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Suggestions for ways to teach a ul course for scouts ?
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William Zila
(Ultralightwillinn.m) - MLife

Locale: Albuquerque
Suggestions for ways to teach a ul course for scouts ? on 05/03/2011 12:04:13 MDT Print View

As the crazy uler of our troop and spl my scoutmaster has asked me to teach a lightweight backpacking course of course I said yes I love blabbing about gear and philosophy to lighten the load on your back and elighten your outdoor experience so far I have taught one lessen we built a theoretical gear list for a 3 season 3 day trip that we will compare to one built after the course obviously I am going to go ove gear like tarp vs. Tent and insulations and all the items that aren't vs. Are needed keeping in mind my scouaster only gave me the go for a lightweigt course as most of the kids don't yet have all the outdoor experience to make the most of there surroundings and there gear although I would like to get them on a ul track so any ideas to make the lessons more fun something a little different then a lecture of down vs. Synthetics? thanks in advance
For ideas

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Lighten Up on 05/03/2011 20:18:05 MDT Print View

I think the book Lighten up by Don Ladigan w/illustrations by Mike C is good sound advise. Maybe not technical enough for many on here but I find nothing in it that is not good lightweight or UL advice it is easy to read and short enough that it could be covered, and makes you think why do I need anything more than what is the lightest item and do I really need to bring that. Mike C's new book may also be a good guide but I have not ordered it yet. Wow what an Idea to have poster size cartoons from Mike to help make scout presentations Hey Mike I think I should get a free copy of your book for that idea

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Pack demo backpacks, have people try them on and guess the weight on 05/03/2011 21:03:19 MDT Print View

Hi William,

One thing that worked well in our troop was packing three backpacks and have everyone walk around the building with each backpack. We actually invited the parents to it too. We made everyone guess the three weights and afterwards unpacked the backpacks on three tarps with packlists that showed for each item the weight. We had a pack with 14 lbs, a pack with 25 lbs and a pack with 46 lbs. Once they were unpacked you could see the three sleeping bags, the three tents, the three mess kits, etc. next to each other. Especially the parents were very surprised to see how it all adds up and how much of a difference their purchase decisions make. As a result many scouts got later a new lighter version of things they outgrew. Now I'm bringing a luggage scale to each outing and weigh every pack to let each scout know what he is carrying. Over time that has had a great effect on the scouts. They now strife to lighten their loads.


Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
UL Course on 05/12/2011 18:27:36 MDT Print View

I got a crew ready to go to Philmont a few years ago. I was especially concerned about the adults.

First, I gave a little intro. as to what going lightweight means and then showed the DVD Lighten Up produced by Gossamer Gear. Worth the 5 bucks. We then looked at different gear options such as down bags, tents, tarps, stoves, etc. comparing weights. I think I even had 3 packs ready to go. One quite traditional, one lighter and one even lighter.

Next, we had the troop pack for a trip. On that trip we had them take everything out of the pack and just questioned if they needed that item or if they could do without or find a dual use. We had that type of shakedown for each pre-hike. Worked well. I had a willing crew and willing adults. We had a great time and everyone took on the moniker of a "lightweight crew".


Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Suggestions for ways to teach a ul course for scouts ? on 05/13/2011 14:02:25 MDT Print View

I put on a few lighten-up seminars in IL. Even though it was geared toward scouts we also advertised it as a Emergency Preparedness workshop. Surprisingly a lot of older folks showed because of it. People were fascinated with water treatment, down quilts, Ziploc bag cooking with HEET (freeze dried will last 10+ years), and other backpacking skills.

What made it more fun and interesting is I brought my backpacking buddy who likes to hammock and then a traditional backpacker--- who will never change his ways also came. He goes first. At least he showed the basics: 5 lb 1st aid kit, 6 lb tent, 4 lb sleeping bag, 7 lb pack etc. Then my hammock buddy showed his stuff. He loves wood stoves and he talked about that a lot. In my presentation, I of course introduced tarp-type tents, alcy stoves, and other UL gadgets.

Usually scouts have been trained in isobutene and white gas stoves. But when they see the alcy stove they usually jump to that stove. They are surprised how light, easy, AND low cost it is.

I find it’s best to keep these seminars to an hour. Let them absorb all they saw. And if they like you they’ll invite you back for another hour for more info. I guess the bottom line is--- don’t dump all your knowledge out at once.

But my favorite results come when we go backpacking with the boys and almost half the dads and boys come in their open-toe sandals! I showed them the benefits in person and wala, they’re ready to backpack with my Teva’s. And my buddy’s favorite result is when about half the boys come with hammocks. And the boys love to create bunk bed hammocks; and sometimes they do tri-bed hammocks. Surprisingly we’ve never had a hammock accident yet.

