Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Skills, training, Winter Camping | 3 Comments

Solo Stove Give Away!

Create the CaptionToday I was putting up the Christmas lights and getting the tree ready to decorate.  Carols being sung in the background and the smell of Christmas in the air.  When what to my wandering mind did ah ha!!!  A give away of gear!
So here is the way it’s going to work… Create the Caption.
1st.  You must “Like” this post.
2nd. In the comments section create a caption for this picture!
3rd.  “Like” us on Facebook.  If you already “like” us on Facebook, Thank You!
The caption that I like the most wins!
What do you win?  A brand new, in the box, Solo Stove and the Solo Stove 900 Pot!  This is a great prize!
The winner will be picked on December 21st, 2014.
Good Luck!  I can’t wait to see the comments!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | 25 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

Stoves? What you can use.

WhisperliteAs with many other things in Scouting, some “rules” get made up as they go.  Cell Phones?  NO.. No electronics on Scouting Outings.  Not written down anywhere from the BSA, but ask many Scouters and they will proclaim this as gospel.
Knives, same thing.  Throw that subject out at a Round Table and you will get 50 different “policies” on what can and can not be used.
So, lets talk about one of my favorite subjects.  Stoves.  According to my wife, I have a stove addiction.  I have many makes and models.  Various fuel types and uses.  Yeah, I like stoves.  My go to stoves are the Fancee Feast stove, the one I am using now is from Swankfly, but now that he is out of the stove business Zelph at Woodgaz stoves is the guy to get them now.  My other go to is the Solo Stove wood gas stove.  I absolutely love this stove.
I also have the MSR Whisper lite, a great liquid fuel (multi fuel) stove.  Then there are a few more alcohol stoves.  The Trangia, which is an indestructible stove.  Its Swedish construction is second to none.  The Mini heat from  Smokeeater 908.  Cool remote feed stove that is build like a tank, but so light you don’t know its in your pack.  Tato Gear’s AB13 Hybrid alcohol stove is another stove that I like to throw in the pack from time to time.  Great for baking, the remote feed allows for hours of cooking on a single light.
I have a collection of canister stoves, the Snow Peak Giga Power, MSR Pocket Rocket, and a few Jet Boil systems along with Esbit solid fuel stoves.
So I like stoves.
But what am I allowed to use in the BSA?  All of the above.
The official BSA policy is simple.  As long as you did not make it, you can use it.
You can use alcohol, as long as you use denatured alcohol.  You can use White gas, Diesel, kerosene, and solid fuel like the Esbit fuel tabs.
You can not make a pop can stove.  I suppose the BSA is leary of Scouts not doing it right.  In fact the policy says you can’t make your own stove period.
Fuels are to be used as intended and carried in a fuel container that is designed for that purpose.  For example, if you are using Denatured Alcohol, you need to carry it in a fuel bottle.  Putting your fuel in an old pop bottle or generic bottle is not authorized.
So the myth of Alcohol stoves being banned is just that.. a myth.
The myth that you can not use wood stoves.. just that… a myth.
Liquid fuel stoves too dangerous for Scouts and therefore banned.. a myth.
I was told that wood gas stoves can not be used because you can’t turn them off.  Huh, what?  Can’t turn them off?  You can put out a fire in a fire pit right?  Then you can put out a wood gas stove.
Alcohol and wood stoves can not be regulated.. they are on or off.  Ahhh.. again, nope, not in all cases.  Trangia, Esbit, Solo, and remote Feed stoves all can be snuffed out and regulated for temperature.
So again.. myth busted.
In my last post I encouraged you to allow alternative gear to be used.  Allow the Scouts to seek adventure and try new things.  When it comes to stoves, really there are not many restrictions other than making your own.
Here is what it comes down to.  Training.
You teach the Scout to use the Coleman two burner stove right?  Then teach him to use an alcohol stove properly.
Teach him to use his MSR pocket rocket or Dragon fly the right way and it will serve it’s purpose without anyone getting hurt.
When the Scout is properly trained and trusted, he will do the right thing and have fun in his outdoor experience.
Technology and research have produced some really cool stoves.  Let them try it.
Many Scouts in my Troop have started using the Vargo Titanium stove.  They are available at REI and other out fitters.
They are solid as Sears and work great.  They can be turned off (or put out) and get a good boil or simmer if you need it.
They are nice an light and you can cook what ever you would cook on your Coleman stove with them.  And we allow them to use them because they can.
I highly recommend this as a great stove to get Scouts and Scouters into using Alcohol Stoves.
Here is the Vargo Official Video for the Triad Alcohol Stove.

