As 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!