Have fun with presentations.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Teaching lightweight to Scouts, Scouters, and parents on 05/29/2011 16:14:15 MDT Print View

"Lighten Up!" is amazingly good for getting lighter. I steal from that all the time, and I learn something new every time I read it. I just requested that our local public library add that, and they also go the new Mike Clelland book.

We had a "fifteen pound challenge" for a weekend campout. Shoot for a base weight of 15 pounds, have to have the ten essentials and a safe set of equipment (trash bags for shelter doesn't count), lightest pack gets a set of titanium tent pegs.

The Scouts should be teaching the Scouts. Get a couple of the boys converted, then stand back. One trip with a really light pack, and they'll be your best evangelists.

The Black Diamond Betamid is a good way to get guys started on light shelters. Bombproof, durable, easy to set up, lass than half the weight of a dome tent (2.25 pounds), and $99 ($79 on sale). Add a Gossamer Gear polycryo groundsheet for $8 and you are set. My son loves his.

Here is the presentation I've used with Scouters at our University of Scouting, feel free to re-use or steal any parts of it:

For parents, it is usually about fear. More worries, more gear. So you need to make it really, really clear that Scouting is a safe place for boys to make mistakes. That's when the learning happens. The boy leaders and adults are there as the safety net.

If your troop risk management needs an upgrade, do that first. Lightness is not free. Hint: you need two WFA-trained people on each outing.

Finally, pack weight equals gear plus skills. Skills don't weigh anything. Teach skills that make safer, lighter campers.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Alcohol Stoves on 05/29/2011 16:17:41 MDT Print View

The Guide to Safe Scouting forbids homemade stoves, so you can't use a Super Cat stove. Too bad, because those are Thrifty, but rules are rules, and the GSS is a really good set of rules.

Esbit stoves are allowed.

Timothy Hogan
(9fingers) - MLife

Locale: Pacific NW
re: Suggestions on 06/21/2011 09:51:20 MDT Print View

Great comments by all. William, I have a LW backpacking presentation that I've been working on that you're welcome to have. I can send it to you in Keynote (similar to powerpoint, for mac's), or pdf format- let me know. It will probably be less useful to you for putting on a presentation and more useful for general LW backpacking information.

Cheers, Tim Hogan/9fingers, Edmonds, WA

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Pack demo backpacks, have people try them on and guess the weight on 09/26/2011 12:14:15 MDT Print View

I love this idea. I'm telling the Patrol Leaders Council about this and I'm going to re-do my UL preso for leaders to work this way.

Nothing convinces like actually wearing the pack.

Pack on 09/26/2011 15:51:54 MDT Print View

Might be even better if they had to wear it and climb up and down a set of stairs a time or two.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Educating Philmont and Troop scouts on 10/11/2011 07:34:08 MDT Print View

We have 1/2 Philmont contingent getting ready for this summer, and I am working to inform them of UL backpacking. We are part of a 3 crew contingent and I have been asked to present UL to the whole gang of scouts and advisors. I intend to work with our 4 scouts first, then have them assist me with the rest of the Philmont crews. After that I hope we can get these scouts to present UL to the scouts in our troop.

Scouts teaching scouts is always our goal. Likewise, any ideas are welcome.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
Educating Philmont and Troop Scouts on 10/11/2011 08:15:37 MDT Print View

Buy a scale!!!!
One of the simpliest and most 'in your face' ways to look at packing. You can pick up a digital postal scale for about $30 at Staples or similar place.
A 5 pound scale is more than adequate.
Light weight is also usually easier on the wallet. (Ultra light or SUL is another story!)
Light weight usually is as simple as less stuff, more thougth out.

going heavy on 10/12/2011 18:39:33 MDT Print View

It costs a lot of money to go to Philmont for lots of scout troops. Transportation alone can be several hundred dollars each, on top of the Philmont and miscellaneous gear costs each scout has. The cost can reach $2000 without $$$ new gear. To keep it affordable, and even have enough boys to make a crew, some troops encourage boys to use what they already have if it is serviceable.

Its not necessarily born out of ignorance, but often I think necessity plays a big role.


Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Light can be cheap on 10/13/2011 07:12:51 MDT Print View

Light doesn't necessarily mean titanium...

For example, even if one doesn't switch the boys over to pure bag-cooking and eating, one can make ultralight bowl/cups with margarine containers and reflectix cozies. The reflectix isn't free, but the margarine and cool whip containers sort of are.

Tyvek ground sheets are cheap, if the troop buys some at Home Depot and makes what you need from them.

Crystal Geyser (whatever) water bottles are very inexpensive once you reuse them, and weigh only a fraction of what an $8 nalgene does.

