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Mess Kits or Patrol/Troop/Pack Table Settings?

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  • Mess Kits or Patrol/Troop/Pack Table Settings?

    The Mess Kits is one of the things that seems to overwhelm new families. We have disposables for those that don't bring, but generally after a camp out or two the families get them. Given the cost of a tent, sleeping bags, and mess kits (kosher requires separate kits for meat and dairy mess) can be prohibitive, so it's not something generally pushed so hard in the beginning.

    I have one family that's a pain in the neck about mess kits and some other food related issues, and deciding if the individual mess kits make sense or if place settings should be part of the Pack infrastructure.

    The "nice" colored plastic sets runs $12-$15/mess kit (compared to $5 for a cheap metal one), at $25/family member and an average family size of 5, it's a $125 investment to add to the $125-$200 tent, etc.

    Plus for mess kits: more "scouty," personal responsibility, people take care of their own stuff.
    Minus for mess kits: silverware is always disappearing/getting mixed up, makes tracking a pain, one more thing for me to depend on parents doing

    Plus for Pack Kitchen: easier to track, everyone washing up when done, everything together. No "lost" pieces beyond actual losing, if the fork is found in the bin, it gets put back with the rest.
    Minus for Pack Kitchen: up front cost, "unfair" to the families that shelled out for mess kits over the past few years

    Bonus for Pack Kitchen: available for "outdoor activity days" because if we haul the trailer, we have the stuff, as opposed to counting on families to bring mess kits

    One advantage to the Pack Approach is that the overall cost might be lower… We're NOT back packing, so could get items for $1-$1.5 each. At $5/place setting, even service for 50 for both meat and dairy would only cost $500. I would think that they'd need/be recommended to get Mess Kits as Webelos when they start camping with the Troop… going forward I'd like the Webelos to have their own mess area and cleanup area to reinforce the "patrol" concept but we're not there yet.

  • #2
    I really want to look you guys up if I'm down in FL, please. I'll bring my own kit for the families who might be bothered about a Goyam defiling their mess.

    For completely different reasons, SM raided Target and bought patterned plastic plates for each of the patrol boxes. It kinda sorta works, but we still see one patrol's pattern in another patrol's box.

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    • #3
      Packs are not Troops but I would stick to Boy Scouts. Kosher thing is an interesting problem...I have found bowls work as well as mess kits.Just get boys to buy (or scavenge from home) a couple bowls and get a couple sporks. Maybe color coded. May need to make sure they have their own stuff sacks to not cross contaminate.

      I strongly discourage folks from getting mess kits unless they really want one.

      I have used the Glad disposable containers to good affect. One son uses plastic food containers that would have gone to recycling and just tosses at the end of the trip.

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      • #4
        Pack versus troop. The goal with the pack is to make the experience as smooth and positive as possible. We want them to continue to grow in scouting. In Boy Scouts, we are transitioning to more mature youth who can start to remember things and figure out solutions if they forget their stuff.

        So in the troop, mess kits provided by scouts. For pack, the pack supplies disposable eating stuff. Paper products whenever possible. Plastic for forks, knives and spoons. I'm happy when we can get a Cub and his dad camping. i'm not going to nitpick the little stuff.

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        • #5
          What's wrong with a $5 metal mess kit? That's all I have ever used! Cut plastic harbors food contamination and so I always tell my boys to go out and get the cheapest metal aluminum mess kit on the market. Etch your name on it along with your cheap silverware and you're good to go. If you need a kosher setup, buy two and don't worry about it. One also has to remember that kosher also applies to cleanup. If one has meat and gravy for dinner, the kosher items have to be washed separately from the rest of the utensils and even separately from each other. Adjust, it's not a big deal.

          If a boy forgets his mess kit, there's usually enough in one kit to serve up two boys. I have seen three boys use one mess kit. One uses the fry pan for a plate, another uses the plate and the third uses the bucket. One boy uses the spoon, another a fork and the third eats with the handle of the knife. Learn to share.

          I have spent many an outing cooking and eating out of nothing more than a large tin cup and spoon. It's possible. As SM there have been lots of times I've ended up with nothing more than the cup and spoon because I have had to share with those boys who forgot their mess kits.

          Patrol of 8 boys needs 3 mess kits (9 "plates" with fry pan, plate, bowl options) and 4 sets of silverware (either a spoon or fork) to make it go.

          Also, there's is no garbage to throw away as with disposable items. LNT and quit hauling out huge bags of garbage at the end of an event.

          Stosh

          And by the way, one can't cook with a plastic mess kit, but they can with the el cheapo aluminum one.

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          • #6
            I agree completely with Fred. Many folks don't realize that on average only about 10% of cub families have done any camping. Make it simple and easy for everyone. Also, packs tend to collect a lot of junk over the years, just go borrow what you need from a troop. Barry

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            • #7
              For Cubs, I agree, disposable works best. Yes, it's not LNT, but it is convenient, and safer than trying to wash 50 or 60 plates.

              For Boy Scouts, I'm 100% for the boys carrying a mess kit of their choice. We have everything from the Mess kits that Stosh likes, to the GSI plate/bowl/cup/utensils in a mesh bag, to backpacking style "origami" plates/bowls/cups to collapsible silicon to semi-disposable gladware, along with a variety of utensils ranging from sporks to folding fork/spoon/swiss army knife to lexan backpacking spoon/forks. I experiment quite a bit myself.

