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Lack of adequate Personal and Camp hygiene is a common problem on outings, and something that is easy to prevent. With a little education and effort, no one should get sick when out in the wilds.
First, a few common problems encountered by long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail:
- Sharing Food - once someone touches their food, it is contaminated with their germs. If you finish off someone else's extra tater tots, oreos, or whatever, you ingest their germs. Only take what you will eat, and eat what you take.
- Not Washing Hands - dirt on your hands is easy to see and easy to wash off with just water. Rather than the visible dirt, it's the invisible germs, filth, and human waste that cause more problems. Even when hands look clean, you really should wash after using the bathroom and before dealing with any food. This is considered by many as the most common cause of illness in the outdoors.
- Sleeping in Close Quarters - sickness you have growing inside you can spread through the air from exhaling, sneezing, or coughing. When many people are packed in a small space, such as a shelter, tent, or cabin, they all breathe much of the same air. Two-person tents, or open-air sleeping, reduces the confinement problem.
- Insect-borne Disease - in North America, mosquitoes are spreading diseases such as West Nile and Zika, but they are still relatively rare. Lyme disease from ticks is much more common, and spreading. Treating clothes, checking for ticks often, and using insect repellant or bug clothes greatly reduce the chance of contracting these diseases.
- Water-borne Disease - everyone drinks treated water from the faucet at home, and they know wild water can be contaminated. Knowing the proper way to use a treatment method, and performing the task correctly, is the simple way to stay safe. Skipping treatment "just this once", dropping a filter in the water, not waiting for chemicals, or any number of other excuses cause much discomfort on the trail.
A key area of camp hygiene that scout groups tend to perform regularly is the washing of dishes and cooking equipment. Even though it is done every meal, people still get sick because there is some hard-to-stop misinformation about the proper way to wash dishes at camp. If there is one helpful thing you can do for your scout group, it is to teach, promote, and check on proper dishwashing technique.
- Pre-wash - eat, lick, and scrape off all visible food bits. When dishes get to the next step, they should already look fairly clean.
- Wash - a bucket of hot water and soap to scrub everything off the dishes. Shake all the water off before passing to next step.
- Rinse - a bucket of hot water to rinse off anything lingering behind, like soap.
- Sanitize - a pot of cool water containing chlorine or iodine. Soak for 30 seconds. Chlorine can be a shorter time, but it won't hurt to be longer.
- Air Dry - set dishes upside down on a towel or clean surface to drip dry for 30 minutes or more. Wiping dry with a common towel will spread germs from one dish to the next.
The common misinformation is switching the Sanitize and Rinse pots, or using hot water in the Sanitize pot. It doesn't make sense to rinse after sanitizing, just let the dishes air dry. Using hot water with the sanitizing chemicals makes them less effective.
This proper way to wash dishes is not something I made up. The CDC, ServSafe, every state health department, and Canada recommend the same process.
A few other tips for dishwashing:
- Wash cleanest things first, such as glasses and utensils, working your way to the dirtiest last which are probably the cooking pots.
- To dispose of the wash water, use a screen strainer to catch bits. Strain pot #1. Pour pot #2 into #1 and strain again. Pour pot #3 into #2, then into #1, and strain again. This gets your pots clean, too.
- Dispose of wash water into a sump, or broadcast it away from camp - depending on your camping location.
- Dishwashers should wash their hands well after doing the dishes.
The BSA has created a Dishwashing video - pretty lame, but has the right steps.
So, do your scouts a favor and share proper dish washing techniques to keep everyone happy, healthy, and hungry.
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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Nature Conservancy. All opinions are 100% mine.
The holidays can become times of excess - so many big meals, so many parties, so many presents to buy, and not enough time to put up decorations, hit the sales, or attend the plays and productions. While putting in all the effort to make the holidays fun for all, it's easy to overlook the long-term environmental damage we may do. As Scouts, we should take the time to look and try to minimize our impact.
