backpacking

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!

Luci EMRG Lantern Review

Here is a quick review of the Luci EMRG lantern.  A new product from MPOWERD.  This versatile little lantern will easily fit on your backpack, pocket, glove box or first aid kit.
With 4 different light settings it is perfect for reading in camp, marking your location, or providing an emergency light source wherever it’s needed.
At 2.6 oz this little lantern is a must in camp.  It spreads light out 10 feet and is waterproof.
It takes 8 hours to charge with the solar panels attached, but it will put out 7 hours of light.  If you are concerned about the charging, no worries.  This little gems retains 95% of its charge while being stored.  But snap it to the outside of your pack and by the time you get into camp and inflate the lantern, you have light to get you through the night.
I highly recommend this lantern, and I am super impressed with the company that makes it.
Visit there site at http://www.mpowerd.com and learn about how they are helping change the world.  They really should get into the #daretodo program.  Speaking of which, on their site you can buy this little lantern for $9.99.. and you can share one by giving one to folks in countries that lack solid power grids.  They call them “Solar impoverished countries.  You can help by providing some light.  I did.  Will you?

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

New Pack- Quick Look

Hey gang.. Been awhile.. certainly got away from my blogging goals over the last couple weeks.
No real excuse other than to say other things have taken priority.
The Troop obviously, Staffing Wood Badge once again, and of course family life.  Other Scouting opportunities have been popping up in the world of training also.  I have recently taught Train the Trainer for our Council and Trainers EDGE over the last month or so.. so lots going on and I have not really had time to sit down and bang away at the computer.
In the mean time I got some new gear and I am super excited about my new Backpack.  I ordered it direct from Osprey back in January, but due to the striking long shore men the pack just got here yesterday.  Ah well.. it is what it is..
So I will be doing a thorough review and video on it in the near future, but today (after painting the living room and hall) my wife said I could play with my new toy.
I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the Pack with you and like I said, I will get into the weeds with it soon.
First of all I now have the Osprey Aether 60.  I went with the Aether 60 pack as that volume seems to be the sweet spot for my backpacking gear, style, and they way I pack.
I have tried to go smaller, but find that I struggle with loading the pack and having my gear accessible while on the trail.  Any bigger on the other hand, and I find that I want to fill it.  Unneeded gear and extras that I can do without.
So I went with the 63 liter pack. The Osprey Aether series packs come in various sizes ranging from 55 liters to 85 liters.  The 55 is just a hair to small for me.  I have been using my Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 this past year and have really been unhappy with the way I have to fight it.  The 85 liter packs are designed for expeditions and does not fit my needs.  Again, when choosing your next pack, know your sweet spot.
The Osprey Aether 60 also comes in 3 different sizes Small which is 3478 cubic inches of space or 57 liters, Medium which is 3661 cubic inches or 60 liters, and Large which comes in at 3844 cubic inches or 63 liters or space.  Again, I went with the Large or 63 as it meets my needs and fit my frame.
Which brings me to sizing.  It is important to size your pack.  I went to my local REI and met with a sales rep.  He is trained in sizing for the custom fit of the Osprey packs.  Using the Osprey measuring tool at the store we determined that I needed a medium pack to fit my torso.
The nice thing about the Osprey packs are that they are custom.  You can mix and match pack components.  The Shoulder straps, hip bet, and Frame are all interchangeable.
The hip belt can be custom molded to your hips.  This is highly recommended, but if you do not have an authorized retailer with the hip belt oven near you, just wearing the hip belt as you hike will heat it enough to mold it to your hips.
So why did I pick this pack over others?  After all I have carried a good Kelty External Frame pack, the Mountain Hardwear pack, a Granite Gear light pack, and the ULA Ohm over the last couple of years.  Well, it came down to fitting my needs and my style of backpacking.
Since we have been back from Philmont (2012) I have been toying the idea of getting a new pack.  I carried the Granite Gear pack at Philmont and it was not big enough to handle the gear we carried as a crew.. namely all the water.  The ULA pack, while I loved how comfortable it is did not fit my needs for winter camping and I found myself worried about its durability.
An Assistant Scoutmaster in our Troop had been carrying the Osprey pack and after our big backpacking trip in the Olympics last summer I started looking at his pack and how it may fit my needs.  After doing my homework.. I came to conclusion that the Osprey Aether 60 was for me.
Here are the specifics:
The pack weighs in at 4 lbs 11 ounces.  A bit heavier that I would like in a pack, but I had to make a compromise somewhere.  With my overall gear getting lighter I am ok with the base pack weight being a little heavier.
The Aether is made of 210D and 75D Stretch woven ripstop nylon and 500D plain weave nylon oxford.  I got the Arroyo Red pack.  It also comes in a Blue and Green.
Features of the pack that I drew me to it; A nice removable top pouch that can become a Lumbar pack for day trips.  I like the separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom and I love the Airscape Suspension (back panel).   It breaths well and is super comfortable.
With this pack it is the little details that I really love.  All of the zipper pulls are fantastic.  They are a molded plastic covered pull, comfortable to pull and usable with gloves.
There are plenty of ways to compress the pack for a custom fit.
Finally the outside back panel is a huge stretch pocket.  Great for storing all of those need to get to fast items.
The pack is a top loader, but it also has front panel access.
Ok.. so am starting to get a little to far into the weeds with this.  I will be doing a good video review soon.  In the mean time, here is a short video put out by Osprey.  It will give you an introduction to my new pack.
My first impression is that I like it a lot.  I love the ease of access, the design, and the over all detail in the features.

