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How about some plain simple camping?

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Sitting here at the computer because I woke up about 30 minutes ago. It's 3 am and I'm wide awake and don't know exactly why.


So I'm sitting here listening to the quiet , but realizing that it's not really that quiet after all. The refrigerator is running, although it's not loud. Just kinda blends in in the background so you hardly notice it any more. The HVAC kicks in every so often too, but like the fridge, you don't even hardly notice it any more.


So this got me thinking about the very first time I took my son camping, which happened to be in Cub Scouts.


It was a fall pack family campout. Mid October, so the days were warm and the nights just chilly enough to make you enjoy the night time campfire and sleeping bag. Also made a morning cup of coffee just right while starting the am campfire from last nights coals.


So anyways, that first night, we were in our tent and I was just about to slip into sleep mode when my son asked me: "Dad! What was that noise?"


I didn't hear anything, so I told him so. He heard it again, and again. It took me a while, but I realized he was hearing leaves fall and slide down the side of the tent and rain fly!


I mean...what does a leaf weigh? 3/100ths of an ounce?


But it was cool that he heard it and he even said that everybody ought to be able to experience hearing a leaf fall! Or something to that effect.


Now, this was Cub Scouts , and it was Pack family camping, so the program wasn't as streamlined and orchestrated as your average council event or Troop camping. And by that, what I really mean is that we didn't have every minute of the day laid out and fitting into some designated plans.


We were more relaxed with plenty of fre time for the kids to run around, play, get dirty, explore and just have fun. And I say kids and not scouts because there were siblings that were not scouts present. Older or younger brothers and sisters too.


Yeah, we did have some activities laid out, but they were not imperative to meeting rank or out of line for non scouts to appreciate or enjoy.


But here's the cool thing. Myself and some other leaders were drinking coffee early one morning when one of us pointed out that the boys were drinking hot chocolate around a campfire and comparing "war stories" about what they did or saw the day before. They were talking about sleeping in tents , hearing owls, birds, people snoring, how quiet it was, the sound of a stream nearby if you turned your head just the right way.They even laughed about the whole camp hearing somebody fart in the middle of the night.


But they were not talking about Star Wars or the latest cartoons or who could do what to reach this level on what video game.



So I also remember going to out first council camping trip. Activities were really for the Tigers and Wolves, so my Webelos son really wasn't interested in doing ( as he put it) "Baby activities".


But he still enjoyed the camping itself along with the campfires, hot chocolate , cooking hot dogs on sticks over the fire, etc... You know, the simple part of camping.



So here's a thought that is starting to form in my mind:


Do you ever go camping just for the sake of camping? By that, I mean as a pack or troop, do you ever plan a camping trip that doesn't involve trying to cram in a bunch of classes, workshops, rank advancing challenges or requirements?


I'm thinking about the occasional post I read where somebody didn't get to finish "X" activity at camp and got a partial instead or how you can barely get requirements to fit into a weekend camp.


Then I read how some boys are considered "unmotivated" because they go to the campouts, but don't try to advance very hard.


Maybe they want the camping, but not alot of hard work or classes?


So I wonder, do you ever camp just for the sake of camping? Do you camp just for the sheer enjoyment of camping ..but as a troop or pack?


Instead of making every camping trip a school or class for rank or advancement, or "work"....do you ever do one just for relaxation and taking it easy and enjoying simple things like staring at a campfire and talking about the sound of leaves falling?


It seems like that as much as we are trying to get the kids outdoors and into wanting to go camping, we cram so much crap into it, that they don't get to just sit back and enjoy it!


Now, I am not saying every campout should be about sleeping til 9 am or not doing any scout skills or learning, but maybe 1 or 2 trips a year should be about doing just that.


Just camping for the sake of enjoying it. Without anything else attached to it.