Last week, I helped our pastor pick out and set up six Christmas trees in our sanctuary. Those trees were harvested from a commercial forest where they had been absorbing carbon dioxide, storing carbon, and putting out oxygen for years, as well as providing cover for wildlife. In the empty spots where they stood, new trees are being planted. Many BSA troops sell trees as a fundraiser. We got the trees for church from a local BSA troop that uses the church as their tree lot. After Christmas, our city recycles trees left by the curb, but I do know scouts across the country pick them up and recycle them as a fundraising service.
Other troops sell wreaths. We've bought a wreath every year and I dismantle them when they're no longer needed in January. I compost the greens, recycle the metal, and re-purpose the pair of pine cones that come on each one. We've now got a couple of pine cone trees that help decorate outside our home, and another gradually being made.
A big part of Scouting is getting out in nature, learning about it, enjoying it, and conserving it. My two Eagle Scout sons and I have enjoyed literally hundreds of days and nights in the great outdoors and we do try to ensure it will be available for future scouts. There are many other organizations besides the BSA that work to protect our world, sometimes doing a better job than us. The Nature Conservancy, for example, has priorities that align with Scouting.
The Nature Conservancy has been helping keep spaces natural for over 65 years and has a mission to "conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends". They've protected well over 100,000,000 acres of land. Taking a bit from the Outdoor Code, they want to help us be more conservation-minded this year, and have created a useful Holiday Green Guide with good ideas to consider. Download the guide by entering your name and email to find out the best way to be a little greener this holiday season. By reading the guide and keeping the handful of easy tips in mind, you can have a happy holiday and help the earth.
One of their tips is to use natural decorations when possible. Another is to help you with gift ideas. Buying presents just because it's time to buy presents can result in piles of "stuff" that doesn't get used and eventually gets donated or thrown away. Certainly give gifts, but be sure they are wanted. For those people like me that no longer have a Christmas list, giving a unique and interesting Symbolic Gift can be a good option. Symbolic gifts are typically monetary donations to an organization that the recipient supports, and the recipient receives some small item explaining what was given in their name. For example, through The Nature Conservancy, you can donate and have the recipient receive a certificate and bookmark about bison, orangutan, sea turtle, or other wildlife that the gift helps to protect.
My wife and I have been giving symbolic gifts for years and this year we've asked our two sons to try it for gifts to us. Find out more about having a greener holiday by downloading the Holiday Green Guide - it will at least give you a few interesting topics to keep the conversations going at all those parties in the next few weeks.
You can win $1400 in backpacking gear by entering this giveaway by Friday. The sponsors include a dozen brands like Sawyer, Black Diamond, and Patagonia that I'm sure you know well.
Enter at this page and you just need to use an email and first name - no other info.
Prizes include sleeping bag, pad, backpack, hiking poles, headlamp, food, water treatment, and clothing - pretty much everything needed to be the envy of everyone on the trail, or at Philmont next summer!
Good Luck, and Scout On!
PS: You might as well enter MY monthly give-away before Friday, too. 3 winners every month.
Well, this is big news!
Bear Grylls has been appointed as the Chief Ambassador of the World Scout Movement. Very cool for Bear, eh?
Not only that, he is the FIRST Chief Ambassador. I've not found much detail about the position yet, but it's a volunteer spot to promote Scouting worldwide.
Bear was in New York performing his first official act which was to launch Scouts for SDGs. Maybe he'll make more appearances in the USA in the coming year.
Jen is a friend of mine here in Minnesota. She is a super role model for scouts, and women interested in expanding their outdoor adventures. It is no wonder the BSA has done a Scout Me In video featuring her fun and positive persona!
I have had the privilege of hiking with Jen and her scouts, and I enjoy following her personal and scouting adventures through her social media: blog, instagram, and facebook. Her evolution from newbie backpacker to lightweight trekker is an interesting read on her blog.
Here is the BSA video about Super Jen...
Scout On, and Scout Me In!
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Looks like it is going to be a perfect fall evening here for a fun Halloween. Our maple tree is bright orange, I have a bucket of candy - the good stuff - and my magic campfire is ready to light. I have "stuff" to change the flame color and make flashes and sparks to make it a bit magical while I sit outside by the fire for a couple hours.
