Rules of the Tent

Sometimes it is traumatic for new Scouts to camp with boys who can be virtual strangers in the beginning. There are many unknowns. What will there be to eat and will it taste good? Are people going to be nice to me? What are we going to be doing and will it be any fun? Will I be OK without my parents? Who will be in my tent and will we get along? Plus a lot of other worries for 11-year-old boys.

Successfully dealing with these fears and unknowns is part of the Scouting experience and helping the process along is an important function for adult leaders. Unfortunately, many boys are not able to push themselves through their fears and they end up staying home playing video games while the rest of the Troop is having fun on outings.

Scouts have to face their fears and anxieties before a high-adventure outing.

Scouts have to face their fears & anxieties before a high-adventure outing.

Later, on their first high high-adventure trips, these same fears can resurface along with the doubts that any young man might feel when facing what might be the biggest and most difficult experience of his young life. Scouts sometimes throw up from anxiety on the morning of their first 50 miler or suddenly come down with a bad case of ‘I am too sick to go” symptoms. Moreover, many (usually adults) suffer from anxiety attacks on their first snow camping trip. The good news is that almost everyone deals with their problems and completes the journey successfully.

This Spring, a Scout new to the Venture Crew was dealing with his fears and desperately trying to convince himself that he was “manly” enough to complete a 50 mile hike at age 13. As the youngest backpacker, a major concern was his older tent mate and whether they would be compatible. To deal with his anxieties, the apprehensive Scout wrote up the following “Rules of the Tent” contract and brought it to a practice hike. It gave me a new insight into how adolescent hikers think and what they worry about.

Article 1: Stealing of Scout’s property will not be tolerated in any situation. You must have the previous consent of the owner to use the Scout’s property.

Article 2: Sexual behavior of any kind to any Scout will not be permitted at any time unless they are suffering from a medical issue.

Article 3: The taking of any Scout’s space will not be permitted. Space will be dealt out by equally dividing the tent by the number of Scout’s residing in it.

Article 4: All safety and security measures should and will be taken to ensure the safety of each Scout. This means no fire in tent, all pocket knives must be placed safely before sleeping, etc.

Article 5: No food or drink can be consumed in tent, in order to keep the tent in prime condition and not attract bears.

Article 6: No malicious games can be played in the tent that harms the tent’s stability and damages the tent in case there is bad weather.

Article 7: No excessive farting or other noises.

Article 8: All common sense laws apply. This law can be enforced or ignored at certain times; and can also be stretched to legalize logical laws.

If you abide by and agree to these laws of the tent, please sign here:

Scout #1 _________________________________
Scout #2 _________________________________

If you promise to enforce these laws, and punish those who disobey with the punishment fit for their crime, then sign here:

Scoutmaster: __________________________________

As the practice hikes were completed, the Scout developed more and more confidence. By the summer, he was much more comfortable with being in the wilderness and sharing a tent with a Scout that he did not know well in the beginning. As it turned out, this Scout completed a fantastic and memorable 50 mile hike near Yosemite and there were no problems with his tent mate or anyone else. Now he tells me he can’t wait until the 50 miler next year.

“Be Honest and True Boys”

This poem was published in the children’s periodical “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” in 1887, a few decades before the founding of Boys Scouts. It was featured during a flashback episode in the television series “Boardwalk Empire,” which also had several references to the Boys Scout movement.

Boy's Life was modeled after popular magazines like "Golden Days for Boys and Girls"

Boy’s Life was modeled after popular magazines like “Golden Days for Boys and Girls”

Be honest and true, boys!
Whatever you do, boys,
Let this be your motto through life.
Both now and forever,
Be this your endeavor,
When wrong with the right is at strife.

The best and the truest,
Alas! are the fewest;
But be one of these if you can.
In duty ne’er fail; you
Will find ‘twill avail you,
And bring its reward when a man.

Don’t think life plain sailing;
There’s danger of failing,
Though bright seem the future to be;
But honor and labor,
And truth to your neighbor,
Will bear you safe over life’s sea.

Then up and be doing,
Right only pursuing,
And take your fair part in the strife.
Be honest and true, boys,
Whatever you do, boys,
Let this be your motto through life!

