By Wodan

This is a companion article to the
Kids and Camping article

Children get lost in the woods every year. Many had parents who cared and were trying to be "good parents" Stuff happens. IF it does, you want your kid to pull through. There will probably be a separate article on what kids should do if lost but basically it is: STOP. Now, while they are
stopped they could use some things to help them out. This is not a BOB. You can't have a 4-year-old girl constantly carrying around 5 lbs. of equipment. It does no good to have a kid haul something around that you haven't taught him/her to properly use. (I.e.. a lighter or matches).

First, have your kids dress appropriately for the (potential) weather/environment. Some other stuff to consider:

Whistle Have them wear it tucked in their shirt so it does not snag (enforce this rule). If the child is very young, put it on a piece of string that would break before choking the child. When you first start doing this with your kids have them blow it 3 times loud. This removes the curiosity and teaches them how to use it. Tell them it is only to be used if they are lost or hurt (enforce this rule vigorously) tell them "the boy who cried wolf" story. Tell them if they are lost to blow it 3 times every couple minutes.

Bright Clothing Or Material It is a whole lot easier to find a kid dressed in hunter orange than one dressed in BDUs. I also know that most of our kids wear "subdued" clothing in the woods. Have them carry a bright (I like orange) piece of material. Tell them if they are lost to put it on or spread it on the ground in front of them (not under the tree!). Cutting a hole in a large square of nylon/silky type cloth so they can slip it on like a poncho works well. Have them PRACTICE this - kids remember what they DO better than what they're told.

Large Trash Bag Cut a slit in the bottom for the head to poke out - Voila! Instant poncho! (and it's warm too). Hypothermia is the biggest danger to lost kids. Ever see those large orange trash bags on the side of the road??? (get the picture?).

Light I used to use Chem lights (a bit tough for a little child to activate though). This year for Christmas my young'uns got ASP Sapphire lights - they put out a bright blue light that supposedly lasts forever. They are very small and weigh almost nothing. One good thing about chemlites: I used to put an activated one on a string and make my kids carry them around at night while they were playing. It's tough to see kids when they are outside of the campfire circle and if one started wandering off or fell and became unconscious it would take a little while to find them without it. (My wife and I carry D-cell Maglites once it gets dark).

Snack Your kids won't get fat snacking on a campout. Have them carry a granola bar, fruit roll-up, a pouch of those fruit-gel animals, or some such. It would be a good morale boost to a lost child to have something to chew on - plus it keeps them busy. OK, for a little kid we are now approaching the limits of what they can carry around all day. Some of the below items can easily be carried by larger/older kids and/or kept in a small fanny pack for the littl'uns to carry when hiking with mom and dad or whatever.

Fluids The best solution we have found is to consciously keep the kids hydrated during the day - that way if they get lost, they are starting with a "full tank". For carrying around you can use those little juice boxes with the straw or small bottled water for smaller kids- they aren't gonna carry a big canteen and have a good time. Larger children can carry water bottles, canteens, Camelbacks, whatever.

Space Blanket These work well and don't take up too much room. Again, have your kid practice with one by wrapping one around the top of the head and torso like in the picture on most of them.

The following items, if carried, are useful only if you have taught your child how to properly use them - some are even dangerous if they are used incorrectly.

Kids don't get lost when parents expect it. It's usually a case of, "I just turned around for a minute and he was gone!" That is why your child must have at least the basics to allow him/her to be found quickly. If you make the "kit" too large, the child won't have it when he needs it. They ARE kids, so you will have to check, re-check, reinforce, etc. Teach them how to use the gear, be positive (don't scare the little darlin's - this is supposed to be fun!), and relax... a bit.


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Copyright 2000 Wodan
No reprint or republication without express permission of author.