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Everything posted by kenk

  1. Heck, I just found out that I'm not smarter than a Tenderfoot. While working with a Scout who was reciting the Scout Oath he said "physically strong" ... and I said "don't you mean physically fit?" ... he said "no, its physically strong" ... I said "are you sure?" ... and he promptly opened up his Handbook and proved it. After 2.5 years as an ASM I'd never noticed that the wording had changed since I was a Scout in the 70's. Sheesh. It was "physically fit" in the 70's, wasn't it? Or is old age setting in all too fast??
  2. kenk


    I'm an ASM in the upper midwest, and for my son (Life) and daughter (GS Cadet) we've found that the layered breathable shell with the zip-in fleece liner to be the best combination. LL Bean had a great model, though this year we went with the Lands End version due to cost and available size issues. The fleece liner can be used separately, but can also be attached by zippers on each side of the main zipper, a loop clip at the back of the neck, and loop clips at the end of each sleeve - to keep the liner in when pulling their arms out.
  3. kenk

    weather radio

    I own both the yellow Midland portible weather radio and the silver Oregon Scientific portible weather radio. I MUCH prefer the silver Oregon Scientific WR601, finding that its much more user friendly. I've found that everytime I work with the Midland radio I need to pull out the manual since its use is just not that obvious.
  4. Yeah, but that would mean that our Troop Committee Chair might no longer be able to redefine the Scouting program when it suits her! The extent to which the Boy Scout program is defined is stunning. Help and training are EVERYWHERE, and the program as defined works! Its too bad that people don't read the materials, don't take the training, and then struggle when their version of the program doesn't work. The one that gets me going is when Scoutmasters and/or Troop Committees try to run a troop like a pack. (OK, I'm calming down now)
  5. Its not really that simple. There are not just two kinds of steel: Carbon & SS. In fact - and I am by no means any kind of expert - there are many many different kinds of steels used in knives. Some of the modern rust-resistant high carbon steels are fantastic, such as the S30V. I've carried that steel for quite a few years now and love it. Easy enough to sharpen (I use a Spyderco Sharpmaker), keeps a wonderful edge for a long long time, and is indeed rust resistant enough for my needs. Here are some nice summaries of knife blade steel: http://users.ameritech.net/knives/steels.htm http://www.knifeart.com/steelfaqbyjo.html
  6. Like I had said before ... the Lodge 10-1/4" pre-seasoned cast iron skillets are only $11 w/ free shipping for orders over $25 with amazon.com. $11 for a top quality skillet is kind of amazing. The Lodge web site has link to a Chicago Tribune review of high-end non-teflon skillets - most costing in the $100-$160 range. The $11 skillet was rated superior to all of them for quality of cooking and stick-free'edness. I was really suprized - not having been a cast iron skillet user (other than a dutch oven)!
  7. We do a relatively short backpacking trip each spring, but when we do we'll bring a subset of pots from each patrol's cook kit to boil water and we do very simple meals - certainly no cast iron involved ... unless someone misbehaves (just kidding). Ken
  8. kenk

    "Upgrading" troop equipment

    My son's troop (I'm as ASM) has Scouts bring their own tents - enhances ownwership - and then has a few troop tents for those Scouts who don't have tents. My advice would be to look at the 4-person Alps Mountaineering Taurus Outfitter tents. 45% off for Scouters. They have heavy duty zippers and floors, aluminum poles, no pole sleeves to rip, and the vestibules make for easy pitching. I'd still recommend enforcing the open the zipper all the way rule AND the no shoes in tent rule. When you're car camping, these tents can hold 2-3 Scouts easily. When you're backpacing, these tents can hold 3-4 Scouts with gear stowed outside. Scouts can distributed the tent, fly, poles, and stakes amoung their packs.
  9. kenk

    Hello Im Debby from Illinois

    Welcome to a fellow Illinian. The absolute best thing you can do to understand Scouting is to read his Handbook carefully from front to back. You don't mention what level of Scouts your son is in (Tiger Cub, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, Boy), but regardless, the respective Handbooks are PACKED with information about how his level of Scouting works. If he hasn't already, I'd have the very same recommendation for your son. Too many Scouts don't read enough of their Handbooks. Oh, and Scouting shouldn't be too serious - it should be lots of fun mixed with a wealth of learning and experiences. Ken
  10. kenk

