Month: December 2009

Going beyond BSA training

Over the last couple of days, since I posted my Cold weather Camping Card, there has been a lot of discussion and email flying around about techniques, procedures, and skills needed for, in particular, cold weather camping.
I would suggest that as Scout leaders we take this very seriously.
If your unit goes out and camps in “Extreme conditions”, treks out away from the fire rings and parking lots, then I would recommend that your adult leaders and youth leadership get additional training.  And no, the BSA does not offer the kind of training I am suggesting.
OK, so your Trip permit requires CPR trained individuals, it requires Hazardous Weather training, safety afloat and Safe Swim defense as well as Youth protection… and you are required to read and agree to the safe driving policy.  That is all well and good… until you strap on your snow shoes and head into the wilderness.
Wilderness First Aid courses and Cold weather skills training are a must.  The BSA does offer the OKPIK training in certain Councils, but I would venture to say that you will not get the level of training that you will get through NOLS, Alpine Adventures, or most mountaineering or backpacking clubs.
Outfitters like REI and Next Adventure are also great resources for getting to training for your outdoor experiences.
I guess my point is that before you take a group of Scouts out into the wilderness.. you better go beyond what the BSA “requires” and get trained.
I take a lot of pride in the fact that I am an experienced Backpacker and have taken the time to go to training, become proficient in skills and have the ability to teach those skills.  But what I have learned, among other things is that you never can stop learning.  Techniques change with better understanding and time and it is imperative that we keep up with the changes.
Do not be the Scout leader that wanders off into the woods with a group of boys without training.  We see it every year on the news were Scouts get hurt and no one knew what they were doing.  It’s not just camping.. its skills, attitude, knowledge, fun, and adventure.  But we need to do it smart.
Seek out a wilderness first aid course, visit a local outfitter and find a course on what ever the skill you need training in.  It will make you a better out doors person and better leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
PS.  The two young men in the picture are from my troop camping in January on Mt. Hood.

Cold Weather First Aid… Revisited

I recently posted a “Cold Weather fact Card” that our Scout Troop uses for training and preparing for cold weather camping.

The beauty of the internet is that we can share ideas, thoughts, and information.. and most of all we learn (in most cases).
So immediately I have been called out for my “Sources”.. well here they are.
The information that I put on that card come from an old OKPIK cold weather camping book put out by the Boy Scouts and my training as a cold weather instructor at the Cold Weather Combat training center at Ft. Greely, Alaska.  Now I will grant that the information is dated.. and this is why I am glad that I have been “Called out”.  See now I have learned something, although the First Aid that I have put on the card will do just that.. provide first aid.
In regard to putting two people into a sleeping bag for Hypothermia.  While it may not be current practice, it still works.  The concern was getting two bodies into the sleeping bag.  Well two 13 year old Scouts surely fit.  I have also been reminded that putting an adult in the bag with a Scout would be against the guide to safe Scouting.  I suppose that would have to be a risk an adult leader would have to take to provide the first aid necessary.
Having said that.. I would like to thank Walter Underwood for his comment and offering the current First Aid procedure.  It reminds me that we never can stop learning.  In fact this has motivated me to retake my Wilderness First Aid.
In case you are one that does not read the comments… here is what Walter writes:
“Current first aid practice does not recommend putting a second person in the sleeping bag.
Modern practice is a hypothermia wrap or hypothermia “burrito”. Lay down a tarp, then two sleeping pads, then one sleeping bag. Put the person on that, in a sleeping bag, with hot water bottles. Put another sleeping bag on top and wrap the tarp.
If a bottle is too hot (someone boiled the water), pull a sock over it.
The “two people” approach has a lot of problems. Is there is a sleeping bag big enough? Do you risk getting two hypothermic people? [yes] Do you keep the heat donor in there when you evac? [twice as heavy]”

He offers a link to a discussion in the NOLS Leader that you will have to see in his original comment.
I think the most important part of Cold Weather First Aid is Prevention.  We go prepared not to get hurt, knowing that things happen and whenever you are in a high risk environment we need to be prepared for the worst case.  Constantly updating and revising plans, training, and skills.
Never stop learning.  Update your cards and get out there and camp in the winter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Den Chiefs

In the PTC Media Forums the subject of Den Chiefs came up.  There were some questions from a Cub Scout leader that was looking to have a Den Chief for her Den in the coming year.
Here is my response:

