Category: Backpacking

Sleeping in a snow cave
Campsite

Sleeping Bags

Most Scouts have at least one sleeping bag stored in their closet.  Unfortunately, some of these old sleeping bags are bulky, heavy, made of cotton,

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Lightning Strikes

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about lightning strikes on outings. However, one thing to remember is that there is no safe place 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 from a lightning strike that hit close to them. The problem is serious enough that BSA has studied it ……….

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Are Down Bags Really So Dangerous?

Down sleeping bags have a lot of advantages over synthetic bags. Down is lighter and provides more insulation. Unfortunately, down loses its insulating value when it gets wet. So most units discourage Scouts from using down products. However, a recent breakthrough in how duck down is processed will make down sleeping bags a lot more acceptable to Scout leaders. And families are going to want to buy them for high adventure outings.

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Poison Oak / Ivy

At the end of the summer, 12 year old Colin was climbing around in Rock City, a popular area at Mt. Diablo State Park. Since

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What is Gore-Tex?

Some backpacking clothing and even boots might be coated with a waterproofing treatment called Gore-Tex, which makes the item more expensive. Is it worth spending the extra money? While a backpacker should always consider the merits of waterproof boots or jackets versus non-waterproof items when purchasing equipment, remember there are lots of ways to stay dry and Gore-Tex is only one of them. However, Gore-Tex the market leader.

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Lighten Up On Pack Lists

Every credible organization provides a pack list to participants before taking them on any sort of high adventure backpacking outing. Inexperienced participants and their parents dutifully take these pack lists into stores to buy everything, exactly as it is written on the list. This is all very nice, except some pack lists are not very good at all.

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Rules of the Tent

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. What do you think about these rules?

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Five Degrees of Winter Camping

Snow camping is a popular winter activity for sturdy Boy Scouts. Every year, thousands venture into snow covered fields and conduct a variety of maneuvers, all designed to prove that they can survive and thrive in cold conditions that cause their parents to mutter about hot tubs and hotel rooms. However, while cold weather outings can be challenging, not all winter outings can be called snow camping, no matter what your leaders tell you.

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Losing Some Weight

Many Scout backpackers try to lighten their loads by counting ounces on smaller cheaper things in their pack or they try leaving extra clothing, food, and equipment at home. This is a nice idea but you can’t make a big weight difference with small sacrifices. The only way to significant lower your pack weight is to replace your backpack, tent/shelter, or sleeping system – often called the “Big Three of Backpacking.”

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Fear, Panic, and Paranoia on the Trail

Fear can paralyze a Scout and keep him from experiencing life-changing places like Philmont. There is no way to eliminate fear from a backpacking trip and we shouldn’t try. However, success on a high adventure outing is all about facing fears and dealing with them successfully (and safely). That’s why high adventure outings are so good at turning boys into men.

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Wilderness Emergencies (S.A.M.P.L.E.)

On the fourth day of a 50 miler, the group was interrupted by a boy loudly complaining about intense pain in his stomach. The adult leader, assuming appendicitis, frantically hiked to the nearest ranger station and arranged for a helicopter evacuation. When the boy finally arrived at the hospital emergency room, a quick examination by doctors revealed the problem and the Scoutmaster was dead wrong in his diagnosis.

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Tick Bite Danger

One hot afternoon, a new Scout on his first outing ran through the campsite screaming loudly and holding his crotch. Despite the commotion, the other boys barely noticed because they were occupied trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass. After a few seconds, however, I realized what was wrong and said to the closest adult leader, “Better go and get the first aid kit, we need to remove a tick.” It took us more time to chase the boy down and get him to cooperate than it took to pull the tick out. (Please forward this email to your Scouting friends.)

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Planning & Packing

Choosing a Scout Backpack

Choosing a new backpack for a Scout backpacker is a critical and expensive decision so spend some time making it. Visit some stores and try

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Mosquitoes Suck

At dusk the mosquitoes were swarming and we were all cowering in our tents. Only the cook and his assistant were forced into the open, and they struggled to prepare dinner in long shirts, gloves, and mosquito hats. When it was time to eat, everyone grabbed their food and disappeared back into their tents as fast as possible. Next morning, we ventured out and were immediately attacked by thousands of frantic mosquitoes. Everyone just grabbed their stuff and ran down the trail with tents, cooking equipment, and even sleeping bags in their arms until the mosquitoes left us alone. (Please forward to your backpacking friends.)

