gear

The Ultimate Hang Book Review

Derek Hansen, Scoutmaster, lightweight backpacker, and as his website says  “hammock enthusiast”, recently sent me a copy of his book “The Ultimate Hang”.  It is an illustrated guide to hammock camping and a book that even the most experienced hammock camper or backpacker should have on their shelf.
I read the book, skimming through some parts and diving into others in a weekend.  It is an easy read and Derek has made learning more about hammock camping fun and simple through great illustrations.
I started hammock camping after the 2010 National Scout Jamboree where Hennessey Hammocks had a cool display.  What first caught my eye was the affiliation that the hammock campers have with Leave No Trace.  Even at the National Jamboree the Hammock display was set up next to the Leave No Trace organizations (LNT.org) display and activity center. I had just finished the Leave No Trace trainer course and so pairing the two was a natural fit.  I wish I would have had “The Ultimate Hang” when I started gearing up for hammock camping.  Starting on page 34 Derek covers the principles of leave no trace.  Perfect!
The book takes the novice and experienced camper step by step to ensure a great hammock camping experience.  Now, it won’t say that in the book, but take it from me.  If you do the things in the book, picking a choosing the gear that meets your needs and the set up that you are comfortable with, you will have a great experience.
That brings me to gear.  Derek does not tell you what you should have.  He demonstrates it all in this book.  From whoopie slings to webbing and buckles.  Bridge style hammocks to the “Bat hammock” he shows it all and lets the reader decide what he or she would be most comfortable in.
Even if you are not a hammock camper, there is something in this book for you.  How to select a good camp site.  The “Bearmuda Triangle” and an extensive discussion on tarps.
The book is interactive with QR codes that lead to web sites for more information.
Over all I find that this book is a great resource and a must have certainly for hammock campers, but for backpackers alike.
I highly recommend this book.  You can order the book at The Ultimate Hang.com.  At the website you can also get some fantastic advice, ideas, and thoughts on backpacking in the blog section.  You need to check this out.

illustration from "the Ultimate Hang"

illustration from “the Ultimate Hang”

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, planning, stories, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee

Today’s Sunday coffee is gear heavy. eerrrr light.
This week I once again received a few pieces of the Birthday list.  Dutch Hooks to add to the z line for the tarp and my new stove the solo stove.
Here are the links to see these items close up.
Z line (Spectra)
Solo Stove
Dutchware – Dutch Hooks
2QzQ – Grizz Beak
The Ultimate Hang by Derek Hansen
I will be doing a complete review of both the Solo Stove and the Book “the Ultimate Hang” in the very near future, but at first look and read they are both items that you need to add to your gear bag and book shelf.
This week I have been away from the blog a little too much.  It has been one of those weeks, but rest assured all is well.
Next week some time I will be posting my final podcast with PTC Media… then it will be up in the air as to how I keep the podcast alive.  Suggestions, let me know.
OK.. enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, podcast, Skills | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunday Coffee 2-10

A bit late in the day to get the post out.  We just got home from our Annual Red and Green Dinner/ Court of Honor with the Troop.  It is always wonderful to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our Scouts.  We had a great surprise in the middle of the Court of Honor, my Son, John called from Ft. Benning.  He is doing well and had the opportunity to make a call.  It seems like we have not heard from him in a while, so it was really great to hear his voice.
This morning, my wife and I did some running around in preparation for the Court of Honor and so while we were out, I recorded today’s Sunday Mornin’ coffee.
Caution.. I may get a bit political… not to much, but enough to give a warning.  At the end of the day it comes down to character and how we grow that character.
Enjoy the video.  Next week… Gear talk and lots of it.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, gear, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Random Thought

