First-aid instruction is embedded in a large portion of Boy Scout programs. It's part of nearly every rank advancement, and it's a requirement for many merit badges. It's not just about treating a wide range of potential injuries and illnesses, but also knowing how to avoid them and understanding the warning signs and symptoms to minimize any ailment. And let's face it, basic first aid is not just valuable when you're in the outdoors, it's a critical life skill. Investing a few hours one weekend to take a Red Cross course could prove life-saving.
Know how to use a map and compass. Getting lost in unfamiliar territory is one of the most common ways hikers get into trouble. Avoid this by learning how to use a map and compass. It's a simple skill that only takes about an hour or two of instruction and can help you orient yourself no matter where you are so that you can find your way back to the trail or your campsite.
Each spring, one high-adventure Boy Scout troop in Southern California spends a weekend rock climbing and rappelling in Joshua Tree, and does a week-long canoe trek down the Colorado River.
In each case, it would be easy for the Scouts to earn the respective merit badges while on the trek. But that doesn't happen. The boys are required to earn the merit badges before they go on the trek.
For rock climbing, they meet at an indoor climbing gym and are taught the basics, which they must master before being allowed to sign up for Joshua Tree. For canoeing, they spend a day at a local aquatics center learning canoeing skills and safety procedures as a prerequisite to the Colorado River trip.
Day hikes are a prerequisite to overnight backpacks. Earning the swimming merit badge is required before canoe or whitewater rafting trips.
Whatever outdoor adventure you have planned, even if it's as simple as a hike in the woods, would be better served if preceded by a training session or two. This will help ensure that you and everyone in your party have the skills needed for your upcoming adventure, that you're in proper condition and that your gear is going to serve you well.