The Girl Scouts was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912, and for more than 100 years since, Girl Scouts and their leaders have been heading outdoors, exploring, sleeping, cooking, and learning life and survival skills.
With all those years of practice behind them, along with some ingenuity, they’ve gathered a lot of outdoors expertise.
First aid and safety
Girl Scouts put a lot of emphasis on first aid, and it’s easy to see why. A useful life skill to have in general is basic first aid, and in case of an outdoors emergency, it can be a case of life and death. Some first aid and safety skills we can benchmark are:
- Learn how to dress for the weather. It’s essential that you know how to dress in layers, and what to wear for different types of weather.
- Learn how to read the clouds and weather patterns, so you know what to expect and whether a storm is coming.
- Always carry a well-stocked first aid kit with basic necessities, along with a fix-it kit. Your first aid kit should contain everything needed to treat any minor injuries. Make sure that you know how to use all parts of your first aid kit, and you always have a few days supply of any medications you are currently taking.
- Know how to handle urgent first aid emergencies, such as snake bites, asthma attacks, allergic reactions, accidental poisonings, and choking.
- Know the right way to move an injured person. Most of the time, a person with severe injuries should not be moved, but if the person is in immediate danger of flooding, fire, or falling debris, there can be no choice. You need to move the person out of harm’s way, so you should know the best way to do it safely.
- Learn how to treat and prevent weather injuries. Learn the signs of hypothermia, frostbite, heat stroke, and how to address them.
- Create an emergency plan for all outdoor adventures. Plan ahead and know what to do if you get lost, or someone in your group gets injured.
- Know how to treat and fix the three most common injuries. Performing these on yourself or someone else will be painful, but you know you won’t be stranded.
Cuts and scrapes
Most small cuts can be ignored, just make sure that you keep the wound clean and watch for any signs of infection. If the cut is deep and bleeding profusely, then you need a tourniquet to stop the blood flow. Your tourniquet should be one one-inch wide at least, and you can use a belt or a strip of a t-shirt. Tighten the tourniquet around the limb above the cut, until the bleeding stops. The injury should be covered with gauze or any clean material.
Dislocations and fractures
If you or someone in your party has a dislocated bone, it needs to be set back in place. For dislocated shoulders, roll on the ground or hit your shoulder against a solid surface, resetting the bone. You can pop kneecaps back into place, just stretch the leg and force the knee back into its socket. In the case of fractures, a splint needs to be created. In the outdoors, you can use a couple of sticks, stabilizing the fractured bone and tying the sticks together with strings or shoelaces, holding the brace in place.
To treat a first or second-degree burn, separate any clothing and treat the wound with lukewarm water to clean out any loose skin, dirt, and debris. If there’s no water available, coat the burn with honey. Once the wound has been cleaned or covered, wrap a wet piece of clothing loosely around it. Whenever possible, keep the wound elevated and if any blisters form, never pop them!
Leave no trace
This ideology supports the best practices that we need to follow to protect our natural resources as we are enjoying them, and it is based on seven principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire)
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
The Girl Scouts are big proponents of the Leave No Trace Principles, as they believe that these principles may seem unimportant, until we consider the effects that millions of outdoor visitors can have on nature. One poorly located campfire or campsite will not have a significant impact, but thousands of them will have a serious effect on our forests, backcountry and national parks. Everyone is responsible for leaving no trace.
Plan ahead and prepare
Properly preparing and planning ahead helps campers and outdoor enthusiasts safely and enjoyably accomplish their trips, while doing minimal damage to natural resources. If you plan ahead, you can avoid unexpected situations and complying with the area limitations will minimize their impact. Therefore, always observe the rules and obtain permits whenever required.
When you plan properly, you are ensuring a low-risk adventure, as you already researched the area, and prepared accordingly after having gathered information on weather and geography.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
When visitors trample communities of organisms or vegetation beyond recovery, the land can be irreparably damaged, resulting in barren areas of soil erosion, and making campsites and trails undesirable.
