Leave no trace

Backpack cooking – Follow up

I received an email the other day asking some questions about the backpacking video that I recently put up on the blog.  They are great questions and so I thought I’d share the email and answers here.
Question:  What sort of Food Bag do you use? Is it insulated? Does that keep frozen foods cool enough to prevent bacterial growth over a summer weekend?
The food bag that I use is the Sea to Summit Trash Dry sack.  It is a 10 liter dry bag.  Total water proof and more importantly reduces the oders.  I repackage all my food into heavy-duty zip lock bags and then it all goes in the “inner bag” of the food bag.  It is not insulated.  In so far as frozen foods.  The foods that are frozen I put in the freezer and keep it there until Friday when we leave.  Typically it will stay cold and thaw in time for me to cook it.  I have never had a problem with bacterial growth.  The food stays cold enough.  Having said that though.. I live in Oregon.. and our temps don’t get to high until August.  I have used cold streams to store the food in also when I think there is a need to keep things cold.  Our water is never warm.  That is another nice feature of the bag.  It can be placed in water and everything stays dry.  I love the hooks on the side.  Makes it easy to hang.  This bag is endorsed by the Leave No Trace Organization.

Question:  Was that a metal spork you were using to stir up the meal? I had always been taught that metal utensils will damage the anti-stick coating in pots. I could see using a plastic spork, but I wanted your opinion if you thought this was important.
Yes that is a metal (Titanium) spork.  It is the REI Ti ware spork.  I have used that spork for years now.  And yes it will scratch the surface of a non stick pot if you are not careful.  I would not recommend this to Scouts that do not care for their gear, but it works for me.  I think it is worth teaching the Scouts to be careful.. even plastic utensils will begin to scratch if not careful.  I have an ASM that cringes every time I do that.. but my pots seem to not be worse for the wear.

Question:  What sort of lid lifter do you recommend for Scouts?  I have looked for something like this to purchase, but have not been able to find anything under a “lid lifter” search. 
I actually have an MSR pot lifter that came with the pot set.  Since I started using the Imusa mug to do most of my cooking however it have been dropped from the packing list.  Here are some of the types of lifters that I would suggest for the Scouts.  LINK.  Most if not all of our out fitters locally have them for purchase.  They range from about $4 to $15 dollars depending on the brand.  I have gotten so used to using the rag with the Imusa mug that it has become routine.  But pot lifters are a great idea.

Question:  What sort of coffee do you prefer? I take it you must bring along the instant packets if they fit in that little Nalgene bottle.
I have been using Maxwell house instant coffee lately.  I transfer it all into that Nalgene bottle so I only have to fill it about every 4 camp outs.  I like the Starbucks Via coffee also, but the Maxwell House International Cafe stuff is cheaper and tasty.  I don’t have to add anything also.  As much as you could argue that there is nothing better than fresh brewed coffee.. when I can roll over in the hammock and fire up my stove, boil water, and in minutes have some good tasting coffee.. I will take it.  Besides, when backpacking, sometimes less is better and a Nalgene full of flavor and a little pick me up, well, that’s all I need.  I think talking about coffee is like discussing religion or politics… everyone has an opinion.  I generally use the backpacker philosophy of “Hike your own Hike” when it comes to coffee.  everyone’s mileage will vary and everyone have their own taste.  As with all my gear, it is what I am comfortable carrying and using, I do not proclaim that how I do it is the best, but it all works for me.  Having said that though.. It is how I teach our Scouts, how they adopt it and use it is up to them.
I have often said that I am not a big fan of the Jet Boil.. and yet many of the Scouts of my Troop use it.. They Hike their own Hike.  We always reinforce this idea.  “Here are some ways to do it, some gear to do it with, and recommended skills that will help… now find your style, gear, and routine and hike your own hike”.

