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Boys in the Wild (Short Film)

A short film about the challenges we face when trying to expose young men to backcountry experiences.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2013-01-30 23:08:00-07


In August of 2012, my son's Scout troop planned a backpacking trek across the Spanish Peaks, a unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Southwest Montana. You can read the photo essay here.

This trek was an interesting one for me. It was one where I observed the boundless enthusiasm and excitement of crossing a rugged mountain range by one group of boys (the ones that attempted it) and the cynicism and disdain for trekking by others who had no intention of participating in a hike like this.

I struggle to develop a strong thesis for why this is (although I'm rather sure our forum members will rapidly come up with one following the publication of this article!). However, I can't help but reflect on how our changing culture might be inhibiting backcountry participation by kids:

  • Lack of a mentor who is excited about it, and who can take them.
  • Lack of family members who do it.
  • Competition from other activities that might be less expensive, less hard, and more - how shall we say this lightly - beneficial for self esteem? (I find that wilderness is the ultimate smackdown for a teenager's inflated ego!)
  • A culture of entitlement that keeps kids from pursuing activities that cause discomfort.
  • Peer influence that redirects time to other activities (mall shopping, video games, lift served skiing...)
  • Single parent families where the time constraints of work-parenting-life lessen time spent outdoors.

This certainly isn't an exhaustive list.

I have no delusion about having all the answers, or solving what is probably not the biggest problems in boys' lives.

I'm not even sure I have the desire to see "all teenage boys go into the backcountry." But the topic makes an interesting study nonetheless, especially in the context of two roles that I'm playing today: a parent and a Scout leader of teenage boys.


The Video

If you do not see the video player immediately below, please reload this page by clicking here.

Learn More About Trekking With Scouts

The topics addressed in this film are discussed in depth at Backpacking Light's BSA High Adventure Leader Training Course that we hold each May. Please consider joining us. The discussions we have about boys and backpacking are some of the highlights of our training time. Enrollment is now open for 2013.

About the Author

Ryan Jordan is an Eagle Scout, former Camp Program Director and High Adventure Program Director (Camp Parsons, Chief Seattle Council), former Scoutmaster (Troop 676, Bozeman), Montana Council BSA High Adventure Committee Chair, and a member of the BSA Fieldbook Task Force providing oversight for the next edition.

Read more from Ryan:

Technical Notes

The video in the rain was shot with a Panasonic TS-1. The rest of the video was shot on a Sony NEX-7 using a Sigma 30/2.8 and a Leica Elmarit-M 90/2.8. You'll see some blobs here and there. We were trekking during a bad fire season and those blobs are ash particles that settled on my image sensor while changing lenses. Most of the video isn't stabilized, so my apologies for the jiggles!


"Boys in the Wild (Short Film)," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2013-01-30 23:08:00-07.


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Boys in the Wild (Short Film)
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Boys in the Wild (Short Film) on 01/30/2013 06:46:23 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Boys in the Wild (Short Film)

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Excellent video on 01/30/2013 08:37:52 MST Print View

Nice job Ryan. While I don't have a son, I do have a teenage daughter and can empathize with the lack of interest by today's youth in outdoor activities because of the "inconvenience" of it all.

I wonder if choosing carefully the way we introduce them to the wilderness experience might be helpful by making the initial experiences as positive as possible and make the wilderness a fun learning experience (Navigation games, wildlife sightings, making fire etc, carry light packs..).

Edited by randalmartin on 01/30/2013 13:39:29 MST.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Boys in the Wild (Short Film) on 01/30/2013 10:35:20 MST Print View

GREAT JOB RYAN - it evoked me to deeply ponder an important topic that I hadn't previously given much thought.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Excellent video on 01/30/2013 11:17:10 MST Print View

Good job, Ryan!

Regarding your comment of:

"I'm not even sure I have the desire to see 'all teenage boys go into the backcountry.' "

I agree, this isn't for everyone. However you did point out some important factors that influence what kids do today. For most of us here on BPL, we would like our children to participate in our outdoor passions -- but you cannot force them to enjoy it. But the factors you point out are often detrimental to raising kids with "character."

Over the years I have seen so many questions posted from parents wondering how to handle their kids, and friends often ask me for input on difficult situations. My answer usually is, "Who is the parent," because the situations involve the need for someone to make a decision, and that is the parents' responsibility. Too many parents allow their children to make the important decisions.

