Podcast: Is National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Ready to Go Light?

Senior NOLS instructors discuss the major hurdles to NOLS going light and propose solutions.

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by Carol Crooker | 2007-04-11 03:00:00-06

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NOLS is Ready to Go Light - 1
NOLS instructors and Backpacking Light staff enjoy dinner and sunset on a three-day lightweight backpacking seminar in Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

Introduction

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has an over 40 year tradition of "heavy weight" backpacking. Founded in 1965 by Outward Bound instructor, Paul Petzoldt, NOLS prides itself on being a leader in the outdoor education field. With lighter loads increasingly becoming the industry standard, NOLS launched its first "Light & Fast Backpacking" course out of Wyoming in fall 2006 in partnership with Backpacking Light and GoLite. NOLS leadership has also mandated lower initial pack weights (40 pounds) for its Rocky Mountain backpacking courses as of 2008. Forty pounds may not sound that light, but it is a huge improvement over the typical 60 pound loads students start courses with now. Pack weights include instructional material to support continuing education credits and an extensive kitchen to create the culinary masterpieces NOLS is known for.

The NOLS commitment to going lighter has been justified by the near immediate filling of four Light & Fast courses out of Wyoming for 2007.

In late March 2007, four Backpacking Light staff and a GoLite representative spent three days with ten NOLS instructors in a lightweight backpacking seminar hosted by NOLS Southwest. (NOLS Southwest has hopes to get approval for another lightweight course to be held out of Arizona in 2008.) At the start of the seminar the NOLS instructors were cautiously interested in lightening student (and instructor) pack weights but expressed reservations about gear durability, cost of switching to lighter gear, how/if lighter pack weights would still support the NOLS instructional goals and, very importantly, how delicious meals like fried pasta and cheese currently prepared in the nearly 2 pound "fry/bake" pan would fit into a lightweight culture.

In this podcast, I talk to NOLS instructors in the field and then back at NOLS Southwest after they've spent some time hiking with light packs about the hurdles for NOLS to go to lighter weight packs overall and to run a lightweight course. Ryan Hutchins-Cabibi, lead NOLS instructor for the seminar, talks about the overall issues. Scott Christy gets more indepth about gear durability, Lindsay Nohl (NOLS SW Assistant Director and NOLS instructor) addresses cost factors, Iris Saxer and Ashley Wise (NOLS SW Program Supervisor and NOLS instructor) discuss gear durability, and Stephen Brutger gets poetic about the importance of good food when you live in the field for a month with no zero days in town to satisfy your cravings.


Citation

"Podcast: Is National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Ready to Go Light?," by Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/podcast_031807_NOLS_lightweight_hurdles.html, 2007-04-11 03:00:00-06.

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Is National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Ready to Go Light?
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Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Shawn, NOLS gear? on 04/12/2007 11:48:55 MDT Print View

Thanks for clarifying the kitchen weight Shawn. I don't think we have met, but I appreciate your insights.
To update this a bit more,
cook groups are four person in general. We are looking at what a change there would do to lower weights. A cook group on a standard hiking course carries 1 3-4 liter pot, 1 frybake, 1 whisperlite stove, 4 33 oz fuel bottles, a spatula, pot grips that are way to heavy ( we find there are fewer burns if students use pot grips), a large spice kit, and obviously food, which is about 1.5 #/person/day.

First aid kits are no longer in tupperware, ground air radios are not being used except in specific locations, but the3 other stuff is all still there.

Yes - spice kits are over done. I think we could get away with one per course. Instructors are being encouraged to do that, or to simply down size the kit and have additions sent in at a reration.

I ageree about taking a frybake and having a less heavy pot!