To avoid damage to the outdoors:
Concentrate your activities where vegetation is already absent when camping in a high-use area. Minimize your damage to resources by choosing established trails and camping in designated areas.
In the backcountry, spread out if camping in a group. If hiking, take different paths, therefore avoiding creating a trail and causing erosion. If camping for a few days, try and disperse your tents and cooking spots, so you don’t create a permanent looking campsite. Choose the most durable available surfaces, such as sand, gravel, dry grasses, or rock.
Dispose of waste properly
Always take your trash with you and dispose of it in the designated areas. Any extra materials you took into the backcountry should go out with you, and always inspect your campsite before leaving to make sure there’s no leftover food or litter.
When it comes to washing your dishes, make sure you dispose of the water at least 200 feet from streams, springs, and lakes, and always use biodegradable soap.
Everybody poops, and human waste also needs to be disposed of. Help prevent the spread of disease by disposing of your waste in the appropriate manner. Make a cathole around 8 inches deep and 200 feet from water sources, campsites, and trails.
Leave what you find
Leave animals, plants, rocks and any other natural objects just the way you found them. Historical or cultural artifacts and structures can be examined, but not touched, and never remove anything, as you could be breaking the law.
Minimize any site alterations by avoiding digging trenches or nailing something to a tree. Any cleared rocks or twigs for campsites need to be replaced when leaving, and avoid building structures or digging a trench to create a campsite.
Minimize campfire impacts
For some people, camping and campfires are inextricably linked together, and one cannot exist without the other. Therefore, a lot of natural areas have been degraded with the increased demand for firewood and an overuse of fires. You can minimize your impact by using a lightweight camp stove, which eliminates the need for wood and is easier to clean up after meals.
If you do have to build a fire, you should always keep in mind the resource damage potential. Whenever possible, use existing campfires and never start a fire in areas where wood is scarce, such as areas with limited wood supply or deserts.
Loud noises and quick movements can be stressful to animals, so whenever you’re outdoors, observe wildlife from afar so you don’t disturb them. Your food and garbage should always be securely stored and kept away from the animals, and you should never feed wildlife.
Be considerate of other visitors
All campers should be thoughtful and considerate of other visitors, protecting the quality of their experience. This means that your party should not be larger than permitted, and your noise level should be kept down, leaving tape players and radios behind.
An important saying in Girl Scout culture is the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Essentially, the best way to deal with hazards is to identify them and avoid them.
Sunburns: Severe cases of sunburns, along with being painful, can also be a serious health hazard. Avoid prolonged sun exposure, and limit the time you are directly in the sun. If you’re hiking in areas where there is not much shade, wear a hat and long sleeves and don’t forget to use sunscreen, which you should reapply liberally.
Poisonous plants: Study the toxic plants in the area, learning their colors and shapes so you can recognize and avoid contact with them. The most common plants in the U.S. are poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. They are all irritants to the skin and can cause itching rashes to severe skin eruptions. If you come in contact with any of these three plants, wash your skin with soap and water, and apply rubbing alcohol, followed by a calamine lotion or ointment.
When arriving at your campsite, identify all possible hazards such as hanging broken branches, steep-drop offs, wild animals or dead trees, and create a plan on how to avoid them.
Basic camping skills
The more camping we do, the more we tend to overestimate our abilities, and sometimes tend to forget the basics. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to brush up on these basic camping skills as outlined in girl scouting.
Always use the appropriate tool for the job. All tools with sharp edges like pocket knives or survival knives should be kept sharp and clean, as dull edges are dangerous.
Know your knots
Two of the primary knots you should master are the square knot and the clove hitch. To tie a square knot, which is used to bind a bandage or two ropes together, tie right over left and under, and then left over right and under. The clove hitch is useful for tying a line around a post or a tree.
Your fire should start with a basic foundation, and it should never be larger than what you need. When you want to put out the fire, spread the coals with water until they are cool enough to touch, and all logs should be completely extinguished.