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!

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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!

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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!

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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

Map and Compass

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

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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

Here’s your sign…

We don’t say it enough… at least I know that I need to work on saying it more… THANK YOU.
Thank you for hanging with the blog.
Thanks you for your comments.
Thanks for spending your valuable time here.
Thanks for being a Scouter.. you make a difference.
Thanks for being a Teacher, Coach, Mentor, and Trainer to a young man.  He needs it and it matters.
Thanks for your dedication and effort.  It does not go unnoticed.
Thanks for everything.  I appreciate it.
This weekend as we departed the University of Scouting, there was a simple sign that said it all.  It was a great parting message that I think needs to be shared and shared often.










Thank you!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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growthofaleaderI consider myself a traditional Scouter.  What I mean by that is that I believe in the program as it has been and how it should be.  I am a fan of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt and the program as Baden Powell set in his vision for Scouting.  I am sure that the program as outlined by those men hold up today as they did back then and one of the elements of that vision is or are the traditions of Scouting.
Each Troop has it’s own traditions and customs.  They give the unit identity and connect the current and future Scouts with the past.  Traditions run deep in the Scouting movement.  The handclasp, the salute, and the sign.  They are not just elements of identity, they go back to the founder and there are reasons we have them.  The handclasp for example is not just a handshake, the root of our handclasp in Scouting comes from Baden Powell’s service in Africa.  He noticed that the warriors would place their shields on the ground when meeting with a stranger.  They kept their spear in the their right hand when then joined hands with the stranger using their left hand.  This was a sign of trust.  They were in essence putting down their guard showing the other person that they were trusting the exchange would be friendly.
The Scout neckerchief was not just a fashion statement, but a way that early units identified themselves.  Before Troop numbers, the color of the neckerchief seen from afar could identify a Troop to other Troops.  Again, it served a purpose other than fashion.  It was a useful tool in first aid and kept the sun off of the neck.  Today, most units opt away from the neckerchief.  I wish we all still wore them, they are a great piece of Scouting.
Campfire songs and Patrol flags are yet more of Scouting’s great traditions.  A Troop that enjoys the cheerfulness of the campfire is truly living the vision of Scouting’s founder.
Many Scout camps have traditions they use to promote the camp atmosphere and create a connection to the camp.  A camp song, flags in the dinning hall or lodge, some icon that is the beacon or icon that is used to connect the camper to the camp.
Troops establish traditions that connect older Scouts with newer Scouts and lay the foundation for the Troop to live long into the future.  A troop hat or special patch, the troop yell or song and the way they set up camp.  In our Troop, we have a wonderful tradition of singing vespers at the end of each meeting and camp fire.  We are a singing Troop.  Camp fires are always fun and full of song and laughter.  We have a distinctive hat.  It has become a feature of ours that is easily identified within our district.  We also have established the tradition of being a Backpacking style Troop.  The Scouts pride themselves in their ability to pack it all in and pack it out quickly.  The Troop does it’s best to be the first Troop packed and loaded at Camporee.  What started as just a method of camping has become a tradition.
Some of Scouting’s other great traditions are the way we wear our uniform.  With the exception of the uniform style changes, the uniform is the uniform, not only a method, but again a way of identifying us as Scouts the world over.
Wood Badge is a great Scouting tradition that links us to the founder.  His way of passing on the importance of trained adult leaders and that link for leaders all over the world to provide quality programs to the youth they serve.
When most people think of traditional Scouting they think about Scouting “back when I was a kid”… for the most part “Traditional Scouting” represents Scouting before the 1960’s.  This is that period of Scouting found in the paintings of Norman Rockwell.  It is the the vision of Scouting we all see when we close our eyes and think about what Scouting should look like.  That is the Scouting, even though I was not a Scout “way back then”, that I consider traditional and where most tradition comes from.
The basics are still there and always have been, but we know that starting in about 1972 the Boy Scouts of America looked for new identity.  The Scouting movement in America changed drastically to meet the needs and changes in American culture.  I can remember back in the ’70’s as a Cub Scout and young Boy Scout the Scouting programs of “Boy Power” and finding a way to bring Scouting to the youth of the era.  But the traditions of Scouting were still there just waiting for Scouts to pick them up and rally to the vision of the Founder.
The Order of the Arrow is full of it’s traditions.  Mainly found within the purpose and values of the organization and it’s ceremonies.  From it’s beginning the tradition of service has been the mainstay of the Order of the Arrow and has strengthened Scouting as a result.
The Uniform, the Outdoor Program, the Patrol Method, and Patches are all traditions of Scouting.  They serve as methods to achieve the Aims, as well as provide lasting ways that we pass Scouting on from generation to generation.
Patch collecting and trading, Jamborees and Conclaves, and playing games within the Patrol all help in providing traditional Scouting programs.  They are the things that we think about when we talk about Scouting.
Looking at our Scout Slogan of “Doing a Good turn Daily” is as tradition laced as it gets in Scouting.  From the very beginning when William Boyce found himself lost on a foggy London street assisted by a Scouting that would accept no pay for his help the tradition of service and values based programming have long lasted in Scouting.
It’s more that old stuff that we keep doing.  It is our identity, our program, our organization that is steep in tradition and we are the keepers of that tradition.  It is up to us to create traditions with our Scouts and promote those traditions that have for over 100 years been apart of Scouting.
Singing, collecting patches, hiking, camping, and helping old ladies across the street… it’s all Scouting and we need to preserve it and make it stronger.
What are some traditions in your Troop?  What are some traditions you love in Scouting?  What is that one tradition that you love from your Scouting past?
I would love for you to share.  Scouts Honor.. (That’s another tradition in Scouting)
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Boy in the Bubble