So that’s what you can use… Stoves.  Most all of them are available to your Scouts.  Do not make up policy because you are afraid of change.  Do not be set in your ways so a Scout does not get the chance to explore.  Don’t give in to the myths that have been passed down from one old Scouter to the next.
The fact is, there are lots of choices out there.  Exploring is part of the Scouting way.
Give them a try.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | 11 Comments

Gear Alternatives

SAM_0008As you know by reading the blog, I am a fan of gear.  I like to play around with gear, test it, try it, and change it often.  There are pieces of gear that I love and pieces of gear that I am always looking for the newer, better, more efficient, or just cool.  Lately I have been in a few discussions about some gear like knives and stoves.  What is significant about these discussions is the idea that for a lot of Scouters there is little knowledge about what is allowed, what is not, and what is out there to show to your Scouts as gear choices.
Take a look at all the old Field books and Hand books, Peek into the Boy Scout catalogs, it’s all the same stuff.  All the old-time tested and true gear.  It all works well and is super reliable.  I don’t have a problem with any of it, but just because it has always been there and done that way does not make it the only or best way to do it.
At a few recent Boy Scout break outs at round table we have talked about gear and gear alternatives.  Much of the discussion focusing on stoves and knives.  As discussed in my recent post “The Great Knife Debate“, it amazes me that many Scouters just do not know the rules.  They perpetuate a rule that does not exist for what ever reason, but the net result is not the safety of the Scout, but a lack of exposure to new and different ways of doing the same old thing.  The same can be said for alcohol stoves.  The BSA has prohibited the use of “Homemade” stoves.  And I can see that the BSA does not want some Scout to get hurt because his leaders failed to train him on how to do it right.  But the use of alcohol stoves in general is not prohibited.  Manufactured of purchased stoves are not prohibited and I am glad for that.  I exclusively use an alcohol stove and scouts in my troop are using them also.  I teach them how and make sure they do it right.  There is nothing unsafe about them, well, they are about as unsafe as using an MSR Whisperlite.  It comes down to training them to use it correctly.  Stores like REI and many online outdoor outfitter are selling alcohol stoves.  And the fact is you can use them to cook anything.
I can bake, fry, simmer, and of course boil water with them.  Here is the point.  They are an alternative way to do the same old thing.  Camping, Cooking, sleeping in a shelter, whether that is a tent, a tarp, or a bivy sack is all the same.  Camping is camping.  There are many methods and ways to go about it, but in the end it’s all the same.
You also know that I am a big fan of wood stoves (like the Solo Stove).  They are a great way to cook.  It takes a little skill and you can absolutely cook anything with them.  I have had Scouters tell me that one can not use them because you can’t turn them off.  Huh? What?  First Class Requirement 4 e states; On one camp out, serve as your patrol’s cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. In the most previous edition of the Boy Scout handbook Second Class requirement 2g required the Scout to;  On one camp out, plan and cook over an open fire one hot breakfast or lunch for yourself, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
So in one edition of the hand book, we have decided to dumb down the Scouting experience not make it a requirement to cook over an open fire, but it’s a choice.  But it’s still there and it always has been.  But in checking the Guide to Safe Scouting I can’t find anywhere that suggests wood stoves are prohibited or cooking over an open flame is prohibited because you can’t put it out.  You see, to me that is just a way for Scouters to impose a rule that is not there when it comes to gear.
There are lots of great gear alternatives out there.  Allow your Scouts to explore them.
Many of the Scouts in my troop are moving to camping under tarps.  Some are using you standard 10X10 Wal Mart tarp, while most are going to good camping tarps.  SilNylon tarps that are light and easy to put up.  Some even have built-in doors and can be pitched between trees or using their trekking poles.  I love the idea that the Scouts are exploring different gear and ways to camp.  It keeps it fun and exciting for them.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are many options out there, as a Scouter you should gain an understanding and knowledge of that gear and not push it aside just because you don’t like it.
We had this same debate during the 2010 National Jamboree.  Many ‘older Scouters’ did not like the idea of allowing the Scouts to bring and use “Electronics”.  There was a misconceptions that electronics are not allowed in Scouting.  No where is this found in writing.  I allowed the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop to bring their “electronics”.  Cell phones, Ipods, and of course cameras.  I wanted them to be able to communicate with me and other Scouts, I wanted to be able to shoot a text to the troop when I needed to make quick contact with them.  I wanted the Senior Patrol Leader to be able to get everyone on the bus on time and sent group texts to better communicate with his Troop.  We established “No ear bid zones”  Touring at Arlington National Cemetery for example was a No Ear Bud zone.  Sitting on the bus for two hours however was not.  As long as the Scouts obeyed the rules, I allowed them to use the electronics.
The same goes for their gear.  As long as they use it as intended, be it a stove, knife, or any other piece of gear, I allow and encourage them to try new things.
This is a big part of the adventure of Scouting.
Get to know some new gear.  Pick something to try with your Scouts.  Try something new.
Allow the adventure of Scouting to happen.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Methods, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

