Winter Camping

LNT for Everyone

I was up at my local Ranger station up in Sandy to buy new maps of the Mt. Hood area.  While I was up there I got into a great discussion with one of the Rangers about Scouts, nope it JeffPionnerdidn’t have anything to do with policy changes it was about Leave No Trace.
The Ranger asked how much camping our Troop does up on Mt. Hood and in the wilderness areas up there.  I shared with him some of the great treks we have taken and all of the places that we frequent up on the mountain and the surrounding wilderness.  He told me that was great, but he was concerned.
I asked him what his concerns were and he quickly stated that “Typically he has trouble with Scout Troops camping up on Hood”.  I asked him how so.  The Ranger went on to explain the noise, the trash left, and the fact that they don’t practice leave no trace.  I told him that I was sorry to hear that and assured him that our Troop was not like that at all.  He went on to explain that it was not backpackers he was concerned about.. it was the car campers.  Troops that go up to the big camp grounds and pull in and camp.  “They are terrible in most cases” he said.
Now, I am not sharing this to promote backpacking, nor am I pointing the finger at those of you that do the car camping thing… I am sharing this because when we as Scouts do not practice Leave no trace.. it hurts all of us.  To this Ranger, pretty much all Scout units are the same.  And we have a bad reputation within their office.
Leave no trace is for all of us.  There are Front Country methods for those of you that car camp and there are back country methods for those of us that backpack.  USE THEM.  They need to be taught and practiced in every unit or we will no longer be welcomed in the areas we like to camp.
I am sure that this is not an isolated issue here.  I have seen units at Summer camp that drive me nuts the way they act and treat our out doors.  I blame the adults that allow it and fail to teach Leave no trace to their Scouts.  Yep.. I said blame.  If the shoe fits.. slip it on.. but remember that Leave no trace is for everyone.
Teach it.. Practice it… don’t screw it up for the rest of us.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leave no trace, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, Winter Camping | 5 Comments

