Month: November 2011

The Importance of Service

My twins are 18 and are getting close to graduating from High School.  The other night they brought home a form for documenting Community service.  In our State there is a requirement to perform 8 hours of community service.  I agree with this requirement, I think it, at a minimum forces today’s youth to at least understand the need for volunteerism and service.
So why am I blogging about this?  Well, this was real easy for us as we document all the service our Scouts do.  I mean, heck.. just to get to the rank of Life Scout the Scout will have completed at least 12 hours of service to his community.  Now add in all the rest of the service he will do in the course of a year and the graduation requirements are met with ease.
In the last two years I have had to go back into our troop documents and produce service records for graduating Seniors.  This becomes a real important part of the graduates record for the School.  I have talked with our High School about this requirement, one of the counselors said that they appreciate those Seniors that were or are Boy Scouts.  It sure helps them out in understanding the need for service.
Our family participates in the Relay for Life each year, and our High School is a host for the relay annually.   Our youngest son (Life Scout) is on the committee for the School Relay program.  The spirit of service has been grown in them from a very early age and I am happy that they now, without Dad or Mom pushing, asking, or even encouraging, they find ways to be of service.  Now if we could get them to clean their rooms…
Service is an important part of Scouting going all the way back to its beginnings.  The Lone Scout in the story of William D. Boyce lost in the London Fog, Food drives, Scrap metal drives during WW II, Goodwill/Good Turn, not to mention all the countless hours that Troops spend on local projects that benefit their communities, Charter Partners, and Wilderness areas.
Service has always been one of the Hallmarks of Scouting.  Even providing service within the Troop in leadership positions plays a major role in developing the spirit of service in our Scouts.  It is in this spirit that our young men start the habit of being in service to others.  I think that when they understand the importance of this, it will last them a life time.
Every year Scouts all over conduct Scouting for Food drives.  This is a great way to get in the community and do a great service to those that truly in need, but we can take that a step further.  Our Troop does the food drive, then helps sort, box, and store the food in our local food bank.  As this happens they all see the direct impact of their work on the drive.  As the food drive is always on a Saturday, the Scouts get the opportunity to see those in need arrive to collect the much needed food.  It is a sad that there is a need, but the fact of the matter is that there is.  We do not parade the Scouts around to get an eye full, but the behind the scenes glimpse that they do get is enough to instill in them the want to do more.
So I think it is a great thing that our Schools require service to the community as part of their graduation.  I think it a even greater that the Boy Scouts maintain service as one of its core values.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

12 steps to Shaving Weight

Backpacker magazine published a good article called “Ultralight Makeover” 12 steps for cutting weight.
I found this article interesting and all in all agree with it.  Now, I should say that I am not considered a UL guy.  I do, as stated ad nauseum, like to keep my pack weight down and take a critical look at my gear to reduce what I carry and therefore the weight that I carry.
The other night at our Troop meeting we did a shake down for our next camp out.  One of the ASMs brought a luggage scale and we set out to seeing how we could reduce the weight of the packs.  By taking a critical look at what we carry, looking at our needs, wants, and must have’s.. we ended up shaving about 3 lbs from most packs.  Some packs we got up to 6 lbs out.  Just looking into cook gear, extra clothing, and the “Neat to have stuff” shaved lots of weight.  We had a Scout that weighed 105 lbs.  His base weight walking in was 37 lbs.  That is way out of his range.  Some say that 25% of the body weight is the max while others say 30%.  I like to stay with the former, in fact the closer you get to 20% the better in my opinion.  After the shake down we weighed our 105 lb Scouts pack again.  We got him down to 25.7 lbs.  That is a lot better and well within this Scouts ability to carry the weight.  Where were the savings.  Clothing, Cook kit, and extra’s.
I am reposting the article because it is a good one, I am not advocating the products that Backpacker Magazine promotes in the article, but in and of itself the article does demonstrate some good ideas for looking at your weight.  An example is the author promotes the Jetboil.  I am not a fan of the Jetboil ( I own two of them and both of my sons have them, my youngest is the only one that still uses it), I have talked about this before.  So please remember that the items promoted in the article are written in by the author.
Another item that I would like to voice an opinion on is about the water purification.  ALWAYS TAKE CAUTION WITH WATER.  At a minimum boil it.
Enjoy the article.

