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University of Scouting
I'm at University of Scouting today. My LNT presentation went well but I missed this Great dutch oven cooking session. :-(
The fella doing this session is fun, and was in a first aid training I did a couple years ago. UofS is a nice opportunity to reconnect with other scouters in your council.
Posted: 14:38 10-25-2014 1132
SansBug Photo Contest
One of these tents is not like the other - can you tell the main difference?
Canvas tents are an old stand-by of Scout Camps across the country. I've stayed in them at Philmont basecamp on both of my treks there. In a dry, arid environment, they work well, but there is absolutely no protection from insects while trying to sleep.
Notice the netting on the cots in the lower picture? Frequent readers may recall my post about SansBug shelters
this past spring. It is a very cool, very fun, protection from all form of bug, insect, creepy critter, and crawly rodent while you're down for the night.
Anyway, I've been chatting with Fayaz at SansBug
and they've got great plans for the next year!
Right now, they are holding their First Annual Photo Contest
just for Scouts to show off their SansBugs in use at camp or on campouts. Each scouting unit can contribute ONE photo for a chance to win.
And, exactly what can you win? Whoa! You've really got to check out that Photo Contest link to find out. It's a lot more than you expect, for sure, but I will tell you there is a grand prize and 9 runners-up. You'd better not wait because the short deadline for this first contest is November 30.
But, what can you do if you don't have a SansBug shelter yet? You certainly can't take a photo of it, but you can win one! Fayaz says I can give away a SansBug every month in the Boy Scout Trail drawing
. So, starting next month, yet another prize will be added for you loyal visitors.
Hmmm, seems to me an enterprising Scout Camp might get a bunch of these and sell or rent them at their Trading Post for those scouts that came not quite so Prepared
Posted: 12:39 10-24-2014 1131
Perfect Eagle Project?
(click pic for larger view)
On my afternoon hike this weekend, I ran into what very well may be the perfect Eagle Scout service project!
This is a hands-on Knots and Lashings kiosk and can be found at Lowry Nature Center west of Victoria, MN. It was done as the Eagle project of Joshua R. from Troop 589 in December, 2012.
The front side of the kiosk has eight examples of knots displayed in 3 physical steps, along with a bit of text about the knot. The square knot, sheet bend, rosendahl bend, bowline, two half-hitches, taut-line hitch, clove hitch, and timber hitch are shown. (Yeah, me too - rosendahl bend??? it's also called the zeppelin bend
In front of this oversized knot board is a lashing rail with attached ropes and short poles so visitors can actually practice the knots.
So, why do I like this project so much?
- It interacts with the public. People get to DO something with it, not just sit on it, or walk on it, or look at it.
- It teaches useful skills. Whether a grandpa remembering that old knot, or a young girl trying to tie one for the first time, visitors can explore and succeed in just a few minutes
- It promotes Scouting. Knot-tying is an obvious Scout thing, but this doesn't have BSA branding all over it. One placard tells that it is an Eagle project. A great way to show young boys and their parents another reason for them to get into Scouting.
(click pic for larger view)
The back of the kiosk has 4-step displays of the square, diagonal, shear, and round lashings. Another lashing rail with attached poles allows these lashings to be tried, but it appears that the ropes have walked away.
Finally, a small section of display space shows and explains various kinds of material and styles used in rope making.
I really liked the rough log supports and natural colors of this project. It fits into the outdoor area perfectly and is right along a trail so visitors can check it out before or after a short hike.
So, what do you think? The best project ever?
Have you seen an awesome project, too? Leave a comment about it.
If you are interested in duplicating this project, you might try contacting the troop at www.troop589.org
Posted: 10:42 10-22-2014 1126
Hip Patrol Patches
If scouts in your troop or Webelos den are tired of the same old choices in official BSA patrol emblems, have them take a peak at ScoutStuff.org patrol emblems
where they may find something new and fun.
Maybe the BSA will regain some of the market lost to custom patrol patch manufacturers with these new patrol options. Some are just redesigns of older versions, like the Native American and Bison patches. Others strike me as silly, such as the Computer Geek and Game Master patches. And a few, Raven, Knight, Bull, look pretty cool to me.
