planning

Money and Scouting

Friends of ScoutingI am going to tread lightly on this subject as I have some unpopular opinions when it comes to money and Scouting, but bare with me as I make an attempt to articulate my thoughts on this.
When we talk about money and Scouting there are always a couple of concerns.  First, the cost of Scouting.  It can seem overwhelming when a new parent is hit up with the initial cost of Scouting.  The uniform, the handbook, and the gear all seem to drain a family in the pocket-book.  Then there are dues, summer camp, and in some units the nickel and dimeing that is part of the annual program.  Yeah, that can seem a bit too much, unless your unit is aware of this and makes an effort to either reduce the cost or have programs in place to assist a new young man stepping off on his journey in Scouting.
Let me say at the outset that there is absolutely NO REASON at all that every young man in America can not be a Scout.  Money IS NOT an issue and at least in our unit will not become one.  If a Scout has financial needs, we will accommodate, but no young man will be left out.
How do you do that?  Well, let me share with you how our unit does it.  Your mileage may vary on this and I am certainly not saying that we do it best or there are no other ways to do this.. I know what we do works and it removes the excuses about money in Scouting.
I challenge any parent, no matter what your economic status to argue that your son can not be a Scout because of money.
So having said that…
Number 1.
Get a good plan and with that plan, a budget.
Just like in your home, you budget to maintain your financial health.  Your unit is no different.  Our Troop committee has made it a practice to never say no to the PLC.  If they plan it, the committee will figure out a way to support it.  Now, before you think that we are stepping away from Youth led.. no, we are not.  The Troop committee is responsible for  the budget.  They figure out how much the program is going to cost for the year and pass that on to the Scouts.  They figure out seat belts, rentals, and fees and provide the Council level fund-raising opportunities for the Scouts to participate in.  Once that is provided, it is up to the Scout to participate.
Number 2.
Announce the dues for the year and promise not to ask for another penny (save FOS).
This is key.  Once the program cost is set we divide it among the members of the unit and that becomes the dues for the year.  We never ask for another dime.
That number is typically around $200.  The parents are given a complete budget break down of everything that the money is for.  The Scout then has an option to make 3 payments to pay his dues.  Note that I said the Scout has that option.  The Scout is responsible for paying his way.
Number 3.
Offer the Council level fundraising opportunities.  Pop corn, candy sales, etc.  Our Troop also offers a Christmas Wreath sale opportunity.  It is up to the Scout to participate and the unit does not do mass fundraising.  It is up to the Scout to pay his own way.
Number 4.
A Scout is thrifty.  He pays his own way.  If the Scout chooses not to participate in the fundraisers, it is up to him to earn the money to pay for his year in Scouting.
Here is where the eye brows are raised and I catch flack from those not in our unit.
There are plenty of money earning opportunities out there.  Mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, walking dogs, baby sitting, house sitting, painting fences, odd jobs will certainly earn a Scouts way for the year, and then some.  I am not expecting our Scouts to get a job in a spoon factory, I am just suggesting that they need to get off their butts and work for their year in Scouting.  If that is payment for their chores at home or hitting their neighborhood and mowing lawns, the Scout needs to earn his keep.
I can not tell you how many parents I have talked to that disagree with that.  As with most things in life, that which you earn you value.  So we ask that our Scouts earn their way.
Number 5.
Accountability.
If a Scout fails to pay his dues, he is given notice that he can not participate.  If there are circumstances which preclude the Scout from money earning we will talk.  If a Scout participates in the Council fundraising opportunities, he is given the benefit of the doubt and given more time or opportunity.  If the Scout has not made an attempt at money earning he will not.  It is that simple.  There are just to many opportunities out there not to at least cover basics.
Summer camp can seem to burden a family.  We again ask the Scout to pay his way.  If that does not happen, we find ways of funding the Summer camp experience.

