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The Scouts could assemble a proper PSK - a selection of basic gear that fits around the neck, in pockets, or on the belt. I like the idea of adding other things that might be in a car. They would receive no accurate guidance for the WSMBP on a PSK (It confuses "10 Essentials" with PSK.), but you could help them. That would give them at least one way to start fire, purify water, and garbage bag-sized item (as suggested) for shelter.


The main survival knife, as suggested in the BSA Complete Wilderness Training Manual (2007) at pp. 32-33, should be a stout fixed-blade sheath knife, although a 16" khukuri seems a bit much.


If a pocket knife is preferred on grounds that it would be more likely available, it should be a well-made quality pocket knife. Why a "scout" pattern is preferred to a stout lock-blade escapes me, but to each his own. As Bear & Sons knives are showing up in Scout Shops replacing the "CHINA" junk, there is now an alternative to the very good Victorinox BSA knives. However, you cannot strike a spark with natural flint with a stainless steel knife.

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Our scouts survived their wilderness survival weekend, but only just. The scouts involved were older (16-17) and as should be expected at that age, they are a bit rebelious. I posted earlier that they refused to set their own standards for the weekend, and I figured out why, but I will get to that in a bit. They spent Saturday morning working with the younger scouts on skills (fire, knife, ax-yard), but kept running off out of sight periodically between sessions.


To begin with, when it was time to select their gear (in front of the troop) they showed up with the 3 authorized items (clothes, water, and knife) along with flashlights/headlamps and sleeping bags. I politely reminded them that the extra items were not on the list, but that they would have an opportunity to select additional items to take with them. The look of dejection on their face was stunned disbelief. They took their sleeping bags back to their tent, and spent several minutes (out of sight) before they returned.


I collected their cell phones (which they were not suposed to have in camp anyway, but knew they did). They then learned the scenario, and choose their "extra" gear and loaded up and we went to the remote site (2 miles from our camp). We left them with a sealed cell phone for emergencies. (It was later determined that their sleeping bags had been filled with snacks, food and games. Oops.)


I came back around 5pm to visit and see how they were making out. I found their minimalistic camp, but the scouts were no where to be found. As I looked around, I did discover a headlamp right out in the open on their tarp. My first reaction was how dare they bring something like this out and "break the rules," so I snatched it up and put it in my pocket. But as I pondered it for a minute I realized that I really should not be taking that from them (as it was not mine to take). So I opened the back, popped out the batteries, put them in my pocket and dropped the headlamp back where I found it. As we drove back to the campsite, I noticed something odd, and stopped on the side of the road. I saw 3 sets of footprints leading down the road, away from the wilderness area, but there were none going back the other direction. The prints were fresh, and it was obvious that our boys were "sneaking" back to the main camp. Sure enough, when we got to the road junction, they took the path off the road toward our camp (which was 1/2 mile shorter the the road on which I had to drive). I considered my options.


I went back to camp, and went in the direction of where these scouts had run off repeatedly in the morning. Imagine my chagrin when I discoverd bags stashed in easy to find places, with food granola bars and more electronics. They were headed back.


I had played "espionage" and "war games" (in this very camp) as a scout and staff member 3 decades ago, so thinking of ways to counter them came very naturally, and I had home court advantage. I unloaded their gear from the tent and put it in the troop trailer. After dinner, I had the patrols load their coolers and food boxes into the trailer and it was locked.


I felt bad for them: after all, it was at best a 3 mile round trip hike (in the dark without a flashlight) from the wilderness area to base camp, and they had only had a little food. Surely they would be tired. I took comfort in the realization that after such an exertion and adventure, surely they would sleep well, even if the ground was hard.


...I will wait for any replies before I tell you how it all ended...(This message has been edited by Buffalo Skipper)

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I am curious who's idea it was to do the wilderness survival outing for the Venture Patrol? From the blatant disregard for the spirit of thing it seems like the Scouts were not at all interested.


The odd thing is you almost have to commend the Scouts for thinking ahead (had snacks ready to be stashed), planning (hid snacks in woods) and pulling off their own agenda (almost did what they planned; if was not for the meddling SM). Except for the fact they shattered several points of the Scout Law in the process.