I have two grown children and am extremely proud of how they turned out. Never had a problem with either, and they have always been 'high achievers' in anything they tried. Since I was in my mid to late 30's when they were born, often I was a generation removed from the parents of their friends. So I really saw a difference in how their friends were raised versus my kids. Perhaps I had an advantage of nearly 20 years of life experience as an adult, before they were born. But as parents, their mother and I set the expectations. We refused to deal with the things you pointed out; (culture of entitlement, peer influence, etc.). We set the standards and raised them to gain self-esteem for what they were, not what the rest of world was. For example, there were no video games in the house -- they weren't allowed. Television was limited and had parental control -- the kids thought is was normal to sit together at night and talk; they also thought it was normal to read a book instead of watching TV.

We took the kids camping starting at age 6 months. This was our vacation every year. And we did not bring things for our own entertainment, we spent everyday together doing family things. Of course, everyone had some personal time everyday, which was usually reading a book.

When they started school, they were required to join an activity during the year. What is was, was up to them -- sports, music, clubs, scouts, etc. Joe played sports. Nicole played sports but hated it, and soon got involved with cheer leading and then dance. And every year between September and June most of our time was involved in participating in these activities. We had to give up a lot of our personal wants/needs so we could properly raise our kids. Raising kids was our most important and primary job. And it wasn't always easy.

The other thing we did is set standards of performance for school, activities, and personal conduct. The standards were not some arbitrary goal of all "A's" in school or winning a race or a competition; but that they gave it their best effort. By the time they started junior high they knew right from wrong, and could not be swayed by their peers.

To me the important thing is for parents to be parents. It doesn't matter if the parents hike, or go camping, or enjoy other activities; the important task is to raise kids with character. And I think Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts build character. Both of my kids were in scouts for a short period of time. These troops were in suburban areas and the outdoor activities were nominal. They opted out of scouts because they would rather go camping and hiking with us -- even though most of their friends looked down at such family outings.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Kids in the Wild on 01/30/2013 13:18:25 MST Print View

I enjoyed the film also and have seen different ways of children spending time in the woods.

We've always car-camped as a family and I started taking my twin girls on backpacking trips when they were just four (they're six now). We don't do high mileage and usually head someplace where they can play - a stream, a downed tree "jungle gym", or perhaps even a shelter along the AT (they love to sweep). They get excited to be out in the woods because it's one of the things I love to do. We don't take electronics or other games - they use their imagination to create entertainment. I suspect my twins, like their older (22 and 18) sisters, will always love being outside in the woods.

On the other hand, I've been on a couple of trails backpacking in PA when I've passed what I can only describe as a "penal colony" of kids being forced to carry heavy packs. The kids were clearly not enjoying themselves and I'm afraid it's someone's idea of "get them outside so they can build some character." Perhaps forcing kids into the woods and making them miserable does work for some, but it has to be the minority (whose home life must be truly awful).

I've always believed that love of anything starts in the home and I'm guessing that anyone who's a member of BPL with children has already instilled a love of the outdoors in their kids. Ryan's video might be inspirational to non-BPL members, but it seems like preaching to the choir to me.

Art Tyszka
(arttyszka) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Bravo on 01/30/2013 13:56:32 MST Print View

Fantastic short film. I share the same concerns to what's happening with this generation. The outdoors is good for the soul and provides a richness to life that many other experiences can't match. Hopefully everyone on BPL that has kids tries to pass on some appreciation for the outdoors.

I have 2 kids, ages 13 and 8. They're not always willing, but car camping, short backpacking and kayaking are family activities that I "force" on them so we have some quality time together. I believe that while they may not always appreciate it now, these experiences will help them lead a fuller life where they realize some self reliance and responsibility for themselves. Many other parts of our society seem to be trying the opposite.

I really enjoyed the film and thoughts.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Boys in the Wild (Short Film) on 01/30/2013 13:57:41 MST Print View

Once again Nick hits the nail on the head. I can say from my experience with Scouts that most parents today instill a need of "things" in their children, but not a desire for "experiences". Couple that with a culture of "everyone gets a trophy, and everyone gets a snack", there isn't much need to achieve. And when you're given everything you could want, you don't develop the kind of work ethic that is going to make you get outdoors, IMO.

Added - in my experience, single moms are more likely to try to get their kids involved in outdoor activities. Not so for Junior League / Private school moms. Way too overprotective - the helicopter parents.

Edited by skinewmexico on 01/30/2013 14:25:07 MST.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
I personally think it's the parents who are the weenies ;) on 01/30/2013 14:54:13 MST Print View

I'm a mom and have a 14 year-old son. I always hear the talk about "kids today" and how they're glued to their TV/cell phones/computers/video games, lazy, entitled, etc., etc. but my actual experience has been the exact opposite and, frankly, I think the problem isn't the kids at all but us adults.