Stay tuned for a full review.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Expectations

20150321_120648Like most units, our Troop has a new Scout Patrol that has started their Scouting adventure in earnest. They crossed over in February, like most Webelos and went on their first camp out with the Troop that following week.  The Troop went to Camp Meriwether to do some Shot Gun Shooting and start working their Trail to First Class.  The older guys shot and spent time either teaching the new Scouts or hanging out on the beach.
This last weekend, the new Scout Patrol (the Eagles) went on their second camp out as Boy Scouts.  A 10 mile backpacking trip down the historic Barlow Trail.  The trip was a perfect shake down trip getting these young Scouts ready for future adventures.  We had everything.  Rain, Snow, Sun, and perfect trail.  Great camp sites and lots of fun.
The Eagles did fantastic.  They were prepared and had a great time.
When we got home, I spoke with one of the parents of the new Scout patrol.  He asked how the weekend went and I told him that the boys did great.  He shared with me how excited his son is about being in the Troop and that this is what he wanted Boy Scouts to be like.  He has friends that joined other Troops and are not getting the same level of adventure.  I thanked him and told him that our Troop would have it no other way.
In our discussion we talked about why we can take first year Scouts out on these adventures immediately.  It’s about our expectations.  Scouts join our Troop expecting to go on great adventures and so we deliver on that expectation. There is also an expectation that the Scout participate and embrace the adventure.
We expect them to be prepared.  We expect them to want to be there and be engaged.  None of this is written down in a pamphlet or Code of Conduct.  It just is.
We wear the full uniform.  Again, not written down, just is.  A new boy paying the Troop a visit immediately see’s the team dressed alike, acting alike, and preparing alike.  It just is that way.
We have three rules in our Troop.  #1, Have Fun.  #2.  Be Safe.  And #3, Live the Scout Oath and Law.  Everything else takes care of itself when those three rules are meet.  It is expected.
Not every young man is willing to raise themselves to met these simple expectations.  Most however look for ways to be a part of our team.
We do not let money, time, or social status hinder our expectations.  Scouts are expected to pay their own way.  They don’t have to sell pop corn or candy… they can mow lawns, shovel snow, collect cans, or whatever.. but they are expected to pay their way.  There is no excuse not to go to Summer camp.  Money is not an issue when you earn your way.  Excuses do not get far in our troop.. just another expectation.
We expect the parents to be involved.  They don’t have to go camping or become merit badge counselors, but they do have to take an interest in their son.  We ask them to be drivers on occassion and show up to celebrate our Troops success.
Parents that are engaged in their Troop keep their sons engaged in the Troop and there is always help needed somewhere when you have an active Troop like ours.
So what of these expectations?  Why?
Simply put, Units that have high expectations are better performers.
They have a better product and do better in every measurable area of the unit.
Retention, Advancement, Participation, and developing Leaders.
I recently heard a conversation recorded with General (Retired) Stanley A. McChrystal.  Now, no matter how you feel about the military (which Scouting is not) you can not argue with Leadership and what makes an effective leader.  Stanley McChrystal is a dynamic leader and has proven that at multiple levels.  Now he owns a company that teaches leadership and develops corporate cultures to become high performance teams.
He states that raising the expectation level of an organization is key to building the High Performance team.
There was a study conducted by the US Army in the late 90’s.  They took a soldier from a Super High performing unit and placed him in a under performing unit.  The first couple months the soldier maintained his high level of performance, within 6 months, he began to adapt to the level of the unit.  Within a year, this soldier no longer wanted to be in the Army.  The opposite was also found to be true.  They placed a soldier from an under performing unit into a super high performance.  He had the basic skill sets and was qualified to be in that unit.  He was an average soldier upon entry.  Within months he had adapted to the rigorous physical training and skill level performance increased.  Within a year he was completely entrenched in the unit and a super soldier.
It all came down to the expectations of the unit.  In the Army a Ranger Battalion has the exact same configuration as any other Infantry Battalion.  Yet the Rangers are elite and other Infantry units are not.  Why?  Expectations.  They are indoctrinated in this culture of excellence from the day they arrive.   They are all volunteers and are expected to meet and exceed the norms of the unit.
So what makes one Boy Scout Troop different from any other Boy Scout Troop?  The Scout handbook and Field book are the same, the skills are the same, the configuration of Patrols, Committees, and Adult leaders are all the same.  The Training is the same (National Syllabus).   The Districts and Councils are all operating under the same rules and commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting.  So what is different?  Expectations.
We can see too why Scouts leave units.  Scouting in that particular unit fails to meet the expectations of the boy and the parent and so they leave.
Units that take Scouting serious and make a solid commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting do.  They do not make excuses and they do not compromise when it comes to delivering a great program.
They do not let money dictate their program.  They do not allow failure to stop them from getting back up and trying again.
They are youth led and use the Patrol method.  They do not make up their own rules, they use the program as designed.  They understand Scouting and what it is designed to do.  They have trained adults that care.
The new Scout Dad that I was talking with on Sunday asked what the little beads I was wearing meant.  I told them they are the Wood Badge and it is for completing Wood Badge training.  He asked if Wood Badge was mandatory in Scouting.  I told him no, but it should be.  He said that the reason he asked was because he noticed all of the Adult leaders in the Troop wear them.  I said it was because they believe in giving our Scouts the very best.
It is not mandatory, but clearly has become one of those unwritten expectations of our unit.  It is one of the things that makes us different, better, a High performance team.
What do you expect from Scouting?  What do your parents expect from the unit?  Do you have big expectations or is mediocre fine for you and your unit?
Just asking.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Backpacking Food