You make the call…

At the end of the summer myself another leader and a couple of Scouts from my Troop, both Eagle Scouts, took a four hour road trip South to attend our Sections Conclave.  It was just another four hours in the car until we started a conversation that lasted the better part of three hours.  In this conversation the subject of life choices came up.  You see one of the Scouts is a very out going young man.  He is very active in his community, student government, sports, band, and an active social life.  The other would be considered his opposite.  While he participated in sports, and drama, he feels as though he is the one on the outside looking in.  And so the discussion went.  One contrasting the other.  But the question was why is that?  What makes these two young men so different?  They grew up in same community.  Both from good homes, Attended the same High School, and both active in Scouting (Eagle Scouts and Arrowmen).
Now, I am not saying one is better than the other here… I was just asking why?  But in fact, the more the conversation went deeper, the more I wanted so much for the Scout with less friends and social life to be like the other.  Why?  Because the social one had what seemed to be a better outlook on life.
What it came down to was choices.  Making a choice not to be the guy in the corner, making a choice to step out of the comfort zone and meet new people, make new friends, and discover new things.  While the other was clearly not having a great high school experience and felt like everyone was against him.
He did not believe that he had the ability to make a choice to have a different experience, while his companion on the trip felt like his entire high school experience revolved around those choices he made.
Both of these young men are Honor Roll students, so both are smart and articulate.  They have the faculties to make sound decisions and choices.  So what is it?
We never answered that question, but did come up with 5 things that would help, as they said, if we had to do it over again.  First.  Make a choice to have the experience you want.  If you want to play the victim, That will be the choice you make.  You can chose not to be and do things in your life to curb that mentality.
First.  Know that you and only you have a choice to make.  You will decide whether or not you want to set a course for discovery or to hide inside of yourself.  You will make a choice to make friends or not make friends.  With that choice though, you need to know that the world is not against you and you must do at least half the work.  You can not expect friendships and opportunities to just happen, you need to work at them and create them.  Your mind will be the starting point.  Get it in your mind to make the right choice and you will find the path that will lead you there.
Second.  Break things down into smaller parts.  We discovered in our talk that in most cases those that have a difficult time making friends or feeling left out expect to much to soon.  Break things down.  Start small.  Opportunities in life happen in bite size chunks.  Financially, we do not wait around to hit the lotto.. we get a job and work our way up to bigger and better opportunities, better pay and position.  So it is with most things in life.  Start small and set small, short term goals.  These will lead you to bigger goals and better opportunities.  Again, you need to make a choice to go that route.. or sit around and wait for the right balls to drop in your favor.  Keep waiting, the odds are against you.
The third thing is to Never give up.  Never, ever give up.  The world is not against you, in fact, the world doesn’t know you so don’t give up on yourself.  When you reach a point in life when the going gets tough or you have reached an obstacle that seems insurmountable.. find another way.  Every time I have been in that situation I look for a way to get around it.  I do not let it beat me.  If plan “a” doesn’t work, go to plan “b”.  If that fails you move on to “c” and so on… Sometimes you will get all the way to plan “x, y, and z” before you need to reevaluate, but never give up.  I typically get to about “D” and then figure there may be something wrong with me or my approach.  You need to be willing to accept that sometimes it is you and not the process or other people.  You can be wrong, but don’t give up or in.  There are ways to accomplish your goals, you may just have to come at it from different avenues.  Never give up, especially on yourself.
Fourth, have a Positive outlook.  If you choose to look at life from a negative point of view that is what you will see.  I am not saying that you put on rose colored glasses, but look at life for what it is.  Great!  Life is full of opportunity, you just need to go get it.  Life is full of fun, you just need to find it.  Life is full of adventure, you just need to grab it.  The common point there is YOU.  You need to be positive and accepting of the fact that YOU are in charge of your outlook.. no one else.  If you think that You are wrong.
And finally, realize that you can have results or make excuses… but you can’t have both.  Results will get you want in life.  Excuses will get you nothing.  So pick one, Results or Excuses.  I can’t stand people that make excuses, it is lazy and demonstrates a lack of personal accountability.  The person that blames life on their condition is just being lazy and unwilling to work for results.  Like I said, the world is not against you.. the world doesn’t know you.  Your class mates are not against you, you are not willing to make it work or do the work to make friends.  You need to look in the mirror and realize that there are people just like you, they all need friends and relationships.  They all want acceptance and a sense of belonging.  Find them.. do the work.  Not everyone is a jock, not everyone plays in the band, not everyone is a Scout or into the drama or chess club.  Find the group that you belong to and embrace them.  Don’t make excuses that no one likes you.. maybe it’s you.  Maybe you have not allowed them to like you or opened the door for that friendship.  Maybe it is you that has not worked hard enough to get that raise or promotion.  Maybe it is you that has had a bad attitude and no one wants it to rub off on them.  Maybe it is time to stop making excuses and go get results.
You and only you have 100% control over you.  No matter what your age, ethnicity, race, religion, whatever.. YOU control You.
So you make the call?  Have you made a choice to do something with your life?  Have you broken it down to smaller parts to manage your goals better?  Have you given up?  Do you have a positive outlook?  And you want Results or keep making excuses?  It is simple, but it starts with you and a choice.
You make the call.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Ferguson or Scouting?