newsmmheader1.jpgIts been a few days since my keyboard and I sat together and jotted down some thoughts… It’s been a long week and a pretty eventful one at that.
Monday we had our weekly Troop meeting, and to be honest.. I have no idea how it went.  I was upstairs with a group of parents and a couple of the Assistant Scoutmasters showing what is expected in the type of gear our Scouts should have.  In particular the winter gear that we need to see on the next couple camp outs.  I thought it went well.  It can be an overwhelming discussion to some parents and I try to keep it simple and show the parent that you don’t have to take out a loan to get the right gear.  I reinforced with the parents that is about the Right gear and Not a lot of gear.  To many grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles feel the need to get all the cool gadgets for their Scout and not the right stuff.  Anyway, that went pretty good and I think will be an annual thing with all of the new Scout parents.
Tuesday, I got an email from a reader that really made my week.  The reader called me an opinionated a**.  That’s ok, I can live with that.. what really got me was the reader said that “someone who gets paid from the Boy Scouts of America should watch what I say”.   Now that’s where I draw the line.  There are many good Professional Scouters out there.. but I’m not one of them.  I pay to do this thing called Scouting and like it.  I have not worked a day in my life in the employment of the Boy Scouts of America… nope.. I’m just a Scoutmaster, a run of the mill volunteer.  And yep.. I am an opinionated a**… but it’s my blog and so unless I am spouting off nonsense contrary to Scouting’s Values and methods… ahhh.. it’s just not worth the time.  But thanks for that nice email and I appreciate your comments… Kill ‘em with kindness my dad always said.
Wednesday I replaced the continuous ridge line on my tarp.  I ordered 50 ft. of  1.55 mm Z-line spectra cord from zpacks.com.  This stuff is amazing!  It will hold 200 lbs.. not that I will ever have that much weight on my tarp.. but what it really did was cut weight.  The old continuous ridge line was Nite ize cord.  It is really good stuff too and I like the reflective taping in it.. but the Spectra is super light and tough.  I only need 25 ft for the ridge line.. so I configured it like I had the old set up and went from 38 grams of line to 18 grams.  Considerable weight savings.. and I am going to need it to get to my goal base weight of 16 lbs.
Thursday my kids ordered (with my help) a birthday gift for me.  They ordered me a Solo Stove.  I got a tracking number Thursday night and it will be here on Tuesday.. more to come on that one.
And here we are Friday night.  I am getting my uniform together for tomorrows Trainers EDGE class.  I am helping on the staff.  Looks like I am teaching and being a guide throughout the day.  It should be a great Scouting day!
I’m not sure if what I am about to say is for public consumption yet.. but I’m going to tell you anyway.  I got an email the other day from Chris, our partner with PTC Media.  Actually he is the leader of our network, but anyway, after months and months of no contact, Chris sent an email to all of the show hosts of PTC Media stating that essentially we are done.
The network will remain up and available so folks can listen to the shows, but so far as the future.  Well, PTC has run its course.  So what does that mean for me and my podcast.  Well, after all the great feedback I received I did promise to keep it going.  I will do one more show on the PTC network and then my affiliation there will be over.  I will look for a server or a way that I can run a podcast from the blog but in the mean time I will continue to blog and produce the videos.  For those of you that came to the blog via the podcast, please know that the blog was here first and has always been that medium that I have preferred.  It was the blog that got the attention of Steve and an introduction to Chris and then a podcast.  So the blog (which I pay for) will remain unchanged.
I want to thank everyone that supported PTC Media for the last 8 years and in particular my show.  I hope that I can find the time and passion to put more out.
I thank Chris for given me the opportunity and the forum to talk about Scouting!  It was a real fun ride and along the way I have personally met many of you and have developed some great friendships.  Again.. nothing really will change in that regard.
Well, time to go and get a good nights sleep… I get to hang out with Phil and Adam tomorrow and I am sure I will need all the rest I can get.
Thanks for letting me get random with you.  After all… I’m just an opinionated a**!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, podcast, respect, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, stories, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Getting Heavy…