Backcountry trips take a lot of planning and effort from us parents -- every meal, gear, itinerary. Not only that, we have to be *with* the kids 24/7 and keep them entertained without the TV, computers, video games... Most parents I know wouldn't have a clue. You only have to look at the popularity of "all-inclusive" resorts and cruises with "kids clubs" and 5-day package trips to Disney to understand that most parents don't want the responsibility of planning every meal, itinerary, activity, much less be engaged with their kids 24/7 for a couple of days straight.

My experience is that kids LOVE this outdoors stuff. Not just kids like my son who's been getting out there with me since he was a toddler but all his friends that we've taken camping, kayaking and hiking with us. Even the out-of-shape fat kids who were stunned when I took their cell phones away. Yeah, they whined a bit at first but, by the end of the weekend, they were ready to come back.

So, imo, if kids aren't getting out there, it's simply because we aren't taking them.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Boys in the Wild... on 01/30/2013 15:31:02 MST Print View

Being the father of two boys, I have thought about this quite a bit. From what I've observed it's really a bit of "nuture" and "nature". I grew up in a family that did nothing in the outdoors. My three (older) brothers had very little interest in outdoors activities and I had no role models. But from a very early age I knew I had to hike and fish to be happy, in spite of my lack of opportunity to do so. I think I was genetically programmed to be outdoors. I don't think everybody is and although it's hard for anybody on BPL to imagine that, I think it's true.

I think creating an environment where my kids felt welcome to be with me was a large part of why my kids became interested in the outdoors. I didn't force them, I don't believe in that, but they knew they were always welcome to join me. This often meant scaling down my hiking plans to fit their abilities and leaving my fishing rod at home so I could pay attention to their casting/fishing. I think this is something that is sadly missed by the current "me" generation. If you put yourself first, your kids won't want to be with you no matter where you are.

My kids are now 24 and 27 and we still do fishing and backpacking trips together every summer. I thought these outings would end when my son got married last year but quite the opposite... I was asked to give my new daughter-in-law backpacking and fly fishing lessons this year and we had a couple of great trips. I think if we (as parents or leaders) are welcoming, people of all ages will want to give it a try.

Edited by skopeo on 01/30/2013 15:32:03 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
HooRah! on 01/30/2013 15:41:48 MST Print View

Excellent video!

"Life of ease, protection and entitlement"

Many of us parents say that we want better for our children than what we had at their age. Quite often we mistake "better" as easy or entitled.

Many coaches in athletics stress getting back to basics. What is more basic than walking for transportation, carrying your possessions, putting up a shelter, collecting and treating water to drink, catching, preparing and cooking your dinner while working as a TEAM.

How many teenagers these days actually know where milk or hamburgers come from? How many know where eggs come from and that chicken strips are not an anatomical part of a chicken?

I am not an alarmist but we need to teach our kids how to survive when the lights go out, the microwave doesn't work and the water isn't flowing out of the faucet.

It is our responsibility to teach our children well.

Once again, EXCELLENT VIDEO Ryan!

Party On,


David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Boys in the Wild... right on on 01/30/2013 16:20:08 MST Print View

I thoroughly enjoyed the short film and concur with your thoughts Ryan. I was fortunate to grow up with a father who wanted to hike and backpack and so beginning at age eight we ventured into the High Sierra each summer. Prior to having my own children, I was a national Sierra Club backpack leader for around ten years and all of the trips I led, with one exception, were for teenagers. Back in the late 70's and 80's, the Club used to offer 10-16 trips each summer and they all filled up and they all had waiting lists. Sadly, I've noticed now that they offer, at most, one or two trips for teens.

My own boys were introduced to backpacking before each reached the age of six and there is no question of the many positive benefits derived from the experiences. As an educator and coach for 34 years, I have witnessed much the same behavior changes in our youth, particularly with boys. I applaud all adults who not only take their own children into the wilderness, but also volunteer as scout leaders and others who are able to offer these valuable experiences to other teens.

Even now, as a Park Service volunteer, I continue to witness both the power of the wilderness experience for teens and the flip side for those who haven't had the opportunity to experience the power of an extended wilderness trip. I agree that this activity is not suitable for all boys, but how do we really know who might benefit most from the power of the wilderness?

Thanks again for the great film. I hope it inspires adults to take responsibility for helping teens grow up to be active and responsible adults.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Boys in the Wild... on 01/30/2013 16:43:00 MST Print View

Thanks for the film, Ryan, and lots of good thoughts from everyone. I distinctly remember the magic of my first backpacking trip (age 14ish???), even after growing up camping frequently and being in a quite "outdoorsy" family. I loved the simplicity of a lot of your shots (especially the sequence of making the food).

