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5/02/2018 10:52 am  #1

backwoods safety rules - for kids

Hi all - I think things are looking pretty good for my spring trip...launching Monday May 14th.  I feel it will be buggy this year...

The reason for my post is that I am thinking about my summer trip with my boys (7 and 10yrs).  They have both been on yearly backwoods trips since they were 4, so they know what it's about.  Normally I go with my long time paddling buddy (he brings his daughter) but this year the timing doesn't work out, therefore I'll be heading in on my own with the boys.  They are also at an age where they are legitimately useful for paddling, portaging and camp tasks and I hope to "employ" them as such.  There are lots of camping safety rules we all know/learn/assimilate but what are the top 10 you think are most important?  Especially for kids around a campsite.  There is no way I will be able to keep an eye on them at every minute, so I need to train them up on key "dos and don'ts".  Overall they are both very well behaved boys and they do listen to adults in charge, so if I say "I'm going to the T-box, no going near the water", I know they will listen.

I am just looking for opinions/input.

P.S.  We had quite a harrowing experience with the kids last year - when I have time I will draft the story and post - it's a bit long.  I'd like to know what others would have done in the same situation...Everything turned out fine, but it was both harrowing, terrifying and damned funny all at the same time...


5/02/2018 11:07 am  #2

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

1. Always wear the PFD around the water
2. Review rule #1 and make sure it is adhered to religiously
3. Only go near the water with adult supervision
4. Fire safety - never walk between someone seated at the fire and the fire, always walk behind them
5. Never stray far from the campsite alone
6. Always have a whistle clicked onto your belt loop to be able to signal for help
7. Everything else is fair game...have fun and be inventive


5/02/2018 12:38 pm  #3

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

PaPaddler wrote:

6. Always have a whistle clicked onto your belt loop to be able to signal for help

While this is a common recommendation, it isn't nearly as useful as folks would like to think. 1 small hill and 100 yards is enough to completely block out the sound of many whistles. If you do take whistles, stay away from the high pitched Fox whistles and look for something with a lower tone. 

One that I would add is to always let someone know where you are going - that includes a trip to the thunder box. 


5/02/2018 1:09 pm  #4

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

My kids have only been once or twice, and are age 12 (very soon to be 13) and 15.  They have some general camping experience, but Algonquin Camping is a bit different.  I find it works best if I explain the "why" behind the rule.  Please don't wear shorts there you'll come back with cuts all over your legs (and get eaten alive).  Dry clothes = clean clothes.  The sun is blazing, wear a hat/sunscreen.  If you are using your knife, don't walk, that's a quick way to a bad end.  Jackets don't stay out overnight unless you like soaking wet jackets.  Muck is deeper than you think it is.  That helps them participate in their own safety and comfort.  I know a lot of these are just assimilate-to-camping kinds of behaviors, but I'll add one more to that - kids are very unaware of dangling sleeves and long hair when it comes to proximity around fire.

The big ones to me are more when exploring around or away from the campsite:

1) If you go exploring for a little while, fine, but remain within whistle-shot and stay together. (and they know that 3 sounds = distress signal)
2) We all wear the whistles 100% of the time.
3) Make some noise as you go so you don't surprise something large that has a bad sense of humor.
4) Watch your step, there are lots of little crevices, etc., that you can't see well.
5) Keep your eyes open.
6) Never trust your footing on wet rocks or logs.  They are not your pal.

Things like #4 and #6 really are worth making note of to the kids, at least with my kids.  Simple safety prevention things that they just wouldn't be aware of because they lack the experience. 

This year, I'm planning on letting them take the canoe out to do a little exploring, but I'll be controlling the where and how far part of that pretty closely, some of which will be determined by the lake we're on.  I'll be working with them this summer in advance of the trip.  I want them to develop and feel some independence in this, that's where their fun will come from, but I need to equip them for it and place intelligent boundaries without being overly restrictive about it. 


5/02/2018 8:22 pm  #5

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

I agree with all of the above answers but would add the following.
A good and thought out first aid kit. Scratches, cuts, fevers and upset stomachs make a quick end to a good trip. No bare feet around camp( stubbed toes, loosing nails, damaged feet) happened twice to one of mine.
Dry clothes and best of all food they really like!
Stay together, if thunder box is a bit farther, I always waited halfway for them.
PDF non negotiable, they're on. A great sense of humour is definitly helpful.
And  most of all have fun, keep a triplog and take pics.
Lately I have put these early trips  ( I had triplogs and pics )into book form online with snapfish ( many such sites available) then had it printed throug them and they were given as Xmas presents last Xmas to the long grownup kids to great hilarity and racking up great memories.


5/02/2018 10:45 pm  #6

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Make up a small safety kit for each kid. Trying to remember off hand what’s in the ones I made the kids. A small knife. Matches. Small lighter. Fire starter. Bandaids. A couple water purification tablets. I put them in water proof case like the size of a wallet so they have them all the time. Clip it to the life jacket or in the pocket of the life jacket at all times on day trips.


