gear

Just do something…

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It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

And the Winner is…

Thank you all so much fo your response to the 1000th Post Give away!  It was nice to read all the comments and I thank you all for continuing to read the blog.  I hope that you all get as much out of it as I get putting into it.  Every day we learn something new, share something that we think, and have fun together in this great online community.
So without further delay.. The winner of the Imusa Mug Cook kit.. which includes a 12 cm Imusa Mug, an Esbit Alcohol Burner, a fuel bottle, windshield/pot stand and a base pad for those chilly mornings when you need to have a tad bit more insulation..
mdavis42al
Congratulations.. email your address and I will get your cook kit in the mail!  I am sure you will love this kit as much as I do.

Ok.. now that that is over.. I need help finding some video editing software.  I got a new camera and it records in .MOV format.  I need software that is easy to use so I can get the Sunday Coffee videos up on time.  I love the camera… not to jazzed about not having editing software to edit and save the video.
If you know of some, please drop me a note… free would be a great price.. but whatever.. I need it quick.
Thanks all once again for the comments!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, comments, Cooking, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Bonus Video – Grilled Cheese

Had all the stoves out today and it got to be about lunch time… Well…
Here’s some Bonus video of a nice lunch meal on the trail… Oh and the Cheese cake (left over from the Cheese Cake factory).. a great bonus to the lunch.  YUM!
Enjoy and Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Skills | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee… tea

This week we talk about cook kits, more to the point of stoves and the pots I use with them.
We also get into a bit of Knife talk and have a nice cup of Tea.
Enjoy…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Cooking, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Attack of the Snow Blower

This weeks Sunday Coffee with Scoutmaster Jerry is full of coffee and adventure..
This weekend our Troop camped out up at White River on Mt. Hood.  It was a great time and lots of skills practiced and learned.
Sunday Morning around 4:00 AM our Troop encountered an unexpected attack.  We typically camp on the other side of a creek that flows adjacent to the White River snow park.  This is a good location as this camp out is always the first Winter camp out in snow for the new Scouts.  The location provides a good bail out plan and the comfort that the cars are not to far if we need them.  Anyway… this year the snow bridge was gone so we picked a camp site a bit closer to the parking lot.  We have camped there before, but this year was different.  At 4:00 AM the Oregon Department of Transportation snow crew cleaned up the snow park.  They plowed the parking lot and then sent in the snow blower  Now I don’t know about you but I had never felt the wrath of 100 lbs of snow shot from a cannon before.. until this morning!
Hope you enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Patrol Method, Risk Management, Skills, stories, Winter Camping | Tags: | 3 Comments

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

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