Zilkha Outdoor Education Survival Tips

We’ve consolidated some insider tips from the five Zilkha children on how they navigate the exciting (and many times daunting) adventure of the Outdoor Education World... 

felix zilkha

Felix, 5-Year-Old

Survivor of a day-long Outdoor Education trip, but acts as though he’s been off the grid for much longer…


Safety Tip - Stay with your group! You need to have your emergency whistle on AND blow until the campers find you.  Don’t leave home without your whistle.

Food Necessity - Morning snacks, afternoon snacks and evening snacks.  Optimally stuffed with bacon (reportedly for protein), mango, watermelon and rice pudding.. (parent note - we have never sent him out of the house with rice pudding) 

Pro Tip - Don’t eat an apple on your camping trip or your loose teeth might fall out (parent note - Felix has several loose teeth right now. Take this tip with a grain of salt)

celine zilkha

Celine, 7-Year-Old

Survivor of three camping and hiking Outdoor Education trips


Safety Tip - Make sure you know how to put up your tent!! AND choose your tent mates wisely. (parent note - as Celine’s teacher said this year - choose your tent mates that you will be “successful” with when you are camping - words to live by in all areas of life!)

Food Necessity - Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies and bottomless S'MORES (parent note - never enough s’mores) 

Must-Have Gear -  Pack a small pillow - NOT a blow up because it can pop.  

Pro Tip- Remember a journal! (parent note - the journal is a definite must have for kids of all ages to put their thoughts down in this limited time without screens. Always worth the space in the pack!)


dov zilkha

Dov, 10-Year-Old

Survivor of six hiking, camping and mountain biking Outdoor Education trips


Safety Tip -  Don’t go over your limit so you don't get hurt.  When biking - don’t go off every jump you see (parent note - I’m not sure Dov listens to his own advice).  Don’t push yourself past your ability zone - it’s not the place to try something new!

Noted Sage Advice - “If something seems unsafe and you’re next to a big cliff - you should probably walk your bike”

Food Necessity - Energy bars that are lower in sugar and high in protein. Not super sweet. (parent note - Dov packs Kind bars and puts NUUN tablets in his water bottle).  

Must-Have Gear - Sleeping Mat!! You need the accordion style instead of the inflatable style.  (parent note- The inflatables are almost always impossible to repack and accordion clips to the base of most hiking backpacks)

Pro Tip - Pack a lot of socks! Because your socks get dirty and you can’t clean them. Wool socks are best and don’t smell as bad (parent note - we still think they smell bad…)


brock zilkha

Brock, 13-Year-Old 

Survivor of multiple mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing
Outdoor Education trips


Safety Tip -  Always use your headlight in the dark and have it close to you before the sun starts to set. Never keep snacks in your tent or under your pillow - bears are too smart… 

Food Necessity- For snacks, the little single packets of Nutella and prepackaged crepes.  They don’t go bad and the sugar in the Nutella keeps me hiking.  

Must-Have Gear - Bring outdoor sunglasses similar to mountain biking glasses.  Especially in high altitude and lots of Chapstick with SPF especially when in any dry climate (parent note - my kids have returned a few times too many with burnt and peeling lips, but perfectly fine faces thanks to the norm of applying sunscreen, but the atypical necessity of chapstick)

Pro Tip - Bring a cup with a screw top that you can attach to the front of your backpack with a carabiner so you can put snacks in it.  That way while you’re hiking you don’t have to access your backpack for food (parent note - he managed to fit a lot of Nutella crepes in his cup. Not the worst idea ever…) Bring MANY carabiners to clip things to your backpack. I swear that my stuff grows overnight and I use them for the overflow of items. They’ve been known to even haul wet socks…. 


ollie zilkha

Ollie, 15-Year-Old

Survivor of hiking, rock climbing and a multi-week Outdoor Education trip which included a required 24 hours of solo camping


Safety Tip - Share with someone who has more experience than you! Don’t underestimate teaming up with people who know more than you! Make sure you have a plan for if you get separated from the group and ALWAYS have your safety whistle on you. 

Food Necessity -  Peanut butter is a must and in large quantities. It makes almost any camp meal or snack edible.   

Must-Have Gear - Hiking boots that are broken in.  And wool socks to go along with them. 

Pro Tip - Have your backpack fitted for you at an outdoor retailer. AND you must break in your hiking backpack before you leave.  Nothing worse than having a backpack that feels like a boulder on your back!

(parent note - When we moved to Colorado Ollie had a five-day long Outdoor Education trip right as we arrived and they had never camped a day alone in their life. Ollie prepped by walking at an incline on a treadmill with rocks in their hiking backpack and wearing their new hiking shoes. I can’t say that Ollie loved that exercise, but it did help them prepare for the long days of hiking and camping that followed. And they actually enjoyed it!)

The Adventure Continues! Read On...