I don't know that I agree with the film's premise, though. Backpacking as an activity is relatively new (pretty rare pre 70s), and I don't know that there's ever been a time when the majority of kids couldn't wait to get back into the wilderness. Activities like hunting and fishing have a longer history of getting people into the backcountry, but I don't see any less young people involved in these activities. When I was in middle/high school (90s), I bet there were only a small handful of kids that had ever been on a backpacking trip, and the ones who had the opportunity and didn't take it had the same excuses you list. It was just the lucky/smart ;) ones that took a chance and said yes when someone offered to take them. Many of the ones who say no will go later in life. I guess I'm with the Sumi re: "kids these days" argument. Kids have been wasting time on dumb stuff for a long time.

All that said, good on ya for taking them. It's a pretty profound and formative experience to have...

Tom Deal

Locale: Northern Idaho
Re:Boys in the wild on 01/30/2013 17:44:24 MST Print View

Very well done!Thanks for all your time and effort!My children are grown and gone but I will be sharing this vid with a few parents I know and I'm going to watch it again!

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Yahooo!!! on 01/30/2013 17:50:55 MST Print View

Great video. I learned my love of the wilderness through Boy Scouts. And though it took a twenty-something year hiatus, it is now again strong as ever. I owe that to the passing of my scout master and the decision made by some of his "boys" to honor his wish to be scattered at his favorite wilderness peak. Even in his death he brought us together and many of us rekindled our love of the natural world.

I beleive that everyone should be given the chance to experience the outdoors and then they can know what its like and if they would like to do it again. How can you know what you may like if you don't try it? Backpacking may be work, but you don't have to pay me to do it.

I appreciate the other comments above. Some good insight and experience.

Robert Syring
(rangerbob) - M
Boys in the Wild on 01/30/2013 18:54:06 MST Print View


I am a scout leader from Minnesota and over the years I have led our troop and families west to hike, camp, climb, etc. The first year we went to the Black Hills in SD and we had 25 people, the second year we went to Yellowstone/Tetons with 45 people and the third year we went to Glacier with 65 people. Not all participants did overnight backcountry trips, but we all camped each night. What I have found is that there is large, relatively untapped desire by normal people to get into nature's wild places. Most people just want to be shown that it can be done, and as Ryan says in the video "let nature take it from there". It is amazing to see kids play games, build stuff, make campfires, etc. without any electronics/distraction once in a natural setting At Boards of Review we typically ask each scout the best thing about being in the troop and EVERY boy has responded he thought the summer trips out west were by far the best. I was also surprised at the level of interest by the girls (sisters of the scouts) who came along. Many parents told me their daughters didn't want to go, but ended up having a very meaningful experience and wanted to go on the next trip, including the optional backcountry trip. Many people don't want the extreme wilderness experience, but most if not all people want to some connection with nature.

John Taylorson
(heyjt) - M

Locale: SoCal
And the Oscar goes to... on 01/30/2013 19:36:13 MST Print View

Excellent job!

I am moved, inspired and encouraged after viewing your video for the third time.

I lead the backpacking program for Troop 4 in Pasadena, CA. With this being our centennial year (yes, 100 years!) and over 100 registered scouts, sadly, there are only a handful of boys that are interested in backpacking. Every statistic you mentioned resonates with what I see in my own son and most of his friends.

The boys (and ASM's) that do show an interest in lightweight backpacking, are helping to spreading the UL gospel. They are learning that experiencing the wilderness in its natural beauty and sometimes fury can be a challenge, but the rewards are immense and they get to actually experience real life instead of the virtual existence viewed on their TVs and video games.

Thank you for all your hard work in putting this project together. I plan on showing Boys in the Wild at next week’s "Backpacking Workshop" for the new scouts and their parents. I am sure it will be as much of an inspiration to them as it is to me.

Thanks again,


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Boys in the Wild (Short Film) on 01/30/2013 21:12:33 MST Print View

The outdoors was a huge part of my life as a teenager, thanks to Scouts and a wonderful event called Ten Tors, which took place every year on Dartmoor. I am eternally grateful to the people who gave up there time to make it all happen.

I applaud Ryan for all the effort he puts into getting young adults into nature. I do, however, recognise that it's not for everyone and that some will come to it later in life. As to the video I will have to go against the crowd here and say that whilst it raised some important issues I thought the tone, especially in the opening section, was terrible.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Wilderness provides an "ego smackdown" on 01/30/2013 23:43:19 MST Print View

Good thoughts Ryan. I especially liked one reason given why kids aren’t into outdoor activities.
“Competition from other activities that might be… more - how shall we say this lightly - beneficial for self esteem? (I find that wilderness is the ultimate smackdown for a teenager's inflated ego!)”
I have totally seen the “ego smackdown,” it can be a very good learning experience. Its only bad if its so severe that the kid swears off backpacking.

