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Critique my University of Scouting dissertation draft
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Critique my University of Scouting dissertation draft on 11/30/2011 21:01:55 MST Print View

UPDATE: See this thread on the finished paper now instead of this one here. The draft is no longer my "gear list".


I uploaded my first draft of my thesis on Lightweight Backpacking and would like you all to rip it apart. You can find it on my profile as my "gear list". I'm not so concerned about spelling and grammar since I just wrote it out as it came to mind and haven't done a lot of editing yet. I'm mostly concerned about content before I do start some of the finishing work.

What more should I add? I didn't want to write a book, but I don't want to leave out critical info either.

Are any pictures really required?

Anything you disagree with (or maybe I typo'd)? Please note the parameters, too - Midwest trip in above freezing temps - another attempt to keep it simple and manageable.

Please tell me how I can improve this. Thank you!

Edited by topshot on 01/09/2012 14:08:00 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Looks Good on 11/30/2011 21:58:27 MST Print View

Looks very impressive. I'll add more thoughts later. I'm thinking mainly of how to present it in a way thats attractive. It seems to me that someone who's succesfully hiked with traditional gear is going to be a bit skeptical of someone who suggest they change everything. They might be willing to consider dropping some weight (especially for a smaller kid) but might be resistant to a radical do-over. Of course on the other hand there's no point in reading twenty pages and spending a chunk of money to drop 2 pounds off a 40 pound packweight so balance is the key.
Overall I like what you've got. Would pictures or diagrams be appropriate?

Erik Basil
(EBasil)

Locale: Atzlan
More coming on 12/01/2011 07:09:25 MST Print View

I just downloaded the PDF and will comment further, but here are a few to start:

--Yes, I think images and graphics are particularly useful.
--Where you refer to products, such as the reference to gaiters, I suggest you indicate an end-note, and use that to define the item and then perhaps reference particular brands or models. Folks not familiar with the product will appreciate such things.
--This level of effort will be of value to Scouts far beyond Indiana, Mr. Music Man. Consider a geographically-broad version for "donation" to BPL, like Doug Prosser's great article that's linked off the front page and can be linked off of your Troop, District or Council site.

YIS, Erik Basil

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: More coming on 12/01/2011 08:47:55 MST Print View

I look forward to your extended thoughts.

My only problem with images is I don't want to just copy from everywhere else. Mike C's would be perfect for this type of document, for example. Let em know where you think pix would be particularly useful if there are specific sections.

If it wasn't obvious, I'm focusing on gear rather than technique. Where it seemed appropriate I added in some usage tips. I suppose I should add in some more since I specifically mention needing to know how to use the gear, but that could easily add several pages.

As for the references to specific brands or gear, I tried to limit that since things change so much and models disappear. I was thinking for the gear list appendix that I'd have at least some of the relevant gear makers URLs so the reader could find more info. Speaking of the gear list, I've been waffling back and forth on whether to just list pertinent items at the end of each chapter rather than at the very end.

One of the other reasons I limited it geographically was I have a lot of knowledge from being at BPL the past 2.5 years but not a lot of experience yet and none when it comes to Scouting because I can't get the troop to leave car camping yet. Thus, I wrote what seemed like common sense based on all I've read from various people associated with BPL in some form. I would welcome collaborating with others to extend this to include how things might change for mountains, desert, rain forest, etc. once I'm done with my official dissertation.

This will be available on my council's site. If Addie would want to add it here, that is fine. I don't know where it would fit beside Doug's fine articles.

Oh, if anyone has a catchier title, that would be nice. I actually like "Pack less and do more" but that seemed too close to BPL's tagline.

Bruce Tolley
(btolley) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
University of Scouting dissertation on 12/02/2011 15:42:47 MST Print View

Great stuff,

I would think a bit more on who your audience is, the scouters leading trips or the scouts. I am not sure it is possible to address to the two different audiences in the same "dissertation."

In my local council, the goal of high adventure training is to prepare the leaders to put together safe and fun trips.

You state" Clearly the main objective of lightweight backpacking is to carry less weight without sacrificing safety or much comfort."

I would augment this for the scout leaders. If the packs are lighter, the scouts (and scouters) are less tired and have more fun and are safer.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: University of Scouting dissertation on 12/02/2011 16:22:08 MST Print View

> I would think a bit more on who your audience is, the scouters leading trips or the scouts. I am not sure it is possible to address to the two different audiences in the same "dissertation."

