Month: December 2012

Selfish.

Monday night at our Troop meeting I gave the Scoutmaster minute as always.  This weeks topic focused on not being selfish.
It is so easy to be a selfish person in our world today.  We tend to focus on what’s in it for me and what ever is good for me is the direction we head.  The selfish attitude that prevails in the world today is the cause of much heart ache, crime, and unrest.
Monday I talked about the Scout Oath and the fact that it is a promise made not to be selfish.  When you pledge your honor you are saying that I will not be a selfish person.
I will do my duty to my God and My Country.  Not that I expect anything in return.  It is simply my duty and I will do it.  I promise to help other people at all times.  Help.  This one is all about other people.. nothing to do with me.  And when I help I don’t need any praise, payment, or award.  I just want to be helpful.  And then there are the three promises that wrap up the Oath.  To keep myself Physically strong, so I can be of help to other people and set an example of good living and health.  To keep myself Mentally awake, so I can serve others and be aware of what is around me.  So I can learn and grow so that I can assist those that need help learning.  So I can be a leader in my world.  And to keep myself Morally straight.  Values that I learn and share are the cornerstone of my life and the more I demonstrate that I want to live right and do the right thing makes me a good member of my community.  And as a good member of the community I help others and make my community a better place to live.
The Scout Oath is about other people and how I am going to be a person that is productive, helpful, compassionate, caring, and a member of my community that makes the world a better place.
Yesterday we had a tragic event happen in our community. 
WARNING.   I AM GOING TO OFFEND HERE AND I DON’T CARE!
Yesterday a person.. who cares what his name is, he died a disgusting individual, entered a mall and began shooting.  He killed two people and like the coward that he is shot himself.  That is the best part of the story.. that he shot himself.  He saved the tax payers of this state lots of money and time that we would have to hear how he was “a troubled young man”, that “he played video games and they made him do it”, that “if he did not have access to guns, he would not have done this”, that “it’s not fair to hold him accountable for his actions, the crazy world made him do it.”
Yeah… that sounds harsh, but already we are hearing on the news that “No one saw this coming” and that “he was a good boy”.  Bull.
You don’t wake up one morning and put on camouflage clothing, body armor, and go into a mall loaded to take over Baghdad and start shooting on a whim.  I don’t care what this bums name is, I don’t want to know and I don’t think that the media should ever say it.  He should be a nameless individual that did a horrific thing.  He should not be made a victim and he should not be memorialized like Lee Harvey Oswald.  He did nothing heroic and he did nothing that should warrant a place in history.  A two-bit criminal that took two lives.
I got in a discussion today with a person that was so concerned about him and what troubled him enough to do this.  I simplified the discussion by saying that he did not have a firm foundation of values.  Had he, he could not have done such a terrible thing.  Being mentally awake and morally straight, he would have got as far as the body armor and said… nah.. this aint right.  He would have looked in the mirror and decided to do something good yesterday instead of killing two people.  “What about drugs and that kind of thing?”  Physically strong, mentally awake, morally straight.  Living those promises won’t allow for you to go down that road.
I am ridiculous I suppose I live in a dream world thinking that it is that simple.  Well guess what folks.  It really is that simple.
I have said it before and I will say it again.  There is no substitute for values and there is no reason not have them.  Just because you are poor, a minority, or not in the best of circumstances does not give you a free pass on being a person without values.
Enter the parents.  I can go on and on about this… but that is always the first question I ask.  Where are they, who are they, and why did they not teach this kid the difference between right and wrong.
I have always told my kids to “Say it out loud”.  If it does not sound right, then it isn’t.
Try it.  Say this:  “I am going to drive my car into that 7-11.”  Does it sound right?  NO.  Then don’t do it.
“I am going to walk into the mall dressed in camo and start shooting”.  Just does not sound right does it.  So who taught this monster the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
When our Scouts come to me for Scoutmaster conferences we talk about the Scout Oath and Law.  I demand that they live them every day and I do not settle for easy answers.  I force the conversation and make them respond.  Is this above and beyond the requirement?  NO.  I sign the book before we start talking.  Scouting is not about Eagle Scouts, Merit Badges, and camp outs.  It is about teaching young people to make ethical and moral decisions throughout their life times.  It is about a Promise that they make to not be selfish.
We have enough stupid people in the world.  We have enough selfish people in the world.  We have enough sick people in the world.  Our answer is something we Scout leaders can effect change in.  The Oath and Law.
Imagine that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Sunday Coffee – Folgers Breakfast Blend

