Camps provide Okanagan youth with outdoor skills

Wilderness camps offered at Camp Boyle, near Summerland, running July 2-6 for ages 12 to 14, and July 8-13 for kids 9-12

Ann Armstrong (back left) and her team leaders show the use of a queen's carriage. Youth in the camp will be building these

Ann Armstrong (back left) and her team leaders show the use of a queen's carriage. Youth in the camp will be building these

You’re in the woods, lost, confused and starving. Night is closing in soon. You need to eat, or you won’t make it to see the dawn. All you have in your possession is a flint, knife, some bacon, eggs and a paper bag. Also, due to an unfortunate stomach condition, if you ate the eggs or bacon raw, you would die. Would you be able to survive the night?

If your son or daughter had attended one of Scouts Canada’s wilderness camp weeks in the past, you would probably know that you can start a fire with the flint and knife, and cook the bacon and eggs in the paper bag over the fire, without watching your meal go up in flames.

This is just an example of one of the survival skills that youth between nine and 14 learn about during the wilderness camps, two of which are held in the South Okanagan at Camp Boyle near Summerland. If you think knowing how to cook breakfast in a bag would never be useful in real life, don’t worry, there are many other more practical skills the youth pick up — skills that are going out of style.

“A lot of the skills taught here aren’t so common anymore,” said Dilbert, a team leader with the camp. The leaders with the camp don’t use their real names, due to concerns over social media.

“It’s become an electronic generation of sorts. You’re taking them out in the bush, and showing that you can have fun shooting bows and arrows, starting fires, stuff like that — being outside and you don’t have to be inside all the time to have fun.”

Dilbert is joined by other post-secondary students from the area to help lead the camp, who come from many different areas of study, but are brought together by their passion for the outdoors.

It’s Dilbert’s second year being a team leader with the program, and he said that he already has great memories from last summer, which much like fireworks, didn’t last long but burned so brightly

“We did what was called a flaming arrow, where we strung a string between a tree and a firepit, and then we set the arrow on fire and launched it down, and just watching their faces when that happened and the fire lit and burst into flames and just their amazement at it. Nothing can beat it,” he said.

As well, the kids at the camp learn about the science behind these skills, such as how an improvised, solar-powered convection oven works, the math behind constructed shelters to ensure they don’t collapse, or even just how bacon fat changes the ignition temperature of a paper bag, making it entirely possible to cook breakfast in one.

The camps, which are entering their fourth year in the Okanagan, are extremely popular, with many youth returning year after year. Ann Armstrong, community development worker with Scouts Canada, said the camp has a 52 per cent return rate, and the kids get an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

“I’ve got kids that started coming because they happened to live in the Okanagan, and two years ago moved to Vancouver and they return,” she said. “They fly back or come back for this camp, because they haven’t found any other camp similar to the skills and the camaraderie with team leaders and sense of development.”

The purpose of the camp, said Armstrong, is to change the youth’s perception of nature.

“I want them walking away from the camp with a sense of being inspired and being confident with being in nature,” said Armstrong.

“I’m hoping they’ll walk away being inspired with how much fun and how amazing nature is and what it can provide and the natural playground it gives us.”

There will be two camps in the South Okanagan area, both being held at Camp Boyle near Summerland. The first, which runs from July 2-6, is the advanced wilderness adventures camp for 12 to 14-year-olds. This camp teaches more challenging skills and features an overnight hiking trip. The other camp, the wilderness fun camp, runs July 8-13 and is designed for children aged 9-12. For more information on these camps or to register, visit