Could you expound on why you think this? The gear for both would be very similar though Scouters can put more money into it, of course. I also noted a few spots where the gear may be different. I can make it more obvious (see 3rd paragraph of Intro) perhaps? Or are you saying I've left out too many details (dumbed it down)?

This will not be read by many Scouts (in my council at least) so the main audience is Scouters (again to hopefully pass it down to their troops/crews).

> I would augment this for the scout leaders. If the packs are lighter, the scouts (and scouters) are less tired and have more fun and are safer.

So more obvious than the 2nd paragraph of Chap 1?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
Lots of thoughts on 12/02/2011 18:00:35 MST Print View

I have some hopefully constructive feedback. Most of what you wrote reads well; I'm just pointing out the things that stood out to me. I also have a title suggestion, as requested--it's the "lighter" version of your original: Backpacking: Smart, Fun, & Light

Abstract: Finish last paragraph more strongly. The first two sentences of the last paragraph are great; could you make a connection to building fine young men who also use their heads to make informed decisions?

Introduction: Grandma Gatewood is a good start, and may be new to many readers, but she is used really often in this “intro to lightweight hiking” type of article/essay. Do YOU have any personal anecdotes?

End of Chapter 2, last paragraph: “it may be necessary to pre-tape them.” I don’t think most Scouts/Scouters are aware of Leukotape or technique—they might think of moleskin—and may be confused by the reference. *I see your clear duct-tape suggestion later in the article.

Chapter 5: Use proper notation for length (3’x6’), temperature (degrees F), etc. Explain what a CCF pad is before using the acronym, or just say “closed cell foam.” Sleeping bag section could be condensed and/or include a paragraph break.

Chapter 6: Kitchen, Food, and Water: Could you break this up into a slightly condensed summary of gear and technique followed by another section or chapter that presents techniques in a chronological order? I’m envisioning a Part One: Camp and Kitchen Gear, and Part Two: Evening and Morning Routines. I think the second part would be of greater use once on the trail. How do we apply the gear and technique in a timely manner using the patrol method? This would be a major change, but you might at least consider breaking up or condensing the chapter in another way to make it less wordy—lots of good info in there though.

What not to take: Yes, this is controversial especially with institutions like Scouts. You have a pretty good list. Not too much rationale on the headlamp though. I find Scouts have a hard time not blinding themselves or their cohorts with them during conversation, and they impede night vision more than a light held at the waist (could be a headlamp…). On the other hand, they are harder to drop in the bushes since they are attached to the head. Also, one multitool per group (carried by a Scouter?) could be useful if the stove, frame packs, poled tents, fishing hooks/gear etc. require it, otherwise be sure you include specific items in the repair kit.

General: Punctuation goes inside quotations. “Like this.” Any time you are thinking (or writing) that a topic is outside the scope of the paper, consider adding a footnote or endnote to make the main body of the text more concise.

Your audience is Scouters. How can they empower the boys to make these decisions? What are the first steps to inspiration and implementation? Again, closing with a personal anecdote or experiences might be helpful.


This is a great draft and your enthusiasm shows in your writing.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Lots of thoughts on 12/02/2011 18:53:49 MST Print View

> Do YOU have any personal anecdotes?

Not really. I started light almost 3 years ago since I found this site. Gatewood was the best example of lightweight backpacking not being a new idea that I could recall. I really didn't know much about her until I decided to look her up. Pretty amazing.

I should have included the CCF abbrev the first time I used it a couple sentences earlier.

I was trying to stay away from technique as I said above but evening/morning routines may be a good one to expand on. However, as I also said in a post above, I have no practical experience with Scouts since my troop isn't doing this yet. I could just do common sense though.

> one multitool per group (carried by a Scouter?) could be useful

I guess I somehow deleted that. I was pretty sure I had that in the troop repair kit at one time. I guess that answers my WHAT ELSE? comment. LOL

I see I did mess up my punctuation at times. See what 4 years of honors English gets you? Of course, that was a while ago. :) But I also haven't proofread it yet.

Edited by topshot on 12/02/2011 18:56:25 MST.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Before Grandma Gatewood on 12/03/2011 00:01:47 MST Print View

Nessmuk and Horace Kephart are both well before Grandma Gatewood. I have a couple of quotes that I used in my lightweight course before I cut it down. Kephart carefully documents his lightweight kit.