Here are a few Halloween Jokes to make your trick-or-treaters groan, or maybe you will be lucky and get a laugh or two.
Since this is the last day of the month, you only have a few hours to enter my Monthly Give-away - winners will be picked tomorrow morning.
Do you wanna go back to Philmont? Or, go for the first time? I have enjoyed the Philmont experience twice, once with each of my sons. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a trek. You have 1 month to get registered in the lottery drawing for crew slots in the 2020 season at Philmont. Start at Philmont.org where you can get the 2020 Registration packet and register for the lottery.
It is a completely random drawing and a registration request made on December 2 has just as much chance as being drawn as one made on October 30. But, if you put it off until December 3, you will probably not get to go. Details about the registration process and a useful worksheet to gather necessary registration information is here - there is quite a bit of data to collect, especially the 5 dates your crew is willing to go.
Did you know?
- The Philmont 12-day trek fee for 2020 is $1025.00 - it has steadily risen over the years. Here are some past fees: 2005=$495, 2008=$560, 2011=$725
- There are still openings for 57 crews at Philmont between July 30 and August 9 in 2019. I figured all slots would be filled from the fire closures this past summer causing roll-overs of treks. If your troop is looking for a high adventure for next summer, take a look at the openings on the Philmont website.
- Your troop CAN go to Philmont each year - it used to be only every other year.
- Each Philmont crew is required to have at least two members trained in Wilderness First Aid and CPR - do not wait until just before your trek to get this. This training is often difficult to find!
- There are over 2500 slots for 12-day trek crews at Philmont each summer. That is room for almost 31,000 trek participants. If all the slots were filled with the maximum 12-person crews, that would be over 381,000 peopledays.
2019 will be a special year, actually an extraordinary year, for youth joining Scouts BSA.
With girls joining starting February 1, some folks have been concerned that they won't have time to work their way up to the Eagle rank. Since there are minimum timed requirements for some ranks, new members that are over 16 years and 7 months old will probably not have time to complete the trail to Eagle before their 18th birthday.
The BSA National organization has decided to make an extension to the 18th birthday time limit for this extraordinary circumstance of opening up Scouts BSA to female youth. To ensure every youth that is motivated and putting in the effort to reach Eagle has the opportunity to reach the goal, BSA is making this change:
Youth 16 years of age or older, but not yet 18, on February 1, 2019 who register as members of Scouts BSA on or before December 31, 2019, may request extensions to complete the Eagle Scout Award requirements after they turn 18 years of age.
This extension will not apply to scouts younger than 16 years old on Feb. 1, 2019 and will not apply to youth older than 18 years on Feb. 1, 2019.
Th goal of this declaration is to ensure that older girls joining the program have at least 24 months to earn their Eagle which is long enough for the time constrained requirements. The extension also applies to older males joining, to be fair.
It is important that unit leaders are aware of, and understand, this extension. Please read details about it Here.
This event would be interesting to discuss at an Emergency Preparedness merit badge meeting, or as the topic of a Scoutmaster Minute about Being Prepared.
At 1:18pmCDT on Wednesday, Oct. 3, your cell phone will alarm with an emergency broadcast message from the President. Don't worry, it's just a Nationwide Wireless Emergency Alert Test, not a real emergency! Have you ever received an Amber Alert msg? It's similar to that, except for everyone in the country rather than a specific area.
It will be the first such test of this nationwide system, and is coordinated through FEMA, FCC, and your wireless providers. Since it's the first, I bet there are a lot of nervous people with their fingers crossed that it all goes well. :-)
Read more Here or Here.
The BSA Scout Shop has issued a voluntary recall of some Cub Scout neckerchief slides:
On September 27, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the Boy Scouts of America, announced a voluntary recall of certain units of the Wolf, Bear, Lion, and Webelos neckerchief slides sold between February 2018 and August 2018. The neckerchief slides affected by this recall are those associated with the following PO numbers, which are listed on a tag attached to the back of the slide:
The neckerchief slides may contain levels of lead that exceed federal limits. No other products are impacted by this issue. For more Questions & Answers about this recall, please read this PDF or go to ScoutShop.org page.
