Backpacking

My Cook Kit

As you all know I am constantly tweaking my gear.  I have been using basically the same cooking set up for a few years now.  A little tweak here and there and I have to tell you I am really happy with the cook kit that I use.
There are no right or wrong set ups.  When it comes to this kind of gear, I suggest you adopt the “Hike your own hike” philosophy.  That is to say do what works for you.  I have used everything from big pots and pans and green two burner Coleman stoves to the alcohol stove that I use now.
I have used heavy pots and light pots, sporks and full mess kits, but what I have developed now meets my needs and fits with our style of backpacking.
Using this set up I can cook everything, not just boil water.  Right now I am really into the frozen dinner reheat.  I like to buy the Smart Ones precooked meals and reheat them in my pot.  It works great.  I have also cooked them at home, dehydrated them and cooked them on the trail.  They are perfectly portioned and taste great.
The elements of my cook kit are simple:
It starts with the Cuben Fiber stuff sack.  I purchased this from zpacks.com.
I made my own Pot cozy from an old closed cell foam pad.  The pot cozy is a big part of the kit, for holding the hot pot, to using it with the pot to re-hydrate a meal.  This saves fuel.
I use the Imusa 12 cm pot or mug.   These used to be available at Wal-Mart.  I have not been able to find them lately, but there are places online that you can find the 12 cm (1.25 quart) and the 10 cm mug.
I have a custom lid for the mug the I got online.  There are multiple online store that you can get your lids or you can easily make your own.  There are a lot of lid options, but you will need a lid.
I covered my lid with Carbon felt.  You can buy carbon felt by the sheet at Home Depot.
I added a zip lock container recently with a screw top lid.  I had to add a strip of tape to the lid to get it out of the pot.  I made a cozy for the bottom to keep things warm and make it easy to hold when there is a hot meal in there.  It makes a great bowl. and way to store my stove and other cook kit items.  I use the 16 oz size.  It fits well in the kit and works for just about every meal I make.
Inside of the zip lock container is my stove, a scrub pad and an old rag that I I use to clean and grab hot things.  Makes a good napkin too.
To eat with I use am REI long-handled spoon.  This spoon allows me to cook without burning my hands or getting them in the food.  They spoon does not get hot either, so you don’t burn yourself.
The whole kit weighs in at 10 oz.
Well that’s my cook kit.  I really like it and it works super for me.   I’m curious, what do you use?
Let me know.  Leave a comment and share.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Leave no trace, reviews | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Hammock Basics

I have received a bunch of emails recently asking about this “Hammock Thing” basically wondering why I hammock camp and what does it really involve.
Last summer I shot a video that answered some of those questions, so I thought I would drop it here on the blog from my YouTube channel.
The basics, kind of an extension of the post I did the other day on the Big 3.  The hammock set up takes care of two of the three, the shelter and the sleep system.  The third element would be my Pack, the hammock set up saves a lot of weight and space in my pack.
I have to be honest with you.  One of the main reasons I love the hammock camping set up is all the tweaking and playing around with the set up.  I suppose you don’t have to mess around with it.  The system is great out of the box, but it is so fun to try new things and learn more about the system.
For example, I am currently trying out different ways to do a “Pole Mod” on my tarp,  This is will be an alternate way of using the pull outs on the sides of my Warbonnet Super Fly Tarp.  I will keep you posted on how that goes.  I just got the poles yesterday, now it’s time to fiddle with it and try different techniques and set ups.  I’ll let you know how it ends up.
So check out this video, let me know what you think and please feel free to ask all the questions you would like.  I love to talk about hammocks and hammock camping.

I hope this video showed you a little about hammock camping and the hammock set up.  If you are interested, let me know.  If you already hammock camp, let me know that too.
Leave a comment, I love to know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Your Camp Stool

Here is a short video talking about just sitting around.  An often overlooked piece of gear that is in the category of a “Luxury item” is the camp stool.  Go without it and you sacrifice a bit of comfort on your next outing.
Yes, you may have to take a weight penalty if you are keeping track of your pack weight, but in the end, having a stool or chair to hang around camp on will make the difference.
Sorry about the focus on the video… but you don’t need to see my forehead anyway…  This video is all about your backside.
My go to seat right now is the Grand trunk Stool.
It is 22 oz made of aluminum with a nylon seat.  It is compact and light and very comfortable to sit on.  They added a little storage area, which I find real nice when cooking.  A nice place to set things other than your lap.  I highly recommend this stool.  It will hold up to 250 lbs, not that I will ever get that heavy, but it’s nice to know that it will not break under me.