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

I believe it was Will Rogers that said, “The only problem with the Boy Scouts…There’s not enough of them.”  Most of us in the Scouting community know this quote and have seen it around for some years now.  I think it is true.
In our never ending quest to gain members in Scouting a recurring theme continues to haunt those of us that care very much about Scouting and are not afraid to promote it.  The theme of being relevant in our time.  Of course Scouting is relevant in our time.  Those that argue against Scoutings relevance obviously have not watched the evening news, read a local newspaper, spent 10 minutes on Facebook, stood in a mall.  Look around, the world needs Scouting.
No matter what your religious beliefs are, no matter your ethnic background, no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall… Scouting is relevant.
Our values in Scouting are a key message missing in the world today.  Over the last couple of days we have been bombarded by the news of Ferguson, MO.  I will not get into the particulars of the court case or the actions that led us to this embarrassment of humanity.  I think we all can agree that had this young man been a Scout, we would not be hearing about Ferguson, MO.  Heck, no one knew it was a dot on the map until recently.
The thugs that are now looting and destroying the town of Ferguson.  Do you think they would do so had they knew the Scout Oath and Law and lived them.
Do you think the Parents of those people, that cared enough to take their sons to Scouts would allow this to happen.  Do you think that the young men that were required to understand what citizenship in their community meant, visit a public official, sit in a town hall meeting or session of court… do you think they would understand this process a bit better and would participate as a citizen, not a thug.  Scouting relevant?  Wake up.
In the last week, the week leading up to our special day of Thanksgiving, we have seen the worst in people.  What will they be celebrating on Thursday?  That they stole a new TV, broke windows, and destroyed their homes?  Is that something to be thankful for?  On the other hand, what if they had been Scouts?  What if they bowed their head on Thursday and gave thanks to their parents for loving them and caring about how they grew up?  What if they gave thanks for the hard work that is realized in this bounty on the table?  What if they looked across the table and said thank you for life and all of its blessings?
You live in a dream world Jerry… Yep.
But you know, on Monday night at our Troop meeting as I gave my Scoutmaster minute, I gave thanks.  Thanks to the parents in the back of the room that care enough to bring their sons.  Thanks to the young men that sat and listened to me, that they are growing life skills and living the Scout Oath and Law.  I will not see these men on the news burning a car and stealing from a store.  I don’t have to worry about them bringing a gun to school and shooting their classmates.  I don’t have to lose sleep at night wondering if they are going to end up in jail.
Scouting relevant.  You are absolutely right it is relevant.  As uncool as it may seem Scouting is relevant.
In 1907 when Baden Powell started Scouting, one of his goals was to establish a world wide program for boys that would promote peace.  Powell had served in the Boar wars and had seen enough of the worst in people.  He knew that if.. IF.. men could embrace a common set of values that we could have peace.  This dream has not been realized, not because of Scouting, but because there are not enough Scouts.  If our politicians had these values, if our community leaders had these values, they would be compelled to think about their decisions in the light of them.  They would let their values guide their actions instead of greed and self interest.  They would be leaders that have the heart of a servant, not a despot seeking control and fame.  The dream of Baden Powell can be found in over 200 countries in Scouts and their leaders.  But their are not enough.  Scouting is relevant.
Will Rogers said it best when he said that now famous quote,   I know you all agree.
The BSA should capitalize on this moment in time.  Show the people of America that we have a choice to make..

