Monthly Archives: October 2008

Choosing a Camp site

In interest of not rediscovering the wheel… I stumbled on this article by Mark Langston in Backpacker Magazine.
Rather than paraphrase, I thought I would post it in its entirety.

How to Choose a Campsite
A NOLS veteran offers tips on balancing comfort, safety, and Leave No Trace principles.
by: Mark Langston

Deciding where to camp is a bit like buying a house. You need to scope out the neighborhood, check the plumbing, test the foundation. In his 15 years with the National Outdoor Leadership School, Mark Langston has overnighted in dozens of memorable sites in the North Cascades and Olympics.
A strong believer in the Leave No Trace ethic, Langston says a great location can balance “comfort, safety, views, and solitude.” Here’s his advice on finding that sweet spot.
Scout it out Start your site search well before dark; you have just 30 minutes of good visibility after sunset. Water access is the “make or break factor,” says Langston.
Look for hazards like dangling branches, rockfall debris, flash-flood zones, and avalanche run outs.
Follow the lines Consult your topo map; open circles indicate flat land, while stacked lines ringing a site can be good windbreaks. “Cold air flows downhill, so higher land will be warmer at night,” says Langston.
See it coming Anticipate how terrain could intensify weather. Could a long valley become a wind tunnel? Where will the runoff flow in a storm? What will attract lightning?
Respect sensitive terrain Choose previously impacted sites, or pitch your tent on a durable surface like a rock slab or forest duff. Use multiple walking paths to access your water source and cat hole areas.
Use natural advantages Seek shady forests in the summer, maximize southern exposure on cold days, and “choose a dry, sunlit spot with a steady breeze in mosquito country,” says Langston.

You can read the article and more skills tips at Backpacker Magazine.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Scouting Community

First it was Facebook… now it’s Scouting Own Online Community.

If you have not seen it yet.. it’s worth a look see.

What will you get out of it? Probably nothing unless of course you want to broaden you Scouting horizons, meet some great Scouting people and stay in touch with friends in the Scouting World.
In short.. It’s Scouting!

Check out the Scouting Community. You will need your MYSCOUTING info to log in.. but once you are there.. you are in!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Backpacking Tip of the Week

A Bag of Bags!
Keeping your pack organized is important for many reasons.
You need to know where your gear is. When the weather gets bad, you want to be able to get to clothing, shelter, and those items that will help you get through the conditions.
Knowing where your gear is loaded will help you get to gear without becoming a the all to famous “Yard Sale” in camp. Organized gear stays clean, dry, and accounted for. It is also easy to load and maintain after the camp out is over.

To get and stay organized here is a real simple tip. DITTY BAGS.
Stuff sacks or Ditty bags keep your gear separate and neat. Your backpack should be filled with ditty bags.
Here is how I organize my pack.
First I keep my Sleeping Bag in a water proof stuff sack. It is loaded in the bottom compartment of my pack.
I then load up the ditty bags.
A ditty bag with extra socks.
A ditty bag with my clothing in it. Don’t take to much, just what you need.
One ditty back is designated for my food. A good tip for that is take a 2 gallon milk jug, once the milk is gone, cut the bottom off… make it look like a bowl, about 3 or 4 inches deep.
Put it in your dish washer and make sure it is clean..
Then put it in the bottom of your Food Ditty. It allows you to stand that bag up. The milk jug also is a great bowl for washing dishes, mixing food, and keeping things neat in the food bag.
A ditty bag for your stove and extra fuel, good to throw some matches in there too.

A ditty for your kitchen stuff. I put my spork, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, pepper etc in an old water bottle. Put it in a ditty with a micro towel and scrubby for cleaning. Don’t forget the camp suds.
I have my rain gear in a ditty in the outside pockets of my pack. Gloves and hat go in another ditty on the outside of the pack.

Everything is in its place, and everything has a ditty or stuff sack. It’s all water resistant, and organized. Finding things in my pack is easy as feeling for a bag. Loading the pack is as easy as filling my pack with little bags. It is a bag full of bags.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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It’s in the details…

As we get ready for our winter camping we need to exercise the Scout motto.. Be prepared.

Camping in the winter months presents different challenges and requires more skills. Winter camping requires a camper to pay closer attention to the details. Where you can get away with somethings in the summer or when the weather is nice, tempting fate in the cold weather is dangerous and could result in someone getting hurt.

