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69RoadRunner

Backpacking Down Time Fun Activity Ideas

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Our troop has mostly done car camping while I've been involved. We're going to Philmont next year, so we'll be doing several backpacking trips during the scout year to shakedown gear and make sure those who want to participate are physically capable (including adults, of course).

I hate being involved in events that don't have down time for scouts to have some fun on their own. It's easier to bring stuff they can do when car camping. Card games is one good light, compact activity. What other things do your scouts enjoy?

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Philmont bound? Welcome to the "hike a month" club!

There is precious little that is more fulfilling than sitting on a rock some distance from your crew and watching them, after an arduous treck through a land of rocks and bogs, settle on a poncho between two large hemlocks and break out the deck of cards for a game of spoons (sporks?). A ten point buck who had not yet dropped his antlers for summer wandered in to check out their shenanigans.

On last year's wilderness hike, the boys built a "fort" with parachord and tarps on night 1, and waded in a stream until they found a pool where we could set up a safe swim area on night 2.

Most wilderness areas require contingents no greater than 10, so have your SPL work with each patrol to make a hike plan where they wil have different insertions and trails and a common rendevous. Try to find a big field for your destination and have the adults on one corner and ech patrol 100 yards from the adults and each other. Big field = wide games.

At night, I may join the older scouts at their campfire and help them identify constellations. (Most of our have lived under light pollution so the galaxy is a stranger to them.) In the morning, the SM may try to call in turkey. Scouts making hen clucks are a riot!

Some sites are only a few miles in, so after setting up camp, we plan a day hike along a trail that may have an old-growth destination, berry fields, or geocaches, or a good spring/seep for water collection. Scouts can take their pick. Or, if we are by a nice stream, they might try to niggle a few trout on some bail or twine.

For a couple of scouts who just like to slum at camp, you might want to teach them to play mumbly peg. Carving walking sticks or fallen antlers is always fun. (Pro tip: certain scouts will need to know where the first aid kit is packed.) Some other scouts would like to engineer a campfire circle (including lounge chairs) or build a fish trap. Other scouts will want to bake cookies after rigging a reflector oven with foil and cardboard.

That's the fun in backpacking, with just the stuff they're carrying, each scout learns how he can contribute something fun to the larger group.

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Thank you for the ideas. Here is our plan, but as Russell Ziskey said, Custer had a plan. 

We're doing a troop backpacking trip in September. We'll make it flexible based on abilities and camping in a primitive campground site that can handle our not so big troop. 

The Philmont shakedowns will be just for the Philmont crew, but if there's room on a trip, younger, capable scouts can join. So it won't be separate patrols. We don't have enough age eligible scouts to even completely fill a 12 person crew, including adults. 

I joined Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to rent one of their cabins for one of our hikes with this crew just to mix things up. They'll get the hiking in on that one, if not the full backpacking thing. The rest will be true backpacking. 

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Posted (edited)

We've done older and younger contingents. Older are dropped at a trailhead 7-14 miles from rendezvous (depending on activities/challenges on their trail), younger (with maybe an SPL/TG/ASPL) insert at trailhead where the vehicles can be parked park 3-5 miles from rendezvous. Groups may take separate 3-5 mile trails to the extraction point(s).

It's a really good idea for the younger scouts to see the older ones at the end of the day. Won't work for every hike the Philmont boys will condition for (fact is, some of those hikes will be crammed in Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons at local parks when the troop and most everyone's sports team is taking a break), but you want that example of preparation (including various foibles) to be observed on as many as possible troop outings.

The various ATCs are awesome! Some of the older scouts will enjoy getting in on cleanup days.

Edited by qwazse
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We'll do something similar. We'll have vehicles at the campsite, so younger scouts don't have to carry a full pack, just a day pack. 

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On hikes, I’ve seen everything from cards to D&D or other role play games to small pioneering projects.  The scouts seem to always find something fun to do. I like to bring a star guide to stargaze after dark. Skits and songs work great too even without a camp fire. 

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13 hours ago, 69RoadRunner said:

We'll do something similar. We'll have vehicles at the campsite, so younger scouts don't have to carry a full pack, just a day pack. 

Increase that mileage as your year progresses. My experience is that our 1st years are fine with hiking in 3-6 miles (again, depends on terrain) with full packs. It's the 13 year-olds who gripe about anything more than a mile!

However, those distances are a wake-up call for some adults to quit the cigarettes, get on a diet and hike every day. So, gradually building up the distance is a good strategy for all involved.

Which reminds me, I''d better get going if I'm gonna make my 2K walk to my coffee shop!

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