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              • #8
                You could do a LNT sumping demonstration for the Webelos. Mmmm maybe not, we need the crossovers. Never mind. Barry

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                • #9
                  paper/disposable for cub packs

                  I'm a fan of every boy having their own kit..... I think we should almost always camp as if we are really camping.... that means that you can carry your stuff on your back (or in a canoe, etc...). Depending on the menu, but a flatware set or spork + a plastic bowl from the dollar store usually can get the job done. Maybe add a plastic plate form the dollar store if needed. The only problem I see with it is that, as Jblake pointed out, these can't double as cook ware..... but for me most of my camping food is dehydrated, and I use the pot on my jetboil for the water. Otherwise, it'll almost always be something that we're grilling, tin soldiers, etc....

                  That being said, I just splurged and bought my Bear son a mess kit.... one of those plastic odd shaped Light my Fire ones. He saw a Boy Scout at the recent WEBELOS AKELA weekend with one and thought it was the best thing ever. He especially wanted the 2-ended spork with a knife built on the edge of the fork end. I tried to explain that he can't hold his food with his fork while cutting with the thing, but that didn't matter. The important thing is he thinks it special and values it. It's his to take care of and his to keep up with.

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                  • #10
                    I personally use a homemade ultralight container made from an old lemonade container and scrap foam (saw it online somewhere), Several boys have copied me. I also have a 1973 GI issue one I use for more car camping/high eating trips. So yeah let them figure it out. Agree on the cubs--make it easy as possible on 'em. A few will probably use a mess kit anyway--as long as they are having fun.

                    Some scouts will improvise from some heavy foil. I have, upon forgetting a coffee compatible cup, drank coffee from a frying pan.

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                    • #11
                      Many backpacking mess kits (and eating utensils) are made of polypropylene (recycle code 5), as are many "disposable" food containers and utensils. We supply newbies with recycled until they get their own - which may be never. Many have continued to use recycled or found even sturdier recycled. Resale shops also often have metal bowls. Inexpensive stainless steel "dog" bowls are commoc. Then there is the Dollar store, as mentioned by blw2. Something about "thrifty."

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                      • #12
                        Pack has never done disposables in 5 years of existing, it's always been mess kits, so I see no reason to do disposables now. We camp between 3 and 5 times/year, really does average 4 (this year was 5). It's not like they don't get lots of opportunities to camp.

                        Also, the Cubs (and the Cub Sisters), LOVE having the mess kits and cleaning up the mess kits. It certainly makes it feel more like a camp out and less like a picnic in the park. It also does get them ready for more intensive camping.

                        My reason for going to the Pack Model was to remove a hurdle from new families camping, at the risk of alienating the families that have the mess kids.

                        qwanze, if you're in Florida, shoot us a line, we're pretty easy to find.

                        Kosher's not a big deal, the dish washing station has separate bins and scrubbers for meat/dairy, we swap them out between meals. This summer, we're going to build a second, bigger station to handle pots/pans separate from the mess kits. Given that we've figured out how to make kosher meals, over the Sabbath, work on the camp out, I don't see any reason to step back and do less.

                        I have one family that uses pack disposable on each camp out… I was wondering if people here through that having a Pack Place Settings in a patrol box was a reasonable idea. I thought I had seen patrol boxes with plates in them, but I wasn't sure. If it's in-line with the patrol method to have each patrol have patrol mess kits, I don't see a reason, other than cost, to not get them for the Pack.

                        If we can get 2 plates+1 bowl for meat, and 1 plate+1 bowl for dairy, at $1/piece at end of summer clearance, even if I get service for 50, we're only talking $250, plus silverware. Totally fundraisable. Might also do the meat set this year, and dairy set next year, and let people either bring a dairy mess kit or use disposables.

                        Here is the thing, the OTHER packs in the area use mess kits, so if we're at a Camporee and on disposable, and everyone else uses mess kits, that reinforces to our kids that "its too hard" to be Jewish, which is the exact opposite of our mission and goal as a Jewish Pack. If it was my son and I in a secular pack's camp out, we'd be packing our own food and either disposables or mess kits/private dish washing station, but it's not, we have an all Jewish Pack affiliated with a synagogue.

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                        • #13
                          I was not clear. By "recycle" I mean to repeatedly use so long as usable - the opposite of "disposable."

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                          • #14
                            Glad to see a Jewish pack. I grew up in the token Goy house in a Jewish neighborhood in south florida. (Went to 6 Barmitzvahs in 1 year LOL) One of my favorite current scouts started out as a cub of mine and had his first ever campout with our Webelo den. I will always remember him emerging on Sunday morning and proclaiming "Dad was wrong-Jews CAN camp!". (I muttered something about Moses and the Gang camping for 40 years, etc)

                            We have a few Jewish and Muslim scouts who get involved in the meal planning; sadly (from my point of view) maybe 20% of the Jewish Scouts I meet bother keeping Kosher. The observant ones make sure there is something they can eat and pack extra if they need. We once had a dual presentation on what Kosher/Halal means. Was pretty brave since a few boys are real bigoted SOB's. I think the Muslim scout has it worse than some of our gay ones.

                            My family is going to Israel next year and I hope to hook up with some scouts there. Met some Finnish and Dutch Scouts on my UK trip--it was very cool to see how they approach camping (Finns=hard core).While we are sponsored by a Methodist church our Troop is pretty diverse belief wise. I advocate all the boys take their faith traditions seriously and 'work at it'. So many families now seem to have none. I work with the Agnostic/leaning Atheists to keep the door open to possibilities.

                            Agree on keeping it easy for Cub families; we had to do special presentations on this is a tent, etc because so many young parents NEVER camped and were easily intimidated. Especially if they are single-parent mom households. Keep any lists simple.I think it is TERRIFIC if you are showing that you can be an observant jew and a scout. Good life lesson for adult life!

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                            • #15
                              Oh forgot to mention that I always encourage the newbies Boy Scouts to scavenge from the Troop long term lost and found, Thrift Stores, and "Shop at Home". Save the money for the "Big 3" --a decent tent, sleeping bag, and backpack.

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