The Gulch is lookinig at it's systems right now. I doubt we will ever go to freeze dried meals or even completely to boil in a bag meals as was explained in the podcast. But I am confident something will happen.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: NOLS frybake on 04/12/2007 11:53:19 MDT Print View

Sarah, please remember that we are talking about two things here- the lightweight courses which are already happening (and don't bring a frybake) and standard NOLS hiking courses where cooking is a major part of the curriculum. These courses will never be UL, and that is not our goal, our goal is to simply lower pack weights. FWIW a 60 lb pack causes my back to scream too.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
lightening NOLS with Outward Bound techniques on 04/12/2007 12:13:32 MDT Print View

The NOLS instructors I worked with at Outward Bound (there is
some crossover, OB tends to pay better) typically had 45 lbs packs themselves. This included books and climbing rack, helmet, ice axe, first aid etc. And this was in the 80's and 90's before silnylon tarps etc. and with a weeks work of bulk issue food. There must be a lot of gear extra they have
to bring on a NOLS course.

My work pack, a 30 old Lowe, weighed 4.5 lbs and lasted
for 15 years of full time instructing. It was just pack
cloth and cordura. I have a durable and slightly smaller
NZ made Ravine that weighs under 3.5 lbs now too.

There is 'bout 4 lbs lost in just the pack and no loss in function, size, comfort or durability.

As for student groups-

NOLS uses cook groups of 3, OB cook groups of 10,
at least one less set of cook gear for OB style.

NOLS Thelma Fly 200d oxford light coat weight 3.5 lbs for 3 people.
OB Group Tarp 70d heavy coat 3 lbs for 5 people.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Ryan, 8000 mile pack;4lbs on 04/12/2007 12:22:15 MDT Print View

Shane,
We are looking into this exact idea.

Again to clarify, on the lightweight course which is 14 days and a bit over $3k, the students DO buy all that gear and then some. A standard 30 day course, which on average is 100-120$/day (so a bit over 3k) does not do this (yet), nor does a 90 day semester with 3-4 different skill sections, or the new 180 day academic year programs.

Although our client/students in general come from upper middle to upper class backgrounds, we are trying very hard to make the courses accessable to more diverse populations. We offer a multitude of scholarships, and provide gear to those students rent free. If we gave them light gear that other were buying, our scholarships would have less reach. We are however working with companies to try to do this. We want to avoid having the folks who paid full boat have all the nice light gear and packs and the scholarship students get hosed with heavy stuff.

You are absolutely right that it makes sense (at least to me it does)

We started the discussion with BPL and Golite last year. We have made great strides since then, and continue to move forward. I realize that it can be hard to wrap your head around what we do out there (ask Andrew Skurka!) but it is way more than just recreational hiking that most people do.

I need to point out that the title of this forum is a bit misleading.

"Is NOLS ready to go light?"

YES! We are ready. we are already moving towards it on many different levels. Will major change take time? Of course. It's not going to happen over night. There are a multitude of bigger picture issues that need to be addressed along the way. Is the whole school going to only teach UL techniques on every course? No, probably not, and certainly not in the next 2-3 years. But how many of us went from a traditional backpacking weight to UL or SUL over night?

To the obvious question of why hasn't NOLS done something like this already? I don't have all the answers, but I think it comes down to knowing what works well for our courses and not seeing lighter weight replacements until recently, that might work. We are looking into selling students all the gear for thier courses but we need to balance the cost effectiveness for them and for the school.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Ryan, 8000 mile pack;4lbs on 04/12/2007 12:54:24 MDT Print View

"To the obvious question of why hasn't NOLS done something like this already?"

I would offer one idea from my personal experience. The people who buy gear for NOLS, set NOLS accepted field policies (NAFP's), and make liaison with potential students are NOT the people in the field. They all have had an NOLS field experience at some point, but for many this was 20 years ago.

My experience with this disconnect looks like:

Students showed up for a course with a 5 pound pair of boots, when there are SO many 3 pound pairs that would do the trick. Why? Folks sitting in an office in Lander, who honestly don't know what modern gear is available insisted that students "need" heavy boots for a course.

Packs that weigh five pounds were shunted off as "too small". Students were told they will NOT be acceptable, and they should simply rent.

Many were told their down bag may not be allowed and that a 4-pound synthetic bag was the way to go.