I hope this helps.  Sometimes I look back and see that I put something out… and of course it makes perfect sense to me.. it’s my stuff.   Glad you asked the questions.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills | 1 Comment

…And Conservation Minded

Last weekend I sat down with a rather large group of brand new Scouts.  Most of them came from the ranks of Cub Scouts, but some had not and so getting into the habit of saying oaths and pledges for the most part is something to get used to.  We pledge to do our best, we say the Scout Oath and Law, and we learn and pledge to be good stewards with the principles of leave no trace and the Outdoor code.
Now, the fellows that had earned their Arrow of light did a real nice job with the Oath and Law, new others picked it up alright, but they all struggled with the Outdoor code.
Some told me that they never heard of it, while others said that they just did not spend time learning it.  That’s ok I told them, in Boy Scouts not only will you learn it, but you will live it.
It’s a simple pledge, that I fear to many Scouts and Scouters take either lightly or not at all.  I have heard Scoutmasters that say, we have leave no trace, why do we need the Outdoor code.
Well for starters, its simple and easy to learn.  IF it is simple and easy to learn, it’s more than likely something the Scouts will use.
I teach the Scouts the 4 C’s.  Careful with fire, Clean in my outdoor manners, Considerate of others, and Conservation minded.
OK.. Careful with fire.. we all get that.  Clean.. yeah, we know to pick up after ourselves and leave it better than we find it, Considerate of others… that can be a challenge sometimes, but we know when quiet time is, and we know how to camp in smaller groups etc.  But Conservation minded?  This is a concept that many of the young men did not seem to grab ahold of.  They know about the environment, after all, that’s all they hear about in the Schools and on TV.  How we are running out of water, there are no more trees, and that we are all going to fry because of global warming.. errr.. climate change.
Well that is a real hard sell here in Oregon.. lots of trees, plenty of water, and it seems that the temps are never going to rise.  Anyway… we all know about being Environmentally aware, so what is with this conservation minded thing?
I consider myself a conservationist.  I believe that the outdoors is there for us to enjoy… but we need to take care of it.  I believe in being a good steward of the land and our resources.  Like the loggers here in Oregon and around the US.. for every tree they cut down they plant 11 more.  This is good stewardship.  Instead of blazing trails, we stay on established trails and we do not create new trails by cutting through switch backs.  We stay out of sensitive growth areas, we do not harm the land with fires when we don’t need them, we pack it in and pack it out.  We take fewer cars on outings.  Yeah, we fill every seatbelt before we add a car to the list, does this mean that some adult do not get to go.. sometimes, but it is all apart of how we can do our share to be conservation minded.
And then there is the service.  We repair trails, we clean up our nature area, we learn about the land we camp in and how we impact it.  Conserving what we have and not wasting our land, water, and other natural resources is being conservation minded.
It is when I sit with the new Scouts that I have an opportunity to share the BSA’s view point on this and teach them the outdoor code.  It is simple and easy to use.  I learn alot about them, and they learn alot about why we pledge the things we pledge.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Citizenship, Ideals, Leave no trace, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Service, Skills, training, Values | Leave a comment

Devils Half Acre

Here is a short video of our Troops last adventure.  We loaded up and headed to the intersection of the Historic Barlow Trail and the PCT.  From there we packed up the Pulk Sleds and hiked down to Devils Half Acre and set up camp.  Saturday Morning we woke to fresh snow and lots of it.  We strapped on the snow shoes and took a nice day hike out to Grindstone camp ground.  Sunday Morning, we again woke to new fallen snow, ate breakfast, packed and hiked back to the trail head.  Then it was off to Joes Donuts, the last trip for the year to the donut shop.
The audio on the video got a little messed up, so after the music turn it up, then turn it back down when we start hiking out on Sunday..
Hope you enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Winter Camping | 2 Comments