Let me know what you sit on while camping?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Big 3

koa55It is that time of the year when we share our knowledge of camping with those youngsters that are preparing to cross over into our troops.  For many of them, their camping experience has been family camping and not straying to far from the car.
For those scouts that will be entering backpacking style troops, or even those that are looking for gear that will last and work in different camping situations, we offer a bit of advice.
Lately, I have been asked by several Cub Scout Packs to come and pay them a visit to talk about camping gear.  I know that for some, this discussion can become overwhelming, especially once we start talking about the cost.
We focus on the Big Three.  This is the Shelter, the Sleep system, and the Backpack.
The big 3 is where most of the money is spent and where most of the money should be spent.  Going cheap with the big 3 will cost you more in the long run.  It is better to buy quality gear than cheap gear that needs to be replaced over and over.
The Shelter.
Notice I did not say tent.  The shelter could be a Bivy, a tarp, or a tent.  Complicated for a new Scout?  Not really.  They just need to see the differences and pluses and minus’ of the gear.
First, what kind of camping do you do?  Are you looking to keep your pack light?  Do you live in an area that you need to worry a lot about bugs.  Tents do not keep you warm, they keep you out of the elements, that in turn will retain the heat you produce along with your sleep system.  So a tarp or bivy may be a great option for you.
When it comes to tents, make sure that you look at three things.
1.  The rain fly.  It needs to extend beyond the sewn floor seam.  Look at the number of tie outs the rain fly has.  This will make a huge difference in the winter or extreme weather conditions.
2.  The Floor.  Look a the floor and make sure you see a seam that extends up the wall of the tent.  This is called a bath tub floor.  This is an important feature for  heavy rains and snow.
3.  Vents and Vestibule.  You will want a tent that is well ventilated.  This will reduce the amount of condensation you have inside you tent.  The vestibule is important to storage and space to remove wet or dirty clothing and boots.  It is also a place that you can keep your pack and even cook in a pinch.
The Sleep System.
Again, note I did not just say sleeping bag.  First rule, if your bag has Ducks or Sponge Bob in it.. it is not a good backpacking sleeping bag.
The sleep system is quiet possibly the most important gear in your pack.  Without a good nights sleep you will not have a good camping experience.  The sleep system is made up of the sleeping bag and the method of insulation.
There are essentially two types of sleeping bags.  Down and Synthetic.  Down is lighter and compacts tighter.  When down gets wet though, it does not retain its insulation properties.  Synthetic on the other, may be a bit heavier, but when wet will retain its insulation and keep you warm.  Synthetics dry quickly also.
We recommend synthetic bags for our new Scouts.  This way we know that in bad conditions they will remain safe and warm.
The sleeping pad, or insulation, is just as important as the bag itself.  There are may options when it comes to pads for insulation.
Closed Cell Form (CCF).  This is your most inexpensive option and had great benefits.  CCF is great in the winter.  While not the most comfortable, CCF pads work well and can be modified to meet the Scouts needs.  It can be cut down to reduce weight and size.  The extra can be cut to make a nice camp seat.
Air pads.  There are different types of air-filled pads.  Basically, insulated and no insulated.  If you camp in the Northwest like I do, you need to have an insulated pad.
The air pads come in many shapes sizes and “R” values.  It is best when shopping for a pad to lay it out and give it a test run in the store.  The thicker the pad, the more comfortable, but also the more weight you will carry.  Take those considerations into account when buying your pad.
The Backpack.
Like sleeping pads, the backpack comes in many shapes, sizes, and styles.  Essentially though when looking at a backpack you need to decide what style you are looking for, Internal Frame or External Frame.  The difference, basically how the pack rides when packed.  For the novice hiker, that has a lack of experience in packing his gear, the external frame pack will ride much better.  Internal framed packs need a little more skill in packing, but the learning curve is not that steep.  Modern packs are designed to give the hiker the best comfort while tailoring the load to meet the need of the outing.
We typically recommend that a 65 liter pack be the absolute maximum when looking at volume.  The average Scout can get away with 55 to 60 liters.  Personally, I do not carry anything bigger than 60 liters or 3950 cubic inches.
Keep in mind when buying a pack, what are you doing with it?  The bigger the pack, the more you will put in it.  Also think about how you load the pack.  Lots of outside pockets are not always a great idea, while at times and with experience they can be a great feature on the pack.  Simple is good.
Buying a pack should not be an off the shelf event.  You need to shop around and do your homework.  Try them on, load them up, walk with it.  Try before you buy.
So, why the big three?  This is the area that you are going to spend the most money on and it is also the three pieces of gear that will cost you the most weight.  Try to keep the weight of the big 3 down to 9 pounds total.  Think about total weight, you should be looking at 25% of the Scouts body weight.  Keeping the big three down to 9 lbs is a good start at getting to that percentage.
When shopping for the big three, don’t rush.  Do the research, ask lots of questions, see what others are using and make a sound choice.  The big three should be those three pieces of gear that you keep the longest and will help you have the best backpacking or camping experience.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tatogear AB-13 Alcohol Stove