From a Scoutmasters perspective, Den Chiefs are a fantastic asset to your unit.
Having said that.. lets focus on the Scout (s).
The Den Chief position is a great way for a young man to develop leadership. It is a great way for him to develop self esteem and better yet, it is a better way for him to hone his Scout Craft. Teaching knots, building fires, showing how to pack a pack and what to take, how to cook and clean and live the Scout oath and Law.
Now some of you may think this is fantasy.. and it is IF…. YOU FAIL TO TRAIN THE DEN CHIEF.
I have two young men in my Troop this year that are in Den Chief positions. They both are doing a great job within the Dens that they are assigned. One of them has been with the same den for two years now… He started with them as First year Webelos and is assisting with their Second year Webelos year.
The other is assigned to a Bear Den.
Both of these young men… like previous Den Chiefs attend the official Den Chief training.. and then they attend Scoutmaster Jerry’s Den Chief training. They are constantly being coached throughout the year as well as kept tabs on in conferences as well as feedback from the Den Leader.
The role of the Den Chief is an important one. They are the link between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. They are role Models and your best recruiters.
Do you have to pick the cream of the crop? NO.. Leaders are not born.. they are made. So let any of your Scouts try this out. Some may need more coaching than others.
Another bit of free advice… Scoutmasters.. help the Den Leaders out. Go to their meetings and get to know them. Find out what their needs are and then teach your den Chief the specifics.
Den Chief is not a substitute Den Leader.. he is a boy that is there to help and he can be when given specific tasks and goals.
I highly encourage an active Den Chief program within Packs and Troops.
Oh yeah.. did I mention recruiter. I have found that a good Den Chief is your best recruiter. Not only for the Cub Scouts.. but more important.. their parents. When they see this young man doing his best, being a good role model and teacher.. they will flock to your unit.
The Den Chief position is not and should not be used as a “Filler for rank” job. This takes away from the program and destroys the relationship between Packs and Troops.
I may have to do a whole show in this too.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camp Card

This is the Cold Weather Camping Fact sheet or help card that we use at my Troop.
It is a nice tool for teaching cold weather camping to the Scouts.  We find it helpful to the Scouts so they can use it as a reference sheet.
We print them and laminate them.. they are light weight and fit nice in the pack.
Again, its a nice tool for teaching and reenforcing cold weather skills and first aid.
Download it here.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

NOTE:  12-31-09 revised Cold Weather Camping card posted.  If you have a version prior to this date.. Download the newer card.  Thanks

Winter camping.. which Stove should I take?

I think that as long as there are guys like me there will be debates on which is the best type of stove to take on backpacking trips.  And as long as there are guys like me.. we will have each type of stove.. so we can meet our needs in the backcountry.
So the current debate is which stove is best in a Cold weather environment.  And the answer is not so simple.
Here is what I know.
For absolute best performance in the cold.. Liquid fuel stoves like the MSR Whisperlite is a proven stove.  Typically you will always get peak performance from a liquid fuel (white gas).  This type of fuel and stove works extremely well in freezing and sub freezing temperatures.  They are very reliable.
The disadvantage is that they are a bit messy at times, bulky, and require more maintenance.
Liquified Gas or Canister Stove are the next in class.  They are very simple to use and require very little maintenance.  Stoves like the Snow Peak Giga power  and the Jet Boil are very simple and efficient.  But not as efficient as a Whisperlite.  Using a canister stove in the winter requires special care and considerations to work at it’s peak (which you will not get absolute peak performance from a canister stove in extreme cold temps).  There are ways to increase the performance however.. keeping your canister of fuel warm is one must.  Keep your canister in a wool sock, make sure you are cooking on an insulated surface (cook on a closed cell pad) and always use a wind screen.
Alcohol stoves would be another choice.  They work, but require priming and preheating.  They have slower cook times, so if you are wanting something hot quickly.. that won’t happen with an alcohol stove.  They are real clean and require no maintenance.  The alcohol stove does not perform well in sub freezing temperatures.. but they are light, cheap, and easy to use.
Solid fuel stove like the Esbit stove are yet another option.  Much like the alcohol stove, you are not going to get fast cooking times, but the solid fuel is reliable and works in the extreme cold.  A great advantage of the Esbit stove is they are light, compact, cheap, and easy to use.  Really the only disadvantage is the cooking time and you have no ability to simmer if you need to.
So did I answer the debate?  No.. What you need to do is find what works best for you.  Get out and test these stoves for yourself and see what works best in your kit.  I personally have a Whisper Lite, a Jet boil, a Giga Power, a couple alcohol stoves, and an Esbit stove.  I find that the Giga Power is pretty much my favorite.. it does everything I want it to do.  I like the Whisper lite in the winter and I like the alcohol and Esbit for toying around in the summer.  The Jet boil is a super efficient stove and I really like it.. but pound for pound and inch for inch I prefer the Giga power canister stove, but that’s just me.
So the answer is up to you.  The debate will rage on forever and ever.. and at the end of the day, it is what you pull out of your pack that you like and are comfortable with that will win.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A very Merry Christmas

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.
Christmas is such a special time of year for me and my family and I hope that this Christmas, even when times are tough, there is not enough bang in the buck, we are still at war, and jobs are hard to find, I hope that you all can understand and realize what Christmas is all about.
Faith, Hope, and Love.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”- Luke 2
This Christmas take the time to do something special with the ones that you love.
Merry Christmas one and all.


Show #46- an Interview with Gregg

In Show 46 I have a great interview with an incedible Scouter.  Most of you that follow scouting on the internet know of .  Even more of you know of … well meet the man behind the scenes in this interview.
Learn more about BSA Branding and get a glimps of the Scouting life of Gregg Hilferding.

You can listen at or get it from itunes.. or listen directly from HERE .

Have a Great Scouting Day!