- Joined: 9/11/2009
- Location: Pennsylvania
Re:Camping: How much gear is too much?
Friday, January 21, 2011 11:02 AM
I know exactly what you're saying and I mostly concur with all your points. Basically what's happened here is that I joined my troop around 1997 when I was 15 and the troop consisted almost exclusively of athletes who liked being in the outdoors. We actually spent more time together outside of Scouts than within Scouts - hiking, shooting, offroading, making zip-lines, pulling eachother on sleds behind our vehicles, climbing rocks and water towers, etc. Most of us reached the rank of Eagle, and afterwards - I went into Naval Special Warfare, one friend joined the Marines, another friend/Eagle became an Air Force MP/sniper, another friend/Eagle couldn't get into the Air Force but now he works for Lockheed Martin, etc. We were all self-motivated to be successful and we were all personally interested in going outdoors and having adventures.
On the first campout I went on, I brought only a medium ALICE pack, and the other guys brought about the same sized school backpacks - not because we had to, but that was just all we happened to bring along - and we had plenty of appropriate clothing and gear to last through the weekend. I was actually never really even aware of the idea of survival living until the last few years. I didn't earn the Backpacking Merit Badge (as far as I remember) but I did do lots of backpacking and general hiking just because we were outside a lot and that's how we got places in the woods. We also never thought of things as "having to learn outdoor skills" from the adults; we mostly just knew what we were doing in the outdoors because we'd all grown up being outside and engaging in skillful activities on our own - without any adult supervision! And I didn't grow up out in the boonies with a family that was into hunting and fishing and camping. I grew up in the suburbs in a small college town where I had to ride my bicycle 5+ miles to get out into the countryside - and my friends all did the same thing! Also, this wasn't back in the 50's or 60's - I'm talking about 1990 up until 1998 when I got my driver's license and a Jeep Wrangler.
Prior to my joining the troop, there had apparently been at least three High Adventure trips over the previous 3-4 years. I only got to go on one High Adventure trip - canoeing in the Adirondacks - along with 4 other Scouts, two fathers, and a guide. We all wanted to be there, and only one of us minded the up-to-a-mile-long canoe portages (the guy who minded wasn't ever very well-liked in the troop). Also, at any normal weekly meetings there were rarely more adults than the scoutmaster and two assistant scoutmasters, and only one scoutmaster was a parent of a boy currently in the troop at any given time while I was there. The scouts mostly either walked, skateboarded, rode bikes or drove themselves to get to the meetings.
In 2000 many of us graduated high school and left the troop for the military or college. Three of my friends remained who were part of the "old troop", and they told of how a new scoutmaster came along with several very young boys and basically destroyed the troop with new policies and his idea of "scout-appropriate activities". My three friends all achieved Eagle and left as soon as possible. That scoutmaster is now gone, and the current scoutmaster is a cool guy, but the troop has never been the same. There has not been one High Adventure trip since the one I went on in 1999, and what's more - nobody in the troop really seems very interested in going on such a trip now, or on any trip that requires physical activity or real outdoor skills. The parents all seem to want to be involved in Scouting more than the scouts do; on the last trip we had 5 adults and 4 scouts. Many parents also sit through every meeting; on any given evening the ratio of adults to scouts is probably about 50/50.
So, it's not like I'm trying to start a new troop here - I'm just trying to undo the damage that's been done over the last 10 years. I am hoping that someday I might be able to start my own BSA-type organization that would be very similar to the way my old troop was run without having to abide by any BSA policies. My organization would require the boys to be in high-school and pass a bi-annual physical fitness test based on national or military standards. Also, only men would be eligible to be adult leaders, and they would also have to pass the fitness test. I might also require the adults to watch Nutnfancy's video, "Dangerous Things" and sign a form stating that they agree to participate with the atitude that "dangerous things are good" and that they'll promote "responsibility, not fear." This wouldn't be a possibility for me to do for a while still, but someday - hopefully.
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