Month: December 2013

Happy New Year

newyearAs I write this it is still 2013.  We like most folks are heading out to usher in the New Year with friends and family.  I thought I would take just a minute and wish everyone a Happy New Year.
What are your dreams and goals for 2014?
Where do you want to be when we prepare for 2015?
The New Year provides great opportunities to start fresh, to hit the reset button, and to make our dreams come true.
I look forward to a great 2014.
Some goals that I know will make life better for me and my family, a focus on Scouting that will assist in our Troop reaching great heights.  The 10th Anniversary of our Troop that promises to lead us into another great decade of Scouting.  And yes, the blog and YouTube channel.  Neat things for them also.
So celebrate!!  It’s the New Year!  Leave the past behind, learn from the past year, and make 2014 a GREAT Year!

Happy New Year everyone!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Feast your eyes on the new requirements for Cooking merit badge

Some real good information on the new Cooking Merit badge requirements. More Food for thought… Glad to see that this merit badge is finally Eagle required.
Scoutmaster Jerry

Bryan on Scouting

Cooking-EagleThe sound of the kitchen timer can only mean one thing: The new Cooking merit badge requirements are done.

For the new Cooking merit badge, which became Eagle-required on Jan. 1, 2014, Scouts will prepare meals using the MyPlate food guide, understand and explain food allergies, and learn about cooking food indoors.

This is important: there are two big, separate changes to Cooking merit badge as you know it. The first is that Cooking merit badge became Eagle-required beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The second is the new requirements, found below, which become mandatory for Scouts who begin the merit badge on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

The new Cooking pamphlets will be in Scout Shops by the end of January 2014. From now until Dec. 31, 2014, a Scout may use the old or new requirements — his choice. All Scouts beginning Cooking merit badge on or after Jan. 1, 2015, must use the new…

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MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking Poles

MSRpolesI recently purchased new trekking poles, and being me, I did a lot more homework on the purchase than most folks looking for camping gear.  I have been looking for some time (since we got back from Philmont in 2012) for new trekking poles as I bent one of my trekking poles while at Philmont.  They are still usable, but collapsing them is hard now and since I have had that set for about 10 years, I figured it was time to replace them.
I looked at no less than 50 different styles, brands, and types over the past 9 months or so and finally found a pair that I really like and thought I would give them a shot.
First you may ask, what the heck took you so long?  Great question.  Like I said, I over researched them.  When looking at good high-end trekking poles, I knew that I would be committing at least $100 to the purchase.  But since I also knew that the poles I buy needed to last, after all I use trekking poles all year round and on every hike, backpacking trip and camp out,  I became real picky in the choice.
What I ended up getting is the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Ultralight 2 section Poles.  They retail for $90, but with a Boy Scout discount and finding them on sale at a local outfitter, I paid $62.
So here are the specs:
According the packaging the SureLock ™ UL-2 trekking poles weigh in at 16.5 oz or 468 grams.  As these are MSRs “ultralight” trekking poles, I am sure that they put the heavy end on the packaging.  On my scale with the winter or snow baskets on the poles, both of them weigh in at 15 oz.  The trekking poles with the summer baskets weigh in at 14.5 oz.  The length of the poles are as advertised.  At its lowest setting the trekking poles are 41 inches long or 105 cm.  They extend to 55 inches or 140 cm.  Fully collapsed the trekking poles are 31 inches.  There are 8 adjustable holes along the trekking pole to find the right setting for you.  I personally set them at 120 cm.
Here is what I like compared to my last poles, which for the record are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking poles.  The MSR SureLock ™ poles are 2 section poles, the Black Diamond poles I have are 3 section.  This makes the MSR poles faster and easier to set up.  I really like that.
I LOVE the Positive Locking system on the SureLock ™.  The rolling bearing pins smoothly lock into place and once seated are not going anywhere.  I configured the trekking poles to my height and leaned over them with my entire upper body weight, they did not flex or pop out.  With your standard cam lock or twist friction locks over the course of a hike I always had to readjust due to slippage.
The poles have a unique design in that they are not round.  This design is called Non Rotating tri-lobe geometry, this assists with the poles not being able to rotate.  This keeps the Positive locking system in place.
The trekking poles are made of 7000 series aluminum.  This is super light and very strong.
I am very happy with these trekking poles.  They are comfortable, light, strong, and easy to use.  I can not wait to get them out on the trail.  I will shoot some video of the poles in action as soon as I can get them out.
In the mean time, I thought it would be nice to include in this post the promotional video put out by MSR on the Trekking poles so you can see them and get a better picture of what I am talking about.
As a set of poles that I have over researched and now purchased, this review as a first look leads me to be very impressed with the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking poles.
Stay tuned for more on these Trekking poles.
Do you use trekking Poles?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Wrapping up