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asm 411, from the perspective of what was written here, I can see why you might think that this was something I had planned and "forced" on the scouts. But that is not the case at all. In fact, they have been talking about this since they (specifically the scouts who participated) put it on the schedule back in August at the planning PLC. Two of these scouts even rearranged their work schedules so they could come out and camp this weekend. But there are certain things that happened after the planning meeting which gave them a different perspective on this campout.


First, back in December, I began encouraging the same group that they should plan their hike (in January) to be adult free. This was something that had not happened with our troop in memory. In reality, I don't think that they really thought I would go through with it. The day of that hike, one of these scouts was very sick and was unable to attend (he is the ring-leader of the "gang," or should I say, he has the most imposing personality and is most rebellious).


Once they saw that they could go off on their own, I think they saw it as an opportunity to "ditch" the troop and do their own thing. At some point, they decided that wilderness survival was roughing it too much, and that it would be much more fun to play games and eat junk food all night (I have verified this via another scout with whom they tried to enlist assistance). At that point, it became a game to them to try to get away with this. That was why they did not want to set their own standards for the wilderness survival. It would not be challenge for them to ignore their own rules, but quite another to outmaneuver me.


The truth was that I was oblivious to this. The first inkling I had of this was the unusual amount of time it was taking them to return their sleeping bags to their tent. Later, when I went back to check on them, I started to put it all together, and back at our camp I spoke to our new SPL who spilled the beans that they were going to come back and that they wanted him to stash more food for them where they could find it.


It really does concern me. Yes, there was some pleasure in outwitting and countering them, but I quickly came to realize that there is a bigger "problem" with these scouts and their scout spirit. Beyond the wilderness survival portion of this campout, many of their actions demonstrated to me that they were just being lazy (perhaps even defiantly so). They refused to cook breakfast, and all 3 crammed themselves into a 2-man tent so they would not have to set up another one. And before it was time to leave, they rushed all the other patrols into breaking camp so they could get home, ignoring the SPL's schedule.


They are all about a year from aging out (2 are Life and could make Eagle with a little effort, the other is a 6-year 2nd class who is too involved with advanced academics to be interested in advancement; a third Life scout who is better behaved dropped out on Thursday night because it was his girlfriends birthday). The truth is (and I have had this thought more than once) that after they age out, we have a big gap in age with only 2 scouts between the age of 14-16, so their long-term influence on the troop will be minimal.


What I need to know now is what do I do about their attitude?

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Buffalo Skipper thanks for the long explanation. It is unfortunate that things came together like this. I will be interested to see what the others reply. As a Scouter I believe that letting the older Scouts plan and execute is one of the keys to keeping those Scouts interested and active.

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After gas fumes and perfume kick in it is hard to get older scouts to attend, Its great you got them on a campout. I think the older scouts need more autonomy, you set them up with a nice challenge, they dont have a clue how much effort you put into making it fun for them. The fact is that I see the older scouts putting up with, but being very annoyed with being around the younger scouts. Being able to camp independently as a venture crew might increase their enjoyment of scouting, but whats next? Booze and girls in the tents? It a tough deal. I would sit down and talk to them. I would tell them I didnt appreciate the deception, I would ask them to tighten up and try to get their eagle projects going, you can walk with the turkeys or fly with the eagles. Which one are you?

Any way I really appreciate what you did, I have started a similar thread, your work and others after you helps me, I hope my survival camp turns out well.


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I say the only thing they should have is their "ten essentials," things they would naturally have on them as a good Scout (Be Prepared) when they are out on a hike. If I'm out on an adventure with my family or with Scouts, that's the thing I definitely have with me, and I can get by pretty darn well no matter what with just those ten essentials, a water bottle, a few snacks, and appropriate clothing, jacket, etc.

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When they are backpacking, they should have the "Essentials," whatever they are for the there and then.


A "Personal Survival Kit" ("PSK") is a selection of basic survival gear so compact and so light that the Scout will never be tempted to leave it behind and would not lose (or abandon) if the boat flips or he goes down crossing a stream. It can be in a pouch, pockets, and/or strung around the neck.


As a PSK gets larger and heavier, it can do more. Eventually, it crosses an imprecise line and becomes an "Essentials" selection and not a PSK.


For example, a PSK deals with the 98.6 survival need with fire-building gear and a plastic trash bag, not extra clothing (well, maybe a watch cap). The "Essentials" deals with 98.6 with fire AND insulation layer(s), outer layers, and (often)a tent or good tarp (the "shelter" tool).


