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Vlad Putin
(Primaloft37)

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 01:44:52 MDT Print View

I was just wondering if BackpackingLight has ever done any ultra-lite backpacking demos and instruction at the BSA National Jamboree held at Fort AP Hill, VA? Like, maybe an ultra-light kiosk at the merit badge midway or something?

Just how is the BSA responding to the ultra-light revolution? Is Philmont jumping on the ultra-light bandwagon? Or resisting? Or somewhere in between?

I'm curious, as I just got a letter from my old council trying to get me as "an old Eagle" to get back involved in Scouting as a Scouter.

Vlad

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 07:30:07 MST Print View

Left to its own devices, Scouting won't change or, if it does, it will be at a glacial pace. I'd suggest that you not just wait for BPL to take the lead in dragging Scouting into the present day. One way to look at your council's request to get involved with Scouting again is to consider it an opportunity to be an activist for updating the Scouting camping & backpacking philosophies.

Since they're asking you for help, stand firm and agree to do it only on your own terms.

I agreed to become a backpacking merit badge counselor on condition that we would not use the woefully outdated merit badge handbook. (The requirements are still valid, since they're general in nature, but using the information in the handbook is not only inconvenient but, in some cases, downright dangerous.) Instead, I gave all the boys copies of Harry Roberts' Basic Essentials of Backpacking (which also has some minor errors, but is overall a very practical, well-written 60 page primer on recreational backpacking.

The troop agreed to let me teach the kids a lighter, more efficient approach. While it's not ultralight, it is "verylight" using lighter versions of traditional gear (Clip Flashlights instead of Timberlines, Granite Gear packs instead of Kelty and Camp Trails, etc.) It's working out pretty good, and it helped break the traditional way of thinking. (The Scoutmaster, whose collection of cast-iron and canvas 60's-era "official" gear still looks brand new, even commented that "this sure is an easier way to camp.")

Get involved - but do it on your own terms, and be part of the change.

Edited by garkjr on 10/29/2006 16:04:35 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 08:20:37 MST Print View

Yes, we are working on BSA from a variety of angles.

Last month I was the keynote speaker at one of the Montana BSA corporate fundraisers. Roy Williams (BSA National Chief Executive) was in attendance. It was a small (15-20 people) event and they were very receptive about lightweight backpacking. It was exciting, because for them, it's all very new (from top down at least).

The best thing I can do is to affect my own son at the grass roots level and teach him the Way of the Light.

Then, I can impact my boys' peers. So I became a den leader. I expect to carry my leadership involvement through boy scouting with my son and his peers.

And, on behalf of BPL, we've been giving field clinics to troops, districts, and councils, to empower OTHERS to train in their own direct circles of influence.

I'm writing a guide to lightweight backpacking for the BSA, that will include merit badge guidelines and instruction, 50 milers, high adventure, and troop outings, and this guide will be available to BSA scout leaders sometime in Spring 08.

Edited by ryan on 12/05/2006 09:10:14 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 10:22:08 MST Print View

Vlad,

That is a change that must happen mostly from the bottom up.

From the top, we need the word to get out that light is OK and we need some training materials. Sounds like RJ is working on that angle.

But mostly we need UL believers working at the unit level to show folks that it works.

Once you've gotten a troop going light, you can convince the troop to camp light at your district camporee and do a demo station at that event. Or teach a session at your council's "University of Scouting" (if they have such a council-wide how-to event)

Vlad Putin
(Primaloft37)

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 11:26:17 MST Print View

What are the best books to read regarding ultra-light backpacking? I just subscribed to the print version of BackpackingLight. Beyond that...what stuff should I read?

Ryan Jordan mentioned he is writing an ultra-light manual or book specifically geared for BSA. That sounds great and I cant wait to get a copy of that and read it. But right now, what is the stuff to read to bring me up to speed on UL?

My background is hardcore traditional backpacking. I was doing high mileage at Philmont (20 miles and more a day) before UL came into existence. When I was a Scout in my younger days, I was the "high adventure" guy in my particular Troop. Although my enthusiasm for backpacking wasnt shared by most other Scouts and Scouters I should add.

At Philmont, I discovered uncountable Scouts and Scouters who were very psyched with backpacking and backpacking related activities such as orienteering, mountain climbing, etc. But at my local council level...enthusiasm was to put it kindly...extremely poor. I often felt "alone" in this regard when I was a Gung Ho High Adventure teen/early twentysomething.

