Month: January 2013

Anchoring your Tent

Here is a video I shot a while back.  The first attempt at anchoring in the video may seem not to have worked… but in the interest of time we did not allow it ‘set up’.  A regular or snow stake will stay once snow is packed and allowed to bond to the stake.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Merit Badges…

mb_sashThis has been discussed before, but I received an email the other day from a Scouter in our area.  This Scouter does not know me very well, nor does this Scouter know how our Troop runs, but none the less, this Scouter sent a nice email suggesting that we do not encourage the merit badge program in our Troop BECAUSE our Troop is a “Backpacking Troop”.
Well, hmmm…  Let’s see… How do I respond to that?
There are what? 130 or so merit badges that I Scout can choose from right?  And the Scout must have at least 21 to earn his Eagle Award, right?  So there are lots of choices for the Scout to make when it comes to earning merit badges.  At some point the Scout must come to the unit leader.. that’s me… and get the blue card signed to start working the merit badge, which ever merit badge that may be.  When the Scout comes to me to get that blue card signed I sign it.
Now when it comes to encouraging.  I encourage the Scout to earn merit badges.  I have told the Scouts that while at Summer Camp, merit badges are not the reason to be there.  Merit badges are a product of Summer camp and a means to and an opportunity to earn, learn, and have fun while at camp.  So yeah, that may sound I like I don’t “encourage” the working of merit badges, but that’s really not the case at all.
I am a firm believer that advancement and merit badges are the Scouts responsibility to work.  They need our help that’s true and at times they need some poking and prodding to get going on badges and rank.  In that regard, we encourage and promote the merit badges that will get the Scout advanced.
The merit badge program is designed to do a couple of things.
1.  Introduce the Scout to many subject areas that will open his eyes to his world, skills, hobbies and activities, and career fields.
2.  Work the adult interaction method.
3.  Spark interest in the Scout while working toward a goal (advancement).
When the Scout, and leaders understand why we have merit badges, it is easier to understand that they are not the end all, be all of the Scouting program.
When I am told that I do not encourage merit badges because we are a “Backpacking Troop”  I look at the Scouter and ask if they know the methods of Scouting.  Backpacking, Front Country car camping, or Troop’s that never leave the confines of a cabin all work the methods of Scouting.  Advancement is one method and the Scout finds his pace and path to achieve his goals and work his way to Eagle.
We encourage the merit badge program but we do not spend valuable Troop time to work on them, with the exception of Camping, First Aid, and Cooking.  Those merit badges, for a troop that camps 11 times a year are all being worked over the course of the program year and are tracked at the unit level.
If the fact that we are not a merit badge mill is not a way of encouraging… well, than guilty as charged.
Now, I am going to be totally honest with you… many of our Scouts only work the merit badges that they need to advance.  That is not because we are a backpacking troop, nor is it because we do not encourage the merit badge program.  Simply put, our Scouts are having fun.  They spend time having fun at summer camp.  You will always find our Scouts extremely active at camp.  They love to compete and play games.  They spend lots of time at the water front and the shooting ranges.  If they don’t get the fingerprinting merit badge.. it’s no big deal.
We encourage every Scout to earn an Eagle required Merit Badge at summer camp.. don’t care which one… but at least one from the Eagle required list.  Most Scouts work the Environmental Science Merit Badge at summer camp.  That and First Aid seem to be the two most popular.
I don’t make a pitch for some of the merit badges that while for some Scouts are super interesting, knowing the boys of my troop are just ‘filler badges’.  Like the afore mentioned Finger printing.  Let’s face it.. that’s a 10 minute merit badge and the Scout really doesn’t learn much.  A great one for the sash, but not getting him that much closer to Eagle Scout and life skills.
I would much rather see them earn Canoeing, Sailing, Emergency Prep or Wilderness survival while at Summer camp or pretty much any other time of the year.  But that’s just me, I don’t get to force a Scout to earn a certain merit badge, nor do I get to forbid him from working one.  Finger printing, Dog care, Painting, Skating, and Reading, while all great subjects and have a purpose in teaching responsibility on some level and encouraging an interest, I can do without them in the context of Scouting.  I know that I will hear some opposing views on this and I suppose that’s why there are 100 + merit badges so there is something for everyone.  I don’t discourage any Scout from earning any merit badge that he wants to earn.  But when it comes to encouraging Scouts to earn merit badges, well, I just sign the blue card and let them go to work.
I don’t think we need to high-five every Scout that earns the Chess merit badge or the Backpacking merit badge for that matter.  They work it, they earn it, they are presented the badge and they get a handshake and a “job well done”.  We don’t have contests to see who can earn the most and we don’t look down on the Scout that earns the obligatory 21.
I am still not sure what being a “Backpacking Troop” has to do with anything.  This Scouter said that this was “The Reason” we do not encourage the merit badge program.
In closing.  The average number of merit badges that Scouts  have earned at the time they were awarded their Eagle award is 35.  Enough said.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Sunday Mornin’ Coffee 1-6

This week we talk about my pack and the small stuff in it.  We brew up a nice cup of Starbucks Breakfast blend using the Snow Peak 700 pot and the Jet Boil Press.
Thanks for watching these videos, I appreciate all the feedback and comments.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Be Prepared.. Please listen

