Thursday, December 5, 2013

Northern Tier Gear List

I worked up a gear list for our crews that are going to Northern Tier in 2014.  We will test the list as we do our training outings to see what can be cut or added.  Taking as little as possible is a goal given the limited amount of space that will be available.  Give the list a look over and leave your comments with feedback. Most of the items are directly from the official NT participant manual. 

Dry Clothes (Camp)
         Lightweight camp shoes, close toed
         Synthetic long sleeve shirt
         Synthetic T-Shirt (provided)
         Synthetic Pants; zip off
         2 pairs of socks; wool or synthetic
         Lightweight fleece jacket or pullover
         Stocking cap
         Synthetic long underwear
         Sleepwear: t-shirt & shorts/lightweight

Wet Clothes (Canoeing)
         Boots: Jungle style with full ankle coverage and instep drainage
         Synthetic long sleeve shirt
         Synthetic T-shirt (provided)
         Wool or synthetic socks (2 pairs)
         Polypro sock liner (1 pair)
         Synthetic underwear (1 pair)
         Synthetic pants; zip off
         Broad brimmed hat
         Lightweight breathable rain jacket
         Lightweight breathable rain pants
         Optional; paddling gloves

Personal Gear
         Lightweight sleeping bag (rated 20-35) 
         6 foot Z-rest foam pad or ultra-light Therm-a-rest
         Backpackers pillow (pillow case)
         Dry bag for sleeping clothes
         Bandanna or buff
         Backpacker’s towel
         Small Toothpaste
         Meal kit including bowl, spoon and cup
         Nalgeene Water bottle (Provided)
         Lip balm w/sunscreen
         Small pocket knife
         Personal Meds (2 complete supplies)
         Headlamp with extra batteries
         Sunglasses and/or eye glasses with keeper strap
         1 Compass per canoe (small, liquid-filled, flat base)
         Small personal first aid kit
         Waterproof matches or lighter in container
         Watch with alarm
         Small pump-squirt bottle of 30-100% DEET
         Small sunblock
         Two one gallon zip lock bags
         Two or three carabineers for attaching items to canoe
          2 diaper pins

         Water proof camera with extra batteries
         Journal with pen/pencil
         Fishing gear: To be decided by crew
         PFD: These are provided by NT Scouts can bring own if preferred

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A new adventure awaits

Deep down in many ways I thought attending the 2013 National Scout Jamboree would end up being my last big Scouting adventure with the son and with our Troop. After all, in the last several years I have been blessed to be able to attend Sea Base and Philmont in addition to going to Jamboree as an ASM.

I also figured it was time to move on and certainly time to stop the monthly payments with college looming. The final thing for me is that my work seems to cycle through layoffs every two years which would place 2014 as another on of those "risk" years take always drive me crazy.

As a result of all these factors, when the sign up for Northern Tier came around I did not raise my hand to be an adult volunteer. Well, it turns out they did end up needing an additional adult and with some very light arm twisting I am now poised and pumped again for adventure. We are taking two crews to Antikokan and I am very excited about the six Scouts that will be joining the other leader and I on this adventure.

My plan is to blog along the way here and share our experience including planning, training, gear and our time on the water. I know it is going to be amazing!

Thanks for following along.

Sea Base 2011

Philmont 2012
Jamboree 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some tips for staying warm during winter camping

NOTE: This list below is not for cold weather backpacking but instead for car camping type outings where weight and space for gear is not a strong concern. The content was originally created as a handout for our Scouts and Adults.

The winter months are a great time for camping. There is nothing better than sitting around a warm campfire with your friends on a cold and clear star filled night. The lower temperatures also bring new challenges that Scouts should be ready to face.  Need some tips?  We got you covered.
All Scouts should be responsible for packing their own gear on every campout and it is good idea for parents of younger Scouts to double check just to ensure he is properly prepared.

·         It will always feel colder than you will expect

·         It will always rain/sleet/snow when you do not expect it

·         Layers are your friend

·         Cotton is bad—wool and synthetic are good

Thermal Underwear:  Something synthetic and never cotton. Academy Sports Polar Edge is a great product at a very reasonable price. Scouts should have two full sets with one to wear during the day and the second to change into right before bed. Everyone sweats and changing right before sleep is essential to a warm night’s rest

Socks:  Absolutely no cotton socks. Heavy wool socks as an outer layer and a pair of synthetic sock liners for an inner layer will keep feet dry and warm. Scouts should have two full sets with one to wear during the day and a second to change into right before bed. A third set is good if you may have extra sweaty feet as moisture is the primary enemy of warmth. Change socks out midday for comfort.

