Wilderness Adventure Camp

Essential Outdoor Survival Skills for Kids


By Frank Grindrod

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 13, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Whether in the rugged backcountry or a suburban backyard, kids can experience the sense of personal independence and self-confidence that come from outdoor proficiency, while also developing a deeper connection to and understanding of the natural world. With this skills-based book, kids learn essential safety and survival tips and bushcraft that they need to have a safe wilderness experience. Led by outdoor leader Frank Grindrod of Earthwork Programs, every turn of the page takes kids on another stage of the journey. They learn how to pack for the outdoors, navigate using a map and a compass, choose and set up a campsite, handle and use a knife properly, build a fire, tie different types of knots, make a lean-to out of sticks and leaves, and cook over an open fire. This guide teaches more than just outdoor know-how; it fosters appreciation for the natural world and pride in knowing how to use its resources as a tool for survival and adventure.


I'm excited that you have picked up this book!

I give tremendous gratitude to all the present and former staff of Earthwork Programs who helped improve the culture and programing over these last 20 years and to all the students and families who have supported this vision and trusted us with their children. We cherish our relationships with kids who started in elementary school and who, year after year, continue to give themselves to this important work. My love to you all.


Welcome to Wilderness Survival

Chapter 1: Get Ready for Adventure


Survival Kit

Packing Your Gear

Chapter 2: Must-Have Skills

Finding Your Way


Using Your Compass

If You're Lost, Don't Lose It

Using a Knife

Knife Safety Contract

Building a Fire

Safety First

Tying Knots

Knot-Tying Terminology

Chapter 3: Setting Up Camp

Choose Your Location

Organize Your Campsite

Setting up a Safe Kitchen

The Art of Shelter

Bathroom Basics

Chapter 4: Camp Craft

Chapter 5: Food & Drink

The Importance of Water

Harvesting Water

Purifying Water

Campfire Cooking and Baking

Keep on Exploring!


Some Quick Metric Conversions


Explore Your World

Share Your Experience!

Find your way.
Pack the right gear.
Build a fire.
Make your own tools.
Set up your own camp.

Welcome to Wilderness Survival

debris hut

I'm excited that we will be going on a wilderness adventure together. You might have been on a camping trip before, but it was probably your parents or some other adult who made the plans for your adventure. Well, now it's your turn!

No matter how far you're going or how long you'll be gone — even if you'll just be camping in your own backyard overnight — there are certain things you'll need to bring with you and other things you'll need to learn.

Here are the essentials for your trip:

  • The right mind-set for adventure and survival
  • Your survival kit
  • Skills to be comfortable and confident

How do you find out where to get these things? From a guide, of course! It's important to learn from someone who has traveled the path before you. For many years, I've been teaching kids to survive in the woods, and I'll teach you the most important tips and lessons in this book! Look for my tried-and-true Tips from the Guide throughout the book for extra information.

On any journey, there will be challenges that may be outside your comfort zone. For example, in the book My Side of the Mountain, Sam left the city to live in the Catskill Mountains. He built a shelter, made fires, learned what to eat, and figured out how to take care of his needs — all things he had never done before. Even though he struggled sometimes, he made it through his amazing adventure!

This book is your call to ADVENTURE. Are you ready? Let's begin!

Get Ready for Adventure

You can have an adventure just about anywhere, from your own backyard to a state park to deep wilderness. Wherever you're camping, it's important to be prepared with the right clothing and gear.


Proper clothing is a very important part of your equipment when you're out in the woods. There is an old saying that goes, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Whether the weather is hot and sunny, rainy and windy, or cold and snowy, the right clothing and accessories will keep you safe and comfortable.

The most important thing to remember is to try to avoid cotton. Cotton, which is what most T-shirts and jeans are made of, is usually comfortable, but when it gets wet (even from you sweating as you hike or make camp), it gets cold and heavy and takes a long time to dry. If the weather is nice and you're not going too far from home, it's fine to wear cotton clothing. But if it's rainy or snowy, or you're going on a long hike or a camping trip, there are lots of better choices for what to wear. Check clothing labels for materials like silk, wool, polyester, nylon, wool, acrylic — they are better at keeping you warm and dry.

