Ask-A-Scout(er) Page

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I'm Don "Malak" "Swasin" "Elvis" Buchan. I've been involved in Scouting
since I was 10. Currently I'm a leader with the 1st Baptist Scout Group.
I've been a leader with all sections of Scouts Canada -- Beavers, Cubs,
Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. Ok, stop waving around the credentials (I
guess I won't mention my long string of Gilwell training courses. :) )

This is my Scouting Challenge page. My Scouting "specialty", besides
thinking I'm better at giving Scouting advice than actually implementing
it, is within Camping skills and campfires. Therefore the raison d'ĂȘtre
for this page: Give advice on actual Scouting-related topics (as opposed
to giving an opinion on why Johnny is misbehaving at meetings, to which
I'd say that I probably couldn't give you an answer that you would
actually find useful (though I might, just that Leadering-specific issues
are not really the point of this page. :) )

So I hereby am soliciting from you, the general Scouting public, various
Scouting topics such as a good idea for your next campfire, a nifty menu
for your next camp, advice on how to go about implementing Scouting
skills, etc.

Here's my homepage.

Here's my Scouting FTP site.
42nd BRIGHTON (Saltdean) Scout Group, East Sussex, UK Has some tips pages
Scouting Management Software Thanks Bruce!

Here's the list of different challenges I've come up with and dealt with:

Some suggestions for simple winter camp meals
A simple but great weeklong camp menu
A Kub Kar Track discussion
Define a Rover Advisor
Making your hiking pack lighter
How to choose a summer camp for your child -- also ideas on planning one
at the bottom of the file.
My Firestarter FAQ
Clasp knives and Cubs
Campfire suggestions
Knotboard making
A quick idea on making camp cleanup -- AFTER camp -- fun
Torch Making for outdoor ceremonies (and a story!)
Homemade Hike Stoves Link added!
Making Rope
Rainy day activities for Beavers
Finding North using an old style analog watch
Mystery Trips to Camp
Backwoods Ovens
Nylon Tent Repairs
Dehydrated Meals tips
A simple Running Water System
Keeping Raccoons and other animals out of your tent

Please send me challenges at malak& (&=@)

And now to my homepage.

Some suggestions for simple winter camp meals
(January 1996)

>I need some great, easy, easy to clean lunches and dinners for winter
>camping for the upcoming winter camp!

- Sandwiches (made at home and frozen) Peanut butter and honey are
good, high energy suggestions
- Burgers in iron (burgers & veggies, or anything else that will
roast/steam well) wrapped in a few layers of aluminum foil. Rice is
good to soak up extra moisture (but the catch is that putting in a few
ice slivers before freezing it all is a good idea.) Also put in a touch
of cooking oil. Don't forget salt and pepper
- Cakes baked in orange peels (carefully take out the fruit without
tearing the peel) and eggs baked in potato skins (both tricky but
- Eggs cooked in paper bags -- grease the inside of a paper bag, and
break a few eggs into the bag. It works!
- Anything canned can be carefully heated on the fire. My favourites
are Chef Boyardee pastas
- Anything you can cook over a metal grill over the fire (meats to
roast, grilled veggies, toast, bacon, sausages, bagels) -- bury the
grill in the fire to clean it
- Bannock wrapped around a stick

Back to the top.

Easy Great Weeklong Menu

(August 1996)

For this challenge I drew from recent Scout summer camp experiences when
the menu was fabulous. However, as a result of producing such wonderful
food I did a lot of the cooking myself and felt that there must be a
better way to have an equally great menu while both simplifying the
preparation and hopefully giving more of the preparation to the Scouts.