Ferguson or Scouting?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | 2 Comments

Understanding the Charter Organization

charterEvery Unit within the Boy Scouts of America has a Charter partner or Charter Organization.  These organizations come from within the community in which the unit belongs.  It can be a Church, a School, or a Civic group like the Elks, the VFW, or Lions Club just to name a few.
In many cases these organizations sign on to be a Charter Partner without really knowing what their responsibilities or function is.  They are approached at some point with the “ask” to be the sponsor of a Scouting unit and because they understand that this is a good idea, they agree.
Charters are granted by the Boy Scouts of America for the period of one year.  This contract is able to be renewed annually as long as the Charter Organization meets all of the requirements and agrees to the conditions of the Charter.
Many Charter Organizations and it’s representatives do not understand their Charter agreement nor do they take the time to really understand the Scouting program.  While this is not always the fault of the Charter Partner, often times they just don’t know what they don’t know, nor do they take the time to learn, the units typically do not create that need for the Charter Partner to learn and gain an understanding of their role.
To most units, the Chartering Partner is just a signature and place to meet.  This relationship, while often times meets the needs of the unit and the Chartering Partner is not how the system is designed to work and does not allow for the full benefits of Scouting to be realized.
So what is the role of the Charter Organization (CO)?  The CO is responsible to the Boy Scouts of America in its agreement to host a Scouting unit.  The CO is to conduct Scouting in accordance with its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the BSA.  In other words, the CO can apply rules based on the values, beliefs and standards of the organization.
The CO must include Scouting as part of its overall program for youth and families.  The CO should use Scouting as an extension to provide programs within the organization, not to compete or conflict with that organization.
The CO is to appoint a chartered organization representative who is a member of the organization and will represent it to the Scouting district and council, serving as a voting member of each.  This is an important function of the Charter Organization as it has a voice and vote at the District and Council level that is often not used.
The CO select a unit committee of parents and members of the organization who will screen and select unit leaders who meet the organization’s leadership standards as well as the BSA’s standards.
The CO must provide adequate and secure facilities for Scouting units to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved.
And finally the Charter Partner is to encourage the units to participate in outdoor experiences.
These are the responsibilities of the organization that has received a charter from the Boy Scouts of America.  Again, often overlooked and not held to the standard of the Charter.
The CO is not at fault most of the time here, we Scouters rarely take the time to have the Charter Organization Representative (COR) trained.  We use them for their facility and their signature and that is all we typically expect from a “Good COR”.
The COR is a great resource for our units.  They are the link to the CO which can provide many opportunities for the Scouts of our units.  Merit Badge counselors, Board of Review panelist, service opportunities, and much more.  The COR is a voice at the table on the district committee.  I often hear unit leaders that complain “The District” this or the District that”… well, you have a voice through your CO in the District.  If you are not happy or your CO is not happy about the direction an issue is going, remember, they sign on to conduct Scouting in accordance with policy, so if they are not satisfied that Scouting is not holding up its end, they have the right and the seat at the table to change things.
The COR should be trained so they know what to expect from Scouting and the policies they are to uphold.  They should know what “right looks like” in order to pick the right leaders.  Contrary to popular belief, they parents of a unit do not hire and fire the leaders.  The Committee Chair in concert with the COR is the final authority on the selection of adult leadership.
This is a critical task to ensure that the Scouting program is being delivered as promised.  If the CO has any issues, they have the right to address them with the unit and change, replace, or move leaders within the unit.
The CO and the COR also have a role in the annual budget.  All funds, equipment, and supplies belong to the Chartering Partner.  They have a say in how it is being used.
As you can see, there is a great role and responsibility of the Chartering Partner and the Charter Organization Representative.  They need to be trained and in the loop.  It is easy to see a unit why some units keep them out of the loop, but that is not the right way to do it.
The Boy Scouts of America grants charters to organizations within our communities.  They do this to keep the units local and under the control of local interests.  This decentralization assists the BSA as well as organizations within your community.  Those bonds strengthen both the BSA and the Chartering Partner.
Get to know your CO and COR.  Invite them to be trained and provide that opportunity.
Understanding the role of the Chartering Partner and its representative will strengthen your unit and build lasting relationships in the community.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | 3 Comments

