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traditional camping and why I like it

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With all of the possible outdoor activities for scouts these days I often see troops getting specialized. I know of a troop that approaches each and every campout as though it were a low impact backpacking trip. All hiking equipment, backpacks, "hiking" food. And I think to myself "great, but when did hiking become the high pincale of camping?"


I guess the bug bit me when I met a man named Mr Oslund. He had a canvas lean-pee set up and had a big group of people captivated with a rope trick he was performing. All I could think of at the moment was "whoa, that's a cool tent". Now I realise that things have changed a lot since the lean-pee was the apex of camping technology, but still that little bug was sinking it;s fangs into me. I was hooked on old traditional stuff. I guess i'm not alone. The BSA catalog still sometimes offers traditional style equipment, but why don't others give it a try ever?


I know there are a lot of buckskinners and Civil War reenactors out there that camp out with old equipment. Why is this romantic notion so absent in scouting? My old troop had a pertty diverse schedule allways. We hiked, canoed, and car-camped at camp-o-rees and had a good time. I see the traditional camping as just another way to enjoy what I already do. Now a lot of what was once done is now frowned upon by the Guide to safe scouing. I guess using a fire to heat a lean-to would be a little overboard. Some things, however, like simple canvas tarp tents, can actually be more comfortable than modern gear. Likewise, with a small canvas pack you aren't hauling the kitchen sink with, so after a few hikes you are hardly carrying any frivelous extras, and having a more enjoyable experience because technology is no longer a heavy crutch to help you get around your poor skills.


I guess my point is that I would like to see more traditional ideas like open fire cooking, basic scoutcraft, sleeping under the stars, and mabey I've just seen too many Norman Rockwells but I kind of like the looks of a scout in a square neckerchief and campaign hat.


I also hate to see somebody be actually shielded from a certain type of camping just because the troop is too set in their ways to try something diferent, like in the backpacking troop. I feel sad that they probably won't try a dutch oven because they're too heavy, even if they are camping right next to their cars. Besides, there is more to camping than just backpacking.

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Just a comment on the concept of 'traditional'. Sometimes I think some persons like camping because it gives them an excuse to buy a lot of specialized equipment. But there is another extreme that, to me, seems closer to a 'traditional' style. I am aware of a wilderness program in which the youth are given a really good sleeping bag, and a standard foam pad. They have to build their own pack frame from tree limbs strapped together with leather straps. They cook directly on the fire or using old tin cans and they have to carve a spoon from wood to use as a utensil. They have no matches and if the fire goes out they must rekindle it using sticks and friction (bow and spindle). They spend many weeks without a break in summer and winter (and it gets really cold there) without a tent, just a piece of blue plastic. They pack up and move every 2-3 days. And they do great. To me, that is closer to traditional camping. They are awesome.

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The troop my son is a cook over open fires, only troop. Now this is a good thing, I think, taken to an extreme. I do not like seeing troops getting specialized. I think that a troop should offer many different variations of camping, Low Impact, Dutch Ovens, No pans, cooking on different types of stoves. This way the scouts would not get bored with the same old thing every month and broadens their experiences. When the scouts go on a High Adventure trip, they usually need to be trained on how to camp without a trailer nearby with all of the gear.

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I know of many troops that do "Traditional Camping" as you have described. They cook over open fires, use dutch ovens and sleep under the stars (even here in MN).


Heck, my troop even lights every fire with flint and steel.


I think a lot of it comes from the experiance's the adults bring and what type of program your camp runs.

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I love traditional camping. It is they way I did it back when I was a scout.


As a new SM though, I think it is best left up to the scouts. Make some hints to it though.


I was going to make a standared (not a rule) that at least on meal on a two night camping trip be in a dutch. Only one meal could be hot dogs, and only one breakfast could be ceral of any type. (including Oatmeal).


As the Cubmaster for a pack, We go Family camping twice a year. And I always bring my dutch ovens as I make dinner for the whole pack Saturday night. My scouts and parents can not get enough, I have needed to by two more just to keep up with the demand.





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I agree that the troops should not be specialized - if a PATROL chooses to specialize it's emphasis within the troop - that's fine - by the time they get into a regular patrol, they should have enough different experiences to make a choice about what their favorites are, and if they chose to do mostly back packing, or canoeing, or whatever - that's great.


But what does a 12 yr old know about what he wants? most cubs don't get much chance to camp and as first-year scouts they are working on building their skills. if they aren't given opportunities to TRY different things, how can they make a choice on what the really like or don't like?


I taught my son from a young age 'leave no trace' principles - even when we used our pop-up with it's electric lights and foam beds, in a campground with flush toilets and water hook-ups - we always took care not to do any additional damage & left a site better than we found it.


But we have an ASM in our troop who thinks 'leave no trace' ALWAYS means specialist, minimalist equipment, lightweight stoves and freeze-dried food. and NEVER any campfires! I once spent the longest night of my life on a winter campout with this guy - when it's -10, cloudy, windy and the sun goes down at 4:30, there's not much else to DO but get in your warm sleeping bag! - the boys were bored! If we had a campfire, we could have at least stayed warm enough to socialize and tell stories, (It was too cloudy, windy and cold for a star hike). and While I can usually sleep anytime, I can't stay in a mummy bag for 10 or 12 hours!


I think there's alot of room in between these two kinds of camping for ALOT of variety - and i think there's value in learning to tailor your program and equipment choices based on different kinds of camping - they ALL have value.