You may have removed the tag from the slides you purchased. The slides that were impacted are from this year (2018). If you purchased the slides this year, please go to the website page listed above for instructions or visit your local Scout Shop.
By keeping the wood in a vertical stack, it lights easily and self-ventilates to burn hot faster with less smoke. Since the wood is not lying scattered around the firepit, less wood is consumed. You can start cooking faster.
The basic steps are to gather 6 to 8 split wood wedges of the same length. Split off an inch or so from the inner tip and save these small pieces for kindling. Bundle the pieces together with their bark sides facing outward and that split off angle in the center - this should create what looks something like a single large log with a hole in the center.
Place the split kindling in the hole and add tinder. When the center is lit, it creates an updraft which pulls fresh air in and quickly burns. The embers and coals that are formed fall into the protected center of your bundled log where their concentrated heat ignites the fuel wood.
The main challenge of this kind of fire is keeping the wood bundle standing vertically. You could wrap a rope or string around, but as soon as it burns, the whole pile falls apart. A better solution is the WilderSol Vertical Burn - a stout wire with compression spring to hold the wood together. This keeps pressure on the wood as it burns which keeps the whole bundle standing longer.
Here's a video showing the stages of burning. This was using just 5 pieces of dry pine and some pine needles. It stayed upright and burning for 45 minutes before the crumbling coals finally gave way. Using hardwood would create a longer lasting fire.
If you use wood that is cut straight and the same lengths, you can place a skillet or pot directly on the log and start cooking in just a few minutes rather than waiting for 20 or 30 minutes for a normal fire to have enough coals. A vertical fire also affects a smaller area of ground, keeping more of a campsite clean and living.
Has your scout group ever had a fire like this?
The title is the Philmont Ranger motto, and the way of life for everyone associated with Philmont this season. Whether Philmont staff, youth participant, or volunteer adult, many people have had their summer plans turned on end by the closure of the Philmont backcountry due to extreme wildfire danger. Some have tried to be flexible and scrambled to arrange replacement adventures, others have postponed their treks to next year or 2020, while a very few have just vented their frustration to the online abyss.
This is an historic event, being the first time Philmont has closed its backcountry. So, how do you handle a catastrophy that completely shuts down your $20million/year business for an entire season? Philmont appears to be doing everything the best way possible, and making the vast majority of effected clients as happy as possible.
By making the decision to cancel their entire season, Philmont put the safety of participants and the quality of their experience far above the sunk costs by participants and loss of revenue to their business. Once that decision came about, figuring out who would bear the financial burdens was needed. Philmont offered refunds, alternate treks at other BSA high adventure bases, or replacement treks in 2020. Some cancelled crews are also able to slip a year to open 2019 dates, but only if there are open treks. Those options really should cover nearly everyone and demonstrate a high sense of responsibility on behalf of Philmont.
Depending on where the crew resides, the actual Philmont fee of a trek can be just half (or less) of the total cost. Many cancelled crews are on the hook for payments made to transportation companies, whether airlines, trains, buses, or shuttles. Many people are happily reporting that SouthWest Airlines and Frontier Airlines have been great about refunding fees. Leading the Way Tours appears to be refunding nicely, while BlueSky Adventures is getting some bad online exposure from folks saying they will not refund, or have given 50% refunds. Hopefully, that will change.
Some things to learn from this situation:
- Understand that, as a leader, your highest priority is safety of participants. The decision to cancel or alter an event due to any perceived danger is the right choice, whether it is a fire, blizzard, flood warning, high winds, or any other potential situation.
- Know the refund policy of companies you deal with for transportation or recreation, especially with regards to natural events.
- Consider travel cancellation insurance - and know what it really covers and how to file a claim.
Read the official Philmont Announcement about their closure.
If you're looking for an alternate High Adventure for this summer (or just to consider for future treks), here is a List of some cool adventures.
Many scouts and adults will probably be reciting the famous Philmont saying "I Wanna Go Back To Philmont" for the next year, just without the "Back" part.
Were you scheduled for Philmont this summer? What did your crew decide to do instead?
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