Forum Index » Backpacking Light with Scouts » Solo Tarps and Gear


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Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Don't be pressured on 06/28/2009 18:54:36 MDT Print View

Don't be pressured into giving up on a light pack

But - You should TEACH a class on what you do and why. Add Judgment to the class as a key factor when choosing what to bring.

Also, get on of yer scout buddies in on your UL gig. Make an alcohol stove as a class!

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Where Scouts get their gear on 06/29/2009 12:54:45 MDT Print View

>my Scoutmaster pointed out that I would not be able to help others by carrying some people's gear who packed like idiots<

Most Scouts have gear that was purchased for them by their parents.

Many of the newer Scouts have not had a choice as to the gear that their parents got for them, so maybe they are not 'idiots', but rather just not as experienced and/or informed.

That doesn't make it any easier or more fun to help carry someone else's gear, and maybe it is 'unfair',
but as others have pointed out, Scouting is basically a team activity with the advantages and disadvantages teamwork brings.

I hope your Scouts (and Scouters) are able to learn how to lighten their loads, because at the core of all this, backpacking is supposed to be enjoyed, not endured.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
good lightweight slogan on 06/29/2009 13:27:48 MDT Print View

"I hope your Scouts (and Scouters) are able to learn how to lighten their loads, because at the core of all this, backpacking is supposed to be enjoyed, not endured."

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Where Scouts get their gear on 06/29/2009 17:48:11 MDT Print View

> Many of the newer Scouts have not had a choice as to the gear that their parents got
> for them, so maybe they are not 'idiots', but rather just not as experienced and/or informed.

Two points:

Very often it is not the gear which was purchased as the excess un-needed and redundant gear that was packed. Plenty of stories about that here at BPL.

Regardless of what the parents purchased, it is STILL the Scoutmaster's responsibility to ensure that the kids do not pack more than they can carry. It the Scoutmaster fails that responsibility he should wear (as in carry) the consequences himself.

Note added in edit:
I went through Cubs, Scouts, Senior Scouts and Rovers. I gained the top Scout award in Australia - Queen's Scout badge. It was fun.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 07/03/2009 15:35:44 MDT.

Joseph Jacaruso
(CaptainJac) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Where Scouts Get Their Gear on 07/02/2009 14:07:03 MDT Print View

So if most Scouts get their gear from purchases by parents then the logical solution is to educate the parents. I meet with all the parents before they move up from cubs. In this meeting I start by telling them we are an UL Troop. That we do a lot of backpacking. That this may not be a good match for your son. I show them pictures from recent trips. This year I will have pictures from a 100-mile trip on the AT. I complete the meeting by showing them my gear (including the Gatorade bottle).

Before each trip I encourage the boys to go through their packs and discard things they did not use the last time. After the trip before they go home I repeat the request. I have boys that amazed thru-hikers this season. They wanted to switch packs with us.

The key is knowledge. The more you know, the less you carry.

However I will admit it has been an uphill battle to get all the adult leaders on board. Slowly but surely I'm breaking the barrier and they are coming around. I just got a new leader that does a lot of traditional backpacking. He is eyeing my 50-liter rucksack and starting to ask the right questions.

Joe Jacaruso
Scoutmaster
Troop 1
Burlington, NC

Edited by CaptainJac on 07/02/2009 14:08:57 MDT.

David Bizup
(ScouterInAHammock) - F
Patrol / Crew Backpacking on 07/03/2009 05:26:04 MDT Print View

First of all, Scout units SHOULD backpack! Many do not. So kudos to you and your troop for hitting the trail.

Backpacking with a Scouting unit and backpacking solo or with some friends are very different beasts because their aims and methods are different. Scouting aims for character development, good citizenship, and physical fitness via outdoor activities as a patrol. The patrol is key; it is the fundamental unit of scouting. If you are not working as part of a patrol then you are not scouting.

Buy the Backpacking Merit Badge pamphlet, or get one from your troop's library, or borrow one from a MB counselor, and read it. It is all about being part of what the pamphlet calls a "trek crew." Some of the requirements are:

- define limits on the number of backpackers appropriate for a trek crew
- describe how a trek crew should be organized
- show how to pack your personal gear and your share of the crew's gear and food
- conduct a pre-hike inspection of the patrol and its equipment

Crew gear and techniques are somewhat different than individual.