    Improving Wilderness Survival MB

    With all due respect, lets not try to turn the WS MB into a menagerie of other MB's. We already have Orienteering, several boating-related MB's, First Aid MB, and Woodcarving MB. The Wilderness Survival MB should be and is about short-term survival, not homesteading. We don't need Scouts carving out mess kits from tree branches. They do need to learn how to prepare for rescue (provide a detailed trip plan to a trusted friend), how to gear for survival for one or two nights under the expected weather conditions, and how to tough it out until rescue comes. Scouts need to LEARN about survival and practice some of the skills - they don't actually need to surivive themselves. In my view one night out is sufficient for them to learn about shelter building skills, though I fear some summer camps don't cover this skill sufficiently. Still, I understand about the Leave No Trace concerns. I like the emphasis on fire-starting with alternative methods. I do hope the councelors discuss the many modern options for providing safe drinking water. Suvival skills have been a hobby of mine for some time now. I've gone from the complex to the simple. These days my views tend toward those of Peter Kummerfeldt at http://www.outdoorsafe.com/index.htm . He stresses the "kit" that is small/simple/portable enough to be with you at ALL times. If you haven't seen his web site, take a look - very interesting. BTW, he was featured in a Boy's Life a year or so back. Overall I think the MB is OK as it is. The real question is how the councelors approach the materials.
  11. Again, not intending to encourage people to buy a PLB, but in an effort to enhance knowledge about these devices... In response to CalicoPenn's "rather than spend money on a device that may or may not work" (and I'm NOT disagreeing with CalicoPenn's excellent comments) Here is a well-done independent study on the effectiveness of several PLB models in some severe locations (steep ravine, ...). The radio-portion of these devices is VERY rugged and effects. If something doesn't work it seems to be the GPS connection. The good news is that PLBs can provide moderately accurate doppler locations even without the GPS location, and future PLB models will likely start using the much more sensitive GPS chipsets that have an amazing ability to lock in the worst of conditions. Here is a link to the study: http://www.equipped.org/406_beacon_test2_toc.htm For those "mountain men" out there who write-off new technologies (PLBs, GPSs, ...), keep in mind that the magnetic compass was a new technology at one time, and have indeed been known to fail. Those who understand survival agree that prevention is the primary objective, AND that it is foolish to rely on a single method of navigation, fire-starting, aquiring water, obtaining shelter, signaling, or ensuring rescue, if needed.
  12. "Being guarded by a company of Marines has been shown to save lives too." So does being prepared. I'm not suggesting that everyone who goes outdoors needs a PLB. What I am saying is that there are better and cheaper alternative to SPOT for those who want to have the ability to get help if the worst happens in remote areas.
  13. By the way, people can rent a 460 MHz PLB for MUCH less than than the cost of buying one - or purchasing the SPOT AND the SPOT service. The cost is $60-$70/week + $5 shipping. http://www.plbrentals.com/ ... and if you think the SPOT is lower-cost, consider this: A PLB w/ integral GPS costs about $500 (+/- $50 depending on the model) on Amazon.com. There is no extra cost for 'service' and the battery is good for 5 years before it should be replaced. A SPOT costs $123 on Amazon.com. The SPOT service costs $100/year. Comparing costs for five years: PLB: $500 SPOT: $123 + 5x$100 = $623, not including batteries.
  14. Parental issues and "the need to get away" aside ... if someone is heading out into wilderness - real wilderness - 406 MHz personal locator beacons have been proven to save lives. My son's troop doesn't go to these extreme areas so I as an ASM don't bring a PLB along, but I do carry a PLB when my family travels to remote locations. I see it as low-cost insurance considering. There are still issues to be resolved with SPOT. If you're interested in an independent 3rd party opinion, read these comments from equipped.org - a non-profit organization that seeks to raise survival awareness, promote preparedness, and give independent advice on related gear and techniques: http://www.equipped.org/SPOT_ORSummer2007.htm http://www.equipped.org/blog/?p=82 When SPOT is working properly it is pretty slick, but can you bet your life on it?
  15. kenk