rose2013 is coming to an end and as always we tend to reflect on the past year and make promises for the coming year.
Wrapping up a year for me always brings hope for the next year and the excitement  of what it will bring.
The coming of a new year for the most part has been a welcome sight.  Each year brings challenges.  Each year brings new adventures.
Looking back at 2013 I conclude that it was a pretty good year.
I thought I would give a brief breakdown of some of the Roses, Thorns, and Buds as I wrap up the year.
Scouting.
Roses.  We had a great year in Troop 664.  We rechartered with the VFW and it is a great partnership.
2013 was the year of the Eagle Scout for us.  We watched as young men completed a great journey, only to learn that the journey was really just beginning for them in their lives as Eagles.
Summer camp was fantastic!  We had a great time at Camp Piggot.
Then as the year came to an end, I was elected for the Vigil Honor.
Thorns.  I really only have one thorn for 2013.  The affect of the Non Discrimination Policy which does not even go into effect till January.  We lost our Charter, we lost our meeting place, and we lost a great Assistant Scoutmaster and his son.  I will not beat that horse to death.. it is not going to change any minds and we have to take our loss and move on.
Buds.  This coming year will bring in a great new group of first year Scouts.  They are enthusiastic and ready for the adventure that is ahead of them.  That excites the heck out of me.
Life.
Roses.  This year our oldest son left to serve in the Army.  While we are very proud of him, that was a very hard transition for us.  I am calling it a rose because of the man that he has become.  He visited us at the end of the summer and again for this Christmas.  He and all of my kids bring great pride and joy to me and my wife.
This year we also were given the gift of the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University from my Sister and Brother in law.  It is nice to see debt dwindle away and know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train about to run us over.
Our daughter is now enrolled in College and our youngest son is in the throws of being recruited to play college football.  Their growth has been fun to watch and they too have become great young people.
My wife and I volunteered at the High Schools Challenge day.  It was a day that made a lasting impact on my life and reinforced that which I know is right and a new perspective of young people.
Thorns. I can honestly say that this year was pretty thorn free.  Our Roses seemed to outweigh the thorns.  I did not get as much backpacking as I would have liked this year, but did end up getting some time on the PCT late in the year.
Buds.  There are many things that I look forward to in the coming year.  I am excited to see where our son ends up with his college football career.  We look forward to watching the continued growth of our daughter as she studies.  And of course we continue to be proud of our son in the Army and hope that he stays out of harms way.
I want to get more time on the trail this year.  I look forward to the fun of getting the YouTube channel going.  And I want to get my wife more into backpacking.  With the kids all grown, it is time for us to enjoy the outdoors together.
There are many more things that I look forward to in 2014, but I don’t want to bore you all.
I suppose the point of this post is share some of my thoughts and to encourage you all to go through this process for yourself.
I hope that you all had a great 2013 and 2014 looks brighter.
Thanks to all of you that subscribe to the blog.  I appreciate you.  For those of you that are casual readers… thanks for stopping by.  I hope you have been able to take something from it that will help.
As always,
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Thermometer or Thermostat?

