After our last camp out we noticed that many of our younger Scouts seem to have been over looked when it comes to their gear and gear selections to include packing that gear. Now, let me explain here because if you have spent about a day browsing this blog and you know our Troop, gear is one of those subjects we talk about like it was a merit badge… ahhh.. maybe that’s not a great example… talking and teaching about gear is like teaching first aid.. yeah.. that one works better.
We believe that gear is essential in a great camping experience. Not a lot of gear.. but the right gear. And it seems that as of late we have been a bit lazy in really getting into the nitty-gritty about gear with some of the Scouts of the troop.
Now in all fairness, the Scouts that immediately take interest in the gear they have and show excitement obviously get into those discussions with us. And parents that see that enthusiasm in their son make it a point to talk about gear choices with us.
Having said all of that…
After the last camp out the Assistant Scoutmasters and I evaluated some of the processes we have in place to teach and talk about gear. Seeking a solution to the issue we concluded that we needed to go back to square one with some of the Scouts. We identified that the group of Scouts that have not yet completed all of the requirements for First Class was our target.. and more to the point.. their parents.
We have decided that in “starting over” with these Scouts and their parents we would demonstrate what it is that we consider the gear needed to support their Scout. To do this we are going to do a full lay out of 3 sets of gear. Mine, representing average gear that is on the lighter side. Bryce, one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, will lay his gear out which will show the middle of the road gear, very affordable and easy to use. Finally Ken, another of the Assistant Scoutmaster’s, will lay out his “heavier set up” with higher end items.
The thing that all three of our set ups have in common are the break down of gear types and the fact that we are pretty much carrying the same thing just in different forms, brands, and weight classes.
Our gear is broken into 3 groups.
First. The Big 3. This group includes the Backpack, the Sleep system, and Shelter.
The Backpack is essential in the discussion of gear. It’s were all of this is going to end up. There are essentially two types of packs that we discuss with the Scout (and Parent) Internal Frame packs and External Frame packs. We used to not recommend Internal Packs for our Scouts, but with the modernization of the internal packs and the technology that has gone into the development of the internal frame pack, it is a far better pack than older versions. The biggest concern with internal frame packs when it comes to Scouts is the packing of the pack. Internal frame packs require a tad bit more thought in packing so the gear will give the wearer a comfortable ride. This is the advantage of the External frame pack. The weight and ride of the pack is distributed on the frame. If a Scout does not pack well, he will, by and large, still have a load that is manageable.
I switched to internal frame packs about 3 years ago and love them now that I have played with them and refined my packing.
We recommend, that no matter which style of pack a Scout gets it has at least 3900 cubic inches of space. Now, all that space does not have to get filled up, but 3900 cube will allow for the Scout to make an easier time of packing.
Next we talk about the Sleep System. Note that I did not say sleeping bag. The sleep system is the bag or quilt and the pad or insulation. When it comes to sleeping bags the sky is the limit on materials, fill, rating, size and shape. The down versus synthetic argument is one that we resolve by saying this. Down is lighter and warm but when it’s wet it is not worth having. Synthetic materials are warm, heavier, and will maintain it’s warmth even when wet. We recommend to parents that if their Scout can take care of it, down is the way to go. Having said that.. I have a synthetic bag.
Sleeping bag liners add about 10 degrees to any bag and are small and light. They are a great addition here in the Northwest to a sleep system and can carry a 20 degree bag well into the teens.
Ground insulation goes beyond a ground cloth. A sleeping pad whether it is a Closed Cell Foam pad (CCF) or an inflatable pad is a must. CCF pads are light and durable and work really well in the winter. Most inflatable pads lack insulation but are comfortable and still get you off the ground. There are insulated inflatable pads out there and they are well worth the extra money and weight. A current trend is to put the inflatable pad inside of the sleeping bag. This maintains the comfort and heat qualities of the pad.
The final component of the “Big 3” is the Shelter. Again, note that I did not say tent. A lot of Scouts now are finding their way into tarps and bivies. There are advantages in weight savings, ease, and multiple configurations to the tarp and bivy style of camping. Regardless of what you decide to sleep under, this part of the big 3 typically makes up a major portion of the money spent on gear.
Tarps tend to be lighter, and I should clarify that I am not talking about your standard BiMart blue tarp. We are talking nylon or silicone impregnated nylon (Silnylon). They provide good cover and are nice and light. A good tent will last a Scout for ever if he takes care of it. Most Scouts of our troop trend towards a single person tent for a few reasons. First, the ownership. The Scout takes care of gear that belongs to him better than he will if it does not. Second, the weight of a single person tent is a big savings in the pack as well as the volume. And finally, the idea that he can adapt the tent to his style, needs, and he does not have to worry about someone elses gear in there. When he is ready to go to sleep, he can.
Some have suggested that this practice takes away from the social aspect of the camp out. This has not seemed to bare out in our troop. Nylon tents are not sound proof and the Scouts set up their tents pretty close and lay there and chat. They set up tents with the doors facing and play cards in the middle. They tend to figure it out. A two person tent is a great investment also and allows for more room. You will carry a bit more weight, but for some, the added room and the flexibility to add a person.
The key when picking out a good tent is to look for free-standing, easy set up, and good coverage. Whether you pick a tarp, hammock, bivy or tent coverage, ease of use and how much you want to pay is a good way to start your shopping.
Tomorrow on the blog we will talk about the “Next 3”. The next group of gear that includes the components; Cook Kit, First Aid kit, and Rain Gear.
If you have comments or questions please leave them here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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