-frame shelter, and a lean-to shelter. The first step to building a shelter is to find all of the materials that you will need, including different sizes of tree branches. The main idea of the shelter is to protect you from rain, snow, wind, or other types of weather.  

Once you have all of the branches in place, you can fill in any openings with leaves, pine needles, bark, moss, or any other materials that you can find. The types of materials you can use depends on what types of plants are where you are building the shelter. The most important thing is keeping yourself warm and dry.  Luckily, Brandywine Creek State Park had lots of branches and leaves to help us build our shelters. My shelter was just big enough for one person to fit in!

In another class at Brandywine Creek State Park, I learned about building and cooking over fires.  The two types of fires I learned about were the teepee-style fire and the log cabin style fire. For both types of fires, you need to collect different materials. The tinder is very important because that is what you will light first. On top of the tinder you would put kindling, which are smaller sticks and branches, and finally you would add the largest pieces of wood. After learning about how to build a fire, I learned about cooking on fires.  One important thing that I learned is that if you are cooking meat, like chicken, you need to make sure that the meat is completely cooked, because some parts of the fire may be hotter than other parts.

I also learned that fire safety is very important. When you choose the place that you are going to build your fire, you want to make sure that there are no branches hanging close to the fire, and that the area on the ground where you are building the fire is clear. After you are done cooking and you are ready to put the fire out, you need to use lots and lots of water to make sure that all of the flames are out and that the hot ashes are cool. After learning about building fires, I got to cook pizza pocket pies over the campfire, and they were delicious!

The last outdoor skill that I learned about this winter was orienteering. At Estell Manor County Park (Atlantic County, NJ) I got to take an orienteering class. The class started indoors, where I learned how to use the orienteering compass. Knowing how to use a compass can be very helpful, because if you are in the wilderness your cell phone might not work, and a compass never needs batteries. I learned how to use the orienteering map and the compass to figure out what direction I needed to walk to go in a certain direction. I also learned how to figure out how many steps I would take to travel a certain distance and how to use the map scale.

After learning how to use the compass, I went out into the park to try out the orienteering trail. I used to compass and map to find the different checkpoints on the trail. Each of the checkpoints was marked with a white and red square. As I found each checkpoint, I would use the compass and map to figure out what direction to travel next and how many steps I should be going.  

Learning about shelter and fire building, cooking over a fire, and orienteering was so much fun, and I feel like I will be more prepared the next time I will be taking a trip in the outdoors.  There are lots more outdoor skills to learn, and I am looking forward to taking some more classes soon!