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Scoutfish, speaking for myself personally AND for this unit, I'd have to say we always go camping just to go camping. Yes, sometimes we do other stuff but the trips go regardless of other motives and are for the sake of getting in the outdoors, listening to that stream at night, telling those stories, hearing the quiet sounds of the forest, and all the other great things. I do it solo as almost a matter of religious reverence. And I go with the unit and we make the camping trips to expand on the experiences from the last trip, to see new places, hear new streams and sounds, and then share those 'war' stories around the campfire.

Thanks for this thread.


BTW, about that early wakeup...it's called 'old age'. Have a nice day. :)

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I do the "just camping" thing all the time.


My boys are always planning for Camporee, summer camp, etc. with all the program "stuff" associated with that. However, I camp more often than they do and I always invite them to go along. I do whitewater canoeing/kayaking, I do gentle river floats, I do weekend hikes and bike rides with camping involved. They can, if they wish, "just go along" for the weekend. I always have another adult (buddy system) along so I always have my two deep leadership.


Surprisingly, not many boys are all that interested in going. There isn't enough structure for them. Fishing along a slow float isn't their thing. Sitting around the campfire without skits and entertainment isn't their thing.


So what do I see as the big difference? For the boys, entertainment and "adventure" are synonymous. There is no adventure in the solitude and wonder of pure nature anymore.


Your mileage may vary,



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Most kids don't have the patience to simply sit, and do nothing for an entire weekend. Heck, I don't either! I want to be hiking, fishing, climbing, and just generally doing fun outdoor things.


All of the advancements, requirements, yada, yada, all happen while you are "just camping". That's the point. They happen naturally as a part of being outdoors and doing fun things.


The boys, and adults, have plenty of time to sit around a campfire talking about different things, or to quietly watch the squirrels chase each other, or the skunk family wander thru camp.


A good camping trip, at any level, is not school, or work, or "cramming" in nonstop advancement. It is fun.



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No, no no!


Don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that hiking, canoeing, exploring, cooking or stuff along those lines should be dropped.


Nor am I saying my post applies to every camping trip.


I am only saying that at least once or twice a year, the camping shouldn't be about doing something for the sake of advancement or rank.


Couldthey or should they use skills already learned? ABSOLUTELY.


But instead of it being a planned lesson that hapens at camp, maybe it should just be camoing for camping's sake.


And the reason I say this ia that I have seen leaders try to cram so much stuff into a weekend , that if one thing goes wrong,the whole plann is screwed up.


I read in these forums that some scouts feel to much pressure and I read alot of comments that state some leaders have to remind other leaders and parents that advancement should happen at it's own pace.


What I am saying is that at least 1 or 2 times a year, the camping should not have anything that has to do with rank advancement or earning anything.


Go hiking, swimming, canoeing or whatever at your own leisurely pace. If you want to swim....that's great!

If you want to just chill and be lazy..that's great!


If you want to hike just to see what kind of bird that is making a fuss at the top of the tree on that hill..AWESOME!


If you are going to so you catch up on a rank advacement requirement or unfinished achievemnt,or to finish out a session.....wait til the next trip!

I'm just saying, why the emphasis on all the camping skills? What is the point behind teaching all that stuff?


To make camping easier, to better prepare you, and so you enjoy the camping more.


Kinda like, we go to school to learn how to enjoy camping. So let's camp for enjoyment rather than another lesson on camping.


Not all the time, not every time. Just every now and then.

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The image of waking up at dawn and watching sunrise over a mist-coverd mountain stream is an adult thing. A 16-year-old's version of that fantasy is watching the gasoline vapors shimmering off a mud splattered ATV.


Every tried watching old movies with teenagers? Impossible. We do an all-night movie lock-in following TLT every year. The adults get to pick one movie, usually some classic we think the boys "ought" to see. One year we showed "Cool Hand Luke" which the adults all thought the boys would go crazy for. Very few of the boys made it to the end. Most left during the scene where Luke's mother visits him. Yeah, it's a long, boring scene but explains the rest of the movie. They missed the hard-boiled egg scene, all the escape scenes. Not near enough action. Boys are accustomed to constant entertainment. Compare "Bullet" which includes one of the greatest car chases in movie history to the new "Gone in 60 Seconds". Boys won't sit still through the bulk of "Bullet" to catch the 5-6 minute chase, where as "Gone" is one long, two-hour chase.


