technology

Using Evernote ™ for Scouting

Evernote_Icon_256One of my goals for this year and in particular in working on the blog is to use tools to be more successful.  There is nothing worse than a goal that is not attainable because of lack of want to or know how and sometimes tools can assist in making a goal more attainable.
A new years resolution to go to the gym only works while the motivation to work out is there.  Going to the gym and not working out because you don’ t know how only discourages you and you don’t go back.
I am one of “those people” that needs constant motivation to stay on track.  I do that by motivating myself and finding tools and resources that keep me focused and on task.
For example.  I am working on doing more to lift some of the burden of household chores from my wife.  She does and has done a fantastic job over the past 22 years and I know this is an area that I can do better at.  So I have picked up the responsibility to doing the grocery shopping.  I hate grocery shopping, but it is a task that I can do so I had to find motivation (other than just being more helpful).  So I dove into the task to find tools that would make grocery shopping more interesting for me and make me want to do it.  Enter an app for my phone.  I downloaded the Out of Milk app and started using it.  We make the grocery list on the computer and sync it with my phone.  Bingo.. we have a winner.  I am actually finding grocery shopping fun, walking up and down the isles scanning products and adding them to the shopping cart.
Apps and software have made much of what we do these days more tolerable.  They have also made managing tasks, lists, notes, and resources more accessible.  A few years back I started using an app called Evernote ™.  It was a cool way to take notes and have them available across different platforms.  My computer, phone, tablet etc.  Then I started using for Scouting.
Some of the cool things about Evernote ™ that I really like are the note taking and sharing of information I gather.  With Evernote ™ I can clip and save things right from the internet.  I can save PDF files for retrieval later and I can record voice notes.
Evernote ™ has all of this in one nice bundle.  I have many notebooks within Evernote ™.  This is nice to I stay organized and have everything right at the tip of my fingers.
evernotescreenshotOur Troop uses Troopmaster ™ to manage the Troop’s administrative functions.  But Troopmaster ™ does not have a corresponding app for my phone or a mobile way of accessing information from Troopmaster ™.  So I save the reports and most frequently used items from Troopmaster ™ as PDF files and drop them into Evernote ™.  I can’t tell you many times we have been at a Scout property and they need a roster with phone numbers, ages, etc.  I just open up Evernote ™ and there it is.  I can even print the roster from Evernote ™ if they have wireless printing available.  I had to do this last summer at summer camp.
Scoutmaster conferences are easily tracked and noted using Evernotes voice memo feature.  It is nice to talk with a Scout and then capture some of my thoughts right after we are finished without sitting a writing it all down.  Then once I get home I can transcribe the voice memo into a note for future reference.
Project planning is another great use for Evernote ™.  In 2012 I used Evernote ™ to plan and track our Philmont trek.  Everything from setting reminders to making checklists to ultimately making notes along the journey.  Adding pictures to remind me of tasks, people, places, and things we needed to do.
As most everything we get now electronically from the BSA comes in PDF format, dropping our reservations and other correspondence from Philmont was easy to save and retrieve.
I am still learning of new features and ways to use Evernote ™, but so far it is a great tool to make my Scouting life and my personal life more organized.  It is a way that I stay focused and on task and therefore more productive.
Some of the other ways in which I use Evernote ™:
workflowBuilding Packing list for Backpacking.  It is a nice way to make checklists and track weight and gear.
Lists for places I want to go.  Using the clip it feature on the web I can save maps, brochures, and information about places I want to go, in particular backpacking.
Saving ideas for future planning with the Patrol Leaders Council.
Recipes for Dutch oven or backpacking meals.
Using Evernote ™ Hello I save business card and meeting information.  That is really a neat feature and a fast and easy way to build and maintain contact lists.
That’s just a few.  I follow the Evernote Blog also.  It is amazing all of the different ideas shared there for use cases, tips, and what’s happening with Evernote ™.
Finding a good way to stay motivated and on task is important. It is critical if you are like me and have many irons in the fire and want to stay focused.  But like everything else if you don’t commit to using the tools then you as good as that new years resolution to go to the gym.
I hope that helps you find a tool that will help you manage your irons in whatever fire you place them.
Let me know what you use.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Mountain Hardwear Bandito Gloves

I recently talked about my gloves and layering system for keeping my hands warm.
Here is a closer look and review at the Mountain Hardwear Bandito finger-less gloves that I wear.
The Stats:
The body of the gloves are made of Deflection ™ Soft shell which is 100% Polyester.
The mitt portion of the glove is made from windblock and stretch materials pulls over fingers for added warmth.
The Palm is Synthetic leather, although it feels like fleece, very comfortable.
Weight:  3.6 oz or 103 g
They are windproof and breathable.
These gloves are Unisex and it is important to try of for accurate fit and sizing.
The Bandito glove is marked as a “Climbing glove”, but I find them great for backpacking, especially while hiking and doing camp chores.
The Mountain Hardwear Bandito glove retails for $45.