So, yes, it is unscoutlike to not be part of the troop or patrol for the simple reason that scouting happens in patrols. Solo backpacking is a wonderful thing. You should do it. Crew backpacking is a wonderful thing too.

Also, a scoutmaster forcing one scout to carry another scout's gear because the second scout packed poorly is total crap.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Patrol / Crew Backpacking on 07/03/2009 09:39:19 MDT Print View

a scoutmaster forcing one scout to carry another scout's gear because the second scout packed poorly is total crap

I would not be QUITE so harsh. Scouting is (should be) about learning. Different people learn different ways. The objective is to get the kid hooked on the outdoors and physical activity, not to end his scouting career before it begins.


  1. Joe's reply is on the right path ... meet with all parents before the boys join and explain the facts.

  2. Cut a scout a little slack if he over packs on his first trip and offer help with his load ... after giving him enough time to "appreciate" his over packed load.

  3. Make it clear that the help is a one time event.

Edited by jcolten on 07/03/2009 09:46:24 MDT.

Roger Tate
(rogertate) - F

Locale: North Texas
Roger's Comments re Scoutmasters on 07/03/2009 11:34:23 MDT Print View

I feel a need to respond with some subtleties of Scouting philosophy to respond to Roger Caffin's remarks.

Most kids now-a-days are much more highly protected and watched over than when I was young. Most of them do almost no "free play" where they make their own decisions. Scouting is different. We want to give the boys the chance to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences. The role of the adult leader is to maintain a large safety envelope and let the boys work within it rather than double-check them at every turn. What that means on a practical basis is:

We will let a boy get cold but not hypothermic.
We will let him get thirsty but not dehydrated.
We will let him get weary but not break his spirit.
We will let him get hungry but not starve.

When a boy makes it through a hardship he grows wiser and more confident that he can handle the adversity that he encounters in life.

I agree with Roger C. that the adult is ultimately responsible for the group's overall safety (heavy loads are usually a comfort issue not a safety issue), but the solution is not always for the adult to pick up all of the boy's slack. Scouting is training for cooperation and group leadership in life. A struggling scout is not just a problem for an adult to fix, it is also an opportunity for another scout to show leadership and compassion (maybe with encouragement from an adult).

On another note, pack inspections have been frequently mentioned as a tool for managing pack weight. Personally, I think that the way a pack inspection is handled makes a lot of difference. I will admit to being a bit naive about this, but in my mind we should inspect pack contents to make sure that truly essential gear gets packed and to make sure that no pack exceeds weight guidelines for the size of the boy. After that, we should leave it to the boys in the trek crew to make decisions about how to distribute crew gear to get everyone within weight. We should also encourage the group to challenge the necessity of certain gear or to come up with lighter solutions such as sharing items.

Now enough philosophy. As a practical matter, we should not take a first-time backpacker on a trip of more than a couple of miles. Even a short trip will highlight excessive pack weight and poor packing strategy. For a troop that does a lot of backpacking that means you need to mix in some short trips for training new scouts. (I know a nearby troop that is about to fold up because they enjoy serious backpacking so much that no young scouts will join or stay with the troop.)

Respectfully submitted,

Roger Tate

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
The Loner or Follow the Crowd on 07/08/2009 18:28:28 MDT Print View

This thread depresses me. The scout wants to go lightweight and can't.

He should find a buddy in the troop and do it with him. A tarp may be way too much to buy for a SM that doesn't have experience with that type of shelter. If such is the case, just find the lightest tent and share the load. That's what most of our kids do. One takes the tent, the other the fly and stakes, etc. You are still using the buddy system. We pair kids up and make each pair responsible for their own food. We teach them what to take as far as dehydrated, lightweight options, etc. The two scouts rely upon each other.

If you really look at a kids pack, it is (as has been pointed out) mostly redundant stuff that gets the weight up.I have seen scouts pack a pair of underwear, socks and shirt for each day on the trail. This is probably because a mother is behind the boy just thinking he will need to change daily. Even though the kids have extra clothes they almost always come home with 1 set of real dirty worn clothes and the rest that are dirty but never worn. Then there are the stoves, knives, axes, chairs, etc, etc. that some HAVE to pack.

