Cooking

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!

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!

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 2

bearcanisterWe have picked our destination, did a good map survey, know how long we are going be gone, and are super pumped that we will soon be on the trail.
The next thing that we need to plan is our food.
Why do I plan food second?  Food is an important part of your backpacking trek.  It is the nourishment that will keep you on the trail, it takes up space in your pack, it has weight, and it requires preparation before you leave and while on the trail.  How are you going to cook it?  What type of foods are you taking?  What do you like?
To many people think that trail food is trail food, but you can eat pretty much what ever you like on the trail.  You just need to plan and prepare it.
Freeze Dried meals and quick, easy and light and are a good option on the trail.  Dehydrating your own food is another great way to eat well and enjoy your meals on the trail.
Of course you can also pack in fresh foods or prepackaged meals.  All of these are good options.  I thought I would take a few minutes and discuss some thoughts I have on meal options.
When I plan for meals on the trail I take into consideration a few things.
1.  How long am I going to be out.  This is a big consideration as it will determine whether or not I can take fresher foods out with me.  Taking a nice steak out for dinner works if it is going to be cooked in the first day or two.  It requires a little more cold storage, which in turn becomes more weight.  I like a steak in the woods every now and then, but knowing how long I am going to be out is a consideration that I need to add to my decision-making.
2.  What are the conditions going to be.  The weather plays a large role in my decision-making.  Do I need to take more “warming foods” because of the cold, or can I get away with meals that are just filling.  That steak I mentioned.  Great winter camping food.  It will keep longer and the smell and taste are great motivators on a snowy night.  Along with the food, beverages need to be planned for due to conditions.  I like my coffee in the morning no matter what, but I may not take coco in the summer and drink water instead.
Hot beverages are a morale builder in the cold.  They do not really do much to warm the body, but you feel like it anyway.  They need to be planned for.
If it is real rainy, you will want to plan for foods that can be eaten on the move, or provide quick nutrition.   Same goes for winter camping.  You want food that is quickly prepared and consumed.  You may not want to wait around in the rain to long for your meal to cook.  Then when you get to camp and get shelter set up, a longer prep time meal is in order.
3.  Hot meals and Cold meals.  How many hot meals do you want to eat on the trail.  Hot meals require cooking.  Cooking requires fuel and time and pots or pans.  Decide how many hot meals you need for your trip.  Typically one hot meal is good enough for a day, and typically that meal is your evening meal or dinner.  This gives you something warm and solid in your belly for a good nights sleep.  Eating a quick non cook breakfast and trail lunch are great options to reduce the amount of fuel you need to carry and make you day on the trail fun and easy.
I love the cinnamon toast crunch bars for breakfast, throw in a pop tart and you have a feast.
cintoastcrunchBreakfast.  They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  On the trail, some quick energy to get you going is essential.  But it need not be complicated or big.  Breakfast bars or breakfast drinks are fantastic means of protein and energy to get you going.  This is where planning is important for your day on the trail.  A quick breakfast before you hit the trail for the day is enough when you know that your lunch is only hours away.  In most cases lunch is on the go, so if mid morning hunger strikes, there is always a pouch of nuts or granola just a hip pocket away.  It is also important to plan for how you going to eat your breakfast meal.  On colder mornings, an idea is to pack up and hit the trail.  Hike for about an hour or so, then stop and eat.  This allows for the body to warm on its own, the temperature to rise and you get a quick jump on the day.  If you get to a camp site that will require a climb first thing in the morning, climb and then eat breakfast.  Putting your face in the sun and eating a nice cup of oatmeal is a nice way to start a day on the trail.
Lunch.  I am not a big fan of “lunch” on the trail.  The mid day meal should be quick and easy.  More like snacking along the way.  Trail mix, Jerky, and powdered sports drink are good.  Throw in some cheese sticks and you have a nice “lunch” on the trail.  I was over the course of the day.  Eating when we take longer breaks or at a point of interest.  I plan for enough snacks to get me about three servings over the course of a day.
Dinner.  The evening meal for me is the big one.  This is the meal that marks the end of a great day.  It is tasty and filling.  I am a big fan of dehydrating my own food.  There are lots of resources out there to help you with recipes and dehydrating tips.  My favorite site is the Hungry Hammock Hanger.  This guy has got it going on for back country cooking, specializing in dehydrating your meals.  The thing that I really love about it is that I cook it all, eat some, dehydrate some and get to eat it again on the trail.  This method is great for portion control and taste.
Prepackaged meals like Mountain House and Pack it Gourmet are also great options and can be prepared to cook in groups also.
Plan and Prepare.
Preparing your meals are an important part of your outdoor adventure.  Repackage everything.  No cans, No boxes, no extra wrapping.  Get in your mind to reduce your trash to 1 zip lock quart bag.  Everything needs to be reduces to be packed out in that bag.  I am not a fan of eating out of bags, some folks like the idea so they do not have to clean pots and bowls.  There is just something about it that I don’t like.  So even Mountain House meals get repackaged into a smaller zip lock bag and re-hydrated in my pot on the trail.
Reducing the amount of trash you have and marking the food makes life easy on the trail.  I have seen a numbering system or just writing the day for the meal on the bag.  This works great when planning for group cooking.
nalgeneWater.