(From a year later: Yes, this menu was actually field tested, and it
works, with one modification: I took out the beef roll for Thursday and
replaced it knockwurst sausages and corn, etc. The kids were able to do a
good amount of the work and I only pulled rank a couple of times. It is
also very flexible and easy to shift around. Also, the use of the single
burner stove was great as it simplified a lot of the cooking and helped
on the camp run inspections: Having set the example myself inspecting
other sites looking at stoves for grease, other leaders doing the
inspections came around looking for our standard issue two-burner, box
style coleman stoves looking for grease only to find neither. :) )

Some assumptions are made:

A) A cooking fire may be made at any time on the site
B) A dutch oven or other fireproof and appropriate pot of sufficient
size is available
C) A fire grille is available
D) A single burner stove is available (typically as an emergency backup)
E) Occasional boiling of foods on the stove is allowed, though any
boiling is kept to a minimum and it is preferred that it be done over
the fire
F) You may choose to mix and match or move items around; beyond trying
to evenly space things out over the week and not have too much of a
given item too often or too close to another time it's used, placement
of a given meal or item on a given day is arbitrary.
G) You arrive around lunch on Saturday -- therefore a BYO lunch -- and
you leave before lunch on the following Saturday.
H) Usually -- but not always -- that a fridge or cooler (and as such a
constant ice supply) is available.
I) Generally the meals are complete, but a few additives may be desired.
For instance, I didn't include desserts and drinks. That allows for you
to choose drinks according to your campsite facilities (ie fresh milk if
you have a fridge; drink crystals on a hike, etc.) as well as balance
desserts versus the availability of a canteen on site and whether or not
you allow your group to bring their own snacks. The desserts we added when
this menu was used were: "May West Variety" (various small store bought
cakes), a dutch oven apple cake, a couple of pies



SUPPER macaroni in tomato sauce (fry onions, carrots, celery, meat,
anything else chopped up in dutch oven, then add sauce and/or tomatoes,
water & macaroni and let simmer for an hour or more) Make sure you use
enough of the tomatoes or sauce if you want it to be saucy enough! Don't
forget the salt & pepper. This was much more of a success than
anticipated -- the vegetables were cut chunky stew style, the whole thing
simmered less than an hour but overall very nice!


BREAKY Bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter etc

LUNCH Sandwiches (lunch meats, peanut butter, jams etc.), salad

SUPPER Pork chops, baked potatoes (done in aluminum foil)


BREAKY Toast, sausages, fruit, peanut butter, etc.

LUNCH Burgers, cookies, salad

SUPPER Dr. McCoy's Secret Bourbon Beans (fry onions in dutch oven, add
beans, corn, tomatoes, a bit of dry rice, salt, let simmer for an hour)


BREAKY Various store bought pastries & doughnuts

LUNCH Bread, various canned pastas (one can per person -- cook
directly in can on the fire)

SUPPER Brochettes (beef cubes, onions, green peppers) made on the grille


BREAKY Bannock, peanut butter, jams. Make in a cast iron fry pan or in
dutch oven if wide enough

LUNCH hot dogs, chips, carrot sticks, celery sticks

SUPPER Tin can roast chicken (boil first then suspend in a large tin
can using coat hanger wire through holes in the side, put on grille with
open end down and punch holes on the side near the top) stuffed with
cooked rice & chopped veggie mix, and boiled or roasted mixed veggies


BREAKY Boiled eggs, toast, peanut butter, jams etc

LUNCH Burgers in iron (hamburger meat, rice, onions, mixed beans, oil &
salt wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked on fire)

SUPPER knockwurst sausages, rice, corn, may west variety, milk & juice


BREAKY Sausage muffins (breaky sausage sliced lengthwise with cheese
slices on english muffins)

LUNCH Leftover soup (say chicken, macaroni, carrots, onions, rice,
peas, celery, mixed beans)

SUPPER Steaks, pita breads


BREAKY Bagels etc.

More good suggestions on individual meals can be found at Karen Burns'
recipe page.

Back to the top.

Pinewood Derby/KubKar Rally

I was asked about Pinewood Derby advice. Here's the meat of the


>I have sketched up a decent design (30-degree top stretch, 6' rise
>total, controlled curvature down to the floor stretch, etc.) but would
>like to see what others have done.

Here in Canada I think we've kind of really beaten the issue to death -- I
ever so rarely hear about Kub Kar debates any more. :)

Your basic design sounds good.

