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Frost Bite and Hypothermia

hypowrapWell, It snowed here in Oregon today.  The first real snow fall of the “Winter”.  And as much as we have already prepared for our winter camping experiences, the snow reminded me of the risk we accept when winter camping and more to the point the risk that we mitigate or manage through proper training and preparation.  First Aid is perhaps the most training we do to prepare for winter outings and we make sure that everyone going on the outing is versed in being prepared for cold weather injuries.
The scariest thing that I can think of in training first aid is Frost Bite and Hypothermia.  They can strike fast and have tremendous damaging effects if not prevented and once affected, treated.
As the snow fell today, I thought it would be good to refresh ourselves on those two cold weather injuries.
Frostbite mostly affects areas where the circulation is poor. Since cold weather will cause the body to take preventive measures by constricting (making smaller) the blood vessel, this opens the door to frostbite injuries.

Look for the 4 Ps of frostbite:
Pink – affected areas will be reddish in color. This is the first sign of frostbite.
Pain – affected areas will become painful.
Patches – white, waxy feeling patches show up – skin is dying.
Pricklies – the areas will then feel numb.

Tips to prevent frostbite:
Get to a warm area before frostbite sets in.  If it’s too cold outside, consider staying indoors.
Protect areas of poor circulation (ears, nose, fingers and toes).
Keep extra mittens and gloves in an area quickly accessible.
Wear larger sized mittens over your gloves.
Wear a scarf or gaiter to protect the chin, lips and cheeks. They are all extremely susceptible to frostbite.
Wear two pairs of socks – wool if possible
Keep feet warm and dry
Remove any wet clothing.

What to do in case of frostbite:
Do not rub or massage affected areas.  It may cause more damage.
NOT HOT – warm up the area slowly. Use warm compresses or your own body heat to re-warm the area. Underarms are a good place.
If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
Seek immediate medical attention if you see white or grey colored patches or if the re-warmed area is numb.
Always be on the lookout for the symptoms of frostbite.  In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia
Whenever the body’s normal temperature becomes too low, hypothermia (hypo = low and thermia = temperature) occurs and will starve the brain of much-needed oxygen.  We experience hypothermia conditions when we engage in strenuous activity like hiking into camp, getting sweaty and then standing idle allowing the body to cool to fast.  During cold weather months, finding warmth can be the key to survival, but hypothermia can occur even during the hot days of July.  Swimming in cold water for a long period of time can induce hypothermia even in the hottest months of the year.  Remember, hypothermia can quickly become life-threatening.

Signs of Hypothermia
Look for the “UMBLES” from people affected by cold temperatures:
A person who mumbles;
A person who stumbles; and
A person who fumbles objects.

Tips to prevent Hypothermia
Wear clothes in layers: The under layer should be the insulating layer to prevent loss of your body heat while keeping the cold outside air away; the outer layer should be the “wind breaking” layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer.
Drink warm fluids.
If you start to sweat, cool off a little. Wet clothes will accelerate other cold weather injuries.
Wear a hat – up to 40% of body heat loss can occur through the head.
Wear gloves or mittens or both!
Wear a scarf or gaiter to protect the chin, lips and cheeks – all are extremely susceptible to cold weather injuries.

What to do in case of Hypothermia
Remove wet clothing that promotes hypothermia.
Get to a warm place as soon as possible. Use several layers of blankets or sleeping bags, heated if possible.  Place the injured person in the Hypothermia Wrap.
If the person is alert, give warm beverages.
Seek immediate medical attention.
Always be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.  Here is a quick video from Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA) that illustrates the Hypothermia Wrap.

BE PREPARED! We use the buddy system to watch out for each other! These two injuries are serious and can hurt you in the long-term.  Camping in the winter can be the funnest time of your Scouting life! But you have got to be prepared!

Hope that helps you in your preparation for your next winter outing.  I am glad that our guys pay attention, in 10 years of winter camping we have never had a cold weather injury.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, planning, Risk Management, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Training for the Parents