thermostatThermometer or Thermostat which are you?
I had a lengthy discussion the other day with a hand full of Scouts.  We were talking about the way that if you want to, you can set the conditions in your life that will allow you to have the life that you want.  Let me explain.  For example, if you continue with your education, you will get better jobs.  If you surround yourself with good people, you will stay out of trouble.  If you manage your money well, you will have some when you need it.
So you are either a Thermometer or a Thermostat.
The thermometer is something that is effected by the temperature.  It is effected by the conditions and can do nothing about it.  It’s either hot or its cold.. or somewhere on the scale between, but the thermometer can not decide whether or not it’s going to be hot or cold, it just goes with whatever the conditions dictate.
There are a lot of people who are like that, they have no control over the conditions that life gives them.  They play the part of the victim and never seem to get ahead.  They are content with allowing the conditions dictate their behavior and the level of success that they have.   They rarely demonstrate initiative and are happy to allow others to make decisions.  They are rarely happy with the outcome, but that’s just the way it is.
On the other hand, there are those that are like Thermostats.  The thermostat is a device that controls the environment.  It can change the conditions.  Instead of being hot or cold, it changes the temperature to the desired comfort level.  It does not rely on the conditions, it makes new conditions.  People that are like thermostats do the same thing.  They create conditions for success.  They are not happy just going with the flow.  They lead themselves and others to a desired outcome.  They are rarely victims as they have the ability to change the conditions or adapt and use the conditions in their favor.
I was telling the Scouts that when I was a kid, I was small.  I was never a big jock.  I played sports but never really had the skill or body type to be real good at it.  But I tried.  My coach gave me a chance because I set the conditions to get on the field and play.  I worked hard.  I was in the chess club and sang in the choir also.  I was never bullied.  I never let myself become bullied.  Now, that is not to say that others did not try to bully me, I just would not allow it to happen to me.  I stood up for myself and never gave the bully the satisfaction of making me a victim.  When I went in the Army, again, I was small and light.  Everyone around me told me I could not do this or that.  I set the conditions to do what I wanted.  I became an Airborne Ranger to prove everyone wrong.  I got strong, smart, and tough and made the conditions around me work in my favor.  I did not allow the temperature dictate my comfort, I changed the temperature.
Every day I see people who fall into these categories.  I wonder what makes one pick one way or the other.  What I really can not understand is why anyone chooses being a Thermometer.   Just allowing everything around them to have control of their outcome.
As Scouts we need to be thermostats.  We need to set conditions for success.  In turn we can help those around us become successful.  We can set conditions to make the Scout Oath and Law a part of our daily lives.  We can choose to set the conditions to make our life worth living.
Think about it.. which are you?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Selecting your winter camp site

Start, Stop, and to be ContinuedMuch like camping in fair conditions there are principles that should be followed when winter camping site selection.  First plan ahead.  Know where you are going and try to get there with enough daylight to relax and set up camp.  Remember that it will get dark much earlier, so set your pace from the start of planning to arrive early.
When using your existing gear site selection is key.  Using your standard 3 season tent will require you to think about where you put it and how it is anchored.
Stay out of the wind.  Trees, outcroppings, and a large pine all provide protection from wind.  Watch for loaded branches of snow, and place the tent so that you are not directly under them.  Take a look up and look for widow makers and other potential hazards.
While planning take a look at the terrain on the map of your proposed location.  Avoid camping on any slope or at the bottom of any slope that would have the remote possibility to avalanche.  It is always important to learn the telltale signs of avalanche conditions.
Consider your nearest water source.  Are you going to melt snow?  If so, plan to use a lot more fuel.  Is there a nearby stream, pond or lake?  Make sure you know how to use your filter and protect your filter from the conditions.  Some filters do not work in the cold or will freeze once the water passes through it.  You need water.  That is important.  But plan ahead for your water sources.  Carrying in water is heavy unless you are pulling a pulk sled.
Cold air settles in low ground.  Avoid the bottoms of hills, camping in a valley.  Stay out of low meadows.  Finding a nice platform above a valley will be warmer and give you fantastic views to wake up to.
Be prepared to work.  You will more than likely have to prepare a tent platform, dig a cold sump, and gather fire wood.  Don’t overheat while setting up your camp.  Consider the amount of work that will go into setting camp and prioritize that work.
Leave no trace.  Yep, just because you can’t see the ground does not mean that you are not leaving an impact.  Use the leave no trace principles when selecting and staying in your winter camp.
Have fun out there.  Winter camping is great.
I’d love to hear some of your winter camping tips.  Drop in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Winter camping and the backpack

