Camping

Triangle Thingies

Yes… Triangle Thingies.. that’s what they are called.  What do they do?  Well, if you are like me and want to have an enjoyable time when you get into camp you find ways to stream line your set up and take down.  No knots, no instructions, no fuss.. no muss.  If you look at my set up you will find that it is easy up and easy down.  The Triangle Thingie is a simple add on to the hammock that allows for quick set up and take down and the ability to have your underquilt hung in the same place every time without any adjustments.  This ensures a great nights sleep and getting it ready to hang super fast.
The Triangle Thingies are from a company in Idaho, a cottage industry owned an operated by outdoors folks that love to get out in the woods and hang and fish.  You can check out their site here.  The Triangle Thingies weigh in a 1 1/4 oz a pair and come in four colors.
Here is a quick video on how I installed the Triangle Thingies on my Warbonnet XLC hammock.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.Have a Great Scouting Day!

Reflection

campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Gear Tweekin’

Today we took advantage of a nice sunny day to get some gear tweekin’ in.  Part of our addiction to camping gear is first recognizing that I have this addiction and second that I need to get out and play with it.  So Greg, Scott, Wade (all Assistant Scoutmasters in my Troop) and I got together today to set up our hammocks and tarps and do some modifications, improvements, and just plain getting out and having fun.
I have been wanting to change out my suspension system on the Blackbird.  Why?  Well, to be honest why not… Actually I have been wanting to have a system that I can pack up all the gear while under the tarp when its inclement weather.  I initially bought the Speed hook system from Dutchwaregear.com.  I love the Dutchware and have a lot of it on my set up.  The Speed Hook system was a light quick option for set up and take down and look real cool too.
Dutch recalled them after a few months and more testing.  I don’t really understand the reasoning other than he stated that there was a failure found after many hangs.  This means you will end up on the ground.  That was enough for me to swap them out.  While it may never happen, I did not want to out on the trail with no options if they did break.  So I ordered a new Whoopie Sling set up from Dutch.  This includes new straps, Dutch Clips, Whoopie Slings, Dutch Biners, and Dutch Buckles.  It is a super quick set up and strong.  All the while being light in weight.
For the tarp all I really wanted to get done was change out all the line.  I swapped out the Zing it line on the tie outs with MSR Reflective line and  CamRing™ Cord Tensioners.  I was not sold on the tensioners when I looked at them in the store, but once I got them on the tarp and played with them… yep.. they are a good fit.
I love playing with the gear, it is a great way for us to get out and mess around, have fun together, and get ready for camping.
Here is a little walk around video of the work we did today.
If you have any questions about it.. let me know.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Anchoring your tent

Here is a technique for anchoring your tent.  In this video, I demonstrate using a snow stake.  A stick works just as well.  Snow stakes are versatile and light and are worth carrying into camp.
It is important to anchor your tent well.  Winter conditions typically include heavy winds so no matter what or how much gear you have in your tent, to keep your tent and the rest of your gear in good repair, anchor your tent well.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camping pt. 2 Skills

Backpacking Tip of the WeekJust as a recap… Cold weather camping is a High Risk activity that is challenging, fun, and rewarding for those that venture into the cold weather environment.  This type of camping takes discipline, skills, and a great attitude.
Once leaders understand their role in accountability to those they lead, monitor behavior, and maintain the same “can do” attitude, they will provide fun programs in the cold weather camping environment.
In this post we are going to continue some of the discussion on training for camping in the cold, focusing on some of the skills that need to be developed to ensure a safe, fun outing.
Obviously what you wear and how you wear it is a skill in and of itself.  Knowing when to layer up or down takes skills and awareness of the conditions.
How all of this clothing gets packed require a skill set also.  Those skills need to be practiced and repeated.  One of the ways in which we develop that skill is simply to have the Scouts pack and repack.  They unpack, set up, and then repack in fair conditions.  The second evolution is practiced with gloves on.  The same skills worked over and over.
It is once the Scout can do these skills that we practice outside, in the cold.  You will see the mastery of this skill proven at that point.
Understanding that the simple skill of packing a backpack in the cold can have a huge impact on the fun of the outing.  A Scout that struggles with this skill will place himself in painful situation and prolong his time spent being cold.  Remember that it is easier to stay warm than to rewarm.  Packing is a skill that will help the Scout find success in the cold.  Nylon gets cold and as the Scout packs he is in contact with cold material that may also be icy or wet.  It is important to do this correctly the first time so he can quickly return to activity that keeps him warm.
The Scout needs to understand that there is an order to his packing so he can access those items that he will need throughout the day to stay warm, cook meals, and move in and out of layers.  He also needs to understand how his gear works so he can have quick set up and take down periods.
His tent should be set up and modified to meet the Scouts needs in the cold.  Guy lines added and tied to the tie out points.  Knots pre tied and line measured to specific lengths so there is not a lot of adjustments to be made.
A plan for anchoring his tent needs to be made and practiced.  I do not worry about snow stakes.  A stick will do or a regular tent stake placed in the snow sideways will hold the tent in place.  Additional guy lines may be needed in the event of heavy winds or snow.  Have those lines in place before you go.  A simple bowline tied at the end of the line will make for quick set up and take down.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