A few suggestions:

- Have a hinged length of wood right at the top of the track fitted just
underneath with coathanger wire coming out of it, sticking straight up and
going through little troughs in the track. This is your starting gate.
- As you've already decided to do, have a length of track that is flat
along the floor preceding your finish point.
- DON'T use an automated system that opens the gate and figures out things
like who got there first and timing and so on. Use a manual opening gate
and judge the winner by eyesight. In case of doubt, re-run the race. This
comes from the idea that the races are for fun, not some big thing whereby
the terms of the end of the world are decided by the race. You can use a
computer to track the statistics and help make it all fair (such software
exists) but keep the computer's involvement light.
- Figure out a way to keep the kids who've been eliminated busy. They get
bored quickly and their egos get an unnecessary beating -- help it along
with other fun things such as carnival games.
* One friend used a system whereby all the cubs were in three races and in
three drag races (the cubs push the cars down the floor and the cars were 
ranked by their distance ie furthest 1st, middle 2nd, and shortest
distance 3rd) added up scores based on first, second and third. Both were
run simutaneously such that the participants in the previous track race
participate in the drag race. This way there would always be twice as many
cubs active in something as there are tracks, and all the cubs are in the
same number of races as everyone else. At the end, the cub with the most
points from the whole rally won. Note that in the process this also allows
the cars to be put in different tracks each race to avoid skewing the
results by a poor track.
- Have individual tracks that will keep the cars in line where they should
be, but make the height difference between the wheel base and the rise in
the center to keep them in place very small to avoid the cars getting
caught -- or conversely, just make dividers that will keep the cars in the
tracks and therefore have a space that is, say, half an inch or an inch
wider than the width of the car.


To which the originator replied:

I had planned on using an automated timing system to avoid any human bias,
because, like it or not, the best cars from each pack move on to District
meets, and the pack wants to be competitive at that level. It is also
necessary for some of the other plans to work, to wit:

Keeping all of the kids interested is done by running all cars multiple
times. Clearly, small differences in the lanes can skew results among
closely-matched cars, so we have used a computer to track times and match
"close" cars plus make sure that every car runs in every lane at least
once, so a "fast" lane is not the deciding factor. (Last year when Nathan
was a Tiger, they ran the six Tiger cars just among themselves, so the
youngest kids with the shortest attention spans were done first. His
finishes varied from first to fourth depending on which lane he was in,
and ended up third of six overall. One of the six lanes on the track we
borrowed was good for about 1.5 car lengths' improvement in time over the
slowest lane, just judging by the variability in Nathan's finishes.)

My idea for the starting gate was a set of dowels riding vertically in
holes drilled through the track and substructure. That way, one avoids
any tricks like coating the front edge of the car with sticky residue to
gain a little "pull" from the starting gate (or post) pivoting down in
front of the car.

Plans I have seen use 1/4" high lath as guides, and our car test box
(which checks for length and width) also has a spot with a slightly
over-height guide rail in it, so if the car rolls easily over that, it
will clear the track, as well.

Back to the top.

"Define a Rover Advisor"

>My challenge to you is to define the role of a Rover Advisor. This
>question obviously stems from a deeper problem, namely the inability of
>our advisor to get along with the rest of the crew.

I'm going to develop a page around the following, which I've lifted from
a text I wrote in 1993 (this page developed in 1996) and is available


A Rover Advisor should be: A member of the crew on pretty much equal
standing with the Rovers; a quiet sit-back-and-enjoy-the-scenery type
person; a kicker in the behind; a steady beacon; a regular person;
someone who takes as much responsibility as the Rovers do in crew
events; given certain privileges; about 50 and be able to keep up with
the Rovers and surpass them as often as not; married, two kids not in
Rovers, or at least not in their crew; single, without any kids;
dedicated to the members of the crew and its activities; like a Beaver
leader who literally directs, provides continuity, a program,
activities, etc.; like a Scout leader who sits back and watches his
Scouts, only occasionally stepping in; knowledgeable regarding the age
group; a motivator; should I go on?