5/02/2018 10:55 pm  #7

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Like some one else said. Let them explore some boundaries, but explain the consequences. 2years ago we were jumping of a ten foot ledge or so into 50 plus feet of water. One of the kids said I want to do a back flip. My response was not a good idea. He said I do it all the time at grandpas. I responded. If something goes wrong I can have you in an er in 7 minutes from grandpas. We are looking at many hours before we can even call for an air ambulance from where we were At the time. He got it. No back flips.

I let the two boys set up in a tent relatively far away from me.  He said the first night he hardly slept. Second night slept like a baby. Tired. Been good with it ever since. Sleeps no problem in he back country. 

Explaining consequences and letting them stretch a bit goes along way.


5/03/2018 10:29 am  #8

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Last year I took my three boys(two 5 year olds and a twelve year old) back country.  First of many I hope!  Everyone had whistles on lanyards.  We also brought walkie talkies which was nice to let them explore a bit while I got some camp chores done.  


5/03/2018 12:16 pm  #9

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

My kids are now 9 and 11 so I get what you are asking ... my kids have been coming to the park since they were 4 or 5 so they now know the routine but back then i kept an eye on them at all times. 

As you know rules depend on the maturity and experience of the kids  ...  so my key ones are (sorry for repeating what others said) ...

- no swimming unless I'm around
- when casting you have to make sure nobody is close to you
- no exploring the woods alone .. .take your sister !
- you must be able to see the tent at all times when exploring the woods
- no "cliff jumping" unless we both have looked with our mask to make sure its safe
- no running around when there is a campfire ...
- no walking between someone and the fire
- if you ever get lost stop moving ... wait ... someone will find you ...

I love island campsites because its just so much easier ... but my kids are at an age where they pretty much know the rules but sometimes have to be reminded ...

I too go alone more often than not ... so I always go to places where there are a few people around so  that the kids could flag them down if anything ever happened to me ... Sec lake is great ... Rock lake, etc.    



5/07/2018 11:57 am  #10

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Some good ideas,
I go for a walk around the camp area with the kids to get the lay of the land and make sure there's no surprises.  I give them a perimeter boundary (usually just past the box) to stay within.
With small kids, you can expect that they'll spend most of the time falling over roots etc..  a pair of kid-sized leather gloves saves a lot of scrapes and puncture wounds and solves the inevitable tree sap issues as well...


5/07/2018 4:08 pm  #11

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

The only thing  I would add to all the great suggestions is a well equipped first aid kit. Upset stomachs, rashes, something that's sore can make a quick end to a great trip. No bare feet on the campsite ( due to stubbing toes on roots etc and loosing toe nails) believe me, that happens. In my case twice the same kid.
Tip for tree sap oil will take it off immediately. Take some along, it works like a charm.


5/08/2018 7:22 am  #12

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

after 20 years of taking hundreds of kids into the bush, I agree with all the above, but would add a quick-clot sponge to your kit, along with a pack of steri-strips, and some burn GEL (not cream).
a couple of things to add- what goes in the fire STAYS in the fire; it's not pleasant when a burning brand snaps off and goes down someone's back! Same thing with marshmallows- burning ones STAY over the pit until out! and no "hunting firewood" alone, use the buddy system!


5/08/2018 11:44 am  #13

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

All - thank you for your input.

A number of items were brought up that I have not considered.  I do not have the boys wear whistles all the time, but now seems obvious that I should.  Some good fire pit advice too...

We'll begin training sessions soon!

     Thread Starter

5/09/2018 1:25 pm  #14

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Baby oil for tree sap ... man oh man I needed that tip about 5 years ago ...
Be sure to share the story you said of a close call last year ... might save someone from having a similar experience .. .


5/09/2018 6:30 pm  #15

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

Baby oil is now on my packing list.  Great tip!

Can/should you use baby oil on a tarp or tent fly that's been sapped?


5/09/2018 7:41 pm  #16

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

@deadweight and paddleindad : I'm sure you could use baby oil to take off pinesap safely off a tarp or tent, not sure though if it would leave a stain? Not totally sure if toilet paper would absorb the oil totally if you rubbed it? That I never tried.

As for busted toenails on kids feet, my young son ( at the time) seemed to hate wet feet in sandals, so kept kicking them off, promptly stubbing his big toe and totally lifting his toenail off when he ran around and tripped. I luckily had a small canister of tar salve, bought at a nearby native reserve, the salve was to prevent infections. Carefully treated the toe,Wrapped the toe in a lonely bandaid and all was fine. The salve however, was known forever after as ' the stink pot' because the smell was enough to send anyone running. But it always worked as a charm on many many trips, on any scratches, open wounds etc. I was never able to buy another canister unfortunately. What I currently see in drugstores has only a 0.05 percent tar rate ( baby section) . Mine had 2 1/2percent tar. However, the lower amount may work just as well.


5/09/2018 9:46 pm  #17

Re: backwoods safety rules - for kids

I can handle anything but nasty toe/finger nail injuries, mine or anybody else's.  I'd have to punt for sure.  So if you are ever in the park, and you hear AAAAUUUUGGHHHH GROOOOOSSSSS, NO WAY!!!!!, you will know I am punting and need the assistance.  Don't delay.  Please.


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