Planning for a Backpacking trek can be a chore or a pleasure. Most Scouts shy away from the chore.. SOOOO… here are a few ways to make Trek planning for the Scouts simple and less “Chore like”.
First and foremost.. the Scouts should be planning their treks. This develops a good sense of responsibility and above all, a good sense of awareness of the process.
At least once a year it is a good idea to review with your Scouts the elements of Trek Safely. You can read more about Trek Safely in the Guide to Safe Scouting or other Scouting resources.
Back to planning.
First. Know where you want to go and get the maps.
Pick a Trek that is acceptable to the ability level of the group. You may need to have two or three different routes to accomodate ability levels. Remember Trek Safely and the qualified supervision. You will have to provide for that on each of the routes. Do a good map recon of the trail. Look for acceptable camp site, water resupply, ease of movement (are bridges out etc). Will you be able to do this trek and practice leave no trace?
Make copies of the map so everyone has one.
Next, Start planning with the group. Meals are the biggest issue to plan for in most cases. Plan your meals around the duration and distance of the hike, how much water you need, and the amount of fuel you will need. Meal planning consumes a lot of time in most troops. As the Scouts get better at it and know their likes and dislikes, this process will go a lot quicker. I recommend that the planning is done in no bigger than 3 Scout teams. You can still excerise the Patrol method this way, but back country camping requires a smaller footprint anyway, getting them used to smaller groups are a great way to stream line planning and increase the fun.
Then communicate the plan to everyone. EVERYONE needs to know designated drop off points and pick up points. Planned rest stops on the trail. Water sources and Camp areas. Remember if you are treking in Wilderness area, check with your local Rangers. Most wilderness areas only permit groups of 12 heart beats. If your group is bigger, you will need to split them up. Communicate that. Let everyone know which group is camping where, where they plan of stopping for breaks and water and any other special stops the group is going to make. Maybe there is a fantastic swimming hole along the way, the whole group needs to know what the plan is.
Communication is the biggest part of the planning process. Get input from other members of group. Find out what their needs and wants are before you head out. Changing the plan on the trail is not a good idea.
File your tour permits and leave a detailed plan of the trek with some one at home. They too need to know the whole plan.
Hold a Shakedown of all.. and I mean ALL the gear that will be going. Make a steadfast rule that once it is packed.. it goes. Younger Scouts tend to “Decide” what is best for them. While we want to give them opportunities to learn, it is important for young Scouts to learn from mentoring and teaching, they need to take what they are told to take. There is nothing worse than a new Scout that does not understand the big picture to “Forget something” and end up hurting his mates on the trip. Something as simple as a pot can make for a long trip for the team if it is left at home.
One thing that we always try to do is plan for our first night to be spent at the trail head. This gives us a fresh start in the morning. It is nice to get the drive out of the way and a good night sleep before hitting the trail.
It really is this easy. Planning considerations will be developed and routines established the more you do it. Starting this way will get you on the trail and enjoying the best part of backcountry camping.
Fail to plan is a plan to fail.. good planning makes for great treks.
Have a Great Scouting Day!