trainednewIt is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
The saying should say, “Every Parent deserves a Trained Leader”.  Right?  After all, the training is more for the parents right?
The Scout does not care that you know the rules of the safety sandwich.  The Scout does not care that you have been to wilderness first aid.  The Scout does not care that you are climb instructor certified or that you have completed Youth Protection.
Ahhh… But the parents do.
They come to a unit and want to know that as they drop off Tommy Tenderfoot on Friday night that the guy driving the car is insured, trained, and will bring back their son in the same condition that he climbed into the Suburban heading to the camp out in.
Parents care a lot about the training that the Scout leader has.  I for one would not send my sons out with a Scout leader that was not trained.  I would not let my son go out into the woods with a guy that got his training by watching Survivor man on TV once.
Nope.  The parents deserve a trained leader.  I would go further to insist that every leader that goes near a Scout is trained, and if I were King for the day.. any leader that did not get trained or refused to spend the time, energy and money to get trained would not be allowed to be a Scout leader.
Boy Jerry.. that’s harsh…  Really?  Like I said, I would not let my kid go off for the weekend with a guy I don’t trust.
Training builds that trust.  At least it opens the door to trusting the leader.
I have talked a lot on this blog about leadership.  It goes not just for our youth leaders, but the adults too.
Think back to the 4 “C”s I discussed.
Don’t you want your adult leaders to be Competent and have Courage?  Compassionate and Candor?
Those are all things that come with training.
Our Troop goes climbing every year.  We have 8 climbing instructors in the unit.  Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.
We have multiple Wilderness First Aid certified leaders and First responders.  Why?  Because we go looking for  adventure and we are not near a parking lot.  It’s the right thing to do.
We go winter camping at least 3 times a year.  We have cold weather instructors and skilled leaders that know winter camping skills and stay up on gear and techniques.  Why?  Because we will never put a Scout in harm’s way.
The point here is that when a Scout crosses over into our Troop the parent knows that we care and are willing to do our very best for their son.  They can rest assured that we are trained and will take care of their boy.
Every one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, and me are all Wood Badgers.  Why is that important?  We all believe in life long learning and are committed to being better.  Wood Badge demonstrates to our Scouts and their parents that we are serious about training and taking care of their sons and more importantly, that we want to do Scouting right.
So every parent does deserve a trained leader.  Get trained or get out.  It’s that simple if I were King for the day.
On a side note.  I have been doing this Scouting thing for some time now and have served at the District level also.  Being the District Program Chairman and later the District Chairman, I had access to lots of reports that really don’t mean much.  The one thing that did mean something to me was the amount of units that struggle in multiple areas.  Membership, activities, etc.
The common thing that we saw in EVERY unit that struggles are UNTRAINED Adults.  You do the math.
Get trained for your Scouts.. and your Parents.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Climbing, comments, Cooking, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Scout, Scoutmaster minute, Service, training, Values, Winter Camping, Wood Badge, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Saturday Quick Tip 2-1-14

TOWEvery Saturday, we are going to add a “Tip of the Week” to the Blog.  A tip that will be focused on Backpacking, camping, hiking, cooking, or other skills associated with the great outdoors.
This weeks tip is a simple one that will save wear and tear on your pack and keep your gear organized and clean.
Let me know if you have a tip you want to share.  Also, if you have ideas or tips that you have questions about or want to see.  Please let me know and I will do my best to put them up here.
In this tip I use a Marlin Spike hitch.. to learn how to tie the Marlin Spike, check this site out.  Animated Knots by Grog

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Methods, reviews, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, technology, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

J Falk Wood Burning stove

jfalkstoveFor those of you looking to play around with other stoves for backpacking you know that I have played around with a couple different Wood gas or Wood burning stoves.  I currently use the Solo Stove for wood burning, but I found this older video of my first shot at wood burning stoves. The J Falk Bushwhacker Stove is a nice stove that you should give a try.  Whether you make one or buy one, they are fun little stoves to play around with.  They are efficient and economical.  The stoves are safe and easy to make or buy. We have used them to fulfill the “Cook over open fire” requirement also… so give it a shot.  Here are the instructions for making your own Bushwhacker stove.  CLICK HERE
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