This was one of (several) reasons I got bored with Scouting past the age of about eightteen. It just seemed like most Troops, most Scouters and most of the boys wanted to just sit around and yak and goof off. I hate to sound cynical...but in my council, thats the way it was.

I had better things to do with my time. But it seems like backpacking is more popular nowadays than back when I was younger and really into high adventure. Maybe I should get back into it with the BSA?

I have already been thinking of what I would do if I got back into the BSA as a Scouter. First, I would organize an annual Christmas time 50 miler EVERY year...similar to what an adjacent and more progressive council does. Secondly, Id like to see a real orienteering course put in at the local Scout camp and emphasize more map and compass work.

Ive even thought about trying to set up a 50 miler "bushwhacking" trek for boys 15 and over. With GPS and cell phones carried as insurance, I would think liability for cross country, off trail movement would be much lower and perhaps more palatable to Scouting. I have been reading they are doing GPS cross country stuff at that new High Adventure base out in NM, the Double H Ranch.

Actually, these are activities that I myself was interested in as a teenager and into my early twenties. But I just found enthusiasm in my area for such activities was very low.

I can also see myself butting heads with some of the other Scouters though, who would prefer to do sedentary stuff and get mad if they have to walk 5 miles. I have an argumentative, opinionated personality (I work in the legal profession) and I dont have a lot of patience.

Vlad

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 12:10:25 MST Print View

The Scout troop I was involved in went on a weekend campout once a month. Sometimes only 4 boys and 2 adults would show up, but we had a great time anyway. I too was the High Adventure boy in our troop. I convinced my dad to go on Northern Tier with me and soon after we decided to get the troop to go backpacking. Last year my dad, my brother, and 4 other boys from the troop went to Northern Tier and had a great time.

Now that I'm in college I'm do things with the Collegiate Eagle Scout Assoc. We put on Merit Badge weekends and help with the troops in the area.

I've noticed that the quality of the troop depends on the quality of the adult leadership of the troop. There were 3 troops in the town I grew up in. The one I joined had the fewest members, but there were as many parents involved as there were kids. The other two troops had a lot of boys, but were little more than babysitters for the parents who wanted one night a week away from their sons. When my dad took over as Scoutmaster for our troop he stressed that the parents take an active part in their son's scouting experience. Some of the parents went camping with us, others helped out at meetings, but almost all of the parents did something. The only kids we ever lost were the one's whose parents just dropped them off for an hour every Monday night.
I would strongly encourage you to get involved in Scouts again. We had one dad who always went backpacking with us because that's what he liked to do. Teach them how to lighten their load and you may get more and more people interested. I did a presentation at the last CESA meeting on making alcohol stoves and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I hope to do some more presentations like it in the future.
Oh and by the way, good luck on the lightweight backpacking guide for the BSA, Ryan. I wish someone would have done that a long time ago when I was in Scouts. It would've saved my back some pain :D.

Adam

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Recommended Reading (was: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree?) on 10/29/2006 13:08:00 MST Print View

The most highly recommended books are listed first:

_Lighten Up!_ by Don Ladigan (available here at BPL). This is an awesome book. Highly Recommended.

_Beartooth Mountain Press Lightweight Backpacking 101_ by a bunch of people at BPL (also available here at BPL). The best part of this book is walking through gear lists and showing how to trade items out for lighter weight.

_Beyond Backpacking_ by Ray Jardine. I include this mostly for historical reasons. Some parts are a bit dated now. But his gear list is an excellent starting point for any ultralight hiker. The discussions on clothing and footgear are generally excellent. The discussion about food isn't so good. This book is very opinionated.

_The Ultralight Backpacker_ by Ryel Kestenbaum. This book is also very opinionated but Ryel doesn't have near the experience that Ray does. This book is also very very much about what gear you should purchase from your local outdoor store, which has made it age less than gracefully.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Re: Recommended Reading (was: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree?) on 10/29/2006 16:02:46 MST Print View

You might also find Karen Berger's Hiking Light Handbook useful for taking a "traditional" troop toward hiking lighter. I know it's been trashed elsewhere on the site, and while she doesn't exactly scorn ultralight, it's clearly not her focus in the book. Instead, she shoots for taking people solidly into the lightweight category (12 - 18 pound base weights) which isn't a bad goal for most troops - especially considering that there's a monetary constraint as well as a mindset to overcome.