Ultralight Makeover

A 12-step program for cutting weight.

by: Kelly Bastone

Everyone benefits from carrying less weight. Whether you’re a mileage-driven thru-hiker, a fast-packing weekender, or a comfort-seeker who just wants to make room for camp luxuries, you’ll enjoy a lighter load. Easier said than done, you say? We’ve devised this 12-step program to help you slash pounds today.
Step 1
Admit you have a problem

Load your pack (everything but food and water) for a summer weekend. No cheating—include the extras you carry, like a book, wallet, and camera. Now weigh it. More than 15 pounds? You can—and should—lose weight.
Step 2
Downsize your pack

Conventional wisdom dictates—and we’ve advised before—that you should change your pack last, since you’ll overwhelm an ultralight model if you don’t upgrade your other gear at the same time. But consider this option the cold-turkey method: Buy a lightweight pack and adapt your gear to fit. “Make your pack constrain your other gear choices,” says Erik Asorson, PCT thru-hiker and guidebook author. Switching to a trim 40-liter pack, for instance, forces you to shrink gear across the board and prevents you from hauling “just in case” extras. For the lightest load, choose a frameless pack that weighs less than two pounds and keep your total payload below 25 pounds (our pick: the GoLite Jam Pack, $150, 1 lb. 15 oz., Want to balance a light pack with the versatility to carry bigger loads when needed? Opt for a pack with a light-but-rigid suspension, like Granite Gear’s Blaze AC 60 ($200, 2 lbs. 15 oz.,
Step 3
Ditch your dome 

This is the low-hanging fruit of an ultralight makeover. If you’re carrying a traditional freestanding dome, you can cut shelter weight in half or more. The lightest option: a tarp. You can’t beat the space-to-weight ratio, but expect to practice a bit to achieve a sturdy pitch. And of course tarps offer no protection from bugs or pooling water. Our pick: Integral Designs SilWing ($110, 12 oz., 56 sq. ft.). Not a tinkerer? Get domelike protection for tarplike weight with floorless shelters like the GoLite Shangri-La 2 ($225, 1 lb. 10 oz., 45 sq. ft.). Prefer a traditional tent? Save weight with a model that uses trekking poles for support (NEMO Meta 2p: $370, 2 lbs. 15 oz., 36 sq. ft., or a nonfreestanding hoop tent (Mountain Hardwear  Lightpath 2: $175, 3 lbs. 15 oz., 30 sq. ft.,
Step 4
Change your bedding 

If you’re going to spend big on one piece of gear, make it your bag. A $30 tarp may offer shelter comparable to a $300 tent, but a cheap bag is likely to be cold or heavy—or both. Aim for a three-season pad/bag combo that weighs three pounds or less. Splurge on a premium down bag to save weight and bulk. Our pick: Marmot’s Plasma 15 ($469, 1 lb. 14 oz., For maximum cushion, get an insulated air mattress, like Pacific Outdoors Peak Elite AC ($80, 14 oz.,
Step 5
Start cooking light 

Reduce fuel consumption to save mucho weight on trips longer than a weekend. Start by painting the bottom of all silver pots with flat black Rust-Oleum stove paint, which boosts efficiency by 30 to 40 percent. Never leave a stove burning without a pot on it, and always use a lid. Choose quick-cook foods (such as couscous instead of pasta) and plan some no-cook meals (think granola instead of oatmeal). Stick to one-pot meals and limit hot drinks. Tip: Skip the paint job with an integrated stove/pot like the Jetboil Flash Cooking System ($100, 14 oz.,
Step 6
Pay attention to the menu

“If you hike with an extra day’s worth of food, you might as well carry a rock in your pack,” says long-distance veteran Mike Daniel. Yes, carrying extra “emergency” food is tempting, but how many three-season trips turn into unplanned epics? And in a survival situation, water and shelter will be much more important than food. Choose items that deliver at least 100 calories per ounce, like candy bars, trail mix, and cheese. Total weight: Two pounds per person per day is a good starting figure—but individual needs may vary (more for cold weather and strenuous trips).
Step 7  Carry less water 
Don’t risk dehydration, but be smart when water is plentiful. Use a map to plan refills. Chug at each source. And skip the filter unless you expect murky water. Instead, opt for a chemical treatment or the 2011 Editors’ Choice Award winner SteriPEN Adventurer Opti ($100, 3.8 oz.,
Step 8
Dress down 

