camp skills

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Training.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
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Have a Great Scouting Day!

COLD WEATHER TIP

Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leadership, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Gear Alternatives

SAM_0008As you know by reading the blog, I am a fan of gear.  I like to play around with gear, test it, try it, and change it often.  There are pieces of gear that I love and pieces of gear that I am always looking for the newer, better, more efficient, or just cool.  Lately I have been in a few discussions about some gear like knives and stoves.  What is significant about these discussions is the idea that for a lot of Scouters there is little knowledge about what is allowed, what is not, and what is out there to show to your Scouts as gear choices.
Take a look at all the old Field books and Hand books, Peek into the Boy Scout catalogs, it’s all the same stuff.  All the old-time tested and true gear.  It all works well and is super reliable.  I don’t have a problem with any of it, but just because it has always been there and done that way does not make it the only or best way to do it.
At a few recent Boy Scout break outs at round table we have talked about gear and gear alternatives.  Much of the discussion focusing on stoves and knives.  As discussed in my recent post “The Great Knife Debate“, it amazes me that many Scouters just do not know the rules.  They perpetuate a rule that does not exist for what ever reason, but the net result is not the safety of the Scout, but a lack of exposure to new and different ways of doing the same old thing.  The same can be said for alcohol stoves.  The BSA has prohibited the use of “Homemade” stoves.  And I can see that the BSA does not want some Scout to get hurt because his leaders failed to train him on how to do it right.  But the use of alcohol stoves in general is not prohibited.  Manufactured of purchased stoves are not prohibited and I am glad for that.  I exclusively use an alcohol stove and scouts in my troop are using them also.  I teach them how and make sure they do it right.  There is nothing unsafe about them, well, they are about as unsafe as using an MSR Whisperlite.  It comes down to training them to use it correctly.  Stores like REI and many online outdoor outfitter are selling alcohol stoves.  And the fact is you can use them to cook anything.
I can bake, fry, simmer, and of course boil water with them.  Here is the point.  They are an alternative way to do the same old thing.  Camping, Cooking, sleeping in a shelter, whether that is a tent, a tarp, or a bivy sack is all the same.  Camping is camping.  There are many methods and ways to go about it, but in the end it’s all the same.
You also know that I am a big fan of wood stoves (like the Solo Stove).  They are a great way to cook.  It takes a little skill and you can absolutely cook anything with them.  I have had Scouters tell me that one can not use them because you can’t turn them off.  Huh? What?  First Class Requirement 4 e states; On one camp out, serve as your patrol’s cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. In the most previous edition of the Boy Scout handbook Second Class requirement 2g required the Scout to;  On one camp out, plan and cook over an open fire one hot breakfast or lunch for yourself, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
So in one edition of the hand book, we have decided to dumb down the Scouting experience not make it a requirement to cook over an open fire, but it’s a choice.  But it’s still there and it always has been.  But in checking the Guide to Safe Scouting I can’t find anywhere that suggests wood stoves are prohibited or cooking over an open flame is prohibited because you can’t put it out.  You see, to me that is just a way for Scouters to impose a rule that is not there when it comes to gear.
There are lots of great gear alternatives out there.  Allow your Scouts to explore them.
Many of the Scouts in my troop are moving to camping under tarps.  Some are using you standard 10X10 Wal Mart tarp, while most are going to good camping tarps.  SilNylon tarps that are light and easy to put up.  Some even have built-in doors and can be pitched between trees or using their trekking poles.  I love the idea that the Scouts are exploring different gear and ways to camp.  It keeps it fun and exciting for them.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are many options out there, as a Scouter you should gain an understanding and knowledge of that gear and not push it aside just because you don’t like it.
We had this same debate during the 2010 National Jamboree.  Many ‘older Scouters’ did not like the idea of allowing the Scouts to bring and use “Electronics”.  There was a misconceptions that electronics are not allowed in Scouting.  No where is this found in writing.  I allowed the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop to bring their “electronics”.  Cell phones, Ipods, and of course cameras.  I wanted them to be able to communicate with me and other Scouts, I wanted to be able to shoot a text to the troop when I needed to make quick contact with them.  I wanted the Senior Patrol Leader to be able to get everyone on the bus on time and sent group texts to better communicate with his Troop.  We established “No ear bid zones”  Touring at Arlington National Cemetery for example was a No Ear Bud zone.  Sitting on the bus for two hours however was not.  As long as the Scouts obeyed the rules, I allowed them to use the electronics.
The same goes for their gear.  As long as they use it as intended, be it a stove, knife, or any other piece of gear, I allow and encourage them to try new things.
This is a big part of the adventure of Scouting.
Get to know some new gear.  Pick something to try with your Scouts.  Try something new.
Allow the adventure of Scouting to happen.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Methods, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Knife Debate

