"...Someone mentioned the merit badges don't prove a thing that they're just checkmarks on a list... they do actually... commitment, and mommy and daddy cannot buy them a badge, they have to be earned... I'm thinking that perhaps just Orienteering and First Aid though.... This is not too much to ask of my current scouts to complete in 1.5 years... I dont' care if it's at camp this year or merit badge colleges, or on their own that they earn the badges... I want them to be committed to the trek with something other than having the money to attend... that's also why I want to make the training treks mandatory for both scouts and adults attending... can't make the training treks because you don't feel like it? can't go to yellowstone, sorry :-("
If you plan on requiring specific merit badges, then incorporate requirements during your training treks. Obviously Backpacking merit badge would be a goal to accomplish during the entire process of training and final trek. Orienteering requires running laid out courses. Split the group into sub-groups. Each sub group sets up a course for the other groups to run. Arrange a First Aid mb class. 2hr sessions once a week on a different night from Troop meeting vs. couple of Saturdays. You are planning 1.5 years out. Recommend reminding the scouts that if they miss troop planned opportunites, they can still earn the MBs at summer camp, MB clinics, or earn on their own. Both of these opportunities could/should be open to the entire troop. Start building the skills of the entire troop so next time will be easier.
You probably should consider requiring at least two or more participants complete Wilderness First Aid. National BSA High Adventure Bases require minimum 2 current certifications for crews participating. Typical class costs $175-$250 per person. Cost of class for 2 participants is folded into total cost of trip. WFA helps you understand that no help is coming and you gotta do things you are told not to do in urban/surburban settings. Standard first aid assumes professional help, transportation, and advanced care will be available in 1 hr or less. Backwoods first aid situations presume a minimun of a day before help arrives and multiple days to advanced care facility. Fall off your bike in town, call 911, ride ambulance to hospital, get bones set and cast applied. Break a bone in the outback, you will have to stablize and potentially carry the victim for days. What would be a normal 2 hour hike can turn into a 8+ hour carry out. Now you need have extra food and water for the trip extension. You potentially have to sacrafice gear to lighten load or build stretchers. Party may have to split up to send runners ahead to request assistance while others stay behind to treat and transport. How do you best divide the group based on experience, training, leadership, maturity, etc. "Planetary Stablization" instead of a backboard. The typical BSA first aid kit that fits in your back pocket does not have the necessary equipment to treat backwoods injuries. The crew will need supplemental first aid supplies. One giant kit or mulitple sub-kits to distribute weight across all crew members?
How about PLB? Personal Locator Beacon. They can be rented. Might be a useful safety feature to have one for the crew to signal if the poop hits the fan. Satelitte Phone? Again rent for the trip? Depends on the experience level of the crew. Some parents might feel it is worth an extra $10-$50? per scout knowing the crew can call for help. Just be sure not to give out the phone number to parents. Crew calls once a day to designated person and gives thumbs up, nothing more. GPS? That way when you call on the Satelitte phone, you can give specific coordinates to the SAR team. Maybe earning the SAR MB would be useful. Knowing how SAR teams search and what clues they look for helps one to get found quicker. Hint: Lost people always got to water. Even it is just a mud puddle. There is only one lost person but they leave lots of clues. SAR looks for clues, not people. If you wanna get found, leave lots of easy to find clues. Visit Equipped to Survive website. www.equipped.org Great resource for SAR and wilderness survival.
Backpacking stoves. Do you want all to use the same fuel so it is interchangable or would it be better to have at least one different kind of stove/fuel. Propane does not work well when cold but butane does better. Liquid fuels can spill. Cannisters can loose pressure or explode. One pot meals that are basically boiling water or more elaborate cooking? Most stoves flaunt their speed at boiling water. Most are poor at cooking in a skillet due to concentrated hot spot in center of pan. Will you have food drops or will you carry all food the entire way?
How about water? What kind of purification process are you going to use? Tablets, filters, straws, etc. How far apart are your water sources? Will you need to adjust your route to go to a water source? Will you have dry camps and have to carry extra water? If so, then you will need collapsable water containers or additional water containers. Will you cook your main meal requireing water at noon because that is where the water is and have a dry evening meal due to dry camp? Is water seasonal so eliminating certain routes? Planning your route will force you to change gear and food decisions.
There are plenty of decisions for the scouts to be invovled in. Get a crew leader ASAP. Start getting scout volunteers to research and present information to rest of the crew so decisions can be made, gear tested and final decisions made before leaving for the big trek. Many outdoor stores will rent gear for the weekend. Field testing often shows flaws not so obvious in the store.
Go to Roundtable and ask if any past Philmonters are willing to hold a Q&A for your scouts about backpacking for extended days. Philmont solves a lot of problems that you have to solve yourself when planning your own trip. Philmont has a food drop every 3 days. Crews check in with a staff member in the field every evening. Trails are very worn so difficult to get lost. Trained medical personnel oncall with knowledge of specific area, etc. Philmont is realtively tame. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that participants dont't see. You probably don't know what you don't know. Asking questions will force you to ask more questions.
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