Here is a quick review of the AB-13 Max hybrid Alcohol stove by Tatogear.
I really like this stove for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s small and light but produces the same energy to get your trail cooking done.
Second, I love the remote fuel feed.  This is great when you are baking as you need longer cook times and with a traditional alcohol stove the fuel you start with is what you will use.  The remote feed feature allows you to have a continuous flame for hours if needed.  The remote feed is a safe way of adding fuel while in the process of cooking/baking.
The AB-13 weighs in at .8 oz. or 23 grams.  The body of the stove is machined from aluminum with folding legs and pot stand.  Folded – 2 1/4 X 1, Unfolded – 3 1/4 X 1.5.  So it is compact and portable.
I figured you did not need to see water boil, so here is a short video showing the function of the stove.
Here is the nice feature of the stove as it applies to the nay sayers in Scouting of alcohol stoves.  You can turn this one off!

Check out the stove and other products from Tatogear at Tatogear.com.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Cooking, gear, Just fun, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Why? Because I Believe.

DSCN1483This summer our Troop went on a great adventure.  We backpacked in the Olympic National Park.  We.. the whole Troop.  We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles.  As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance.  The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol.  11 year Scouts, what will they be doing?  Backpacking was the answer.  11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told.  I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training.  Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip.  We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists.  We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies.  Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
DSCN1402The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles.  The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough.  I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail.  This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark.  That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program.  The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course.  The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail.  Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews.  We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews.  I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence.   I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip.  7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park.  The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure.  On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together.  There were nothing but smiles all around.  I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol.  They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”!  The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest.  It was an epic adventure.  The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike.  They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7.  They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers.  That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
DSCN1375I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters.  They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure.  I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures.  Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc.  I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them.  Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right!  They can do it.  More so though.. they WANT to do it.  We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol.  They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them.  It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure.  It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure.  It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart.  Sitting on their butt is not an option for them.  They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year.  20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts.  23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards.  An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Note:  I hiked with the middle group.  These guys impressed me to no end.  The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great.  I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, planning, Scouting | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 3

bepreparedThe motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”.  Prepared for what?  Well, any old thing said our founder.  Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must.  When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong.  Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals:  Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc.  Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc.  Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Training.
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right.  Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip.  Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them.  Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
Planning.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong?  Plan for it.  Injuries?  How do we react if someone twists an ankle?  Big cuts?  Sickness?    What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react.  I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency.  You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules.  Rule number 1 is always to Have fun.  Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun.  Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law.  That is it.  Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail.  That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail.  Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury.  Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations.  We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun.  Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it.  If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries.  Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost.  This is a big one.  More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking.  Learn to read a map and use a compass.  Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail.  Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away.  Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up.  Stop and check the map every once in a while.  Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather.  We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it.  Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared.  Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area.  Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Water.
Have a plan for water.  Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it.  You need water.  Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek.  Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun.  Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail.  What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek.  Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking.  In short.  Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, fitness, gear, Leadership, Motto, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, training | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 2

