Boy Scout Deaths on Outdoor Adventures

A recent article in the Sacramento Bee chronicled the sad death in 2008 of a 12 year old boy scout during a hiking outing with his Boy Scout group in Yosemite National Park. It was the boy’s first time ever in the mountains. Trail conditions and varying skill levels left the leader of the group alone with a small group when the boy fell 300 feet to his death.

As the article pointed out, the Boy Scout organization has introduced millions of kids to the outdoors and has made strides to increase safety, including issuing fitness requirements for the leaders. I don’t want to criticize an organization that has done so much good, nor do I wish to comment on any particular incident. We all know that a group of boys together in the wild can get a little crazy – as well they should be able to enjoy their freedom in the wild. However, there have been several times during my own adventures in the backcountry that I’ve run into scout groups in questionable conditions and circumstances.

Here are my top five tips to parents and leaders of Boy Scouts to increase safety on outdoor ventures:

  1. Research the destination. Make sure that the terrain you are about to tackle is within the skill level of your group. If you have a lofty goal, work up to it by attempting shorter, smaller locations first that allow kids to gain confidence in moving and living in the outdoors.
  2. Respect weather and trail conditions. Remember that kids respond much differently to extremes and often don’t have the experience to measure or clearly communicate the extent of their pain, fear, or discomfort. Never place a child in a dangerous situation. Always err on the side of caution and turn the group around.
  3. Educate yourself on outdoor safety protocols. Not only that, but educate your group before you go out. Set guidelines and share responsibilities by including parents in the preparation process. There are great resources in bookstores and online.
  4. Get certified. It’s easy to pick up a Wilderness First Aid certification, take a Leave No Trace course, or a backcountry basics class at your local outdoor store. Insist that the leaders of your children are educated; or, get certified yourself and volunteer.
  5. Have fun. That’s what it’s all about, right? Realize that when the proper mental and physical preparations have been made, everyone has a better chance of connecting to their adventure.

Readers, what tips would you add to outdoor safety?

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