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Wilderness Fine Dining

On the way to the outing, Scouts stopped at the grocery store and loaded up on enough canned chili and beef stew for the entire trip. At dinnertime, partially opened cans were set directly onto the coals of a camp fire. After a few minutes, we wrapped a dirty shirt around our hand and grabbed the bubbling food out of the fire, then took metal spoons and ate right out of the can. Later the cans were smashed, and buried away from the campsite. Today we have moved beyond cans to freeze-dried meals. Learn how to prepare them correctly. (Forward this to your backpacking friends.)

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Poison Oak

At the end of the summer, Colin was climbing around in Rock City, a popular area at Mt. Diablo State Park. Since the temperature was in the high 80’s, he was wearing only shorts and tennis shoes as he scampered from rock to rock in the bright sunshine. Unfortunately, he suddenly lost his balance. A large bush broke his fall, but he ended up scratched and bleeding where the branches penetrated his skin. The next day in the hospital emergency room, Colin learned the bush was poison oak, and he had several painful days of recuperation ahead of him. (Click to learn more about poison oak and how to deal with the rash it causes. Please forward to other Scout leaders.)

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Scout Backpacking Pack List

The following is a description of required clothing and equipment for a one-week backpacking outing, which isn’t much different than the list for a three

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Buying Backpacking Equipment?

Parents of new backpackers often scrimp on their initial purchases and buy things that don’t work well or are too heavy. These inadequacies become very obvious after just a few hours of walking along a trail. It’s not unusual, then, for the new hiker to quickly decide they don’t like backpacking at all. When this conclusion is reached, the new equipment gets stashed in the garage and the ersatz hiker reaches for the remote control. (Please forward this email to your backpacker friends.)

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Snow Camping Barometer

Every winter, thousands of boys venture into snow covered fields and conduct a variety of maneuvers, all designed to prove that they can survive and thrive in cold conditions that cause their parents to mutter about hot tubs and hotel rooms. However, while cold weather outings can be challenging, not all winter outings can be called snow camping.

What kind of camping do you do in the winter? (Please forward this message to people who say they go “snow camping.”)

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Tents – Shelters

Backpackers sometimes need shelter, but don’t necessarily always need to carry a tent. Many hikers sleep out under the stars, especially in the summer. (Some

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Bear Country

Bears are an increasingly common companion for hikers in the backcountry. According to a Ranger in Yosemite, there are now more than 30,000 black bears

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Camp Stoves

While cooking over fires might seem like a good idea to a Tenderfoot, they generally wreck havoc on the environment and are often prohibited in

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Cat Holes

Since you’re seeing this on a computer screen, you’re obviously a member of a privileged part of the world population, the part that has bathrooms.

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Water Purification

There are many “experts” who say that high-elevation water is usually clean and that treating it is not required. And it is true that the

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Navigation

Finding your way through the wilderness is an essential backpacking skill requiring reliable tools and knowledge of how to use them. And while getting off

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Wilderness First Aid

One of the unique characteristics of backpacking is that it puts you in control of your own destiny in a very real, but sometimes dangerous,

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Hiking Safety

The most important part of keeping your group safe is planning ahead. Think about the worst case scenarios ahead of time, and decide how you

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Food/Nutrition

Backpacking food has changed a lot since the days when Scouts bought chili and beef stew for their 50 milers and cooked dinner by setting

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First Practice Hike

The first practice hike is a critical event. It reveals the level of Troop aptitude and enthusiasm for backpacking. It also shows which Scouts and Adults are in good enough shape to actually consider a long-term adventure. Here is our story at Briones.

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Wilderness Survival

Puma Point seemed like the perfect spot for our Wilderness Survival campout. It’s in a beautiful area – near Lake Chabot – with lots of trees and vegetation. BBQs and stone pits are on hand for fire building. Hardly any other campers are close enough for us to disturb with our cheers, singing and late night activities. Most important, there is lots of space for Scouts to spread out and build shelters.

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Snow Camping

Boy Scout Snow Camping For most Scouts and adults, snow camping is the ultimate wilderness experience. There is nothing in the world like hiking on

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