Sunday Mornin’ Coffee 1-27

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

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

Gear Glorious Gear part 1

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

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

Modeling Expected Behavior

expectmoreI often preach about how I expect more out of our young men, that nothing in life will be easy, and that there are no participation ribbons just for showing up in life.  When it comes to leadership, the Scouts in our Troop hear it over and over again that we all need to “Model Expected Behavior” and they all  should at least have an understanding of what that means. For the Scouts of our Troop that means that good is not good enough.  It means that we do things right, we learn from mistakes, and we hold one another to a higher standard.
So what does that mean?  Is is arrogant of us to act that way?  Well, to the outsider looking in, yep.. but for us we look at it this way.  The world around us is happy with mediocre leadership, results, and standards of living.  I’m not ok with that when it comes to our Scouts.
We are not a merit badge mill nor are we an Eagle factory.  We do not measure success in the amount of Scouts that earned awards or rank each year.  We measure success in the way our Scouts act.  We see direct results in watching older Scouts teach younger Scouts and hold each other accountable.  We measure our success in growth and sustained attendance.  Is our Troop for everyone.. nah.. but no troop is.  Even though we all work toward the Aims of Scouting, our programs are different in their delivery.  I could not be in a Troop that had more adult involvement than Scouts.  I could not be a unit that did merit badge classes each week.  I could not be in a Troop that produces Eagle Scouts that can not do the basics.  I could not be apart of a Troop that did not seek adventure and test the limits.
This weekend, our Troop camped at a local Scout camp.  There were not a lot of miles walked and the weather was great.  It got real cold, and that tested some of the boys in the troop.  Some Scouts pushed their boundaries by shooting Shot guns for the first time, while other Scouts increased their knowledge and leadership skills at Junior Leader Training.  A few Scouts were taken out of their comfort zones as they taught the Junior Leader Training.  No matter what level of the Scout there was challenge enough for everyone.
Our Junior Leader Training follows the National program, but we tend to focus heavily on communication skills, team development, Conflict resolution, and expectations of leaders.
We start the session with a talk about Modeling Expected Behavior and then everything that follows in the course of training maintains that theme.  We expect our Scouts to be and act the best.  Good is never good enough.  The team deserves that attitude from everyone.  If they all act their best.. they become the best.  A high performance team.
Now you may ask.. aren’t you expecting too much from these young men.  Nope.  If I don’t who will?  We see too much “getting by” in our world and I will not be party to it.  Do we exclude young men when we expect more from them?  NO.. we expect more and they give more… like it or not.. That I don’t care about.  Life is going to expect a lot from them.  Why treat them with kiddy gloves now.
Does this mean we are hard ass’s?  Not at all.  We stay within the Scout Oath and Law.  Teaching in a friendly, fun, challenging atmosphere.  But when things are not right, a leader (adult or youth) simply corrects the issue and we move on.  Un tied shoes, un tucked shirts, gear looking like a yard sale, bad attitudes, improper set up or use of gear, not living the vlaues of the Scout Oath and Law.  These are things that other Scout leaders just allow.  Kids will be kids… yeah.. but bad habits last forever.  Good attitudes, skills, and behavior does to and gets them a lot farther in life.
So modeling expected behavior is a cultural thing.  We don’t march, we don’t yell.. yelling is for ineffective bad leaders.. we just teach, coach, train, and mentor.. oh and we model expected behavior.  Adults don’t get a free pass on bad behavior either.  We are expected to model what we expect.
The proof is in the pudding.  Our Troop grows annually.  We lose Scouts too, and that’s ok, maybe we are not the fit for them.  Maybe XBox and lower expectations is what they are looking for in life.  And that’s ok.. just not in our Troop.
This morning a Scout was standing under a shelter pouting.  His hands were cold, after all, it was 24 degrees outside.  His Patrol leader had just instructed him to get his gloves on.  The Scout could not find them.  So the Patrol leader and the Scout went to his pack and dumped it out.  There were the gloves.  I then saw the Scout standing there not assisting with his Patrol in breaking camp and wrapping up the clean up.  I called him over to where I was standing watching.  I asked him if he was ok.  Yeah.. he said, but I’m cold.  I suggested that if he would get moving he would warm up.  If he would help his Patrol mates out.. he would start to feel a bit warmer.  I asked him why he was pouting earlier and he told me that his hands were cold.  I asked him what he did about it… fully knowing what had happened.  He said that he found his gloves and put them on.  Then I had him recite the Scout Law to me.  And asked to him to reflect on the meaning of being Trustworthy.  We talked a bit about making choices and how he was either going to develop good habits and skills, or he would develop bad ones.  The choice was his, not mine, the Patrol leaders, or his parents.  He would have to make a choice which path he wanted to take.  He turned and walked back to his patrol and pitched in.  You see, if we let it go, it won’t change.  If we expect little, that is what we get.  So we chose to expect more.  And not surprisingly we get more.
When our Youth leaders set good examples and model the behavior that we want out of our Troop.. that is what we get.
There is nothing wrong with winning and losing.  We can learn from both.  There is everything wrong with not learning and not trying to learn, to push, and to find success.
I had a talk with a Scoutmaster about this a while ago.  He said that “I bet they all march around and it’s all yes sir this and no sir that..”  On the contrary.. In fact the Scouts in my Troop call me Jerry and we call them by their names.  There is no marching, yelling, or military like behavior.. just a lot of fun and development.  It is an environment that is comfortable, friendly, and leaves them wanting to come back.
At the end of each camp out we close with lessons learned, Start, Stop, and Continue.  Today the Senior Patrol leader led the discussion with whole troop.  As the next two camp outs will be up on the mountain, this camp out was a great opportunity to learn and get ready for the up coming outings.  He had each Scout share one thing that needs to improve in the next 3 weeks.  I listened as the Scouts really gave some thought to their answers.  It was in some of the more experienced Scouts answers that I realized that they got it.. they are modeling expected behavior.  They were critical of themselves and how they prepared for this camp out.  The next one will be that much more successful.
Expect more.. get more.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Camping, Citizenship, comments, Competition, gear, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee 1-20