Water plays a major role in meal planning, preparation, and clean up.  Know how much you will have available when planning your meals.  If you are boiling water for your meals, there is no need to filter, or at a minimum running the water through a coffee filter to get the sticks and rocks out is all you need.  Save filtered water for drinking.  Same goes for cleaning.  There is no need to filter if you are going to boil your dishes clean.  A small amount of camp suds goes a long way too when clean up is concerned.  Do not skimp on water.  You need it to stay hydrated and you need it to re-hydrate.  Make sure that when you re-hydrate your meals that they are completely re-hydrated.  Eating partially re-hydrated meals is not good for you and will lead to issues on the trail.
Protection.
You need to protect your food.  First from spoiling and then from critters.  Get in the habit of preparing your meals so they will have the least amount of chance of going bad.  Be careful not to cross contaminate your food when you prepare.  Then get in the habit of using a bear bag and hanging it.  No matter what the conditions or circumstance, get your food away from your camp area and get it high.  Bears are typically the least concern, but protecting your food is important.  If your food is robbed by critters, your trip is over.  Check local ranger stations or land managers for regulations.  A lot of areas are starting to require bear canisters.  They are a nice way to protect your food.  Waterproof, odor resistant, and nice to have in camp.  It is work having a few in your group for smell-able items that need to be protected.
Remember that when you protect your food, you are also protecting you.  Getting the food away from camp keeps you out of harms way.
Meals are a big part of your backpacking adventure.  Do not take this process lightly.
We will talk about planning for problems in our next post.
What are your favorite trail meals?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Training, Nature or Nurture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I posted my thoughts on training.  I received some great feedback and feel that I need to address a couple of the comments, specifically a question that came up about the leaders themselves in the unit and how our attitude toward training is part of the reason we have great trained leaders.
Bob asked, “I’m curious as to whether you find that this “going the extra mile” is primarily something that a leader brings to the unit (nature), something that the unit brings to the leader (nurture), or some combination of the two.  Or, to put the question another way, do you find that the adults that volunteer for leadership positions already have that “going the extra mile” mentality, or that the culture of the unit inspires a new (or existing) leader to go that extra mile?”
Thanks Bob the answers is simple.  All of the above.
I believe that it is a bit of both Nature and Nurture.  First, I think that our unit has built a culture of trained leaders and an expectation that leaders are trained.  We ask a lot of our adult volunteers.  It is the nature of the unit that we expect the adult to be willing to “go that extra mile”.  Because it is a cultural thing or part of the nature of our unit, the volunteer knows what he or she is stepping in to.  It is not a surprise when they ask that they will be given a list of training courses, materials, and expectations of what training in our unit looks like.  If an adult leader expects to do the minimum, they are quickly encouraged to participate in some position other than that of a direct contact leader.
The culture of the unit dictates that in order to deliver the  very best program to our youth, keeping them safe, and instructing them properly we need to do better than the training that is provided by the Boy Scouts of America.
We agree that the training provided by the BSA is designed for the common denominator and not adequate for high adventure, advanced leadership, and activities that take you more than an hour away from a car.  This is all well and good, but in our opinion we need to do more.  Maxing the minimum is not good enough.
We ask of the Scout to “Do his Best”… so should we.
We also Nurture our adult leaders to want to be “Over Trained”.  Again, this is part of the culture of the unit.  Firm expectations of the training that allows our unit to function at a higher level.  When a parent asks to become a part of the adult leadership of the unit, the parent is invited to participate fully.  But training comes first.  Before an Assistant Scoutmaster for example can function as such, he must complete all of the BSA required training.  He needs to seek advanced first aid training to include CPR/AED.  We ask them to attend Wood Badge.  We take the time to instruct them on being a mentor, teacher, and coach to our Scouts.  We remind them that we do not lead, we assist.  There are not patches in the Boy Scout program for adults that say the word “Leader”.
This nurturing and development of the new adult volunteer leads them toward advanced training.
What this does for the unit is simple.  It opens doors.  We need not rely on any outside instruction or guides for our activities.  If we want to climb, we have certified climbing instructors to facilitate that activity.  Water craft, backpacking, shooting, Orienteering, Pioneering, First Aid, and more are all on the table because of the adult cadre of volunteers that have become the culture of the unit.  We also find that the adults stay active, even when the Scout has moved on.  This level of commitment has kept our knowledge base growing and stable.  The culture of the unit dictates that we do it all for the Scouts and we go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best Scouting experience.
So it is both Nature and Nurture.  It is a culture that expects the adult to set the example by giving more.  Being a model of the expected behavior of a servant leader.  One that reinforces our 5 Leadership principles in the Troop.
Leading ourselves, Focusing on the small stuff, Being the model of expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
Once that culture is developed and has a strong by in, the unit will flourish with trained leaders.
Allan and Alex, I hope that answer addressed your questions also.
If you have more questions, comments of concerns, please feel free to drop me a note.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Backpack cooking- Patrol Method

