Backpacking

My Cook Kit

The other day some discussion on Google + about cook kits got a few us talking.  I thought it was time to show what I am currently using.  I know that I tinker a lot with gear, but this cook kit seems to be the go to kit and really the only thing that changes out is the Imusa mug and Snow peak 700.  They are interchangeable in my cook kit.
I am curious about your cook kit, let me know in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, planning, reviews, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We have a Winner!

I am back from an awesome weekend out with the Cascade Hangers for our annual winter Hammock Hang.  I’ll have a video up on that soon.  It was a great weekend of fun and hanging (no pun intended) with some really neat people.  Most of my friends would label this a “non Scouting event” and it certainly was a camp out that was not under the banner of Scouting, but the skills, the attitude, and the fun was all the same.  I have said it before, I am a Scouter all the time, so just because I am not camping with Scouts, does not mean that I forget about leave no trace or allow my gear to become a yard sale.  I am still helpful and friendly and all of that food stuff.  In fact, the knowledge of myself being a part of Scouting and the people knowing that I am in Scouting lent itself to a lot of questions on certain skills and techniques.  Most of the people were impressed at how much we camp and what we do.  Always telling the story of Scouting.
There were lessons learned and I will share them with you in an upcoming post.. but right now…
WE HAVE A WINNER!
But first, I want to thank all of the new subscribers/followers for jumping on this adventure.  I appreciate you.  I would like to thank everyone for leaving comments.  It is nice to see how the Scoutmaster minute blog is helping you.
So.. here is your winner…

Sorry about the video.. filmed on my phone…
CONGRATULATIONS Gene ORourke!!!.. Thanks for stumbling in on the blog.  I hope you enjoy the stove.  Send us a note (Email to tbirdionchef@gmail.com) showing us how you are using the stove!
Thanks again to everyone that helped make this give away a big success, especially Warren at Blood River Stoves for the contribution.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heading out for the Weekend

Tonight I will get getting up on the mountain for my first “Winter” camp of the year.  I have the pulk loaded and everything is double checked… except it looks like old man winter has taken a nap.
I checked the weather service yesterday.. this weekends low is going to be in the 40′s with highs in the 50′s.  Not much swing there, but we are going out none the less.
So to be prepared, I am going to throw the pack in the truck and when I get to the snow park, if there is no snow, I can always load up the pack to hike in.
Being flexible in your planning is pretty important in winter camping, you have to plan for multiple contingencies.  This is where “Be Prepared” really is important.  I really don’t know what to expect tonight when I get out of the truck, so I need to go prepared for everything.
The basics of course are standard, but do I overdress?  What boots I am going to wear?  How about a jacket?  Which one and how heavy?  These are the questions that I thought about (and more) last night as I packed.  I want to be prepared for whatever the mountain is going to give me so I can have the best time this weekend.
Just some things to think about.
Ok.. the giveaway is over.  I will announce the luck winner on Sunday when I get home.  Thank you all for following/subscribing and leaving comments.  It was fun to see them all come in.
Building this online community is important to me and one of the ways in which we do that is by sharing and commenting here on the blog.
Well, thanks again.. I’m off for the weekend.. I’ll blog at ya on Sunday!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gloves

Gloves play a major role in your warmth system when cold weather camping.  Your gloves and your boots are key to keeping you warm.  Think about it.  Your hands and your feet are the farthest body parts from the core and when they get cold you are cold all over.  They are also the most at risk for cold weather injury.
When shopping for gloves, don’t skimp.  Gloves are not where you want to cut cost, spend a bit extra and get good gloves that will last and you will have a much better cold weather camping experience.
I use a layering system with my gloves.  This gives me options in the cold without exposure.  I start with a “Base layer” glove.  The Mountain Hardwear Stimulu.  It retails for $40.  When not wearing them I wear a Fingerless mitten called the Mountain Hardwear Bandito.  They retail for $45.  My outer layer is a combination mitten.  The Outdoor research Meteor.  They retail for $70.
I added the retail prices here so you can see the value that I place on good gloves.  I could spend more, but I have been using this system for some time and know that it works to keep me warm in extreme cold temperatures.  Using the gloves in a layering system gives me a lot of options and works well to regulate my comfort.
What questions do you have?
What gloves system do you use?
Share…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Risk Management, Skills | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Sharpen your Ax

Abraham Lincoln is a man often quoted, but not always in the context of Scouting.  I stumbled on a great quote that speaks directly to Scouts and Scouters.
“If you give me 6 hours to cut down a tree, I will take 4 hours sharpening my ax.”
Whats he saying here.. basically.. Be Prepared.  He is telling us that preparation is the key to success.  When we prepare for a task we can accomplish it with success.  Putting the time in to plan, train, and practice will make you better at the skill.
We are getting into the winter camping months.  The more we prepare, the more fun we will have.  The more we train, the safer we will be.  And the more we practice our skills the better experience we will have in our adventures.
We should always be looking at ways to keep our ax sharp.  We should always be thinking about that next tree and sharpen the ax to make the work easier and more effective.
I am always looking at ways to make my camping experiences better.  Toying with my gear, testing new stuff, learning and refining techniques to make my adventures fun and safe.
Are you sharpening your ax?