My point being, going low budget doesn't have to mean going heavy in every case.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Pack demo backpacks, have people try them on and guess the weight on 01/10/2012 14:07:49 MST Print View

I used the "light pack, heavy pack" method with a mixed group of Scouts and Scouters last Saturday and it was great.

I packed two packs, one the way I packed five years ago, and one the way I pack now. They were equally prepared for a weekend. I didn't weigh them, but they light one was obviously lighter.

I had people try them on and explained that the two packs were equivalent in everything. The only change is choices between equivalent gear.

While people were trying on the packs, I explained that skills and planning don't weigh anything, but can save a lot when you choose gear. Fear is heavy, ignorance is heavy, "just in case" is heavy. I showed them my scale (the most important equipment), and talked about the method of weighing everything, lightening the heaviest items first, and the big three.

Then I had two people unpack the packs and lay everything out in two parallel lines. I didn't worry about matching up items.

Then we went through the items, picking one from one line and the matching item from the other line, and discussion the gear choice between them and the skills or planning that supported it. I also took questions about that kind of gear, e.g. down vs. synthetic. For example, the light pack had one fleece jacket, and I explained that I'd weighed them and this was my lightest mid-weight jacket. The heavy pack had my heaviest fleece jacket plus a PrimaLoft vest, just in case.

I talked about the packs last, so I could explain how smaller lighter gear meant a smaller lighter pack, and that more skill in packing allowed a less rigid (and lighter) pack design.

Finally, I strongly recommended Don Ladigan's "Lighten Up!" book.

All done in under 50 minutes, with plenty of time for questions.

Edited by wunder on 01/10/2012 14:12:31 MST.

David B
(FunnyBizness) - F
My failed and not-failed attempts on 01/10/2012 16:36:33 MST Print View

I have been on every backpacking trip our 4 year old troop has done.

Failure: Before every backpacking trip, a week or two before, me and an ASM try talking to the scouts about gear: what to bring, what not to bring, how to go light. The "what to bring" part helps the scouts meet minimal gear requirements (nobody thinks about TP their first time out). The "go light" part seems to have no noticeable effect.

Not-Failure: I carry a large, heavy duty trash bag. About a mile into the trip when we take a break, I pull out the bag and let the scouts stash any gear they don't want to carry any more until the trip is over. This has a noticeable effect.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Pack demo backpacks, have people try them on and guess the weight on 01/10/2012 17:54:39 MST Print View

I take time (5 to 10 min) at each Court of Honor to discuss the same thing as Walter but I break it down to specific piece of gear i.e., clothing, cooking, essentials, etc.
Bringing the regular stuff and the lightweight options. This keeps it in the forefront of everyone mind and the parents get to see what and why. The mothers then tend to remind the scouts while they are packing.

I originally did what Walter did but also had the SUL option so they could see that lightweight isn't the "fringe" but just a smarter way to go mainstream. I didn't take long for most to see that Lightweight wasn't hard to accomplish.
The hardest to make the change are the adults, its hard to make a change for some people regardless if its good for them or not.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Competition - Be the Biggest Loser on 01/10/2012 18:26:28 MST Print View

One thing that worked wonders for our Philmont crew last year was a competition for being the "Biggest Loser".

Here is how it works: Everyone filled out their packlist for our first preparation hike with detailed brand/model information for every item. I brought a luggage scale to the outing and weighed each backpack to get a baseline (the scouts didn't know this upfront). Afterwards I put all information into a spreadsheet that was made available online to all participants (and their parents) and left open fields behind each item for its weight.

The competetion ran in three categories for over half a year until we left for Philmont.
1) Lowest overall pack weight
2) Biggest relative weight loss in your base weight
3) Most precise weighing

The scouts had a blast getting lighter and lighter. Whenever someone discovered a new way to lighten his load and showed up to our next prep hike with a lighter pack, everyone would look into how he did it and often copy it. The scouts would publish the model and weight of each item in their pack before each prep hike and I would weigh their packs.

The difference between the sum of their entries in their spreadsheet and my scale was the "precision". Once they stopped putting last minute items into their packs that were not in the spreadsheet, they got pretty close. The winner was within 1 oz at the end of the competition (and I believe each mom has now a kitchen scale that can weigh 1/10 oz). The total pack weight went every time down. Sometimes in big steps (for example when some scouts changed from heavy double walled tents to tarp tents) - sometimes in small steps (for example when they let go of their heavy big Leatherman and took a small Swiss Army knife). The final weights were between 12 lbs and 18 lbs for the trip to Philmont. The relative weight loss was in general over 50%.

This competition with its three prizes achieved somehow way more than the lessons about lighweight gear we gave before our first prep hike.

Best Regards,


Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Competition - Be the Biggest Loser on 01/11/2012 09:22:46 MST Print View

I'm going to add some of these ideas to my dissertation.