Backpacking

Anchoring your tent

Here is a technique for anchoring your tent.  In this video, I demonstrate using a snow stake.  A stick works just as well.  Snow stakes are versatile and light and are worth carrying into camp.
It is important to anchor your tent well.  Winter conditions typically include heavy winds so no matter what or how much gear you have in your tent, to keep your tent and the rest of your gear in good repair, anchor your tent well.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Cold Weather Camping pt. 2 Skills

Backpacking Tip of the WeekJust as a recap… Cold weather camping is a High Risk activity that is challenging, fun, and rewarding for those that venture into the cold weather environment.  This type of camping takes discipline, skills, and a great attitude.
Once leaders understand their role in accountability to those they lead, monitor behavior, and maintain the same “can do” attitude, they will provide fun programs in the cold weather camping environment.
In this post we are going to continue some of the discussion on training for camping in the cold, focusing on some of the skills that need to be developed to ensure a safe, fun outing.
Obviously what you wear and how you wear it is a skill in and of itself.  Knowing when to layer up or down takes skills and awareness of the conditions.
How all of this clothing gets packed require a skill set also.  Those skills need to be practiced and repeated.  One of the ways in which we develop that skill is simply to have the Scouts pack and repack.  They unpack, set up, and then repack in fair conditions.  The second evolution is practiced with gloves on.  The same skills worked over and over.
It is once the Scout can do these skills that we practice outside, in the cold.  You will see the mastery of this skill proven at that point.
Understanding that the simple skill of packing a backpack in the cold can have a huge impact on the fun of the outing.  A Scout that struggles with this skill will place himself in painful situation and prolong his time spent being cold.  Remember that it is easier to stay warm than to rewarm.  Packing is a skill that will help the Scout find success in the cold.  Nylon gets cold and as the Scout packs he is in contact with cold material that may also be icy or wet.  It is important to do this correctly the first time so he can quickly return to activity that keeps him warm.
The Scout needs to understand that there is an order to his packing so he can access those items that he will need throughout the day to stay warm, cook meals, and move in and out of layers.  He also needs to understand how his gear works so he can have quick set up and take down periods.
His tent should be set up and modified to meet the Scouts needs in the cold.  Guy lines added and tied to the tie out points.  Knots pre tied and line measured to specific lengths so there is not a lot of adjustments to be made.
A plan for anchoring his tent needs to be made and practiced.  I do not worry about snow stakes.  A stick will do or a regular tent stake placed in the snow sideways will hold the tent in place.  Additional guy lines may be needed in the event of heavy winds or snow.  Have those lines in place before you go.  A simple bowline tied at the end of the line will make for quick set up and take down.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

Digging a cold sump outside of the tent will pull cold air away from you as you sleep.  Cold air settles in low ground, creating that low space will keep you warmer at night.  You will also have a place to sit and put your boots on and fire up the stove to boil water for a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Cooking in the cold is another challenge that requires a few more skills than boiling water.
First the Scout needs to understand that eating is critical for staying warm in the cold weather environment.  Eating keeps you hydrated, it keeps you warm and comfortable, and it provides the nutrients to keep you going.  When you cook or boil water, it is a good way to treat that water and get fluids into your system.  Dehydration is the number one cold weather injury.  Scouts do not feel thirsty because it is cold.  It is when you feel thirsty that you are in the early stages of dehydration.  Cooking a meal and having a cold or warm drink with help prevent dehydration.
The gear used for cooking needs attention and skill to accomplish the cooking of your meal.  Liquid fuels such as white gas are very reliable in the cold.  Canister fuels work well also, but you need to keep the canister warm.  Throw it in your sleeping bag at night.  Keep it in a wool sock.  Use a small square of Closed Cell Foam pad to set the canister on as you cook.  This insulates and keeps the fuel warmer.
Why do I consider cooking a skill for the cold weather, well there is great emphasis in cooking in the cold.  You can not get away with quick trail meals.  You need to eat warmer meals to stay warm.  The average person burns about 2700 calories a day in the summer.  In the winter you need to be prepared to burn about 4000 a day.  Considering this, it takes skill in planning and preparing those meals, not to mention getting them into camp. Again, packing becomes a tremendous skill that pays off.
We teach the acronym C.O.L.D.  Clean, Overheating, Layers, and Dry.  This simple acronym is all about skills.
Staying clean, both your body and your clothing.  Dirty, oily clothing allows for water to seep as well as wind.  This will not protect you against the elements any longer.  You must stay as clean as you can.  A quick wipe down before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning will keep you warmer.  Keeping from Overheating will reduce sweat and therefore will keep you warmer.  Reducing the amount of moisture on the body will keep you from freezing.  We do this by wearing loose layers.  An effective layering system of clothing that will assist you in regulating your temperature keeping your comfortable and warm.  And finally staying dry.  Staying out of the snow when it is critical to stay dry.  This means changing after playing in the snow or digging a snow cave. Water is your enemy in the cold (unless you are drinking it).  Remember C.O.L.D. to stay Warm!
Camp.
Before setting up your tent, pack the snow.  You are your buddy, walk with your snow shoes stamping down a platform for your tent.  It need not be too much bigger than the footprint of the tent.  Pack it so you no longer punch through when you walk.  This will provide a comfortable platform to sleep on and make it easier to set up your tent.
This also keeps you from possible tearing a hole in the floor of your tent should you step through a patch of unpacked snow.
It is counter intuitive to think about opening your tent, but make sure your tent is vented well.  This will reduce condensation keeping your tent and the rest of your gear dryer, thus keeping you warmer.
In part three, we will discuss sleeping in the cold.
What do you think?  Are you ready to get out there and camp in the cold…
Let me know what you think.  What winter camping skill do you think is the most important?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Training.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
DSCN0315

Have a Great Scouting Day!