West Nile Virus caused the school to mandate full enclosed mesh tents for all courses in the Wind River range and Absarokas. Full tents, and bombproof ones at that, mean heavier packs and instructors can to nothing about this field policy.

As an instructor team, WE were (in theory) the final arbiters. Is was OUR responsibility first and foremost for our students welfare. But the school pays a fortune in liability insurance any way (Two students' tuition paid for the entire instructor team, while the other 10-12 students' tuition went to "overhead", which supposedly was insurance in a large part). And when the student arrived with ancient heavy gear, it was too late for us to intervene.

Instructors have made MANY efforts to lighten gear for close to a decade. But they were largely shut out of the selection process in the past. The folks who make the big decisions for the school have more often than not led a group in the field in 5-10 years. At least this was my experience in the 2001-2003 timeframe that I was associated with NOLS.

THIS is why I have real doubts about a one-year turnaround to 40 pound packs. I just remember too much institutional inertia to listen to field staff.

Edited by Bearpaw on 04/12/2007 12:55:05 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ryan, 8000 mile pack;4lbs on 04/12/2007 14:06:24 MDT Print View

Shawn, you make some good points.

The 40# initiative came from the branch level (and from the pushes that you speak of from Instructors). I think there IS a large amount of disconnect above the branch level, at the same time, the school as a whole does support this iniative, at least in word so far (budgets are being decided for Fy 2008 as we speak).
As a school we try to buy gear in larger quantities to get a better price break, that may be changing as different branches realise that what works in the SW may not in Alaska. I think this is key to making major changes. The 40# initiative has been in play since spring of 2006, so it is actually a two year plan and initially only at the Rocky Mountain location, though the SW is going forward with it as well.

We had good success last summer lowering pack weights to around 45-50 lbs, while still using the "traditional" NOLS gear, so I think another 5-10 can happen by next year. Particularly if the initiative remains a major part of briefings for Instructor teams. I guess time will tell.

There certainly is a lot of institutional inertia to overcome, that is part of being a big organization. My hope is that we shift the inertia from where it has traditionally been to a lighter weight focus.

An example of this happening is that both the Rocky Mountain and SW branches are offering fully subsidized seminars for instructors to learn the techniques involved. They are doing this despite the seminars not making it into the budget cycle for this (2007) year. I think this shows a great commitment. Next year the Seminars will be budgeted and hopefully each branch will offer one.

FYI the rocky mountain seminar starts today and Ryan Jordan and Coop from GoLite are up there as I type.

That should equate to 20 instructors that are bought into the concept and ready to start lowering pack weights on courses they work. In addition, 6 folks from NOLS rocky mountain were involved in the exploretory process in the spring of 2006, one of whom is the Assistant Director of the Rocky mountain branch and one who is the Director of the SW branch, the rest were program supervisors who will be briefing every instructor team that comes through the branch.

In the last two days I have given clinics to an Instructor course (3 Instructors, and 15 future instructors) as well as a Gila backpacking course (3 Instructors, 15 students). Everyone was excited to see this happening.

That totals almost 50 folks (or ~10%) of the working (worked a course in the past 2 years) instructor pool who have been introduced to these concepts now. A lot of these people are senior staff and are course leading courses. This means thay will be able to share the light with junior staff.

Is the 2008 goal ambitious? Yes I think it is. But we set it as an amitious goal to force the issue. And the goal was set by the rocky mountain leadership, not by instructors.

I'm not sure what you are up to these days, but coming back to work a course one summer would be awesome, you have obviously been doing a lot of personal UL stuff, and I am sure we could learn a lot from you and you could help spread the word.

I have been working for the school for eight years now, and I can honestly say that this is the most exciting thing that I have seen happening, pedagogy wise, at the school in that time.

We need to keep the momentum going to make it happen, and I am committed to making that happen. I know I am only one Instructor, but there are others that feel the same way, including many Branch directors (I know this because my wife is the SW director and has been championing this at the Branch director meetings that are happening right now).