I have looked at dozens of "Essentials" lists. They vary, and almost none have as few as ten items. (Sometimes they reach "ten" by such devices as "3. map and compass.") But there is nothing magic about ten.

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Well, it honestly depends on just how "minimalist" you want to be.


If you look at survival guides, personal kits are small, about the size of a tobacco or mint tin...think "deck of cards" size, not "quart ziplock bag" size. As has been said, the size kit you have in your jacket pocket and don't know it's there.


few iodine pills in a small bag

small fishing kit (3 hooks, 3 sinkers, 20' of 20# mono fishing line) in small bag

condom (use for canteen)

few vaseline soaked tinder tabs

few tylenol and benadryl in small bag

razorblade (masking tape over cutting edge)

few pieces 22 ga snare wire

50' 50# braided cord

2 needles


10 waterproof matches

piece of a wax candle

small (12"x12" or so) square of aluminum foil folded up


No blanket, no tarp, no food, no bundles of 550 cord, no flashlight, etc. If you are talking about friday afternoon until saturday afternoon, as long as they have a water source they'll be fine. Food isn't necessary, a fire isn't necessary. You *did* say minimalist. I'd make an exception for anyone with special dietary/medical needs such as diabetes.


This being boy scouts, I'd give them an empty pint water bottle instead of making them use a condom, but the important thing is making them think about how they will contain water with the items in a pocket-sized kit.


Of course, have the appropriate "safety stuff" in case you do have a sudden rainstorm + 20 degree temperature drop. A tarp, blankets, some dry tinder and wood, dry clothes, etc) Yes, they'll actually be fine if they march around all night, but at some point you cross the line from adventure to "practicing being miserable".(This message has been edited by jrush)

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So, B.S., since it's been 3 years where are these boys now?


I met one of our troop's graduates when he was on leave after his first round of marine basic training. This was a boy who got by most times on his phone for navigation. You could never be sure how much sunk in. One of the first things he did was thank me for the map-and-compass training. He excelled at the night orienteering course on Paris Island because of it. And honestly, with this kid, I could barely get two points across in a sitting. Evidently they were the ones that mattered.

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"Flashlights" these days can be as small as a couple of Quarters.


Iodine, like regular chlorine, will not eliminate giardia or cryptosporidium, the Handbook to the contrary notwithstanding. Hence, having a small metal vessel to boil water is good, although aluminum foil, used VERY carefully, can serve. Many PSK's propose a metal cup as the container.


A "button" compass takes up little room and works well navigating to a "base line" feature.


Fire is a great multi-use tool (98.6/water/signaling/morale), so a source of ignition is good.

BSA Hot Spark is small.


A plastic whistle qualifies (and can also be used as . . . ).


A balloon can replace the condom, is sturdier, and has uses other than a water container (Scouts regularly come up with five uses for a balloon.)

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I suppose it depends on how small the PSK needs to be, although I did forget about the little LED lights.


why not add a fleece cap?

a tube tent?

extra socks?

chocolate bars?

pocket saw?


At some point, your PSK no longer fits into a pocket without being noticed.


you made a good point, though...I've always used "iodine tabs" as a generic term for water purification tablets...the new stuff I've been using doesn't have iodine in it.(This message has been edited by jrush)

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Considerable paper and electronic literature on water purification is inaccurate, including the 2010 Handbook and 2008 Wilderness Survival Merit badge pamphlet (but not other BSA publications, such as the book "Don't Get Sick" and a recent article in Scouting [magazine]). Current advise from private and public authorities is that iodine and regular chlorine (Sodium hypochlorite) are minimally effective against protozoans, which form protective cysts. Unfortunately, protozoans are the most widely-distributed bio hazard in wild water, being found, for example, in every county in Maine.


Here is a sample from the U.S. CDC

"Cryptosporidium is poorly inactivated by chlorine or iodine disinfection. Water can be treated effectively by boiling or filtration with an absolute 1-m filter. Specific information on preventing cryptosporidiosis through filtration can be found in Cryptosporidiosis: A Guide to Water Filters (www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/gen_info/filters.html)."


Also: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/travel/backcountry_water_treatment.html


Accord, Mayo Clinic; Wilderness Medical Society; Red Cross; Surgeon General; all branches of U.S. Military.


Do a Google on cryptosporidium and Milwaukee to see a major failure of Chlorine.

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