This weekend our Troop had a camp out.  During the camp out we conducted Troop Junior Leader Training and did some Shot Gun Shooting.  We even had some time to squeeze in some map and compass work with some of the newer Scouts.  It was an action packed weekend and I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Junior Leaders that ran the training.  They did a real great job.  I will more to say about that in a later post.
Sunday morning brought chilly temps (23 degrees) and a fun time with the Assistant Scoutmasters as we got up and got going.  This is the Sunday Mornin’ Coffee video for this week.  Featuring the Assistant Scoutmasters of Troop 664.  A great group of guys.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anchoring your Tent

Here is a video I shot a while back.  The first attempt at anchoring in the video may seem not to have worked… but in the interest of time we did not allow it ‘set up’.  A regular or snow stake will stay once snow is packed and allowed to bond to the stake.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

Be Prepared.. Please listen

In Oregon, when you approach a trail head that is a well used and highly frequented trail, there are signs that alert you of types of plants and animals in the area.  The signs remind you that you need to be prepared for the hike you are about to take.  Typically there is a map of the trail with significant landmarks and vistas pointed out.  These signs remind you to have the appropriate gear for the hike and in some cases ask that you register at the Kiosk.  In every case they let you know where you are and gives you information that assist you in having a great hike and not a terrible experience.  Oregon wants people to get out and enjoy this wonderful land we have, but it wants you to do it responsibly.
Yesterday a couple of ladies went for a winter stroll out in the Columbia Gorge and got lost or at least disoriented enough that they had to be “rescued”.  The Gorge is a wonderful place to hike, but like most places, the Gorge takes on new or at least different challenges in the winter.  Just getting there sometimes can be an adventure.  So if you are going to hike in the Gorge (or anywhere) in the winter.. You had better BE PREPARED.  These gals  wandered off picking up the trail and heading up to Nesmith Point.   The hike into Nesmith Point is challenging enough in the summer, but that is the hike they chose.  Now, it is fair to say that according to the News wire press release, “Both hikers have Intermediate experience climbing school training and Mountaineering First Aid and were prepared for the elements.”
The release goes on in the next update to state “The hiker’s actions and being prepared for the elements greatly assisted in their smooth and safe rescue from Nesmith Point.”  So all is well that ends well.  But the initial report stated that “the husband of one of the hikers reported he received a call from his wife who told him they were at the top of Nesmith Point and had lost the trail at some point while they were hiking.  Their footprints were covered with snow and they could not track their way back down or see the trail.”
I suppose the moral of the story is that it can and will happen to anyone.  So BE PREPARED.  I am making an assumption here that neither had a map or compass.. the reason I say that is because I have hiked that area and having a map and compass could have easily put them in the right direction and regardless of  snow and not finding the trail, they could have made their way back.  But I don’t want to beat up on them, I just want people to listen… I want our Scouts to listen and use these cases as an example of why we want them to be prepared.  It is fortunate that these two ladies were somewhat prepared and had the right attitude to make it out (with the help of SAR).
Baden Powell tells us to Be Prepared for any old thing.  When the signs remind and warn, take heed.  When the skills, attitudes, and gear is right, then proceed.  But always be prepared.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, comments, High Adventure, Motto, planning, Risk Management, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cottage Industries