In Oregon, when you approach a trail head that is a well used and highly frequented trail, there are signs that alert you of types of plants and animals in the area.  The signs remind you that you need to be prepared for the hike you are about to take.  Typically there is a map of the trail with significant landmarks and vistas pointed out.  These signs remind you to have the appropriate gear for the hike and in some cases ask that you register at the Kiosk.  In every case they let you know where you are and gives you information that assist you in having a great hike and not a terrible experience.  Oregon wants people to get out and enjoy this wonderful land we have, but it wants you to do it responsibly.
Yesterday a couple of ladies went for a winter stroll out in the Columbia Gorge and got lost or at least disoriented enough that they had to be “rescued”.  The Gorge is a wonderful place to hike, but like most places, the Gorge takes on new or at least different challenges in the winter.  Just getting there sometimes can be an adventure.  So if you are going to hike in the Gorge (or anywhere) in the winter.. You had better BE PREPARED.  These gals  wandered off picking up the trail and heading up to Nesmith Point.   The hike into Nesmith Point is challenging enough in the summer, but that is the hike they chose.  Now, it is fair to say that according to the News wire press release, “Both hikers have Intermediate experience climbing school training and Mountaineering First Aid and were prepared for the elements.”
The release goes on in the next update to state “The hiker’s actions and being prepared for the elements greatly assisted in their smooth and safe rescue from Nesmith Point.”  So all is well that ends well.  But the initial report stated that “the husband of one of the hikers reported he received a call from his wife who told him they were at the top of Nesmith Point and had lost the trail at some point while they were hiking.  Their footprints were covered with snow and they could not track their way back down or see the trail.”
I suppose the moral of the story is that it can and will happen to anyone.  So BE PREPARED.  I am making an assumption here that neither had a map or compass.. the reason I say that is because I have hiked that area and having a map and compass could have easily put them in the right direction and regardless of  snow and not finding the trail, they could have made their way back.  But I don’t want to beat up on them, I just want people to listen… I want our Scouts to listen and use these cases as an example of why we want them to be prepared.  It is fortunate that these two ladies were somewhat prepared and had the right attitude to make it out (with the help of SAR).
Baden Powell tells us to Be Prepared for any old thing.  When the signs remind and warn, take heed.  When the skills, attitudes, and gear is right, then proceed.  But always be prepared.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

52 to 16

Just a quick note here to introduce you to the new 52 to 16 page you will find it up on the top of the page next to the “home” tab.  It is the page I am going to use to document the 52 weeks of shaving weight.. which by the way as you can see I am calling 52 to 16.  52 weeks to get to 16 lbs.  Read more about it there.
Hope you enjoy the journey as much as I am.  By the way.. if you want to join this journey.. let’s go along together, set your goal and start in.  Let me know how you are doing and share it with us and your readers, if you have a blog too.
I’ll be using the hash tag of #52to16 to post updates and what not.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Shaving the Weight

In my last Sunday Morning Coffee post I talked about a new segment I was going to start for this year.  That was to document the shaving of the weight from my pack in order to go lighter and more comfortable on the trail.
The segment is going to be called 52 ways of shaving weight.. or something like that.. I’m still looking for a snazzy name.  Much like the effort many online Scouters shared in the #100daystrong campaign.. anyway.. for now.. it’s 52 ways to shave weight…
Last week I ordered new stuff sacks from zpacks.  They are Cubin Fiber and super light.  The heavy of the 3 sacks I ordered weighs in at 5 grams that’s .2 ounces.  The lightest sack is 4 grams or .1 ounces.  The bag that my cook kit was in weighed 20 grams or .7 ounces.  That bag has been replaced by the 5 gram bag.  That is a net savings of 15 grams or .5 ounces.  That may not seem like a lot of weight.. but add that up over all of your gear, an ounce here and an ounce there and you have pounds.
This week I looked at my pack.
I weighed my pack.. totally empty.
It weighs in at 4 lbs.  I took every plastic stopper off of the pack and replaced them with a figure 8 knot.  Serves the same purpose (to keep the line from threading through the buckles).  The Pack is now at 3 lbs 15 ounces or 1798 grams.  I have been looking at the optional flap storage bag that clips to the pack.  While I like it for easy access, I tend to fill it with lots of small stuff.  Through this process of looking at how I pack and what I pack.. I may be able to shed that part of the pack all together.  That would add to the savings.  The lid/pocket weighs in at 257 grams or 9.1 ounces.  That would shave an additional 1541 grams off the pack.  That would bring that pack total to 3.3 lbs or 54.24 ounces.
What I am finding is that “Ultralight” backpacking is more of a philosophy of thought that it is about backpacking.  The philosophy dictates that you look at the process and the science if you will on what you take, how you take it, what you use it for, and yes… how much does it weigh.  This does not discount safety and comfort, on the contrary.. it forces one to look at how they can be just as safe and just as comfortable while backpacking with the net result being more comfortable, fresh, and pain-free when the pack comes off.
This process forces you to have a critical eye to make decisions on the gear you choose and pack.  It takes on that scientific feel as you weigh gear and make those decisions.
I found a good Excel spreadsheet online.  It is designed and built from a backpacker that frequents Backpackinglight.com.
It is a great way to build your kit, look critically at the weight of all your gear and make sound decisions.  I am finding it a great tool for meeting my goals in weight reduction and a fun way to track and measure my progress.
Here is a link to the gear list.  If this doesn’t work, drop me an email and I will send it to you.
So I am on track to shaving that gear weight.  See what you can do and let us know your progress… Also.. help me with a cooler name for the segment.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!