Gloves: Bring gloves that are heavy enough for the worst temperature expected. A synthetic liner glove will help add a layer and come in handy when the temperature is warmer.

Hat: A fleece or wool camp is essential since we lose most of our body heat through our heads. A standard style is good for daywear and a balaclava style is great at night since it covers the neck as well. Again it is good to have one each with the second hat reserved for sleeping.

Neck Gaiter: A good alternative to the balaclava as it will cover the neck.

Long Sleeve Shirt: Wool, fleece, flannel, or synthetic. Cotton is best avoided

Mid-Layer: A fleece jacket, wool sweater, heavy sweatshirt (the troop shirt is great) or fleece vest will add to core body warmth.

Jacket: Should be waterproof and heavy enough for the worst temperatures together. If not waterproof be sure and check to see of the Scout raingear will fit over this jacket. Staying dry is very important.

Pants: Heavyweight jeans or insulated pants. Bring a backup pair.

Boots: Most everyday shoes worn by youth provide no protection from cold and very little protection from twisted ankles or water. Look for waterproof boots and always bring and extra pair of shoes as a backup. The backup can be anything reasonable.

Sleeping Bag: Most of the time, a good 20 degree mummy bag is adequate. Remember that for most bags the temperature rating is for survival and not for comfort meaning a 20 degree rating most likely means 30 degrees actual is about right. You can economically increase comfort by adding a fleece liner, fleece blanket, or try a “bag in a bag”. Use a rectangle bag as an outer layer with the mummy bag as the inner layer. 

Almost every year we find Scouts with bags that are rated 40-50 degrees trying to make it in the cold. Not good!

A zero degree bag is great too if able to have the expense of multiple bags. Remember, it is critical to change into a fresh full set of clothing before tucking in for the night.

Also, it is not good to cover fully with the bag as breathing inside will add moisture. Mummy bags are designed to synch around the face area to allow some external exposure.

Sleeping Pad: A good idea year round for comfort and even better for insulating yourself from the cold ground.  Adults you will want to leave the air mattresses and cots at home and plan to sleep on the ground without a layer of freezing air under you.

Camp Mug:  Why essential? You do not want to be the person left out from a steamy cup of hot chocolate, cider or coffee do you?

Water Bottle: Winter is prime time for dehydration as Scouts forget to drink when they are not hot. Always arrive for departure to campout with at least one full Nalgene.

Warmers: A nice variety of hand warmers, body warmers and toe warmers can make a real difference. These can stay active for many hours and are inexpensive. It is a good idea to activate a couple of hand warmers right before bed to throw in your bag near your feet. These also come in handy to place in boots for a bit in the morning.

Expect to have a great cold weather camping experience if you follow these tips.

Do you have any additional tips? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My 2013 National Scout Jamboree Experience

The 2013 National Scout Jamboree was held this year for the very first time at the Bechtel Family Summit
and I had the great privilege to attend as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Last Frontier Council Troop C137. The event ended just a few weeks ago and I figure this is the best time to write a few of my thoughts now while it all fresh on my mind.

First the positives:

The Summit is amazing!

 I have followed the development of the Summit for several years now including reading articles, watching videos etc. Nothing however can match seeing the property in person and to be honest I do not think any other method would work to understand it.

One other visitor described it as “Disney World for Scouts”. This was a reference to not just the number of activities but just a equally a reference to the build quality of everything.

Every single facility at the Summit is above world class. I do not think that you would fine better climbing, zip lining, shooting, BMX, Skateboarding, pool scuba diving, canopy touring, archery or anything built for youth anywhere in the world yet alone all in one location.

Scouting dreamed big with the finest of everything including the world’s largest skate park and zip lines to blow the mind.

Technology is everywhere thanks to the generosity of AT&T with high speed WiFi located all over the property. Our campsite had a WiFi tower located just yards away and it seemed to be even in the remotest of locations. This allowed me to be connected to social media to share all the fun as things were in progress through Facebook, instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

No detail of the property has been ignored up to the architectural marvels of the sustainability tree house and Consul Energy Bridge down to the beautiful walkways, steps, native grass planting, grey water systems and even the wheat planted along the drives into camp adding visual effect.