DSCN0457I have been getting a lot of feedback about the quest to reduce pack weight.  Some of it is good, while others, mainly from other Scouters is not.  To be honest, up until our Philmont trek, I was in that camp.  I doubted the fact that a backpacker could be as safe and as comfortable going light.
A few years back the PCT Trail days gathering was held in Portland.  A group of us went to the event to catch some speakers and of course check out gear.  While we were there, we met the folks from Gossamer gear.  I sat in the room and listened as Glen Van Peski talked about how he backpacked and his philosophy.  He showed us his gear and I thought to myself.. no freakin’ way.  I am not going to sacrifice comfort and safety to have a light pack.  After all.. this backpacking thing is for fun right.  I don’t want to be in pain and struggle to get miles in.  I want to sleep and eat well and have a good time out on the trail.  Then we went to Philmont.  I fell in love with the Sange De Christo mountains and had the time of my life on the trail.  What I hated was my pack.  I left base camp with a 55 lb pack.  Never again I promised myself.  When we got home I started taking a real long hard look at why my pack weighed so much.  I started to research gear and how to pack better.  Now, I have been a backpacker for years.  And looking back over the those many years, I realized that I have morphed and changed gear many times, but never really getting away from heavy loads and lots of gear.  About 20 years ago I did a week-long trip up in the Wallowa’s in Eastern Oregon.  We started climbing from the trail head one morning and our packs looked like something a mule should be carrying.   I think my pack was about 70 lbs on that trip.  No resupply, no drops, and everything to include the kitchen sink in my pack.
Well, as you can imagine something had to change in my backpacking style.  The trip to Philmont taught me that I am getting older and still love to backpack.. so do something about it.
My research kept leading me to Lightweight backpacking sites and Ultra light backpacking web pages.  I quickly closed them thinking that I really don’t want to go down the “UL” road.  That’s not for me.. and it really isn’t.  Light weight on the other hand is right up my ally.
And so I started on this journey to lighten up.  The more I read and played with my gear, the more I listened to backpackers talk and write about Light weight Philosophy.  Philosophy?  What the heck.. this is just walking in the woods right?  And that is where I started to get it.  It is a Philosophy and when practiced… it will keep you safe and comfortable. Let me share with you some of the common themes in the Lightweight backpacking philosophy.  Note that I am NOT talking about Ultralight and I suppose that right off the bat, I should point out the biggest difference in the two.. and that is the weight we are talking about.
When we define Ultralight backpacking we are talking about Base Pack Weights of 10 lbs or less.  Typically Lightweight backpacking can be defined as Base Pack Weights of 11 to 20 lbs.  So with food and water you are talking about 25 lbs in the lightweight set up.  There are Super Ultralight backpackers out there that try to achieve 5 lbs or less.  That is not even on the radar for me.  Can’t see the need nor the desire to go that light.
So the Lightweight backpacking philosophy essentially is this;
The backpacker needs to really take a hard look at packing habits in order to fine-tune minimum packing needs and aggressively seek out the right gear available to satisfy those needs.  That gear needs to be lighter, have multiple uses, and of good quality.  To accomplish this hard look and refining of or fine tuning of gear look at the gear, clothing, and food that you take, shoot for lighter options and doing with less.  A key is that simple is better.  Gadgets, while fun, add weight and typically are not needed or even used.
Less volume, lighter-weight, high-quality/high-performance gear and clothing is a goal to strive for and will instantly reduce weight in your pack.
Pack clothing and gear that can serve multiple purposes.
Educate yourself on backcountry travel and safety, being well prepared for changing weather, wildlife encounters and whatever else may happen.  Get trained in Wilderness First aid and Leave No Trace.   In short, learn and Be Prepared.  Know how to use the gear in your pack and know what to do when out in the woods.
Use lightweight techniques to keep travel through the backcountry low-impact on both yourself and your environment.
Use products that provide the level of comfort you desire, even if they aren’t the absolute lightest available.
(this philosophy is common among lightweight backpackers, I found most of this from the website Lightweight backpacking 101)

For Scouts and Scouters, this philosophy is not out of the ordinary and should be easy to adapt.  It basically reinforces the ideas of Being Prepared.. through education and practice and Leave no trace.  It does not discount safety at all.  When the backpacker knows and understands the risks, the skills, and his ability, they can have a wonderful back country experience with a simple load on their back.
Cost of gear and changing out old gear is a consideration.  I am not suggesting that you rush out and swap all of your gear.  Take a look at what you have.  Start with the big 3.  Your shelter, your sleeping bag, and your backpack.  That is where the bulk of the weight comes from.  Trim it down a little at a time.  Consider alternative gear and see about making your own gear.  The rest will fall into place.
My first bit of advice if you want to jump on this journey of comfortable backpacking is to weigh everything.  This was very hard for me to get on board with.  Being a gram weenie was for those UL guys that wear one pair of socks for a 14 day trip and count the bristles on their tooth-brush.  But, once I started getting that critical eye on the gear, most of which came when I started weighing it all, it was an eye opener.. and the journey launched.
Now, I’ve been sharing with you all my steps on the journey.  I have replaced little things, and I did get a new pack.  I thought that was an important part of this process for me.  That may not be the case for you.
I suppose the point of all of this is simply.. Think.
Develop or use a philosophy that best meets your backpacking needs and style.  Hike your own hike and have fun with the adventure.  I share this with you because this is my way of helping me get lighter.  Putting it all into words is helping me refine my load and reach my goals.
I never thought, I would have to get so mentally heavy to get my pack light!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The picture for this post is of me standing on top of the Tooth of Time at Phimont Scout Ranch.  