Leadership – Teaching Opportunity

IMG_1978One of the main functions of the Scoutmaster is to train the Junior Leaders, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader.  I take this responsibility serious and am in a constant mode of looking for opportunities to train the Scouts to be better leaders.
Most of the training is informal and as we find ourselves in opportune times where a lesson has presented itself.  What I have found is that, first, our Scouts really don’t know what they don’t know, and second, they don’t look for opportunities to learn and train others.
Now that is a pretty lofty statement, let me explain what I mean.. here is the training opportunity.
Teen age boys typically look for the easy way out.  They find the path of least resistance, which in turn puts them in challenging leadership roles.  They typically want to just get along and resist confrontation when it comes to being a leader.
Whether it is because the Scout lacks confidence or leadership skills they find themselves in situations that often times leave them feeling unsuccessful.  This is where a good tool box full of good leadership tools comes in.
I had a discussion the other night with a Patrol leader.  He feels like no one really wants to listen to him.  So, asking a few leading questions we took a look at his leadership style and gave him tools to make it better.
First, the leader needs to understand who he is leading and why he is leading.  Is it a specific task that needs to be accomplished or just general leadership within the confines of a Patrol?  The leader needs to look for opportunities to be “the man”.  Here is what I mean by that… Leaders are not Bosses.. but leaders are the “go to” guys that people want to follow.  The leader become “the Man” when he can display in his leadership the 4 “C”s.
Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion.
Courage.  It takes Courage to be a leader, especially a leader of Scouts.  You will not always make popular decisions and you may be put in situations that pit you one against another.  The Leader with Courage will always do what is right and the right thing for the good of his Patrol, or Troop.
Candor.  Tell it like it is.  Tell the Truth and never shy away from the truth.  If a member of the Patrol is acting in the wrong way or not doing a skill correctly, don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings, tell the truth.  We as leaders need to worry less about feeling and focus more on actions.  Actions or the way we act and do things are far more important than feelings.  A leader that demonstrates candor is respected and shows his good character.
Competence.  No one wants to follow a leader that does not know what the heck they are doing.  Following a lost leader gets the whole group lost.  To build competence the leader must keep learning and testing themselves.  Sharpening skills and looking inward at their decision-making.  Constantly working to fill the tool box.
And Compassion.  We lead people and manage equipment.  Being that leader that cares about those that they lead grows confidence in the follower.  When we genuinely care about making those around us better, they see it and start to build a better relationship within the team.  When we care about teaching them and showing them the right way to do anything, we make them better.  When we care enough to model expected behavior, those that we lead will follow and show that behavior back to us.
Taking the four “C”s and putting them to use will make the leader better and keep him focused.
The four “C”s also give the leader a simple set of standards so he can focus on what is important in his Patrol.  My Patrol leader did not think that his patrol listened to him.  So I asked the simple questions; What are you saying and How are you saying it?  Do you come at your Patrol competent and compassionate?  We discussed a missed opportunity that he had over the weekend camp out.  A simple task of cooking a meal could have been a million dollar lesson to his patrol in skill and fun.  That patrol was cooking venison steaks.  The missed opportunity was how they cooked them.  A little bit of prior planning on the Patrol leaders part could have made him “The Man”.
Cooking steaks over an open fire would have made a bigger bang within the patrol, rather, they cooked on a frying pan and used up lots of cooking utensils and time.  The Patrol leader missed the opportunity to get his younger Scouts involved in the process and about 10 minutes into the ordeal of cooking, he lost them.
It was a great opportunity that was lost because he took the path of least resistance.
“The Good Idea Fairy”
I have listened in on many Patrol meetings.  Most Patrol meetings end in frustration when members of the Patrol do not feel that they are being listened to.  Sometimes the Patrol Leader needs to let the Good Idea Fairy be heard.  Jotting down an idea or two and seeing how they can be worked into the plan for the next event.  Maybe cooking over the open fire came up, but was dismissed by the leader.  When the leader lets those ideas happen they get buy in from those that they lead.
Always look for that Teaching Opportunity.  They are always there and we as Scoutmasters need to be on top of it.   Allow the situation to run its course and then sit down with the Patrol Leader or other leaders and ask those leading questions that get them thinking beyond the path of least resistance.
Scouts are looking for that challenge and they want to be challenges.  They just don’t know what they don’t know and you know… sometimes they are afraid that we are going to say no to them or shut down their great ideas.  Go with it.  We need to use those four “C”s also.
If it is not unsafe, unethical, or not outside of the Scouting program.. say Yes and let them find that learning opportunity.  You will be the man when you keep learning and growing in your leadership also.
Almost everything we do in Scouting will come with a teaching opportunity.  Find it and share it.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Interview w/ Greg Cieply