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Is National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Ready to Go Light? on 04/12/2007 14:12:44 MDT Print View

On 4/12/2007 10:39:53 MDT Sam Haraldson wrote:

"One of the main purposes of NOLS is to teach students the art of being a guide, yes? As a guide it will often be your responsibility to carry extra cooking equipment and such luxuries as a spice rack because that's why people hire guides usually.

Granted, NOLS is most certainly able to reduce their gear weights required by students but it won't be at the cost of some spices or their bulk food system. I think refinements in this area would be extremely helpful to them however."

I think guide in the broad sense of the term. Outdoor leader for sure, and in the bigger picture, Leaders in general.

I agree that guides/leaders are often responsible for carrying more.

I agree that refinements of the spice kit and the bulk food system will help a lot. I for one will likely never carry the full NOLS spice kit into the field again, and I will trim it down significantly for my students as well.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: SUL school on 04/12/2007 16:10:47 MDT Print View

Ray Jardine has a 6-day outdoor course called Journey's Flow and a 10-day Connection Camp. I never took it and don't know all of the details or differences between the two, but it's obviously UL focused. It appears that the students sew their own backpacks & tarps, which helps with the cost while contributing to their knowledge. It also covers LNT principles. The students' comments that are listed are very favorable.

Check out the photos and info.

http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/classes/013-jf-04/jf-04.shtml

http://www.ray-way.com/classes/002-cc-01/cc-01.shtml

Does anyone have any personal experience with either course?

Tom

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: lightening NOLS with Outward Bound techniques on 04/12/2007 16:43:37 MDT Print View

Posted: 04/12/2007 12:13:32 MDT by David Olsen (oware)

"The NOLS instructors I worked with at Outward Bound (there is
some crossover, OB tends to pay better) typically had 45 lbs packs themselves. This included books and climbing rack, helmet, ice axe, first aid etc. And this was in the 80's and 90's before silnylon tarps etc. and with a weeks work of bulk issue food. There must be a lot of gear extra they have
to bring on a NOLS course.

My work pack, a 30 old Lowe, weighed 4.5 lbs and lasted
for 15 years of full time instructing. It was just pack
cloth and cordura. I have a durable and slightly smaller
NZ made Ravine that weighs under 3.5 lbs now too.

There is 'bout 4 lbs lost in just the pack and no loss in function, size, comfort or durability.

As for student groups-

NOLS uses cook groups of 3, OB cook groups of 10,
at least one less set of cook gear for OB style.

NOLS Thelma Fly 200d oxford light coat weight 3.5 lbs for 3 people.
OB Group Tarp 70d heavy coat 3 lbs for 5 people."


Thanks for this input David.
Most NOLS tent/cook groups are going out at 4 folks, but that's minor.

Thelma fly's - the ones mentioned here and that hangs in the Smithsonian are mostly used only on base camps now. We are typically using Garuda Nuk Tuks and Mountain Hardwear Kivas as a 3-4 season tent and some Mtn. Hardwear tents for Alaska, Patagonia and PNW mountaineering sections.

Still, there are lighter options around. One of the things we need to address is mosquitos and west nile. Although I believe that it doesn't pose a significant threat to our students, you would be amazed at how big of an issue it is for parents. Ryan Jordan had some great ideas on easy, inexpensive ways to either modify our existing shelters or future shelters to be bug proof, while still saving a lot of weight over what we are currently using.

I haven't worked for OB, though I am somewhat familiar with the school and have worked with a lot of former OB instructors at NOLS. My understanding is that the pedagogy is different between the two schools as well as the stated "desired outcomes" - though I believe that there are a lot of similar outcomes.

10 person cook groups would not really support our LNT curriculum, and would pose a challenge to the skills side of learning to cook in my opinion. At the same time, cook and tent group sizes is something we are looking at.

Do you think that fuel consuption increases with the larger cook group sizes? We are doing two person cook groups on the Lightweight courses and found that it increased our cooking efficiency significantly over a four person group.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 16:54:26 MDT Print View

This morning I took a detour to Barnes & Noble, and picked up a copy of the NOLS cookbook (for some reason I don't own it, and I own pretty much every trail cookbook). So I got reading and whatnot.