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Risk Management, Skills, technology, training | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Scouting Lighter

Yesterday I stumbled upon a great You Tube Channel.  It;s called Scouting lighter.  From what I gather, this Scouter put this together as part of his Wood Badge Ticket.  So +2 for this fella!  A backpacker and Wood Badger!!  WhooHoo!
Anyway.. I found his You Tube channel full of really great information.  I picked out this one video in particular because it really explains what we are trying to do in our Troop and more to the point what I am doing with my gear.
Enjoy, and I highly encourage you… Nay Demand.. .that you subscribe to his channel!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Philmont, planning, Skills, Wood Badge | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Mornin’ Coffee 1-27

Well, I had a great night out in the hammock ‘testing’ out some new gear that I finally received from Christmas orders.
The Hammock Gear Under Quilt is fantastic!!!  Now I wish I would have got one years ago.
Anyway.. enjoy the video.  The first part of the video can be found here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Hammock, planning, Scoutmaster minute, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Couple more thoughts on gear

ulaohmYeah.. so I like to talk about gear… it’s what I do…
Hi, my name is Jerry… and I am a gear junky..
Hiiiiii Jerrrrryyy
Hey folks, ever since I was a young Scout I was told to take care of your gear and it will take care of you.. I think that is very true and with that comes messin’ with your gear.  Always looking for the ‘next best thing’ or a simple way or cooler way to do this or that.
Sometimes I am a bit apprehensive about showing gear or a way I do something because give it a week.. it may change.
As you know I am a hammock camper and use a tarp over the hammock.  Real hard to get a hammock in a tent.. although I have seen it done.  But I have not always been a hammock camper and enjoyed camping none the less.  Hammock camping was introduced to me at the 2010 National Jamboree and I have been hooked since.  I find it an extremely comfortable way to sleep and it gives me new opportunities to tweak gear.  It seems that with hammock camping came a whole new way of camping.  I started getting my gear lighter.  I started to look at new ways to set up gear and find it challenging in the way modifications can be made and gear can be set up.
I am in no way shape or form trying to get anyone to convert to hammock camping.  I could really care less how you camp… as long as you camp.  You gotta get out there in the woods and enjoy nature.  It is a must.  I encourage… nay demand that you camp!
But yes I talk a bunch about hammock camping and show that style in my videos and gear tips and tricks.. why?  Because it is what I do.  What I know for sure is that I just like to talk gear and I like to share.  The other thing that I know for sure is that I am not the ultimate authority on camping and everything associated with it.. but I do know a bunch, I have ideas, thoughts, and certainly opinions and once again… I like to share.
If hammock camping is not your thing than I can deal with that.  Maybe you can find a tip here and there that you can work into tent camping or on the ground tarp camping.  Maybe there is a tip out there that you can share with your Scouts to make their outdoor experience better.  Maybe, just maybe, you will be intrigued enough to try something new or motivated just a bit to step outside of your comfort zone, what ever that looks like.
So here’s the deal.  I’ll keep talking gear and changing my stuff every time the wind blows and I’ll keep sharing with you, my trusty reader.  You know I love ya… right?
So here’s a couple of thoughts on gear.. lessons learned you might say.