Big money in Scouting.
I have heard many Scouters talk about not giving to FOS for one reason or another.  And I am not going to go to deep into that.  Lets just say those people for the most part are misinformed as to what that money does to have a direct impact on Scouts and Scouting.  So give to FOS.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of representing our Council at the National Meetings of the Boy Scouts of America.  I got to go to some work shops and meet a lot of the “heavy hitters” in Scouting.  At the big Banquet dinner on Saturday night, my wife and I sat as they presented the Silver Buffalo awards.  Someone at our table made the comment that those people purchased the Silver Buffalo and therefore it meant nothing.  I disagree.
The fact that 10 people who that year each had made contributions in the millions to Scouting, most going directly to Scout camps, facilities, and scholarships impressed me.  Scouting could not function without those dollars.  The fact that they pay so the rest of us can essentially afford great programs impressed me.  And I applaud them.
I am a member of the James E. West fellowship, and proudly wear my $1000 knot.  Yeah, folks joke about that too, but at the end of the day, it is paying for Scouting.  The James E. West fellowship endowment money is legacy money and will have lasting impacts on our Council.  I can not give the millions, but what I can give ensures that Scouts can go to camp and have a camp to go to.  So that too I would ask that you consider.
I am not going to debate how one Council or another manages their money, that is not my concern.  My concern is delivering the promise of Scouting… and that takes money.
So Scouts can pay their way and we adults can support their effort and their program.
Money and Scouting can work.  Have reasonable expectations, goals, and hold the Scouts accountable for being Thrifty.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

My Cook Kit

The other day some discussion on Google + about cook kits got a few us talking.  I thought it was time to show what I am currently using.  I know that I tinker a lot with gear, but this cook kit seems to be the go to kit and really the only thing that changes out is the Imusa mug and Snow peak 700.  They are interchangeable in my cook kit.
I am curious about your cook kit, let me know in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Your Ticket

Golden TicketWhen I went to Wood Badge in 2005 I was introduced to a goal setting and achieving process called “The Ticket”.  The term comes from an old British Army practice of earning a ticket home.  British soldiers that were assigned afar would begin working their ticket closer and closer to England, through assignments, favor, and of course money.  The mission was to get home and each goal that was accomplished got them closer and closer to home.
Wood Badge adopted this system in name to teach and make real the process of achieving goals.  Understanding ones Vision and clearly articulating that vision in project planning, no matter the size or scope.  It can be a vision for a group or a personal vision, the process is the same.
Once the vision is clear and you understand your mission, it is time to get to the work of achieving that mission… getting what you want.
In Wood Badge, you are required to come up with 5 goals that directly support you mission.  Those goal have to be specific to the mission.  When you narrow your focus the parts of the mission become more clear and like eating an elephant, those bit size chunks become doable.  That which you measure you accomplish.  If you are trying to lose weight and you step on the scale daily, you are more than likely to lose the weight.  You will be motivated to see that number go down.  So your goals must be able to be measured, in other words how do I know it’s working or being accomplished.  Your goals must be attainable.  An unattainable goal is one that will never get done.  You will get discouraged and failure will drive you away from accomplishing your mission.  And your goals must be relevant and timely.  Keep it to the task and set a completion date.  Knowing when you are going to be finished and knowing that what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal gives you hope that you will accomplish your mission.
That is goal setting 101, and the system really works.
Since 2005 and the completion of my ticket for Wood Badge, I have written many tickets.  We have used them in our family to look at our finances.  We have used them to complete home projects.  We have written them for our Troop and at work.  But like anything else it takes “want to” and “stick to” to get them done.  The tools really make it “easy to” and once you see that you can accomplish what you set out to do, you are successful.
As you may have noticed I have written a ticket for this blog.  I want to make it better and what better way to do that than to work a ticket.  You can follow that ticket here.  You will notice that I made all of you my “Troop Guides” so you are my accountability partners on this.  And I thank you.
Try writing a ticket for yourself.  January is a great time to write one to achieve one of your New Years resolutions.
Let me know how that is going, I’ll be your Troop Guide to.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Sharpen your Ax

Abraham Lincoln is a man often quoted, but not always in the context of Scouting.  I stumbled on a great quote that speaks directly to Scouts and Scouters.
“If you give me 6 hours to cut down a tree, I will take 4 hours sharpening my ax.”
Whats he saying here.. basically.. Be Prepared.  He is telling us that preparation is the key to success.  When we prepare for a task we can accomplish it with success.  Putting the time in to plan, train, and practice will make you better at the skill.
We are getting into the winter camping months.  The more we prepare, the more fun we will have.  The more we train, the safer we will be.  And the more we practice our skills the better experience we will have in our adventures.
We should always be looking at ways to keep our ax sharp.  We should always be thinking about that next tree and sharpen the ax to make the work easier and more effective.
I am always looking at ways to make my camping experiences better.  Toying with my gear, testing new stuff, learning and refining techniques to make my adventures fun and safe.
Are you sharpening your ax?