COLD WEATHER TIP

Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leadership, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Gear Alternatives

SAM_0008As you know by reading the blog, I am a fan of gear.  I like to play around with gear, test it, try it, and change it often.  There are pieces of gear that I love and pieces of gear that I am always looking for the newer, better, more efficient, or just cool.  Lately I have been in a few discussions about some gear like knives and stoves.  What is significant about these discussions is the idea that for a lot of Scouters there is little knowledge about what is allowed, what is not, and what is out there to show to your Scouts as gear choices.
Take a look at all the old Field books and Hand books, Peek into the Boy Scout catalogs, it’s all the same stuff.  All the old-time tested and true gear.  It all works well and is super reliable.  I don’t have a problem with any of it, but just because it has always been there and done that way does not make it the only or best way to do it.
At a few recent Boy Scout break outs at round table we have talked about gear and gear alternatives.  Much of the discussion focusing on stoves and knives.  As discussed in my recent post “The Great Knife Debate“, it amazes me that many Scouters just do not know the rules.  They perpetuate a rule that does not exist for what ever reason, but the net result is not the safety of the Scout, but a lack of exposure to new and different ways of doing the same old thing.  The same can be said for alcohol stoves.  The BSA has prohibited the use of “Homemade” stoves.  And I can see that the BSA does not want some Scout to get hurt because his leaders failed to train him on how to do it right.  But the use of alcohol stoves in general is not prohibited.  Manufactured of purchased stoves are not prohibited and I am glad for that.  I exclusively use an alcohol stove and scouts in my troop are using them also.  I teach them how and make sure they do it right.  There is nothing unsafe about them, well, they are about as unsafe as using an MSR Whisperlite.  It comes down to training them to use it correctly.  Stores like REI and many online outdoor outfitter are selling alcohol stoves.  And the fact is you can use them to cook anything.
I can bake, fry, simmer, and of course boil water with them.  Here is the point.  They are an alternative way to do the same old thing.  Camping, Cooking, sleeping in a shelter, whether that is a tent, a tarp, or a bivy sack is all the same.  Camping is camping.  There are many methods and ways to go about it, but in the end it’s all the same.
You also know that I am a big fan of wood stoves (like the Solo Stove).  They are a great way to cook.  It takes a little skill and you can absolutely cook anything with them.  I have had Scouters tell me that one can not use them because you can’t turn them off.  Huh? What?  First Class Requirement 4 e states; On one camp out, serve as your patrol’s cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. In the most previous edition of the Boy Scout handbook Second Class requirement 2g required the Scout to;  On one camp out, plan and cook over an open fire one hot breakfast or lunch for yourself, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
So in one edition of the hand book, we have decided to dumb down the Scouting experience not make it a requirement to cook over an open fire, but it’s a choice.  But it’s still there and it always has been.  But in checking the Guide to Safe Scouting I can’t find anywhere that suggests wood stoves are prohibited or cooking over an open flame is prohibited because you can’t put it out.  You see, to me that is just a way for Scouters to impose a rule that is not there when it comes to gear.
There are lots of great gear alternatives out there.  Allow your Scouts to explore them.
Many of the Scouts in my troop are moving to camping under tarps.  Some are using you standard 10X10 Wal Mart tarp, while most are going to good camping tarps.  SilNylon tarps that are light and easy to put up.  Some even have built-in doors and can be pitched between trees or using their trekking poles.  I love the idea that the Scouts are exploring different gear and ways to camp.  It keeps it fun and exciting for them.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are many options out there, as a Scouter you should gain an understanding and knowledge of that gear and not push it aside just because you don’t like it.
We had this same debate during the 2010 National Jamboree.  Many ‘older Scouters’ did not like the idea of allowing the Scouts to bring and use “Electronics”.  There was a misconceptions that electronics are not allowed in Scouting.  No where is this found in writing.  I allowed the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop to bring their “electronics”.  Cell phones, Ipods, and of course cameras.  I wanted them to be able to communicate with me and other Scouts, I wanted to be able to shoot a text to the troop when I needed to make quick contact with them.  I wanted the Senior Patrol Leader to be able to get everyone on the bus on time and sent group texts to better communicate with his Troop.  We established “No ear bid zones”  Touring at Arlington National Cemetery for example was a No Ear Bud zone.  Sitting on the bus for two hours however was not.  As long as the Scouts obeyed the rules, I allowed them to use the electronics.
The same goes for their gear.  As long as they use it as intended, be it a stove, knife, or any other piece of gear, I allow and encourage them to try new things.
This is a big part of the adventure of Scouting.
Get to know some new gear.  Pick something to try with your Scouts.  Try something new.
Allow the adventure of Scouting to happen.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Methods, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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: , , | 2 Comments

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

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