fboldI am often critical of how our boys are being, or seem to be being led down a path that is removing them from adventure, fun, and testing their ability to grow into men.
I am talking about how we hypocritically rail on about how things were when we were kids.. you know, drinking from a hose, climbing trees, mud clod fights, staying out till the street lights came on, loading up our packs and getting on our bikes and heading out for over nighters… You know, that stuff that made our childhood and for many of us our Scouting experience fun and exciting.
We talk about the good old days with fondness and make it a point to tell those stories to our kids and our Scouts, but no way in hell are we going to allow our kids to do that great stuff… No way in hell.
We are so afraid of lawyers and our kids getting a little hurt that we have placed them in a bubble.
For the record, I am not one of those.
My boys climbed trees and we made it a point to allow adventures. The first time I ever took my two sons backpacking we hiked about 2 1/2 miles up to a little lake. They were 5 and 7 years old respectively. The weather was not the best, but it was time to get out. Hey if you live in Oregon you can’t be a fair weather camper. I will never forget that outing. After I showed them how to use a MSR Whisperlite stove, we cooked dinner and the temperature started to drop. We climbed into the tent. It started to snow. We made up stories and ate dehydrated ice cream sandwiches.
Why do have to change things? The answer is that we don’t.
I am a collector of Scouting literature. I have a nice collection of all of the Boy Scout Field Books. The worst of which is the current edition.
Looking back at some of the older Field Books, especially the Field Book from when I was a Scout, they are full of skills and adventure. They open the doors for boys to develop self reliance and skills that help them both in the outdoors and in their daily lives.
Cooking fish over an open fire, building shelters, heading out into the woods to hang out with your buddies. Pioneering that could actually be used for something other than demonstrations.  The picture in this post.. God for bid we actually build a bridge today over real water.
So why? Lawyers? Really? It’s not the lawyers… it’s the parents. After all, who is calling the lawyer. Lawyers don’t hang out in the woods waiting for you to allow a Scout to climb a tree. Lawyers are not there when you head to a lake and take a swim. Lawyers are not there to say no.. we say it because we are afraid that a parent would not approve of her little darling be let out of the protective bubble.
I was talking to a group of new parents (to Boy Scouts) the other night. When we presented the annual plan to them, I could see on their faces that they were not to comfortable with some of the high adventure activities that we do. Backpacking, canoeing, shooting sports, you know.. scouting. Seeing this look, I asked what concerns they have. It turns out that they are just concerned about their son being able to do all of this without them.
That, I told them, will be just fine. The boys do well without their parent hovering over them. I went on to explain that we don’t just drop off their son in the woods and pick them back up on Sunday. We have qualified adults that are there to teach them, coach them, and mentor them. Not do it for them, but prepare them to do it alone or with their patrol. I told them that it will ultimately come down to trust.
You either trust that we doing Scouting right or you don’t. If you do, your son will have an awesome time in Scouting. If you don’t, he will not be able to participate because you won’t let him. If that is the case, you should find another activity for him.
Building that Trust is up to the unit leaders. Assembling the right group of adult leaders that are willing to go the extra mile to be trained and seek additional training for the type of activities your unit does. It is easy to be a STEM troop. You just take your Scouts to the Science museum and pick them up in an hour. Having skilled , trained leaders to execute a Scouting program is important. I have mentioned this before but it is not our job to tell the Scouts no. If they want to put something on their calendar that is adventurous, find a way to do it. In our Troop we never say no. And we find a way to facilitate their adventures. Among the Assistant Scoutmasters and I we have thousands of miles on the trail. Hundreds of hours climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and winter camping. If we can’t find an expert, we become on. I can not tell you how much money has been spent to get extra training and gear just so we could do a great outing. We are not afraid to share that resume with the parents, it is all about building their trust and confidence in us so they will let their boy out of the bubble.
I don’t blame society on this. Nothing has changed. The water is still wet, the trees still grow, and night falls about the same times as it did when we were kids. The BB gun stings just like it did when I was kid, and fish still taste better than ever over an open fire. What was fun for us is just as fun for our kids today. Let them be boys.
Bob Mazzucca once said that we need to take Scouting where the boys are. So we have taken them to the zoo, to the museum, and to all the safe places that parents have pushed the boy into the bubble. Boys used to be outside and looking for adventure, and that is where we need to take them. Taking Scouting to where the boys are used to mean something a bit different. I don’t want to take Scouting where they are right now. Scouting belongs outside not behind a computer or in the lab. Yes, before I get beat up by all the STEM guys.. there is a time and place for that, but Scouting is Scouting.. just take a look at what it is in the old field books.
Flipping through those pages I find that there is nothing in them that we can not do today. We just won’t because it is to comfortable in the bubble.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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