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Patch Trivia
I was asked which patches, medals, and awards from a Cub Scout uniform can be displayed on a Boy Scout uniform.

Here's my list - any additions or deletions?

There are different service star backings for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so the scout could wear two stars when he's in Boy Scouts.
There are small metal pins that can be placed on the religious emblem knot to indicate it was earned as a Cub Scout, Webelos Scout, Boy Scout, or Venturer.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:18 12-18-2008 383
Trek Tracking
Spot Messenger Google Earth

Here's the perfect item to add to your troop's equipment list if you do any backpacking, hiking, canoeing, or other high adventure activities - well that should be ALL of you, right? It's the SPOT Messenger satellite tracker and emergency beacon. Our troop owns one and it has been great!

This little unit is a one-way communication device with four outputs:

Parents of scouts on adventure treks appreciate keeping tabs on our progress while backpacking. The automatic tracking feature allows families to virtually follow us across the country. They just go to a web page and instantly see where we are now.

On our trek through Philmont this summer, we took our SPOT Messenger on its first hardcore test trek. I carried the unit on the top of my backpack the entire 85 miles and recorded every step of the way.

All the parents back home could take a look at our progress any time and our location was automatically updated every 10 minutes.

I've integrated the SPOT tracking, Google Earth, and our own photo album to create an interactive trek - more interesting than a simple photo album. Take a peek at our Philmont Trek with SPOT Messenger - you need Google Earth installed to view the .kmz file it links to.

I have noticed that SPOTs have a $50 rebate going on now so they are $99. There is also an annual service charge which includes an account on their website, the tracking feature, and emergency response insurance.

Next summer, we'll be using our SPOT on our Sea2Sky trek to the Pacific coast as well as our weekend campouts. Having it along for emergencies is good all the time, but whenever we cover a distance by foot, bike, or boat, it's a nice stress reducer for the parents at home.

Scout On
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Posted: 19:13 12-17-2008 382
Visiting with Seniors
A baker's dozen of scouts visited with seniors at a local assisted care facility this past week. What a great time for generations to interact, fulfilling the 'Associate with Adults' method of Scouting.
The scouts and seniors played bingo and chatted for about 90 minutes.

This has become an unofficial annual tradition for the troop, having done it for 5 years now. Every year, the scouts have totally positive feedback about how fun it is to call out the bingo numbers and how interesting it is to hear stories from 'old people'. And that is said in awe rather than lack of respect.

Why not contact a local senior center or care facility in your community and do a patrol or troop good turn? You won't be sorry. It just takes time and caring, nothing more - and the rewards are great.

Scout On
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Posted: 21:57 12-16-2008 381
Prepared for Everything?
When we talk about being prepared and getting ready for treks and campouts, the newer scouts (and their parents) will sometimes ask HOW prepared scouts need to be, always in regards to gear and clothing. It's a great question and the answer depends on how much discomfort the scout is willing to endure. We don't need to be prepared for Everything, but definitely for most things we're likely to encounter.

I've yet to meet a scout that overpacks. In the mind of many a scout, a toothbrush, change of underwear, and food are all that's needed for a weekend campout - and the toothbrush and underwear are just for show. These scouts believe they are willing to endure any hardship because they feel nothing is going to go wrong. It won't rain, get too cold, too hot, too buggy, or too dirty. On the front end, they have no hardship at all because they have the bare minimum of items - but they are doomed to misery sooner or later, usually sooner.

On the other hand, helpful parents heap the hardship on the scout at the front end in anticipation of every improbable thing that might go wrong. Three pairs of pants, just in case; Two extra hats, just in case; another pair of shoes, just in case; a gallon size bug spray, just in case. The poor scout is doomed to misery before he takes his first step out the door.

Somewhere in between is the balance we seek. Based on the expected and probable weather, the activities to be performed, and the length of the trip, a minimial amount of gear can be determined. This becomes a recommended packing list and is used as a starting point. This gear list is adjusted as a scout becomes more adept at knowing what has been used on past trips and what can be improvised in improbable situations.