— BE HONEST AND TRUE, by George Birdseye.

Lightning Strikes

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about lightning strikes on outings. However, one thing to always remember is that there is no place that is absolutely safe for Scouts during an electrical storm. Scouts and leaders have been hit by lightening (and killed) in shelters as well as open spaces. In fact, during one especially terrible storm at the Griswold Scout Reservation in New Hampshire, 23 Scouts who had taken shelter under a canopy were hospitalized after a lightning strike that hit close to them. The problem is serious enough that BSA has studied it and revamped the lightning safe procedures in the Guide to Safe Scouting, even mandating that leaders complete a Hazardous Weather course before going on outings. The result has been a decline in lightning related injuries and fatalities at Scout activities.

A lightning strike is an electric discharge between the atmosphere and an earth-bound object. According to the NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities per year, placing it just behind floods for weather-related deaths. In addition, lightning strikes hundreds of people every year that survive, and (depending upon the source) up to 80% of survivors sustain long-term injuries. Metal objects in the victim’s pockets (like smart phones) can concentrate the charge and make the injury even worse. Contrary to popular belief, however, a direct hit by a lightning bolt coming down from the sky is actually pretty rare and not a common way that Scouts are injured by lightning during a storm.

Lightening strikes are common - and dangerous

Lightning strikes are common – and dangerous

More than half of all lightning injuries and fatalities occur when lighting hits the ground near where Scouts are standing (or sheltering). The electrical current runs through the ground to nearby objects (like Scouts) that act as conductors to receive the charge. The result is burns on the body, and in extreme cases – death. If there is a nearby strike, touching your feet together at the heels can reduce the pathway of the electrical charge and minimize risk. In other words, if your feet are touching, the electricity will go up one foot and down the other. If your feet are not together, the electrical current will travel up through your body and have no easy exit point.

The second most dangerous lightning strike is called a “side flash.” The lightning hits a tall object (like a tree or tall pioneering project) and arcs sideways to objects of less resistance – like people standing nearby. (The lightning does not follow the tall object to the ground.) This kind of strike represents about a third of injuries and fatalities. A very similar danger is called “Upward Leader strikes” and accounts for about 10% of human injuries. In this case, the lightning is attracted to a taller object and then moves to something nearby. That is one reason why safety procedures stress having everyone crouch to get them into approximately the same height.

Lightning will often strike the tallest object in the area.  Do not stand next to a single tall tree during a thunderstorm.

Lightning will often strike the tallest object in the area. Do not stand next to a single tall tree during a thunderstorm.

The least common causes of lightning injuries or fatalities (5-10%) are direct strikes and coming into contact with an object that is transmitting high voltage like a metal fence or electrical wire. (Philmont call this a “touch-volt” strike.) The best way to protect yourself from both is to move to a safer area – preferably before the storm envelops your crew.

You can estimate the distance to a lightning strike by counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder that follows. (One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, etc.) Divide the number of seconds by five (5) and this will be the approximate distance to the actual lightning strikes. Studies have shown that a second strike can occur 6 to 8 miles away from the first strike. Therefore, when the time between the strike and the thunder is less than 40 seconds you could be in danger if the storm is moving towards you. So, if you can hear thunder you might need need to take action quickly. There is no absolutely safe place outside in a thunderstorm, but here are some reasonable safety procedures.

• Separate and, if possible, find cover under clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height.
• If there is no cover, crouch down with feet and knees together, chest on knees, and hands covering ears. Keep your feet together and touching.
• Always, spread out 25′ to 30′ from each other, but maintain voice contact.
• Stay off ridges and exposed passes. You are typically better off at lower elevations.
• Stay out of broad open areas like meadows or lakes.
• Caves are not safe.
• Avoid single high trees. (Do not set up your tents near them either!)

If you happen to be in a tent when a storm approaches, sit on your foam pad and pull your knees into your chest to create the smallest contact with the ground. If the lightning strikes are very close, cover your ears and close your eyes to reduce potential injury.

It goes without saying, that Scout leaders should be checking the weather forecast to understand the risk of potential thunderstorms in the area they plan to visit. However, it a thunderstorm does come up, play it safe.