phoenixOne of the best parts of heading to the beach here in Oregon is walking through the ‘Mom and Pop’ shops.  Little art galleries,  home-made crafts and unique items flavored for the coast.  It doesnt matter if it’s the beach or the mountain, Central Oregon, or the little town I live in, you are sure to find that store that just has that touch that makes you feel at home.
Cottage Industries have long been a tradition in America.  The “Mom and Pop” shop whether it is a local hardware store or nick nacks people are out there and have talent and skill and have turned those talents and skills into a business.  Often times these cottage industries are over looked unless you are in a touristy section of an attraction destination, like the coast.
The internet has become a wonderful place to see the American cottage industry at it’s finest.  You can buy and sell almost anything on the internet and if you are one of those that have the skill and talent and know how… well your cottage store can do well… once again though, most of these internet cottage outlets are also overlooked by people afraid to shop online or the limited advertising inherent in the internet.
Lately I have been turned on to a hand full of great cottage industry outlets on the net.  Specific to the world of backpacking and in particular hammock camping.  And by the nature of most hammock campers.. lighter weight camping.
What I have found is that the customer service is 100% better than what you get in the big ‘chain’ stores and while I may pay just a tad bit more, the quality is second to none.
Two years ago I bought my hammock from a fellow in Boulder Colorado.  He has made his niche in the internet cottage industry with a company called Warbonnet Outdoors.  They handcraft a number of hammocks, tarps, top and bottom quilts, and other accessories for hammock camping.  The guys name is Brandon, and he actually answers the phone when you call with a question.
After my purchase from Warbonnet, I started looking into other backpacking business’s on the net.  I came across a great site of multiple cottage industry stores that specialize in backpacking.  Outdoor Trail gear.com is the host to a couple really neat online stores.  There is a guy named Dutch there that sells ultra lightweight hammock and tarp suspension hardware and accessories.  Then there is Butt in a sling, they make light weight hammocks and accessories.  If you are looking for a good alcohol stove, Smokeeatter908 has machine tooled stoves that really do the job.  He also has cook gear for the backpacker looking to shave weight.
Jacks R Better is an online store for shelter, quilts, and other essentials.  They are a great company started by two retired Army guys… so they must be good.
If you are really looking for the ultimate weight savings you need to visit zpacks.com.  They are there to help you shave grams from your pack and they do it with high quality, state of the art, super light materials.
I just got an order in from them today and I can’t wait to see the weight savings in my pack.  Once again when you are looking for quality craftsmanship and outstanding customer service these online stores are the place to shop.
Recently I placed an order for an underquilt for my hammock.  I went to a site called Hammockgear.com.  I had some questions so I called the phone number listed on the web site.   A man named Adam answered the phone.  Him and his wife own, operate, sew, take orders, raise kids, answer the phones, emails, and maintain the web site.  And they turn out one of the leading quilts in the industry.  Adam spent about a 1/2 hour on the phone with me, first we talked a bit about my order, then we spent the rest of the time talking about backpacking in the Northwest.  I really felt great about spending my money with him.
I guess the point of all of this is like I discussed in yesterday’s post on Scouting Blogs.  There are people out there with talent, skill, and passion for what they do and we need to support them.
My need to seek information, skills, and gear for backpacking has led me to the cottage industries on the internet where I am finding great products and outstanding people who provide customer service.  I could just head to the nearest REI and hope they have what I want, or I can get exactly what I want from people the make it, test it, use it, and sell it.
Find your niche and see if there is an online resource for it by way of a cottage store.. the online ‘Mom and Pop’ shop.
I am sure you will find that they will not disappoint.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

Winter Camping Leadership Tool box

***  EDIT NOTE:  This post was scheduled for today (12-14-12).  I contemplated “pulling it” in light of the tragic events that have shaken us in Connecticut.  Our hearts go out to those families.  The reason I did not “pull” this post is simply this..  We must go on.  I am sorry about the devastating events of today, but as our thoughts and prayers flow to those victims, we can not live in fear and can not let the actions of a few dictate how we live our lives.
I am sorry if this is ‘too soon’.. but this coming Monday our Troop will still meet and we will be getting ready for not only Winter Camping, but Troop Junior Leader Training and we will go on.
God Bless. *** 

SAM_0024Winter camping is like no other camping.  It requires skills, smarts, and the right attitude. It also requires strong leadership.  Leaders that accept responsibility and leaders that understand that the group comes before the individual.  In my Troop Training for winter camping is a significant part of the process.  We make certain rules on participation in winter camping events such as; You must participate in the 4 meetings that lead up to the camp out.  This way you get all the necessary training.  This is important as your buddy is counting on you to be there, understand what he is looking for, and is a part of the team when it comes to the in camp routines that are unique to winter camping.
A lack of discipline will also get a Scout “Uninvited” to a winter outing.  There is no room for a lack of discipline when it comes to camping in cold weather and high risk activities.
Part of the training that our Scouts receive are from the older Scouts.  They are given the training and the tools to ensure that proper training is being conducted.  I have given them the following to add to their Leadership Tool box.  The following is directed at the Leader and speaks directly to them so they can properly set the example, train their Patrol’s and have a great winter camping experience.
You are welcome to all of this information, feel free to copy and paste.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.  You can always send an email or drop a note in the comments section.