The teens I meet live in an artificial world. They base their identity on how they look to their peers at school and normally hide their true self. Putting them in the wilderness creates a "real world" environment where they are judged on their contributions to the greater good rather then their appearance.

This “ego smackdown” was what made a Wilderness Therapy program work for us. Our program was unique in the area because we had no “point system” where kids earned privileges or punishments. We didn’t need one; if the boys acted foolishly they got smacked by reality. Our boys quickly learned that acting cool and “gangsta” didn’t do much good in the woods. No one cared about those things. They cared about whether you could help on a real world project like chopping firewood or packing a canoe.

I even noticed this at residential summer camp. Kids would act more "real" because they knew they were being judged (and more importantly valued) for who they really were not just what they looked like. A remember a couple of teenage girls telling me camp was the place they felt most at home.

dallas shewmaker

Locale: Southwest
Random observations . . . . on 01/30/2013 23:46:28 MST Print View

I agree with most of the points raised in the video. As a specialty backpacking store owner that outfits a lot of youth groups, and as a Boy Scout counselor for the Backpacking Merit Badge, I'll add this to the mix:

• Some kids that come to the Merit Badge classroom portion we teach at our store are surprised to learn that yes, they actually have to go on backpacking trips to get the badge (Doh!)
• Many Scout troops do not go backpacking because there are not enough available Dads/Troop Leaders with enough backpacking experience to lead (more experienced volunteers are needed for trips - you don't have to even attend the weekly meetings)
• Many parents with car-camping-only experiences apply what they know to packing their son's pack, with good intentions (but it doesn't translate well)
• Some qualified potential adult volunteers will not volunteer for Scout trips out of fear of being falsely accused of something inappropriate, or don't want to deal with various Scout field requirements (well intended, but occasionally cumbersome - the antithesis to what some seek while outdoors)
• Many parents will not allow their son to go, as they consider backpacking too dangerous to be out of cell phone range for days (a SPOT Messenger or sat phone with the group is helpful at assuaging Mom's fear)
• Parents will spend $$ thousands on some of their children's pursuits, but tend to prefer WalMart gear or want to get away with ill-fitting hand-me-down's for backpacking ("in case Junior doesn't like it", which becomes self-fulfilling with bad gear)
• Parents willing to buy light, properly fitted gear report more satisfied trip experiences by their kids (imagine that)
• Boys running around near home seemingly have boundless energy for spurts, but they fizzle fast on the trail. (Keep daily mileage short)
• As a reflection of their technology experiences, most Scouts can master the menu of a GPS in minutes, but have no paper-map-reading ability on their own (don't let a kid get away from you on the trail)
• Some boys complain loudly about conditions on the trail, but a day after getting back are the first to talk about what a great time they had. (patience is a virtue, and usually rewarded, for volunteers)
• There's a rehab service we work with that takes troubled, mostly city youth out in the backcountry for 6 full, minimalist-gear weeks. Now those kids come back with a changed outlook on life!

Every generation fears the next one will be a failure. I imagine we'll be proven wrong as well.

Nicholas Nelson

Locale: Southwest
Boys in the Wild on 01/31/2013 05:36:05 MST Print View

I think Dallas put it best with his final quip, "Every generation fears the next one will be a failure. I imagine we'll be proven wrong as well."

I think one could make most of these same arguments about many other things in kids' lives today: kids don't play enough sports, they don't read enough, they don't play "pretend" games anymore. And yet, you could blame each of these things for a lack of time spent in the others.

This reminds me of an interview that Penn Jillette gave a while back. It's a little tangential, but it's about the idea that video games aren't a lesser way of spending one's time.

It's the last two paragraphs on the first page:

Joseph Libera
(jvlibera) - MLife
Boys in the wild on 01/31/2013 08:41:35 MST Print View

Great video. My take-away from the video overall is the celebration of a wonderfully successful outing! I find very little to lament. Every generation has its challenges. I suspect that video-games, obesity, and nature-deficiency are no greater a barrier to well-being than child-labor, disease, violence, and poverty experienced by previous (and current) generations.

It seems that a real barrier to the younger generations enjoyment of the outdoors includes available adult leadership and preservation of the outdoor resource. Leading a small high adventure crew over a 5000 ft pass has always been and will continue to be the privilege of a minority of hikers. How do we leverage (or grow) available adult leadership to bring these experiences to more young people? All the while honoring LNT principles, and certain organizational requirements related to risk e.g. Consent Forms, Tour Permits (scratch that) Tour and Activity Plans, Med Forms (Parts A, B, C, and D?), Hike Safely, WFA, Hazardous Weather Training. I think that's it :)

I have no doubt that these videos, and opportunities presented by BPL such as Lightweight Backpacking for BSA will continue to motivate a small group of adult leaders to get outside and on the trail - with young men and women. That's reason to celebrate!