Well, it’s Sunday, so I’m sharing another reader suggested coffee.  This week it’s the Folders Fresh Breaks Breakfast Blend.
I found this coffee to be tasty and easy.  It comes in the little single serving packets that do not take up space in the pack and the price is pretty good.  About $4 for 8 servings.
We also talk a bit about my first aid kit.
Teresa joins me out in the yard for a cup of coco.
Send me more of your suggestions, either leave a comment here or shoot me an email. tbirdironchef@gmail.com
Enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Must Read article Backpackers

We’ve been talking a lot lately about reducing pack weight.  I wish I would have come across this article before we went to Philmont this past summer.
If you don’t read another article today… Read this one.
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/philmont.html
Great information and super tips on reducing pack weight.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

More tips of shaving weight

scale_bigIn our last post we talked about getting weight down by looking at the pack you are carrying.  That is an important part of the process of getting your base weight down.. so now lets talk about ways that you can shave weight on the stuff you put in side.
1.  Make lists.  Make a spreadsheet or list of everything that you have.  Weigh every piece of gear.  Now, I am no gram weenie and the thought of looking that close at gear at first was just plain wrong, but then I noticed how quickly ounces add up.
2.  Prioritize your list of needs and wants.  What do you need and what do you just want to have out there.  Some folks think that they need something, but then learn that it really was just a want.  Look closely at your gear.  One thing that I do is after each outing I dump my pack, clean and dry everything and then lay it all out.  If I did not use a piece of gear I assess whether I want it in my pack or I need it my pack.  A first aid kit is a need even though it may never get used (hopefully).  I have found that in most cases if I did not use a piece of gear on one outing, I probably won’t use it on the next.
3.  Look at your seasonal gear.  I store my winter gear in a separate tub.  I pull it out when needed and put it back when the weather turns.  Don’t get in the habit of just keeping seasonal items in your pack.  Winter tent stakes or anchors are heavier than your regular stakes.  Gloves and other cold weather gear just adds un needed weight in the summer.
4.  Food.  Plan, Plan, Plan..  You can shave lots of weight in food.  The best part of food packing is that meal after meal your pack gets lighter.  Repackage your meals.  Do not take any boxes, cans, or heavy wrapping.  Zip lock bags work great and can reduce the size and weight of your meals.  Even if you use Mountain House of other Freeze dried meals.  Take them out of the original packaging.  Cook it in your pot instead of the bag.  Mountain House (and other brands) bags are heavy and bulky.
Plan your meals.  Just because you are in Scouts does not mean that you need to cook a 3 course meal every meal of the day.  Trail foods, Gorp, energy bars, breakfast bars, jerky, and peanut butter packets make a great trail lunch and will fit in 1 ziplock sandwich bag.  Eat hot meals in the morning and night, but repackage them and take out the stuff you are not going to eat anyway.
5.  Water.  Purification tablets like the Aquamira tablets or the Katadyn tablets work great and take up little or no space in your pack.  You don’t get the instant drink of water, but you do shave some significant weight.  Also, ditch the Nalgene bottle.  Go with a bladder or even an old Gatoraid bottle.  They both are lighter and now a days.. just as durable.
Just like everything when it comes to backpacking.. planning and preparation are the key to success.  You can shave weight instantly by being a better planner.  Have a critical eye and accept that you can live without that one piece of gear that was bright and shiny and just would not let you run out of REI without it.
Yep.. These are lessons that I learned the hard way.  I used to carry the kitchen sink because that is how I was taught.  But as gear gets lighter and my body gets older, its time for the old dogs to learn new tricks and lighten up the load.
Last thought on this.  After the last post, I received emails about shaving weight and some folks left comments.  I really appreciate the comments and tips and tricks you all use to shave weight and have a great time out in the woods.  What I do want to say, and I have said it before, that you need to hike your own hike.. you need to find what works for you and tinker with your set up.
When teaching the Scouts we give them the tips and tricks and then see what they come up with.  Some of them really take that critical eye and get their weight and volume down.  And those that do find they have a better time on the trail.  Their pack is not constantly kicking their butts and they are fresher when they get to camp.  Those that choose not to take a look at their gear..well, they do one of two things.  Struggle or suck it up.
Last tip.
Upgrade.  I know gear gets spendy.  Try to upgrade one item a year.  Your sleep system, your shelter, your pack, whatever.  If it’s not every year, set a goal and look at the one piece of gear that will give you the highest pay off in weight savings and volume reduction and get it when you can.  Then set a new goal for the next piece.  Spend a few hours at your favorite outfitter and test it all out.  Get in the sleeping bag, set up the tent, feel the weight and look it the item packed and set up.  See what will work for you and get what you like and what will best fit your kit.
Hike your own Hike and Have a Great Scouting Day!

