Dashiell's best friend Dexter, eleven years old and a high achiever, cornered me during our Wednesday Friendsgiving dinner to pick my brain about skills, tools, and mindset. He had heard from his mother that I'm interested in camping and "survival" (whatever that means) and because he is curious about the outdoors. He showed me his survival vest, packed with various tool kits and information. I have to say, I was surprised and impressed at the variety of equipment that he had cobbled together on his own... a mylar tube tent, SAK, Esbit stove and fire starter, UCO matches, "survival" skill cards, journal and pencil, a nav kit, etc etc, in addition to some decent looking woodlore and campcraft books. We looked through the gear together, talked shop, and discussed book "learning" vs field learning, and we agreed to regroup within the week. (He, as a five and then six year old, had repeatedly visited Dashiell in the hospital and at home, showing him friendship, love, and compassion. None of Dashiell's other friends did this. To my dying day, I will remember Dexter's courage and selflessness, and his kindness in adding a bit of normality to Dashiell's life... anything I can ever do for him, I will. ) So this morning he came over with his pop. Over coffee and hot chocolate, we talked about our expectations for today. 1.We discussed rules, and safety, and what we would NOT be getting into... weapons, hunting, trapping, etc, without his parents' express permission. When his dad was there, no problem, but I don't want to be "that" guy. No axes or knives today... nothing with a blade. Silly, maybe, but I wanted this to be a safe day and one during which I could assess his maturity. 2. Next, we discussed camping vs surviving. One is fun, one sucks. One we can enjoy, and work on our skills, etc., the other is an emergency and we can hope that we've prepared ourselves enough. Mindset! 3. Then we talked about planning, permits, and contingencies. Is it safe to go to the woods? What is the weather forecast for now, later, and overnight? Are we allowed to go there, and to use the land in the way we intend? Is it public land, or private, and do we have both permission and permits, as needed? Who else knows of our plans and timeline? Have we left word with a third party, and set up a safety net of "if we're not back by..." 4. Following that, we talked about our most basic needs in the woods etc. : shelter, water, and fire... in that order. We discussed each for several minutes, including examples of each and why they are more critical than, say, food or a brand of gear. Shelter keeps us out of the elements; water keeps us hydrated and functional, and fire keeps us comfortable, plus offers many additional benefits. 5. Knots - we would need them for building our shelter and in securing our gear today. We went over the round turn and half hitch; the girth hitch; the figure eight; the taut line hitch, and the sheet bend. He observed and practiced using two foot lengths of 550, one of which we dissected for his understanding of paracord and twists/braids. He did well, but understood that making and using the knots in the field would be a lot more important than memorizing the knots from an app or website. His father left, and we adjourned to the back yard, where I'd prepped some oak splits and stashed a variety of BCO tarps and my daypack with gear. 6. Sheltercraft - he was most interested in the super shelter. We discussed the steps we'd need to go through to get to the super shelter, and started from scratch. Ridge line vs. ridge pole. Toggles on the ridge line. Slippery guy lines. A-frame using the 10x10. Resetting and optimizing the shelter, based on wind, geometry, and other needs. Diamond shelter. Quick and dirty rendition of an Adirondack shelter. Settled on a "lean to" design, for use with a... 7. Mylar sheet - discussed why it's not a "blanket", lacking insulation, but a reflector, and that to use it most effectively with our shelter, we'd need to attach one to our shelter to reflect radiant heatwaves and warm us from behind and above. 8. Attaching mylar - we used a BCO 5x7 to practice attaching the mylar to our existing structure. We used dry grass and 18" 550 sections to make button on the 5x7, and then added length to the button tie outs by adding more guy lines vs. sheet bends. Removed the 5x7 and transitioned to the mylar. Mylar failed on removal from the packaging... lots of tear-out and shredding. Discussed why equipment failures were critical to the learning curve, and decided to stick with the thrashed mylar. Created the four buttons and tie outs as best as possible, allowing for tears in mylar. Aligned the mylar alongside the top of the 10x10, guying to the corner tabs of the 10x10. More tearing along the bottom side of the mylar required that we loosen the load on the bottom half. Mylar installation was successful, but mediocre. Better than nothing, though. Discussed how we would optimize installation, and why testing our equipment is critical. Don't learn to swim while you're drowning, etc. 9. Firecraft - I quickly split out some oak while he observed. Shavings, pencil lead, pencil, and wrist thick. I also produced a variety of kindling... birch bark; waxed jute; and fatwood curls. Produced cotton balls, to which we added vaseline. "Light, hair-like and fluffy." Set up a brick with four types of kindling. He struck a UCO match, on which he tested burn time - about twenty seconds. Struck a second match, which he dunked in water, removed, and watched it reignite. Struck a third match - took several attempts, with hints on finger position, etc - and tested the various kindling. He decided that cotton balls/vaseline burned the longest and were easiest to ignite. Then I showed him the ferro road, explained why it beats other firestarters under multiple conditions, and started a splitwood fire in front of the shelter. We took our places atop the 5x7 under the tarp and mylar, and felt the warming effect of the mylar. He was stunned and delighted how even a small fire was so effective at warming us. We discussed the importance of fire safety and extinguishing, which I demonstrated using water and shovel. 10. Regrouping - we touched on what we had discussed and learned. He retained the vast majority. I told him that tomorrow would be Dashiell's tenth birthday, and that I could think of no better way to celebrate it than with his best friend, by fire. I did my best to keep myself from choking as I explained it to him. Awarded him a new pack of UCO matches and a cutdown arrow shaft "blow poker" which thrilled him. 11. Hot chocolate. Earned! All in all, a good time with a great kid. I told him to beware of anyone selling him "the truth" or new doodads, or almost anything with the words "survival" and "expert", and I directed him to the Bushclass section. I also admitted that he could find any number of actual teachers who would be more effective as educators than I am. What a fun day! Yes, I know the mylar is not taut... it was tearing apart, as per above, and loosening it was the only way to keep it intact. Side lesson - cheap is too expensive, sometimes.