Modeling the Expected Behavior

This weekend, our Troop conducted Junior Leader Training.  Because we have so many young Scouts, we decided to do things a little different this year.  This year, wanted to ensure that the leaders clearly understood what was to be expected as a leader.  Instead of the typical classroom environment, we took the training out doors where we do the leading.  An over night camping experience in which the Scouts attending the training committed to doing everything right.  The committment of the Scouts that arrived on Friday evening at Camp Discovery was apparent from the word go.
We built a camp fire and pulled our chairs up close.  The theme for the weekend was Modeling the Expected Behavior.  What that means to the Scouts of our Troop is that as leaders they need to set the very best example that they can.  As examples they model the behaviors that we expect to see from the rest of the Troop.
So this weekend, the leaders learned about the Teaching EDGE, Leading EDGE, Ethical decision-making, Communicating effectively, and Learning to teach.  The leaders shared expectations and demonstrated to one another what “Right looks like”.  This morning after teaching one another how to properly pack gear, leave no trace, and cook a meal, they spent some time on the C.O.P.E course working on team development.
At the end of the training it was time for reflection and reinforcing the theme of the weekend.  Modeling the Expected Behavior.
This theme will be the driving force for the rest of the year.  It is the hope of those that attended the training that they will affect a positive change in the Troop.  They all understand that as they go, so will the rest of the Troop.

In my opinion this was the best Junior Leader Training session I have seen our Troop do.  There was a clear understanding at the end of the training and I too feel that the Troop will better for it.  With so many young Scouts in the Troop and more coming at the end of the month, Scouts that are willing to take responsibility and be the very best example by modeling the expected behavior, will be have a lasting impact on our unit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Character, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Scouts, Skills, teamwork, Values | 2 Comments

LNT v. The Outdoor Code

Last night I sat with a couple Scouts, they just crossed over on Friday and were having their Scoutmaster Conference for their Scout Badge.  I love this first conference, it is a great way to learn about the new Scout and a little about where he comes from.  What amazes me is how open they are in that first conference.  They always have questions and for the most part, they are anxious to get to Eagle.
Last night as one of these young men recited the Outdoor Code, he stopped and asked if he could ask a question.  I said sure… so he asked, “Why do we need the Outdoor Code when you make us know the Leave No Trace stuff?”  I thought for a minute and told him that I would have to get back to him with a good answer.
I wanted to give him the pat answer of how the Outdoor Code is in the book and is a requirement, but then I thought that Leave No Trace is also in the book and a Second Class Requirement.  So that one doesn’t work.  So I was thinking, why do we need both.
Lets review.
The Outdoor Code:
As an American, I will do my best to -
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.
Leave No Trace Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Respect Wildlife
Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The LNT program is obviously more in depth and covers every type of camping… The Outdoor Code is more of a pledge or promise.
The LNT program are not just rules, but part of the whole outdoor program.  It is a skill set and an attitude.
The Outdoor Code is the promise that we make to live as a steward of the land.
I still do not have a great answer.  I suppose that in the final analysis if I had a vote, I would just go with the Leave No Trace program.  The Outdoor code, while traditional and easy to remember does very little with our Scouts to develop the attitude of stewardship and responsibility that is required for us in the wilderness and front country alike.
So I think when it comes down to giving this Scout and answer next Monday, its going to be a program vs. a code and how we use it to make a difference and protect our land.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Ideals, Leave no trace, respect, Scoutmaster conference, Skills, Values | 2 Comments

Leave No Trace

I am a big advocate of the Leave No Trace program.  We spend a great deal of time in our Troop teaching and coaching the Leave No Trace principles and and the Outdoor ethic.
I stumbled on this video from our friends at the National Park Service and thought I would share.
This video shows a great perspective on why we need Leave No Trace.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leave no trace | Leave a comment