Tip from the Guide

Layer Up and Down

When you're moving around a lot, your body temperature goes up, even if it's cold outside. Sweating can be dangerous in cold weather because the dampness will soak into your clothes and make you chilled when you stop to rest. When you're outside moving around and you feel yourself heating up, remove a layer or two so you don't get too hot and sweaty. Put the layers back on when you start to feel cold again or when you stop to rest. Adjust layers to suit the weather and your level of comfort.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Lots of people underestimate how cold they can get when they're out in the wilderness. Even if it seems like a mild day outside, a little bit of rain, wind, or snow can make you cold very quickly. The secret to staying warm and dry in the wilderness is to dress in layers. Here are the three key layers:

The base layer is next to your skin (think long underwear in the winter). It should be made of thin, lightweight material like silk, polypropylene, and/or lightweight wool. These materials wick (pull) moisture away from your skin to evaporate, which helps regulate your body temperature.

The insulation layer is meant to create a layer of air that will trap body heat. It should be puffy or heavier than your base layer and fit well but not too tightly. It's important to have a little bit of air under the insulation layer that can heat up with you. Tight clothing that restricts your movement can make it harder for you to stay warm. Choose a shirt made of fleece or wool, or a jacket or vest with a down or synthetic filler.

The outer layer, or shell, shields you from wind and rain. Some waterproof materials, like rubber or coated nylon, trap lots of body heat and might make you sweaty when you're active. Others, like Gore-Tex, can "breathe," which means a fabric lets moisture out while keeping heat in. Jackets that advertise "breathability" are much better at letting sweat evaporate off your body, making you much more comfortable. Any jacket that is waterproof is also windproof and will protect you from windchill. For winter hiking and camping, an outer layer for your legs is a good idea.

  1. 1. base layer
  2. 2. insulation layer
  3. 3. outer layer

Head and Hands

Protecting your head and hands is just as important as the rest of your body.

Hats are a critical part of your gear, whatever the season. You might have heard that we lose most of our body heat through our heads. That's not exactly true, but leaving your head (and neck) uncovered in cold weather will definitely make you feel colder. A good warm hat will be made of wool, fleece, polyester, or other materials besides cotton. Just remember you can take your hat off if your head is getting too sweaty.

In the summer, a lightweight hat or baseball cap shades your eyes and face from the sun. You can dip it in water for added coolness or put insect repellent on the brim.

Sunglasses are good to have if you are out in strong sun, even in winter. The glare of sunlight reflecting off of bright, white snow makes it hard to see and can hurt your eyes. It can even give you a sunburn, so you might want to put some sunscreen on your nose and cheeks, too!

Gloves and mittens are made with lots of different materials and features, so it's helpful to remember the basic pros and cons of each: With gloves, your fingers are separated, so you can use your hands better to work on things but your fingers will get colder over time. With mittens, since your fingers are all together in one space, your hands and fingers will stay warmer, but it's harder to do delicate work with mittens on!

Hats also keep bugs out of your hair.

DOn't FOrget Your Feet

For most hiking and camping, you can't go wrong with low-cut hiking shoes. If the weather is really nice and warm, you can also wear trail-running shoes with flexible soles. Some hiking boots have higher ankles, which is a trade-off: Higher ankles might protect you from rolling or spraining an ankle, but they can make it harder to run and jump. With lower-cut shoes, your ankles will become stronger the more you wear them.

On a long hike or camping trip, it's helpful to bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots or strap-on sandals or "water shoes" with you. That way, if you have to hike through a swamp or cross a brook or river, you can take off your hiking shoes (and socks) and wear the rubber boots or water shoes just to get through the water. Then, you can take a break to dry off your feet before putting your socks and hiking shoes back on. And sandals can double as camp shoes.

GOOd Socks

Always wear durable hiking socks that fit properly. Good socks will help prevent blisters and help keep your feet nice and dry. Most good hiking socks are made of wool and/or nylon. They can be thick, lightweight, or even "ultralight" and very thin. The colder it is outside, the thicker your socks should be.

If you're going on a long hike in the wintertime or when it's really cold outside, you can even wear very thin "liner socks" underneath a pair of thick wool socks.

No matter the weather or temperature outside, make sure your foot feels nice and snug in your hiking boot or shoe, without being too tight. If your boots are too loose and your foot slides around too much, you'll start to get blisters.

Tip from the Guide

These Boots Were Made for . . . Squatting?

Before you buy a pair of hiking boots, make sure they fit properly. Squat down in them a few times. See how it feels to kneel down and put a knee on the ground, and to get up and down from the ground. Walk around the store — some places have an area where you can test the boots by walking on an incline. Don't buy boots that pinch anywhere or dig into your heel. If they aren't comfortable in the store, they're unlikely to get more comfortable while you're hiking.

Survival Kit

The most important things to carry in a survival kit are a good cutting tool and several ways of making fire. With them, you can make just about anything else you need, including shelter, extra rope (called cordage), and even a spoon.