Here is my question:
What is the reasoning behind the carrying of supplies of food? Is it to keep it as a group? I guess my question is behind carrying bulk items, not premade up meals. My question comes, I guess, from that I have never done much traditional group backpacking. I have always carried my food, and only my food. Even in group trips we all do this. We are responsible for feeding ourselves. That means unless we make arrangements with another person, we are cooking, cleaning and feeding ourselves. Doesn't mean we don't share ;-) But I guess if I had been a boy and did Boy Scouts or such I might have got the group mentality.

The other question I have about the book is they use traditional items like raw rice, etc. Will that change in an effort to lower weight? If you go to instant items, you use less fuel, hence less weight. Your cleanup is also easier, meaning less things like scrub pads, soap, etc. And cuts camp time down. Will this change? It sounds like the small groups cook their meals in one pot? Will this change at all to cut pack weight? What type of pans do they use currently? Will they go to Ti?

Also, you mentioned that cooking is a big part of the curriculum. That is interesting.

Anyways, sorry for the ramblings.....maybe if I hadn't gotten back into backpacking in my late twenties, I might have done something like NOLS.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 17:32:15 MDT Print View

Posted: 04/12/2007 16:54:26 MDT by Sarah Kirkconnell (sarbar)

>This morning I took a detour to Barnes & Noble, and picked up a copy of the NOLS cookbook (for some reason I don't own it, and I own pretty much every trail cookbook). So I got reading and whatnot.

Here is my question:
What is the reasoning behind the carrying of supplies of food? Is it to keep it as a group? I guess my question is behind carrying bulk items, not premade up meals. My question comes, I guess, from that I have never done much traditional group backpacking. I have always carried my food, and only my food. Even in group trips we all do this. We are responsible for feeding ourselves. That means unless we make arrangements with another person, we are cooking, cleaning and feeding ourselves. Doesn't mean we don't share ;-) But I guess if I had been a boy and did Boy Scouts or such I might have got the group mentality.<


Great question Sarah,
The idea behind cooking as a four person grouop is that each person has to learn to cook and do things for others, rather than just for themselves. This is an excellent educational tool that helps facilitate group dynamics, conflict reolution and teamwork, even communication. I might go so far as to say it can be one of the most powerful tools in teaching those skills.

I think that solo cooking is somewhat unique to lightweight hiking, though I can't say for sure. I actualy think it is a neat piece of self reliance in the wilderness, and the fact that it can be done is really cool. My experience (even outside of NOLS) has always been group cooking. It wasn't until I got into lightweight that I experienced solo cooking. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!


>The other question I have about the book is they use traditional items like raw rice, etc. Will that change in an effort to lower weight? If you go to instant items, you use less fuel, hence less weight. Your cleanup is also easier, meaning less things like scrub pads, soap, etc. <

Hmm,
I haven't looked at the cookery in depth in a while. As far as I know, we DO use instant rice and other items, like oatmeal. Do you know which edition of the cookery you got, I know there is a new addition out. I'll have to run down to the issue room and take a look to see what's going on there!


>And cuts camp time down. <

absolutly premade meals will cut down camp time, but there is a big difference between learning to cook and learning to boil water ;)


> It sounds like the small groups cook their meals in one pot? Will this change at all to cut pack weight? What type of pans do they use currently? Will they go to Ti?<

One pot and a "frybake" pan (see earlier posts in this thread). Not sure how you could go less that one pot for four people? If you mean a smaller Ti pot each, that is about what the lightweight courses do. Some courses will be using Ti pots in the near future, or aluminium at the least instead of Stailess steel - EEK!

You are right about fuel consumption for sure! Right now we aren't using soap and scrubbies to clean up, so not a lot to lose there.

>Also, you mentioned that cooking is a big part of the curriculum. That is interesting.<

I hope the info above helps explain it a little bit. On the lightweight courses it is less of a focus than on standard wilderness backpacking courses. Mostly b/c we haven't figured out how to bake a calzone in a 1 liter Ti pot, over an alchohol stove yet!

