Just fun

Backpack cooking- Patrol Method

Since word is out that our Troop is doing a 10 day backpacking trip this summer as our summer camp, there has been some concern as to how we are going to incorporate all of the “Scouting Methods” that normally come with the summer camp experience.
Well, I would first of all suggest that our Scouts will have more of the Scouting methods during our 10 day adventure than most Troops will have during your typical Summer camp experience, namely in the area of cooking.
Most summer camps offer a dining hall with cafeteria or family style dining.  This is great and takes a lot of pressure off of the Scouts during the day.
Our Scouts this summer will be using the Philmont cooking methods for our meals.  This will ensure that the patrols or crews will eat together, share responsibility, and eat the appropriate amount of calories that will be required on the trail.
I visited the Philmont web site and recalled a video we shared with our Crews before we went to Philmont.  This video basically sums up how we will be doing our cooking this summer while we trek through the Olympic National Forest.

Our Scouts will be eating on the go for breakfast and lunch, much like the Philmont experience.  We downloaded the Philmont menus plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to get a good feel for our planning.  It looks like we will pretty much stick to their plan.  Why reinvent the wheel?
Patrol or Crew cooking in this fashion will be a great experience for our Troop.  We are going to start using this method with our next camp out and continue to practice this through summer camp.  This means each camp out till July will incorporate our meal plan and methods for preparing, cooking, and cleaning while on the trail.  This should be real fun at Camporee this year.
I’d love to know how you all cook on the trail or in camp.  Leave a comment.
Thanks!
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Methods, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Skills, training | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

My Fire kit

It is a requirement for all Scouts to build their own First Aid kit.  This gets them in tuned with what they need, have, and how to use it all.  Being a backpacking Troop, building the personal first aid kit is an important task and requires a little more thinking than just band aids and mole skin.  The nature of backpacking takes you away from the cars and so the Scout needs to develop a kit that is compact, light, and serves his first aid needs.
In our Troop we also require the Scouts to build a fire building kit.  It should be compact, light, and serve the Scouts need to make fire.  Simple requirements right?
The ability to make fire is an important skill.  Fire is a motivator, cooking option, and method of warmth and cheer.  I was asked once what ‘survival’ skills we teach our Scouts.  I answered none.  We teach them to be prepared.  With a kit designated to build fire there is no need to rub sticks together or wait for lightning to strike.  The Scout reaches into his pack and makes a fire.
I carry my fire kit with me every time I enter the woods.  On a day hike or a 50 miler, the fire kit is as much a part of my pack as my first aid kit.
My kit is simple, light, and works 100% of the time to start fire.
I am not a fan of flint and steel or primitive methods of making fire.  I do not pretend to be a bush crafter and am not fascinated with that whole life style.
I use what works and that is it.  Again, I need not know how to ‘survive’ I will survive because I am prepared.
Here is a short video on my Fire Kit.
Question or comments?  Please leave them here at the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**NOTE- my batteries died twice in the camera and a part of the video I thought I was shooting was lost.  The SOL Tinders somehow got cut out.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, technology, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Little Stuff