Here are some items for a leader to have in his tool box for camping in the winter.

1.  The right attitude.  You must demonstrate a positive attitude in the winter.  The people following you depend on it.  As you go with you attitude, those that follow you will go.

2.  Be an example of right.  The leader must possess the skills and attitudes that make winter camping successful.  The leader must demonstrate those skills and teach others to use them.  The leader can not take short cuts and look the other way.  The leader must set an example by doing the right thing. 

3.  Skills.  There is a list of skills that make up a good winter camper.  Here are some that the leader must use and teach.
Gear- use the right gear and use it properly.  More importantly taking the right gear with you and packing it right.  Every item in the pack or SECURED to the outside and covered with a pack cover.
Staying dry. – Wet kills in the winter.
In camp routines.  Camp set up.
                           Getting in and out the tent without dragging snow in.
                           Storing gear.  Everything stays packed unless needed.
                           Gathering and “Making” water.
                           Gathering fire wood and making the fire.

Setting up camp.  Looking for best placement of tents/shelters.  No widow makers.  Building up snow walls.  Cooking areas.  Designated BIO area.
Anchoring of tents/shelters.
Morning routines.  Get up and cook right away.  Get things cleaned and stored.  Pack un used gear.  Hang anything that is damp to dry.
Cooking.  Have a plan. 
                Store food in bags in order they will be eaten.
                Repackage meals to reduce trash.
                Hot meals always
                3 good hot meals and lots of snacks.
                Hot beverages
                Clean up as you go and never leave dirty dishes lying around.
                Pack it all out.  Do not dump uneaten food in the snow. 
                Just because you can bury it does not mean it is right.
                Monitor water use and stay ahead. 
               Watch fuel consumption. No flame without a pot on it. NO empty pots.
               Don’t be lazy.  Cook and eat well.
Sleeping.  Dry equals warm.  Stay out of wind and wet and you will stay dry and warm.  Open your sleeping bag as soon as your tent is set up.  Get the loft going.  Make sure to have insulation under you.  Closed cell pads work great in the winter.  An extra blanket works too when used with a pad.  If nothing else your jacket should go between you and the pad or under your feet.
Your boots go in the tent and under your sleeping bag (foot end).  Do not wear anything wet to bed.  Change your socks and clothing before you go to bed if you are wet.  ALWAYS change your socks before you get in your sleeping bag.
Avoid condensation in your sleeping bag.  Wear a hat and keep your face out of the bag.  Short guys.  Fold unused portion of sleeping bag under you.
Take a trip to the pee tree before you go to bed.  Relieve yourself and then get comfortable.  You do not want to hold it till morning. You won’t sleep and you won’t stay warm.

4.  Be a Good example.  Yes, we say it twice.  This will get you farther as a leader than anything else in the cold weather.  If you do things right and maintain a positive attitude, those that follow you will to.

IMPORTANT.  Leaders are responsible.  You are the last ones in the sleeping bag after everyone is checked.  You are the last ones to eat or eat before the rest.  This way you can check, assist, monitor the rest as they prepare and eat.
Leaders.  You are the key to success.  You have been given the responsibility to teach and coach.  Use it.

Build your tool box.  Fill it with those things that make you a great leader and you will be.  Collective knowledge and a willingness to learn, practice, and share is the success of all leaders.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Patrol Method, planning, Risk Management, Skills, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | 2 Comments

How light can you go?