The Scout Outdoor Essentials is the core that should never be cut. In addition to those basic items, the weather makes the biggest demand on what gear to take.
Having checked the weather forecast, a seasoned scout sees the expected low temp is 55F and probability of rain is 30% so he gambles and leaves a heavier fleece at home knowing his poly undershirt, light sweater, and hooded raincoat will be ok. If it drops to 45F and rains all weekend, he recognizes he might be cold but not in danger.
On that same outing, a new scout might show up with a duffle bag bigger than the scout, packed with two fleeces, two sweatshirts, two pants, gloves, and mittens, but only a rain poncho. And, he'll wind up still being cold and miserable because he gets wet.

We don't expect scouts to be prepared for everything. A good scout plans ahead and prepares for what is most likely to happen, gets ready to improvise for what might happen, and doesn't waste time on what is highly unlikely to happen. The best way we can help new scouts pack adequately is to provide a simple packing list and the instruction that it is a starting point they can modify as they see fit.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:27 12-15-2008 380
Scout Gift Ideas

I've noticed a few of the items from Guyot Designs showing up on camping trips since we began using their Squishy Bowls last year. By the way, I really love my squishy bowl and it's holding up great!
One of the coolest items (that I'd never buy for myself, so it would have to be a gift) is their Firefly - a lid for your water bottle with a built-in light. It turns your bottle into a very cool nightlight/lantern.
It makes an excellent alternative to a campfire in your Leave No Trace situations and is just a bunch of fun. A scout in the troop has one and we actually have used it for a 'campfire' in a cabin and in no-campfire areas.

Our troop has had a rash of Life scouts over the past year and four of them are making Eagle in 2008. I've always enjoyed whittling on wood on our campouts so I started making personal fire pistons for those scouts reaching Eagle. I'm almost finished with my own son's gift! Now I've got to get started on one more kit here before Christmas so it's ready for the next court of honor.
More than just an interesting way to make fire from nothing but air, the wood just feels nice and warm once its carved, smoothed, and oiled. You can find wood kits for scouts at along with other firestarting items.

Another classic fire starting method is Flint & Steel. Lots of scouts like to make sparks with those little strikers that are great for making a shower of sparks. That's a great way to learn how to create fire, but moving up to using a steel & flint gives more challenge. Creating the spark, catching it in duff, and coaxing it to a flame is a great confidence builder for the successful scout.
Some Eagle scout brothers sell a very nice flint & steel set that includes rock, steel, charcloth, oakum, and instructions all in a nice tin.
Visit Kris, Russ, and Ben at

And, hey, if you want to browse awhile, you can always go to and check out the BSA Monopoly game, B-P jigsaw puzzle, or official scout harmonica.

Scout On

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Posted: 12:43 12-11-2008 379
The new Moosejaw catalog arrived today. Moosejaw is an outdoor clothing/gear company, something like REI, LL Bean, Patagonia, and friends. But, they are the FUNNIEST guys around!
You really should go to the Moosejaw website and sign up for their catalog. It's more entertaining than Boys' Life and you have to look all over every page for bits of humor.
The models in this new catalog are getting various sludgy foods dumped on them - like baked beans, cream corn, chocolate pudding. Now, I haven't looked at every page yet but I expect there may be some humor somewhere in it that isn't really suitable for the whole family, but I've not found it yet.

If you actually want to buy something, I'm sure they'll sell you stuff too.

Scout On
PS: Welcome to December - only 23 days to buy, buy, buy.
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Posted: 23:41 12-01-2008 378
Citizen Good Turn
Maybe you've heard of the tight Coleman-Franken senate race in Minnesota and the recount being conducted now. About 2/3 of the 2.9million ballots have been recounted but it will still take weeks for the 2,000+ challenged ballots to be examined. It's a long process involving thousands of volunteers and city, county, state employees. And, I can tell you from experience, it is tedious.

For my Good Turn, I volunteered to help with the recount process. I spent 5 hours one day last week in City Hall helping to inspect ballots for precincts in my county. It was an interesting, but tedious, process in which every ballot is important and manually counted. Every ballot is handled at least 3 times, often more.

One employee was a 'sorter' and sat with a pile of ballots in frount of her, a Franken rep on one side and a Coleman rep on the other. The sorter placed each ballot on either the Coleman pile in front of the Franken rep or on the Franken pile in front of the Coleman rep. The representatives job was to quickly inspect the ballot to ensure it was FOR that candidate and accept it into the pile.

The representative could challenge a ballot at that point. Each side has challenged about 1,000 ballots so far but we had just a few in our counting.