Thru-hiker Jack Haskel limits his three-season layering system to pants, a tee, a puffy, a shell, one pair of underwear—and, um, no deodorant. He cautions not to go too light on the shell for alpine travel. “With raingear, a few ounces can mean a much safer hike.” Our pick: First Ascent’s BC-200 ($199, 11 oz.,
Step 9
Stay fresh with less

Ditch the deodorant and comb. Carry a travel-size tube of toothpaste and toothbrush, and pack hand sanitizer along with your TP and trowel. And don’t stow it all in a heavy ditty bag that weighs more than the contents.
Step 10
Pack knowledge 

The more you know, the less you can carry. “I pack two lighters and matches—that’s it,” says Daniel about his survival gear for short trips. His first-aid kit? Prevention, as in—he stops every four miles to air out his feet and avoid blisters. Our pick: caution and improvisation, like making your bandanna a bandage.
Step 11
Go smart-tech 

Does going ultralight mean going ultraprimitive? Nope. But your gadgets should have a clear purpose and, whenever possible, replace other items. For example, Haskel listens to podcasts on his iPod instead of packing a book. The ultimate multitasker: an iPhone or Droid loaded with tunes, audio books, a star chart, and, ahem, our navigation app (GPS Trails Pro, $3.99,
Step 12
Give your feet a break

Would you strap on three-pound ankle weights before a hike? So don’t wear heavy, high-cut boots unless you need serious weather or ankle protection.

Well there you go.  See what you can do to shave a few pounds.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

HalfEagle Answers

Many of you that hit this blog are aware if not very aware of Gregg Hilferding’s site.  It is a great place to keep up with Scouting web sites and whats going on in the online Scouting community.
Gregg wrote me the other day saying;

If you’ve spent much time on some of the popular Scouting message boards, forums or mailing lists, you’ve probably been amazed by how quickly discussions can spiral into heated debates. I think that the way these sites are set up are fundamentally flawed and I’ve made a site that I hope will provide the desired service to it’s members (sharing knowledge with fellow Scouters) while also demonstrating Scouting values.
 This community model has already proven itself in programming communities — I hope it will do as well in the Scouting community.

I have been toying around at the new HalfEagle Answers site, and I think that once this site gets out there and some of the “regulars” start asking and answering some questions this too will be a great Scout related site on the net.

I encourage you all to check our HalfEagle Answers.  Contribute and see what you think.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

My Gear and Packing it

Well, as promised, here is a video of my gear.  A quick break down and then packing it up.
It’s in two parts and I hope the quality is ok.
I will be posting a gear list in the near future with a link on the blog
Just a note on weight.  The base weight (no food or water) of this load is 23 lbs.  I do not skimp on comfort and warmth.
Like I have I said in the past, I am not a gram weenie.  I shave weight because I want be comfortable when I hike.
This load also includes the winter clothing that I will have for the next couple months.
This weight fluctuates by about 3 lbs in the summer.
If you have any questions, please ask.

