Camping With Boy Scouts
Scouting is fun--but Scouting is also about learning! Whether it be a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout troop, the goal is the same. We teach: moral values, first aid, cooking, camping, survival skills and confidence that will last a lifetime!
As with any group, one must be organized; without it, there is chaos. The uniform is important so that others may distinguish the Troop from other groups. We wear the uniform with pride and with honor, so Boy Scout Leaders, teach our Scouts how to wear the uniform properly: when to wear the uniform, which uniform is to be distinguished from meetings, outings, campouts and banquets, and where on the uniform that each badge is to be properly placed. We EARN badges and medals--they are not given freely--they must be EARNED and are awarded after much work and study on each subject, either through paperwork, projects and/or community service which makes each Scout both worthy to wear the badge and proud to show others what we have accomplished. Each Boy Scout must learn a creed, motto and/or codes that they must follow in their personal and family life, as well as how to act while in the wilderness and to marvel and appreciate nature and its inhabitants. We are made to understand the Outdoor Code; that we must leave nature (as well as any other place), BETTER than when we found it; this includes the removal of any and all trash, regardless if we were not the ones who discarded it! So, every backpack is equipped with 2 trash bags; everything that is carried in, is carried out! The 2nd trash bag may also be used as a rain coat by cutting a hole in the bottom to put the head through or may be used as a cover for backpacks should it rain while on a hike.
Scouts must pack their backpacks using no more than 25% of their body weight; To determine this, we weigh them before each trip with and without their backpacks; inevitably, we catch someone who decides that 'more is better', so we ask, "Do you REEEALLY want to haul that much weight?...I thought not!"
Scouts are encouraged to purchase and maintain their own equipment: metal mess kit with utensils (most are able to double as pots and pans), tinder, plastic garbage bag, rain gear, boonie hats, extra socks, first aid kit, knife, rope, whistle, flashlight/batteries. Scouts are taught to never drink stream water because it may contain bacteria, usually from something upstream (such as decaying animals, bodily waste or chemicals that may have been thrown into the water). In order to combat this, Scouts must carry some type of filtration system, whether it be a water purifier system or iodine tablets in case they run out of water. When using iodine tablets, the boys find it extremely more tasteful to drown out the nasty taste of the iodine by adding Gatorade powder! (And acutally, it's not so bad)!
All menus are previously planned, and someone in each patrol is assigned to purchase items agreed upon; the cost is divided among those in each patrol that will be attending the event. We encourage that all menu plans contain nutritious foods (to include any snacks that they carry in their packs) and (unless we are car camping), insist on foods that do not spoil such as: nuts, dried fruit & freeze dried foods, water, powdered Gatorade, oatmeal, pancakes that only require adding water, tea bags (which have a multitude of uses to include tooth pain), cocoa powder, and the like. Putting items in plastic bags to prevent spillage as well as keeping them dry, is always a great idea! It also lessens the load by ridding the Scout of excess weight from boxes & cans. As with all campouts, each Scout is responsible for their own cooking items and equipment. If it is a car camping excursion, each patrol has charge of their own kitchen items and every Scout in the patrol has a particular duty (cook, dishes, cleanup...). A good Scout troop will have (initially) had each patrol make a table & bench that collapse for easy storage and a grub box (this is an excellent Scout project; even if it's done for another troop). These patrol grub boxes, tables & benches will be used for many years with future Scouts as they pass through the ranks and soar beyond their rank of Eagle. Since we encourage each Scout to have their own gear, the patrol grub box only contains the basic items of: salt & pepper, sugar, oil, condiments, plastic wrap, foil, cooking bowls, serving utensils, measuring cups/spoons, a scrubby, a dish towel, ecology-friendly dish soap, and a dishpan for washing their dishes, and patrol stove (many Scouts have their own one-man cooking stove). Some patrols may also opt to add a few items to their grub box to suit their individual tastes. A camping book of simple recipes is a great addition to the grub box and allows the Scout to have a basis for creative cooking ideas. Dutch ovens (car camping) are great to have for soooo many different types of meals at every meal!
Besides the proverbial PB&J sandwich, Scouts can be very creative in their cooking skills; sausage & apples for breakfast, toast on a stick, eggs inside an orange peel, spaghetti w/beef jerky or dried meat with or without canned sauce, rice and beans, noodles & burgers, marinated chicken in a bag, shrimp boil, stir fry, hobo dinners--we've even had shish kabobs and dinner rolls! You will find that many a Scout always has a bottle of hot sauce to spice up whatever nasty, tasteless concoction they have made! Desserts are always the greatest: cobblers (peach, pear, apple, berries...), brownies, s'mores, cored apples with cinnamon, etc. Meals may include fresh fish that the Scouts have caught themselves or brought from home (car camping) and on some occasions, special foods such as seafood, may be bought within the surrounding area to make as a special dish such as when we make our shrimp boil. We have done this on trips to Hunting Island, SC (they have great, fresh shrimp)! You say you don't know how to make any of these meals? Well, come on! Join the Boy Scouts and meet the wilderness and learn, learn, learn while having great fun and friendship that will last a lifetime!