If you want to just see all the current patrol patches, from Aliens to Zombies, check out my Patrol Patches
Yes, that's right Aliens and Zombies, not the good ol' Antelope and Roadrunner - those are no longer listed at scoutstuff.org
So, what do you think?
Good move to offer more choices, or not?
Do you have a favorite patrol patch from the list?
Posted: 16:01 10-20-2014 1125
Do your scouts ever cook hotdogs?
Here's a new way - it's called the Twisted Dog
Hotdogs and brats are all-American summer food seen around countless campfires and 4th of July family gatherings. They are an easy introduction to campfire cooking for Cub Scouts, and a simple, quick meal for older scouts (even though there's not much real cooking prowese required).
Earlier this summer, I chatted with a fellow that has invented a new item to make this old picnic stand-by a bit better. The Twisted Dog is a simple tool to make a spiral cut down the hotdog. Why, pray tell, would you want a spiral cut hotdog? Well, for a few reasons...
- Even Cooking - the hotdog stays straight instead of bending around when cooking. It also heats up inside more quickly.
- Better Taste - the exposed cuts and edges let juices escape and sear, improving the flavor.
- Condiment Adhesion - there's more area for the ketchup, mustard, and relish to hold in place rather than squirt onto your lap.
- More Filling - spiral cut dogs remain longer than a regular dog, filling the hotdog bun better from end to end.
- Faster Cooking - scout testing has shown the hotdogs cook a bit faster so they get to eat sooner.
This summer, I gave Twisted Dogs to a scout patrol to try out. At last check, they are still using them whenever they do a simple hotdog meal. The scout feedback has been that it keeps the hot dog more evenly cooked, cooks faster, and new scouts like the novelty. They've kept the Twisted Dog in their patrol box and use it whenever they do dogs.
If your troop is looking for a new fundraising opportunity, contact Scott at TwistedDogs.net
and ask for more information. If your troop runs any sort of booth or stand at a community gathering, these could be a great add-on item to offer.
Posted: 15:38 10-13-2014 1123
Our troop started carrying a SPOT Messenger on high adventures about seven years ago. A SPOT is a satellite pinging device that can be used to request aid in an emergency. Parents felt much more comfortable knowing this extra bit of safety was along on each trek.
It allowed us to touch base with parents every morning and evening. We would send a "Starting Now" email to a mail list address when we hit the trail each morning. When we stopped at camp, another "In Camp" message was sent. Every interested person that asked to be on the mail list received these messages each day.
We also use the tracking ability of the SPOT to ping a satellite about every 15 minutes. At the end of the day, families could view a satellite map online and see where the crew had traveled that day. A pleasant surprise we discovered was that the real-time tracking function of the SPOT was a big hit with families left at home. Mom could virtually watch as her son moved across the Philmont terrain or paddled through the Boundary Waters.
I also carry my own SPOT with me on all my long hikes and backpacking trips. At the end of the trek, I have a map of my adventure and I can add geotagged pictures to my online adventure. Here's an example trek
Even if you buy a SPOT and use it just once for a Philmont trek, it adds less than $25 to a participant's cost. When used on other troop-planned adventures, the distributed cost is negligible. The annual fee is $150 and it's not too difficult to find a very good deal on the device - I got mine free just before Christmas!
Here's a way you can save 20%
($30) off an annual service plan ...
- Purchase a SPOT device - locally at REI, Cabella's, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops, EMS, Sportsman's Warehouse, or online at their web sites, or wherever you can get a good deal.
- Activate your SPOT device with whatever rescue and tracking options you want.
- Visit Referral Page and enter your Name and SPOT ESN to receive 20% off your next annual service plan.
By referring you, I also receive a discount on my next annual service plan, so we both win!
If you have questions about the SPOT GPS Messenger, I've been using one for 8 years and would be happy to answer them.