    tourette syndrome

    As the father of a Scout with 'issues' and a 5-year den leader, 2-year cubmaster, and 3-year asst Scoutmaster ... 1. Thank goodness the Scout's parents were wise enough to involve their son in Scouting. 2. This gives the other Scouts an opportunity to learn about people who are not exacly like themselves, but everyone deserves respect and understanding. It is a VERY important life lesson. 3. The Scouts will learn that even swear-words are just words. 4. The Scouts will learn whether their parent(s) or the other Scouts' parent(s) are mature enough to do what's right. 5. The adult leader's task is explain/teach #2 and #3 to the Scouts. 6. Hopefully the Scouts themselves can teach their parents what is right (treating the special Scout with respect and understanding).
  16. I've used a Marmot Trestles 15 synthetic mummy bag from Campmor.com for a number of years. Amazingly lightweight, warm, and the highest quality bag I've had the pleasure to own.
  17. kenk

    Patrol Method - How do we get there?

    Also, train the Scouts on how the program is supposed to run. BSA has done a very nice job of defining how the program works. Let the Scouts in on that(and to some extent the parents). Keep adult leaders & parents at a distance. Let the Scouts make the decisions. Let the Scouts stumble a bit. Provide a bit of guidance ... from that distance. Celebrate successes. Last week at summer camp the Scouts named a young man with some autistism issues as SPL. That young man grew to the task. He dad was the other adult leader (along with myself) and even he was shocked by the transformation. Responsibility breeds leadership!! Leadership breeds self-confidence and, if done moderately well, great friendships.
  18. kenk

    Tragic Scout death in south NJ

    Such a tragedy! Can anyone further explain the details of what he was doing? I don't understand. Ken K.
  19. The biggest obsticle to healthy patrols is the adults - both parents, the Scoutmasters, and the troop committee. Adults often just can let go - just can't let the Scouts take over and make decisions. In our troop myself and several other Asst. Scoutmasters have been doing our best to build adult-independence and encourage Scout leadership. The one thing we're missing now is the youth training. Without that we can't succeed. Still, we're moving forward. The troop used to camp as a "Pack". The adults were (and to some extent still are) running the troop as a one-den Cub Scout pack.
  20. Regarding Silva compasses - at least those sold in the US: Keep in mind that since 1996, when Silva of Sweden bought Brunton, the compasses sold under the "Silva" trademark in the US are NOT made by the real Silva of Sweden that invented the plastic baseplate compasses. Before 1996 the real Silva compasses were distributed in the US by Johnson Outdoors (parent company of Eureka tents and Old Town canoes), and Johnson Outdoors owned the US trademark "Silva". When Silva purchased Brunton - their own US-based company - they asked Johnson Outdoors for the Silva trademark, but JO refused. So now in the US compasses sold by JO with the "Silva" trademark are made for JO by some unknown company. The real Silva-made compasses are sold under the trademarks "Brunton" or sometimes "Nexus". While I like Eureka tents and I appreciate Old Town canoes, I myself prefer to purchase "real" Silva compasses ... from Brunton. Ken K.
  21. kenk

    Canvas Tents - Anyone??

    I too can understand the love for the feel, smell, and even sound of a nice canvas tent. I grew up with the canvas BSA Voyager tents, a canvas family cabin tent, and my dad's Baker tent, and so canvas has a very special place in my heart. Benefits: longer life, MUCH better suited to long-term camping (longer UV exposure Disadvantages: can be very heavy - depending on weight of material, not necessarily completely waterPROOF, not sure if the quality we used to have is still out there.
  22. kenk

    "scout essentials backpack" ?

    Not sure why folks are getting so hinky about the suggestion to bring basic Scout essentials gear to meetings. I recommend the very same thing to our Scouts - though many do not take my recommendation - partially due to a mixed message from the SM (I'm an ASM). He's told them to do it (where I got the idea) and then later says they really don't have to. Huh?? My view: It is good to "be prepared". Failure to bring an essentials daypack doesn't result in inquiries, harrassment, or fingernail-pulling. Its just an attempt to help Scouts get organized. I make the same sort of recommendations for their camp gear. I suggest they keep a duffel or pack pre-packed with most of the gear, so all they have to do is add appropriate clean clothes, stuff their sleeping bag, roll up the sleep pad, grab the essentials daypack and tent, and they're ready to go. Ken
  23. My son's formerly small troop has two new patrols coming in, and that means it time to start buying more gear. This brought up the topic of "standardized patrol gear" and exactly what should be on that list. From what I've found in internet searches it seems that most patrol gear consists of car camping kind of stuff - 2-burner Coleman stoves, lanterns, dutch ovens, big carport canopies, tables, etc... I'm wondering if anyone knows of patrols that have instead taken a lighter, more lean approach - something like backpacking where Scouts are using one or two small one-burner stoves, no lantern, lightweight nylon flies, no tables, etc... What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of these different gear options? Thanks, Ken K.
  24. kenk