Same applies to campouts. My experience is boys must have planned activities. Not usually teaching or classes, but out doing stuff -- canoeing, climbing, shooting, etc. I'll go as far as to say one of the reasons my guys aren't particularly into backpacking is that they don't really see the benefit to being able to hike into some remote area to camp. Where's the payoff? Why do they want to hike 7 miles just to sit around a campfire when you can park the troop trailer in the campsite adjacent to the shooting range?


Over the years we've tried totally unstructured campouts. Total disasters. Idle hands and all. The only time I've called parents and sent boys home have been from these campouts. Even so, on our normal campouts with planned activities, there's plenty of down time for the boys to do their thing and just hang out. But if that's all they have to do it's not going to be good.

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My bad, I'm still not being clear on one point. I'd still go swimming, hiking, canoeing and those type activities. That's part of plain camping to me. I am not saying that you do nothing but sit at a campfire.


Let them swim, hike , bring a fotball or baseball.


But I do not mean no activity at all, just saying 1 or 2 times a year and ONLY 1 or 2 times..not all the time....maybe just relax and not push rank advancemnent.



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Think I am with Pack here. We seldom ever have specific, rigid advancement plans; though they are available should boys choose to do them. Like I will usually do knife and axe safety, including setting up a temporary axe area. I enjoy simply chopping wood, so I do. I will teach the scouts how to properly use the tool to "do the work" if they are big enough, and some do. Others simply want to climb on rocks, catch lizards, play in the stream, and so on. So be it; it is "their" time.


Interestingly enough, the most unstructured outings are often the ones they talk about later. And Twocubs, I was surprised to see 3 brand new bridged scouts sit and watch the sun set last fall and make mention of how pretty it was. So, maybe we do not give them enough credit for the these things.


For me, it is often the complete quiet time after they all have gone to bed that is best. Standing by almost dead coals, stirring them to regenerate the warmth, is somehow special. And occasionally, a scout will choose to join me. Those have sometimes been when I learned more about the individual boy than I had in months, or even years.


Yes, simply camping is a good thing. And even the terrible drive in can give us some of these moments if the location is remote enough to get away from most of the crazy stuff of popular sites.



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On the first campout after becoming scoutmaster, the boys in the PLC said they wanted to have a campout where there was no plan. Just go camping and have fun; as Scoutfish put it "... free time for the kids to run around, play, get dirty, explore and just have fun.". Following the boy led instructions that I had received, I said fine. In the early afternoon on Saturday, the boys had become bored with the all day capture the flag game that they decided to do. So they enhanced it with some rather unscoutlike treatment of the new scouts. It was the worst (or perhaps best?) indoctrination as scoutmaster.


The next time the PLC proposed a similar campout, I changed my reply slightly to "Sure. You guys are in charge and can decide to do what you want. You will need to solicit some parents to go with you, because I am not going to attend." So they decided to plan some scouting activities.


I do think that a weekend camping trip needs to have time for exploring the woods and streams, but not an entire weekend without a plan other than run around and get dirty.


But if by "plain simple camping" you mean "schedule activities without emphasis on advancement", then I agree. I suggest doing this on ALL campouts, not just 1 or 2 per year.


Campouts should not be a "school or class for rank advancement", nor be required work towards a merit badge; if you see this occuring in your troop, then I agree with you that you should try to de-emphasize this.


Campouts should be for activities. The activities drive the need for learning skills in order to participate and to get better at them. Completion of T-2-1 requirements (and perhaps some merit badge requirements)would naturally fall out of this.(This message has been edited by venividi)

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I'm with Venivedi's version, although I think we're all describing very subtle differences of the same thing.


I think you misunderstand how activities and advancement work in Boy Scouts, Fish. Except for a few campouts with the new Scouts in the spring, it's rare that we say, okay Scouts gather around, we're going to work on requirement/skill X. Advancement should grow organically from activities. We don't have cooking classes, we may have an "Iron Chef" weekend where the focus is on cooking, but not a class.