Scout On Safely
Posted: 11:02 10-09-2014 1122
Next month (November) will be the annual Philmont registration lottery when many thousands of units will sign up for a few thousand 2016 treks. Best of luck to you all!
If your troop or crew is already accepted for a trek next summer in 2015, then you won't be participating in that lottery, but you should be participating in lots of pre-Philmont preparation this winter. Philmont supplies you with lots of literature and preparation advice. Their planning calendar
page is a good overview.
There are a few areas that are easy to overlook, put off, or skimp on - resulting in a less-than-wonderful trek, or no trek at all. Over the next seven months, make sure your crew considers and completes everything required by Philmont, plus items that will just make your trek a better experience.
Seasoned Philmont Folks
- Training - This past spring, I presented Red Cross Wilderness First Aid training to a crew just two days before they left for Sea Base. They had overlooked the fact that no one had current certification and the BSA is adamant about having at least TWO members of each high adventure crew currently certified in Wilderness First Aid and two currently certified in CPR. This crew was lucky that I was available on short notice. Wilderness First Aid training is often difficult to find, so get your two people going now, not next spring.
Youth Protection Training and Hazardous Weather training are also required. You may need other training, depending on what activities you plan to do.
And, you may not know it, but every adult participant must be a registered BSA member so get those adults signed up.
- Tour Plan - Depending on your council, it may take a month or more to approve your tour plan after you finally get it correctly entered into MyScouting.org The process of gathering all the required information from various families can take many days. This information includes vehicle data, insurance, leader training, and travel itinerary. If it's not complete enough, and within the BSA parameters, your tour plan will be rejected and you can try again. and again. and again.
- Physical Conditioning - Of the hundreds of Scouters I've asked, by far the main thing they wish they would have done differently for Philmont was more backpacking practice before the trek. We are so busy that setting aside an hour a day and two hours on a weekend day just doesn't fit in many schedules. Without that conditioning of feet, legs, heart, lungs, and back, you are destined to a grueling 10 days on the trail. Many scouts are already active with athletics, marching band, and other extra-curricular activities, but those that are sedentary will drag down the entire crew.
At least three months before the trek date, regular hiking and other aerobic activities should be set up and tracked for the crew. The crews I participated on had three hikes every week and crew members had a minimum expected number of miles they were to cover before the trek. That worked well for us.
- Equipment Use - Purchasing new water filters, stoves, and tents just before your trek is not wise. Hitting the trail with new gear that is unfamiliar to the crew is a recipe for expensive mistakes and a terrible time. Acquire gear well before the trek and ensure everyone knows how to use, and has practiced with it, and has demonstrated their skill with it. This practice can be done at troop meetings or special trek crew gatherings.
- Teamwork - Being a trek crew leader is a great opportunity for one scout to lead. He will have a distinct role at Philmont and staff members will address him directly rather than the adults in the crew. I just loved this on my Philmont treks! It really helps if you can get him used to that role of leading this small group of peers and adults before the trek begins. Actually, getting this group to work together as a team is just as important. Defining, and communicating, what is expected of the adults is a critical pre-trek activity, too.
Planning, and requiring participation in, some practice camp-outs using the gear for the trek works great. Have the scouts determine a location, route, and schedule for a couple 2-day or 3-day backpacking trips in the months before Philmont.
Each crew will have a couple other specific roles to be filled. The Chaplain's Aide promotes daily devotions and the "Duty to God" patch. The Wilderness Guia promotes the Leave No Trace principles and Philmont Wilderness Pledge within the crew and helps the crew follow them.
I feel it's also a good idea to ensure every scout realizes he will be expected to perform all tasks at some point in the trek, including navigating, cooking, and cleaning.
- Merit Badges - Philmont recommends scouts have completed Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Cooking, First Aid, Orienteering, Hiking, Nature, and Wilderness Survival before their trek so they are skilled in the tasks they will face. Philmont isn't really a place to learn the skills, but is an opportunity to use them. A fun 60-mile trek can become a frustrating 80-mile trek with poor navigation skills. The preparatory backpacking trips can be great for these, but if some scouts have not completed them, Philmont provides many miles and days to fulfill the requirements. Doing merit badges on a trek can be difficult with most of the day full of hiking and program, but Astronomy, Weather, and Wood Carving could be considered.