***NOTE*** What I am about to write does not comply with the Guide to Safe Scouting!
Fuel.  On the last camp out I noticed that my Denatured Alcohol took some time to warm up and light.  It was nothing that would cause alarm and after a few minutes under my arm pit, the fuel was warm enough to light and get some water boiling.  The fix.  Today I went out and purchased a little 3 oz. squeeze bottle.  It is a bottle recommended to carry fluids on an airplane, essentially to get through TSA.  I wrote in RED Sharpie all over it FUEL!  The plan (and I am going to test it tonight) is to keep it in my sleeping bag with me at night.  Then in the morning, it will be warm and ready to use.
Now some of you are going to say.. well that is not setting a good example.  Ok.. but then again, I am not afraid of teaching Scouts how to do things right and even if Denatured Alcohol leaked in their sleeping bag, there would be no harm.  Fact is 3 ounces of alcohol would probably evaporate before they woke up.  As long as they are not sleeping with a lit torch in their pants I am sure they would be just fine.
I am not going to rehash the comments I made about teaching Scouts and allowing them to act their age and skill level.  Is that not setting a good example… well to some.  One day the BSA will again allow skills to be tested.  That day will come when we don’t teach to the lowest common denominator and lawyers leave us alone.
I have often said that I will never compromise Safety and Propriety.. A 3 ounce bottle of Denatured Alcohol does not compromise either… besides, what does it matter to some of the car campers out there?  Enough said on that.
(Please know that part of me is joking here.. the other part of me is really pissed)
Next.  Gear needs to be tested.  This goes for Scouts and Scouters.  You need to know your gear.  You need to know the limits of the gear, the capabilities of the gear, and how to use it.  There is no better place to do this that your backyard.
Tonight, I am testing some gear out in the backyard.
Hammock-Gear-store-icon1.  My new under quilt from Hammock gear.  Hammockgear.com  I got this for Christmas, but since they make to order, I just got it on Friday.  Tonight I will be in it and my Big Agnes Encampment 15* bag.  It’s supposed to get chilly tonight, so we will see how that goes.  The best part is that if I get to cold.. my bed is about 50 feet away inside the house.
2.  Dutch Clip on Tarp pull outs.  They pull the walls of the tarp out to give you more room as well as keep the tarp off of you in the snow and heavy rain.  I have them on the tarp tonight.  Mainly because I wanted to see how easy they are to put on and take off… really easy as a matter of fact.
3.  I am testing.. or more to the point playing with a stove that a fellow Youtuber sent me.   It is an alcohol stove… looks a lot like the white box stove.  I’m gonna fire it up and have some hot chocolate tonight and my coffee in the morning.
I also did some more tweaking on the tarp.  I found that if I tied a bowline at the end of the guy line, then synched up the line using the prusik it was super easy especially with gloves on.  There will be no need to until the bowline and will help in take down also.
So the tarp and hammock are up in the backyard and ready to be tested… now that’s the kind of testing I can get behind.
Today I took another look at my first aid kit and got it all in a small LOCSAK.  This will make packing just a tad bit easier and I still have everything I need.  Reworked my ‘toilet kit’ too.  Added Wet Ones single packs to it.  Feels nice on the tush when cleaning up in the woods.
Ok… so did you all get that I like to talk about gear?
That’s it for now.. should have a video out tomorrow.  The Sunday Morning coffee will be built into the tweaking of the gear.
As always, I am curious to know what you think.  Keep in my that the tag line of this blog is “Helping to Deliver the Promise of Scouting.”  Do not forget what that promise is.. a large part of that promise is fun and adventure.  I’m just sayin’.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Scouts | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gear Glorious Gear Part 2

