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.
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:
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.