Was this review helpful?  Let me know what you wear.  Leave a comment and share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

YouTube Channel bump

Again with the reset subject.
Yesterday, I did some major work on the YouTube channel.  I am phasing out the old channel, which became a real pain switching back and forth between accounts… so it’s all in one nice bundle now.
Like I said before, most of the videos will post here on the blog also, but not all.
So here is the trailer for the new and improved channel… same old me.. but new focus for 2014!

Stay tuned friends… I have a great give away coming up!  Just wrapped up the details yesterday… Look for details this weekend!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Re Launch

launchOCTSkyWell, as promised.. there are going to be changes coming to the blog and the You Tube channel.  Yes, I am going to fully launch the You Tube channel as an extension of the blog.  Sort of like the podcast was.  I am liking the format of video and it is going to allow me to express the spirit of the blog via video.
I am still working out the details, but the videos from the channel will be in the blog as well as subscriptions on You Tube.  Yes, I am going to ask for everyone to subscribe.
Reason for the subscription.  I have been doing some homework on this and looking at what one would consider a good You Tube channel.  Read.. lots of subscriptions and good content.  What happens is that they start bubbling up to the top of the You Tube world.  I am not being narcissistic here.. My goal is to get Scouting and related topics on top.  Just like when we had the podcast, the more downloads and subscriptions one had the closer to the top of the list the podcast got.  In order for us to keep Scouting on top.. we need to promote it.  I have said it many times, I think it is up to us to deliver the promise of Scouting and do it using multiple media.
The Channel.
The format for the channel will not just be me reading the blog.  It will be an outdoor related channel.  Gear, Tips, Trip reports etc.  And thrown in there will be Scoutmaster musings and minutes.  Character, Leadership, and tips on Scoutmastership.
The Blog will be enhanced with this addition and I am excited.
So why has there been a delay and gap in blog entries?
My computer crashed and crashed hard.. blue screen of death kind of crash.  It was toast.  A friend of mine rebuilt it adding a super huge hard drive and some computer things that make it go faster.  I am not a computer guy.. a good user, but do not ask my how it works or whats inside.  Anyway, now that I have everything reloaded and set up.. it’s time to get going again.. and here we go!  No more delays and hopefully no more crashes.
First ask.
If there is anyone that can recommend some cool video editing software.. please let me know.  I am currently using Windows Movie Maker, but know that there is some neat stuff out there.  Rule #1.  It needs to be easy to use.
Drop me an email, or leave a message in the comments section.
Stay tuned.. the Re launch and all the details are coming soon.
Ready for RE LAUNCH.. in 10, 9, 8, 7….

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Making the world right again…

<Insert tongue in cheek>
If you have 4:06 now is the time to sit and watch beautiful burn patterns on alcohol stoves.  Yes, we are getting back into the swing of real pressing issues.  Gear!
I picked up the Trangia stove recently and other than taking it out of the box have not really messed with it.
The Trangia stove looks, feels, and measures exactly like the Esbit stove that has become my favorite.
So I threw 1 fl. oz of denatured alcohol in each of them and sat and watched for 8 plus minutes as they burned.  I wanted to see which would go out first.  Maybe there is a jet pattern difference that would cause a difference in burn rate.  Maybe there was a material design internally that would cause one to burn faster than the other.  Really though… oh… no… you almost got me… you have to watch to see who wins.
Enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

MSR Reactor vs. the Jet Boil?

Today I saw a tweet from a guy I follow.  He is an AT section hiker and shared this video, a humorous look at the MSR Reactor stove.  I have never used a Reactor, but I have seen them and think that they are pretty neat.  They are way to big for me and not really my cup of tea when it comes to stoves, but the video is funny and as I have stated before reinforces some of the reasons I am not a big fan of the Jet Boil.
All of that to say… Enjoy the video.. I thought it was funny.
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.