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home…
— Nessmuk (George Washington Sears), 1884

This is the hardest problem in outfitting. To equip a pedestrian with shelter, bedding, utensils, food, and other necessities, in a pack so light and small that he can carry it without overstrain, is a fine art.
— Horace Kephart, 1916

Edited by wunder on 12/03/2011 00:03:37 MST.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Lots of thoughts on 12/04/2011 16:52:09 MST Print View

Hmm, a multitool "could be useful"? That means "leave it at home". If you don't have a planned use for it or a known risk that it addresses, leave it at home.

I've spent hundreds of nights camping and I can't think of a time that I needed a multitool. That includes a few equipment repairs, like reattaching a hipbelt to an internal frame pack.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Critique my University of Scouting dissertation draft on 12/12/2011 11:50:40 MST Print View

Any other comments (aside from Walter who is emailing instead)?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
My thoughts on 12/12/2011 13:06:54 MST Print View

Broad thoughts
I like your content but I think it might be good to make lightweight backpackign more attractive before going into specifics.
There are two extremes when people look at UL backpacking and don't think its for them.
1. Some say "Well sure that tent is a bit lighter but whats the difference between carrying 38 pounds and 40 pounds?" In other words they don't think going light will make enough difference to be worthe the trouble.
2. On the other extreme people see someone with a tiny little SUL pack and think thats way too extreme for them. When I first read about “going light” on Golite.com the overall tone of it made me feel like they were promoting a new religion not giving me a few backpacking tips. I remember thinking “Yeah it would be nice to lighten my pack a bit but this is extreme.” Maybe I over-reacted but I wasn’t yet interested in changing my whole approach to backpacking and “ultra light” sounded like something adventure racers would do not ordinary mortals like me.


You want to tell people that going lighter is much more fun and it's easy; they don’t have to change everything about the way they backpack.

You might give a list of what you are NOT going to do

1. First your approach is not a suffer-fest. You will not compromise on staying warm, staying sheltered and getting enough to eat.
2. You are not going to be buying super expensive gear.
3. You will not be buy super fragile gear.
4. You do not have to learn exotic wilderness skills in order to have a lighter pack.


Sleeping Bags Section
Might mention that the new European rating system is more accurate.

Ten Essentials Section
I highly doubt an entire scouting group is going to get into a survival situation together, although injuries are always a possibility. I would guess a more likely and more dangerous situation would be one or two scouts getting separated. Here are a couple things I’ve done with my little brother. I made sure he had a knife, a firestarter, space blanket, emergency poncho and whistle ON HIS PERSON. If for some weird reason he’d gotten separated from me and his pack he had some basic survival gear to get him through a cold night and a whistle for signaling. Just as important it might have helped him not panic. I don’t know if that would be a good idea or not for scouts but I like the idea of everyone having basic survival gear in their pockets.

Erik Basil
(EBasil)

Locale: Atzlan
Great comments, but PM no worky on 12/12/2011 13:39:31 MST Print View

Mike,
I received your PM, but cannot reply to it. You've reminded me I did a markup and if you email me at AOl as EBasil... I'll zap back at'cha.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Critique my University of Scouting dissertation draft on 01/02/2012 20:48:11 MST Print View

Just uploaded the most recent rev of this for any last minute comments. Just need to finish the appendices. Would like a better Abstract, too, but that's a minor quibble.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Lots of thoughts on 01/02/2012 21:08:15 MST Print View

I can't think of a time that I needed a multitool. That includes a few equipment repairs, like reattaching a hipbelt to an internal frame pack.

So have I (someone else's pack) ... and my fingers did heal in a week or two ... and the job took twice as long as when I did similar with a multi-tool (time during which I was unable to hike!)

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Critique my University of Scouting dissertation draft on 01/11/2012 09:27:41 MST Print View

It has been accepted, but they said it was fine if there were things I wanted to add so any last minute critiques are welcome! The PDF is now here.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
everybody has an opinion! on 01/13/2012 21:27:01 MST Print View

and everyone is entitled to my opinion.

I would give the paper an "A", but I personally disagree with a few items. No big deal, just personal preference.

I consider tents with zip up bug nets essential in country where West Nile Virus mosquitoes are present. If you choose to run that risk yourself, fine, but don't run that risk with other people's kids. Tarptent makes from great tarp based tents, with floors and bug netting.

ground cloth: not needed if you have a tarp tent. Footprint not needed either.

pillow - not needed
towel - not needed
bandana - not needed
carabiner - are you kidding me? I hook about 3 of the tiny keyring type biners on my pack, to hang my crocs from or something, but not a full size carabiner.

wind layer and rain layer. Wind layer not needed if you have a rain coat.