I'll have to start waxing philosophical to expand on it, but I don't
think I'll have a hard time doing that. :)

Here's part of a disscussion I participated in once:


** asked:

>I am now starting my second year as assistant District Commisioner for
>Rovers and I have a situation and I need advice. I have my own idea on
>how to handle the situation but I would like to know if there is a
>procedure I must follow.

** responded:

>I think that rovers are quite old enough to decide who they want as an

Absolutely. That's how I was recruited to be a Rover Advisor. BUT:

** said that there is a personality conflict involved. To me that
suggests that a request for intervention was made or was anticipated.
Therefore ** is trying to fulfil his obligation under his mandate.
Otherwise, why have "Adults" (ie. advisors etc.) involved in Rovering?

My point being that an advisor's role is to advise in a situation that
is needed -- such as perhaps is the case in this one. The rovers may
not know how to proceed and need help.

Then ** said:

>Let's not lose track that all of us adults in Scouting are in it for
>the youth members. No youth members, no Scouting.

Hear Hear! (let's not let dinosaurs like myself who don't want to let
go of rovering dictate how it evolves, right? :) )

Then ** pipes in:

>The Partner, via the Group Committee hires and fires. In the case of a
>Crew, this is usually a rubber stamp of the Crew's choice. In this
>case, the Group Committee can ask the current advisor to step down
>(that is, fire him) and appoint the advisor that the Crew selects. The
>Group Committee can help locating a person if need be.


>>How does one gracefully ask an advisor to leave?
>"The Crew would like an advisor with a different set of strengths."

As usual, a good, thought out response.

One note: I hate the "hires & fires" expression (as distinguished from
the intended meaning) -- take it from someone who has been "fired".
Fortunately, **'s suggestions avoids the unpleasant aspects -- assuming
that things are actually worked out gracefully, and not just "gracefully
told" about the decision.


Let me say that I know it's hard from the Rovers' perspective to resolve
such a situation; we had one advisor who was very heavily involved in
the running of our crew. He to this day is very popular, including with
us, but -- myself not really being one of these but looking back I can
see the logic -- he was mildly resented for being an overgrown Rover and
overly active in the planning and participation of our events. He moved
on to another opportunity that presented itself. But alas, such "happy"
endings don't always present themselves.

Which comes back to my wildly conflicting definition as above. Besides
dealing with stereotypes (ie. 50, married & two kids :) ), it not only
embodies many of the different types of people who are "appropriate"
Advisor material, it also suggests that one person sometimes has to both
sit back and watch one moment while actively participate the next. (As
an aside, my current Rover Crew in which I'm the advisor just asked me
the other night not to be so neutral, especially since I have a lot of
expertise in the topic of discussion.) As well, the idea of the "two
kids not in Rovers, or at least not in their crew" also embodies the
notion of avoiding some potential problems that don't either follow them
home or follow them from home.

Also, a Rover and I once got the crew into organizing an area Scout camp.
Knowing how to tackle such a beast and always wanting to do such a thing,
I took the helm -- note that I was the assistant ADVISOR. In the end I was
mildly resented by the crew for the very intimate and sometimes
overwhelming role I took in almost every aspect of the planning and
running of the camp, even though as much as possible whenever an idea
came from me I tried to encourage the rovers responsible for a given
activity to develop it as much as possible. The moral? I guess as the
Advisor I screwed up. I would also advise any Rover crew in such a
position to assert their position to the end of everyone working together
instead of allowing the situation to continue.

As for your current problem, I have a few ideas:

- decide what you think is the problem with your inability to get along.
Weed out the frivolous things. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
- write it down
- suggest the advisor do it too
- bring the topic out in the open; of course, control it so that it
doesn't become a shouting match, but don't be afraid of it being painful
or causing tears. Funny how sometimes the real issues come out. (One
colleague often felt that "respect" -- sometimes a lack of it -- was the
problem. I countered with the suggestion that the word respect be
defined as well as where it was missing, ie. distinguish between
courtesy and earned respect.)