sdc10061A couple ways of thinking about backpacking food. First. Quick and easy.. boil water Second. Pre cook and reheat. And third, make it from scratch.

When we are talking about Quick and easy we throw freeze dried or dehydrated meals in to the mix.
Nice for quick meals that require very little skill and clean up. Boil water and add it to the meal.. wait 20 minutes and you are ready to eat.
In some cases these meals get easier when you just buy them pre made. Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry are very popular and can be found pretty much everywhere.
There are “higher end” freeze dried cook in bag meals that can be found online. They are better quality (in my opinion) and the price per serving is actually lower than going with some of the other store bought meals. Packit Gourmet and Hawk Vittles are two of my favorite.
You can also make your own, most of use however do not have the ability to freeze dry, but we do have the ability to dehydrate. Pretty much any meal that you can cook at home can be prepared for backpacking. Just cook it up and dehydrate the meal. Put it in a zip lock back or if you have a Food Saver, package your meal and you are ready for the trail.
Remember that fats do not dehydrate, so use reduced fat or the lowest fat meats you can. Also consider your serving sizes as you cook and dehydrate. Pack them in individual or two serving sizes. Anything more takes more water and time to prepare on the trail.
The second way of preparing meals is the precooked options. These are becoming a favorite option of mine. When we are talking precooked I am talking about meals that need only to be reheated to eat. Pretty much any meal that you can buy off the shelf (frozen or dry) that can be thrown in your microwave can be reheated and prepared to eat on the trail.
Bags of food that have a microwave option are perfect.
PF Changs, Bertollis, Marie Callendars, Stouffers, Birds Eye, Healthy Choice, and Jimmy Dean to name a few. For those of us that want to lose a pound or two, Lean Cuisine and Healthy choice make great meals that are portioned just right.
These meals are easy to repackage into zip lock bags, easy to reheat, and little prep work.
Finally, you can make your meals from scratch on the trail. This is a nice option when weight and resources are not a concern. I love fresh eggs on the trail, and when the distance is not too great and like I said resources are not limited making a nice steak and potatoes are a wonderful option while backpacking. In this case, anything goes as long as you can support it. For example keep items cold and from spoiling.
Fresh meals made from scratch may require more utensils, pots, pans etc. So planning is a consideration when exploring this option.
So here are some of my favorites, I tend to mix things up from month to month although there are certain meals that get into the rotation more often than others.
Breakfast.
Oatmeal
Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls
Eggs, Bacon (precooked)
Spam packets and eggs
Carnation Breakfast drink (instant breakfast mix)
Pop Tarts