bsknifeYou can always tell when we have officially run out of real problems.  We make some.
In a recent discussion with a group of Scouters the issue of knives came up.  What is the “Official Policy” on what a Scout can and can not carry.  What is the length that he can or can not have?
OK.. so I will give you the “Officially Policy” and then some opinion.
Page 60 of the Guide to Safe Scouting states; “A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.”
Further, from the Boy Scouts of America website “Sheath knives are not prohibited by the BSA, but they may be regulated by state or local ordinances and/or by camp “rules.” We recommend that the right tool for the job be used (cutting branches or ropes). We do not encourage wearing them at the waist as injury could occur during falls.” reference General Health and Safety FAQ’s
The BSA does not restrict the length of the blade, nor does it require a blade to be folding or fixed.  The policy requires that we abide by state and local rules and that we use the right tool for the right job.
The question came up as to what I allow the Scouts in my Troop to wear/use.  Here is how I see it.
The Scout is required to earn his Totin’ Chip before he is allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip certifies that the Scout has the right to carry and use woods tools. The Scout must show his Scout leader that he understands his responsibility to do the following:
Read and understand woods tools use and safety rules from the Boy Scout Handbook.
Demonstrate proper handling, care, and use of the pocket knife, ax, and saw.
Use knife, ax, and saw as tools, not playthings.
Respect all safety rules to protect others.
Respect property. Cut living and dead trees only with permission and good reason.
Subscribe to the Outdoor Code.
Once the Scout has demonstrated that he can use the knife safely and he agrees to use it as a tool then the Scout can be held in account.  He can lose the privilege of carrying a knife as quick as he earn the right to use it.
If a Scout would like to carry a sheath knife, I have no problem with it.  I recommend that he chooses one that is the right tool for what he is using it for.  I recommend that the blade be no more than 4 inches.  This way he has good control over it and it complies with local rules.  Since I live in Oregon, it is important for me to know what the laws are.  According the Boy Scouts of America, it is the local laws and policies that dictate what a Scout can and can not carry.
In Oregon, it is legal to own pretty much any knife and you can carry it (open carry) anytime you want.  Certain exceptions apply of course, but for our purpose a Scout can carry pretty much any knife he wants.
Now, having said that, it comes down to the right tool for the job.
So the discussion then becomes, what does a Scout use his knife for?
Cutting kindling for fires, cutting line or rope, preparing meals, and whittling for the most part.  So what is the right tool for those jobs.  Certainly a sword would not be appropriate and a Rambo survival knife is not necessary either.  A simple pocket or sheath knife will do.
This is where the adult leader steps in to be a teacher.  It is not a matter of what they can carry, it becomes a matter of what do you use it for?  In that discussion with your Scouts you outline the right tool for the job and allow them to make that reasonable choice.  I will tell you with 100% certainty that we have had that talk and have never seen a “Rambo Knife” on a camp out.
lmfknifeI personally carry a Mora knife.  It is sharp, handy, and useful.  The particular model I carry is made by Mora and Light My Fire.  It has a striker in the handle.  It has a 3 1/2 blade and I have used it to butter bread and baton wood for a camp fire.  It has a hard sheath which locks the knife in place.  Here is a little video from Light my Fire on the knife that I carry.