bsa-tentOne of the big misconceptions in leadership is that the leader needs to worry about the big stuff.  Yes, the leader has to know or have vision and that requires a look from the 1000 foot view, but when it really comes down to leading, it is the little stuff that matters.  The little things that make all of the big things happen or lead to big success.
Lets go back to our example we have used here of “The Tent”.
When we set up our tent there is but one correct way to set it up.  As a leader to ensure that the tent is set up correctly a look at the details, the little stuff, is important.
Is the footprint extended beyond the flap of the tent?  If so, it’s wrong.
Are the stakes in so that it will actually hold the tent down?  Stakes improperly placed will allow for the tent to be unstable, not tight, and ultimately not serve their purpose.
Is the vestibule staked out properly?  Are the vents open or closed dependent on the conditions?  Is the tent located in a good position to leave no trace?  Out of the elements?  In low ground?
Are the guy lines being used properly?
Are the storage bags put away or just blowing all over the camp site?
Is the rain fly on correctly or inside out?
Is the door facing away from the wind?
Is there food in the tent?
Is the gear stored properly (not in the tent)?
You see there are a list of little things that go into setting up a tent.  Multiply that by the number of guys in the Patrol and how many tents are set up and you have a lot of little things to look at.  When all of those little things are done right, everything tends to fall into place.
This habit of doing all the little things right will lead one to doing everything right.  Once the standard has been set, it is something that becomes routine.  Leaders check and recheck and inspect what they expect to see.
They first teach the skill, the task, or the method and then hold those that they are leading accountable.  Doing it over is an option.  Not correcting something that is wrong is not.  That to is perceived as a little thing.
I have heard over and over that “well.. that really doesn’t matter”, “they are just kids”, “give it a break, it’s only a weekend”…  It all matters to leaders.  There are standards for every task and when they are done right, all of the big things are right also.  All of the little things matter to make the big things work.
There is no room for lowering the standard, when that happens it to become habit and that is when things go wrong.
This example works for every task our Scouts are asked to do.
There is a reason we have our Scouts earn their Totin’ Chip before they are allowed to use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip program introduces the standard.  The consequence for not performing to that standard is the inability to participate using a knife, saw, or ax.
When we allow the little things to slide we set our selves and those we lead up to be unsuccessful.  Mainly because they will tend to do more and more wrong.  Once the idea that everything is expected to be done right is accepted, and the leader makes sure that the little things are constantly being checked, you will see success in the big things.
So how do we make that happen?  Training and accountability.
This last weekend we conducted Junior leader training with all of the older Scouts in the Troop.  Since we have been having some issues with leadership lately, I decided it was time to get back to basics.  The Senior Patrol Leader had the Troop pack up everything on Saturday morning.  The days activities started with the Troop splitting up, the younger guys went to shoot shot guns and the older guys began their training.  We began with a discussion on packing a backpack the right way.  We demonstrated what right looks like and then made sure that every pack looked that way.  It was a lesson on attention to detail and not taking the easy way out.
Then we went on a little hike.  When we reached our first destination, the leaders were given the task to set up camp using leave no trace principles.  They set off to get camp set up.  I instructed the Scouts that when they were finished to come and stand by me.  Once they all were there, we talked about the little things and making sure all of the little things were right leading to the big thing (camp set up) being correct.  Each Scout had to go to a tent that was not his and stand.  Then one by one they instructed the group as to what was wrong with that set up.  Each and every tent had something that needed to be improved.  Corrections were made and then a second walk through happened.  This time everything was right and the Scouts could see the big picture.
After a quick reflection and discussion of the process, they were instructed to pack and move to a second location and do it again.  The same process happened the second time, this time with fewer mistakes.  Again corrections were made, this time including the use of the EDGE ™ method of teaching [Explain, Demonstrate. Guide, and Enable].  And pack it up again.  This time with a pause to inspect the packs to make sure they were packed right.  If it was not correct, do it again.  Reinforcing the idea that there is only one right way to do it and we will not settle for it being done wrong.
When the younger Scouts got back from shooting their Troop guide did this process with the new Scouts.  Packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down.  He made it a game having the Scouts race each other and in the process made it fun.  The new guys picked up on it right away.  I overheard the Troop guide explain to them that doing it right the first time will save them time and energy down the road.  There is only one right way of doing things right.
The focus is on the little stuff and making the little stuff matter.  Little things done right make the big things right.
When it comes to older Scouts and adults, modeling the expected behavior while doing the little things right and making sure that the little things are always done right will set you up to being an effective leader and leading a high performance team.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Competition, gear, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Going Camping

Merit Badges or Fun?Heading out into the woods this weekend with the Troop.  New Scout Patrol will be stepping off on the Trail to First Class, but not until after a fun morning on the range shooting Shot Guns.  Then the older guys will get to shoot all afternoon, but not until they develop some leadership skills in camp.  Modeling the Expected Behavior will be their theme for the weekend.
Weather calls for sun tomorrow.. we hope for the best.
So, I will let you all know how it goes on Sunday!
What are you up to this weekend?
Please share!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leadership, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Skills, training | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