Gossamer Gear also sells a DVD about hiking light, featuring Glen van Peski (dedicated Scouter) in a very entertaining and informative video about taking a traditional hiker's load and doing an ultralight makeover.

Vlad Putin
(Primaloft37)

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Re: Re: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree? on 10/29/2006 16:15:52 MST Print View

The Scout troop I was involved in went on a weekend campout once a month. Sometimes only 4 boys and 2 adults would show up, but we had a great time anyway. I too was the High Adventure boy in our troop. I convinced my dad to go on Northern Tier with me and soon after we decided to get the troop to go backpacking. Last year my dad, my brother, and 4 other boys from the troop went to Northern Tier and had a great time.
----------------------------------------

The Northern Tier base is unique. Unfortunately, I never went there but I always wanted to. I especially wanted to do their extreme cold weather camping program called "Okpik." I remember having their Okpik literature sent to me once, about twenty years ago.

Also, a lot of people in Scouts dont know this (even a lot of BSA high adventure buffs dont know this), but Philmont operates a cold weather and snow camping program in the winter months. I forget the name of it. I used to have their literature as well.
-----------------------------------------

Now that I'm in college I'm do things with the Collegiate Eagle Scout Assoc. We put on Merit Badge weekends and help with the troops in the area.
-----------------------------------------

Thats cool...I just rejoined NESA about a year ago. That might be the reason I got that letter recently, I'm not sure. I am getting ready to join PSA...Philmont Staff Association as I am eligible to join that.
-----------------------------------------

I've noticed that the quality of the troop depends on the quality of the adult leadership of the troop. There were 3 troops in the town I grew up in. The one I joined had the fewest members, but there were as many parents involved as there were kids. The other two troops had a lot of boys, but were little more than babysitters for the parents who wanted one night a week away from their sons. When my dad took over as Scoutmaster for our troop he stressed that the parents take an active part in their son's scouting experience. Some of the parents went camping with us, others helped out at meetings, but almost all
of the parents did something. The only kids we ever lost were the one's whose parents just dropped them off for an hour every Monday night.
-----------------------------------------

I TOTALLY agree with you here, Adam! This is what I am concerned about. I dont want to get back into it and waste my time. The first troop I was in as a boy was a sham...a farce...a big joke. I almost dropped out of Scouting entirely by the age of 13 as a result of the poor quality adult leadership and the lack of outdoor interest among the fellow boys.

What kept me in Scouting and got me my Eagle was two things basically: 1) my old Troop was taken over by an old school type Scoutmaster who had military leadership training and he overhauled the Troop in a few months. We actually started going camping one weekend every month, we started making rank, we actually had a program at our weekly meetings, etc. etc.

The second thing that kept me in Scouting past the age of 14 was the BSA's High Adventure programs. I was REALLY into that. High Adventure backpacking programs was the incentive for me to stay in Scouts and I made Eagle.
-----------------------------------------
I would strongly encourage you to get involved in Scouts again. We had one dad who always went backpacking with us because that's what he liked to do. Teach them how to lighten their load and you may get more and more people interested. I did a presentation at the last CESA meeting on making alcohol stoves and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I hope to do some more presentations like it in the future.
----------------------------------------

Yeah, I probably will but I think I will get thorougly reviewed back up on the latest backpacking gear/clothing technology before I reply to the letter. And get schooled up on this UL biz before I rejoin...I dont want to look like I dont know what I am doing as I have some impressive backpacking credentials from my younger days.
------------------------------------------
Vlad

Vlad Putin
(Primaloft37)

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Recommended Reading (was: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree?) on 10/30/2006 00:29:40 MST Print View

The most highly recommended books are listed first:

_Lighten Up!_ by Don Ladigan (available here at BPL). This is an awesome book. Highly Recommended.

_Beartooth Mountain Press Lightweight Backpacking 101_ by a bunch of people at BPL (also available here at BPL). The best part of this book is walking through gear lists and showing how to trade items out for lighter weight.

_Beyond Backpacking_ by Ray Jardine. I include this mostly for historical reasons. Some parts are a bit dated now. But his gear list is an excellent starting point for any ultralight hiker. The discussions on clothing and footgear are generally excellent. The discussion about food isn't so good. This book is very opinionated.