bearcanisterWe have picked our destination, did a good map survey, know how long we are going be gone, and are super pumped that we will soon be on the trail.
The next thing that we need to plan is our food.
Why do I plan food second?  Food is an important part of your backpacking trek.  It is the nourishment that will keep you on the trail, it takes up space in your pack, it has weight, and it requires preparation before you leave and while on the trail.  How are you going to cook it?  What type of foods are you taking?  What do you like?
To many people think that trail food is trail food, but you can eat pretty much what ever you like on the trail.  You just need to plan and prepare it.
Freeze Dried meals and quick, easy and light and are a good option on the trail.  Dehydrating your own food is another great way to eat well and enjoy your meals on the trail.
Of course you can also pack in fresh foods or prepackaged meals.  All of these are good options.  I thought I would take a few minutes and discuss some thoughts I have on meal options.
When I plan for meals on the trail I take into consideration a few things.
1.  How long am I going to be out.  This is a big consideration as it will determine whether or not I can take fresher foods out with me.  Taking a nice steak out for dinner works if it is going to be cooked in the first day or two.  It requires a little more cold storage, which in turn becomes more weight.  I like a steak in the woods every now and then, but knowing how long I am going to be out is a consideration that I need to add to my decision-making.
2.  What are the conditions going to be.  The weather plays a large role in my decision-making.  Do I need to take more “warming foods” because of the cold, or can I get away with meals that are just filling.  That steak I mentioned.  Great winter camping food.  It will keep longer and the smell and taste are great motivators on a snowy night.  Along with the food, beverages need to be planned for due to conditions.  I like my coffee in the morning no matter what, but I may not take coco in the summer and drink water instead.
Hot beverages are a morale builder in the cold.  They do not really do much to warm the body, but you feel like it anyway.  They need to be planned for.
If it is real rainy, you will want to plan for foods that can be eaten on the move, or provide quick nutrition.   Same goes for winter camping.  You want food that is quickly prepared and consumed.  You may not want to wait around in the rain to long for your meal to cook.  Then when you get to camp and get shelter set up, a longer prep time meal is in order.
3.  Hot meals and Cold meals.  How many hot meals do you want to eat on the trail.  Hot meals require cooking.  Cooking requires fuel and time and pots or pans.  Decide how many hot meals you need for your trip.  Typically one hot meal is good enough for a day, and typically that meal is your evening meal or dinner.  This gives you something warm and solid in your belly for a good nights sleep.  Eating a quick non cook breakfast and trail lunch are great options to reduce the amount of fuel you need to carry and make you day on the trail fun and easy.
I love the cinnamon toast crunch bars for breakfast, throw in a pop tart and you have a feast.
cintoastcrunchBreakfast.  They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  On the trail, some quick energy to get you going is essential.  But it need not be complicated or big.  Breakfast bars or breakfast drinks are fantastic means of protein and energy to get you going.  This is where planning is important for your day on the trail.  A quick breakfast before you hit the trail for the day is enough when you know that your lunch is only hours away.  In most cases lunch is on the go, so if mid morning hunger strikes, there is always a pouch of nuts or granola just a hip pocket away.  It is also important to plan for how you going to eat your breakfast meal.  On colder mornings, an idea is to pack up and hit the trail.  Hike for about an hour or so, then stop and eat.  This allows for the body to warm on its own, the temperature to rise and you get a quick jump on the day.  If you get to a camp site that will require a climb first thing in the morning, climb and then eat breakfast.  Putting your face in the sun and eating a nice cup of oatmeal is a nice way to start a day on the trail.