5 Reason’s I Hammock Camp

wbbbThis last weekend I got to hang out with some great Scouters at our Lodge’s Rendezvous.  A few years back a few of the guys became interested in my hammock set up, which I use every camp out.  Slowly the interest became more hammock campers.  This year there were about 5 or 6 hammock set ups that I knew of and it seems that the interest is growing more and more each year.
We got to talking about our hammock set ups and as we discussed this fantastic way of camping there were a few people who had lots of questions.  We all had our tips, tricks, and way we do it, but most of it was common.
Some one asked why?  Why hammock camp, after all, what’s wrong with tents?  So it got me to thinking about why I hammock camp.
Here are the top 5 reason’s I am a hammock camper.
1.  Comfort.  In a hammock I wake up rested and no sore body parts.  When you are laying in the hammock you have no pressure points.  Hips, Shoulders, and Back are all suspended in nylon.  Without the pressure points I find I don’t toss and turn and wake up well rested.
Using the under quilt and top quilt is warm and comfortable and easy to get in and out of.  Nylon and Down wrap around me and I feel snug as a bug when I am sleeping.
2.  Easy set up and take down.  I like how easy it is to set up my system.  The tarp goes up quick and my hammock is just a matter of two straps and buckles.  I can set up in a driving rain and keep everything dry.  The same goes for take down.  I can stand up under the tarp and pack my gear, take down the hammock and keep everything clean and dry.  Because all of the components of my system are in stuff sacks, everything is easy to unpack and pack.
3.  Leave No Trace.  I am a big fan of leave no trace methods and work to practice them no matter when and where I camp.  Hammocks can be set up places where tents cannot comfortably go, as long as there are trees.  Because I am hanging above the ground I am not leaving the impact that a tent does on the ground, nor am I restricted to tent platforms or designated tent sites.  Since I am not on the ground, I do not need to clear the area of rocks twigs and other debris that show I was there.  Tree straps are tree friendly.  They do not damage the trees and the weight is distributed so as not to hurt the trees.  If there is a concern about softer bark, I use the Philmont method of wrapping rope for bear bags in the I insert twigs around the straps to reduce the impact if there would be some.
Because most, not all, but most hammock campers practice light weight backpacking practices, I am reducing my foot print in gear and how I camp and think about LNT all the time.
4.  The Gear.  The nature of hammock gear is light and small.  Everything from the hammock to the tarp fits in small sacks and does not take up a lot of space in my pack.  The quilts are light and compress real small.  I never will be an Ultra light backpacker.  It’s just not something that I am willing to dedicate too much thought and energy to doing, but I am dedicated to being a light weight backpacker and the hammock set up really allows for that.  Along with the hammock, tarp, and quilts, hammock campers typically look at lighter solutions to camping.  Stoves, cook kits, and the other items that fill the pack are looked at carefully for its functionality, purpose, and size and weight.  Becoming a hammock camper got me into tinkering with gear and finding the “perfect solution” for my backpack.  This has been super fun for me.
5.  Hang anywhere.  I have found that I can hang pretty much anywhere.  I have hung my hammock inside of shelters, off of rocks, and of course between tress.  There never seems to be a place that I can not hang my hammock (except at Philmont).   I do not have to be uncomfortable camping in the hammock.  I noticed that as I started getting older that I started having a harder time sleeping on the ground.  Even on a cot at the National Jamboree I tossed and turned.  The weather, the temperatures, and the terrain are no longer obstacles in camping.  I can hang anywhere in my hammock set up.
Well there are 5 reason’s that I love hammock camping.  I am sure that I could list a few more, but it really comes down to comfort and fun.  I always encourage our Scouts to try new things and when they find that they like it, it adds to the adventure of Scouting.
I can say this… once you go to the hammock, it is hard to go back to the ground.  But Hike your Own Hike and do what you like.  I am a hammock guy and love it.
Have any questions feel free to ask, leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Scoutmaster minute, Skills | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Firm Bound in Brotherhood…

Telling the Scouting StoryThis weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me.  I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous.  Our Lodge hosts three major events each year.  The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference.  We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually.  So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to.  I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events.  I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning.  Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz.  They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart.  We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service.  And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home.  It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”.  Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow.  I expect them to live that code that we promise.  In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives.  It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation.  I get that.  But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right?  This is my issue.  When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA.  Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons.  First I was asked to do some service.  We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer.  Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier.  Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates.  I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies.  So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend.  Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them.  It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two.  The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor.  Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them.  They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization.  I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled .  This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow.  That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout.  To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day.  One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow.  It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order.  There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership.  The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…”  Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes.  I have an unusual devotion to Scouting.  Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story.  The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Values | Tags: | Leave a comment