While few LIKE hauling extra 'stuff', that 'stuff' provides learning experiences and opportunities for the boys - putting up a group shelter, having a full axe-yard, cooking over campfires AND different kinds of stoves - using Cardboard ovens, stovetop ovens and dutch ovens - just making choice of how elaborate their campsite is, teaches them how to prioritize and organize. EVERYTHING is a learning experience!


Once the boys have experienced a variety of things, THEY can choose to do what THEY like.




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HI All

A new Bass Pro Shop opened here last month just in time for Christmas. My 17 year-old son and I went to check it out. As we ventured into the tent section, I noticed an old single pole canvas Boy Scout tent on display. Look, that is the same tent I used in scouts I said pointing to the display. My son looked at the floorless canvas tent and replied, looked really heavy dad, and then strolled on to the backpacks. I stood there staring at the tent while a flood of memories, emotions and smells ran through my mind.


There was my first Boy Scout campout where a cold front came through in the middle of the night followed by freezing rain and six inches of snow. I woke up the next morning to the voice of an adult telling the scouts Dont eat the yellow snow. Our Oklahoma Troop was not prepared for such weather, so we broke camp. I remember the best we could do with the frozen canvas tent was folding them just small enough to fit in the back of the pickup trucks. The adults spent two weeks thawing and drying those tents.


There was the night we heard spooky footsteps outside our tent. Eventually my tent mate and I peeked out our sleeping bags to see an armadillo crawling between us. I can only imagine what the SM thought of those horrible screams in the night.


It was not unusual to wake up shivering in the sleeping bag outside the tent because a gentle slope, or adventurous dream can caused you wiggle or roll under the floorless tent walls into the open sky.


It didnt take long to learn that canvas is never light, never easy to fold, and never quick to dry. Do I miss that part of traditional camping? No, not really. But I have wondered if that is really traditional camping.


Cooking on the fire. Now I have to agree that cooking on the fire gives a completely different aspect to camping. And that was probably the biggest disappointment when I got back into scouting as an adult. But our guys eventually learned to cook on the fire and actually brag about to their friends in other troops. Who would have thought cooking on the fire could be so cool. Still, there is nothing like relying completely on the fire for good food and clean dishes.


Cooking on the fire is probably traditional camping, but I have to wonder if tradition is in the eye of the beholder. For me, traditional camping is standing around the fire at night talking with my Patrol buddies. It was at that fire I learned everything about girls, movies and the performance of WWII fighter aircraft. It was at the warm patrol fire I learned how different food pakagings burned. It was there where my patrol mates confessed the horrors of divorce and the heartache of breaking up with girl friends. We discussed politics, sex and religion. We laughed, cried and even had many moments of saying nothing while staring at the crackling fire. For us young adults, we learned about real life around those fires.


As a result, I encourage our scouts to build fires in their patrols hoping they had the same experiences. You never know how thing catch on, but in and effort to be the worlds most popular SM, I always had a SM cracker barrel after the Troop campfire. As the years went by and the troop matured, the cracker barrel became less popular for fear of missing something important at the patrol campfire. Does that count in passing on traditional camping?


Great post willys, great memories.


Oh I love this scouting stuff.




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Traditional camping...? You think that's traditional camping? Bah....


Why, when I was a boy, I remember the great outdoors and the challenge it presented. Simply surviving was an achievement. Yes, sir...


Sleeping bags? Never used 'em. Tents? Never needed 'em. No sir.


We'd make our own beds from available materials already on the ground in the woods. Sometimes we'd cut live pine boughs for a softer 'matress'. More often than not, we'd simply lie on the ground in a cave and sleep if we didn't have time to build our own shelter. Tents? Bah...


Sleeping bags? No sir. We'd sleep covered with dry leaves, and plenty of 'em. Warm as toast we were. Yes sir.


Campfires? Sometimes. More often than not we'd eat what we had without the cooking necessities. We got by. We never lacked food or water. Always camped right where both were readily available by the offerings of good ol' Mother Nature. Yes sir...we survived and we were a hearty bunch. And proud of it. Not like the weenies of today. No sir. We were tough.


Once a week, in the early dawn, we'd leave camp and set out with our gear of choice, even if that was only a long pointed stick. Yes sir... And once we found and killed that wooly mammoth, we were set for a week at least...yes sir. A tough bunch we were....


oh...wait.....hey...whaddaya mean by all that laughing....?(This message has been edited by saltheart)

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We've always done some of "both", car camping with more/heavier stuff and backpacking with less/lighter stuff. I think it's good for the lads to experience both.


I also happen to be a big believer in being well-rested, well-fed, and comfortable, to the extent my preparations and surroundings permit. I also encourage my Scouts to embrace the same mindset. If we're driving in and I can carry a dutch oven, I do so. If fires are permitted, we plan to have them; etc., etc.


The BSA catalog does sell a pretty good selection of traditional, or heritage, or whatever they call it, equipment. In my last troop, we actually ordered the Baker Tent from the catalog, with our intent to use it as a Troop "HQ" during outings. Heavy canvas, tall in the front, short in the back, with the big flap that sticks out. It didn't come with poles, so we had to get those separately -- needed three different lengths: about 16" in back, 6' in the middle, and 7' at the front (end of the flap, so the rain would go back and you have more headroom). More guy lines than a radio transmission tower, and a minimum two-adult job to put it up, accompanied by much snarling and mental curses. However, when it was up, it never failed to attract other Scouts & Scouters, like moths to a candle. They admired it lovingly, as one would a classic automobile, and you could feel the nostalgia just being near the thing.


So, yes, a pain in the neck. But, worth every bit of it.



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