Ponchos are so impractical I would not recommend then to protect someone elses kid from getting wet, hypothermic, and dead. There is cheap, and there is stupid.

reflector for stove - not needed.

odorproof bag - not needed in any bear country I've been in

1/4" nylon cord - I use 150 pound test woven dacron fishing line. You can take a lot more of it, its much less bulky, and its plenty strong enough to hang a pack from a tree.

Aqua Mira "preferred"? The convenience of instant water when you are dying of thirst make a water filter worth it to me. The MSR hyperflow if pretty light. Having had a hiking partner get sick with giardia, I would not risk it with scouts.

UV water treatment is crap. When you need them the batteries are dead or there is a lot of turbidity in the water. Junk in my book.

index card with scouts medical information? really? you have that much time on your hands when leading a scout trip? I don't.

folding saw - is pretty handy when camping where a fire is allowed. It adds a lot of atmosphere to the camp.

pack cover - way worth it to me.

brimmed hat - a bill hat is fine with me.

cooking gear - for adults I would heartily recommend the Caldera Cone, which comes with an alcohol stove, and I take an outback oven for my own luxuries: bisquits, cornbread, pizza, brownies. for scouts, canister stoves all the way.

scouts using a Swiss Army classic. smart, sufficient, but they LOVE knifes. I can't deprive them of their greatest joy. I at least try to steer them to a lockback knife. For me, I take a Mora knife.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
troops in rescue situations on 01/13/2012 21:34:54 MST Print View

"I highly doubt an entire scouting group is going to get into a survival situation together"

Except that scout troops are led by guys trying to be helpful but not having much experience. I was involved in a mountain rescue mission involving a whole scout troop. They had rain for about 2 days, everybody and everything got wet, and they decided to make a run for it. They left their gear, and headed up the trail, basically every man for himself. We got one kid to the hospital with a temperature of 94 F and headed back to find others. When talking to a kid in a car, he said that there were two scouts behind him. We checked around in other cars, and they had not shown up, and were unaccounted for. They would be dead, but they walked out to a different trail head.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re troops in rescue situation on 01/13/2012 21:41:27 MST Print View

Ouch Bob thats sounds like a bad situation. They left their gear?!?!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: troops in rescue situations on 01/13/2012 23:56:01 MST Print View

>"I highly doubt an entire scouting group is going to get into a survival situation together"

I'm not sure if that thought came from the essay or the from another poster, but I agree with Bob, Scout groups can get in trouble. I was a serious caver for a number of years and have reviewed all the caving accidents every year since. There's a certain flavor of a scout trip gone wrong versus "spelunkers" (what cavers call unexperienced people) versus cavers from an NSS Grotto.

The NSS cavers are much, much likely to self-rescue despite being on more expeditionary trips.

The spelunkers are much more likely to have very substandard equipment (less than a light per person versus cavers with three per person, etc, etc), no experience, and often with sex, drugs and rock&roll involved.

The Scout groups, as Bob mentioned, can be lead by someone who had a half-baked idea and with completely good intentions leads another father and 8 boys when really, that guy should have gotten much more experience first, himself, so he could pick a more reasonable first effort. Then when things start to go wrong - rising water, a stuck kid, overdue, lights giving out, etc - as a group they don't have the reserves of a caving group - a group that goes out regularly splits up rescue gear, knows each other's limits and agrees above all they need to remain safe.

Obviously in my sampling, I only see the scouting trips gone bad, but from my own scouting days, without some depth in your outer Scouts, boys who are have more strength, experience and judgement, you can end up needing to both babysit and conduct some sort of self-rescue. That's tough. With, say Scouts of 16, 16, 17, 17 and a JASM of 18 who have all camped and BPed together for 4-5, you can reasonsibly tackle more ambitious trips with some 13-14 year olds along. But a lot of troops don't have that "deep bench" and need, IMO, to take small steps to build that depth.

But I'll also note that I see the same patterns in some of the Scouting groups described in "Death in the Canyon". Again, obviously, these are worst outcomes of the worst-planned trips. And thousands of Scouts have had poor, good, and great trips in GCNP without any deaths. But again, I see where one mover and shaker can get a party of 10 WAY over their heads, in a way that if you had a group of 8-10 adult participants, someone would have said, "Woah, let's reconsider" before things got so dire.