Risk Management

Gloves

Gloves play a major role in your warmth system when cold weather camping.  Your gloves and your boots are key to keeping you warm.  Think about it.  Your hands and your feet are the farthest body parts from the core and when they get cold you are cold all over.  They are also the most at risk for cold weather injury.
When shopping for gloves, don’t skimp.  Gloves are not where you want to cut cost, spend a bit extra and get good gloves that will last and you will have a much better cold weather camping experience.
I use a layering system with my gloves.  This gives me options in the cold without exposure.  I start with a “Base layer” glove.  The Mountain Hardwear Stimulu.  It retails for $40.  When not wearing them I wear a Fingerless mitten called the Mountain Hardwear Bandito.  They retail for $45.  My outer layer is a combination mitten.  The Outdoor research Meteor.  They retail for $70.
I added the retail prices here so you can see the value that I place on good gloves.  I could spend more, but I have been using this system for some time and know that it works to keep me warm in extreme cold temperatures.  Using the gloves in a layering system gives me a lot of options and works well to regulate my comfort.
What questions do you have?
What gloves system do you use?
Share…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Attack of the Snow Blower

This weeks Sunday Coffee with Scoutmaster Jerry is full of coffee and adventure..
This weekend our Troop camped out up at White River on Mt. Hood.  It was a great time and lots of skills practiced and learned.
Sunday Morning around 4:00 AM our Troop encountered an unexpected attack.  We typically camp on the other side of a creek that flows adjacent to the White River snow park.  This is a good location as this camp out is always the first Winter camp out in snow for the new Scouts.  The location provides a good bail out plan and the comfort that the cars are not to far if we need them.  Anyway… this year the snow bridge was gone so we picked a camp site a bit closer to the parking lot.  We have camped there before, but this year was different.  At 4:00 AM the Oregon Department of Transportation snow crew cleaned up the snow park.  They plowed the parking lot and then sent in the snow blower  Now I don’t know about you but I had never felt the wrath of 100 lbs of snow shot from a cannon before.. until this morning!
Hope you enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Are we still Delivering?

all togetherThere has been much said, yeah.. even here on this blog, about how Scouting has changed to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator.  A greater emphasis on merit badge work shops and staying within an arms reach of a cell phone.  Sometimes I wonder if we in Scouting are still delivering the promise.. you know the promise of Scouting.
I find it interesting that when we look back in the not to distant past that Scouting was much different.  Even as far back as when I was a Scout there were not the concerns of life as we know it in today’s Scouting world.
Now I am a believer that we do need to bring Scouting to where the boys are.. but sometimes we should take the boys back to where we came from.
Baden Powell once said “By the term Scouting…is meant the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers, hunters, seamen, airmen, pioneers, and frontiersmen.”
The 1947 Handbook for Scoutmasters goes on to add, “The word ‘Scout’ opens up to the boy the picture of open spaces, woods, rivers, and lakes, mountains which are to be his playground and where he will have his fun.”  It goes on to say, “It is this promise of adventure, of camping and life in the outdoors that lures the boy into Scouting.  We MUST keep faith with him by giving him that adventure – not just to satisfy him, but because it is the best way we have of holding him.”
There is more written in the Handbook for Scoutmasters that reinforces this idea of adventure and the promise of Scouting, I wonder when we stopped talking about that.  There is no mention of it in the current Scoutmaster Handbook.
We have allowed lawyers to dictate that adventure.  We have allowed video games and laziness to dictate our levels of activity and we worry about Scouts leaving the program because we need the numbers.
I believe that every boy should be in Scouting… but not for merit badges or bobbles and beads.  I think they should be seeking adventure!  Like we did when I was a boy.  Adventure!  Parents need to allow this to happen.. that’s where it starts.
You know, there were just as many creeps in the world in the 70’s and 80’s as there are today.  The world really is not more creepy.. the difference… we have 24 hour news now and this wonderful thing called the internet.
We rode our bikes to and from Scout troop meetings.  Heck, we rode our bikes everywhere.  We were told not to talk to strangers and never to take candy from them.. and you know, we came out alright.  Every day in the summer we left in the morning and came home in time for dinner.  Looking for adventure.
In Scouts we found adventure.  We camped with our Patrols, we did not need… nor did we want, all the adults hanging around.  The fewer of them the better.   Our parents were concerned about us, but knew that we would be ok.  We trusted our Scoutmaster and the skills we were taught and we looked for adventure at every turn.
Not every Patrol got a ribbon at Camporee.. but then again, they were not all about competing either.. they were about skills and discovering new things.
Our PLC had a blank check to plan the next big adventure.  I remember when I was a Tenderfoot Scout we had the biggest adventure ever.  Our Troop was dropped off in Belgium to take a ferry across the English channel.  Once we arrived in England we took a bus to the Baden Powell house and stayed there for a few days.  We explored the local area and got to camp at Gilwell Park.  2 weeks from when we left home, we boarded the ferry and back we went.  We only had 2 adults with us the whole trip and it was an adventure of a life time.
The old Handbook for Scoutmasters suggests that we can retain Scouts because “it [adventure] is the best way we have of holding him.”  The best way!  I firmly believe that if we just allowed it, we can get back there.  I don’t think that boys have changed much… it is the parents that did the changing.   You know.. I can’t remember one kid when I was growing up that had peanut allergies.. now you can’t even say the word peanut without some Mom yelling that her son is allergic.  I think it’s time we give our boys their adventure back.  I think it’s time that we go back to actually delivering the promise and not just Eagle Awards.  I think it is time that all of us Scouters ask the simple question.. are we still delivering the promise?
Just my buck and half.. curious to hear you thoughts.  Weigh in.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Getting Heavy…