- Do you have other advice to pass on to Philmont first-timers?
Posted: 15:36 10-08-2014 1121
Top 10 Life Skills Merit Badges
Fulfilling the vision of the BSA to prepare scouts as responsible, participating citizens and leaders is a real challenge. A responsible citizen can take care of himself, his property, and his family. Very few of the boys I've met in Scouting came with a built-in sense of responsibility and none have had an innate ability to fix any problem. In this affluent area where I live, many boys I've dealt with have been protected at home to the extent they are ill-prepared for most any challenge that might rise against them. They are often also under the impression that parents will rescue them from any situation.
Through the outdoors program of Scouting, these scouts receive lots of opportunity to practice and improve their self-sufficiency skills. They learn to plan, prepare, and participate in order to achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and lead others. The patrol and troop program provides a focused agenda - scout skills and leadership - but does not provide much in the way of real life skills.
That's where the merit badge program comes into play. The dozens of merit badge topics allow a scout to try out new things, expand his interests, and possibly develop a career direction. Some merit badge topics are recreational, others are career-oriented, an others are life skills.
To reach the Eagle rank, each scout needs to complete these merit badges: Camping, Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World, Communication, Cooking, Cycling or Hiking or Swimming, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Environmental Science or Sustainability, Family Life, First Aid, Personal Fitness, Personal Management
After that, it's up to him to choose merit badges that interest him. All too often, the badges are done because they are being offered at troop meetings, or at summer camp, or merit badge fair, rather than because they sound interesting to the scout. It's better for the scout to review the topics and choose those he wants.
If I could recommend merit badges with the most useful skills that will most likely help the scout as he leaves home, lives on his own, and starts a family, this would be my list:
- Astronomy - gets the scout in touch with his universe. A little knowledge of constellations, planets, moon, and sun helps with seasons, time, and direction.
- Automotive Maintenance - knowing more than where to stick the gas and the key can save hundreds of dollars and keep a car running many more years. The scout might also recognize and troubleshoot roadside problems.
- Electricity - with electric power in every home, understanding how it works and what might go wrong is good stuff.
- Genealogy - as a young person goes out on their own, a strong tie to family provides support. By recognizing your place in your family's history, and being aware of that history, a sense of belonging helps when loneliness sets in.
- Home Repairs - I think this one is obvious! No scout should ever need to call on a Handyman service to make small repairs around his home or apartment.
- Pets - provides practice in caring for helpless beings that rely completely on you for life. Many scouts will have pets when they are adults, and it's good practice for kids as well.
- Plumbing - have you seen the price of plumbing repairs? Everyone will have broken pipes, replaced hot water heater, or leaking faucets, sinks, or toilets at some point. This also gets the scout more aware of how a house works.
- Sustainability - Yes, it's an optional Eagle-required badge but, if the scout does Environmental Science, he should do this one as well. Energy conservation and sustainable practices will only continue to become more important and more commonplace. An awareness of ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, and sustain the planet is expected of everyone.
- Traffic Safety - Too many youth still die in vehicles. Since most scouts drive, there's no reason they shouldn't complete this badge. It's yet another review of being a safe driver, and every review helps.
- Weather - Awareness of developing weather can be a life-saving skill as well as protecting property from damage.
OK, since Sustainability is on the Eagle-required list, which merit badge should be listed instead?
Posted: 9:15 10-01-2014 1118
Did you have a family reunion this summer? What about your Scouting family?
When a scout finishes his time with a troop, that is all too often the end of his Scouting experience. He's off to college or work, and no longer has time for Scouting. And, no one ever tells him he's still welcome to come back and visit.
Troops usually put effort into recruiting boys, and then effort into keeping them involved until they turn 18. After a scout ages out
, or makes the earlier decision to stop participating, that is often the end of the troop's effort with that person, but maintaining a relationship with past scouts has many benefits for both the troop and scout.