Joe Libera

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Boys in the Wild (short film) on 01/31/2013 14:15:15 MST Print View

Excellent message and video! I can't wait to show it to my 12 year old only if I could get him off his computer.

Cody Bartz
(codybartz) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Go outside! on 01/31/2013 21:20:34 MST Print View

This is a start. Nice video and well put words. I believe it is very true. Keep spreading the word and get more off the couch and in the outdoors!

Rod Braithwaite
(Rodo) - MLife

Locale: Salish Seashore
Convincing kids to backpack on 01/31/2013 21:32:33 MST Print View

FWIW, my daughter became very enthusiastic about backpacking immediately after I pointed out that, after getting a bit of kit & experience, it was the perfect way for her and her teen friends to escape the purview of adults.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Thank You on 02/01/2013 07:53:19 MST Print View

Thank you for all the great feedback on the video. The comments have stimulated my thinking so much. Some of it reinforced, with some new ideas to ponder as well.

Interesting that a few of the comments gravitated towards the assumption that kids today are probably going to be just fine tomorrow (past history?) even though they seem to waste as much time today as the last generation did, perhaps on different things.

I'm less fearful of kids wasting their time, as I am of them not being able to escape into a nature experience in order to (as I suggested in the video narrative) find some rest and reprieve.

An important trend I see across the past few generations is that the increasingly fast paced, information-rich, and economically complex world we live in today may require more simplicity and rest, simply to avoid psychological and emotional burnout, and if nature-connected experiences aren't in the quiver as a (very practical) coping mechanism for today's generation of young people, then we risk leaving future generations with less capability to cope with an increasingly stressful first world.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Boys in the Wild (Short Film) on 02/01/2013 14:10:20 MST Print View

I think these are valid concerns.

I have been meaning to read this

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: I personally think it's the parents who are the weenies ;) on 02/01/2013 14:30:49 MST Print View

I whole-heartedly agree that parent are quite a bit of the problem. How many 8 year old kids have the organizational skills to start backpacking without the support of their parents? Yes obesity and a sedentary lifestyle is becoming increasingly prevalent, but its not just among children. Get adults to enjoy the outdoors and their children will too. That said, I enjoyed the video beyond its pessimism aimed at our youth. Getting people exposed and out there is a great way to culture a love of the outdoors.

I would also love to see some facts showing that video games and social networking site are destroying this nation's youth and making them fatties. After all, don't we all here spend a fair amount of time perusing internet forums?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Thank You on 02/01/2013 14:56:50 MST Print View


An important trend I see across the past few generations is that the increasingly fast paced, information-rich, and economically complex world we live in today may require more simplicity and rest, simply to avoid psychological and emotional burnout, and if nature-connected experiences aren't in the quiver as a (very practical) coping mechanism for today's generation of young people, then we risk leaving future generations with less capability to cope with an increasingly stressful first world.


This doesn't necessarily need to be true. We can harness the technology and complexities to make our individual lives better and less stressful.

If one needs to go into the wilderness to cope with life and to avoid burnout, then perhaps they should re-examine the purpose of their lives. Perhaps starting with, "why do I exist and what should I do?"

The purpose of my life is to "live a good life." That means I need to have certain values, which includes the need to be productive. I think that all people internally need to be productive. For me it works better to be specialized in certain fields, rather than trying to personally produce all the things I need. And I love my job. At the end of a long vacation, or a weekend trip, I look forward to going back to work.

Moving on the child rearing... just like most wild animals, parents need to prepare kids to become self sufficient as adults. That is our primary job. IMO, this includes strong bodies, strong minds, strong character (morals & ethics), and a strong work ethic. To me, this is job one.

We need a work ethic to backpack. If we break down any trip, we must realize that it is task oriented. Planning, cooking, set-up, take-down, daily destinations, working through terrain; these are all tasks. For me the task part is enjoyable, and at the end of the day I can think - job well done. Of course the wilderness aspect is good too. But for me it is not "spiritual," nor does it help me cope or escape some sort of unhappy existence back home at work. It is just a piece of a puzzle that makes me whole, so that my life is a "good life."

These are the things I tried to impart to my kids when they were growing up. When my kids were young and progressed through high school and then college, I had conversations with both of them regarding a career. We talked about a well paying job, versus doing something they loved. They both chose the later... Nicole is a school teacher and Joe is a biologist working outdoors with Desert Tortoises. Nicole is married and they do a lot of car camping; Joe backpacks and car camps too. So as a parent I feel good about how they grew up, and that they are well adjusted and happy adults - they too are living a good life.

