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Easy Scoutmaster Minute
scout water jug Last month, the Scouting magazine blogger, Bryan, asked for slgans to help folks remember to hydrate outside. I think the top 10 entries would be a great, easy, short scoutmaster minute - especially during this hot time of summer.
Maybe have the scouts vote on their favorite. There were over 150 entries and here are the top 10:
Read more at Bryan on Scouting.

Scout On
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Posted: 6:47 07-24-2012 877
Scouting Pen Pals
Scout Pen Pals Volunteer Pen Pals Needed!

About six weeks ago, I blogged about English Beaver Scouts wanting to communicate with some American Cub Scouts. This wasn't the first time someone has asked about this, so I figure there might be some demand to connect with scouts electronically around the globe.

The last couple weeks here have been spent creating a Pen Pal Connection feature on Boy Scout Trail. It's a simple way to get your den, pack, patrol, colony, unit, ... listed and find other groups that want to connect. After you're connected, you decide if you want to exchange messages through the Boy Scout Trail system or use email, text messages, or paper mail.

It's currently at the point of needing a handful of folks to give it a spin and let me know what they think. If you can commit to setting up a test unit and connecting with a few other test groups over the next week or so, please Contact Me and I'll tell you what to do.

Once it looks good enough for the masses, all the test units will be removed and it will be opened to the world.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:42 07-20-2012 875
NZ Socks
possum socks "Hey, see my hiking socks? They're POSSUM!"

Before you get all creeped out about wearing possum clothing, you're missing a very important letter O - that's the difference between opossum and possum.

The possum of New Zealand are native to Australia but were introduced and are now overrunning NZ. They are furry little critters that eat tons of vegetation and protected bird eggs, and are considered a nuisance pest. But their hollow hairs make very good, soft, insulating material. By exterminating the possums and combining their hairs with merino wool, the basis for a unique clothing line of warm, light articles is created.

I think it's pretty cool to turn the problem of an invasive species into a successful business that helps keep the invasion at bay. And that's exactly what a New Zealand clothing company is doing by making possum clothing.

Brian at New Zealand Possum Merino sent me a pair of possum hiking socks to try out. My first impression was "Wow! They're soft and light!" Softer and warmer feeling than heavier socks, I wore them inside for a day and my feet were very happy. They will be great for normal wear during the winter.

Right now, it's quite hot here and I figured they'd be too warm for hiking. But, I've been wearing them on my hikes around town and even a few miles of jogging. They weren't hot and they didn't absorb sweat like cotton socks. The extra softness has been pleasant and they've held up well.

There's been only a tiny bit of piling and they've been washed a few times now. The combination of merino wool with possum hairs makes a sturdy, comfortable, warm cloth. The socks aren't inexpensive, but a couple extra dollars for such a unique conversation starter might be worth it for the hiking scout looking for a nice pair of socks for fall/winter/spring outings.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:29 07-17-2012 874
Quarter Memories
america the beautiful quarters Have you checked your change lately? I'm finding strange coins all the time now - pennies, nickels, quarters, halfs, and dollars - everything except dimes.
Do you have all the 50 state quarters yet? That program raised something like $6 Billion in sales so the government has extended the program to include national parks, forests, and other interesting locations. That's what got my attention.

I received a Grand Canyon quarter in change today. Way cool! I didn't even know there was such a thing so I surfed the web and found that there have been 5 new America the Beautiful quarters released each year starting in 2010. Minnesota gets its quarter showing off the Voyageur National Park in 2018 - we'll wait.

So, what does this have to do with Scouting?
Many of the quarters are places that would be perfect for a Scout high adventure trek. Tossing a handful of quarters from different places onto the table at a PLC meeting could sure get them thinking of new places to visit. Places like Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mt. Hood, Gettysburg, Acadia, Denali, Olympic, Vicksburg, or Hawaii Volcanoes, and many more coming over the next few years.
Giving a Grand Canyon quarter to every eligible scout in the troop is an inexpensive way to generate interest in a high adventure trip that the PLC has decided to take there. It's a tangible, tactile thing to remind them to talk with their parents.
Or, they are great ways to commemorate a completed trip as part of a ceremony on your last night before getting home.
I've also used them for a quick recall game. Say something like "I have a quarter with a bird on it. Which state or park is it?" Give more clues until someone guesses it and they get the quarter.

Introducing scouts to a few of these national treasures may get them started on their own adventure of visiting every one. How cool would it be to get a postcard in 2021 from a past scout saying he just visited the Tuskagee Airmen site in Alabama and added his final quarter to his wallboard at home?

See detailed images and more info at America Quarters website.