>Anyways, sorry for the ramblings.....maybe if I hadn't gotten back into backpacking in my late twenties, I might have done something like NOLS.<

No worries on the ramblings these are good questions!
FYI - We offer 23 & over courses which usually have an age spread of 23-48 y/o. That's how the lightweight courses are running for now.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 18:06:05 MDT Print View

Hmmm...maybe one Ti or aluminum pot per person(holding about a capacity of 3 cups), but no bowl to eat out of. That lowers gear to carry. I note they take insulated mugs? Dump that and carry a Ti cup. That and a spork is all a person really needs. Sure an insulated mug is nice, but it isn't needed, unless you are doing extensive snow camping.

You do make a point though: most people who join our hiking group, if they are not lightweight packers, usually have done group cooking. I am upfront about it though, and most find it easier in the long run. They pick what they like and can eat when they want. I have actually gotten to the point that I bag my kid's food separately from mine, so that he can eat when I don't want to. And I make him carry his food also. This year he is getting his own stove, and learning the art of boiling water..lol!

Though we usually all eat together in the evening. We just cook separately :-) There is definitely a connection between light packers and an independent streak.

Maybe someday I will do a course. Just cannot imagine leaving my weasel for that long. I'll just have to wait for him to hit 23. ;-)

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 18:56:59 MDT Print View

Sarah,

Yeah, I've never understood the insulated mug thing myself, keeps my drink hot too long! One idea that came up during the seminar, was 1 (lightweight)2L pot/4 people and a Ti mug/bowl/cup. Still lets us do group cooking, but lowers the weight overall, and I think will increase fuel efficiency - I think it would be more efficient to boil 2 2L pots of H2O than 1 4L, just a gut feeling though.

I actually like to use a .5L nalgene or a gatorade bottle for a hot drink container. It allows me to make a hot drink and bring it to a class or group meeting and not have to carry it in my hands or worry about spilling it. Recently there have been some questions about the health issues of using plastic for hot drinks though, so Ti is nice in that respect!

What's the deal with the spork? I see alot of sporks in the lightweight world (I have even aquired a few in my travels) but have always been partial to to a legit spoon. What's the advantages of a spork?

Your "weasel" could be as young as 14, if you didn't mind being on different courses!

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 19:06:55 MDT Print View

Are you questioning the spork!?! Blasphemy!
I like mine because its titanium. It also seems to grab Ramen a hair better than a normal spoon. Mostly because its titanium though :).

Adam

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
sporks on 04/12/2007 19:46:22 MDT Print View

Hahaha,
No blasphemy.
Just making sure I am not missing some bigger secret that the spork holds. All the one's I've found are Ti too, which is nice, but I have a Ti spoon that I prefer. Mostly because it doesn't poke holes in things!

Paul Luther
(eredluin) - M

Locale: Northeast
Re: Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 20:27:03 MDT Print View

>NOLS is certainly ingrained in certain ways of doing things<
Ryan, that is an understatement. I applaud your efforts to change philosophy at NOLS, but liability, insurance, loss prevention, and lawyers will be impediments to change. When is the last time members of the NOLS board of directors hoisted 60lb. packs to go for a hike?
Maybe change can come through enlightened (no pun intended)instructors, younger directors, and lightweight oriented clients. Don't know. Good luck.

Paul

Karl Keating
(KarlKeating) - MLife
What have been the long-term results? on 04/12/2007 20:48:56 MDT Print View

The stereotypic Boy Scout is a young fellow carrying a pack so large and uncomfortable that he thinks of backpacking as a chore, not as a pleasure. Most Scouts end their backpacking careers in the Scouts. They don't continue with the sport later in life.

This is one reason that the number of backpackers is in decline. Those who otherwise would be expected to continue with backpacking are turned off by its perceived discomforts.

While some Scouts go on to become long-term backpackers, most don't. (If most did, our trails would be full.) As for being a means of producing new backpackers, Scouting, on the whole, seems to have failed.