Backpacking- Planning and preparing

Every time we go out into the woods for an outing with our scouts we should expect that some planning and preparation has occurred.  In a Backpacking style troop this is an absolute must.
You are walking away from your cars and comfort items, you are sustaining on what you bring on your back, you are relying on map and compass or at least familiarity with the trail system you are trekking on, you need to have the skills to collect and treat water, build small fires, and pack your pack.  You need to understand the usage of the items you take with you and try to make each item doe multiple tasks.
So planning and preparing yourself (and your Scouts) for a backpacking adventure is extremely important.  As our troop prepares for a trip to Philmont next year, we are refining our skills now.  It helps that each camp out we use the Backpacking style of camping and test those skills often.
So start with the basics, gear, physical conditioning, skills, and attitudes.
Gear is an important part of planning and preparing.  What kind of gear to meet the conditions, terrain, weather, and skill level of the group.  How big is group and what will be they be doing when they get to their destination.
Individual gear pretty much starts with the backpack.  Proper fitting is important and the right style of pack based on skill level, body type, and load carried needs to be considered.
Stoves, cook kits, mess kits, and personal items need to be shaken down and evaluated based on the needs of the group and individual.  We will go into those item in detail in a later post.
Shelter is another consideration that needs to be carefully thought out.  Notice I did not say tent.  I said shelter.  Technology and design have met with the outdoors to provide lightweight alternatives to tenting.  Hammock camping is quickly becoming popular in the backpacking community as well as tarp and bivy camping.  Light weight tarps and bivy sacks provide excellent options for shelter.  They are lighter, easier to set up, and allow the camper more options for set up configurations and places to camp.  No longer are you restricted to 10×10 platform or level ground when using most tarps and hammocks.  Philmont has still not got on board with the LNT aspects of Hammocks, but I am sure that in the future they will come around.
I will get into shelter more down the road also.
Physical conditioning is a major part of the backpacking experience.  Each individual of the crew must be able to shoulder his load and when needed take a part of the groups gear.  Good conditioning reduces the chance of minor injury and fatigue.  Being in good shape also allows you to enjoy the trip a lot more.  instead of walking with your head down and slugging your way to the camp site, you will be able to walk head up and see the trail.  You will have a more enjoyable time in camp also.  Being less tired when you arrive, you can spend more time hanging out and having fun instead of a quick trip to the sleeping bag.
Skills and attitudes are a topic for another post as they need some attention.  Lets leave it here for now.  Every backpacker must possess the skills needed to sustain in the wilderness.  You can not rely on your fellow hikers for everything and at some point you will be counted on by the rest of the crew.
Ok.. look for more on this in future posts..
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Leave no trace, planning, Skills | 2 Comments

The BigFoot Challenge

As we move into the Fall season Scout Troops everywhere are packing into the woods for great adventures.  Winter will soon be here and so Fall is a great time to reinforce the Leave No Trace Principles with the Scouts (and Adults) of your unit.
No matter what style of camping your Troop does the principles of Leave No Trace apply.
LNT.org is a great resource for you if you are just learning Leave No Trace or just need to brush up or see whats going on in the organization.
One of the cool things that LNT.org has is the Bigfoot Challenge.  Check it out using the link.
The idea of the program is reducing your footprint.
Last year at the National Jamboree I made a commitment to do the Bigfoot challenge and have been teaching, coaching, and mentoring our Scouts to Leave No Trace.  Part of our challenge was to get a Leave No Trace Trainer in the Troop… yes.. the youth position.  The BSA has added a lot of Enhancements to its Leave No Trace Program and every unit should be taking advantage of it.
So back to the Bigfoot challenge…  The challenge simply asks that we do simple acts of environmental activism.. now this does no mean that you have to wear tie die or sandles.. but it does mean, in a Scouting context, that we act responsibly in the outdoors and are good stewards of our environment, particularly the outdoors that we enjoy when we go camping.
Simple little things like teaching our Scouts how to better plan and prepare to reduce the amount of trace we take out into the woods, using the “Bearmuda” triangle when setting up camp to reduce impact and animal issues, better ways to clean up dishes and cookware, using the patrol method to reduce to impact of large groups.
The Bigfoot Challenge also offers the change to win prizes.. and wait for it… Yes there is a patch available at the LNT.org website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, respect, Skills, training, Values | Leave a comment