I was looking through an old external hard drive today and found this video.  Shot about 3 years ago when I was a “Tent Camper”.  Thought I would share it here.  It is a good example of Sunday routine.  Remember that we model expected behavior.  No yard sale here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, planning, Scout, Scouting, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

New Year Giveaway

I want to thank all of the folks that follow and subscribe to the blog.  One of my goals this year is to post more and show more appreciation to those that keep me going.
I don’t do this for money or fame, but the emails and feedback that I get that tell me just much this blog makes a difference or helps some one along the way is enough pay.
So in appreciation for those that follow and subscribe I want to say thank you with a giveaway!

Here are the rules:
1.  Subscribe or Follow the blog.  If you are already a Follower or Subscriber.. THANK YOU.
2.  “Like” this post by hitting the “Like” button below this post.
3.  Leave a comment in the comment section of this post.  Any comment will do, but you must leave a comment.
That’s it.  It’s that easy and you could have one of these great stoves.
The last day you can leave a comment will be on January 16th 2014.  I will pick the winner of the giveaway on January 19th when I get home from the Oregon Winter Hang.
I want to thank Wes AKA Swankfly from Blood River Stoves for his contribution.  I really appreciate it.
I am sure that you will love the stove as much as I do.
Again… THANK ALL OF YOU for your support.  I appreciate your readership and hope that the blog serves you better this coming year!
2014 is going to be a great year, lets take this journey together.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Cooking, gear, Good Turn Daily, Just fun | Tags: , , , , | 42 Comments

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, fitness, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking Poles

MSRpolesI recently purchased new trekking poles, and being me, I did a lot more homework on the purchase than most folks looking for camping gear.  I have been looking for some time (since we got back from Philmont in 2012) for new trekking poles as I bent one of my trekking poles while at Philmont.  They are still usable, but collapsing them is hard now and since I have had that set for about 10 years, I figured it was time to replace them.
I looked at no less than 50 different styles, brands, and types over the past 9 months or so and finally found a pair that I really like and thought I would give them a shot.
First you may ask, what the heck took you so long?  Great question.  Like I said, I over researched them.  When looking at good high-end trekking poles, I knew that I would be committing at least $100 to the purchase.  But since I also knew that the poles I buy needed to last, after all I use trekking poles all year round and on every hike, backpacking trip and camp out,  I became real picky in the choice.
What I ended up getting is the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Ultralight 2 section Poles.  They retail for $90, but with a Boy Scout discount and finding them on sale at a local outfitter, I paid $62.
So here are the specs:
According the packaging the SureLock ™ UL-2 trekking poles weigh in at 16.5 oz or 468 grams.  As these are MSRs “ultralight” trekking poles, I am sure that they put the heavy end on the packaging.  On my scale with the winter or snow baskets on the poles, both of them weigh in at 15 oz.  The trekking poles with the summer baskets weigh in at 14.5 oz.  The length of the poles are as advertised.  At its lowest setting the trekking poles are 41 inches long or 105 cm.  They extend to 55 inches or 140 cm.  Fully collapsed the trekking poles are 31 inches.  There are 8 adjustable holes along the trekking pole to find the right setting for you.  I personally set them at 120 cm.
Here is what I like compared to my last poles, which for the record are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking poles.  The MSR SureLock ™ poles are 2 section poles, the Black Diamond poles I have are 3 section.  This makes the MSR poles faster and easier to set up.  I really like that.
I LOVE the Positive Locking system on the SureLock ™.  The rolling bearing pins smoothly lock into place and once seated are not going anywhere.  I configured the trekking poles to my height and leaned over them with my entire upper body weight, they did not flex or pop out.  With your standard cam lock or twist friction locks over the course of a hike I always had to readjust due to slippage.
The poles have a unique design in that they are not round.  This design is called Non Rotating tri-lobe geometry, this assists with the poles not being able to rotate.  This keeps the Positive locking system in place.
The trekking poles are made of 7000 series aluminum.  This is super light and very strong.
I am very happy with these trekking poles.  They are comfortable, light, strong, and easy to use.  I can not wait to get them out on the trail.  I will shoot some video of the poles in action as soon as I can get them out.
In the mean time, I thought it would be nice to include in this post the promotional video put out by MSR on the Trekking poles so you can see them and get a better picture of what I am talking about.
As a set of poles that I have over researched and now purchased, this review as a first look leads me to be very impressed with the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking poles.
Stay tuned for more on these Trekking poles.
Do you use trekking Poles?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, reviews | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Wrapping up