The past scout has contact from home, support when he may feel alone out in the world, and reminders of the values presented in Scouting.
The current scouts learn more about life after high school, see that Scouting values will stay with them, and are shown that their troop cares about them, even outside Scouting.
So, how might your troop better maintain relationships with past scouts?
- Contact Info - maintain email and postal address information of past scouts and their parents.
- Newsletters - troop scribe can maintain a list of alumni emails and include them on newsletters and other communications of interest.
- Christmas Cards - a recap of the troop's year and plans of adventures to come.
- Annual Troop Photo - include scout names, patrol names, and adult changes that happened since last year.
- Winter Break Party - college students are often home on break from Christmas to mid-January. That's a perfect time to invite alumni to a winter party so they can catch up with old patrolmates and see how the troop is getting on.
- Family Picnic - Early June can be open for many young people finishing a year of school and not yet starting a summer job. Perfect time for a reunion party.
- Birthday Wishes - historian duties could include sending a birthday card to past scouts, signed by the current patrol leader of his old patrol, the senior patrol leader, and the scoutmaster.
- What Else? - leave a comment below with ways your troop stays in touch with past scouts.
The BSA is working on improving long-term relationships with past scouts and keeping them involved as adults.
The BSA Scouting Alumni Association
offers a patch to new alumni, along with a bunch of other tidbits and quarterly newsletter. There is a cost to be a member.
If you're interested in acquiring another square knot, there is an Alumni Award Knot
for scouters that identify, engage, and participate with BSA alumni.
Posted: 14:45 09-18-2014 1116
It's been 6 years since Heather Dorniden won this 600m collegiate race, but her demonstration of perseverance will never fade.
It might be a bit long for a Scoutmaster Minute, at 2.5 minutes, but I think the message of never giving up no matter what happens is worth it.
At least having this video stored on your phone to share with a scout when he's frustrated with some challenge would be a good bit of encouragement.
To fall from first to last in the blink of an eye and then have the strength to get back up and keep racing - and win - is just inspiring!
Some people quit the race, others get up with a goal of just finishing, but a few push on doing the very best they can until the finish line is crossed.
Or, if you prefer a hollywood version...
Posted: 10:33 09-15-2014 1115
What Weighs Us Down?
My Philmont pack started out at 45 pounds in 2005. My long-distance hiking pack now weighs under 25 pounds. You can see the difference in this image.
My time on trail is much more enjoyable and there is nothing I used to carry that I'd still like to have along but don't. Besides picking an interesting location, reducing our burden in the wilds is about the best way to make backpacking more fun - making the experience fun is a key element to a successful scouting program.
What is it that was so heavy and weighed down my pack so much? Well, it was mostly inexperience and obediently following a Philmont checklist.
So, here's a handful of advice to help you move your troop to lighter, more enjoyable, trek adventures.
Since Christmas is looming on the far horizon, and summer is pretty much over, now is a good time for scouts to review their gear and consider what to replace for next year.
- The Big 3 - shelter, sleeping system, and pack comprise a large part of the total weight a backpacker carries, sometimes more than 16 pounds. A person can drop the combined weight of those items to under 9 pounds without a lot of effort.
- too much clothing - On a 3-day or 3-week trek, the clothing needs are identical.
Just 2 or 3 pairs of socks and underwear, 2 shirts, 1 pair of zip-off pants and 1 pair of shorts - not a fresh one for every day. You can wash items on the trail and dry them as you hike or rest in camp. Additional items for warmth and rain, depending on the season and location, and you're set.
- too much water - We stop at a stream to get water. Everyone fills their 3 water bottles and we're off hiking again. Two hours later, we pass another stream and fill bottles, even though everyone has 1 empty, 1 partially used, and 1 untouched. That's an extra 2 or 3 pounds of water carried by each person.
Using your route map, figure out where water stops will happen. Take on just enough water, plus a bit extra, to reach the next stop.
Fill your stomach with water first, then your water bottles. If you drink your fill right at the water source while filtering, you need to carry much less in bottles on your pack.