We start packing at a young age and most are getting the message. Stick to your guns but do it in a way that doesn't set you apart from the troop. Show them that by being lighter, and having all of the necessary items, you are not as tired as the rest. Don't go ahead of the group. Stay together and enjoy watching the other kids doing the two step trying to readjust their pack about every third step.

Edited by scottbentz on 07/08/2009 18:30:27 MDT.

Greg Bohm
(GregInMI) - F

Locale: SE Michigan
Mandatory prep hikes are the key... on 07/10/2009 09:34:34 MDT Print View

Our troop requires a series of required prep hikes before a Scout or adult can go on any of our extended hikes.

Everyone has their own preferences and needs/wants. We have the more experienced adults review each pack and make recommendations, but it is ultimately up to each hiker to decide what they can carry. Our prep hikes start out with 2-3 miles at a local park followed by a weekend outing with a couple 5 mile days. The goal is to give the boys and adults (dads tend to be the worse offenders IMO) an opportunity to evaluate for themselves how much they can carry and decide what to leave behind.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Patrol / Crew Backpacking on 07/10/2009 12:02:23 MDT Print View

"Backpacking with a Scouting unit and backpacking solo or with some friends are very different beasts because their aims and methods are different."

I totally agree with the above. I just got back from a backpacking trip on the Colorado Trail with just my son and I. We enjoy troop activities, but also enjoy individual activities. Both have their place, but they are indeed different.

When with the Scouts, we follow the Scouting aims and methods. When we are on our own, we can do as we wish.

Edited by dallas on 07/10/2009 12:03:40 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Roger's Comments re Scoutmasters on 07/10/2009 12:22:51 MDT Print View

Roger Tate hits the bullseye.

I might add It is impossible for a scout (anyone, really) to have a success if the possibility of failure has been eliminated. The Scoutmaster's job is to make sure that failure won't include serious health and safety consequences. My own short summary of that is called fencing the range

Regarding a scout wanting to do purely his own thing: BSA has a program for that, it's called "Lone Scout" ... but it's intended for kids who don't have the opportunity to be part of a group.

Regarding stubborn old school scoutmasters: Remember that the "I'm right and you aren't" attitude rarely convinces anyone.

Seeing is believing for many people, one approach is to pack light on "safer" outings like the typical 2 night weekend campout ... especially those where less than ideal weather is forecast. Having a more traditional "plan B" available as backup makes it easier for folks to accept you trying what you want to do. (my own first attempts at tarping were in situations where there was little or no penalty in also bringing a tent). It also helps them get used to new ideas a little bit at a time and it's also a chance to convince a buddy to try UL.

Richard Perlman
(montclair) - MLife

Locale: Metro NY
Re: Re: Roger's Comments re Scoutmasters on 08/03/2009 14:36:03 MDT Print View

On safety: I kid with the parents of my scouts that the job of the leaders is to ensure that no scout *dies*. They might get wet, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, or tired, but I guarantee that after each trip their skills will improve to the point that they are setting the example and teaching the skills to the new scouts.

On lightweight: I taught my scouts freezer bag cooking for backpacking trips (only). What kid likes to wash dishes?

We used to bring little lanterns which run on the stove's butane/propane cartridges. Now when it gets dark, they go to sleep.

Scouts must earn First Class before they are allowed to use their own tent, which is usually a solo double wall tent. I'm in the Northeast and bugs are an issue.

Edited by montclair on 08/03/2009 14:52:35 MDT.

Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
As an SPL and founding member... on 10/08/2009 21:22:29 MDT Print View

I have tons of say, and my scoutmaster came to me for tips on how to lighten up, i've done presentations on how to lighten loads, and I am allowed to cook on my own (we break up into pairs anyway) I have also challenged some of the older, responsible scouts to beat my weight. I got some of their packs total weight down to 18 lbs, and mine was 17lbs (I had my WBBB hammock, wich was nice for the bug situation) and they just slept under the stars. So I think that I am doing well.