DSCN0457I have been getting a lot of feedback about the quest to reduce pack weight.  Some of it is good, while others, mainly from other Scouters is not.  To be honest, up until our Philmont trek, I was in that camp.  I doubted the fact that a backpacker could be as safe and as comfortable going light.
A few years back the PCT Trail days gathering was held in Portland.  A group of us went to the event to catch some speakers and of course check out gear.  While we were there, we met the folks from Gossamer gear.  I sat in the room and listened as Glen Van Peski talked about how he backpacked and his philosophy.  He showed us his gear and I thought to myself.. no freakin’ way.  I am not going to sacrifice comfort and safety to have a light pack.  After all.. this backpacking thing is for fun right.  I don’t want to be in pain and struggle to get miles in.  I want to sleep and eat well and have a good time out on the trail.  Then we went to Philmont.  I fell in love with the Sange De Christo mountains and had the time of my life on the trail.  What I hated was my pack.  I left base camp with a 55 lb pack.  Never again I promised myself.  When we got home I started taking a real long hard look at why my pack weighed so much.  I started to research gear and how to pack better.  Now, I have been a backpacker for years.  And looking back over the those many years, I realized that I have morphed and changed gear many times, but never really getting away from heavy loads and lots of gear.  About 20 years ago I did a week-long trip up in the Wallowa’s in Eastern Oregon.  We started climbing from the trail head one morning and our packs looked like something a mule should be carrying.   I think my pack was about 70 lbs on that trip.  No resupply, no drops, and everything to include the kitchen sink in my pack.
Well, as you can imagine something had to change in my backpacking style.  The trip to Philmont taught me that I am getting older and still love to backpack.. so do something about it.
My research kept leading me to Lightweight backpacking sites and Ultra light backpacking web pages.  I quickly closed them thinking that I really don’t want to go down the “UL” road.  That’s not for me.. and it really isn’t.  Light weight on the other hand is right up my ally.
And so I started on this journey to lighten up.  The more I read and played with my gear, the more I listened to backpackers talk and write about Light weight Philosophy.  Philosophy?  What the heck.. this is just walking in the woods right?  And that is where I started to get it.  It is a Philosophy and when practiced… it will keep you safe and comfortable. Let me share with you some of the common themes in the Lightweight backpacking philosophy.  Note that I am NOT talking about Ultralight and I suppose that right off the bat, I should point out the biggest difference in the two.. and that is the weight we are talking about.
When we define Ultralight backpacking we are talking about Base Pack Weights of 10 lbs or less.  Typically Lightweight backpacking can be defined as Base Pack Weights of 11 to 20 lbs.  So with food and water you are talking about 25 lbs in the lightweight set up.  There are Super Ultralight backpackers out there that try to achieve 5 lbs or less.  That is not even on the radar for me.  Can’t see the need nor the desire to go that light.
So the Lightweight backpacking philosophy essentially is this;
The backpacker needs to really take a hard look at packing habits in order to fine-tune minimum packing needs and aggressively seek out the right gear available to satisfy those needs.  That gear needs to be lighter, have multiple uses, and of good quality.  To accomplish this hard look and refining of or fine tuning of gear look at the gear, clothing, and food that you take, shoot for lighter options and doing with less.  A key is that simple is better.  Gadgets, while fun, add weight and typically are not needed or even used.
Less volume, lighter-weight, high-quality/high-performance gear and clothing is a goal to strive for and will instantly reduce weight in your pack.
Pack clothing and gear that can serve multiple purposes.
Educate yourself on backcountry travel and safety, being well prepared for changing weather, wildlife encounters and whatever else may happen.  Get trained in Wilderness First aid and Leave No Trace.   In short, learn and Be Prepared.  Know how to use the gear in your pack and know what to do when out in the woods.
Use lightweight techniques to keep travel through the backcountry low-impact on both yourself and your environment.
Use products that provide the level of comfort you desire, even if they aren’t the absolute lightest available.
(this philosophy is common among lightweight backpackers, I found most of this from the website Lightweight backpacking 101)