  1. 1. compass
  2. 2. whistle
  3. 3. head-lamp
  4. 4. paracord
  5. 5. signal mirror
  1. 6. water bottle
  2. 7. bandana
  3. 8. lighter
  4. 9. strike- anywhere matches
  1. 10. tarp
  2. 11. topo map
  3. 12. duct tape
  1. 13. knife
  2. 14. ferro rod

A Good Knife

With a proper cutting tool, you can do just about everything you need to do to survive. It's important to complete the knife safety contract (see here) before you use any kind of knife.

You can use a folding pocketknife with a locking blade, such as a Swiss Army knife, for many of the skills you'll learn in this book. For some activities, though, you will need a sturdy knife with a fully extended blade that you store in a sheath (a protective case) when you're not using it. Your knife should have a three-quarter or full "tang," which is the metal part of the blade that goes into the handle. A full tang means the metal part extends the full length of the handle.

Choose a knife with a stainless or carbon steel blade no longer than about 4 inches (or the size of your palm). A blade with a Scandi grind edge works well for carving and other outdoor uses. That means the blade has a wide bevel (the part that tapers toward the edge) that is easy to sharpen.

A blade with a Scandi grind edge, as shown here, has a distinctive bevel that is easy for even beginners to sharpen.

The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife.

  1. 1. edge
  2. 2. bevel
  3. 3. heel
  4. 4. point
  1. 5. tip
  2. 6. spine
  3. 7. handle
  4. 8. tang

Wilderness Wisdom

What's in a Name?

In the Tzutuhil Mayan culture of Guatemala's western highlands, a knife is known as "the tooth of the earth." Many Tzutujil people have such reverence for this useful tool that they name their knives.

Fire-Making Kit

Making a fire is one of the most valuable skills you can have in the wilderness. Even without shelter, a fire can be very important and helpful, so you should always have the tools and abilities to make one. To make sure you can start a fire even if some of your materials are wet, always carry a couple of different fire-making tools. Bring strike-­anywhere matches, packed in a waterproof bag, and a lighter. In addition, a ferro rod (also called a firesteel or metal match) is very useful.

Ferro rods are made of ferrocerium, a man-made metallic alloy that produces sparks of 3,000°F/1,650°C (or hotter) when scraped with something rough or sharp. Ferro rods work without lighter fluid and can start a fire even when wet. A 34-inch-thick rod gets the best results.

Striking a ferro rod. To learn how to build and start a fire with your kit, see Building a Fire.

Tarp or Other COvering

A tarp or cover is a handy piece of waterproof material that can shade you from the sun and protect you from wind, rain, and snow. You can transform it into a backpack, bucket, chair, or an emergency stretcher. A brightly colored one can be a signal in an emergency. A lightweight tarp or drop cloth, a large piece of plastic, or even a big poncho will work.

The best kind of cover is coated nylon with reinforced "grommets," the little metal rings on the corners and along the sides that you can run cord through. Some tarps also have a silver thermal reflective side to help keep in warmth when used close to your body.

Each person should have their own 10 × 10-foot tarp. Use additional ones to create different areas in your camp.

Parachute Cord

This strong, versatile nylon rope is made with seven interwoven strands covered with an outer layer. Commonly called "paracord," it has many uses, such as securing a shelter, lashing together a tripod, hanging equipment, making a fishing net, and more.

Tip from the Guide

How Much Cord?

When you go out on a wilderness adventure, bring at least seven arm spans of paracord. You can easily cut it to different lengths as you need it.

  1. 1. To measure, hold the end of the paracord securely in your right hand. Holding the cord loosely in your left hand, stretch your arms fully apart. This is one arm span.


  • "For young people and the rest of us, here's a hands-on antidote for nature-deficit disorder." —
     Richard Louv, author of Our Wild Calling and Last Child in the Woods

    "Frank Grindrod, one of the great outdoor guides of our generation, distills a lifetime of wilderness knowledge into a best-of-class guide to help kids of all ages adventure safely and confidently into the wild places. Buy it. Read it. Share it." —
    Creek Stewart, survival instructor and television host

On Sale
Apr 13, 2021
Page Count
160 pages

Frank Grindrod

About the Author

Frank Grindrod is a wilderness survival instructor, a public speaker, and an expedition leader who has been featured on ABC's Chronicle, as well as on MassLive and other local New England TV and radio. He has led trips in Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, and the Florida Everglades. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at Smith College and the University of Georgia, where he taught wilderness survival courses. Grindrod is the owner of Earthwork Programs in New England and, over the last 20 years, he has trained thousands of people to become more capable in the wild.

Learn more about this author