rose2013 is coming to an end and as always we tend to reflect on the past year and make promises for the coming year.
Wrapping up a year for me always brings hope for the next year and the excitement  of what it will bring.
The coming of a new year for the most part has been a welcome sight.  Each year brings challenges.  Each year brings new adventures.
Looking back at 2013 I conclude that it was a pretty good year.
I thought I would give a brief breakdown of some of the Roses, Thorns, and Buds as I wrap up the year.
Scouting.
Roses.  We had a great year in Troop 664.  We rechartered with the VFW and it is a great partnership.
2013 was the year of the Eagle Scout for us.  We watched as young men completed a great journey, only to learn that the journey was really just beginning for them in their lives as Eagles.
Summer camp was fantastic!  We had a great time at Camp Piggot.
Then as the year came to an end, I was elected for the Vigil Honor.
Thorns.  I really only have one thorn for 2013.  The affect of the Non Discrimination Policy which does not even go into effect till January.  We lost our Charter, we lost our meeting place, and we lost a great Assistant Scoutmaster and his son.  I will not beat that horse to death.. it is not going to change any minds and we have to take our loss and move on.
Buds.  This coming year will bring in a great new group of first year Scouts.  They are enthusiastic and ready for the adventure that is ahead of them.  That excites the heck out of me.
Life.
Roses.  This year our oldest son left to serve in the Army.  While we are very proud of him, that was a very hard transition for us.  I am calling it a rose because of the man that he has become.  He visited us at the end of the summer and again for this Christmas.  He and all of my kids bring great pride and joy to me and my wife.
This year we also were given the gift of the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University from my Sister and Brother in law.  It is nice to see debt dwindle away and know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train about to run us over.
Our daughter is now enrolled in College and our youngest son is in the throws of being recruited to play college football.  Their growth has been fun to watch and they too have become great young people.
My wife and I volunteered at the High Schools Challenge day.  It was a day that made a lasting impact on my life and reinforced that which I know is right and a new perspective of young people.
Thorns. I can honestly say that this year was pretty thorn free.  Our Roses seemed to outweigh the thorns.  I did not get as much backpacking as I would have liked this year, but did end up getting some time on the PCT late in the year.
Buds.  There are many things that I look forward to in the coming year.  I am excited to see where our son ends up with his college football career.  We look forward to watching the continued growth of our daughter as she studies.  And of course we continue to be proud of our son in the Army and hope that he stays out of harms way.
I want to get more time on the trail this year.  I look forward to the fun of getting the YouTube channel going.  And I want to get my wife more into backpacking.  With the kids all grown, it is time for us to enjoy the outdoors together.
There are many more things that I look forward to in 2014, but I don’t want to bore you all.
I suppose the point of this post is share some of my thoughts and to encourage you all to go through this process for yourself.
I hope that you all had a great 2013 and 2014 looks brighter.
Thanks to all of you that subscribe to the blog.  I appreciate you.  For those of you that are casual readers… thanks for stopping by.  I hope you have been able to take something from it that will help.
As always,
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Just fun, Scouts, stories, Values | Leave a comment

Selecting your winter camp site

Start, Stop, and to be ContinuedMuch like camping in fair conditions there are principles that should be followed when winter camping site selection.  First plan ahead.  Know where you are going and try to get there with enough daylight to relax and set up camp.  Remember that it will get dark much earlier, so set your pace from the start of planning to arrive early.
When using your existing gear site selection is key.  Using your standard 3 season tent will require you to think about where you put it and how it is anchored.
Stay out of the wind.  Trees, outcroppings, and a large pine all provide protection from wind.  Watch for loaded branches of snow, and place the tent so that you are not directly under them.  Take a look up and look for widow makers and other potential hazards.
While planning take a look at the terrain on the map of your proposed location.  Avoid camping on any slope or at the bottom of any slope that would have the remote possibility to avalanche.  It is always important to learn the telltale signs of avalanche conditions.
Consider your nearest water source.  Are you going to melt snow?  If so, plan to use a lot more fuel.  Is there a nearby stream, pond or lake?  Make sure you know how to use your filter and protect your filter from the conditions.  Some filters do not work in the cold or will freeze once the water passes through it.  You need water.  That is important.  But plan ahead for your water sources.  Carrying in water is heavy unless you are pulling a pulk sled.
Cold air settles in low ground.  Avoid the bottoms of hills, camping in a valley.  Stay out of low meadows.  Finding a nice platform above a valley will be warmer and give you fantastic views to wake up to.
Be prepared to work.  You will more than likely have to prepare a tent platform, dig a cold sump, and gather fire wood.  Don’t overheat while setting up your camp.  Consider the amount of work that will go into setting camp and prioritize that work.
Leave no trace.  Yep, just because you can’t see the ground does not mean that you are not leaving an impact.  Use the leave no trace principles when selecting and staying in your winter camp.
Have fun out there.  Winter camping is great.
I’d love to hear some of your winter camping tips.  Drop in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, planning, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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