If we're doing it right, most campouts are going to look like what you describe.

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As a CM, pack campouts are too much work for me to actually enjoy. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of high spots and memories; but I feel like I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.


I get lots of personal satisfaction from non-scout camping trips, like this one:




I volunteer in scouting hoping to instill a love of the outdoors in all my boys. Hopefully they'll want to take their children and friends to the woods when they get older...


Also, in personal camping you don't have to hide the wine bottle, and your dog is welcome!

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Well, I know that Boy Scout Camping is not the same as Cub Scout camping....But I may not have a completely clear picture of what Boy Scout Camping is "SUPPOSED" to be.


It just seems from alot of posts that the Boy Scouts ( was gonna abbreviate "BS" but that just wouldn't seem right! :) )

camping involves alot of advancement one day and BOR's the next.


But from what you and a few others describe, maybe I am only seeing what the mils do while camping?


And again, sounds like your camping is the kind I am proposing.

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Example of Boy Scout Camping and how achievement flows from just doing things -


Boys have to pack for a campout, and have the proper gear. By dressing, packing, getting your gear ready, and demonstrating the above to your Scoutmaster, a Scout has completed Tenderfoot requirement #1, and Camping Merit Badge requirement #5.


Boys have to set up their own tents. No parents or maids available to do this. By camping overnight in a tent they have pitched, a Scout has completed Tenderfoot requirement #2, parts of Second Class requirements #3a, and #3b, part of First Class requirement #3, part of requirement #9a for the Camping Merit Badge.


Everyone has to eat. You don't order out from the nearest pizza joint. Boys do their own planning of their menus, cooking, and cleaning up. By doing all of this a Scout can have completed Tenderfoot requirement #3, Second Class requirements #3d, #3e, #3f, and #3g, First Class requirements #4a, #4b, #4c, #4d, #4e, Camping Merit Badge requirements #6b, and #8a-d, Cooking Merit Badge requirements #3, and #4, Backpacking requirement #8c.


As a fun thing to do on Saturday morning, how about doing a Pioneering or Camp Gadget (tying and lashing poles together to make stuff) competition between patrols to see which patrol can make the craziest thing that actually works? A Scout can have completed Tenderfoot requirement #4a-c, First Class requirements #7a-b, and #8a, part of Climbing Merit Badge requirement #7, various requirements for the Pioneering Merit Badge. (my son absolutely loved pioneering and knots, still does to this day and he will be 22 in a few weeks)



That is just a sample. Even something as simple as the morning flag raising, and the evening flag lowering ceremony can be used for requirements. There are lots of requirements involving hiking, first aid, swimming, canoeing, climbing, fire building, finding your way, etc. None of these things are "labeled" as being done for advancement. They are being done because it is part of the actual camping process (setting up tent site, eating, cleaning, chopping wood, etc), or it is fun to do.


No "school work" or boring classes involved.


(This message has been edited by Scoutnut)

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As I've mentioned before, I've been away from Boy Scouts for about 30 years, and since my son is currently a Tiger, I have about 4 more years to go before I'm back.


But my experience with Scouting was that we very rarely "worked on advancement" while camping, at least during weekend campouts. However, at some point, possibly at the next troop meeting, I was encouraged to open up my book to page so-and-so, and it was pointed out to me that, lo and behold, I had completed requirement number such-and-such.


I suspect that this might have been planned to some extent, but they never really let on that it was anything other than serendipity.


Other than Cub Scout family camp, I haven't done any Scout camping for a long time. But when we go camping as a family, the ideal schedule is something along the following lines:


1. Get up

2. Eat something that doesn't require cooking

3. Take time cooking a proper breakfast

4. Eat breakfast

5. Take time cooking lunch

6. Eat lunch

7. Take time cooking supper

8. Eat supper

9. Go to bed


Even with that busy schedule, I try to also squeeze in a nap or two. When it comes time to look for a troop, I'll probably encourage my son to find one that follows this schedule. :)

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