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Campfire Doughy Maker
Doughy Maker

Few Scouts don't enjoy a campfire and even fewer dislike cooking over one. I wonder how many marshmallows have been roasted by scouts this past summer? Poking food on a stick, wrapping it in tin foil, or tossing it on a grate have been the main ways to cook over fire.

Now there's a new, easy way to cook campfire treats - the Doughy Maker. It's basically two muffin tins hinged together with an extendable handle. This gadget design is good for a few reasons:

Check out this video of scouts from Troop 341 using their Doughy Makers.

One Doughy Maker creates 10 doughies per batch, so it's perfect for a patrol. It's real cooking, too - not just heating a hotdog or cheese sandwich.
It takes about 5 minutes per batch so scouts in a rush for a fast lunch can still have hot food. Making a second, third, or fourth batch is simple so using up leftover ingredients isn't a problem.

There's no end to what can be made with this fun little cooker over the campfire. Use your imagination to come up with more, but here's a few to get you started:

Refrigerated dough is the simplest to use, but bread dough and cookie dough you make yourself work great and save money. As long as it isn't runny batter, such as pancakes and cake, it's worth giving a try.

Check out the Doughy Maker website to find out how inexpensive it could be for your Pack or Troop to have a few of these cookers on hand for future campouts.

Scout On
(I received this product to try out and review)
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Posted: 9:51 10-27-2014 1133
University of Scouting

I'm at University of Scouting today. My LNT presentation went well but I missed this Great dutch oven cooking session. :-( The fella doing this session is fun, and was in a first aid training I did a couple years ago. UofS is a nice opportunity to reconnect with other scouters in your council. Scout On
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Posted: 14:38 10-25-2014 1132
SansBug Photo Contest
SansBug Pop-up Tent

One of these tents is not like the other - can you tell the main difference?
Canvas tents are an old stand-by of Scout Camps across the country. I've stayed in them at Philmont basecamp on both of my treks there. In a dry, arid environment, they work well, but there is absolutely no protection from insects while trying to sleep.

Notice the netting on the cots in the lower picture? Frequent readers may recall my post about SansBug shelters this past spring. It is a very cool, very fun, protection from all form of bug, insect, creepy critter, and crawly rodent while you're down for the night.

Anyway, I've been chatting with Fayaz at SansBug and they've got great plans for the next year!
Right now, they are holding their First Annual Photo Contest just for Scouts to show off their SansBugs in use at camp or on campouts. Each scouting unit can contribute ONE photo for a chance to win.
And, exactly what can you win? Whoa! You've really got to check out that Photo Contest link to find out. It's a lot more than you expect, for sure, but I will tell you there is a grand prize and 9 runners-up. You'd better not wait because the short deadline for this first contest is November 30.

SansBug Pop-up Tent

But, what can you do if you don't have a SansBug shelter yet? You certainly can't take a photo of it, but you can win one! Fayaz says I can give away a SansBug every month in the Boy Scout Trail drawing. So, starting next month, yet another prize will be added for you loyal visitors.

Hmmm, seems to me an enterprising Scout Camp might get a bunch of these and sell or rent them at their Trading Post for those scouts that came not quite so Prepared.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:39 10-24-2014 1131
Perfect Eagle Project?
Eagle Scout Project
(click pic for larger view)

On my afternoon hike this weekend, I ran into what very well may be the perfect Eagle Scout service project!

This is a hands-on Knots and Lashings kiosk and can be found at Lowry Nature Center west of Victoria, MN. It was done as the Eagle project of Joshua R. from Troop 589 in December, 2012.

The front side of the kiosk has eight examples of knots displayed in 3 physical steps, along with a bit of text about the knot. The square knot, sheet bend, rosendahl bend, bowline, two half-hitches, taut-line hitch, clove hitch, and timber hitch are shown. (Yeah, me too - rosendahl bend??? it's also called the zeppelin bend)

In front of this oversized knot board is a lashing rail with attached ropes and short poles so visitors can actually practice the knots.

So, why do I like this project so much?

Eagle Scout Service Project
(click pic for larger view)

The back of the kiosk has 4-step displays of the square, diagonal, shear, and round lashings. Another lashing rail with attached poles allows these lashings to be tried, but it appears that the ropes have walked away.

Finally, a small section of display space shows and explains various kinds of material and styles used in rope making.

I really liked the rough log supports and natural colors of this project. It fits into the outdoor area perfectly and is right along a trail so visitors can check it out before or after a short hike.

So, what do you think? The best project ever?
Have you seen an awesome project, too? Leave a comment about it.

If you are interested in duplicating this project, you might try contacting the troop at

Eagle Scout Service Project

Scout On
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Posted: 10:42 10-22-2014 1126
Hip Patrol Patches
alien patrol patch

If scouts in your troop or Webelos den are tired of the same old choices in official BSA patrol emblems, have them take a peak at patrol emblems where they may find something new and fun.