So its in the details, lets start with eating.
Planning menus for the cold weather is important, as important as the clothing you wear and the gear you take.
It is important to ensure that what you put in your body is going to give you energy, keeping you warm and will fill you up. You burn more food in the cold weather. Your body wants to keeps its core warm, food is one way that you do this.
Eating warm meals and snacking a lot is key to keeping that core warm and your spirits up.
Details like how you prepare your meals is important too. When backpacking in the winter, it is important to remember that you consume more fuel in colder weather. Plan for it.
You may need bigger cooking gear to allow for more substantial meals, especially when cooking for you and your buddies. Clean up is another issue, just as important as cleaning in warmer weather, but remember that fuel issue? That’s right, you are going to burn more fuel in clean up too. Plan for it.
We will talk about gear in up coming posts, but remember that taking care of your gear will ensure it is there for you and in good repair.

Planning keeps you prepared. Prepare for all the details…It is the advantage we have that keeps us from surviving.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Leadership traits

Courage, Competence, Candor, and Commitment are four leadership traits that are valuable in the leaders tool box for effective leadership.
You can hear more about them on my latest show on the Scoutmaster Minute Podcast.

Listen here.

Thanks to those of you that have expressed concern. It’s been a month since the last podcast, Scouting and life has been extremely busy as of late, and podcasting had to be pushed aside for a bit. Thanks again for your patients. Enjoy the show.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Uniform Police…Out ta getcha!

“Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.” – Sir Robert S.S. Baden Powell

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the methods of Scouting… and the Uniform of the Boy Scouts of (Insert Country here).
In the Boy Scouts of America we have 1 uniform. We have many variations of that uniform, but we have only one uniform. And that is the Field uniform.
OK- now the Pros have theirs too… but by and large we all wear the Field uniform. It consists of a Shirt, pants or shorts (Switchback style gives you both) Socks, a belt, and a hat. There are optional items, such as the Neckerchief.
So why is that hard? I hear the money argument, but that really is not that bad, it can be done if you want to… just like anything else. I hear that the uniform is not practical.. not anymore.
I hear the boys don’t like it… they don’t like doing chores either, but it is good for them to learn to do their part.
The uniform is an important part of Scouting and when worn it should be worn properly.. and that is what I am really getting at.
Even if you don’t wear the full uniform…wear what you have right.
I hate to be the uniform police… but there are certain things that drive me nuts.
First and foremost… TUCK IN YOUR SHIRT! (and button it up)
Second… CLEAN IT.
Third… Have the patches in the right place. You don’t even have to know how to sew these days. Badge Magic is available at every Scout Shop. The Scout handbook shows you were everything goes.

Now- this is not a rant.. it is just a reminder that when we put on the uniform, we represent the Boy Scouts of America. I suppose having worn the uniform of our Country for 21 years, I have an eye for those that do not have enough pride in themselves and the organization to wear it properly.

When I leave my house, I make sure that my hair is combed and that I am neatly dressed. I have pride in myself and how I appear in public. Some folks just don’t care, and I guess that is a choice, but when we represent something like the BSA, we should go out of our way to look the part.
A Scout is Clean. Hair combed, teeth brushed, and clothing neat.

Last weekend at our Webelos Woods event, I must have corrected 50 people on their uniform, mostly adults. What example are we setting when we do not tuck our shirt in, fail to have unit numbers on the shirt.. and most of all not wear the whole uniform.

As a method of Scouting the uniform takes on importance. We do not get to pick and choose not to use it to achieve the aims.

Now before I get emails… for those of you that pick nits… NO.. the Uniform is NOT REQUIRED by the BSA to participate in Scouting. There, said it and now moving on…

Wear your uniform completely and properly…set a good example!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Backpacking Tip of the Week

The weather is changing, getting colder and wetter as we approach winter.
It is time again to look at the clothing that we wear on our outings, whether it is a backpacking trip or a close to home camp out, we need to be aware that what we have on is just as important, if not more important that what we carry.

Layering is the tried and true way of making sure you stay warm and dry in the fall and winter. Come to think of it, it will keep you cool in the summer too… but lets focus on the Fall and Winter.

First of all… remember that cotton kills.. so get cotton out of you pack now. It absorbs moisture and traps it against the body. Cold!
Now that your cotton clothing is gone.. lets look at your layers.