- Nalgene water bottles - These are the silliest, most common, constantly perpetuated myth in Scout Camping. You have to have a Nalgene - they are indestructible! But, they also weigh 6 or 7 ounces each, empty! A disposable plastic water bottle weighs less than 1 ounce and holds about 60% as much water. A scout told to bring 3 Nalgenes is carrying over a pound of plastic when he could be carrying just 5 lightweight bottles and saving over 13 ounces. Also, having 5 smaller bottles means one destroyed bottle is a minor impact. And, the bottles are free rather than $10 or so for each Nalgene.
- too much food - I can cut 2 pounds off my pack by eating a big meal just before starting a trek and as soon as I finish. This can be food left in a vehicle, or a restaurant or store stop. For the days on the trail, people talk about 6000 calories a day and more - that is totally overboard. Scouts rarely hike more than 10 miles in a day, and that takes only about 1500 calories. Add to that the base need of 1500 calories a day and you've got 3000 calories per day. Nearly everyone these days already has a calorie surplus in stored fat, so even a daily deficit of 500 calories is just fine for a few days.
With a well-planned food supply providing about 125 calories per ounce, a person needs about 1.5 pounds of food per day. If you packed for 6000 calorie days, that's an extra 1.5 pounds you're packing for every day of your trek - a 4-day trip has 6 extra pounds.
Don't forget the food packaging! You can cut 10-20% of the weight by repackaging into zip-locs.
- too much fat - Most of us, especially adults but scouts too, have more fat than we need on our bodies. Taking a couple months before your trek to whittle away at that extra weight means less to carry, and fewer calories needed each day. Losing 10 pounds of body fat is 10 pounds you don't have to carry over the mountains.
- too much stuff - A deck of cards, cribbage board, MP3 player, scout handbook, and other items to fill every pocket, crevice, and gap in your pack. They all add weight and are rarely needed. Just leave it at home.
- Fear - We carry too much of all these different things because we fear. Fear being hungry, so we carry too much food. Fear being cold or dirty, so we carry too much clothing. Fear being bored, so we carry toys, games, and books. Fear is Heavy.
We overcome our fear of things going wrong by preparing physically and mentally, and by honing our skills and planning our trek. When we're confident in our tested abilities, we put our faith in ourselves rather than in our equipment.
A final note - Scouting is an outdoor classroom. We're not here to create super-skilled wilderness experts, but to help boys grow into self-sufficient citizens of strong character. The challenge of becoming an experienced backpacker is just another opportunity for a scout to work on his character, physical abilities, and teamwork. It's ok to carry 40+ pound packs, but a lighter pack opens up many more opportunities and expands the classroom.
Posted: 9:25 09-10-2014 1114
Scouts in the News
Here's a few news blips about Scouts this week. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Most Pathetic - troop treasurer embezzles $16K from scouts.
This is a way too common occurrence. A few tips to help prevent this sort of thing:
- Use checks rather than credit cards.
- Require monthly financial statements, verified by a second person checking the bank statements.
- Require multiple signatures on transactions.
- Require receipts for reimbursements.
- Most Inattentive - someone steals $3.5K from scouts in a cigar box left unattended.
The story says it was full of donations which should be a mistake since scouts do not solicit donations.
- Best Eagle Project - Eagle service project to create book-exchange free libraries.
When I hiked the Ice Age Trail last year, I saw a few tiny book-swap libraries in front of people's homes right on the street. This might be a cool idea for an Eagle candidate in your troop!
- Best Memorial - scouts and friends finish Eagle service project for deceased scout.
When a youth dies, there's not much we can do, but this troop paid their respects by completing his project for him.
- Silliest - scout leader hottest husband in country?
Silly, just silly. :-) Not so much the story, because he sounds like a great guy, but the whole idea of hottest husband contest.
- Best Campout - assisted living seniors.
This troop found a great way to interact with older community members in a meaningful way.
If you'd like to see your scouts "In the News" locally, check out these tips
. We could all use a little good press out there.
Posted: 16:08 09-09-2014 1113
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