We recommend that our Scouts only carry a small knife.  A pocket knife or a sheath knife either one is ok.  We ask that they focus on the job and using the right tool.  Many of our Scouts carry a multi tool like the Leatherman.  This is fine also.  The fact of the matter is that I just want them to use it properly… or get your right taken away.
That is the rule that we should focus on, not the knife itself.
Like I said, I think we have far too much time on our hands and not enough real problems that we are worried about the length of a blade.  As with most if not all things in Scouting you must train them and then trust them.
Do you have a unit policy when it comes to knives?  I am curious to hear what that looks like.
Please share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

Map and Compass

mapcompassHere is the Scoutmaster Minute that I gave to our Troop the other night… Hope you find it useful.
As you travel on the trail to First Class Scout you find that there are many skills that you develop.  You learn them and eventually master them well enough to use them in your daily lives, while on camp outs and even teach them to other people.
Learning to use the Map and Compass is one such skill that takes practice and hands on use.  Once you master the use of the Map and Compass you will always know the direction you heading and will be able to find your way.
The Map shows you the terrain.  It lets you know where you are and where you are going.  It’s colors represent what is on the ground around you and the obstacles that you will face.  As you read the map, you see the hills and valleys that you will be trekking on.  It shows you where you can find water and other resources.  The map can tell you where the trail is easy or hard or give you options for a detour.  Using you map, you always know where you are and a clear path to where you want to go.
The Compass is the other tool that when used with your map gives you clear direction.  Knowing how to use the compass properly will allow you to set your course in the right direction.  It orients your map and gives you an accurate picture of what is ahead.  Without the compass, the map is just a picture of the section of earth you are traveling on.  Add the compass and you have accurate and steady direction.  The compass is always true.  It can set you on the path that will get you to your destination.
These two tools are important in your life.  Yes, we have GPS now and that is very helpful, but the GPS will never replace a good map and compass.
We have another map and compass that get us headed in the right direction and keep us on track to our destination.  The Scout Oath and Law.
The Oath is our map.  It gives us a clear picture of the person that we should be.  It has features much like the map.  Duty, Honor, and being Selfless are some of the marks we see in Oath.  If we use it, we will know the landscape of our lives and will be able to stay the course.
The Scout Law is our compass.  It is the steady set of values, unchanging, that when used with the Scout Oath will be our guide on the trail of life.
The Law points you in the direction of our values that make you the person that you are.  Like the compass it has a steadfast needle that ensures your heading is true.
Using the Oath and Law together, like the map and compass these tools will set your course to being a man of Character, a good Citizen, and promote in yourself and other fitness in your mind, body, and heart.
As we have traveled that trail to First Class, weather is is recent or in the past, or if you are just starting that journey, remember that the skills you develop today are there for you to use for the rest of your life.  Focus on these skills they will make a difference not only on a camp out but every day that you wake up and look in the mirror starting your Great Scouting Day!
Set your azimuth to achieve your goals and keep checking your map to stay on course.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Scout Law, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Solo Stove