The place is truly a marvel and should be considered the ultimate Scouting and youth organization playground. 

Now the deltas:

This place is freakin’ huge!  The camps were very spread out with every walk seemingly uphill all the time with rain and heat. I was feeling a little sorry for myself into a 45 minute hike to shooting sports one day until I met a Scout that had already been traveling for 90 minutes. We both still had at least another 20 minutes to go. I know I walked for at least 10 miles each day and ended the week with blisters on top of my blisters.

This would not have been so bad if it were not for the 90 degree temperatures and high humidity. Worst of all, all the trails were constructed with not so finely crushed rock that tended to bruise the bottom of your feet unless you were hiking with very stiff soled boots. Foot issues were a real problem for many people I met.  I know there were Scouts that did not venture out far beyond the visitor experience area due to the distance and physical requirements to travel. I personally experienced tremendous physical pain most of the time due to these conditions and I considered myself to be in pretty decent shape.

These travel issues were especially challenging for staff as they had to walk as well and then try to enthusiastically work for many hours. The Summit was pretty clear to communicate in advance the high adventure level requirements but most of the staff I chatted with said they came under prepared for the reality.

Speaking of staff.

A super shout out to everyone that served. Your sacrifice of time and rescources is to absolutely be commended.

Staffing levels were the number one Jamboree problem and should be the number one focus for correction before the next Jamboree in 2017. The Summit had capacity for every Scout to enjoy all activities with minimal wait. This did not happen however due to a severely low level of staff. In fact, we had a couple of Scouts that ended up only getting to do one or two activities during the entire Jamboree with the zip line as an example experiencing a six hour wait. Our Scouts that were able to do it got up at 430 one morning and still were not first in line to participate. This was totally unacceptable and unfair to the Scouts and the overworked volunteer staff. I felt really sorry for both.

Staffers have to pay to be there and many found it difficult to handle the long hikes and heat. Shuttles need to be provided for staffers as this would reduce the walking requirements and may allow for some that do not meet the current health requirements to help. I would also have more professional staff at the most popular activities with incentives for the volunteers in those areas including free attendance.

The Summit has a long list of positives that far outweigh these opportunities. The future is bright as it will continue growing even more as showcase for Scouting and a launching pad for a new future of excitement.

Personally I would not hesitate to go again and am already excited to return again in 2017 and hopefully 2019 to give back as staff. See you there!

Did you go to Jamboree?  What did you think? 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Scout Leadership Training Round Robin

My son is on his second round as SPL for his Troop and early this year was led the Troop leadership training. The entire training was Scout led and had the extra benefit of several NYLT Scouts to help with the process.

One new thing the SPL introduced was a roundtable exercise with the Scouts where he presented a series of scenarios for them to discuss. There were no adults in the room during the this time so that the discussion could be as open and meaningful as possible. The other day I ran across the stack of 3X5 cards he used for this and found the topics to be very interesting:
  • Some Scouts are horse playing around at a Court of Honor where everyone can see. How would you deal with that?
  • You see some Scouts throwing trash in the forest. How do you use this a teachable moment about the outdoor code
  • You walk into your campsite and see a patrol member crying. How would you respond?
  • You notice bullying in the Troop. What is the proper response
  • Your leader gets too abusive with his authority. How to do change this? How would you resolve the issue?
  • One of your patrols’ tents flood. How do you make a compromise
  • A patrol member refuses to do KP even though he was assigned this on the duty roster. How do you deal with this?
  • Leadership gets in an argument. What do you do? How do you prevent this?
  • You’ve asked multiple times for a Scout to put his phone up but he is constantly is on it. What should be addressed and why?
  • A Scout says that his knife was stolen and he can’t find it. What is the best solution?
  • You suspect a Scout of taking illegal drugs. What do you do?
  • No one in your patrol is listening to you. How would you handle and fix that?
  • You lose a Scout and he goes missing. How would you find and make sure it does not happen again?
  • You are walking down a trail and Scout notices a dead animal and wants to touch it. What do you do? Why?
  • An adult is constantly coming into your patrol site for their son. How do you kindly take care of this?
  • You notice a parent taking over the patrol and the patrol leader and his Scouts are not getting a chance to lead on their own. How do you restore order?
  • You have a member in your patrol that the patrol doesn’t like. One day when he is away the Scouts start making fun of him. What do you do as a leader?
  • You notice some of your patrol members not attending meetings and campouts anymore. How would you handle this?
  • Your patrol lost a game this weekend and hasn't worked well together since. Their morale is low. How can you lift their spirits?
  • One scout is homesick at summer camp. How do you lift is spirits and help him?
  • Because of poor planning your patrol members did not buy enough food for a meal. How do you fix this?
  • A Scout is constantly interrupting skill or is talking during skill with no respect towards others. What will you do?
  • An adult is furious and mad. He starts yelling. What is the best response?
  • An adult leader is rude to Scouts and pushing to have his way all the time. How do you handle this?