Once all the ballots were sorted into Coleman, Franken, or Other then they were counted. A counter, with both a Franken and Coleman rep watching, counted each ballot from the Coleman pile into groups of 25. Each group was set aside and tallied. Then, the process was repeated with the Franken pile and the Other pile.

When the counting was complete for a precinct, the three totals equaled the original total for the precinct or else they had to be recounted until the error was found. This happened twice in the precincts I helped count. Fortunately, a group of 26 was found quickly so it did not take long.

For my part, I felt I was useful. I found a ballot placed in the wrong party's pile and I stopped two miscounts and asked for the group of 25 to be recounted, saving the mistake from happening. All that in 'just' 5 hours. Like I said, it's a tedious process.

Rather than being just one of the millions casting votes that don't seem to matter, I have a better attitude about the importance of each vote. I also am surprised at the poor functioning of the ballot systems we have in place in this country. I certainly hope that in the next 3 years improvements are made that ensure proper counting of ballots.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:43 11-23-2008 377
Online Permissions - Help!
Our troop has had a challenge of getting permission forms turned in on time. It seems we always have a scout family or two oblivious that they missed the deadline for an event registration and this makes it tough to make reservations and arrange drivers.

If you know what I'm talking about, then I'd like your help. I've been working on an online tool to make campout signups easier (I hope) and I need a couple of people to try it out. Our troop is just starting to use it and I need 2 or 3 more troops to kick the tires starting next month.

If you have at least 20 scouts in your troop and could try it for your next 3 campouts or events, please Contact Me. I'll send you instructions to proceed. I'd like you to enter your troop info right after Thanksgiving and let me know if it makes life easier or not.

In exchange for your efforts, you'll receive free access to the tool as long as it exists and I'll send you a flint & steel set and some fire starters for your scouts.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:43 11-18-2008 376
Fillable Local Tour Permit
You can type and save information in the Online Local Tour Permit as part of your Campout Planning process. This saves a bunch of time since a lot of the data is the same from one trip to the next.

Folks should be running out of excuses to not complete a tour permit for absolutely every scouting event.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:51 11-13-2008 375
Cheap Gear
Last year, I wrote about our Alps Mountaineering tents we purchased online from and how we've been awful pleased with them.

Well, I got a letter from them about a sale they're having. Seems they got a whole bunch of tents back from a retailer (brand new) and they were waaaay cheap. I ordered enough for the incoming scouts we expect for the next three years. They were about 40% of the usual reduced ScoutDirect price.

Our quartermaster will be figuring out if any patrols need tents now, labeling them, and distributing them. New scout patrols start out with 4-man tents and then move on to mostly 2-mans as they get older and start high adventure backpacking. There is an incentive for scouts to keep their first tent in great shape so they can 'graduate' from it to one that's more cool.

Unfortunately, the ScoutDirect sale tents practically evaporated as soon as word got out - sorry. But, it looks like there's some nice sleeping bags and backpacks for scouts needing a Christmas present.

Scout On
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Posted: 17:30 11-11-2008 374
Cool Patches
How do you like the cool patch for this year's Scoutorama? Every Webelos scout that participates gets one as a souvenir. Everyone really liked how they turned out this year.

I just wanted to mention that we had a great experience working with Stadri Emblems to create these patches. We bought 100 so we have enough for a couple more years and they cost $1.66/each which included shipping.

Smaller orders, like a dozen, are awful expensive but for a larger troop or district event, they're fine. Check out Stadri Emblems.

They've just come out with a bunch of BSA 100th Anniversary patches in case your troop is planning a special troop patch.

Now, some scouts are interested in designing their own troop high adventure patch with segments for different trips. The small orders of 10-20 segments I'm afraid might be awful expensive, but we'll find out. Please holler if you have some experience with that.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:52 11-08-2008 373
Call Mom
You've seen decals on the backs of semis and delivery trucks like:
How's My Driving?
Call 1-800-123-1234

Well, at the high school this morning I saw one that was new for me all the way across the back window of an SUV. I thought it was pretty cute, but with a very important message, both to the driver and people following him/her:
How's My Driving?
Call MOM @ 943-342-4765

I really liked that one!

Scout On
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Posted: 13:30 11-07-2008 372
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