Since each trip is different, the patrol will add to the grub box all necessary items for that trip (and see that patrols replenish items as needed). Each patrol is responsible for maintaining their own gear & grub box as well as their area. Camping does NOT omit the responsibilites of the adult Scout Leaders! The (initial) Scout Leaders will have also previously built their own grub box, table & benches and are responsible for maintaining same. During campouts, they also will designate the responsibilities of meals and food preparation to the adult Leaders and are collectively responsible for clean-up and maintaining their own area. During meals, Leaders will usually allow the Scouts their own space by setting their table apart from the Scouts, while still having the responsibilities of keeping the Troop in line.
Each Troop also has a Quarter Master who inspects and maintains the Troop closet (at Troop meetings) to ensure that equipment is up to par. This includes used uniforms, all troop & patrol equipment (troop flags, tents, gear, patrol grub boxes, etc). The Quarter Master communicates with Leaders & Patrols by entailing what must be done to maintain said items and/or what must be replaced or replenished.
We make careful plans for any trip; but a trip to the woods is something extraordinarily special. We are versed on the proper equipment and study basic survival skills: how to use a compass and learn mapping skills, to include topigraphical maps, choosing routes that will coincide with the troop's abilities--starting with car camping and staying at the site, before we move on to hiking, where the camping experience widens with a richer and fuller appreciation of the great outdoors! We learn about poisonous plants & animals, as well as how to start a fire--with a match and without a match. When was the last time you used two sticks to start a fire without a match? Scouts must learn the difference between tinder, kindling, and firewood--using only what is on the land instead of chopping down living trees. Scouts also learn what types of wood are poisonous--yes, there are poisonous plants that can kill, (either eaten or used as firewood for cooking), such as the Oleandar, which grows in South Florida. All Scouts are taught how to build and use different types of campfires (teepee, crisscross, top burn, bonfires); each are unique and each have a purpose.
Always clear the designated fire area of all combustable materials; it is preferable to make a circle using rocks to make a fire pit to help prevent stray sparks. All tents are to be placed far enough from the fire so sparks will not damage the tents or catch them on fire.
Tinder: may be any small debris used to light the fire such as dried leaves and tiny sticks--lint from the dryer always makes a great firestarter! We encourage keeping a small ziplock bag of it in their backpacks.
Kindling: small sticks or woodchips and even pinecones are terrific to help keep the fire going
Fuel: larger sticks & pieces of wood such as limbs and logs which are placed on the fire to serve as fuel for a long-lasting fire for cooking or warmth.
Any fire can be used for warmth & comfort, heating & cooking, as well as for bonfires or simply for sitting around the campfire to relax, tell stories or just watch the flames. Before leaving the campsite, either for any type of hikes, before bedding down for the night (unless there are designated fire watchmen), and before leaving any campsite area, all fires MUST be extinguished with water and covered with sand to ensure that the hot coals are out!
Types of fires:
Teepee: Set kindling in middle and construct sticks over the kindling in the form of a teepee. This fire is good for quick cooking.
Crisscross: With kindling in the middle, stack wood (square or circular) over the kindling in a crisscross fashion. This type of fire is a long lasting fire with a lot of coals and/or wood fuel.
Top burn: create crisscross pattern starting with large sticks and logs on bottom with kindling topped with tinder at the top. Used for hot, long-lasting fires such as in bonfires or fires that will last overnight, keeping it burning by adding large limbs and logs.
Rocks are also of great use in heating meals, drying wet clothing or used as warmth such as underneath a prepared area where the bedding has been placed several inches above the rocks. Warm rocks can also be put into pockets to help keep hands warm or put into the (foot) end of sleeping bags to help keep feet warm.
Once reaching the campsite, Scouts will unload equipment, set up their own tent (if tents are shared, each must share the responsibility to help out if they intend on being a part of the group--that's why they call it team work)! Sleeping bags are arranged within the tent and the door & windows unzipped to air out the tent (weather permitting). All firewood is collected and stacked nearby (tinder, kindling & logs), so that it is ready for burning. If it is raining, Scouts should choose the driest leaves & wood found underneath the deepest wood debris within the area making a practice of covering their wood pile with a tarp or plastic to prevent from getting wet. There's nothing like a cold and/or wet night without the warmth of a fire and warm food! If arrival to the campsite is at dark, nearing the evening or nearing mealtime, designated Scouts may gather wood to start a fire while the others continue the business of setting up tents and preparing meals.
Scouts are also taught the importance of making sure that their camping gear is stored in their tents and that the campsite is completely cleaned of open foods. They are taught to prepare a "bear bag" which houses the foods, with the bag hung high onto a tree limb by a rope some distance from the campsite. This ensures that critters & bears are not enticed to 'share' in the Scouts' camping experience.
A good sleeping bag, flashlights, whistles, 1st aid kits, a sharp knife and survival cards are a must! Experienced Scouts and Leaders will teach the inexperienced to remember that sleeping in their underwear is essential, even during the winter months, in order that they do not sweat inside the sleeping bag. Sweating will cause the inside of the sleeping bag to become wet--in either cold or hot weather it is most likely that the camper will become ill. During the winter months, a wet sleeping bag can also turn into ice...neither is a good experience! Whether a Scout's preference is a tent or a mere lean-to, they will have the best time of their lives!
Enrich the camping experience to its fullest with great exercise, great sights of nature, learning new skills, true experience and good knowledge of basic survival skills as well as enjoying God's gift of the great outdoors!
Sleep tight and be sure to look for my next hub on Scout hiking!