Posts Tagged With: knives

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

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: , , | 12 Comments

Light my Fire- Fire Knife

knife1In a constant quest for new gear and nifty gadgets I have found my new favorite knife.  I recently purchased a knife that is multifunctional, light weight and durable.
From the makers of the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel, Meal kit, and ever so famous Spork, comes the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife.
This great knife is all you need while out in the woods.It is a Mora Swedish style knife sporting a 3.75 inch blade made of  Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel.  The Actual size is 225x45x38mm and it weighs in at 94 grams.  In the TPE rubber handle or grip is a Swedish Fire steel.  The fire steel produces a 5,400 degree spark which is perfect for starting fire in even the wettest and coldest temps.
The knife is great for camp chores and starting fires, lighting stoves, and is not effected by the altitude.
The top or back edge of the knife is your striker.  It has a perfect edge that ensures a strike every time on the Swedish fire steel.  The fire steel is durable and is good for about 3000 strikes.  That’s a heck of a lot better than a book of matches or bic lighters.
The Light my Fire Swedish Fire Knife comes in 5 colors, I chose the black one, but it also comes in Orange, Green, Blue, and Red.  I looked at the orange version and it was just a bit to loud for me, but if you decide it’s for you  I bet you never lose it.
The Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife retails for $39, but I picked mine up on Amazon for $29 new.
I will be doing a video on the knife as soon as I get my camera and computer working together again… long story, let me just say that you need to stay out of creeks when the rocks are slick.
I really like this knife and it is now a full time part of my kit.
Until I get my own video up, here is the promotional video by Light my Fire of Sweden.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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