I have been talking quite a bit as of late about the Solo Stove.  In fact, I became an affiliate of the Solo Stove this week.  The more I use this stove, the more I like it and realize I should use it more.  I have had this stove for about 2 years now and it has gone on a couple of hands of camp outs.
Never have to carry fuel.  I live in Oregon, so fuel is never an issue.  I even burned soaking wet sticks in it.  Pine cones will get you a boil in no time.
Small.  The Solo stove fits in most pots.  And it doesn’t weigh much either.  The stove weighs in at 9 oz.  It is 3.8 inches high and 4.25 inches wide.  I keep it in a 12 cm imusa mug when I take it on the trail.
The construction of this stove is second to none.  Yeah, you may be able to make a hobo stove that looks like it, but put the Solo Stove in your hands and the 304 Stainless steel material and rock solid construction, beautiful lines, seams, and detail will blow you away.
It takes about 8 minutes to get a good rolling boil.  That’s pretty good considering the source.  Besides, where are you going… you’re camping.. relax.
Leave No Trace.  This is a perfect stove when trying to leave no trace.  Why?  Because it leaves no impact.  You burn stuff lying around, small sticks etc.  It doesnt leave a mark on the soil, you don’t need a fire pit, and what’s left after the burn is fine white ash that with less than a cup of water completely disappears.  Not allowed to have a campfire.. no problem.  This stove does not produce sparks and staying right inside the burn chamber.  It is totally contained.
Like I said, I really love this stove.   It is not quite my go to stove, I still love my Blackcat alky stove.  But the more I play with the Solo Stove, the more I want to use it more and more.  And for 9 ounces, it is worth throwing in the backpack.
If you are interested in learning more and ordering a stove.  Use the link over here on the right to click-through to Solo Stove.  If you are looking at getting your favorite Scoutmaster on the internet a nice Christmas gift… I would love the Solo Stove pot 900.
Enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: | 4 Comments

My Cook Kit

As you all know I am constantly tweaking my gear.  I have been using basically the same cooking set up for a few years now.  A little tweak here and there and I have to tell you I am really happy with the cook kit that I use.
There are no right or wrong set ups.  When it comes to this kind of gear, I suggest you adopt the “Hike your own hike” philosophy.  That is to say do what works for you.  I have used everything from big pots and pans and green two burner Coleman stoves to the alcohol stove that I use now.
I have used heavy pots and light pots, sporks and full mess kits, but what I have developed now meets my needs and fits with our style of backpacking.
Using this set up I can cook everything, not just boil water.  Right now I am really into the frozen dinner reheat.  I like to buy the Smart Ones precooked meals and reheat them in my pot.  It works great.  I have also cooked them at home, dehydrated them and cooked them on the trail.  They are perfectly portioned and taste great.
The elements of my cook kit are simple:
It starts with the Cuben Fiber stuff sack.  I purchased this from zpacks.com.
I made my own Pot cozy from an old closed cell foam pad.  The pot cozy is a big part of the kit, for holding the hot pot, to using it with the pot to re-hydrate a meal.  This saves fuel.
I use the Imusa 12 cm pot or mug.   These used to be available at Wal-Mart.  I have not been able to find them lately, but there are places online that you can find the 12 cm (1.25 quart) and the 10 cm mug.
I have a custom lid for the mug the I got online.  There are multiple online store that you can get your lids or you can easily make your own.  There are a lot of lid options, but you will need a lid.
I covered my lid with Carbon felt.  You can buy carbon felt by the sheet at Home Depot.
I added a zip lock container recently with a screw top lid.  I had to add a strip of tape to the lid to get it out of the pot.  I made a cozy for the bottom to keep things warm and make it easy to hold when there is a hot meal in there.  It makes a great bowl. and way to store my stove and other cook kit items.  I use the 16 oz size.  It fits well in the kit and works for just about every meal I make.
Inside of the zip lock container is my stove, a scrub pad and an old rag that I I use to clean and grab hot things.  Makes a good napkin too.
To eat with I use am REI long-handled spoon.  This spoon allows me to cook without burning my hands or getting them in the food.  They spoon does not get hot either, so you don’t burn yourself.
The whole kit weighs in at 10 oz.
Well that’s my cook kit.  I really like it and it works super for me.   I’m curious, what do you use?
Let me know.  Leave a comment and share.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Leave no trace, reviews | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Hammock Basics

