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Patrol Cooking

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Do the patrols in your troop cook individually or there is a centrallized cooking effort where one patrol would cook for everyone in the troop, one patrol would kp, and one is responsible for fire and water. What are the advantages of having a central cooking effort vs. individual cook stations. Currently, our troop has it where each patrol has its own chuck box and they cook by themselves. To date, we have not lived up to the "thrifty" portion of the Scout Law. One of our ASPL suggested to unify the cooking effort (just the way that we used to do when I was a Tenderfoot ... of course, back then we didn't have a choice. We simply didn't have enough $ to purchase a lot of cooking equipment).


Here are some that I can come up:


- Combine and reduce the amount of cooking gear

- Combine and reduce the amount of food purchased and reduce waste.

- Combine and reduce the amount of gear having to be hauled.

- Allow the boys a better sense of patrol spirit and team work.



- It will take longer for individual scout to satisfy the cooking requirements in the Trail to 1st Class portion.

- It will require a detail-oriented SPL to manage the rotations, something that we are still having problem with.

- Quick and easy meals. (ie. cold cereals, snacks, etc.) But they will have to answer to the entire troop now. May be this is a plus.


What do you all think?





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OneHour. I believe it depends upon the size of your troop more than anything else. We currently use a method similar to what you describe. But we're a small troop (12 boys, 2 patrols). One patrol does the cooking and cleanup at each meal. The other patrol has fire & water duty during that time. Sometimes we alternate meals, sometimes by the day. It's up to the PLC.


I think you nailed the pros and cons. I would love for us to be really good at patrol cooking, I think it's the truest form of scout camping. We plan to move toward patrol cooking as we get larger. We'll be up to 20+ boys soon. We're going to start dabbling with that this year.


A middle ground that I've seen work in some troops is where you have a common menu, but each patrol prepares and cooks their own portions. This makes preparation and shopping a little easier.(This message has been edited by EagleInKY)

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I'd question the plusses you listed. Reducing the amount of cooking gear is not a Scouting objective. Reducing food waste is something the boys should be concerned about and work to avoid - within their patrol. When the food waste issue is removed, how can they learn to deal with it?


Reducing the gear hauled sounds like an adult thing. I'd be careful about tweaking the patrol method to make life easier for the adults.


Patrol spirit and teamwork is developed within the patrol. Removing patrol responsibilities removes opportunities for patrol spirit and patrol teamwork.


Minus - It doesn't take 8 boys to cook. Or to wash dishes. Or to build a fire. Or draw water. The biggest minus I see is that the patrol method is cast aside for the sake of an adult vision of efficiency. Young boys are not born efficient. They need to learn it and they can't learn it if the adults have streamlined things to remove the learning opportunities.


A lean, efficient, smooth operation is means nothing if the boys have not overcome the obstacles to get there. Go with the patrol method and all of the "problems" it presents and let the boys learn.

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Good points. This was not proposed by the adults by any means. It was proposed by one of the Assistant Patrol Leaders. He pointed out that the fact that the various patrols in our troop do not have full participation in the various campouts (due to conflict with band, orchestra, football, basketball, baseball, etc.). It is not efficient to him. He sees a lot of waste, eg. two to three bottles of ketchup, mayonaise, etc. We do not to "tweak" the Patrol Method to make the adult lives easier; as a matter of fact, we are trying to get the Patrol Method going in our troop. We are still trying.


This method has some merits, but it also has some issues that we adult leaders in the troop believe that might not make it work; however, I am asking for opinion from troops who practice it to gain an understanding of its merit. The ASPL is tasked to lay out the plans with the merits of the plans to the PLC. We, the adult leaders, will do our due deligence, then we debate. Thanks,




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Troop of 24 scouts. On the monthly outings that are desinated Patrol method camping (5 or6 out of 11, August off). We normally get 20 scouts, and 8 adults.

Each of the four patrols makes up thier own menu, purchase it and cook it.

The ASPL & SPL eat with the Adults, a get some "quality time".

Breakfast over an open fire takes about 2-2.5 hrs.

Lunch -1 hour. Dinner 2-3 hours.

Each patrol has it's own patrol box and cooler. They also tent together. We try to put some distance between patrols so they are operating on thier own.