Since word is out that our Troop is doing a 10 day backpacking trip this summer as our summer camp, there has been some concern as to how we are going to incorporate all of the “Scouting Methods” that normally come with the summer camp experience.
Well, I would first of all suggest that our Scouts will have more of the Scouting methods during our 10 day adventure than most Troops will have during your typical Summer camp experience, namely in the area of cooking.
Most summer camps offer a dining hall with cafeteria or family style dining.  This is great and takes a lot of pressure off of the Scouts during the day.
Our Scouts this summer will be using the Philmont cooking methods for our meals.  This will ensure that the patrols or crews will eat together, share responsibility, and eat the appropriate amount of calories that will be required on the trail.
I visited the Philmont web site and recalled a video we shared with our Crews before we went to Philmont.  This video basically sums up how we will be doing our cooking this summer while we trek through the Olympic National Forest.

Our Scouts will be eating on the go for breakfast and lunch, much like the Philmont experience.  We downloaded the Philmont menus plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to get a good feel for our planning.  It looks like we will pretty much stick to their plan.  Why reinvent the wheel?
Patrol or Crew cooking in this fashion will be a great experience for our Troop.  We are going to start using this method with our next camp out and continue to practice this through summer camp.  This means each camp out till July will incorporate our meal plan and methods for preparing, cooking, and cleaning while on the trail.  This should be real fun at Camporee this year.
I’d love to know how you all cook on the trail or in camp.  Leave a comment.
Thanks!
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

The STEM Push

stemThe other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men.  During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not.  We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant.  Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world.  These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting.  As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system.  Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff,  I am fascinated by what engineers can do.  But this is Scouting dang it.  I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom.  I want them out there enjoying the outdoors.  The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit.  Even in our Council STEM is all over the place.  We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges.  But are they learning anything?  My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer).  He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”.  He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club.  Scouts get enough School.  They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Gear Tip – Wet Fire ™

wetfire_packageOk… all of this talk about being lazy.. and it caught me.  Not really.  I wanted to get a Saturday Quick tip out this week but once again my Scouting life got in the way of the blog.
Saturday, I was at a Staff Development session for the upcoming Wood Badge course.  I am not on the staff this time, but I have been asked to be a Guest presenter during the course.  I will be presenting the Teaching EDGE and more than likely will be doing dishes also… it’s what we Wood Badgers do.
Sunday was dedicated to one of my Scouts.  We held a Court of Honor to present his Eagle Award.  Man, what a great day.  I love Courts of Honor especially when we honor a Scout that has worked so hard and has become an Eagle Scout.
Alright… enough of the excuses.
I was going to shoot a video about a piece of gear that I always keep in my pack.  In fact I keep a few of them in my pack at all times and love them.  They are the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder.
They are made by a company called the Revere Supply Company and is part of the UST line of products.  Designed for survival kits, these little Fire starters are the best.
Now, we don’t teach survival to our Scouts, rather we teach preparedness and being ready in the event that everything goes South.  Being Prepared is the way to stay out of survival situations.
Having said that, we all like a fire and the Wet Fire ™ Fire starting Tinder is the best way to get a fire going quick and easy.  I don’t know about you.. but I’m not into the whole rubbing sticks together and flint and steel went out of style in the 1800’s.  When I want fire, I want it now.  And I live in Oregon, read… wet.  The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder gets that fire going while drying out other tinder and smaller wood so you can have a nice fire in camp.
Each cube is 1” x .75” x .5” (24 x 19 x 13mm) and only weighs .16 oz (44g), they do not take up a bunch of space and for the efficiency you won’t worry about the added grams.
You can read more about it at their website.  The Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder is available at most stores and are inexpensive.  About $6 for a package of 5.
Here is a little video from the folks that bring you the Wet Fire ™ fire starting tinder.
I carry these in my pack and I highly recommend them for everyone.

Have a Great Scouting Day!