Teaching Winter camping Skills- Revisited

DSCN0627As most of the country is still experiencing Winter conditions and here in the Northwest, the Winter Camping season is really in full bloom, as late as it is, there are still Troops and Crews that are venturing into the woods for some good winter camping.  I thought I would revisit our teaching or winter skills, just as a reminder that even though it’s March, we need to stay focused on how we camp in the winter.  Most of these skills transfer well all year round anyway.  I will take a page out of the Safe swim defense and Safety Afloat program.  Supervision and Discipline are a Must.
So here are a few rules that we maintain whenever we are talking about High adventure and Cold weather camping.
Remember anytime you engage in a high risk activity… you increase your preparation, supervision, and discipline.
The first rule is take it serious.  Cold Weather camping can be one of the most enjoyable activities with challenges and memories that your scouts will cherish.  But at the same time Cold weather camping can be Extremely dangerous when not taken seriously.
I use a three strike rule when dealing with the issue.  Three strikes and you are not going on the event.  Period.
A scout that does not want to pay attention or is goofing off too much will not get the information that is being presented.  This can lead to dangerous consequences in the field.
Before we do any Winter camping adventure we have a couple mandatory meetings.
During these meetings we teach Cold Weather first aid.
Understanding and knowing the symptoms of cold weather conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia.  Knowing what to look for on your buddy for those signs and then how to treat them.
We teach techniques for setting camp, preparing meals, setting up gear to best meet the conditions of Cold weather camping.  Simple stuff like zipper pulls and tent anchors.  Issues like meal preparation and how to better prepare meals at home for ease in the camp site.
These meetings we feel are important to set the tone for the High adventure activity.
We do the same thing for Rock climbing activities.  Mandatory meetings get the scout into the mind-set that this is so important that they are “Making” me be there … or I do not go.
Enforcement of the mandatory meeting is just as important.  If you make it a must for one that they get all the information, then make it a must to all.
If need be…have a make up meeting for scouts that absolutely can not make a mandatory meeting… give them opportunities to participate, but ensure they get the skills, training, and information that are needed for a successful outing.
The next rule that is non negotiable is using the buddy system.  Now I know that the buddy system is part of Scouting anyway, but in cold weather environments it is a must.
Buddies need to be established early in the process of planning, training, and preparing for the camp out.
Getting these buddies to learn the first Aid skills together, planning of meals together, and in camp routines will lead to skilled buddy teams that understand the importance of one another in the process.
When they train in first aid, it no longer is a routine activity, they understand, that if I do not check you and you don’t check me.. we can get hurt.  If I am not aware of what creamy colored skin means…then you may be getting frost bite on your nose or fingers.
Enforcing buddy teams is a must and hard fast rule.  In camp use the Patrol leaders to monitor buddy teams and ensure that they are maintaining discipline as a team.
One issue that may or may not come up, it has with in my unit, is when you are tent camping in the snow and most of the Scouts have single person tents maintaining the buddy concept.
The fix here is that they, unlike when camping during the summer, cluster the tents.  Have buddy teams set up their single person tents right next to one another.  This way they can still communicate throughout the night.  One technique that our boys have used is setting up their tents for the doors face each other, and they put them real close. Almost to the point where they can share vestibules.  I have seen them actually tie their vestibules together creating a tarp like set up.  It makes a little cooking area and allows them to sit and talk while in their sleeping bags.  Now this is all dependant on what their tents are like, but the point here is that sometimes they need to think out side of the box to overcome obstacles.  But they need to be aware that the buddy system is extremely important in the cold.  And because it is important, they need to do things that allow them to watch each other, and communicate with each other.
So rule number 2 is the buddy system, do not over look this, it is way to important.
Rule number 3 is TIME AND PLACE.
There is a time and place for everything.  There is a time and place to screw around and have fun, there is a time and place to be serious.  The sooner your Scouts know this.. the better.  Enough said.
I try not to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, after all we have the Scout Oath and law and that is pretty much all we need, but when it comes to high risk activities, it is important to establish importance in the seriousness of Cold Weather camping.
So now we have established it is important… so when teaching these Scouts about cold weather camping what are some things that need to be taught.
I guess if I had to narrow my list down to the top things to teach Scouts about Cold weather camping the list would include.
First.  Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them and treat them.
Second.  Gear.
Third.  In camp routines
Fourth.  Planning a preparation.
And fifth.  Getting around in the snow, including moving and orienteering.
So lets quickly talk a little about these 5 items.
First Aid.  Or better yet understanding the risks of Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them.  The idea is that you do not want to get into treatment.  You won’t have to if they prevent the injury to start with.
Hypothermia, frost bite, Frost nip or chill blains, immersion foot, sun burn and snow blindness are the biggies.
Show pictures of frost bite, that is enough to get the attention of your scouts.  The Scouts need to be able to tell you what they are looking for on their buddy.
Do they recognize the disorientation, nausea, and the fact that their buddy is no longer shivering means that he is probably slipping quickly into Hypothermia.
One of the biggest issues regarding the treatment of some cold weather injuries is getting the Scouts over the idea that they may be put in what they feel is an uncomfortable position.  Getting into a sleeping bag with another Scout is not normal, but it may be that which saves his buddies life.  Again, it’s all about prevention.  How do you prevent getting into that position?
Well that leads me to the next topic…gear.
Clothing and equipment are important in the cold.  First know that when talking about clothing… Cotton kills.
Do not allow your Scouts to wear lots of cotton.  Underwear bottoms are ok, but any clothing on the body that can get moist due to perspiration needs not to be cotton.  I’m talking primarily about T-shirts and socks.
Poly propylene underwear, long johns and sock liners are fantastic items to put against the body.  It reduces the chances of sweat staying on the skin and eventually leads to freezing.
Teach them about layering.  Talk about Base layers, Mid layers that insulate, and a shell layer that protects.  Handing out flyers that discuss the layering system are a great idea so that mom and dad understand what you expect.
When teaching about gear, talk about the difference between gear they use the rest of the year, also show them how they can use their gear all year round, with modifications.