For Scouts and Scouters, this philosophy is not out of the ordinary and should be easy to adapt.  It basically reinforces the ideas of Being Prepared.. through education and practice and Leave no trace.  It does not discount safety at all.  When the backpacker knows and understands the risks, the skills, and his ability, they can have a wonderful back country experience with a simple load on their back.
Cost of gear and changing out old gear is a consideration.  I am not suggesting that you rush out and swap all of your gear.  Take a look at what you have.  Start with the big 3.  Your shelter, your sleeping bag, and your backpack.  That is where the bulk of the weight comes from.  Trim it down a little at a time.  Consider alternative gear and see about making your own gear.  The rest will fall into place.
My first bit of advice if you want to jump on this journey of comfortable backpacking is to weigh everything.  This was very hard for me to get on board with.  Being a gram weenie was for those UL guys that wear one pair of socks for a 14 day trip and count the bristles on their tooth-brush.  But, once I started getting that critical eye on the gear, most of which came when I started weighing it all, it was an eye opener.. and the journey launched.
Now, I’ve been sharing with you all my steps on the journey.  I have replaced little things, and I did get a new pack.  I thought that was an important part of this process for me.  That may not be the case for you.
I suppose the point of all of this is simply.. Think.
Develop or use a philosophy that best meets your backpacking needs and style.  Hike your own hike and have fun with the adventure.  I share this with you because this is my way of helping me get lighter.  Putting it all into words is helping me refine my load and reach my goals.
I never thought, I would have to get so mentally heavy to get my pack light!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The picture for this post is of me standing on top of the Tooth of Time at Phimont Scout Ranch.  

Be Prepared.. Please listen

In Oregon, when you approach a trail head that is a well used and highly frequented trail, there are signs that alert you of types of plants and animals in the area.  The signs remind you that you need to be prepared for the hike you are about to take.  Typically there is a map of the trail with significant landmarks and vistas pointed out.  These signs remind you to have the appropriate gear for the hike and in some cases ask that you register at the Kiosk.  In every case they let you know where you are and gives you information that assist you in having a great hike and not a terrible experience.  Oregon wants people to get out and enjoy this wonderful land we have, but it wants you to do it responsibly.
Yesterday a couple of ladies went for a winter stroll out in the Columbia Gorge and got lost or at least disoriented enough that they had to be “rescued”.  The Gorge is a wonderful place to hike, but like most places, the Gorge takes on new or at least different challenges in the winter.  Just getting there sometimes can be an adventure.  So if you are going to hike in the Gorge (or anywhere) in the winter.. You had better BE PREPARED.  These gals  wandered off picking up the trail and heading up to Nesmith Point.   The hike into Nesmith Point is challenging enough in the summer, but that is the hike they chose.  Now, it is fair to say that according to the News wire press release, “Both hikers have Intermediate experience climbing school training and Mountaineering First Aid and were prepared for the elements.”
The release goes on in the next update to state “The hiker’s actions and being prepared for the elements greatly assisted in their smooth and safe rescue from Nesmith Point.”  So all is well that ends well.  But the initial report stated that “the husband of one of the hikers reported he received a call from his wife who told him they were at the top of Nesmith Point and had lost the trail at some point while they were hiking.  Their footprints were covered with snow and they could not track their way back down or see the trail.”
I suppose the moral of the story is that it can and will happen to anyone.  So BE PREPARED.  I am making an assumption here that neither had a map or compass.. the reason I say that is because I have hiked that area and having a map and compass could have easily put them in the right direction and regardless of  snow and not finding the trail, they could have made their way back.  But I don’t want to beat up on them, I just want people to listen… I want our Scouts to listen and use these cases as an example of why we want them to be prepared.  It is fortunate that these two ladies were somewhat prepared and had the right attitude to make it out (with the help of SAR).
Baden Powell tells us to Be Prepared for any old thing.  When the signs remind and warn, take heed.  When the skills, attitudes, and gear is right, then proceed.  But always be prepared.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

My First Aid Kit

A few weeks ago I showed my First Aid Kit while drinking coffee from the hammock.  I have since received multiple emails asking for a break down of what is in my First Aid kit.  Well.. here you go.
Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment here on the blog.
If you click on the video and open it up in YouTube, please subscribe to the channel and show us some YouTube love!
FYI… for those of you counting the ounces… The First Aid kit weighs 8.7 oz.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Winter Camping Leadership Tool box