Maybe the BSA will regain some of the market lost to custom patrol patch manufacturers with these new patrol options. Some are just redesigns of older versions, like the Native American and Bison patches. Others strike me as silly, such as the Computer Geek and Game Master patches. And a few, Raven, Knight, Bull, look pretty cool to me.

If you want to just see all the current patrol patches, from Aliens to Zombies, check out my Patrol Patches page.

zombie patrol patch

Yes, that's right Aliens and Zombies, not the good ol' Antelope and Roadrunner - those are no longer listed at

So, what do you think?
Good move to offer more choices, or not?
Do you have a favorite patrol patch from the list?

Scout On
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Posted: 16:01 10-20-2014 1125
Twisted Dogs
Twisted Dogs Do your scouts ever cook hotdogs?
Here's a new way - it's called the Twisted Dog.

Hotdogs and brats are all-American summer food seen around countless campfires and 4th of July family gatherings. They are an easy introduction to campfire cooking for Cub Scouts, and a simple, quick meal for older scouts (even though there's not much real cooking prowese required).

Earlier this summer, I chatted with a fellow that has invented a new item to make this old picnic stand-by a bit better. The Twisted Dog is a simple tool to make a spiral cut down the hotdog. Why, pray tell, would you want a spiral cut hotdog? Well, for a few reasons...

This summer, I gave Twisted Dogs to a scout patrol to try out. At last check, they are still using them whenever they do a simple hotdog meal. The scout feedback has been that it keeps the hot dog more evenly cooked, cooks faster, and new scouts like the novelty. They've kept the Twisted Dog in their patrol box and use it whenever they do dogs.

Hot Dog Twister

If your troop is looking for a new fundraising opportunity, contact Scott at and ask for more information. If your troop runs any sort of booth or stand at a community gathering, these could be a great add-on item to offer.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:38 10-13-2014 1123
SPOT Special
Spot GPS Messenger Special
Our troop started carrying a SPOT Messenger on high adventures about seven years ago. A SPOT is a satellite pinging device that can be used to request aid in an emergency. Parents felt much more comfortable knowing this extra bit of safety was along on each trek.
It allowed us to touch base with parents every morning and evening. We would send a "Starting Now" email to a mail list address when we hit the trail each morning. When we stopped at camp, another "In Camp" message was sent. Every interested person that asked to be on the mail list received these messages each day.
We also use the tracking ability of the SPOT to ping a satellite about every 15 minutes. At the end of the day, families could view a satellite map online and see where the crew had traveled that day. A pleasant surprise we discovered was that the real-time tracking function of the SPOT was a big hit with families left at home. Mom could virtually watch as her son moved across the Philmont terrain or paddled through the Boundary Waters.

I also carry my own SPOT with me on all my long hikes and backpacking trips. At the end of the trek, I have a map of my adventure and I can add geotagged pictures to my online adventure. Here's an example trek.

Even if you buy a SPOT and use it just once for a Philmont trek, it adds less than $25 to a participant's cost. When used on other troop-planned adventures, the distributed cost is negligible. The annual fee is $150 and it's not too difficult to find a very good deal on the device - I got mine free just before Christmas!

Here's a way you can save 20% ($30) off an annual service plan ...
  1. Purchase a SPOT device - locally at REI, Cabella's, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops, EMS, Sportsman's Warehouse, or online at their web sites, or wherever you can get a good deal.
  2. Activate your SPOT device with whatever rescue and tracking options you want.
  3. Visit Referral Page and enter your Name and SPOT ESN to receive 20% off your next annual service plan.

By referring you, I also receive a discount on my next annual service plan, so we both win!

If you have questions about the SPOT GPS Messenger, I've been using one for 8 years and would be happy to answer them.

Scout On Safely
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Posted: 11:02 10-09-2014 1122
Philmont Prep
Philmont Preparation
Next month (November) will be the annual Philmont registration lottery when many thousands of units will sign up for a few thousand 2016 treks. Best of luck to you all!

If your troop or crew is already accepted for a trek next summer in 2015, then you won't be participating in that lottery, but you should be participating in lots of pre-Philmont preparation this winter. Philmont supplies you with lots of literature and preparation advice. Their planning calendar page is a good overview.

There are a few areas that are easy to overlook, put off, or skimp on - resulting in a less-than-wonderful trek, or no trek at all. Over the next seven months, make sure your crew considers and completes everything required by Philmont, plus items that will just make your trek a better experience.

Seasoned Philmont Folks - Do you have other advice to pass on to Philmont first-timers?