Using a three season tent as a four season tent for example.  Simply by adding guy lines and anchors.  Tents do add warmth to the scout, they protect against the elements.  Snow and wind are the two elements you are concerned about.  Guy lines and tie downs will keep your tent steady in the wind.  Digging into the snow and setting your tent up sheltered by a snow wall will combat against the wind.  The tighter the guy lines, the better also for keeping snow from collecting and damaging your poles.  Reinforcing your poles by wrapping them with duct tape is a way to strengthen them.  The tape can be removed in the spring.  Making sure the Scouts know to constantly keep the tent clear of snow during the day and clearing it off before they turn in for the night will reduce the strain the tent poles feel.
Your Scouts need to understand that cold air settles in low ground.  Digging a trench outside of their tent by the door will move cold air away from their sleeping platform, just like in a snow cave.  It also allows for a place to sit up right when dressing.
Boots, lets talk about boots.
First, make sure that your scouts have good boots suitable for wear in the snow and cold.
Then make sure they keep them dry.  Boots when worn should be protected by wearing gaiters.  This protects the laces and upper portion of the boot.  They also keep snow from entering the boot, keeping them dry.
When boots are not being worn, they need to be INSIDE the tent, use an old stuff sack or even garbage bag to put the boots in.  Put them under or in your sleeping bag to keep them warm.  Boil up some water and fill a water bottle before you get in your tent.  Put the water bottle in your boots.  It will keep them warm and you will have water in the morning that is not frozen.  In the morning if your scouts can boil up some water and fill that bottle up and put it in the boots for about 15 minutes.. they will step into nice cozy boots that will ready them for the day.
Backpacks should be packed with stuff sacks, ditty bags, and need to be kept organized and accessible.
Adding zipper pulls or tabs to zippers will make it easier to get in and out of pockets, this goes for their jackets too.
Gloves and or mittens.  Check the gloves your Scouts bring.  They need to be water-resistant and warm.   Do not allow just any glove.  They need to provide insulation and protection.  I had a Scout show up once with gardening gloves.  Not acceptable in the cold weather environment.  As a leader, take extra gloves with you.  I have found that gloves come up missing or get wet, I carry a stuff sack with a few extra pair of gloves to throw on chilly hands when needed.
Outer wear.  Protective shells that keep the Scout dry and out of the wind.
You will know what right looks like, they do not need to run out and buy North face $300 jackets, although it would go a longer way in protecting them, to stay warm and dry.
Have a shake down of gear the week before the camp out.  This will allow you and your Patrol leaders the opportunity to look at all the gear and a week for the Scout to make corrections.
In camp routines.  These need to be discussed prior to the camp out, but practiced in camp.
Things like setting up camp quickly, getting shelter up, gathering fire wood, cooking and cleaning up, settling down for the night, staying dry, and fun things to do while in camp.
Establishing good in camp routines, just like in the summer is an important part of winter camping.  Gear gets lost in the snow, part of good in camp routines is storing gear and staying organized.
Planning and preparing for the winter camp out is probably the most important thing to getting the most out of your winter camping experience.  This includes training, planning, and readying your gear for the trip.
You need to know where you are going, how long you are going to be there, how you are getting there and how you are getting into the area you are camping in.  And then what you are going to do once you get there.
Preparation is so key to a successful Cold Weather camp out.  The Scouts need to be prepared and properly instructed.  Like I tell the boys, we are not planning to treat cold weather injuries, we are preparing to prevent them.
Taking that approach with you cold weather camping preparation will lead to success.
You as the adult leader, or even for those Junior leaders that listen, need to become experts in the skills needed to camp in the cold.
Preparing the Scouts of your troop starts with some clear goals for the experience.
In your first year of camping in the cold weather, you may want to limit your overnight stays to a single night and progressively move to longer stays.
You may want to start by taking day hikes and excursions into the cold.  Set up camp and work on skills such as shelters, building fires, and staying dry.  Then retire to the comfort of a lodge for the night.
In your planning you need to figure out what your objectives are.  Going into the woods and setting up camp, eating and hitting the rack is not enough to keep scouts interested in camping in the cold.  What are you going to do once you get into camp?  Navigation is a great skill to practice in the snow.  Folks get disoriented easily in a snow filled forest.
How about winter relay’s, snow shoe hikes, igloo building or snow caving, Cross country skiing, or just plain winter skills.  There are many things that you can do that lead up to the cold weather camp out.  Make gear like snow shoes, then test them out when you get to camp.  There is a great Scouting resource available at your Scout Shop.  The book Okpik:   Cold Weather Camping #34040 shows you how to make gear, as well as activities and know how on camping in the winter.
Use other resources too, one of my favorite books on Camping in the cold is Winter Hiking and Camping, by Michael Lanza a book put out by Backpacker Magazine.
In planning and preparing, get you hands on as much material as possible and become familiar, almost to the point that you are an expert.  You need to be, those boys depend on you.
Finally, getting around in the snow.  I alluded to snow shoeing and cross-country skiing earlier.  These are super fun activities that the Scouts really have a great time with.  If you are going to snow shoe or ski, it is a good idea to get out there prior to the camp out and get a feel for it.  If time is an issue, when you get to your drop off point, leave the packs in the car and take a little hike to get used to the snow shoes or skis, it is better to establish balance and some skill before you throw your pack on.
If you get a lot of snow, I would recommend show shoeing for your first time winter campers.  It is a skill that is easy to pick up and provides the most stable mode of on foot movement in the snow.  Trying to walk in deep snow with a pack on can be frustrating as the scouts post hole their way into camp.  Taking along snow shoes provides not only ease of movement, but a fun activity to do once you get camp set up.
Most winter sports outlets rent snow shoes and we have gotten real good Weekend rates when you mention you are taking a group of Boy Scouts out for a snow shoeing adventure.
Let me leave you with this.
The best tool you have in the winter camping environment is your brain.  It will know when things are good and when things get bad.  Listen to it.  Adult leaders need to be upbeat and positive throughout the winter camping process.  A positive attitude is infectious and the boys of the unit must keep a great attitude when camping in the cold.
Seeing an adult with a negative attitude, complaining about the cold, or showing frustration at gear, not being able to accomplish tasks, and generally not having a good time will surely infect the rest of the Troop.  Keep a level head, have a great time, acquire the necessary skills, and have a positive attitude and your winter camping adventure will be a fantastic memorable experience.   Oh and take lots of pictures.
Get out there and camp in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Motto, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Gear Tip – Wet Fire ™