I left you in the last post talking about the “Big 3″  The Pack, the Sleep system, and the Shelter.  Now we discuss the “Next 3″.  The “Next 3″ components of your gear consist of the Cook kit, the First Aid kit, and Rain gear.  Now in most articles that you will read and in most backpacking forums and circles the Sleeping pad is listed in the “Next 3″.  But since I like to put the sleep pad in with the sleep system, and since my target audience is typically Scouts and Scouters, I think that logic would dictate that the sleep pad go with the “Big 3″.  Regardless I think it is important that the First Aid kit is placed in with the “Next 3″.
So let’s get into these “Next 3″ components.
First, the Cook kit.  When I say ‘Cook kit’ I am referring to that gear that will be used to prepare the meal, eat the meal, and clean up after the meal.  This would include your cook pot, your stove, your towel, soap, fuel, lighter, utensils, eating ware (bowl, plate, cup or mug).  For a backpacker, these kitchen items really need to be small and fully functional.  Most meals require a single pot so a full cook set really is unnecessary.  A small stove such as the Snow Peak Giga Power is enough to get water going and can even be used for frying up eggs.  Keep in mind that you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink.  The essentials of a Cook kits are:
Stove, bowl, pot, towel, scrubber, camp suds soap, wind screen, lighter, spoon or spork, cup or mug.
Next let us dive into the First Aid kit.  Everyone needs to carry some sort of First Aid kit.  It need not be big, but it needs to be able to provide the essentials to do First Aid.  Gloves, band aids, ace wrap, gauze pads, prep pads, mole skin, tweezers, and aspirin are a good start.  All of that will fit in a zip lock bag.  I would also consider throwing in some butter fly closure strips and tape.  The Scout handbook and the internet have lots of resources to give you tips on what to put in your kit.  Just have one that will first serve you.. and then a buddy.
Rain gear wraps up the “Next 3″.  This is important (not just here in Oregon) to keep handy.  Rain gear serves more than just to keep one dry.  It can be an outer layer of clothing.  It is a great wind stopper, can be used as a ground cloth.  Rain gear is essential in preventing hypothermia.  Yes, even in the summer a hiker exposed to the elements can fall into those conditions.  Staying dry and clean are some of the reasons to carry rain gear.  Poncho’s are nice as they can serve multiple purposes.  However I don’t recommend them to Scouts as they quickly become capes and provide less protection than Rain pants and jacket.   There are some inexpensive, light weight options out there.  Frogg Toggs makes a rain suit that retails for $20.  It needs to be taken care of, but the weight and protection pay for itself in one rain storm.
So that’s the ‘Next 3′ components of the packing list.
Those 6 items make up the bulk of your gear.  What’s left.. pretty much your little stuff and clothing.
“The Little Stuff”
Most new Scouts come out of Webelos ready for their day hikes with their 10 essentials.  Moving to the “Big Pack” the 10 essentials get spread out within the contents of pockets and gear in the pack.  You still need all 10, but they will be displaced throughout your gear.  A great idea is to build a ditty bag to catch-all your “Little Stuff”
Matches or other fire starting materials, your compass, head lamp, small lantern, duct tape, extra cord, hand warmers, lip balm and sun block and a bandana just to list a few items.  I keep all my “little stuff” in a ditty bag where I can find it and have access to it when needed.
Then you need to break down your clothing.  This pretty much is the most variable of your gear items.  Weather conditions, temperature, and length of trip will dictate your clothing choices.  The most common error is taking too much.  Give a serious look at the clothing you take.  See what you really need versus what you want and try to get all your clothing in a single stuff sack.
So there it is.  The Big 3, the Next 3, the little stuff and clothing.  That’s your gear in a nut shell.  Gear Glorious Gear.  Develop your gear lists and kits that you are comfortable with, you can use, and you want to carry.
Any questions, comments, or suggestions.. give me a holler!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