Enjoy the Videos.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Part 1

Part 2

Winter Pack Weight

Managing your pack weight when winter camping is a task that seriously needs consideration, skill, and knowledge.  I know that most of us are always looking to shave some weight here and there, lets face it, most of us need to shave the pack weight, and body weight too.
So lets talk about getting rid of unwanted ounces in your winter kit.
First of all, this process needs to take time and thoughtful consideration.  Every one has his own way of packing, gear they like, and equipment that you are comfortable with.  So, take this post as it is intended.. it is my thoughts and ideas and mainly my opinion.  It is NOT one size fits all and when working with Scouts Safety must be the first priority when putting together the winter kit.. weight should always be a consideration, but not the over riding decision maker.
Now lets talk about the three biggest items in your pack.  Your sleep system, shelter, and the pack itself.
Notice I said, Sleep system and Shelter.  There is much to be saved in systems.  Rather than your off the shelf cheap sleeping bag it is a good idea to invest in a good sleep system.  Now before you turn off the computer and say I am just trying to get you spend more… hear me out.
We are talking about winter camping and how you can shave some weight.  Your sleep system could include the sleeping bag, and insulated pad (close cell foam, or inflatable), a sleeping bag liner, and maybe a Bivy sack.
You can take a 20 or 30 degree bag and turn it into a 10 or 20 degree sleeping bag just by adding a sleeping bag liner at very little cost.  The weight savings may come in the fact that a 20 degree bag is typically lighter than your off the rack 0 degree or 10 degree bag.
Down is much lighter, but takes a certain degree of care.   Keep it dry and you are fine.
You can add more comfort and heat by adding the bivy sack.  This light weight shell keeps you dry and our of the wind and will add another 5 to 10 degrees in a pinch.
Take a good look at your sleep system.  A cold night sleep makes for a terrible experience in winter camping.
Your shelter is the next item to consider in winter camping.  Ask yourself what you need and where you are camping.  Bugs are not an issue in winter camping, so there is no need for a bug net or netting.  A good nylon tarp that can be pitched low to the ground and get you out of the elements is all you really need.
Unless you are camping in hunting tent with a pot belly stove, your typical backpacking tent is not designed to provide warmth.  The tent keeps you out of the elements which, when inside and out of the wind and snow, you feel warmer.  But a properly pitched tarp can do the same, keeping you out of the wind and snow along with trapping escaping heat.  This is a nice option for shaving weight.
Having said all of that, you need to be comfortable using the tarp.  There are a lot of people that still feel the benefits of having a tent out weigh the weight savings.
Clothing is the next place that we can shave some weight.  First think minimum!  Remember that fleece is your friend, layers are the way to dress, and stay dry and clean.  Start with your base layer and only carry two pair.  If your base layer is dry the rest of your body will stay warm.
The rest of your layers should stay dry and clean and that is all you need.  Your outer shell is super important and needs to be used when the conditions warrant.
If you are going to add clothing to your pack, make it extra socks.  Far to many times do I see campers (youth and adults) that carry way to much in the clothing department.
Base layer, one worn and one carried, a mid layer and one extra shirt, and outer shell is the key to weight savings and warmth.  Add to that a pair of gloves and a snow cap and you are set.
I saved the biggest saving for last.  The secret to weight savings in both the winter and the other three seasons is simple.  STOP TAKING “COOL STUFF YOU FIND AT YOUR LOCAL OUTFITTER!”   There is way to much cool stuff out there that you really don’t need.  If you are not venturing to far from the car, take all the neat stuff you want, but when you are looking at carrying the winter load of your pack into the woods, neat equals weight.
If you are going to add little what-nots to your load, buy good quality what-nots.. they are always lighter and built better.
I am going to show you my load in tomorrow’s post.  Like I said at the outset of this post though, your load is your load and you need to feel comfortable under it.  don’t let me sway your judgement or opinion.  You need to be happy with what is on your back and how you build your kit.  I have gone through many evolutions on what and how I carry my stuff.  I have gone through countless cook kits, shelter options, and sleep systems, and who knows, things may change again, but for now I am real happy with the way I camp and the way it all gets there.  It is comfortable, easy to use, and provides all the comfort, safety, and protection from the elements that I need here in the Pacific Northwest.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Money for Nothin’

This post is all about curiosity…  and I should say right up front that I am calling no one out, nor am I saying this is right or wrong.
I have noticed a lot of blogs out there and other web sites, both Scout related and non Scout related that seem to be making an attempt at monetizing their sites.  Again, I suppose I don’t have a problem with this, I don’t do it and won’t do my blog for money, but it seems that there are folks out there making money for nothing.
Now you may say.. “Well Scoutmaster Jerry, you make money from the podcast.. right?”  No, I do not make a penny from the podcast.  The relationships that we (PTCMedia) have with our sponsors are such that it pays for the website domain and the bandwidth.  We get nothing… not even promotional material.
On one web site that I follow the individual that hosts actually even put a wish list on his blog.  I have never asked if he has received anything from it, but thought to myself on a couple of occasions that this would be a great way to get me some more gear.  But I have not been able to get myself to beg.
So I am curious… is there money to be made?  Do you think it’s a good idea?  Bad idea?  Would you ever fulfill someones Amazon wish list? note:  If so… let it be me!!! Joking… kinda. 
There is a guy that I follow on and Youtube.  He is a backpacker and hammock camper and has some real entertaining videos out there.  I don’t think he monetizes his Youtube stuff, but man oh man he gets lots of stuff to test and show from the followers of his media.  This I could get into.

So let me know what you think, like I said, I can’t bring myself to doing this.. but want to know how you all feel.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leave No Trace

I am a big advocate of the Leave No Trace program.  We spend a great deal of time in our Troop teaching and coaching the Leave No Trace principles and and the Outdoor ethic.
I stumbled on this video from our friends at the National Park Service and thought I would share.
This video shows a great perspective on why we need Leave No Trace.

Have a Great Scouting Day!