***  EDIT NOTE:  This post was scheduled for today (12-14-12).  I contemplated “pulling it” in light of the tragic events that have shaken us in Connecticut.  Our hearts go out to those families.  The reason I did not “pull” this post is simply this..  We must go on.  I am sorry about the devastating events of today, but as our thoughts and prayers flow to those victims, we can not live in fear and can not let the actions of a few dictate how we live our lives.
I am sorry if this is ‘too soon’.. but this coming Monday our Troop will still meet and we will be getting ready for not only Winter Camping, but Troop Junior Leader Training and we will go on.
God Bless. *** 

SAM_0024Winter camping is like no other camping.  It requires skills, smarts, and the right attitude. It also requires strong leadership.  Leaders that accept responsibility and leaders that understand that the group comes before the individual.  In my Troop Training for winter camping is a significant part of the process.  We make certain rules on participation in winter camping events such as; You must participate in the 4 meetings that lead up to the camp out.  This way you get all the necessary training.  This is important as your buddy is counting on you to be there, understand what he is looking for, and is a part of the team when it comes to the in camp routines that are unique to winter camping.
A lack of discipline will also get a Scout “Uninvited” to a winter outing.  There is no room for a lack of discipline when it comes to camping in cold weather and high risk activities.
Part of the training that our Scouts receive are from the older Scouts.  They are given the training and the tools to ensure that proper training is being conducted.  I have given them the following to add to their Leadership Tool box.  The following is directed at the Leader and speaks directly to them so they can properly set the example, train their Patrol’s and have a great winter camping experience.
You are welcome to all of this information, feel free to copy and paste.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.  You can always send an email or drop a note in the comments section.

Here are some items for a leader to have in his tool box for camping in the winter.

1.  The right attitude.  You must demonstrate a positive attitude in the winter.  The people following you depend on it.  As you go with you attitude, those that follow you will go.

2.  Be an example of right.  The leader must possess the skills and attitudes that make winter camping successful.  The leader must demonstrate those skills and teach others to use them.  The leader can not take short cuts and look the other way.  The leader must set an example by doing the right thing. 

3.  Skills.  There is a list of skills that make up a good winter camper.  Here are some that the leader must use and teach.
Gear– use the right gear and use it properly.  More importantly taking the right gear with you and packing it right.  Every item in the pack or SECURED to the outside and covered with a pack cover.
Staying dry. – Wet kills in the winter.
In camp routines.  Camp set up.
                           Getting in and out the tent without dragging snow in.
                           Storing gear.  Everything stays packed unless needed.
                           Gathering and “Making” water.
                           Gathering fire wood and making the fire.

Setting up camp.  Looking for best placement of tents/shelters.  No widow makers.  Building up snow walls.  Cooking areas.  Designated BIO area.
Anchoring of tents/shelters.
Morning routines.  Get up and cook right away.  Get things cleaned and stored.  Pack un used gear.  Hang anything that is damp to dry.
Cooking.  Have a plan. 
                Store food in bags in order they will be eaten.
                Repackage meals to reduce trash.
                Hot meals always
                3 good hot meals and lots of snacks.
                Hot beverages
                Clean up as you go and never leave dirty dishes lying around.
                Pack it all out.  Do not dump uneaten food in the snow. 
                Just because you can bury it does not mean it is right.
                Monitor water use and stay ahead. 
               Watch fuel consumption. No flame without a pot on it. NO empty pots.
               Don’t be lazy.  Cook and eat well.
Sleeping.  Dry equals warm.  Stay out of wind and wet and you will stay dry and warm.  Open your sleeping bag as soon as your tent is set up.  Get the loft going.  Make sure to have insulation under you.  Closed cell pads work great in the winter.  An extra blanket works too when used with a pad.  If nothing else your jacket should go between you and the pad or under your feet.
Your boots go in the tent and under your sleeping bag (foot end).  Do not wear anything wet to bed.  Change your socks and clothing before you go to bed if you are wet.  ALWAYS change your socks before you get in your sleeping bag.
Avoid condensation in your sleeping bag.  Wear a hat and keep your face out of the bag.  Short guys.  Fold unused portion of sleeping bag under you.
Take a trip to the pee tree before you go to bed.  Relieve yourself and then get comfortable.  You do not want to hold it till morning. You won’t sleep and you won’t stay warm.

4.  Be a Good example.  Yes, we say it twice.  This will get you farther as a leader than anything else in the cold weather.  If you do things right and maintain a positive attitude, those that follow you will to.

IMPORTANT.  Leaders are responsible.  You are the last ones in the sleeping bag after everyone is checked.  You are the last ones to eat or eat before the rest.  This way you can check, assist, monitor the rest as they prepare and eat.
Leaders.  You are the key to success.  You have been given the responsibility to teach and coach.  Use it.

Build your tool box.  Fill it with those things that make you a great leader and you will be.  Collective knowledge and a willingness to learn, practice, and share is the success of all leaders.

Have a Great Scouting Day!