>The harder the challengeWe often talk about the general rule of thumb that the pack weight should not exceed 25% of the person’s body weight.  This is a nice rule, but not stead fast in its application.  A 90 lb Scout is limited to 22 and half pounds.  A 75 pound Scout is hanging about 18 pounds on his back.  Like I said.. real nice rule and a great goal to keep in mind when packing a pack.  But winter camping is a totally different animal.
Pack weights go up in general because the amount of gear increases as well as the weight of the gear.  A 10 degree sleeping bag is typically heavier than a 30 degree bag.  More clothing is needed.  Extra gear for cooking, keeping warm, starting fire, and of course shelter options increase.
So how does the Scout that has not grown into his body handle cold weather or winter camping?  Here are a few ideas.
First we need to come to the realization that we are not going to buy multiple sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks.  Gear is just to expensive for the new Scout to go out and buy lots of gear.  So we need to make do with the gear that we have.
Adding guy lines to your tent, watching what you pack and maybe adding a sleeping bag liner will help with your existing gear.
Remember that we are not trying to go “ultralight” here, we are just trying to manage our weight for the younger Scout.
Clothing.
Loose and in layers.  This does a few things for you.  First it allows you to regulate your temperature over the course of the day and the activity.  If you properly train your Scouts to do this, they will stay dryer and as a result they can carry less clothing.  A good base layer which for the most part is always worn is the key.  It needs to be able to wick the moisture away from the body.  It needs to be able to stay relatively clean.  Second, the layering system will allow your Scouts to stay clean and dry.  When preparing their camp sites they can lose a layer and add their rain gear to stay dry.  Once the work is complete, they can remove the rain gear, hang it to dry, and add additional layers based on the temperatures and conditions.  When the layer system is planned properly, it can reduce the amount of clothing taken on each outing.
The motto “Be prepared” is a trump card though and needs to be considered.  Checking the weather conditions the days leading up to the outing and looking ahead at the forecast can help you be better prepared.
Extra socks are always a great idea, but know what you need and only take that much, contrary to popular belief, you can dry socks out and wear them again later.
Proper footwear is extremely important.  Spend a little more on your feet and the rest of you will stay warm.
The Pack.
We recommend that our Scouts have a pack that does not exceed 3900 cubic inches of load space.  By conventional wisdom that is a bit small for winter camping, but we know for a fact that it works.  Yeah, it takes some practice, but it works.  It is the one time of the year that strapping items to the outside may have to happen, but it works.
Compression bags, stuff sacks for pack organization and know how to pack is a critical skill.  More importantly, the skill of packing when you are cold is something that needs to be practiced.
When the conditions are right, and the need to carry more gear is greater than the pack will hold, a pulk sled is just what old man winter ordered.  Building an inexpensive pulk sled is not only fun, but makes for a whole new camping experience for those that like to get out into the bush.  This allows you to carry lots of water, gear, fire wood, and nice to have items that you would not normally haul in your pack.  I have talked about pulk sleds before in the blog and have built a nice one that did not break the bank.
The bottom line is that your current pack will work, you need to know your gear, how to use it, what you need and what you don’t, and most importantly… you need to practice, practice, practice with your pack.  Pack it over and over, do it with gloves on, do it in the backyard on a cold day.  Try different storage methods (Stuff sacks, compression bags etc).
Winter camping is an all together different experience.  One that test skill, attitude, and has a great pay off in the end.  Quiet, crisp air, no crowds, and lots of fun.
Stay tuned for more winter camping tips.

Have a Great Scouting Day!