A powerful case for electric-vehicle charging stations at BSA camps

If you believe the sci-fi novels, by the time our Scouts are ready to buy their first car, an all-electric vehicle may be their only option.

These vehicles don’t pollute, and they’re cheaper to drive than their gas or gas-electric hybrid counterparts.

But you don’t have to wait for the future to own one. Most major carmakers either have an all-electric model for sale now, or they’re developing one to put on the market soon.

The increasing prevalence of electric vehicles, or EVs, led two Scouters to make a case for adding EV charging stations at BSA camps and national high-adventure bases.

Bob Bruninga and Gary Wilson lay out their cases below.

I sent their arguments to Eric Hiser, the BSA volunteer who serves as National Standards Chair for the National Camp Accreditation Program. His response:

“I am intrigued by it, and we will certainly give it some consideration during the next standards revision or possibly as a stand-alone recommended practice revision.”

See the arguments for EV charging stations below, and share your thoughts in the comments. Continue reading

Minnesota Boy Scout finishes quest to sleep outside for a year

Um, perfect sleeping weather?

Um, perfect sleeping weather?

Well, he actually did it.

Defying hot, humid summers and below-zero winters, Rudy Hummel, a 17-year-old Life Scout from Minnesota, finished his quest to sleep outside every night for a year.

I first told you about Rudy when he was 200 nights into his 365-night quest.

Now, I’m not surprised a Boy Scout set a goal and accomplished it. It’s just that doing so meant muggy summer conditions and a chillingly high 76 nights of subzero temps in the winter. He built a quinzee, or snow cave, to survive those frigid nights and really bundled up.

This Weather Channel story reveals just how many layers it took to keep Rudy warm: “Hummel slept under a fleece liner inside a mummy bag inside two other sleeping bags, with two or three quilts over that. He’d wear up to three layers of pants and up to seven shirts.”

Seven shirts? Now that’s toasty. Continue reading

President, governors make it official: June is Great Outdoors Month

great-outdoors-month-logLove the outdoors? I’ve got just the thing.

June, a month whose arrival is celebrated by school-age children nationwide, doesn’t just mean the end of classes.

It means the unofficial beginning of outdoors season. June is Great Outdoors Month, and it’s overflowing with reasons to head outside to celebrate our beautiful country.

President Barack Obama, in his official proclamation of June as Great Outdoors Month, explained the role every American — and therefore every Scout and Scouter — plays in protecting nature.

“This month, as we enjoy the natural splendor of our nation, let us stay true to a uniquely American idea — that each of us has an equal stake in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it. Together, let us ensure our children and grandchildren will be able to look upon our lands with the same sense of wonder as all the generations that came before.”

That’s a challenge met by packs, troops, teams, posts, ships and crews 12 months out of the year.

States have joined the fun, too. Governors of 42 states have issued official proclamations for the month, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, pictured signing the proclamation above. Some governors have even made videos; check out Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s video below as a great example.

The Boy Scouts of America is one of many key partners in Great Outdoors Month. Here are just a few of the month’s highlights: Continue reading

N.J. police and National Guard camporee is one of 2014’s largest Scouting events

nj-camporeeLater today, 10,000 Boy Scouts will converge in New Jersey for what organizers are calling the year’s largest Scouting event (though organizers of the Scouting 500 event this weekend in Kansas City expect 12,000).

This weekend’s New Jersey State Police and New Jersey National Guard Camporee will gather 300 troops from all over New Jersey and from parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Connecticut at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, N.J.

Looks like they’re in for a “you-won’t-believe-what-I-did-last-weekend” weekend.

They’ll watch jaw-dropping police and National Guard demonstrations, participate in interactive displays and work on merit badges.

It’s a highlight for the Scouts in attendance and for the members of the New Jersey State Police and New Jersey National Guard who get to meet with Scouts and share some of their cool toys.

The state police will have a number of vehicles on display, including an underwater operations truck, helicopter and Arson Unit truck with robots. The National Guard will bring two helicopters, a Humvee and a security vehicle. Scouts can also check out a Howitzer, MK19 grenade launcher and sniper rifle (but no live fire, of course).

Other highlights: Continue reading

5 ways to enjoy 2014 Kids to Parks Day

Kids-to-Parks-day-2014-logo-2Imagine Scouting in a world without local, state and national parks.

It’s not a pretty sight: Tents pitched in mall parking lots, s’mores cooked over an open tire fire, fishing in repurposed swimming pools.

Thank goodness for agencies like the National Park Trust, which helps preserve America’s local, state and national parks for future generations.

One of their big events each year is Kids to Parks Day, set for Saturday, May 17, 2014. Show them your support by registering your plans to explore parks and public lands that day.

The Boy Scouts of America — along with the National Park Service, NFL Players Association, American Hiking Society and others — is a prominent collaborator on Kids to Parks Day.

The National Park Trust estimates that more than 500,000 people will attend park events planned in 47 states and Washington, D.C., in what they’re calling “America’s national day of play.”

Here are five ways to get involved:

Continue reading

2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

Here’s one owner’s manual that’s actually worth reading.

It isn’t for your car, smartphone or new camp stove. The 2014 Fieldbook is a user’s guide for the entire outdoors, and it’s a must-own for everyone who spends time outside.

The fifth-edition Fieldbook: Scouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure is published by the Boy Scouts of America. It covers hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking and much more.

