camp skills

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!