Pretty much everyone I meet has an opinion of Bear Grylls. He’s a bit like a brussel sprout – you either love him or loathe him. I thought he was a bit of a tosser until I read his book, ‘Mud, Sweat & Tears’, and it changed my mind. Now, I actually quite like and respect the guy. Sure, I’m not wrapped in some of his tips (like being wrapped inside a camel carcass or drinking pee out of a snake skin), but in terms of basic safety messages around food, water and shelter – he’s all over it. Oh… and kids love him.
Now I confess I watched every episode of Survival School (a hit with bronze Duke of Ed kids) as carefully executed adventures, tests and challenges were faced by a mixed bunch of 12-15 yr old pommie school kids, under the firm guiding hand of Bear… separated from their devices.
I was a bit skeptical at first, so couldn’t believe that by chapter two, I started writing down all the outdoors safety tips that were being covered. And perhaps that’s the key – we think of Bear in terms of ‘survivalist’, but actually, if we change that word for ‘bush safety’, then it suddenly seems much more relatable.
These tips are subtly woven into a series of cute stories that follow a group of kids on holiday camp, as each one discovers the magical powers within a very special compass. Through the compass, they find themselves in potentially dangerous locations like a desert and in the middle of a snow storm, learning very practical tips on safety from Bear and dealing with their fears.
The kids end up learning not only great tips for staying safe, healthy and happy in the bush, but as anyone who’s spent time in nature can tell you, it has it’s way with these young ones and also helps teach them something about themselves and how they relate to each other and the world.
So if you’ve got young ones in your life (5 – 8 yrs) who you’d love to introduce to bushwalking and hiking, then I thoroughly recommend kicking them off with this lovely series.
In celebration of Book Week in Australian primary schools, I’ve got one copy of The Desert Challenge and the Blizzard Challenge to give away to one reader.
To be eligible, ask your young Miss/Master (under 12 yrs) to draw a picture of themselves (or you) going on an adventure in the bush. Then, simply scan and email the image to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, just to prove that these books have all the good stuff in them, here’s my list of 47 things I learnt from The Desert Challenge and The Blizzard Challenge:
- Packing light
- Importance of packing your own bag
- How to tighten guy ropes
- Avoiding rocks when putting up a tent
- Importance of teamwork in the bush
- The easiest ways to carry firewood
- Compass basics
- Awareness of snow blindness
- Importance of layering clothes
- Importance of having the right gear
- How to keep your feet warm
- Wearing the right shoes
- Dry feet and food keep you happy
- How to use snow for water
- Avoiding dehydration – even in the snow
- Avoiding hypothermia
- Always be prepared
- Waterproofing your gear
- Tips for walking on snow, ice and a glacier
- Keys to route finding (including on sand and snow)
- Looking ahead and around to analyse weather
- Importance of pacing
- Tips for walking
- How to get out of an ice pond
- How to warm up rapidly
- Importance of following a leader’s instructions
- Keys to endurance
- Importance of encouragement
- Basics of how to build a snow cave
- Importance of finding/making shelter
- How good the sense of accomplishment feels
- Importance of resilience in life and adventure
- Do things properly… once.
- Tips on peeing in a snow cave
- Finding the strength inside to keep going
- Maintaining 3 points of contact when rock scrambling
- Facing fears of insects, spiders and being alone in the bush
- The importance of keeping hydrated
- Tips on how to walk in hot conditions
- Importance of sun protection
- How to avoid getting bitten by snakes
- How to walk to conserve energy
- Looking for resources all around you
- Importance of slow, smart thinking
- Being aware of the dangers of flash-flooding
- Importance of keeping calm in stressful situations
- Tips on finding water