Scout On
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Posted: 15:36 10-08-2014 1121
Top 10 Life Skills Merit Badges
Merit Badge Life Skills

Fulfilling the vision of the BSA to prepare scouts as responsible, participating citizens and leaders is a real challenge. A responsible citizen can take care of himself, his property, and his family. Very few of the boys I've met in Scouting came with a built-in sense of responsibility and none have had an innate ability to fix any problem. In this affluent area where I live, many boys I've dealt with have been protected at home to the extent they are ill-prepared for most any challenge that might rise against them. They are often also under the impression that parents will rescue them from any situation.

Through the outdoors program of Scouting, these scouts receive lots of opportunity to practice and improve their self-sufficiency skills. They learn to plan, prepare, and participate in order to achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and lead others. The patrol and troop program provides a focused agenda - scout skills and leadership - but does not provide much in the way of real life skills.

That's where the merit badge program comes into play. The dozens of merit badge topics allow a scout to try out new things, expand his interests, and possibly develop a career direction. Some merit badge topics are recreational, others are career-oriented, an others are life skills.

To reach the Eagle rank, each scout needs to complete these merit badges: Camping, Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World, Communication, Cooking, Cycling or Hiking or Swimming, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Environmental Science or Sustainability, Family Life, First Aid, Personal Fitness, Personal Management

After that, it's up to him to choose merit badges that interest him. All too often, the badges are done because they are being offered at troop meetings, or at summer camp, or merit badge fair, rather than because they sound interesting to the scout. It's better for the scout to review the topics and choose those he wants.

If I could recommend merit badges with the most useful skills that will most likely help the scout as he leaves home, lives on his own, and starts a family, this would be my list:

OK, since Sustainability is on the Eagle-required list, which merit badge should be listed instead?

Scout On
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Posted: 9:15 10-01-2014 1118
Alumni Relations
Scouting Alumni

Did you have a family reunion this summer? What about your Scouting family?

When a scout finishes his time with a troop, that is all too often the end of his Scouting experience. He's off to college or work, and no longer has time for Scouting. And, no one ever tells him he's still welcome to come back and visit.

Troops usually put effort into recruiting boys, and then effort into keeping them involved until they turn 18. After a scout ages out, or makes the earlier decision to stop participating, that is often the end of the troop's effort with that person, but maintaining a relationship with past scouts has many benefits for both the troop and scout.
The past scout has contact from home, support when he may feel alone out in the world, and reminders of the values presented in Scouting.
The current scouts learn more about life after high school, see that Scouting values will stay with them, and are shown that their troop cares about them, even outside Scouting.

So, how might your troop better maintain relationships with past scouts?
Scouting Alumni Patch

The BSA is working on improving long-term relationships with past scouts and keeping them involved as adults.

The BSA Scouting Alumni Association offers a patch to new alumni, along with a bunch of other tidbits and quarterly newsletter. There is a cost to be a member.

If you're interested in acquiring another square knot, there is an Alumni Award Knot for scouters that identify, engage, and participate with BSA alumni.

Scout On

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Posted: 14:45 09-18-2014 1116
Never Give Up

It's been 6 years since Heather Dorniden won this 600m collegiate race, but her demonstration of perseverance will never fade.

It might be a bit long for a Scoutmaster Minute, at 2.5 minutes, but I think the message of never giving up no matter what happens is worth it.

At least having this video stored on your phone to share with a scout when he's frustrated with some challenge would be a good bit of encouragement.
To fall from first to last in the blink of an eye and then have the strength to get back up and keep racing - and win - is just inspiring!

Some people quit the race, others get up with a goal of just finishing, but a few push on doing the very best they can until the finish line is crossed.

Scout On

Or, if you prefer a hollywood version...
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Posted: 10:33 09-15-2014 1115
What Weighs Us Down?
lightweight scout backpacking

My Philmont pack started out at 45 pounds in 2005. My long-distance hiking pack now weighs under 25 pounds. You can see the difference in this image.

My time on trail is much more enjoyable and there is nothing I used to carry that I'd still like to have along but don't. Besides picking an interesting location, reducing our burden in the wilds is about the best way to make backpacking more fun - making the experience fun is a key element to a successful scouting program.

What is it that was so heavy and weighed down my pack so much? Well, it was mostly inexperience and obediently following a Philmont checklist.
So, here's a handful of advice to help you move your troop to lighter, more enjoyable, trek adventures.
Since Christmas is looming on the far horizon, and summer is pretty much over, now is a good time for scouts to review their gear and consider what to replace for next year.

A final note - Scouting is an outdoor classroom. We're not here to create super-skilled wilderness experts, but to help boys grow into self-sufficient citizens of strong character. The challenge of becoming an experienced backpacker is just another opportunity for a scout to work on his character, physical abilities, and teamwork. It's ok to carry 40+ pound packs, but a lighter pack opens up many more opportunities and expands the classroom.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:25 09-10-2014 1114
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