How light can you go?

traceI have said it over and over, the older I get the lighter my pack has to get.  The pack I carried out of base camp at Philmont was 55 lbs.  That is the heaviest pack I have carried in a very long time.  Why was it so heavy?  Well, Philmont has not embraced a lighter style of camping yet and I am sure that one day it will start getting lighter gear, but for now, Philmont is under the impression that “it’s always been that way, and it works”.  Well… I am here to tell you that you can go lighter and still have a great Philmont experience.  Now before anyone gets the idea that I am bashing on Philmont here.. that is not the case.  Knowing what I know now about how Philmont “camps”.  There are many things that I could have done to shave unwanted pounds.  Take for example the food.  We just grabbed the food and unlike our at home routine, did not repackage and reduce the containers.  That would have taken lots of volume as well as weight out of our packs.  We put lots of uneaten and unwanted food in the swap bins at every staff camp.  Getting that stuff out earlier would have helped.
But lets talk about shaving weight in our packs.  We are on a constant journey to reduce weight in the pack.  Getting my base weight down is an effort that I am constantly thinking about and testing and trying new or other ways of packing my gear.
I will never be an “Ultralight” guy.  I just don’t agree with the basic philosophy of going totally ultralight.
Some argue that Ultralight is defined by base weights that are 20 lbs or less.  Some say that you need to get lower than that to be considered “Ultralight”.  There are those backpackers that are considered “Minimalist” toting pack weights of less than 12 lbs.  As much as I would love to carry a pack that was that light, reality kicks in and I am not willing to sacrifice comfort or safety.  And there I think is the difference.
Comfort and safety.  I read a story once about a guy that ventured off into the wilderness with only a knife.  While he did survive and accomplish what he was trying to prove.  I find it hard to believe that he was comfortable and in one way or another at some point could have jeopardized his safety.
We make choices in materials like down or synthetic when it comes to sleeping bags.  Weight can be shaved by pushing the limits of the rating.  Taking a 50 degree bag out when it is in the 30’s and just wearing extra clothing is a technique, but lets remember why we camp in the first place.  It’s not to survive.. it’s to have fun.  I don’t know about you, but freezing my butt off is not fun.  So I will carry a little heavier bag and look elsewhere to shave weight.
I make up weight saving in using an alcohol stove.  The stove and fuel weigh significantly less than canister stoves and liquid fuel stoves.  I don’t really sacrifice performance and certainly not my safety.
I do not take a lot of extra clothing.  But I don’t get wet and dirty either.  I wear my rain gear when it is wet and also when I have to do some scrambling.  A pair of gaiters keep my pants dry and clean as well as my socks.  I use poly materials that wick sweat and keep me warm.  Switchback style pants are a great way to reduce the amount of clothing taken.
Toiletries are another way to get weight down.  You won’t need a whole roll of TP.. so don’t take it.  Moist wipes are a great way to clean up the undercarriage and reduce the need for bulky and heavy soaps and wash cloths.  Camp suds work on dishes, clothing, and your hair and body.  Just a drop or two goes a long way.  Again, reduce and save on weight without sacrifice.
My goal is to get to 18 lbs base weight.  I am hovering in the 25 lb range now.  I don’t want to be “Ultralight”, but I do want to be able to backpack longer and farther and master the gear and packing of it.  I will not sacrifice comfort or safety.  I won’t use my socks as shoulder straps and wander into the woods with only a knife.
According to most experts in the field of backpacking, up to the 30 lbs weight range is emerging as the new sweet spot for mainstream recreational backpackers—light enough to feel reasonably comfortable on the shoulders, yet stocked with a luxury item or 2 (camp sandals, for instance, or maybe some freeze-dried ice cream).  I am all for a comfort item or two and won’t skimp on food.
I am going to document my quest here on the blog to get the weight down and share some tips that I find work well for me.  Remember that you should always hike your own hike and what works for me, may not work for you.
So to start with..
TIP #1.  Your pack.  The bigger the pack, the more you will put in it.  Get a smaller pack, something you think you will be comfortable with, one that will allow you to get what you think you need in it, and a little extra and then start whittling down the load.|
I went from a 5500 cubic inch pack to a 3800 cubic inch pack.  Going down to about 60 liters forced me to start looking at the gear I was taking and what I really needed.  What I have found is that given the gear that I currently have 3800 cubic inches is about as small a pack as I can go to.  I use this pack for all 4 seasons and even used it to carry the 55 lb load at Philmont.  The pack is recommended to go up to a 40 lb load.  I suppose I was just careful enough to max it out.  I will tell you that I have no desire to carry 55 lbs again so I am happy with the pack that I am using.  For what it’s worth the pack I am using is the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace.  It’s not the lightest pack out there, but is rugged enough for the type of hiking I do.
So get a pack that is comfortable and meets your needs and start your load from there.
What do you carry?  Let is know.
Look for more tips here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Sunday Coffee -Medaglia D’oro