Scout On
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Posted: 10:51 07-13-2012 872
Triple Prizes
Boy Scout Contest Tonight's your last chance to get an entry in for June's random Boy Scout Trail drawing for three prizes. Go to Scout Contest page to enter.


If you're just too busy to enter, don't worry - there's a drawing in July and every month you can enter.

Scout On
(May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor)
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Posted: 17:34 06-30-2012 871
Lighten Up
lightweight hiking I've gotten to talk about my AZ Trail hike with a few scout troops and groups over the past month. The most common question I'm getting is how to lighten a pack for a backpacking trip.
I tell about all the ways I cut out ounces and pounds from gear, staying safe and comfortable and making smart choices. I save the best tip for the end. It costs nothing, saves your body work, and makes a larger impact than all the other gear tweaking you can do.

I reduced my pack weight from around 40 pounds to around 25 pounds by making a light shelter, quilt, and pack, reducing redundancies, and purchasing a few lightweight items. That includes food and water, so carrying less water and stopping more often to fill up water can make your pack even lighter. I removed about 15 pounds from my pack that I didn't have to lug from Mexico to Utah.

During my 6 weeks on the trail, I lost about 14 pounds. Most of that was in the first 2 weeks and then I stabilized as I got used to eating, hiking, and sleeping. Just by losing weight off my body, I nearly reached the weight savings that I got from all the gear tweaking I did!

GoiPlanning a trek with the idea of "This will be a great way for me to lose a few pounds!" is NOT a good idea. Your body will need calories to function properly on the trail and holding back the food it needs will cause you to be weak and increase the risk of injury. If it's a long trek, you will most likely lose some weight anyway, but that should not be your plan. I lost weight because I did not force myself to eat as many calories as I was burning each day - I should have eaten more.

A better idea is to lose some weight before a trek. For two or three months before your backpacking trip, while you're doing practice hikes and getting physically ready, cut back on the ice cream, hamburgers, soda, chips, and all that other fattening stuff. The increased physical exercise will burn from 100 to 150 calories per mile, depending on your body and pack weight. Since there's about 3500 calories in a pound of fat, you'll need to hike around 350 miles to remove 10 pounds of fat. More than you thought, huh?

That fat won't burn off if you increase your food consumption. "Hey, I hiked 6 miles. I can have a second bratwurst" will stop you from losing any weight. Self-discipline is the key to long-term weight lose - that or a personal trainer.

However you do it, losing weight before starting a backpacking trip or long hike is the best way to reduce the complete package you need to haul over mountains and valleys. Besides, you'll be a better role model and more ready to take on any other challenges that come along.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:42 06-30-2012 870
Early Morning
morning hiking The sun's just peeking over the horizon for the start of a gorgeous new day. All is quiet in camp except for muffled snoring from some adult tent nearby. No scouts have stirred, no coffee or bacon aroma on the breeze, and no reason to emerge from the warmth and comfort of my sleeping bag. I resist the temptation to roll over and collect another dozen winks before the chaos begins.

Throwing on my fleece and slipping into my camp shoes, I unzip the tent as quietly as possible, which still sounds like an irritated rattlesnake and is sure to wake someone. As I emerge from my safe nylon shelter, the world is fresh and wild before me, unspoiled and unaware of the day ahead. This is the time of day reserved just for me, for me and the wildlife.

Exploring with scouts is one of the most enjoyable ways I can imagine to spend a day, but the style of exploration is different. A dozen or twenty feet clomping through the woods, with or without a handful of voices being exercised, makes for less than ideal wildlife viewing expectations. By the time we would notice them, most animals have long ago fled our invasion. We occasionally encounter a deaf deer or lame rabbit, but that is the rare exception.

Any hope of experiencing the local fauna requires an early rise and solitude. That's why I venture out alone before the camp wakes. I head into the breeze, slow and watchful, with high hopes. My reward may be nothing more than a lost feather on the trail or a set of fresh racoon prints. But, on the other hand, I may catch a trio of turkeys unaware or twin fawns cavorting in a meadow. It's the anticipation and possibility that make the early morning hike such an adventure.

wildlife viewing This morning, I'm not with scouts. I'm on vacation Up North with my wife. But, I still got out early and enjoyed the sunrise before others at Pehrson Lodge were out and about. A short walk through the woods rewarded me with plenty of spider webs across my face, some dew-soaked shins and shoes, and loons, ducks, and heron on the lake.

Now, on with the day ahead to share with everyone. I've had my selfish refreshing time with nature and am ready for the motorboats, fishermen, swimmers, bikers, and the rest of humanity out here, like me, getting away from it all.