What about NOLS? Its web site says it has had 75,000 graduates in the last 40 years. How many of them continued to backpack as adults? Has NOLS taken surveys of its long-ago graduates to find out?

It is one thing to learn wilderness skills. But that learning is frustrated if never put to use in later years--like learning ballroom dancing as a kid and then never stepping onto a real dance floor in later life.

Edited by KarlKeating on 04/12/2007 20:50:17 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Ryan, a question on 04/12/2007 20:56:46 MDT Print View

Paul,
I can't say for sure when the BOD hoisted sixty pound packs last, but they go on two retreats every year I believe, doing different activities.
So I would bet they have (some at least) been backpacking relatively recently.

Remember though, the 60# packs are for month long trips not weekend excursions. I am not the only person helping to drive these changes (I just seem to be the only one who is trying to explain it in this forum!) Everyone is acting like this is a huge question of how, but I need to reiterate - IT IS ALREADY IN PLAY - We are already running courses that are going out at 25 lbs or less. It is important to understand that the Board of Directors does not look over our shoulder on every little decision. Day to Day operation of the School is done at a very different level.

Do you think that there will be more injuries carrying lighter packs? It seems to me there might be fewer. Even if it means that Instructors need to carry more than students, that would be fine.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: What have been the long-term results? on 04/12/2007 21:17:58 MDT Print View

Posted: 04/12/2007 20:48:56 MDT by Karl Keating (KarlKeating)

>The stereotypic Boy Scout is a young fellow carrying a pack so large and uncomfortable that he thinks of backpacking as a chore, not as a pleasure. Most Scouts end their backpacking careers in the Scouts. They don't continue with the sport later in life.

This is one reason that the number of backpackers is in decline. Those who otherwise would be expected to continue with backpacking are turned off by its perceived discomforts.

While some Scouts go on to become long-term backpackers, most don't. (If most did, our trails would be full.) As for being a means of producing new backpackers, Scouting, on the whole, seems to have failed.

What about NOLS? Its web site says it has had 75,000 graduates in the last 40 years. How many of them continued to backpack as adults? Has NOLS taken surveys of its long-ago graduates to find out?

It is one thing to learn wilderness skills. But that learning is frustrated if never put to use in later years--like learning ballroom dancing as a kid and then never stepping onto a real dance floor in later life.

This post was edited by KarlKeating at 04/12/2007 20:50:17 MDT.<

Excellent points Karl.
I do not have survey info on of how many of our grads continue to hike. I like to believe that even those that do not hike anymore, have some appreciation for the wilderness and fight for it's preservation. I'll make some calls tomorrow to see if that data is available.

We also are not necessarily taking folks backpacking to make them backpackers for life, we are trying to teach them leadership skills through backpacking. Of course we want them to gain the skills to backpack for life too, but Leadership is a huge part of what we do.

I think that this initiative to go lighter will help us to promote wilderness travel even more. by making it more enjoyable we help to increase the # of participants in a lifelong pursuit.

It is interesting that you mention the scouts. I know that Ryan J. is very active in promoting lightweight backpacking within the scouts, he is in many ways helping us to do the same. I think it will benefit both organizations to pursue this trend, and ultimately it will help to create a more engaged population to defend the wilderness.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: sporks on 04/13/2007 02:39:44 MDT Print View

There is no bigger secret you're missing concerning sporks. The problem when you try to combine two (or more) functions into one item that usually both functions don't work well anymore. Take a look at these PDA-mp3_player-cell_phone-camera items. They can do all these functions, but none of the very well, usually the mp3 player sucks or the phone doesn't work that well. Same with sporks: the teeth of the fork are just too small to actually stick into sth and when eating soup, the soup mostly runs out cause basically a spork is a leaking spoon. All the meals i eat are perfectly eatable with a spoon.

Hope this blasphemy won't end up in a trip to the stake for me.

When I look at Ray Mears he usually cooks in a fire pit, over open fires and never uses a stove. But that of course is the opposite of any LNT ethics, so I guess that's why NOLS cooks on stoves, which I completely endorse.

Eins