campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Scouting, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Scouting, Service, Values, Wood Badge | 2 Comments

Giving Up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis post is not going to sit well with some folks, but be that as it may, it is a message that I feel is an important part of the Character, Citizenship, and Overall fitness of the Scouts that we are trying to develop.
As with most ideas or thoughts that bounce through my mind, I find that themes reoccur or present themselves to me.  And so as I go through my daily life I look for those things that can both make me a better person and pass on to our young men.
First, I have been observing a “homeless guy” over the past few months.  Now please understand I am not being insensitive to the plight of the homeless here.  I am absolutely not passing judgement and understand that there many folks out there with needs.  I am also not expressing an opinion or solution about mental health issues that plague our country.. so.. with the caveats out of the way…
I finally had the opportunity to talk with this young man.  I bought him a Frosty from Wendy’s and asked if I could ask him some questions.  He agreed.  I asked him why he was homeless.  A simple question and he gave me a simple answer.  He said he gave up.  He gave up on school, he gave up on his family, he gave up on trying.  I didn’t ask why, but I really wanted to know.  It would have been too obvious to ask if he liked the results, so I left it alone.  I did however ask how long he planned on staying on his current course.  He answered by saying that it wasn’t that bad.. people in general are generous.  He had no plan or expectation of life getting better.
I asked him if I could ask two more questions.. he agreed.  Number one, are drugs involved? And number two, are you going to try to get help?  To the first question he answered yes.  That is why he is in Portland.  Easy to get and cheap.  To the second, he said he would like to get help.  He added that he had dreams and goals, but giving up was easier.  I thanked him and went on my way.
Second, as you know I am a football fan, especially when it comes to watching my youngest sons football team play.  He plays for the College of the Redwoods and is a real good Quarterback.  The team though has much to be improved.  They are up and down and all over the place searching for consistency.   The only thing that is consistent about the team is their willingness to give up.  They seem to play for themselves and give up on their team mates.  Because it is a Junior College, the players are looking at moving to higher Division Schools to continue playing football and advance their education.  They are playing selfish to gain better stats without an understanding that if the team does well, they will get their stats.  Giving up on plays and letting team mates down when the going gets tough.
So why do I care?  I do not think it is acceptable to ever give up.  As a young soldier it was always expected that we never give up.  Giving up left people’s life in the balance.  When people give up they don’t just give up on themselves, but there is always an effect to other people.  When parents give up, the kids suffer.  When employees give up, the work group suffers, when members of a Patrol give up, the whole Patrol is effected in a negative way.  They end up moving in the wrong direction in the stages of team development or stay in a storming mode too long.
Giving up is a choice.  It is a condition that while there are certainly circumstances that lend themselves to someone wanting to give up, there is never a reason to follow through.
Jerry, you are too insensitive..  no, I am a tired of seeing the effects of people who just give up.  People get hurt when you give up.  It’s not fair when people give up.  As we talk about leadership with our Scouts we always start with the concept of being a servant leader or leading selflessly.  If you can’t do that, you can’t lead.  We also remind them that if they can not lead themselves they can not lead others.  Having said that, giving up is in my opinion on of the most selfish things one can do.
So why do people give up?  I don’t know.  I don’t like it and I don’t allow it in my Troop.  Scouts in my Troop are not allowed to say “I can’t”.  If you believe that you can’t.. you are right.  But that is not an option in life and the more we allow young men to give up, it becomes easier and easier to do.  Scouts can do amazing things, but they need to have the self-confidence to push themselves.  We need to give them permission to do so.  When we accept the Scout saying “I can’t”.. we tell them it’s ok to pass or give up.  Simply put.. it’s not ok.
So, no I don’t have the answer, but you can rest assured that I am fighting it by using my influence as a Scoutmaster to teach, coach, and mentor our Scouts to never, ever give up.  I do not give up, so I expect them to take that attitude and grow into great men.
Can you imagine in our founding fathers gave up?  Imagine if they decided it was not in their best interest or it was too hard.  What if they did not test the resolve of their fellow countrymen to join the fight.  We need not go to those extremes, but the principle is the same.  Never give up on yourself or those around you.
Just something to think about.. I know I do.
A note on this post.  It has taken me two weeks to put this together.  It is a subject that has really been weighing on my heart and mind.  I have talked to the Scouts of my Troop about this.. an ongoing discussion we have held over the past couple years.  I finally wrapped it up tonight because once again, I talked with the homeless kid today.  Still giving up.  I don’t judge and make him out to be a bad guy.  I see potential that is wasted.  I see a young man who never was taught that giving up has long-term and far-reaching effects.  He is living it.  It saddens me.
Teach our Scouts the right way to become men.
The picture I used in this post is of me and a young man in my Troop.  At the time, he was in his first year as a Boy Scout.  What you don’t see in the picture are the big tears and the knocking knees this youngster had.  What you also don’t see is him at the bottom of the rappel with a huge smile on his face knowing that he conquered fear and accomplished his goal of earning the climbing merit badge.  You don’t see me 5 minutes after the picture was taken going over the edge with him and coaching him to stay with it and never give up.  I am proud of that Scout and many others like him that make a choice not to quit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Values | 2 Comments