You will have 3 layers.
A Base layer, which is against your body and manages moisture.
A Mid layer, which insulates you and keeps you warm.
And a Shell layer, which protects you from the weather.

Your Base layer consists of clothing against your skin. Your next-to-skin layer should be materials such as silk, wool or synthetic fabrics such as REI MTS®, Patagonia® Capilene®, Polartec® PowerDry® and CoolMax® polyester. Rather than absorbing moisture, these fabrics transport (or “wick”) perspiration away from your skin, dispersing it on the outer surface, where it can evaporate. The result: You stay drier even when you sweat, and your shirt dries faster afterwards.

Your Mid layer, the insulating layer helps you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Polyester fleece vests, jackets and tights are classic examples of insulation ideal for outdoor activities. They not only trap air but are also made with moisture-wicking fibers to help keep you dry.

The shell (outer) layer protects you from wind, rain or snow. Shells range from spendy mountaineering jackets to simple windproof jackets, but most are designed to block the rain and hold in your body heat while allowing water vapor to escape. This is an important piece when you’re active, because if wind and water are allowed to penetrate to your inner layers, you begin to cool off. Without proper ventilation, perspiration can’t evaporate but instead condenses on the inside of your shell.

Dress in layers and you will stay warm and dry this winter. As you get warm, loose a layer, as you get cold, put them back on. Loose in layers will ensure that you have great camping experiences in the fall and winter.

Have a Great Scouting day!

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The Mill

By now those of you that follow Scouting on the Internet have read the story of one Coleman Carter. Coleman is an 18 year old Scout that has earned 121 merit badges. That is far and away more than the average of 30 that your typical Scout earns.
Coleman earned his Eagle Award at 13, that in and of itself is remarkable. For a Scout to earn his Eagle Rank he needs to have earned 21 merit badges, 11 of which must be from the Eagle required list.
Congratulations to Coleman for his achievement. That is one hard working Scout. He deserves all the pats on the back that are coming to him. You can read more about Coleman by clicking here.

OK.. now that we have given this Scout a pat on the back and recognized his accomplishments, let me share my thoughts on the issue of merit badges and the merit badge program.

First of all the merit badge program of the Boy Scouts of America is a great tool for developing and peaking interests in our Scouts. By design it is not a program to make the Scout an expert in any subject area, rather, the program reaches out to a Scout and begs that he learn more, try something new, seek out adventures, and explore the world around him.
The Eagle required list focuses certain topics that assist the Scout in becoming a well rounded young man.
So whats that got to do with our Scout that earned all 121? Well nothing really… except when you do the math. It is not impossible to earn all of the badges as we have learned. But what I would caution is that the program is not about merit badges. It is about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness. That is not to say that Merit badges are not important.. they are, but they are just a part of the bigger picture. If a Scout sets a goal to earn them all… help him earn them all. But not for the sake of having them, but for the sake of learning something about a skill, a profession, a hobby. The Scout needs to walk away from the experience better for it. The Scout needs to develop an appreciation for what he has experienced.
Merit Badges are a great part of the Scouting program… a part.
We never limit a Scout when it comes to achievement. I will tell you that when our Troop goes to Summer camp, I encourage the Scouts to have fun, that may mean they do not sign up for a bunch of merit badges, some do, but I want them to have fun. Mess around at the water front, hang out at the rifle range, shoot some arrows, and hang out with his buddies.
Summer camps are great opportunities for Scouts to earn merit badges, they are also great opportunities to grow and build memories of being a boy. They are only boys once, and we should not burden their experiences by forcing merit badges, rank or anything else on them at camp. It is their time to be a kid, have fun, and make memories.
There is always time for the Scout that sets his goals high and wants to achieve. Time is never an issue for the Scout that wants to become and Eagle. That is all part of the process.

I am proud of Coleman, and all of our Scouts that work hard to achieve their goals.
Seeing such positive story about Scouting is with out a doubt a wonderful thing for Scouting.