Well, I think this is going to be a pretty regular segment on the blog.  I am trying to do gear reviews also, and since I really like my coffee and am always in search of a good cup o’ joe for the trail, this is a good way to talk about gear and have some coffee while chatting to ya.
You may have noticed that I am putting out a few more videos than I have in the past, and the blog seems to be morphing into a Vlog… but I can assure you, while video is going to have it’s place in the blog, I am not converting it to a Vlog.  I have a lot of fun with the video’s and really enjoy sharing my gear addiction and camping hobby with you all.
So here is this weeks Sunday Coffee.  In November I asked the readers to send me suggestions for a good cup o’joe for the trail.  I got two emails suggesting some instant coffee’s.  The first one was Medaglia D’oro instant espresso coffee.  So this week we are brewing up a cup and letting you know how it is.
If you have a brand that you think I should try, let me know.  So thanks Tom for the suggestion on the Medalia D’oro coffee.. yeah.. it’s a good cup o’ joe.
Email me your suggestion to tbirdironchef@gmail.com or leave your suggestion in the comments section of this post.
Enjoy.
And Have a Great Scouting Day!

8,000 lbs of Peace

Today was our annual Scouting for Food Campaign.  The Scouts of the Cascade Pacific Council canvassed neighborhoods and collected the much need food that will stock the shelves for distribution in our area.  There is a great need and the Scouts today did their part to meet that need.
Today, the Scouts of the Cascade Pacific Council sent a Message of Peace.
Here is a short video of Troop 664 in the Thunderbird District, my Troop, and how they made an impact on our community today.
Special Thanks to Bryce, Ben, and Parker for helping in the presentation of this video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!