Is it the most efficient? No, but the whole point is learning leadership, teamwork, and if we are lucky some cooking skills. The younger scouts are spread out in our troop (no NSP), so they have the opportunity to get skills signed off by the PL.

I do not view scouting a place for efficiency. The scouts today live in such a prepackaged, on demand world, that these patrol method trips are important for leadership and teamwork where the outcome is directly controled by thier input.

Poor menu's, undercooked-overcooked food, not enough fire wood, questionalble clean up? You bet!

What else are you going to talk about at Eagle COH?

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Lack of participation.

Lack of efficiency.

Leftover food.


These are challenges for the patrol to overcome. Overcoming them builds skills that will help boys later in their lives. The ASPL sees the 3-bottles-of-ketchup issue and has a possible solution. The problem with his solution is that he takes away the opportunity for the boys in the patrol to devise their own creative solutions. What other possibilities did he consider? Here's a few to consider. Maybe none are any good. But it gets the boys in the patrol to think about alternatives.


Buy a smaller bottle.

Save the leftover bottle for the next time.

Buy individual squeezy packs.

Devise a menu that uses ketchup as a significant ingredient.

Use something other than ketchup.


Maybe their first choice doesn't work out. That's a good thing because they learned something. Now they can consider other alternatives. How can they go through this process if one boy, the ASPL, takes away the problem? What did the boys learn? They learned they don't have to worry about stuff because somebody removed the obstacles.


I believe it is the responsibility of the adult leaders to guide the boy leadership to discovering solutions that work within the methods of Scouting. I would say to the ASPL that his idea has merit, but that because the patrol method is part of Scouting, we must find solutions that do not take away the responsibilities of the patrol.

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"One hint; dont tell the SPL he is wrong."


Fscouter and Barry, great advices. Barry, you have hit it on the nail for me. I don't want to tell the ASPL that his idea has no merit, after all the talks that I have been giving them about thinking for themselves, acting by themselves, and working for each other as a troop. This will give me an idea on how to deliver the message to the ASPL.





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In our troop of 50 we usually go camping with 30 - 35. Our patrols usually eat by them selves. (One or two trips a year we will cook in a large group). Each boy contributes $10 for food for a weekend to the patrol, and the patrol comes up with the menu and then one or two boys go shopping. This also seems to encourage boys to get their friends to go as that means that the patrol has more money to spend on food so they will eat better. It is amazing how much better patrol of 8 people can eat with $80 than 3 boys with $30. We also say that patrols can not have hot dogs, cereal or soda on campouts. And our adult patrol usually provides dessert for everyone on Saturday night.

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I think FScouter and Barry have covered my feelings about this and how to talk to the Lad.

I thought that I had encountered just about everything that a SPL or PLC member could come up with but as ever I was wrong.

At our peak we had 14 Patrols (We then divided the troop into two troops - Not my best idea!!) So cooking for 90 would have been an enormous chore. We did at times cook for the entire troop, but normally only when we were in cabins during the winter.

Over Easter which was a long school holiday in the UK -3 weeks, we took the PLC away. It was part training, part planning the summer camp if we were staying in England (We would camp at the or near the summer camp site) During this camp we would take turns cooking the Leaders and the Scouts. We would also try out new ideas that the PL's could take back and use with their Patrols.

In another thread it is asked if a Lad who has a special diet will fit into a Patrol. It is far easier to have the Patrol accommodate his needs than it is a troop. The other Patrol members also get to look at and learn how to cook different foods.



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hi ho dutch ovens!


Stay with the patrol method whenever you can...four boys can do it easily and even three can get by...Our troop years ago did a bunch of Troop mess hall cooking...still have two LARGE WOODEN "KITCHENS"- 'bout three times the size of a ptrol kitchen...adults no use them....


occaisionally our SPL has been known to 'combine' patrols temporarily to reach his idea of 'critical mass' for certain campouts...but doing so breaks down the patrol identity (I believe that was one of your pluses, though wasn't our experience) and then the boys have fewer opportunities to shine on their own... (If the PL and APL can't make it a junior scout 'has to step up to the plate!)


economic savings and efficency are highly over-rated! Let them donate the leftover mustard to one of the families or save it in someones 'second fridge' if available...at least until it turns green! Finally, three boys can eat nicely on $30.00 with some thought and planning! Maximize your program opportunities ...don't worry about a extra cookset or three!


even the smallest budget can be made to creatively stretch...a 'cook set' could be Yard sale pots and pans...(you can fill a truck in one weekend for $20.00) and cut the handles off (use pot grippers) and they can even nest "a bit"...Troop wide cooking has no benefits or economies for this troop!