wetfire_packageOk… all of this talk about being lazy.. and it caught me.  Not really.  I wanted to get a Saturday Quick tip out this week but once again my Scouting life got in the way of the blog.
Saturday, I was at a Staff Development session for the upcoming Wood Badge course.  I am not on the staff this time, but I have been asked to be a Guest presenter during the course.  I will be presenting the Teaching EDGE and more than likely will be doing dishes also… it’s what we Wood Badgers do.
Sunday was dedicated to one of my Scouts.  We held a Court of Honor to present his Eagle Award.  Man, what a great day.  I love Courts of Honor especially when we honor a Scout that has worked so hard and has become an Eagle Scout.
Alright… enough of the excuses.
I was going to shoot a video about a piece of gear that I always keep in my pack.  In fact I keep a few of them in my pack at all times and love them.  They are the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder.
They are made by a company called the Revere Supply Company and is part of the UST line of products.  Designed for survival kits, these little Fire starters are the best.
Now, we don’t teach survival to our Scouts, rather we teach preparedness and being ready in the event that everything goes South.  Being Prepared is the way to stay out of survival situations.
Having said that, we all like a fire and the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder is the best way to get a fire going quick and easy.  I don’t know about you.. but I’m not into the whole rubbing sticks together and flint and steel went out of style in the 1800’s.  When I want fire, I want it now.  And I live in Oregon, read… wet.  The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder gets that fire going while drying out other tinder and smaller wood so you can have a nice fire in camp.
Each cube is 1” x .75” x .5” (24 x 19 x 13mm) and only weighs .16 oz (44g), they do not take up a bunch of space and for the efficiency you won’t worry about the added grams.
You can read more about it at their website.  The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder is available at most stores and are inexpensive.  About $6 for a package of 5.
Here is a little video from the folks that bring you the Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder.
I carry these in my pack and I highly recommend them for everyone.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Methods, Motto, reviews, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Obstacles to Objectives