Find a Map

philmontmapWatching an old episode of Bonanza the other day and as with most of the stories, the guys with the white hats typically come out on top while the bad guys in their black hats seem to have the opportunity to listen to Mr. Cartwright give them a lesson in good livin’.
The lesson this time was about finding your way in life.  I don’t remember the particulars of the story, but Old Ben Cartwright shared some wisdom that I immediately felt a need to share.  He said “It’s alright to find your way in life, it’s a lot easier if you have a map.”  I could not help but think that this is a message that we often share with our Scouts.  The map, our Oath and Law.  There are many other maps out there also, The 10 Commandments, our laws, the Golden Rule.  All pretty much lead you in the same direction and certainly make your life a little easier and worth living.
Baden Powell left us a good road map to a successful life in that first Scout Handbook.  He shared with us the Values of Scouting, a good Oath to live by, and skills that help make a young boy a man.
It is important to find a good map to live well.  Whether that is through your faith, our laws, or in our Scout Oath and Law it is of value to you and others to live right.  I always go back to what BP said about Happiness in that true happiness comes from making others happy.  It takes a good map for good living to do this.  I think that there are many ways just as there are many maps to do this.  I grew up in the Church and it gave me a firm foundation of how to treat other people.  As the Golden rule says in essence to treat others as you want to be treated.  I thought as a grew up that this was a Christian thing, but as I got older I learned and came to realize that happiness is universal and so too is the Golden Rule.  This ethic of one good turn deserving another goes a long way in the happiness of the world.  The Golden Rule often called The Ethic of Reciprocity is found in 21 of the Worlds Religions.  Knowing that it is a wonder why we fight and how Religions the world over have caused so much pain in the world.
The Roman Pagan Religions taught “The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves.”  Native America teaching lead us in “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.”  And hundreds of years before Christ walked our planet, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow-man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” from the Jewish faith.
I think that this last quote speaks more to me in the world that we live in today as it relates to the Golden Rule and Happiness.
So what does all of this have to do with our map?  It’s simple.  The map does not have to be complicated.  It does not have to come with a degree in Social Science.  The map needs to be clear and easy to understand.  The map needs to have clear markings that lead us in the direction that we wish to go.
Our map in Scouting is the Scout Law.  It is simple, clear, and leads us in the right direction.  12 simple words that are the foundation of our happiness and the happiness of others.
So you can have the Bible, The Tora, The Koran, or any other of the sacred text, what matters in the end is that you use them to do find good and happiness… more importantly, you use them to give happiness to others.
If you don’t you are not using them right.  The same is the Oath and Law in Scouting.  Words are great, Actions are better.  Finding your way in life is a good venture… having a map certainly does make it easier.
Find and use your map.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law | Leave a comment