_The Ultralight Backpacker_ by Ryel Kestenbaum. This book is also very opinionated but Ryel doesn't have near the experience that Ray does. This book is also very very much about what gear you should purchase from your local outdoor store, which has made it age less than gracefully.
-------------------------------------------

Thanks man. One question. Isnt the BMP Lightweight Backpacking 101 "book" available here free as an article? I could swear I read that for free right here on the website a while back.

Of the books you mentioned, the only one I ever heard of was Ray Jardine's book. I looked on this site today and found one book that looked real interesting...a book written by RJ and some others about lightweight clothing and sleep systems in cold weather.

Vlad

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Recommended Reading (was: Ultra-light instruction at BSA National Jamboree?) on 10/30/2006 02:01:20 MST Print View

Previet Vlad, here's the article that you were referring to *LW Backpacking 101* (NOT even a "Members Only" article!!)

I haven't compared them side-by-side, but its contents may be the same as the print copy.

Perhaps(???) what was intended by a prev. post was the more recent, far more voluminous volume entitled LIGHTWEIGHT BACKPACKING AND CAMPING: A Field Guide to Wilderness Hiking Equipment, Technique, and Style

Edited by pj on 10/30/2006 02:04:07 MST.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
More reading... on 10/30/2006 13:58:21 MST Print View

Vlad,
If you haven't, check out the BPL Gearlist section, specifically:
Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer

Boy Scout Gear List: New Scouts, Three-Season

Dan Squires
(dsquires16) - F
Ultralight movement within scouting on 11/01/2006 10:59:03 MST Print View

I am presently an Assistant Scoutmaster with my son's troop in Texas. I concur that the BSA is slow to change concerning ultralight gear, but for good reason. Kids safety and well being is the primary concern for BSA here. For Ultralight to become more prevalent, it really needs acceptance and promotion within each individual troop. Certain high adventure bases may still frown upon certain gear choices, but this is often driven by safety/well being and liability concerns. That will change over time with the help the RJ and others are providing. When participating in backpacking trips that are not part of a high adventure base, you have more flexibility. Regarding my son's troop, we are fortunate to have a great group of involved parents who support the boys and really help them lead a good and very active scout troop. There have been some individuals and will likely always be some individuals who follow the equipment guidelines to the letter, and you may but heads with from time to time. Again, being involved with a local scout troop is the first step in promting ultralight within scouting. Every new scout and all the other scouts have questions regarding their personal backpacking gear. I always promote the ultralight philosiphy as much as I can. Cost is the factor here for many individuals. Some ultralight gear is just too costly for parents to outfit their growing scouts. But the philosiphy still works. Mulit-use gear, buy the lightest and best gear you can afford, make your own gear, always see where you can eliminate duplicate group type equipment, less is more, etc... Ultralight is a seed that is planted in the scouts minds early on and often sticks with them. I can tell you of several boys who after their first backpacking trip, really get the idea that the gear lists and such per the scout handbook, which is focused on safety, can be pretty heavy. Any when their parents insistst that they take entirely too many changes of clothes and all the non-essential extra "junk" that is just extra weight, they come to understand that dropping that extra stuff makes the trip all the more fun and enjoyable, without any real loss of comfort and safety. My primary goals on every trip I take is 1) safety and 2) fun - for the boys and myself.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
'My take' on Ultralight Scouting... on 11/01/2006 12:52:03 MST Print View

I'm in a similar situation to Dan in that I'm an ASM in the troop my younger brother (by 14 years) belongs to. However, I get lots of reception to pushing lightweight (not UL) backpacking / camping ideas to the boys in the troop.

One thing you may consider, Dan, is that simply going LW rather than truly UL will often times SAVE money compared to traditional backpacking equipment. You may already be in touch with this idea as you mentioned UL as a 'seed idea', I just figured it was worth mentioning.

Are Merino Base layers expensive? Yeah, unless you buy Duofold or another non-premium brand. Are titanium pots expensive? Yeah, but the GSI Hard-Anodized are nearly as lightweight, almost as durable and barely more expensive than 'standard' pots. You can get great gear at thrift stores. Who needs BIG waterproof gloves (most of the time) a decent pair of fleece Walmart gloves works. Why carry a crazy big / heavy / expensive sleeping bag when you can wear a fleece hoodie and insulated clothing while you sleep (Yes, I realize this goes against the 'safety' idea of not wearing your clothes to bed that Scouting promotes, however that 'rule' is base on the assumption that people are going to be wearing cotton baselayers). Tarps are way cheaper and lighter than fully enclosed tents, and nearly as weather resistant (as our boys proved to themselves when they got slammed by rain last campout :D )

Anyhow, as many have said, it begins with instilling ideas and ideals into the boys on a local level before National will make a huge change.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Jumpstaring Ultralight Scouting at the troop level on 11/01/2006 14:39:44 MST Print View

Two idears that I've had some success with:


  1. participate in the troop's weekend car camping activities but pack and camp as if you were a solo ultralighter. Take the time to show youth and adults the stuff. Be sure to pick weekends with awful weather.