I have received a bunch of emails recently asking about this “Hammock Thing” basically wondering why I hammock camp and what does it really involve.
Last summer I shot a video that answered some of those questions, so I thought I would drop it here on the blog from my YouTube channel.
The basics, kind of an extension of the post I did the other day on the Big 3.  The hammock set up takes care of two of the three, the shelter and the sleep system.  The third element would be my Pack, the hammock set up saves a lot of weight and space in my pack.
I have to be honest with you.  One of the main reasons I love the hammock camping set up is all the tweaking and playing around with the set up.  I suppose you don’t have to mess around with it.  The system is great out of the box, but it is so fun to try new things and learn more about the system.
For example, I am currently trying out different ways to do a “Pole Mod” on my tarp,  This is will be an alternate way of using the pull outs on the sides of my Warbonnet Super Fly Tarp.  I will keep you posted on how that goes.  I just got the poles yesterday, now it’s time to fiddle with it and try different techniques and set ups.  I’ll let you know how it ends up.
So check out this video, let me know what you think and please feel free to ask all the questions you would like.  I love to talk about hammocks and hammock camping.

I hope this video showed you a little about hammock camping and the hammock set up.  If you are interested, let me know.  If you already hammock camp, let me know that too.
Leave a comment, I love to know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Your Camp Stool

Here is a short video talking about just sitting around.  An often overlooked piece of gear that is in the category of a “Luxury item” is the camp stool.  Go without it and you sacrifice a bit of comfort on your next outing.
Yes, you may have to take a weight penalty if you are keeping track of your pack weight, but in the end, having a stool or chair to hang around camp on will make the difference.
Sorry about the focus on the video… but you don’t need to see my forehead anyway…  This video is all about your backside.
My go to seat right now is the Grand trunk Stool.
It is 22 oz made of aluminum with a nylon seat.  It is compact and light and very comfortable to sit on.  They added a little storage area, which I find real nice when cooking.  A nice place to set things other than your lap.  I highly recommend this stool.  It will hold up to 250 lbs, not that I will ever get that heavy, but it’s nice to know that it will not break under me.

Let me know what you sit on while camping?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Big 3