-CS

Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
Also... on 10/08/2009 21:44:18 MDT Print View

I come from a VERY boy led troop (or at least while I was SPL) were when a knew adult came on a trip, and started makeing decisions i would first politly tell them that this is, indeed, a boy led troop, and that we would be making decisions. Then after about the second time of that, I would be known to tell them that their job was to keep us from dying, and that we could handle the rest. (My SM agrees with me completly on this point, and will always help me out with "trouble" adults). I just recently (last monday) handed off my position as SPL after a year of leading. In that year we went from MAYBE one backpacking trip a year, to about 5 this year, and we started a venture crew (YAY! Girls!). I hope to make sure that our crew is UL and i think will be pretty successful in that.

Jace Mullen
Troop 784, Carlsbad, CA

Frank Steele
(knarfster) - F

Locale: Arizona
Rob is obviously a Cub Scouter on 03/24/2010 10:46:43 MDT Print View

IX-Nay on the Scout Master doing any of that Stuff.

Raphi, the only person that can ask you to do anything differently is the Senior Patrol Leader. My suggestion is to ask him to let you be Troop Guide, and then you can start helping the newer/younger boys think about being prepared instead of being equipped.

In BOY scouts the troop is lead by the boys. period. (Well that's how it is supposed to be according to official BSA training)

The boys pick when and where they are going to hike/camp. They find out how many boys are going (and collect the permission slips), how many drivers will be needed (and then tell the parents) . What equipment to take, what food to buy and bring, who is buying the food. What permits will be needed (and then tell the parents). Who will tent with who, who will use tarps. They determine what scouting requirements the younger boys can get signed off (Troop Guide's responsibility). They set the schedule, when to leave, what to do on the hike, when to return.

The Scout Masters role should be "Supreme Question Akser", "Is that enough time to hike there?, is that enough food?, do you think that is enough water?, do you think there will be a water source nearby? Do you think it might rain? Will you be able to pack all your trash out? Do you really need to take that? etc..

My first shock in Boys Scouts was when my son showed up, they said had their opening ceremony, and then promptly closed the sliding curtain and had their meeting without us.

I just took over as Scout Master and I am trying to be even more hands off, so that the older boys can get all the leadership experience. First thing I say when a boy comes up to me and says Mr. Steele can I..... or should I ..... is "What did the your Patrol/Senior Patrol Leader Say?

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Patrol, not troop on 03/25/2010 15:17:46 MDT Print View

The troop and Scoutmaster should not have much to do with this. It is a patrol decision.

Get together with your patrol and choose what patrol gear you will carry. Share that fairly, which might mean stronger Scouts carrying more.

Cook as a patrol, unless your patrol decides differently. For example, the patrol might use three-person cook groups, which are very efficient.

First Class requires that you cook for your patrol, so get some practice.

I was Scoutmaster for three years, now ASM for the venture patrol.

sean mccutcheon
(aldosean93)

Locale: East Bay
Boy Led, Patrols, and PLC on 03/25/2010 17:06:04 MDT Print View

Raphi,
If your troop is boy led, bring it up at your next PLC. I'm sure there are plenty of scouts in your troop who want to go light.
As far as your original question: Is it really "un-scoutlike" to not be "part of the troop?": if you troop breaks into patrols for tent buddy's and cook groups you should stick with your patrol. That dose not mean you can't go solo when cooking or sleeping as long as your tent buddy/patrol wants to solo also. Talk to your SM and find out if your district or council has a HAT program and more to the point a light weight backpacking trainer. I'm a SM of a troop in the SFBAC we have a HAT instructor who will work with leaders,his name is Victor Karpenko he is a BPL Lifetime Member. one other good teaching tool is the Lighten Up DVD from Gossamergear, it's back on the gossamergear web sit for $5.
~Sean

Gary Boyd
(debiant) - F

Locale: Mid-west
Picking up someone elses slack... on 03/29/2010 08:04:20 MDT Print View

Sucks, but it also builds character. If you're the one picking up other peoples slack then you will be seen as a leader. If you're the one whining because you have to help others you look like a jerk. Boyscouts always seemed to me a military prep program anyways. You might be forced to carry a 240B one day, or a massive radio. As Dennis Leary said: Life sucks, get a helmet.