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Its good to see so many troops trying the patrol method.


I say this because from what i have observed many many troops are opting for both mess hall summer camps and a group cooking- and camping- method.


Our troop for many years would go to a camp in northern New York that was basiclly all patrol cooking. In the 90's there was a shift towards a mess hall and by the 1994 our troop was the only troop cooking by patrol and therefore wasnt getting the proper attention when it came to the supply of food. The camp was sold in 1995.


We had to find someple else. Doing so, locating a camp that had patrol cooking within our range was not easy. We did. A camp that is split into two camps, one that has mess hall cooking and one that has patrol cooking. Of course the mess hall camp was huge, and a few times our troop was the only troop in attendance for the patrol cooking camp. But, then, we like that sometimes.


I defy ANY scoutmaster to prove me wrong, that mess hall summer camp is not a HUGE mistake.


In response to the propsed question in our troop Patrols ALWAYS cook together and adults and scoutmasters very rarely EVER cook unless a treat.

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I think the mess hall vs. patrol cooking at summer camp is a matter of the Troop's preference, and their needs.


We patrol cook at our monthly campouts and district camporees. In my last district, we did mess hall meals at summer camp for several reasons, mainly food purchase and storage capabilities at the army training/exercise area where our camp was. It worked out okay, but you had to know going in that your Scouts weren't going to complete cooking advancement requirements at summer camp. We just made sure it was done as part of the Troop program.


In Hawaii, the Maui council summer camp is (or was a couple years ago anyway) all mess hall meals. Gave the boys more time for swims, archery, rifle, and MBs. The tradeoff again, is that you have to complete the cooking requirements in another setting. That, and you don't have any leftovers in the camp site for a late night cracker barrel, etc.


At our Oahu council camp, they're doing mess hall lunches this year for the first time in my memory, with patrol cooking for breakfast and dinner. I've had informal conversations with the staff, and they'd like to go to all mess hall meals. Their primary rationale is a reduction in food costs due to less food waste and spoilage.


Again, if your unit wants and needs patrol cooking at summer camp, then by all means go to a camp that allows you to do that. If your Troop gets enough patrol cooking throughout the year, and/or you want to attend a camp that offers mess hall meals, then attend a camp that feeds in a mess hall. The only reason I'd think mess hall meals were a mistake is if your lads need patrol cooking experience, and you didn't make sure they got it.


You know, there are large and small Troops, backpacking and car camping Troops, Troops that gear their annual program toward HA, or are church-chartered and service-intensive, to name just a few. Any of us can make a list as long as our arms that highlight differences between units. It's all good if they're using the aims/methods properly. I happen to like dutch ovens and family style scratch cooking; I probably woudn't be happy with a backpacking troop. I think the bottom line is to join a unit whose program tendencies match your interests.

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Good points, but i think the cons go beyond that.


By eliminating patrol cooking in summer camp you are essentially cutting the leadership eperience of the elected leaders by at least and maybe more then half. Even if the rest of the year, every month the patrols cook by themselves, having three times a day for one or two weeks strait is around 40 meals which doubles the experience.


Through patrol cooking the patrol leader and the scouts that he leads have much more responsibility on their shoulders, from wood collecting and cutting, fire building, food pickup and preperation, the actual cooking and then the cleanup offers orginizational challanges that expand each leaders experience and capabilities. The majority of the patrol leader's work at summer camp has to do with the patrol cooking. The more chances to learn the better, even if it means learning by tial and error.


Time has never factored into our experience, our troop and other troops that patrol cook earn as much merit badges and participate in as many activities. As well, issues like trash are small in comparison to what is lost when eating in a mess hall.

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