The Cold Sump or pit, draws cold air away from you at night.

Digging a cold sump outside of the tent will pull cold air away from you as you sleep.  Cold air settles in low ground, creating that low space will keep you warmer at night.  You will also have a place to sit and put your boots on and fire up the stove to boil water for a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Cooking in the cold is another challenge that requires a few more skills than boiling water.
First the Scout needs to understand that eating is critical for staying warm in the cold weather environment.  Eating keeps you hydrated, it keeps you warm and comfortable, and it provides the nutrients to keep you going.  When you cook or boil water, it is a good way to treat that water and get fluids into your system.  Dehydration is the number one cold weather injury.  Scouts do not feel thirsty because it is cold.  It is when you feel thirsty that you are in the early stages of dehydration.  Cooking a meal and having a cold or warm drink with help prevent dehydration.
The gear used for cooking needs attention and skill to accomplish the cooking of your meal.  Liquid fuels such as white gas are very reliable in the cold.  Canister fuels work well also, but you need to keep the canister warm.  Throw it in your sleeping bag at night.  Keep it in a wool sock.  Use a small square of Closed Cell Foam pad to set the canister on as you cook.  This insulates and keeps the fuel warmer.
Why do I consider cooking a skill for the cold weather, well there is great emphasis in cooking in the cold.  You can not get away with quick trail meals.  You need to eat warmer meals to stay warm.  The average person burns about 2700 calories a day in the summer.  In the winter you need to be prepared to burn about 4000 a day.  Considering this, it takes skill in planning and preparing those meals, not to mention getting them into camp. Again, packing becomes a tremendous skill that pays off.
We teach the acronym C.O.L.D.  Clean, Overheating, Layers, and Dry.  This simple acronym is all about skills.
Staying clean, both your body and your clothing.  Dirty, oily clothing allows for water to seep as well as wind.  This will not protect you against the elements any longer.  You must stay as clean as you can.  A quick wipe down before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning will keep you warmer.  Keeping from Overheating will reduce sweat and therefore will keep you warmer.  Reducing the amount of moisture on the body will keep you from freezing.  We do this by wearing loose layers.  An effective layering system of clothing that will assist you in regulating your temperature keeping your comfortable and warm.  And finally staying dry.  Staying out of the snow when it is critical to stay dry.  This means changing after playing in the snow or digging a snow cave. Water is your enemy in the cold (unless you are drinking it).  Remember C.O.L.D. to stay Warm!
Camp.
Before setting up your tent, pack the snow.  You are your buddy, walk with your snow shoes stamping down a platform for your tent.  It need not be too much bigger than the footprint of the tent.  Pack it so you no longer punch through when you walk.  This will provide a comfortable platform to sleep on and make it easier to set up your tent.
This also keeps you from possible tearing a hole in the floor of your tent should you step through a patch of unpacked snow.
It is counter intuitive to think about opening your tent, but make sure your tent is vented well.  This will reduce condensation keeping your tent and the rest of your gear dryer, thus keeping you warmer.
In part three, we will discuss sleeping in the cold.
What do you think?  Are you ready to get out there and camp in the cold…
Let me know what you think.  What winter camping skill do you think is the most important?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

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.