Guilt by association

judged“You can judge a man by the company he keeps”-Euripides

Guilty as charged.  The company we keep, tan shirts, dedicated to being good Citizens, men of Character, and Fit.
I have heard this saying all my life.  You are judged, as unpopular an opinion as that is these days, by the company that we keep.  If you hang out with knuckle heads, you are viewed as a knuckle head.  If you hang out with good people, you are judged as one of the good guys.  This holds true in every case.  I can not think of one example where people who hang out with bad people are viewed as one of the good ones.. or the better of the bad.  Huh.. yeah.. I heard that one last week.  “He’s a good guy, just hangs out with the wrong crowd.. he’s the better of the bad guys”.. but you know, he’s still among the bad guys.  And yes, lets call it like it is.  If they are bad, they are bad.
Too many times these day’s we try to give the benefit of the doubt or try to find that silver lining.  Sometimes it’s just not there.  More times than not there are opportunities for behavior change and it is neglected.  I don’t buy the idea that circumstances create a lack of opportunity.  It’s there, it just needs to be taken.  I have known many people who came from bad circumstances only to find opportunity, take it, and make something good of their lives.
Here is the deal.  We have Scouting.  Scouting is available everywhere.  Now, it certain circles it may not seem “cool”..so explore the alternative.  Join our Scouting gang, or join a thug gang.  In both circumstances you will find support, belonging, and a set of values.  The difference is one leads to good, the other doesn’t.  It comes down to choices.
Parents have a lot to do with this.  As a young man growing they assist in creating the environment that will lead their son to hanging with the right crowd.  Generations of “good guys” typically lead to more good guys.  On the other hand the lack of want to.. the fact that the path of least resistance creates the easy road down a path which lacks character puts young men in the bad category.
I don’t mind calling like it is.  The people who I associate with are good.  I need not worry about their character.  I don’t have to worry about the values that they live.  I don’t have to worry about the impression that I leave with the friends I keep.
I see our young men.. they look for that easy road.  That road will never lead the right way.  As a Scoutmaster, it is my job to help the parents in creating that environment which leads to good character and values.  Being a role model in that endeavor is part of the program.
Too often we forget as Scouters that we have an obligation to create those conditions for the Scout.  We get wrapped up in making Eagle Scouts that we forget what we are really there for.  Citizens of Character.
Now Eagle Scouts that hang out with Eagle Scouts is a good group to be associated with.. You will certainly be judged by that standard.
I tell ever Scout of our Troop that attains the rank of Eagle that up till now they had completed and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, from that day forward they must prove that they are worthy of being one.
That is the company that they keep.  It is the company we keep.  We are judged in that company.  I am happy with that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute, Values | Tags: , | 3 Comments