Lunch.  I am not a big fan of “lunch” on the trail.  The mid day meal should be quick and easy.  More like snacking along the way.  Trail mix, Jerky, and powdered sports drink are good.  Throw in some cheese sticks and you have a nice “lunch” on the trail.  I was over the course of the day.  Eating when we take longer breaks or at a point of interest.  I plan for enough snacks to get me about three servings over the course of a day.
Dinner.  The evening meal for me is the big one.  This is the meal that marks the end of a great day.  It is tasty and filling.  I am a big fan of dehydrating my own food.  There are lots of resources out there to help you with recipes and dehydrating tips.  My favorite site is the Hungry Hammock Hanger.  This guy has got it going on for back country cooking, specializing in dehydrating your meals.  The thing that I really love about it is that I cook it all, eat some, dehydrate some and get to eat it again on the trail.  This method is great for portion control and taste.
Prepackaged meals like Mountain House and Pack it Gourmet are also great options and can be prepared to cook in groups also.
Plan and Prepare.
Preparing your meals are an important part of your outdoor adventure.  Repackage everything.  No cans, No boxes, no extra wrapping.  Get in your mind to reduce your trash to 1 zip lock quart bag.  Everything needs to be reduces to be packed out in that bag.  I am not a fan of eating out of bags, some folks like the idea so they do not have to clean pots and bowls.  There is just something about it that I don’t like.  So even Mountain House meals get repackaged into a smaller zip lock bag and re-hydrated in my pot on the trail.
Reducing the amount of trash you have and marking the food makes life easy on the trail.  I have seen a numbering system or just writing the day for the meal on the bag.  This works great when planning for group cooking.
nalgeneWater.
Water plays a major role in meal planning, preparation, and clean up.  Know how much you will have available when planning your meals.  If you are boiling water for your meals, there is no need to filter, or at a minimum running the water through a coffee filter to get the sticks and rocks out is all you need.  Save filtered water for drinking.  Same goes for cleaning.  There is no need to filter if you are going to boil your dishes clean.  A small amount of camp suds goes a long way too when clean up is concerned.  Do not skimp on water.  You need it to stay hydrated and you need it to re-hydrate.  Make sure that when you re-hydrate your meals that they are completely re-hydrated.  Eating partially re-hydrated meals is not good for you and will lead to issues on the trail.
Protection.
You need to protect your food.  First from spoiling and then from critters.  Get in the habit of preparing your meals so they will have the least amount of chance of going bad.  Be careful not to cross contaminate your food when you prepare.  Then get in the habit of using a bear bag and hanging it.  No matter what the conditions or circumstance, get your food away from your camp area and get it high.  Bears are typically the least concern, but protecting your food is important.  If your food is robbed by critters, your trip is over.  Check local ranger stations or land managers for regulations.  A lot of areas are starting to require bear canisters.  They are a nice way to protect your food.  Waterproof, odor resistant, and nice to have in camp.  It is work having a few in your group for smell-able items that need to be protected.
Remember that when you protect your food, you are also protecting you.  Getting the food away from camp keeps you out of harms way.
Meals are a big part of your backpacking adventure.  Do not take this process lightly.
We will talk about planning for problems in our next post.
What are your favorite trail meals?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Skills | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 1

