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Starting backpacking in a troop of young scouts

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I'm looking for resources for starting backpacking in a troop of mostly 5th and 6th grade scouts. Obviously, it's a little early to be putting that much weight on their backs, let alone the expense of collecting that kind of gear, but I need some suggestions on how best to proceed. Most of our older scouts went to Philmont on contingents with the council, so it's been about 7 years since the troop sent a troop contingent, but then most of the troop aged out, soon after that. We have some motivated, new adult leaders, but trying to get them to understand this is not the same as the basic scout skills, and it needs to be planned appropriately, is proving to be a challenge.

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I would suggest planning some day hikes and short overnight trips. Michael Ray wrote a dissertation on lightweight backpacking that is aimed at the scout leader and is well worth your time to read. You can find it at: http://topshotsystems.com/Lightweight_Scouting_Dissertation.pdf


I get frustrated by the amount of time spent on gear when we go car camping and I am happy that the PLC has incorporated more backpacking trips into the schedule this year.


Have fun!


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Thanks, Pat. We have just gotten to a point where this is possible, if I can convince some of the new ASM's to be patient, and wait until after our 2 long term camps next Monday. The effort to try and do a short backpacking trip, this coming weekend is proving problematic, because we don't have enough trained leaders or older scouts going, but have alot of new scouts, who are going on their first campout. The idea of splitting up these 2 groups is a risk I am not comfortable, even though I am the unit leader and won't be going, because I have the next 2 weekends to be going camping with the crew and the OA chapter, that I have to be there. That looks like a great beginning discussion on the subject, and is certainly alot more then what is in the fieldbook.

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Backpacking can be done with lighter and economical equipment. The recent Scouting magazine article "Hike Like Me" in the March/April issue might give you some inspiration. I plan on getting his book, "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide". He talks about ultra light and inexpensive equipment options.


If you didn't get that issue it's available at http://digital.scouting.org/scoutingmagazine/marapr2012/resources/index.htm

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Looks like you're locked in to a few things. I'd encourage your leaders to be sure of the boys' general activity level.


Have the older boys lead the newbies on a day hike around the area. Each boy should carry a day-pack with a snack and water and gear appropriate for the weather. One boy should bring a garbage bag. Plan the hike so there are plenty of loops back just in case you have a couple of boys who want to quit. The adults observe all this from the rear so that they can begin talking to parents about future acquisitions of footgear, packs, tents, etc ...


The other strategy is to get into the habit of parking about a mile from campsite, if possible. This forces the boys to plan how they hike their gear in. If this happens for nearly every camp-out, they will eventually get the picture that packing efficiently leaves more time for fun at camp.


Consider a heart-to-heart with your crew about your wish to get the young boys up to speed and your perception that the older boys in the troop may need some guidance.

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We do Christmas gear wish lists.............that way the parents, grand parents and friends can equip the scout.


Day hikes, lots of them.....Make sure the boys like to walk before your first trip....


The next thing we did was cook lunches on day hikes. We buddy cook, not as a patrol...Smaller pots, smaller stoves.....


Boots boots boots......Before you leave always check their foot wear and send the boy home in converse or keds.... No traction or protection.



Q....is dead on as usual...


What is there fitness level????


Has your troop day hiked before???? what was the distance???? how was the experience??


Is this the boys Idea????


Now as romantic as Backpacking sounds it is a heck of a lot of work and the initial trip with take a huge amount of prep.


The linked article is good and a great place to start......

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We are doing just that. Our troop is newer with almost all younger scouts, two of whom are brand new to scouts. Two boys have extensive experience.


We spent a few meetings working on learning backpacking. We took a 3-4 mile hike one night. As for gear, we're maiking it work. A couple boys were planning to rent packs from REI. Then, a gentleman from my church found out I was a SM and offered to donate all his old backpacking gear. No more need to rent. All the gear will be troop loaner gear with several packs, tents, cook supplies etc.


Ask older scouts to condsider donating outgrown gear.


Remond the scouts that backpacking is as much psychological as is it physical. When they realize that, it makes the challenging times easier.


Have fun.

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For young scouts on their first or second backpack jaunt you might be able to cache some of the equipment at the evening's campsite. Maybe deliver tents and water to the evening's campsite and just have them hump in their bedrolls and food.

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T2 why not make it a high adventure trip....Only older guys....



You guys need to quit serving the meal before the appetizers.......



Every scout does not need to do everything the first year he joins.....There is nothing wrong with making them wait, give them something to aspire or dream about...


Beside Backpacking should never ever happen at a troop level...

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A lot of people have the tendency to jump in with both feet when it comes to backpacking. :) This is both good and bad.


Scouts that young cannot carry the weight necessary to do a long trek so I would suggest backing up all the way to where you were before you jumped.


Start with learning how to camp with minimal amounts of gear that one would need for backpacking activities and then put them in a car, drive them to the campsite and let them have it. They get there, they learn how to minimally camp, but they don't start out dead tired and "crabby". Once they learn to minimally camp, add pack of personal items, and hike a bit before the second camp out where the leaders will have brought the supplemental items that would have flattened the younger boys.


Once they have learned to minimally camped, then begin the training necessary to build up their ability to carry the gear. Let them grow into it.


You have established the goal at the beginning. You have brought them through the educational necessities to be able to enjoy the goal, but getting there is something they may not physically be able to do. However, the training to get there will be a lot easier to tolerate (sore legs, shoulders and exhaustion) if they know for real what the goal is.



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My point...


the OP said this would be their first camping experience with the troop.....


Have these boys ever set up a tent before???? cooked for themselves before???? packed their own gear before??? managed water????


So these boys have never camped with the troop before????? Do any of the boys get homesick, afraid of the dark issues????


Backpacking is a really bad idea for just crossed over scouts....


Sounds like a train wreck.

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Set up base camp on Friday nights and start incorporating day hikes. So they just have to carry some water, food, etc.


Pay very close attention to water drops; that is the biggie for us. Water is HEAVY.


Start them on learning to make tarps. Have them experiment on making some of their own gear.


Still 1st year is tough. By 2nd year some boys can be doing 10 miles.


The location is pretty important. For young'uns we try to keep them pretty flat, with pretty sites, and a bathroom stop. Bathroom issues can be a big deal for some.

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Start with day hikes with a purpose: one hike could be edible wild plants, another could be to an active wildlife area, one to a historical area.

Quickly ramp this up to a day hike with an overnight camp, followed by a hike back to start. Gear could be pre-positioned at the campsite if there is a nearby road

Both Backpacker magazine, and sometimes Outside, frequently feature multi-day hiking trips in the SW

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Your welcome.


We have one boy who ONLY does #2 on a hike. Something about the woods! He says those hikes "un-block him". When he is coming we schedule in a little extra time. But he will NOT use the latrine. I don't know why he hasn't got a nickname out of the deal.


We have had groups of boys ready to blow on a campout over aversion to what facilities, or lack of them, are available. I figure that is a valuable part of Scouting--learning that being a man means using some pretty dreadful bathrooms. Really.


I (cheerfully) used my first cat-hole this year (thanks Boy Scouts!) to set an example on a back packing trip. It was an unusual-- experience. It is, like a lot of little things, an acquired skill.


We have cat hole training lessons, proper location, dig the hole,practice squats, etc during some of our hikes. Little lessons like that break up the hike. And give them something to tell their mothers.

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