To do my Duty…

dutyDuring Scoutmaster conferences I often ask the Scout what the Scout Oath and Law mean to them.  In their own words what do the values and the promises found in the Oath and Law mean.
It seems that, by and large, there is a lack of knowledge in so far as defining what “Duty” means with our younger Scouts.  With our older Scouts too for that matter.
When I was a young Scout, right after we walked up hill both ways in the snow, it seems to me that we were taught in School, home, and Church what Duty meant and what our role was in keeping our promises and understanding what our duty was when it comes to our daily lives.  In Scouts we knew what our duty was when it came to being Reverent and Helpful.  We had an understanding about our Duty to our Country.
The other night I took the opportunity while talking with a young man during a Scoutmaster Conference to discuss what duty meant and what he needed to know about it.  The discussion started because the Scout didn’t understand why he said those words when he recited the Scout Oath.
I started with a basic definition so he could get at least an understanding of duty.  I first asked if he felt like he had a responsibility to be helpful.  He said yes.  I asked if he felt an obligation to be a good citizen.  He said yes, but really didn’t know what that really meant at his age.  I then asked him if he felt that he should be committed to doing his best, staying healthy, and doing well in school so he could have a better life.  All of those he felt that he was committed to.
I told him that duty is just that, a responsibility, a commitment, and an obligation to something.  In our case as Scouts those are found in our Scout Oath to God and our Country, to other people, and to ourselves.
Duty to me has always been a solid concept of how we live our lives.  As a soldier, I was bound to serving our Country and as a leader my duty was to the soldiers I led.
As a Father, my responsibility has always been to making me children good people.  I was told once that it is not my job as a Dad to raise good children, rather it was my duty to raise good adults.
As a Husband my obligation is to my wife.  To be her partner through thick and thin and to show her unconditional love.
As a Scout leader I am committed to men of Character.  Making Eagle Scouts is not my priority, teaching young men to grow up and be men that have Character, are good citizens, and have an understanding and habit of being fit.  That is what is important to me.  Why?  Because it is my Duty.
I shared these things to my young Scout.  It helped him gain a better understanding of why, in the Scout Oath, we use the term “Duty”.
Knowing that it make the Scout Law more important, it focuses the Scouts outlook toward God and Country and helping others.  It creates a want to be his best and take care of himself and those around him.
Some may say that I am reading into this, I say no… I am teaching it for what it is.  A promise.
If we don’t keep our promises we compromise our character, when we do that, we have nothing.  We need to understand that we have a Duty to be good Scouts, Scouts that live the Oath and Law in our daily lives.
It is the foundation of Scouting.  Baden Powell understood that when he started this.  These concepts have been passed from generation to generation.  William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt understood this and made it the hallmark of his writings on Scouting.  Scoutmasters for years have held true to these concepts in the teaching their Scouts and for whatever reason there has been a disconnect in our young men today.  It is my duty to change that.  I will do that one Scout at a time.
Do you feel that same obligation?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Cold Weather Camping pt. 2 Skills

Backpacking Tip of the WeekJust as a recap… Cold weather camping is a High Risk activity that is challenging, fun, and rewarding for those that venture into the cold weather environment.  This type of camping takes discipline, skills, and a great attitude.
Once leaders understand their role in accountability to those they lead, monitor behavior, and maintain the same “can do” attitude, they will provide fun programs in the cold weather camping environment.
In this post we are going to continue some of the discussion on training for camping in the cold, focusing on some of the skills that need to be developed to ensure a safe, fun outing.
Obviously what you wear and how you wear it is a skill in and of itself.  Knowing when to layer up or down takes skills and awareness of the conditions.
How all of this clothing gets packed require a skill set also.  Those skills need to be practiced and repeated.  One of the ways in which we develop that skill is simply to have the Scouts pack and repack.  They unpack, set up, and then repack in fair conditions.  The second evolution is practiced with gloves on.  The same skills worked over and over.
It is once the Scout can do these skills that we practice outside, in the cold.  You will see the mastery of this skill proven at that point.
Understanding that the simple skill of packing a backpack in the cold can have a huge impact on the fun of the outing.  A Scout that struggles with this skill will place himself in painful situation and prolong his time spent being cold.  Remember that it is easier to stay warm than to rewarm.  Packing is a skill that will help the Scout find success in the cold.  Nylon gets cold and as the Scout packs he is in contact with cold material that may also be icy or wet.  It is important to do this correctly the first time so he can quickly return to activity that keeps him warm.
The Scout needs to understand that there is an order to his packing so he can access those items that he will need throughout the day to stay warm, cook meals, and move in and out of layers.  He also needs to understand how his gear works so he can have quick set up and take down periods.
His tent should be set up and modified to meet the Scouts needs in the cold.  Guy lines added and tied to the tie out points.  Knots pre tied and line measured to specific lengths so there is not a lot of adjustments to be made.
A plan for anchoring his tent needs to be made and practiced.  I do not worry about snow stakes.  A stick will do or a regular tent stake placed in the snow sideways will hold the tent in place.  Additional guy lines may be needed in the event of heavy winds or snow.  Have those lines in place before you go.  A simple bowline tied at the end of the line will make for quick set up and take down.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