philmontmap1.jpgWhether it is for your Scout Troop or you are heading out into the wilderness by yourself or with buddies there are some things that need to be planned before you go.  To get the most of your backpacking experience if you follow a few steps, you won’t forget something and will set yourself up for a worry free backpack trek.
First.  Figure out where you want to go.  Once you do some online research or hit a few guide books and talk to friends, pick a trek.  Next, and way before you get your heart set on the amazing adventure.. Get the map or maps for that section of trail.  Do an exhaustive map recon of the trip.
During your map check look for:
Trail head location.  Can you get there and are there facilities at the trail head?  Restrooms, safe parking, water?
If you are making your trek a loop, can you get in and get out at that trail head or do you need to move the car to a different location and shuttle to the trail head.  This would apply for an in and out hike too.  You may need to check with local guides for shuttles, but you better plan for it or you will find yourself in a pickle real quick.
Look on the map for camp locations along the route.  What is the water availability along the way and in camp locations?
What is the terrain like.  Check out those contour lines… Don’t be surprised once you get on the trail.
This is a great time to learn to really read map detail.  You should know the trail so well from studying the map that you recognize the terrain and land marks as you hike it.
This is also the time where you plan for bail outs.  Locations on the map that will allow you to get out if the weather turns south or someone in the party gets hurt.  Road intersections, crossing trails and mile markers that will allow for quick decision-making when out on the trail.
Now that you have your map and you know where you want to go and see, how far do you want to make the trek.  You will need map in hand to figure this one out also.  Your distance will determine a lot in the trip planning.
How far can you go each day?  How many days are you going to be out on the trail?  Based on the trail, how far can you push or relax daily?    What is the trail like and how difficult?  This will determine how far you may get each day and how far you will want to go total.   But there may be a certain location or destination that you are looking at getting to.  How far do you need to go to get there and answer all the questions that we listed above.
Also consider the time of year you are heading out.  Crowds, snow, and closures are all things to consider.  You need to make sure that you have appropriate permits for the area that you are heading into and think about your group size.
I am a big fan of trekking to a destination.  Mileage means far less to me than seeing something cool.
Planning using your map will get you started on a great backpacking trip.  In our next post we will talk about gear selection and what to bring.  In the next few post we will discuss food, problems, and preparation for a long trek.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Just fun, Leave no trace, planning, Risk Management, Skills, training | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Training, Nature or Nurture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I posted my thoughts on training.  I received some great feedback and feel that I need to address a couple of the comments, specifically a question that came up about the leaders themselves in the unit and how our attitude toward training is part of the reason we have great trained leaders.
Bob asked, “I’m curious as to whether you find that this “going the extra mile” is primarily something that a leader brings to the unit (nature), something that the unit brings to the leader (nurture), or some combination of the two.  Or, to put the question another way, do you find that the adults that volunteer for leadership positions already have that “going the extra mile” mentality, or that the culture of the unit inspires a new (or existing) leader to go that extra mile?”
Thanks Bob the answers is simple.  All of the above.
I believe that it is a bit of both Nature and Nurture.  First, I think that our unit has built a culture of trained leaders and an expectation that leaders are trained.  We ask a lot of our adult volunteers.  It is the nature of the unit that we expect the adult to be willing to “go that extra mile”.  Because it is a cultural thing or part of the nature of our unit, the volunteer knows what he or she is stepping in to.  It is not a surprise when they ask that they will be given a list of training courses, materials, and expectations of what training in our unit looks like.  If an adult leader expects to do the minimum, they are quickly encouraged to participate in some position other than that of a direct contact leader.
The culture of the unit dictates that in order to deliver the  very best program to our youth, keeping them safe, and instructing them properly we need to do better than the training that is provided by the Boy Scouts of America.
We agree that the training provided by the BSA is designed for the common denominator and not adequate for high adventure, advanced leadership, and activities that take you more than an hour away from a car.  This is all well and good, but in our opinion we need to do more.  Maxing the minimum is not good enough.
We ask of the Scout to “Do his Best”… so should we.
We also Nurture our adult leaders to want to be “Over Trained”.  Again, this is part of the culture of the unit.  Firm expectations of the training that allows our unit to function at a higher level.  When a parent asks to become a part of the adult leadership of the unit, the parent is invited to participate fully.  But training comes first.  Before an Assistant Scoutmaster for example can function as such, he must complete all of the BSA required training.  He needs to seek advanced first aid training to include CPR/AED.  We ask them to attend Wood Badge.  We take the time to instruct them on being a mentor, teacher, and coach to our Scouts.  We remind them that we do not lead, we assist.  There are not patches in the Boy Scout program for adults that say the word “Leader”.
This nurturing and development of the new adult volunteer leads them toward advanced training.
What this does for the unit is simple.  It opens doors.  We need not rely on any outside instruction or guides for our activities.  If we want to climb, we have certified climbing instructors to facilitate that activity.  Water craft, backpacking, shooting, Orienteering, Pioneering, First Aid, and more are all on the table because of the adult cadre of volunteers that have become the culture of the unit.  We also find that the adults stay active, even when the Scout has moved on.  This level of commitment has kept our knowledge base growing and stable.  The culture of the unit dictates that we do it all for the Scouts and we go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best Scouting experience.
So it is both Nature and Nurture.  It is a culture that expects the adult to set the example by giving more.  Being a model of the expected behavior of a servant leader.  One that reinforces our 5 Leadership principles in the Troop.
Leading ourselves, Focusing on the small stuff, Being the model of expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
Once that culture is developed and has a strong by in, the unit will flourish with trained leaders.
Allan and Alex, I hope that answer addressed your questions also.
If you have more questions, comments of concerns, please feel free to drop me a note.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, Cooking, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Patrol Method, Risk Management, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, training | Tags: | Leave a comment

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