Gear Glorious Gear part 1

After our last camp out we noticed that many of our younger Scouts seem to have been over looked when it comes to their gear and gear selections to include packing that gear.  Now, let me explain here because if you have spent about a day browsing this blog and you know our Troop, gear is one of those subjects we talk about like it was a merit badge… ahhh.. maybe that’s not a great example… talking and teaching about gear is like teaching first aid.. yeah.. that one works better.
We believe that gear is essential in a great camping experience.  Not a lot of gear.. but the right gear.  And it seems that as of late we have been a bit lazy in really getting into the nitty-gritty about gear with some of the Scouts of the troop.
Now in all fairness, the Scouts that immediately take interest in the gear they have and show excitement obviously get into those discussions with us.  And parents that see that enthusiasm in their son make it a point to talk about gear choices with us.
Having said all of that…
After the last camp out the Assistant Scoutmasters and I evaluated some of the processes we have in place to teach and talk about gear.  Seeking a solution to the issue we concluded that we needed to go back to square one with some of the Scouts.  We identified that the group of Scouts that have not yet completed all of the requirements for First Class was our target.. and more to the point.. their parents.
We have decided that in “starting over” with these Scouts and their parents we would demonstrate what it is that we consider the gear needed to support their Scout.  To do this we are going to do a full lay out of 3 sets of gear.  Mine, representing average gear that is on the lighter side.  Bryce, one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, will lay his gear out which will show the middle of the road gear, very affordable and easy to use.  Finally Ken, another of the Assistant Scoutmaster’s, will lay out his “heavier set up” with higher end items.
The thing that all three of our set ups have in common are the break down of gear types and the fact that we are pretty much carrying the same thing just in different forms, brands, and weight classes.
Our gear is broken into 3 groups.
First.  The Big 3.  This group includes the Backpack, the Sleep system, and Shelter.
The Backpack is essential in the discussion of gear.  It’s were all of this is going to end up.  There are essentially two types of packs that we discuss with the Scout (and Parent) Internal Frame packs and External Frame packs.  We used to not recommend Internal Packs for our Scouts, but with the modernization of the internal packs and the technology that has gone into the development of the internal frame pack, it is a far better pack than older versions.  The biggest concern with internal frame packs when it comes to Scouts is the packing of the pack.  Internal frame packs require a tad bit more thought in packing so the gear will give the wearer a comfortable ride.  This is the advantage of the External frame pack.  The weight and ride of the pack is distributed on the frame.  If a Scout does not pack well, he will, by and large, still have a  load that is manageable.
I switched to internal frame packs about 3 years ago and love them now that I have played with them and refined my packing.
We recommend, that no matter which style of pack a Scout gets it has at least 3900 cubic inches of space.  Now, all that space does not have to get filled up, but 3900 cube will allow for the Scout to make an easier time of packing.
Next we talk about the Sleep System.  Note that I did not say sleeping bag.  The sleep system is the bag or quilt and the pad or insulation.  When it comes to sleeping bags the sky is the limit on materials, fill, rating, size and shape.  The down versus synthetic argument is one that we resolve by saying this.  Down is lighter and warm but when it’s wet it is not worth having.  Synthetic materials are warm, heavier, and will maintain it’s warmth even when wet.  We recommend to parents that if their Scout can take care of it, down is the way to go.  Having said that.. I have a synthetic bag.
Sleeping bag liners add about 10 degrees to any bag and are small and light.  They are a great addition here in the Northwest to a sleep system and can carry a 20 degree bag well into the teens.
Ground insulation goes beyond a ground cloth.  A sleeping pad whether it is a Closed Cell Foam pad (CCF) or an inflatable pad is a must.  CCF pads are light and durable and work really well in the winter.  Most inflatable pads lack insulation but are comfortable and still get you off the ground.  There are insulated inflatable pads out there and they are well worth the extra money and weight.  A current trend is to put the inflatable pad inside of the sleeping bag.  This maintains the comfort and heat qualities of the pad.
The final component of the “Big 3″ is the Shelter.  Again, note that I did not say tent.  A lot of Scouts now are finding their way into tarps and bivies.  There are advantages in weight savings, ease, and multiple configurations to the tarp and bivy style of camping.  Regardless of what you decide to sleep under, this part of the big 3 typically makes up a major portion of the money spent on gear.
Tarps tend to be lighter, and I should clarify that I am not talking about your standard BiMart blue tarp.  We are talking nylon or silicone impregnated nylon (Silnylon).  They provide good cover and are nice and light.  A good tent will last a Scout for ever if he takes care of it.  Most Scouts of our troop trend towards a single person tent for a few reasons.  First, the ownership.  The Scout takes care of gear that belongs to him better than he will if it does not.  Second, the weight of a single person tent is a big savings in the pack as well as the volume.  And finally, the idea that he can adapt the tent to his style, needs, and he does not have to worry about someone elses gear in there.  When he is ready to go to sleep, he can.
Some have suggested that this practice takes away from the social aspect of the camp out.  This has not seemed to bare out in our troop.  Nylon tents are not sound proof and the Scouts set up their tents pretty close and lay there and chat.  They set up tents with the doors facing and play cards in the middle.  They tend to figure it out.  A two person tent is a great investment also and allows for more room.  You will carry a bit more weight, but for some, the added room and the flexibility to add a person.
The key when picking out a good tent is to look for free-standing, easy set up, and good coverage.  Whether you pick a tarp, hammock, bivy or tent coverage, ease of use and how much you want to pay is a good way to start your shopping.
Tomorrow on the blog we will talk about the “Next 3″.  The next group of gear that includes the components; Cook Kit, First Aid kit, and Rain Gear.
If you have comments or questions please leave them here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

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