Digging a cold sump outside of the tent will pull cold air away from you as you sleep.  Cold air settles in low ground, creating that low space will keep you warmer at night.  You will also have a place to sit and put your boots on and fire up the stove to boil water for a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Cooking in the cold is another challenge that requires a few more skills than boiling water.
First the Scout needs to understand that eating is critical for staying warm in the cold weather environment.  Eating keeps you hydrated, it keeps you warm and comfortable, and it provides the nutrients to keep you going.  When you cook or boil water, it is a good way to treat that water and get fluids into your system.  Dehydration is the number one cold weather injury.  Scouts do not feel thirsty because it is cold.  It is when you feel thirsty that you are in the early stages of dehydration.  Cooking a meal and having a cold or warm drink with help prevent dehydration.
The gear used for cooking needs attention and skill to accomplish the cooking of your meal.  Liquid fuels such as white gas are very reliable in the cold.  Canister fuels work well also, but you need to keep the canister warm.  Throw it in your sleeping bag at night.  Keep it in a wool sock.  Use a small square of Closed Cell Foam pad to set the canister on as you cook.  This insulates and keeps the fuel warmer.
Why do I consider cooking a skill for the cold weather, well there is great emphasis in cooking in the cold.  You can not get away with quick trail meals.  You need to eat warmer meals to stay warm.  The average person burns about 2700 calories a day in the summer.  In the winter you need to be prepared to burn about 4000 a day.  Considering this, it takes skill in planning and preparing those meals, not to mention getting them into camp. Again, packing becomes a tremendous skill that pays off.
We teach the acronym C.O.L.D.  Clean, Overheating, Layers, and Dry.  This simple acronym is all about skills.
Staying clean, both your body and your clothing.  Dirty, oily clothing allows for water to seep as well as wind.  This will not protect you against the elements any longer.  You must stay as clean as you can.  A quick wipe down before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning will keep you warmer.  Keeping from Overheating will reduce sweat and therefore will keep you warmer.  Reducing the amount of moisture on the body will keep you from freezing.  We do this by wearing loose layers.  An effective layering system of clothing that will assist you in regulating your temperature keeping your comfortable and warm.  And finally staying dry.  Staying out of the snow when it is critical to stay dry.  This means changing after playing in the snow or digging a snow cave. Water is your enemy in the cold (unless you are drinking it).  Remember C.O.L.D. to stay Warm!
Before setting up your tent, pack the snow.  You are your buddy, walk with your snow shoes stamping down a platform for your tent.  It need not be too much bigger than the footprint of the tent.  Pack it so you no longer punch through when you walk.  This will provide a comfortable platform to sleep on and make it easier to set up your tent.
This also keeps you from possible tearing a hole in the floor of your tent should you step through a patch of unpacked snow.
It is counter intuitive to think about opening your tent, but make sure your tent is vented well.  This will reduce condensation keeping your tent and the rest of your gear dryer, thus keeping you warmer.
In part three, we will discuss sleeping in the cold.
What do you think?  Are you ready to get out there and camp in the cold…
Let me know what you think.  What winter camping skill do you think is the most important?

Have a Great Scouting Day!


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

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.

Have a Great Scouting Day!


Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leadership, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Map and Compass