DSCN4484In an effort to “fix lazy” it dawned on me that one of the problems is that our young men, and I am not just talking about Scouts here, tend to get caught up in the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives.  This bogs them down and they feel defeated.  They fail themselves in the mind before they can feel the success of completing a task.
In the last post I listed a few “rathers”.. they would rather freeze then change clothing, they would rather be cold and miserable than apply the training they have learned.  This is lazy and it is an attitude that someone will come to my aid.
This is also an inability to get past the obstacle and get to the objective.
The objective is the skill or the task or goal.  Lets take for example setting up a tent.  The tent does not change.  It is the same tent that they have set up many times, but insert an obstacle like snow and cold and now it is a whole new tent.  NO, it’s still the same tent.  The challenge is to get it set up.. the goal is to get the tent set up to get out of the elements, but in their mind they can’t do it because it is cold.  I was talking with one Scout about what they would have done had we hiked in at night.  Something we do 11 times a year.. but none the less.  He asked what we would have done, so I told him that we would have set up camp… just like we always do.  I asked him if he knew how to set up his tent, he said yes.  Then I told him that it’s no different setting it up in the dark than it is setting it up in the day light.  The tent is the tent.  Same poles, same grommets, same rain fly, same guy tie outs, same everything.  If you can set it up in your living room, you can set it up in the woods, the snow, the rain, and the dark.  He immediately found the obstacle rather than the objective.
I am finding this more and more with the Scouts that we have these days.  The look for the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives.  This is the wrong way to think.
If we focus on the objective, we will negotiate the obstacles to get there.  The obstacles become the fun challenge that it takes to get the reward or success.
We have been talking about our up coming backpacking trip this summer.  The younger guys are doing a 50 miler, while the more experienced guys are going to do about 80.  When the PLC announced this immediately they thought about 50 miles of backpacking and not the adventure.  They failed to hear the part about 10 days of hiking, breaking up the mileage into reasonable chunks,  that anyone with a pair of legs could do.  They did not think about 10 days of being out with their buddies in the Olympics.. nope.. just the obstacles that would make it hard.
This we need to work on.. but it is the first part of fixing lazy.
What are your thoughts on this?  I’d love to know.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, comments, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scouts, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

How do You fix Lazy?

skillsHere is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy.  Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really?  If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy.  It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills.  As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors.  In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best.  That is a pretty lofty claim, but true.  We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors.  Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders.  Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men.  Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels.  Leave No trace experts etc.  We  have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant,  expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train.  The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into.  It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation.  A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it.  If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting.  On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy.  We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices.  We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others.  We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case.  They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit.  And that is what we became.  That is why boys join our Troop.  Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents.  We expect them to become self-reliant.  We expect them to pay attention and learn.  We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills.  We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.  We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either.  Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy.  It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing.  They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it.  They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around.  Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry.  This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it.  They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills.  They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking.  I do not understand Lazy.  Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP.  They are no different.  The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them.  They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore.  They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda.   They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living.  Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you.  You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine.  I don’t understand this thinking.  And it is happening.  Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit.  It is formed early and reinforced often.  Here is the thing.  I don’t know how to fix it.  Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents.  This is the issue I am dealing with.  How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board?  How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section.  I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it.  Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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