While Scouts and Scouters will find it indispensable before and during every outing, it’s a great tool for non-Scouts, as well.

“For more than a century, our organization has focused on teaching outdoor skills and leadership and providing opportunities for adventure and life-changing experiences,” said Wayne Brock, chief Scout executive of the BSA. “The Fieldbook isn’t just for our Scouts — we want to share these important lessons with anyone who seeks to explore, experience adventure and appreciate nature.”

Are you new to the outdoors? The Fieldbook has step-by-step guides to get you started. Or maybe you’re more of a seasoned outdoor adventurer? The Fieldbook will enhance your skill-set by helping you get farther, higher and deeper into the backcountry.

You can buy the 2014 Fieldbook today in your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org for $20 for the perfect-bound version or $27 for one that’s coil-bound.

Or, for the first time ever, you can buy it digitally. It’s available via Amazon for $20, and you can download it to read on a Kindle or any device that uses the Kindle app, including Androids, iPads and iPhones.

Find much more Fieldbook coverage, including a look at the contents pages, a bio of the Eagle Scout author and details about the history of the publication, all after the jump.  Continue reading

Camp Scout! app puts Scouting destinations at your fingertips

The annual practice of troops picking the perfect summer camp just got upgraded to the smartphone age.

Clear a spot on your home screen for Camp Scout!, a free iPhone app brought to you by Boys’ Life magazine and the BSA’s Outdoor Adventures team.

Let the iPhone detect your current location — or enter an address, place name or ZIP code — and Camp Scout! will show you the nearest BSA-owned properties.

Too many results? The “Things to Do” filter lets you see only camps with your unit’s favorite activities. Do your Scouts or Venturers fancy a place that offers boating, fishing and horseback riding? Tap all three activities, select “Find Camps” and voila!

Each camp’s page uses information supplied by the council. You’ll see a description, an activities list, driving directions, contact information and a link to learn more.

Roughly 500 camps are already in the app, and more are being added all the time.

In talking with Brian Gray, outdoor program coordinator for the BSA, I learned Continue reading

Tuesday Talkback: In search of a better patrol box

Tuesday-TalkbackIt sounds like an infomercial you’d see on QVC: “It’s a pantry, a spice rack, a utensils drawer and a portable kitchen. Yes, the Boy Scout patrol box does it all, and it can be yours for three easy payments … ”

But patrol boxes aren’t a gimmick. Patrol-based cooking is an important part of troop campouts, and many troops use patrol boxes to help keep cooking supplies and ingredients organized.

You don’t want Dragon patrol supplies fraternizing with items belonging to the Alligator or Rattlesnake patrols, do you?

Patrol boxes serve two purposes, as far as I see:

  • They teach responsibility. By assigning each patrol its own set of cooking supplies, you’re essentially giving them ownership and (hopefully) teaching them to take good care of what’s theirs. That’s better than everyone using (and abusing) community supplies where there’s no accountability.
  • They promote healthy competition. Many troops allow and encourage their patrols to paint and decorate their patrol boxes. Which patrol box looks the best? Which is the best organized? Bragging rights are on the line.

So we’re agreed that patrol boxes are a great idea. But what makes a great patrol box? That’s what Scoutmaster Bob M. asked last week, explaining that Troop 255’s patrol boxes are getting worn out.

“Our troop built the basic patrol boxes a number of years ago” he writes, “and they are showing their age. I was curious to find out if you’ve done an article or had any information on any lightweight options to the basic box design.”

I’ll share one resource, and then I’d love to hear from readers.

Continue reading

Minnesota Boy Scout halfway to goal of sleeping outside for an entire year

Update (Jan. 8): Read Rudy’s blog to learn more about the conditions he faces on a nightly basis during his quest to spend an entire year sleeping outside his Minnesota home.

His sister and his friends call him crazy, but you and I call Rudy Hummel a typical Boy Scout.

Rudy, a 17-year-old Life Scout from the northern Minnesota city of Hermantown, is nearly 200 nights in to his quest to sleep outside for 365 nights in a row.

Any Boy Scout living in Miami or Maui could pull off that feat, but Rudy lives in Hermantown, a suburb of Duluth, where tomorrow’s high temperature is 5 degrees. By the weekend, it could get down to minus-18. Consider that as you sip your hot cocoa by the fire this week.

Rudy’s original plan was to camp outside all summer, he told the Duluth News Tribune. “I thought it would be cool to spend the whole summer sleeping outside.” Continue reading

Philmont’s 2015 registration period opens Oct. 29; watch this new promo video while you wait

It seems like just about everyone wants to go (or go back) to Philmont.

And so when it comes to the hiking mecca’s 12-day and seven-day summer expeditions, demand far exceeds supply.

That’s why Philmont Scout Ranch has in place a lottery system, giving interested Scout troops and Venturing crews a fair shot at scoring a spot at the New Mexico high-adventure base.

Mark your calendar now for when the 2015 lottery opens on Oct. 29, 2013. Entries will be taken online into November, and a random draw takes place in early December. You’ll find a registration packet online at Philmont’s official website by mid-October.

In the meantime, check out this terrific new promotional video, which features testimonials from Scouts, Scouters and Venturers fresh off a Philmont trek. The common theme in their comments: “This was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Take a look: Continue reading