Lunch
Tuna in foil pouch
Crackers
Summer sausage
Spam pouch
Chicken salad pouch
Noodles with pouch chicken (pre cooked)
Noodles with veggies and Jerky
Healthy Choice steamers

Dinner
Any of the Healthy choice or frozen meals
To get a good idea of what I am talking about Click here.

Snacks
I personally like to take cheese and crackers, some candy like Hot tamales and Gummy bears.
I take pudding, Snack pack pudding cups for after meals.
A York Peppermint patty is nice in the evening to settle the stomach before bed.
Hope that helps you enhance your meals out on the trail

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!

My Cook Kit

As you all know I am constantly tweaking my gear.  I have been using basically the same cooking set up for a few years now.  A little tweak here and there and I have to tell you I am really happy with the cook kit that I use.
There are no right or wrong set ups.  When it comes to this kind of gear, I suggest you adopt the “Hike your own hike” philosophy.  That is to say do what works for you.  I have used everything from big pots and pans and green two burner Coleman stoves to the alcohol stove that I use now.
I have used heavy pots and light pots, sporks and full mess kits, but what I have developed now meets my needs and fits with our style of backpacking.
Using this set up I can cook everything, not just boil water.  Right now I am really into the frozen dinner reheat.  I like to buy the Smart Ones precooked meals and reheat them in my pot.  It works great.  I have also cooked them at home, dehydrated them and cooked them on the trail.  They are perfectly portioned and taste great.
The elements of my cook kit are simple:
It starts with the Cuben Fiber stuff sack.  I purchased this from zpacks.com.
I made my own Pot cozy from an old closed cell foam pad.  The pot cozy is a big part of the kit, for holding the hot pot, to using it with the pot to re-hydrate a meal.  This saves fuel.
I use the Imusa 12 cm pot or mug.   These used to be available at Wal-Mart.  I have not been able to find them lately, but there are places online that you can find the 12 cm (1.25 quart) and the 10 cm mug.
I have a custom lid for the mug the I got online.  There are multiple online store that you can get your lids or you can easily make your own.  There are a lot of lid options, but you will need a lid.
I covered my lid with Carbon felt.  You can buy carbon felt by the sheet at Home Depot.
I added a zip lock container recently with a screw top lid.  I had to add a strip of tape to the lid to get it out of the pot.  I made a cozy for the bottom to keep things warm and make it easy to hold when there is a hot meal in there.  It makes a great bowl. and way to store my stove and other cook kit items.  I use the 16 oz size.  It fits well in the kit and works for just about every meal I make.
Inside of the zip lock container is my stove, a scrub pad and an old rag that I I use to clean and grab hot things.  Makes a good napkin too.
To eat with I use am REI long-handled spoon.  This spoon allows me to cook without burning my hands or getting them in the food.  They spoon does not get hot either, so you don’t burn yourself.
The whole kit weighs in at 10 oz.
Well that’s my cook kit.  I really like it and it works super for me.   I’m curious, what do you use?
Let me know.  Leave a comment and share.

Have a Great Scouting Day!