traceI have said it over and over, the older I get the lighter my pack has to get.  The pack I carried out of base camp at Philmont was 55 lbs.  That is the heaviest pack I have carried in a very long time.  Why was it so heavy?  Well, Philmont has not embraced a lighter style of camping yet and I am sure that one day it will start getting lighter gear, but for now, Philmont is under the impression that “it’s always been that way, and it works”.  Well… I am here to tell you that you can go lighter and still have a great Philmont experience.  Now before anyone gets the idea that I am bashing on Philmont here.. that is not the case.  Knowing what I know now about how Philmont “camps”.  There are many things that I could have done to shave unwanted pounds.  Take for example the food.  We just grabbed the food and unlike our at home routine, did not repackage and reduce the containers.  That would have taken lots of volume as well as weight out of our packs.  We put lots of uneaten and unwanted food in the swap bins at every staff camp.  Getting that stuff out earlier would have helped.
But lets talk about shaving weight in our packs.  We are on a constant journey to reduce weight in the pack.  Getting my base weight down is an effort that I am constantly thinking about and testing and trying new or other ways of packing my gear.
I will never be an “Ultralight” guy.  I just don’t agree with the basic philosophy of going totally ultralight.
Some argue that Ultralight is defined by base weights that are 20 lbs or less.  Some say that you need to get lower than that to be considered “Ultralight”.  There are those backpackers that are considered “Minimalist” toting pack weights of less than 12 lbs.  As much as I would love to carry a pack that was that light, reality kicks in and I am not willing to sacrifice comfort or safety.  And there I think is the difference.
Comfort and safety.  I read a story once about a guy that ventured off into the wilderness with only a knife.  While he did survive and accomplish what he was trying to prove.  I find it hard to believe that he was comfortable and in one way or another at some point could have jeopardized his safety.
We make choices in materials like down or synthetic when it comes to sleeping bags.  Weight can be shaved by pushing the limits of the rating.  Taking a 50 degree bag out when it is in the 30’s and just wearing extra clothing is a technique, but lets remember why we camp in the first place.  It’s not to survive.. it’s to have fun.  I don’t know about you, but freezing my butt off is not fun.  So I will carry a little heavier bag and look elsewhere to shave weight.
I make up weight saving in using an alcohol stove.  The stove and fuel weigh significantly less than canister stoves and liquid fuel stoves.  I don’t really sacrifice performance and certainly not my safety.
I do not take a lot of extra clothing.  But I don’t get wet and dirty either.  I wear my rain gear when it is wet and also when I have to do some scrambling.  A pair of gaiters keep my pants dry and clean as well as my socks.  I use poly materials that wick sweat and keep me warm.  Switchback style pants are a great way to reduce the amount of clothing taken.
Toiletries are another way to get weight down.  You won’t need a whole roll of TP.. so don’t take it.  Moist wipes are a great way to clean up the undercarriage and reduce the need for bulky and heavy soaps and wash cloths.  Camp suds work on dishes, clothing, and your hair and body.  Just a drop or two goes a long way.  Again, reduce and save on weight without sacrifice.
My goal is to get to 18 lbs base weight.  I am hovering in the 25 lb range now.  I don’t want to be “Ultralight”, but I do want to be able to backpack longer and farther and master the gear and packing of it.  I will not sacrifice comfort or safety.  I won’t use my socks as shoulder straps and wander into the woods with only a knife.
According to most experts in the field of backpacking, up to the 30 lbs weight range is emerging as the new sweet spot for mainstream recreational backpackers—light enough to feel reasonably comfortable on the shoulders, yet stocked with a luxury item or 2 (camp sandals, for instance, or maybe some freeze-dried ice cream).  I am all for a comfort item or two and won’t skimp on food.
I am going to document my quest here on the blog to get the weight down and share some tips that I find work well for me.  Remember that you should always hike your own hike and what works for me, may not work for you.
So to start with..
TIP #1.  Your pack.  The bigger the pack, the more you will put in it.  Get a smaller pack, something you think you will be comfortable with, one that will allow you to get what you think you need in it, and a little extra and then start whittling down the load.|
I went from a 5500 cubic inch pack to a 3800 cubic inch pack.  Going down to about 60 liters forced me to start looking at the gear I was taking and what I really needed.  What I have found is that given the gear that I currently have 3800 cubic inches is about as small a pack as I can go to.  I use this pack for all 4 seasons and even used it to carry the 55 lb load at Philmont.  The pack is recommended to go up to a 40 lb load.  I suppose I was just careful enough to max it out.  I will tell you that I have no desire to carry 55 lbs again so I am happy with the pack that I am using.  For what it’s worth the pack I am using is the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace.  It’s not the lightest pack out there, but is rugged enough for the type of hiking I do.
So get a pack that is comfortable and meets your needs and start your load from there.
What do you carry?  Let is know.
Look for more tips here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Philmont, Skills, Winter Camping | 6 Comments

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