Scout On
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Posted: 6:58 06-28-2012 867
Blood Needed
Give Blood Scouts The Red Cross is asking for much needed blood donations this summer. Scouts and Scouters that are at least 16 and weigh 110pounds have a great opportunity to do a simple, but valuable, Good Turn by pumping out just a pint of their blood. It's easy, and you even get cookies and juice!

The Red Cross says its blood supply has reached emergency low levels, with 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. This shortfall leaves about half the readily available blood products on hand today than at this time last year.

Give Blood Today Every two seconds in the USA, someone needs a blood transfusion and the Red Cross needs to gather 17,000 pints each day for patients in over 3,000 hospitals across the country.

I've given over 6 gallons of blood, starting in college when the fraternities had a contest each semester to see which could give the most.

See Red Cross Blood site to find or host a blood drive.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:10 06-25-2012 866
BSA Tech
Cyber Chip In case you haven't noticed, the Boy Scouts are embracing technology across the board - from merit badges for Robotics, Computers, and Electronics, to Jamboree infrastructure, to the new STEM program.

In an effort to promote online safety, the BSA has created a Cyber Chip program. Requirements vary by age group but include signing a pledge, watching a video, telling someone else, and talking to your leader. After completing the requirements, a scout can purchase a card and/or patch.
Read BSA page

Tech Chip Troop 479 in Eden Prairie, MN created the Tech Chip a couple years ago to promote proper education on technology use. This addresses personal electronic devices rather than online safety. It includes requirements and a training plan. Units can purchase cards for scouts, which is a small fundraiser for Troop 479.

With the majority of people carrying personal electronics, adult volunteers that simply ban scouts from having them is sooo last century. Educating people and setting expectations is really the better way to solve a perceived problem.
Read the Tech Chip info for details.

Accepting, integrating, and adapting to change is the right way to keep a program engaging and interesting. Find out from your scouts what technology they'd like to include in their Scouting experience and then help them plan activities that interest them.
Has anyone asked about Robotics merit badge? How about the BlastCars? Or the STEM/NOVA awards? A good leader will discover new opportunities for scouts and then let them decide if they want to do them or not.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:12 06-21-2012 865
Wilderness First Aid Training Since I returned from my AZT hike, I've presented Red Cross CPR/AED and Wilderness First Aid training four times to over 50 people and will be doing it the next two weekends as well. Last week, I presented to the high adventure staff of a local BSA camp. They've got a very busy summer ahead of them and I was glad to see they're taking their responsibility of caring for the youth seriously. That camp is starting an ATV program this summer and were just sending a couple staff to a special training session to get cleared to run the program. I expect it will be popular!

Lots of demand for WRFA training because it's now required for Philmont, SeaBase, Northern Tier, and highly recommended for all unit-run treks. I expect The Summit will require it as well. It's a lot of fun to do and I always enjoy meeting more Scouters from the area. It does make for a long weekend, though, since we do a lot of hands-on scenarios.

The Red Cross could use more people presenting this training, so please consider contacting your local chapter about becoming an instructor. It's a great way to make Scouting safer for everyone.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:54 06-11-2012 864
SAR and Kayaking
Search and Rescue merit badge The BSA announced the new Search and Rescue merit badge today at a casino in Nevada. Why there? The 2012 National Search and Rescue Conference is going on there today, so it makes sense. The requirements aren't public yet, but should be available soon.
It sounds like it could be a very fun (and popular) merit badge, possibly combining skills in first aid, navigation, leave no trace, knots, and lifesaving. It should certainly fit nicely in Many Point Scout Camp's All Things Emergency Response program this summer.

Kayaking merit badge The Kayaking merit badge has also been announced and is due out on June 13. This is scheduled to cover basic flat-water kayaking skills and safety, leaving whitewater kayaking as part of the Whitewater merit badge.
I see it as a good addition to the Canoeing, Motorboating, Rowing, Smallboat Sailing, and Water Sports merit badges.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:05 06-06-2012 863
Contests = Free Stuff
backpack Contest Scouting magazine is giving away three backpacks in June. You can enter every day to boost your chances of winning.
Enter Now
The packs are: Deuter AIRCONTACT, Osprey Atmos, and Columbia SilverRidge

Cobra Braid has contributed some survival bracelets for the monthly contests here on Boy Scout Trail. You can now win a Scout Shop gift card, coupon, or survival bracelet each month. Just click the 'Triple Prizes' link at the top of the page.

Boys' Life has a bunch of contests going on. You can see them all on their Contest page.

Scout On and Good Luck

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Posted: 8:25 06-03-2012 862
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