supersecretI recently was asked to review a new “Scouting Book” by new author Greg Cieply.  I quickly read the book and posted a review on Amazon.  After reading the book, I thought it would be a great idea along with Greg to interview him here on the blog.
Now doing a blog interview is new to me, so we thought it best to do it kind of like they do in the magazines.  So here it goes.
Greg Cieply is a Scouter and Scoutmaster of his Troop 175 in Niles Illinois.  He has just completed his first book called “Super Secret UnderCover Campfire Badges – Cool ideas to make any meeting or camp out more livelier, enriching and more FUN” – available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com
The book is a collection of 18 fun, easy and educational activities that any group of boys on a camp out can use to make their time together more enriching. Greg has been a Scouter for 10 years, recently attended the National Jamboree on the Pioneering Staff and has attended Philmont Scout Ranch in NM twice.
What inspired you to write your book?
I had been hearing lots of scouts talking about doing other “silly” merit badges – joking about the “Bee Keeping” merit badge at summer camp and a “duct tape” merit badge; novel things that Scouting would never allow. We had a counselor at summer camp one year who all the boys would ask about doing the “bee keeping” merit badge.   She thought of it as a joke at first, but it got to be kind of a way to get under her skin.   I suspect the other counselors would get other scouts to ask her.   As time had gone by I also noticed that lots of the boys spent most of their days learning hard science and much more formal things in scouting – First Aid, Cooking, Pioneering.  These are all good ideas and very useful for a later life vocation.   However I also noticed that many times a boy would be working on a merit badge that was quite useful and worthy of his time, but one that he just couldn’t finish or lost interest in.  I also noticed – especially at summer camp – that when boys had lots of down time in camp that they squandered with activities which really provided no benefit to them.   I’m all for fun and relaxation but why not make it “relaxation with a purpose” – just like Scouting’s mantra of “games with a purpose? So that’s kind of how this came about.
How did you come up with the subjects?
So after someone jokingly mentioned that there should be a duct tape merit badge, I starting thinking that there has to be other merit badges that the boys would be interested in doing, ones that wouldn’t take up too much of their time.  Mini merit badges I guess you could call them.  More importantly I was thinking about subjects that we would sometimes talk about sort of hush hush when the boys weren’t listening or ones they would talk about while I would be driving them back in the car.  You know how that is, they’re talking about video games and pokemon and girls. Things like that which we’d never really talk about in a scouting context.  So I starting thinking about all the possibilities that we could come up with that would keep them occupied. Since I really didn’t want to listen to them talk about all these things when I was driving, my mind started wandering and I came up with these ideas.
How much of the book can realistically be done within the Scouting program?
Well I think in that context a lot of the concepts are already covered.  You will probably encounter a good number of these topics; though not too many.  More often they are less specific and usually the requirements for learning or even just participating are much longer.  Also in the regular scouting program we have merit badge counselors, but in the book, all the leaders, parents and even other scouts can be “counselors”.  You simply need to make sure they have some knowledge about the topic.  For instance if you have a scout who has done some magic tricks and or some kind of performance, then you can have him be a counselor.  Typically I would suggest an age limit of say 14 and above to counsel, but it’s really up to you.
What is your favorite of all your “campfire badges?”
I really like the idea of the Science Fair Campfire badge.  I’d heard about other troops doing something like this at camp and I thought it was really neat and a great way to build rapport among the Scouts, have some friendly competition and learn how to overcome obstacles.  But the magic and stand up comedy ones are close to my heart as well.  I love doing stand up and always loved to see my son (Adam, who’s on the cover) do magic.  Those two will be a lot of fun for anyone that does this book.
What is your hope for this book? What are you looking to accomplish with it?
Well as I said earlier, I really felt that there were certain topics that boys need to know about but that often slip through the cracks.  For instance, the men’s fashion campfire badge section requires a boy to tie a Windsor knot, or even a bow tie knot.  (This isn’t as hard as they make it out to be in the movies).  However this probably isn’t addressed in any regular Scouting merit badge. It’s more like a life lesson that a Dad or an Uncle would provide for a boy on his first date or at prom.  In a lot of cases we’re seeing more and more single Mom’s bringing their boys into scouting and that’s great.  I’m sure there’s plenty of Moms who know how to tie a tie – my experience is that they don’t – but why not teach boys skills like this?  And do so in the context of Scouting.  I see that as a win win.  And if a Mom wants to teach it, more power to her.  YouTube or Pinterest is a great resource for that kind of thing.  But the connection with an adult in the process is even better.  If it’s a parent or an older scout that can pass along some good learning, then all the better.
You’ve been a scouter for 10 years, what has kept you going all this time?
Well like most leaders, it starts with a desire to help your own child accomplish important developmental goals in life.  We all want the best for our kids and the more and more you get involved in the Scouting program, you see how it changes lives in such a positive way.  When you see how much of a change it can make in your own child, you really start to see how it easily it can help others with very little work on your behalf.  As time goes on you start to realize that someone had stuck it out and provided your son with the benefits of their knowledge and efforts and you should do the same.  Pass it forward.  I love seeing the look on the faces of Scouts when they are having fun, or learning something new. That inexplicable look of satisfaction and accomplishment they get when the achieve something memorable.  Every time one of my Scouts earns a merit badge or advances a rank, I see how happy that makes them and it makes me incredibly happy as well.  That will keep me going forever – (at least for an hour a week – per boy)!!!
Do you have any current book projects?
As time has gone by I keep thinking of new “campfire” badges that the boys can do, so there will probably be a part 2 and maybe even more.  I’m also working on a book about Scouting and Health that I hope to have done by the summer. I expect it to be a great resource that’s also fun and interactive with the entire troop.  I’m as excited about that one as I was about this one!

I would like to thank Greg for the interview and the information on the book.  While it is not an “Official” Scouting book, I think it is a great resource for Senior Patrol Leaders and Scoutmaster that are looking for neat things to do with their Scouts.  I can not tell you how many times I hear Scoutmasters talk about their Scouts wasting time.  Well here is a possible solution that is fun and informative.

If you have a product, book, or neat idea that you would like to share and have promoted on the blog, drop me a note.  You can email me directly at tbirdironchef@gmail.com

Have a Great Scouting Day!
Book cover picture taken from Amazon.com

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, fitness, gear, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, reviews | 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

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