Based on this extensive list, I am sure it was quite a discussion!  Any of these sound familiar? Interesting to read these and know from his perspective after several years in the Troop most are something he has experienced. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Powering up for Jamboree

The 2013 National Scout Jamboree promises to the most technologically connected event in the BSA’s history.  This is not your father’s Jamboree or even your older brother’s as the Summit is encouraging Scouts to stay connected through the use of smart devices. This includes the introduction of an app that participants can purchase for .99 that at first glance seems to be packed with features. These include interactive maps, event schedules, a social wall, and more.

Will 33,000 teens and adults with devices be a distraction? Of the thousands of teens attending, how many will lose hours of fun time due to texting, twittering, face timing or just plain goofing off thanks having a device along? Heck, will there even be good enough coverage for these devices to work? Especially for us non AT&T customers?

Well that is a different blog post to be pondered.

I plan to stay connected and share images of the fun back home for the parents and families to enjoy. The big problem aside from data access is going to be power. Cameras, phones and tablets all require recharging if they are going to work. The AT&T and BSA solution are solar charging stations placed in sub camps. There was hope that these stations would have lock option to do drop and go charging but unfortunately it does not look like that is going to be the case.

Now picture Scouts and Adults having to hang out near the station for two hours as they wait for the device to charge. Yuck.

So what is my plan?

I plan to Go Big and Get Wild with a huge battery. After some research, I purchased the PowerGen Juice Pack 12000 and after a couple of months have added the PowerGen Juice Pack 13000. These have a huge capacity at 13,000 mAh vs the 2600 mAh of my Samsung Galaxy S 4 and both came through Amazon as a reasonable price.

The Powergen 12000 has three out ports. Out A “best for iPad or any Apple Device. Non-Apple devices will charge at full speed if using the included connectors” This port charges out at a 2Amp maximum which is equal to most phone chargers. The second S port is stated to work best for non-Apple devices and is at 2Amp. The final out port is rated for 1Amp. 

The Powergen 13000 is very similar but with even more capacity and a lower price! I actually like the design of this battery a little better with the main difference being that this battery only has two out ports.
Both devices come with two charging cables and a variety of adaptors. Your device provided USB cord will work well also.

PowerGen 13000 charging device and camera

So what about the capacity? The included information states that at a full charge the approximate recharge rate is:  iPhone 5-6 full charges, iPad 2 1.2 full charges and iPAD 3 65% of one charge. 

My personal experience with heavy usage has been in line with these estimates. Generally I have been getting 4 full charges on my Galaxy S4. So in theory if I leave my device on all the time I should be able to go at least a couple of days before having to recharge the PowerGen. The time before requiring a recharge can be extended even further if I:
  • Turn off all syncing features: Syncing to e-mail, Facebook and others are a huge drain to the battery
  • Keep device off except for a few small set times
  • Keep the device in airplane mode if using as a camera only
  • Keep the device in airplane mode if WiFi is available. The radio signal to connect to cellular is a the primary drain to phone batteries when not in use
  • If planning to upload pictures/video, reduce the quality. This will decrease the file size and will shorten the upload times

My plan is to charge the PowerGen during the day every two days and then use the battery to charge my devices overnight while in the tent.

Awesome plan huh? This plan unfortunately was centered on the hope that there were provisions to secure devices while they charge. These high capacity batteries at 2Amp take 5-6 hours to fully recharge. Foiled again! 

Now I am not so sure about my little plan but am going to give it a try nonetheless.

What is your Jamboree Power Plan? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reaching for Eagle

I will never forget that day way back when my son was in fourth grade and he came home from school with a flyer promoting Join Scouts night at his school. Little did I know at the time that it was the going to be the first step in a great adventure for him and for us as a family.