Skinned knees and bee stings

Now you all know that cliché’s drive me a little nuts and I really hate most sayings like.. “Boys will be boys”.. but in this case I want to write about boys not being able to be boys.
I am no expert in all things boy, but I know what right looks like.  I will not say that the my childhood represents the “Good ‘Ol days” either.. they were fun times and days that shaped the person I am today… but to say that they were better than any other time would be disingenuous.
And I am not going to jump right on the band wagon and say that all of our boys are growing up to soft.. well, I am sort of saying that and I agree with many of the popular arguments for the reasons why.
This last Saturday I was trapped in a car full of teen agers.  In that car was one young man coming into his Freshman year at our High School, he is also a Scout in my Troop.  Everyone else in the car plays a sport or two at the High School, so I asked if he was going to play Football this year.  His answer was” no.. are you kidding me!  I am going to play water polo.”  That’s great I said, water polo is a pretty tough sport.  I know this young man is a strong swimmer and he will do well.
He asked why I asked about Football.  Well, I told him it doesn’t really matter what sport you play, you should just play a sport in High School.
Sports in High School expand your social circles, they instill in the student athlete a pride in their school and in their fellow class mates.  It breaks down barriers between upper and lower classmen, it ensures that good grades are maintained, and finally it keeps the young person physically fit.  I told the young man that to play football, you don’t really have to be big and strong, you just need to be tough.  You need to be able to hit and take a hit.. the rest can be coached.
My point to him was that he should never shy away from something because he thinks its to hard.
I truly believe that every student should play a sport.  No matter what that sport is, Tennis, Rugby, Volleyball.. what ever, there are so many choices out there and they are all good.
Then last night at our Troop meeting a group of parents and I were talking about how kids are raised these days in that to a certain degree (and those degrees vary) they are over protected.  And to me this is terrible.  Now don’t get me wrong.. I don’t want anything to happen to my three kids, but at the same time a skinned knee is not going to kill them if they are out there playing football in the drive way.  We were joking about bee stings on camp outs one night.. it seemed that whenever our Troop found bees I would always get stung. 
We were backpacking one weekend up to a lake.  One of the Scouts disturbed a bee hive and the route was one.  Scouts took off running in every direction, screaming and shedding gear.  One Scout just fell to his belly and started crying as he got stung on the ankle.  I ran up to him and told him he needed to get out of there.. 9 stings later on me.. I grabbed the young man by the backpack, lifted him and forced him up the trail and out of the way of the stinging bees.  We all reached the lake and counted our stings.. then started laughing about how funny so in so was as he ran or how so in so was throwing his gear all over the place.  It made for a great laugh.  Having said that I know who the Scouts are that have bee sting reactions and none were effected.  The point is, a bee sting generally is not going to kill you and certainly not a reason to not play!  I think in total now my Troop has got me stung about 25 times.
I say all of this because of the reactions that we get from parents when we share the stories… “Oh my goodness.. you can’t get my little precious hurt” and we would never place a Scout in harms way, we are going to let them get dirty, skinned knees, and a few bee stings.  We are going to let them challenge themselves by getting out on the edge and pushing the limits a bit.
We always talk about getting out of our comfort zones.. then taking one more step.  I think that sums up my child hood a bit.
Our curfew was when the street lights came on.  We rode our bikes everywhere and did everything.  We played in the woods, we ran in the fields, and we threw mud clots at each other.  No one really got hurt and we all turned out ok.  We all played sports and did Scouting and we pushed each other to exceed our limits.  We did not know that at the time, but a good old fashioned dare was enough to make you jump off the swing set or ride your bike into a lake.
Boys need to be able to be boys.  They were designed to be rough and tumble and they were built with knees just waiting to be skinned.
I am not sure where this is all going, but it was a great topic last night at our Troop meeting while the Scouts were doing what ever they were doing.  I believe it was a class on Leave no Trace and then a game of capture the flag.

GO PLAY!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Just fun, Leave no trace, Methods, Patrol Method, Risk Management | Leave a comment

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