Randy Cain
(bagboy) - MLife

Locale: Palmdale, CA
Great video!!!! on 02/01/2013 16:40:37 MST Print View

Fantastic, Ryan!!! Great video as well as insightful and thought-provoking narration! Keep 'em coming!

Kerry Rodgers
(klrodgers) - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Need to push them a little, preferably before teenage years! on 02/01/2013 21:16:15 MST Print View

Thanks, Ryan, that was really cool. I love it.

Finally, at ages 8 and 10, I got the wife and kids on their first "real" backpack: 3 days/2 nights, 5 miles per day last August in cool, lush West Virginia on easy trails. The 8-year-old boy didn't want to go (was afraid it would be boring or too hard for him), but once on the trail he loved it. Once he had chosen a stick to carry and seen a snake, the trail was his. His only complaining in 3 days was on the brief road walking segment--that reminded us how bad it could have been. Once back on trail, we were amazed at his instant attitude improvement.

Kids 3 day backpack in Cranberry Wilderness, WV, Aug 2012
Set on Flickr

My wife and I find we have to push our kids a little to try new things. Some of our friends have the philosophy not to push their kids, but then their kids just opt out. We are trying to make sure our kids have these introductory experiences before they are teenagers, so they won't be surprised at hardship then. Our kids don't like things they're not good at, so often, we just have to push until they see that they have acquired a basic proficiency. We hope this, also, will carry over into teenage years.

It also helps that we limit their computer and media time.

For backcountry, specifically, we are mostly limited by us parents' willingness to put busyness on hold and get out of town, since there's no backcountry closer than 4 hours' drive from here. The kids would go for outdoor play and car camping often, if we parents do all the packing and organizing. Our struggle is to get them to help with the work. Well, we haven't been out again since the summer--it's my fault! But they are asking occasionally for another backpack, and that is a very good thing.

I love the "reality smackdown" idea. But not only for the individual ego problem. When it rains or is cold or steep or whatever, everyone suffers that kind of hardship together, and I think that is also a good experience for the kids. A more subtle tempering of the ego, maybe.

Oh yeah, I should also say that our daughter is very inspired by Sunshine, and of course we know about her and Balls from BPL!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Need to push them more, preferably before the teen years on 02/01/2013 21:36:01 MST Print View

I agree, starting them early is a good idea too. Much easier to teach them a new hobby when they are younger, more impressionable and less busy. If you start young it will probably continue into their teen years.

By the way Kerry looks like a fun trip. I recall you'd mentioned wanting to get your kids out backpacking and it looks like you succeeded.

David Eitemiller
(DavidE) - MLife
Fathered and Mentored on 02/10/2013 15:51:23 MST Print View


Thanks for putting this aspect of offering what we enjoy and benefit from in the wild place to these kids and to your son. The film was motivating and as other have said inspiring. What inspires me is to see older men, fathers, making the effort to intentionally pass on what they know to their sons (and daughters) - or to others.

Many of the people I go to the wilderness with (especially family or close friends who aren't as "extreme" as me as they say), so appreciate getting to places and experiencing something they never would be able to if they did not have a mentor and guide and leader that could get them there. I am often surprised by that reaction as I don't see it as anything unusual to put a pack of gear on and start walking into wild places. But what a legacy and gift it is to be able to show someone how to eat well for 5 days in the wilderness, how to establish a shelter that will keep you safe in anything that is likely to hit, how to navigate over a pass that seems unsurmountable to them, how to pause and enjoy a vista and quietness and the poetry of the wilderness and be confident you are safe because of the skills they have but didn't before they were shown how.

This is the fathering and mentoring that many of young kids value these days, but in my experience, just don't get that much. So its inspiring to see it happening - well done!


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Fathered and Mentored on 02/10/2013 16:29:59 MST Print View

"This is the fathering and mentoring that many of young kids value these days, but in my experience, just don't get that much. So its inspiring to see it happening - well done!"

Very good point David. When I was a kid spending time with both my parents was a normal and expected thing. Unfortunately for many kids nowadays it seems to be a rare thing. Between business and family breakups it seems a lot of kids are missing out on time with parents. That is a shame because I didn't just learn outdoor skills from my parents, I picked up their values along the way. I'm a better person because they spent time with me doing "fun" stuff.