mapcompassHere is the Scoutmaster Minute that I gave to our Troop the other night… Hope you find it useful.
As you travel on the trail to First Class Scout you find that there are many skills that you develop.  You learn them and eventually master them well enough to use them in your daily lives, while on camp outs and even teach them to other people.
Learning to use the Map and Compass is one such skill that takes practice and hands on use.  Once you master the use of the Map and Compass you will always know the direction you heading and will be able to find your way.
The Map shows you the terrain.  It lets you know where you are and where you are going.  It’s colors represent what is on the ground around you and the obstacles that you will face.  As you read the map, you see the hills and valleys that you will be trekking on.  It shows you where you can find water and other resources.  The map can tell you where the trail is easy or hard or give you options for a detour.  Using you map, you always know where you are and a clear path to where you want to go.
The Compass is the other tool that when used with your map gives you clear direction.  Knowing how to use the compass properly will allow you to set your course in the right direction.  It orients your map and gives you an accurate picture of what is ahead.  Without the compass, the map is just a picture of the section of earth you are traveling on.  Add the compass and you have accurate and steady direction.  The compass is always true.  It can set you on the path that will get you to your destination.
These two tools are important in your life.  Yes, we have GPS now and that is very helpful, but the GPS will never replace a good map and compass.
We have another map and compass that get us headed in the right direction and keep us on track to our destination.  The Scout Oath and Law.
The Oath is our map.  It gives us a clear picture of the person that we should be.  It has features much like the map.  Duty, Honor, and being Selfless are some of the marks we see in Oath.  If we use it, we will know the landscape of our lives and will be able to stay the course.
The Scout Law is our compass.  It is the steady set of values, unchanging, that when used with the Scout Oath will be our guide on the trail of life.
The Law points you in the direction of our values that make you the person that you are.  Like the compass it has a steadfast needle that ensures your heading is true.
Using the Oath and Law together, like the map and compass these tools will set your course to being a man of Character, a good Citizen, and promote in yourself and other fitness in your mind, body, and heart.
As we have traveled that trail to First Class, weather is is recent or in the past, or if you are just starting that journey, remember that the skills you develop today are there for you to use for the rest of your life.  Focus on these skills they will make a difference not only on a camp out but every day that you wake up and look in the mirror starting your Great Scouting Day!
Set your azimuth to achieve your goals and keep checking your map to stay on course.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Scout Law, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Troop Leadership Corps

tlcpatchFrom 1972 to 1989 the Boy Scouts of America had a program called the Troop Leadership Corps.  This program was designed for Scouts 14-16 to serve their Troop in leadership roles.  They were not a member of a Patrol within the Troop, but held direct leadership within the Troop.  They served as guides for new Scout Patrols, they served in traditional leadership roles and they were charged with being skills instructors and role models to the Troop.
In 1989, this program was replaced with the Venture Patrol within traditional Troops.  At this point the older Scouts now became a patrol and Troop positions of leadership were created to fill the void.  The Instructor and Troop Guide Positions were created and added to the leadership roll of offices.
Since 1989 many Troops however have held on the Troop Leadership Corps (TLC) as a foundation of leadership in the Troop.  It is also a great way to maintain older Scouts keeping them active in the Troop and engaged with the younger Scouts.
Our Troop is now among them.  We are rebuilding the Troop Leadership Corp, with our own spin on it.  during the heyday of the TLC the Scouts that made up the Corps left their patrols and entered the group of leaders to form a patrol.  In our situation the Scouts will remain a part of their Patrol.  The TLC will be made up of those Scouts that demonstrate leadership and leadership potential.  They will be Scouts that buy into our leadership philosophy and are willing to step up and lead.
This is an incentive program.  The Scouts that choose to belong to the Troop Leadership Corps will have high adventure opportunities and time set aside for them to be teenagers.  We have a group of Scouts that are taking the lead on this.  They are motivated and willing to lead.  They all believe in our core values and leadership philosophy and want to see the Troop become more successful.
We are doing this to keep the older Scouts engaged and maintain them longer as members of the Troop.
Here are the 5 leadership principles (philosophy) that we maintain in the Troop.  It is these 5 principles that the Troop Leadership Corp will center their leadership on.  It is these 5 principles that they will use to teach and coach the troop to success.
1.  Never Stop Learning, Be a life Long learner.
2.  Focus on the Little things.  Focusing on the little things make the big things happen.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.
4.  Communicate Effectively.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.
When we do these 5 things the Troop works like a well oiled machine.  Leadership is not a chore, and everyone finds success.
So we are bringing back the Troop Leadership Corps.  We will report back on how it is going.
Does your Troop use the Troop Leadership Corp model?  How is that going for you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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