Now here we are six years later and Conner has reached a milestone as officially becoming an Eagle Scout. I am one of those “Life for Life” guys that was in Boy Scouts as a kid but joined late and then quit later as I entered high school after my best friend had “Eagled out”. Looking back, not following through to Eagle has been one of my great regrets in life.

For Conner, his journey has been one full of adventures through Monday meetings, service projects, weekend campouts, multiple summer camps, 2010 National Jamboree, 2011 Sea Base, 2012 Philmont, 2013 National Jamboree with even more to come.

While having all this fun I have seen him grow as a young man through his Scouting roles including time serving as Chaplin Aid, Troop Guide, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol leader and more. There has been adversity to overcome, relationship skills to learn, leadership skills to sharpen, conflicts to manage and more.

Conner’s project was a complicated one and only successful through the help of many other Scouts and adults that helped as well as mentored him along the way.

I am proud of my son for what he has accomplished and just as importantly I am proud to be part of this incredible and ongoing journey at all began with the little flyer so many years ago. Thank you son for talking me into giving it a try.

Wondering if Scouting is relevant to our society and will have a place in the future? From my perspective it is needed more than ever and this program will continue to make a difference for youth for many decades to come.

Conner—I am absolutely proud to be your dad and I love the man you are growing into now and the man you plan to be in the future. Congratulations on reaching this step in your ongoing journey: Dad

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Membership Standards decision

It is unfortunate that my first blog post in a long time has to be about this topic but given the historic significance of today I just could not let it go by without posting something.

The video is from our Council Executive about the process that was taken here in my area. I did receive and respond to both of the surveys. Regardless of how I answered and how I feel about any past, present or future policy I can say without a doubt that I believe so much in this program that I know it will live on. It will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of young people and the adults that serve them.

Yes the sun will come up on Friday and on Saturday I along with many of our Scouts will get busy with an Eagle project. Later we will be involved in the cleanup of the devastating OKC tornado and even later Scouts will be off to summer camp and the 2013 National Jamboree. Change is hard but the good will continue.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Welcome to Boy Scouts: An open letter to new parents

2/29/2008 (Yes it was leap day)

“Monday was Conner’s first Boy Scout Meeting and it was fun for him and hard on me. I felt pretty useless. Well it was only day one.I am just not ready for Conner to grow up and not want me around him as much anymore. I love spending time with and him that seems to not be point of Boy Scouts. It is just going to take some time to get used to it.”

This was my journal entry from five years ago as my son crossed over from Webelos to Boy Scouts.

Now is the season of crossovers as Scouts around the country leave the world of Cub Scouts and join the exciting and very different world of Boy Scouts. I was the Webelos Den Leader and very active with my son. I was also used to being the guy in charge and the person at the center of attention. Suddenly I found myself mostly wandering around the hall wondering what the heck I was to do now.

Thankfully, the adults of the Troop took some time to bring me in the fold and explain the world of the boy led Troop. They explained that now was the time to sit back, watch my son grow (from afar) and take some time to find my own niche in the Troop.

I admit it was hard at first but it did not take long to find myself very busy. Meanwhile, my son was off with his New Scout Patrol learning how to be independent and how to be a leader. Yes I did not see him much during campouts this first year. I did see the change in him as his confidence grew knowing he could learn and do great things without his dad hovering over him.

My separation pain truly helped him learn many wonderful lessons he would have never learned with me right at his side.

Since this time, I have seen many moms and dads with that same look and that same frustration that I felt those first few months. Some made the transition well and let the program be the program. They saw their sons grow and learn through the Patrol method and they found their own niche to help on the Troop committee, on campouts and in many other ways.

I have also seen parents that just could not make the transition. They failed to get plugged in and failed to let go. This almost always led to hard feelings, misunderstandings and Scouts either leaving Scouting or joining a Troop with “more parent involvement.”

If you are crossing with your Scout to a real boy led Troop do not fear! There is a place for you to plug in and get busy. Let the program work and your investment will reap rewards in the life of your son that you will see for many years to come.
If you are a veteran adult with parents joining you, take a moment to remember how you felt in those early days and get to know your new folks. They may not express it overtly but chances are that they are far more nervous than the kid about being a new Scout. Your friendly hello and happy advice will make them feel at home and perhaps just might save a future leader from leaving.

Welcome to Boy Scouts! You are in for many years of great fun!