  2. On those same kind of campouts, convince some folks to go lighter but pack another bag with some backup with the expectation that it'd be used only in a real emergency. That provides a way to ease folks into an expanded comfort zone.



My own growth in this area made good use of the second suggestion. Example, I was absolutely uncomfortable with the idea of using a smallish tarp (home made tarptent 1). So on a 5 day BWCAW canoe trip I used the TT1 but brought a solo tent as backup (this route had few portages and gear weight was a non-issue). After it poured cold rain the first three nights without my death I was a confirmed tarptenter.

Or you could join a troop which has no $$ resources and can only afford to cook in recycled cans and sleep under blue tarps. And, of course, you yourself will camp as more of a minimalist than you ask them to.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Picking a Weekend with Aweful Weather... on 11/01/2006 15:35:36 MST Print View

"participate in the troop's weekend car camping activities but pack and camp as if you were a solo ultralighter. Take the time to show youth and adults the stuff. <ins>Be sure to pick weekends with awful weather.</ins>"

This is NEVER a problem for our troop... out of the ~3 years we've been active, with a event every month (usually a campout, Dec is a public service month though) I think we've had ~3 nice weather campouts... the informal troop name is the "Rainmakers"... even if the forecast is beautiful, it will rain or get below freezing...

Curtis Ware
(ware_curtis) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Host a Backpack Camporee on 11/01/2006 21:08:48 MST Print View

My troop hosted a Backpackoree last October. We showed the LNT video Friday night and talked on LNT principles. Sat. we had round robin classes, lightweight backpacking (powerpoint courtesy gossomer gear), backpack cookery, backpacking hygiene, backpacking first aid, and geoscouting. After lunch we had a shakedown and troops left on a 2 mile trail with staions (games such as timed bear bag hanging...) Campmor, Rei, LNT, and local outfitters gave catalogs and prices for best backpack recipe. Some info on our troop web site http://troop10.scouter.net

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Jumpstaring Ultralight Scouting at the troop level on 11/01/2006 21:12:48 MST Print View

Change through example may be the most effective. I may not qualify as Ultralight, but at 22 lbs back pack weight (w/ food and 4 liters of water) on a recent weekend hike, I was the lightest, weighing in at about half the next lightest adult pack in the Troop.

The performance difference was pretty obvious, having to stop and wait periodically for the others, or just hike slower without sweating. I expect at least 1 of the 2 adults to start looking at much lighter options.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Jumpstaring Ultralight Scouting at the troop level on 11/01/2006 23:01:50 MST Print View

When I do BSA leader field clinics, I always swap packs with other leaders, so they know what it's like, carrying 15 or 20 pounds or whatever's in the pack.

"Teach by example" - yes, a great way to communicate. Jealousy is a powerful motivator! "Oh, man, I wish I was carrying THAT pack" they say!

The Backpackoree model is excellent. We've used that with good success here as well, especially since it can involve multiple troops.

Our Backpackoree "events" that promote lightweight backpacking include tarp pitching, alcohol stove building / timed cooking, speed contests for packing up camp fast, and physical fitness events conducted while wearing your pack.

Ken Spry
(spryken) - F

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Re: Jumpstaring Ultralight Scouting at the troop level on 11/02/2006 18:57:11 MST Print View

The only way to effect change will be to educate. The boys are usually open to this. They are learning the skills for the first time. The difficulty comes in educating the adult leaders. Typical responses include: that's not the way we did it as scouts, it costs too much, etc.

I agree that "Jealousy is a powerful motivator". The way to reach the leaders is by example.

I am an Assistant Scout Master, and I have seen Scout Leaders carrying close to 90 pound packs. No exaggeration. And a HORRIBLE example for his boys. This was a Christmas 50-miler.

Vlad, please decide to volunteer. We need more leaders who know what they are doing, and that can educate the ones who don't.