I was looking through an old external hard drive today and found this video.  Shot about 3 years ago when I was a “Tent Camper”.  Thought I would share it here.  It is a good example of Sunday routine.  Remember that we model expected behavior.  No yard sale here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Selecting your winter camp site

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

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Winter camping and the backpack

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

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The COLD Attitude

When preparing for winter camping or camping in colder temps than you are typically used to it is important to get your mind right.
It is a must to have the right gear, train for the conditions and practice before venturing out into the cold.  But the most important thing to prepare is your attitude.
We teach that COLD means to stay clean, keep from overheating, wear your clothing loose and in layers, and stay dry.  Those things should keep your warm and comfortable while camping in the winter.  I have known people that just never seem to be warm.  They can add layers and layers and still won’t be warm.  When they are constantly cold, they dont want to be there.
I was stationed in Alaska while I served in the Army.  Before I was assigned to Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, I was in Georgia, I think this is the Army’s idea of humor.  When I arrived in Alaska I was sent to a course called Cold Weather Indoctrination Training (CWI).  The first thing that they tought us was that we had to get our mind set to be cold.  Once we accepted the idea that it was going to be cold, we could focus on our job.  The first night of the training we took our sleeping bags and sleeping pads an went out into a near by stand of trees about 100 yards from the barracks.  We were told that we would be sleeping out there for the night.  “Trust the gear and accept the cold” the Sergeant said.  I thought I was going to die that night.  I got in my sleeping bag, wiggled around a bit, and then settled in for a nights sleep in the snow.  The guy next to me tossed and turned all night, his teeth chattered, and at about midnight he got up and ran to the building.  I remember watching him through the face hole of my sleeping bag.  I was toasty warm in the bag and would not have gotten out of that warm bag to run if the forest was on fire.  The next morning, the Sergeant came out and woke us up.  The air was crisp and it was cold.  He told us that we needed to get up and get moving.  It was like jumping into a cold pond.. you just hold your breath and go for it.  I sprang from my sleeping bag throwing clothing on as quick as I could.  Once I got my boots on and started rolling up my sleeping bag I noticed that I was not cold, I was working up a little sweat even.
We marched to the dining hall for breakfast, then right back out into the cold for more training.  The more we trained, the more I got used to the cold.  The more I got used to the idea that it was just going to be cold, the more I accepted it and it was just another thing.
I can remember my second winter in Alaska, when it warmed up to the single digits above 0, we would run around with sweatshirts and t- shirts on.  The cold was just a matter of fact.  We had our minds right.
Now, I dont want to confuse anyone by changing up the meaning of COLD.. but I remember my Squad leader came up with a new version for us to keep our minds in the right attitude for the cold temps.
C- Can’t is not an option.  When the tents need to be put up, camp chores need to be done, Can’t is not an option.. the work has to be done.  Can’t is not a phrase that gets us out of any situation.  YOU CAN be in the cold… You just have to accept it.
O- Operate with the mind set that this is a challenge I am willing to face.  Challenge yourself mentally, physically, and prepare your self for the Challenge.
People do not summit Everest because they have North Face gear and lots of money.  They accept the challenge and push themselve in the preparation.
L- Look around, you are not the only one out here in the cold.  Your buddy counts on you and you count on them.  We do this together.  When one man is not mentally prepared the whole team suffers.
D- Dont forget your training and have confidence in your gear.  Training for the enviornment settles the mind.  The less you think about the cold, the more at ease your mind is.  Just like athletes rely on muscle memory to esure that they are fundementally sound, thus they can focus on the other aspects of the game and their oppenent.   Never forget your preparation and training and you will have the right mind set.
Some of the Scouts wonder why I seem to love camping in the winter.  It is quiet, I love the crisp air, and you never have crowds.  Above all I love the challenge.  I love to test my skill and training.  I love to safely push personal limits.  I trust my gear and my training and know that I can have fun out in the winter just as much as I do in the summer.  I try to teach our Scouts those same things that I learned 30 years ago.  Just like then, I accepted the challenge and adapted to the winter conditions.  As a result I gained an appreciation for camping in the cold.  Now I love it.
Your mind is powerful and will allow you to do just about anything that you want.  As long as you trust yourself, your training (the people that trained you), and your gear, you will have an awesome time camping in the cold.

Have a Great Scouting Day!