    Backpacking in Utah

    Your backpacking trip sounds wonderful! If you don't already have one, I urge you to consider carrying a personal locator beacon just in case something goes terribly wrong - which can happen in a heartbeat. Just one real serious ankle twist and your son is on his own looking for help. You can rent one from http://www.plbrentals.com/ for about $60 or $70 per week. They save lives!!
  25. kenk

    reforming the patrols

    Let the boys run the troop. Have faith that they will do the right thing. Give them gentle guidance and TRAINING on the Scouting program. The patrol is the fundamental unit of Boy Scouts. Focus on the patrols and the troop will naturally come along just fine. (1) Send out an announcement to the boys in the troop that the "next" troop meeting will be critical to the future of the troop and that their attendance is absolutely critical. You want to have every boy there. Offer to feed them pizza if necessary to get them there. (2) Your troop needs a SPL. Sit all the Scouts down and read to them the descriptions/responsibilities of the senior patrol leader and assistant senior patrol leader. (3) Have the Scouts elect a senior patrol leader. (4) Have the elected senior patrol leader select an assistant senior patrol leader. (5) Patrols work best when they form "naturally". Tell the remaining 10 Scouts that there needs to be two patrols with no less than, say, 4 Scouts in each patrol. Tell them to form their patrols - one over "there" and the other over "there". If one of the patrols is too big, tell that patrol that some number of boys needs to move over to the other patrol, and let them decide who will move (maybe one, maybe two will go together). Its better to have patrol sizes 4 & 6 and have them happy then worry about each having 5 Scouts. (6) Sit all the Scouts down and read to them the descriptions/responsibilities of the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader. (7) Then have each patrol elect a patrol leader. (8) Have each patrol leader select an assistant patrol leader. (9) Provide the SPL, ASPL, PLs, and APLs with leadership training through your council. (10) Make sure you put in the effort to have the following: --If you haven't already, get a copy of the Scoutmaster's Handbook and read it from cover to cover. It defines how Scouting works. Attend Scoutmaster Training as soon as possible. --Hold an annual Program Planning Conference to clearly define the upcoming year's plan. Make sure the Scouts are HEAVILY involved in the planning per the conference description in the Scoutmaster's Handbook. If it is THEIR program and THEIR activities, then they will LOVE it and enjoy it. A good program will easily draw in new Scouts. --Schedule and commite to regular Patrol Leaders Council Meetings - allow the Scouts to run the meeting WITH YOUR GUIDANCE. Have them follow the agenda listed in the SPL handbook. Help them succeed. --Do whatever you can to make sure the Troop Committee exists, that each key position is filled and active, and that they hold regularly scheduled meetings. Demand that the troop committee members are trained, or at least that they review the Troop Committee Guidebook together (self-training). It is critical that they understand how Scouting works. --Work with the PLC do define the equipment the patrols need to camp. The SPL & ASPL will be eating with the patrols (suggest they get "invited" on a rotational basis - they should offer to help with cooking and cleanup, but when doing that they are listening to the PL). This could be done initially at the PLC level and then also at the troop level. --Work with the Troop Committee to ensure that the money is there to fund the purchases of gear through fundraising and/or dues - whatever is decided. Keep the parents involved with the committee - not the troop (if you get my thinking). --Make sure the patrols decide on their own menus, arrange food purchase (pick a grubmaster for each campout that determines who is going (including either the SPL or ASPL), does food purchases, splits the costs, and gets payments from each fellow patrol member). Decide well ahead of time which patrol "gets" the SPL and ASPL. --Adults should form their own patrol. The adult patrol should function JUST LIKE the youth patrols. The Scoutmaster is the assumed PL. They should ID grubmasters, have a full set of gear, and so forth. I'm amazed at how well Boy Scouts is defined. It works! The idea is to just follow the program and the results will come.