Have fun.. achieve… set goals.. and enjoy the experience.
Job well Done Coleman!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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1 Step forward and 2 Steps Back

Last night my son and I settled in and watched a football game that I would probably not otherwise watch. But it was Tuesday and it was the only Football game on.. so being the football fans that we are, we watched the Temple Owls play the Ohio Bobcats in a pretty ugly game.
Temple was behind for three quarters, they played hard, but seemed to not be able to move the ball. Ohio on the other hand scored 10 points real quick, but that was about it for their offense. They moved up and down the field ok, but could not punch it in.
Both teams played their collective hearts out… to use the cliche, they left it all on the field.
What killed them was penalties and bad decisions. They would move the ball 15 yards, then get a 10 yard penalty. They would throw a long pass, then get a 15 yard personal foul.
Every time they moved forward, they were sent back.
1 step forward…2 steps back.
If you have ever tried to move across a room taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back, you will soon come to realize that you are not getting anywhere… fast.

As we watch our Patrols develop, we often see them going through this 1 step forward mode. They call it Storming in the stages of team development. It usually results in the team getting frustrated and conflicts begin. It is ok to be in the storming mode for awhile, but it is the test of the team, or Patrol, to get out of it… to move forward.
It takes the team leader, or Patrol leader to recognize that they are getting nowhere and rally his Patrol, motivate them, to move in the direction they need to go. Leaders understand the purpose and direction of the unit and strive to get there, even if it means conflict along the way.
Storming is a normal part of the team development process. The Patrols need to be coached through it and allowed to make the mistakes it takes to learn so they can move forward.

Last night the Temple Owls took 4 quarters to figure it out. Down 10-0 they came back and won the game 14-10. The last quarter they played like a team. They held their blocks longer, ran the right routes, and the Quarterback stayed in the pocket and took the hits when it benefited the play.

Patrols are no different than a football team, they all go through development on their way to being a high performance team. In the end it is a great thing to see and everyone enjoys the taste of success.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Your Gear

I must have been about 10 years old the time my Dad and I went camping alone for the first time. I don’t remember much about the trip other than the fact that my Dad seemed to have everything down to science.
He had all the answers and seemed to be the worlds best outdoors man.
While we were pitching the tent my Dad told me, “Take care of your gear and it will always take care of you.”
Something so simple… but true.
About 10 years later, I found myself in the basement of Charlie Company 4/9th Infantry in Fairbanks, Alaska. We had just come back from an extremely long field training exercise and were cleaning up our squads gear.
We had all the tent pegs on a board and were painting them red, we had emptied the lanterns and stuck string in the fuel hole to wick excess fuel out, we turned our Ahkio sled upside down to drip dry and let the canvas hang, and we put everything back in its place for the next time we would need it.
My Squad leader came into the room and talked to us about taking care of our equipment. He said to us that if “We took care of our gear… it would take care of us.” I thought wow… that’s what my dad told me. (Wonder where he got it?)
And it was true. The more we used the gear, the more we repaired and maintained it, it never failed us. On extreme cold weather exercises, our gear always did its job, the tent keep us dry and when we fired up the Yukon stove.. it kept us toasty warm.

Tonight as we stored the Troop gear from this weekends camp out, I noticed that some of our gear was starting to show signs of neglect. Now I know that it was not intentional, but at the same time it served as a great illustration of why we need to take care of our gear. Some of the gear we found tonight would need some serious attention and if we needed it tomorrow, it would not be available.. it would not take care of us.
Tonight, the young men of Troop 664 heard what my Dad and my Squad leader told me 22 and 12 years ago. And it’s still a fact… IF YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR GEAR… IT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.

So here are some tips.
When you come home from a camp out.
1. Hang your tent up.. get it dry. Even if it was only a little damp.. hang it up. A little moisture can destroy your tent.

2. Hang your sleeping bag. Let it air out and let the fibers decompress. Then store it in a big bag..loosely.
3. Wash your mess kit. Even if it got cleaned at the camp out… throw it in the dish washer for a good cleaning.
4. Wash and air out your water bottle. A great way to get sick is not to clean out your water bottle.
5. Empty your pack. Get all the dirty clothing out and into the laundry.
6. Inventory your gear and make sure you have everything. Check the batteries in your flashlight or head lamp.
7. Check your First Aid kit. Do you need to replace anything, band aids, tape, mole skin?
8. Check your stove. Is it in good shape? Do you have enough fuel for the next trip?
9. Make sure your rain gear is dry and in good shape.
10. Pack it all back up in a few days. Note anything that may be missing or needs to be replaced.

Take care of your gear. Know what you have, how you use it, and keep it in good shape. If you take care of your gear…it will take care of you. I promise.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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