The Great Knife Debate

bsknifeYou can always tell when we have officially run out of real problems.  We make some.
In a recent discussion with a group of Scouters the issue of knives came up.  What is the “Official Policy” on what a Scout can and can not carry.  What is the length that he can or can not have?
OK.. so I will give you the “Officially Policy” and then some opinion.
Page 60 of the Guide to Safe Scouting states; “A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.”
Further, from the Boy Scouts of America website “Sheath knives are not prohibited by the BSA, but they may be regulated by state or local ordinances and/or by camp “rules.” We recommend that the right tool for the job be used (cutting branches or ropes). We do not encourage wearing them at the waist as injury could occur during falls.” reference General Health and Safety FAQ’s
The BSA does not restrict the length of the blade, nor does it require a blade to be folding or fixed.  The policy requires that we abide by state and local rules and that we use the right tool for the right job.
The question came up as to what I allow the Scouts in my Troop to wear/use.  Here is how I see it.
The Scout is required to earn his Totin’ Chip before he is allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip certifies that the Scout has the right to carry and use woods tools. The Scout must show his Scout leader that he understands his responsibility to do the following:
Read and understand woods tools use and safety rules from the Boy Scout Handbook.
Demonstrate proper handling, care, and use of the pocket knife, ax, and saw.
Use knife, ax, and saw as tools, not playthings.
Respect all safety rules to protect others.
Respect property. Cut living and dead trees only with permission and good reason.
Subscribe to the Outdoor Code.
Once the Scout has demonstrated that he can use the knife safely and he agrees to use it as a tool then the Scout can be held in account.  He can lose the privilege of carrying a knife as quick as he earn the right to use it.
If a Scout would like to carry a sheath knife, I have no problem with it.  I recommend that he chooses one that is the right tool for what he is using it for.  I recommend that the blade be no more than 4 inches.  This way he has good control over it and it complies with local rules.  Since I live in Oregon, it is important for me to know what the laws are.  According the Boy Scouts of America, it is the local laws and policies that dictate what a Scout can and can not carry.
In Oregon, it is legal to own pretty much any knife and you can carry it (open carry) anytime you want.  Certain exceptions apply of course, but for our purpose a Scout can carry pretty much any knife he wants.
Now, having said that, it comes down to the right tool for the job.
So the discussion then becomes, what does a Scout use his knife for?
Cutting kindling for fires, cutting line or rope, preparing meals, and whittling for the most part.  So what is the right tool for those jobs.  Certainly a sword would not be appropriate and a Rambo survival knife is not necessary either.  A simple pocket or sheath knife will do.
This is where the adult leader steps in to be a teacher.  It is not a matter of what they can carry, it becomes a matter of what do you use it for?  In that discussion with your Scouts you outline the right tool for the job and allow them to make that reasonable choice.  I will tell you with 100% certainty that we have had that talk and have never seen a “Rambo Knife” on a camp out.
lmfknifeI personally carry a Mora knife.  It is sharp, handy, and useful.  The particular model I carry is made by Mora and Light My Fire.  It has a striker in the handle.  It has a 3 1/2 blade and I have used it to butter bread and baton wood for a camp fire.  It has a hard sheath which locks the knife in place.  Here is a little video from Light my Fire on the knife that I carry.

We recommend that our Scouts only carry a small knife.  A pocket knife or a sheath knife either one is ok.  We ask that they focus on the job and using the right tool.  Many of our Scouts carry a multi tool like the Leatherman.  This is fine also.  The fact of the matter is that I just want them to use it properly… or get your right taken away.
That is the rule that we should focus on, not the knife itself.
Like I said, I think we have far too much time on our hands and not enough real problems that we are worried about the length of a blade.  As with most if not all things in Scouting you must train them and then trust them.
Do you have a unit policy when it comes to knives?  I am curious to hear what that looks like.
Please share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

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