koa55It is that time of the year when we share our knowledge of camping with those youngsters that are preparing to cross over into our troops.  For many of them, their camping experience has been family camping and not straying to far from the car.
For those scouts that will be entering backpacking style troops, or even those that are looking for gear that will last and work in different camping situations, we offer a bit of advice.
Lately, I have been asked by several Cub Scout Packs to come and pay them a visit to talk about camping gear.  I know that for some, this discussion can become overwhelming, especially once we start talking about the cost.
We focus on the Big Three.  This is the Shelter, the Sleep system, and the Backpack.
The big 3 is where most of the money is spent and where most of the money should be spent.  Going cheap with the big 3 will cost you more in the long run.  It is better to buy quality gear than cheap gear that needs to be replaced over and over.
The Shelter.
Notice I did not say tent.  The shelter could be a Bivy, a tarp, or a tent.  Complicated for a new Scout?  Not really.  They just need to see the differences and pluses and minus’ of the gear.
First, what kind of camping do you do?  Are you looking to keep your pack light?  Do you live in an area that you need to worry a lot about bugs.  Tents do not keep you warm, they keep you out of the elements, that in turn will retain the heat you produce along with your sleep system.  So a tarp or bivy may be a great option for you.
When it comes to tents, make sure that you look at three things.
1.  The rain fly.  It needs to extend beyond the sewn floor seam.  Look at the number of tie outs the rain fly has.  This will make a huge difference in the winter or extreme weather conditions.
2.  The Floor.  Look a the floor and make sure you see a seam that extends up the wall of the tent.  This is called a bath tub floor.  This is an important feature for  heavy rains and snow.
3.  Vents and Vestibule.  You will want a tent that is well ventilated.  This will reduce the amount of condensation you have inside you tent.  The vestibule is important to storage and space to remove wet or dirty clothing and boots.  It is also a place that you can keep your pack and even cook in a pinch.
The Sleep System.
Again, note I did not just say sleeping bag.  First rule, if your bag has Ducks or Sponge Bob in it.. it is not a good backpacking sleeping bag.
The sleep system is quiet possibly the most important gear in your pack.  Without a good nights sleep you will not have a good camping experience.  The sleep system is made up of the sleeping bag and the method of insulation.
There are essentially two types of sleeping bags.  Down and Synthetic.  Down is lighter and compacts tighter.  When down gets wet though, it does not retain its insulation properties.  Synthetic on the other, may be a bit heavier, but when wet will retain its insulation and keep you warm.  Synthetics dry quickly also.
We recommend synthetic bags for our new Scouts.  This way we know that in bad conditions they will remain safe and warm.
The sleeping pad, or insulation, is just as important as the bag itself.  There are may options when it comes to pads for insulation.
Closed Cell Form (CCF).  This is your most inexpensive option and had great benefits.  CCF is great in the winter.  While not the most comfortable, CCF pads work well and can be modified to meet the Scouts needs.  It can be cut down to reduce weight and size.  The extra can be cut to make a nice camp seat.
Air pads.  There are different types of air-filled pads.  Basically, insulated and no insulated.  If you camp in the Northwest like I do, you need to have an insulated pad.
The air pads come in many shapes sizes and “R” values.  It is best when shopping for a pad to lay it out and give it a test run in the store.  The thicker the pad, the more comfortable, but also the more weight you will carry.  Take those considerations into account when buying your pad.
The Backpack.
Like sleeping pads, the backpack comes in many shapes, sizes, and styles.  Essentially though when looking at a backpack you need to decide what style you are looking for, Internal Frame or External Frame.  The difference, basically how the pack rides when packed.  For the novice hiker, that has a lack of experience in packing his gear, the external frame pack will ride much better.  Internal framed packs need a little more skill in packing, but the learning curve is not that steep.  Modern packs are designed to give the hiker the best comfort while tailoring the load to meet the need of the outing.
We typically recommend that a 65 liter pack be the absolute maximum when looking at volume.  The average Scout can get away with 55 to 60 liters.  Personally, I do not carry anything bigger than 60 liters or 3950 cubic inches.
Keep in mind when buying a pack, what are you doing with it?  The bigger the pack, the more you will put in it.  Also think about how you load the pack.  Lots of outside pockets are not always a great idea, while at times and with experience they can be a great feature on the pack.  Simple is good.
Buying a pack should not be an off the shelf event.  You need to shop around and do your homework.  Try them on, load them up, walk with it.  Try before you buy.
So, why the big three?  This is the area that you are going to spend the most money on and it is also the three pieces of gear that will cost you the most weight.  Try to keep the weight of the big 3 down to 9 pounds total.  Think about total weight, you should be looking at 25% of the Scouts body weight.  Keeping the big three down to 9 lbs is a good start at getting to that percentage.
When shopping for the big three, don’t rush.  Do the research, ask lots of questions, see what others are using and make a sound choice.  The big three should be those three pieces of gear that you keep the longest and will help you have the best backpacking or camping experience.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tatogear AB-13 Alcohol Stove

Here is a quick review of the AB-13 Max hybrid Alcohol stove by Tatogear.
I really like this stove for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s small and light but produces the same energy to get your trail cooking done.
Second, I love the remote fuel feed.  This is great when you are baking as you need longer cook times and with a traditional alcohol stove the fuel you start with is what you will use.  The remote feed feature allows you to have a continuous flame for hours if needed.  The remote feed is a safe way of adding fuel while in the process of cooking/baking.
The AB-13 weighs in at .8 oz. or 23 grams.  The body of the stove is machined from aluminum with folding legs and pot stand.  Folded – 2 1/4 X 1, Unfolded – 3 1/4 X 1.5.  So it is compact and portable.
I figured you did not need to see water boil, so here is a short video showing the function of the stove.
Here is the nice feature of the stove as it applies to the nay sayers in Scouting of alcohol stoves.  You can turn this one off!

Check out the stove and other products from Tatogear at Tatogear.com.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Cooking, gear, Just fun, reviews, technology | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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