I don't have any kids of my own but good for Ryan and all the other dads out there who are making time to do meaningful activities with their kids. They definitely need it.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Re: Boys in the Wild on 02/26/2013 12:02:17 MST Print View

Do Girl Scouts ever do anything like this? When I was young, girl scouting seemed very boring - they never did anything adventurous and outdoorsy like the boys did, which is why I never joined. Have they changed? I never hear of girl scouts backpacking or doing anything like the boys do. Seems sad to me.

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
Re: Re: Boys in the Wild on 02/26/2013 12:24:38 MST Print View

I think it really depends on the leader. I was part of an urban Boy Scout troop that never went backpacking, meanwhile, my mom was a Girl Scout leader for many years and took the girls full-on winter camping, in tents in the snow, building fires, learning map and compass skills. Additionally, the GSA used to have a high-adventure National Center West in Wyoming (part of their "Wider Ops" program); my sister went for years. While that center doesn't exist anymore, here are some of the national and international adventures available to Girl Scouts (from whitewater rafting in the US to backpacking in the Andes):

James Davis
Getting Young People into the Wild on 02/27/2013 21:54:44 MST Print View

I enjoyed the film. Thank you for sharing it. I agree that for some kids, and for some adults not yet hiking, the outdoor experience would be very beneficial. But I also have to agree with the research you cited that states money and time are the two main reasons that “Insiders” are not becoming “Outsiders”. Regarding the money factor I believe the costs of gear and clothing is prohibitive for many people in this time of economic recession and alternative approaches should be provided by the teachers and experts for those people for which money is truly a barrier.
I recently retired from the health care arena and saw in the last decade the welcome change from the routine prescribing of expensive brand name drugs by physicians to the prescribing of just as efficient generic drugs by physicians when appropriate. And this was more affordable for patients. As I increased my backpacking time on the trails and started researching the latest information it struck me that backpacking is still in the expensive brand name prescription drug phase. I recently put together a routine gear list by retail price and it topped $1500. (And this did not include GPS. It did include the SPOT equipment.)
I believe we have to come up with alternative gear lists for kids and their parents in order to increase participation. I believe some of the Boy Scouts Scoutmasters are also coming up with affordable alternatives for their troop members. For example, why can’t a $5 army surplus thin wool sweater meet the needs of one of the clothing layers? It wicks quite well to my understanding. What are other affordable alternatives that keep the kids relatively safe, dry, warm, able to filter their water, and able to cook on their backpacking adventures? Can we get a routine gear list down under $300 or is that unrealistic?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Getting Young People into the Wild on 02/27/2013 22:34:09 MST Print View

I remember a scout master put together a list of "sorta UL" gear for budget conscious scouts doing Sierra trips. I think the "Big Three" were tents and occasionally tarps, cheap external frame packs, and cheap synthetic sleeping bags. I think by careful packing they kept baseweights to around 15 pounds and I think the total price was about $300. I wish I could remember who it was.

You can get 30 degree bags for $40, packs for $50 and tarps for $20. It won't be as nice or light but you could outfit a group of kids for fairly cheap.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Re: Re: Re: Boys in the Wild on 02/28/2013 07:05:02 MST Print View

Thanks for the information, Greg. I appreciate it. It's good to know that there are some things for the girls, too, who want outdoor adventure. Too bad the center closed down. Are girl scouts allowed at Philmont, or is that strictly for the boys? The reason I ask these questions is that, from my own experience, outdoor adventure has made me a stronger, independent adult. Not only that, but I think all kids these days would benefit from outdoor adventures - something to get them away from the computer and video games. Plus if they can develop an appreciation for the outdoors, they may be our next protectors of wild places. Thanks again! :)

john parker
(orclwzrd) - F

Locale: Illinois
Out with youth on 03/24/2013 20:19:35 MDT Print View

For those that have youth, boys and girls, that are 14-21, the BSA has a great program that dovetails right into this idea. The program is Venturing, the youth are in charge and we as Advisors guide them. I do have a vested interest in this, I'm the Venturing Advisor for my Council. On the other hand, after an exhausting, exciting, fun weekend out with the youth, I'm reenergized again to deal with the office some more. Let's get these youth out into nature and show them what they are missing out on! Great Video Ryan, I'd love to work with you putting a Venturing program together!


brian H
(B14) - M

Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
Kudos on 09/03/2014 13:59:09 MDT Print View

Kudos Ryan on a great piece. I enjoyed your theorizing on the state of today's teens.
What great photography, especially the avalanche of cloud vapor at the end.

Here's an org I have volunteered in for the past 6 years, Boys To Men. We celebrate something that has been lost in our culture: the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. Our local chapter - So. Oregon, unlike the one in the link below, does not place emphasis on fatherless boys (although we agree with the idea!).

The work we have done with teen boys has been just fascinating for me.