Back to the top.

Reducing Pack Weight for Hikes

(November 1996, always added to)

Well, I went hiking with the troop for the first time in a long while and
"started reflecting on the weight of my pack, being so proud that I'd
managed to lighten it up a bit the night before leaving by taking out this
or removing that box and so on (I never was much of a lightweight camper
:) ) Ideas that had gone through my head with regard to how to lighten the
load stemmed from a comment from a big hiking friend of mine -- both big
on hiking and a large person -- a few years back on how he'd gotten to the
point of reducing candle weight in his pack when packing for hikes.

Through that reflection and a few discussions I had with a Venturer along
the trail -- and of course throughout time immemorial following the trip
-- I came up with the following list of ideas on how to lighten a hiking
pack. Note that since all weight, however small and insignificant, still
adds up and that further a lot of those insignificant weights can easily
add up to a pound or more (and unfortunately sometimes a LOT more,) I've
included all the things I could think of that can be reduced in order to
have the lightest possible pack.

Food and cooking:

- Try tin can cooking over a fire using a large 1kg coffee can with a wire
handle instead of pots, pans and stoves
- Wrap your food in aluminum foil for cooking over a fire instead of pots
and pans; as well, use any other method of cooking over a fire, such as
roasting and spits made from green sticks, and so on instead of pots, pans
and stoves
- Prepare your foods as much as possible at home. The idea here is that if
there's packaging and extra food that don't need to be brought in -- and
as such, whose packing out with your garbage can be avoided -- then get
rid of it. If you're having peanut butter sandwiches, make them ahead of
time so that you won't have to carry the bottle and 3/4 of the contents
both ways unnecessarily
* Also, by preparing it at home you can avoid having to bring the
required fuel to cook it for an hour or two but rather only the required
fuel to reheat it for about 10-15 minutes
* Further, cook all of your food first, at home, then dry it in a
dehydrator. This will also cut down significantly on your fuel
- Transfer enough peanut butter, jam, margarine, butter, ketchup, mustard,
relish, coffee, tea bags, juice crystals, sugar, spices, salt, pepper,
liquid soap, toothpaste -- or whatever the case may be -- into film
cannisters and as such avoid carrying an excess amount of the item as well
as the heavier container it comes in
- If you must bring canned food, eat it as early as possible. That way
weight reduction can be made as soon as possible along the trail and as
such as you become more tired at least you'll have less weight to carry.
The same is to be said of any other food that contains any significant
amount of water -- ie. isn't dehydrated
* Remember that canned foods represent extra garbage that must be packed
out -- therefore perhaps you're better off not bringing it at all or
putting the food into lighter freezer bags and freezing it
- Assuming that you can get water along the trail from a stream, lake or
other water source, use drink crystals instead of those boxed (or bottled)
drinks. Remember that these are virtually always much greater than 95%
water. Also, the vitamin C (as well as the flavour of the drink itself to
a lesser extent) in them helps to neutralize or at least mask the flavour
of the iodine you used to treat your water
- Again assuming that you can get water along the trail from a stream,
lake or other water source, use dehydrated foods as much as possible
- If you dehydrate your own foods at home, dry the food as much as
possible. However, try rehydrating your next meal on the trail; this will
save on cooking time by only requiring simmering the food for five
minutes. Probably only useful if you're on a longer trip but still
depending primarily on fuel as opposed to using fires, since rehydrating
on the trail requires that you therefore are carrying the extra water.
Take your pick and see what works for you
always end up in a situation in which a hot meal is necessary. That said,
if you're like me, a hot meal is not an absolute necessity. By planning
your menu a bit, you can completely remove the need for a stove (and a
fire) to heat meals. Think of sandwiches, drinks that don't need to be
hot, and eating food cold instead of hot. Or arrange that your hike ends
up at a cabin that at least has a pot stove in which making a fire is
virtually guaranteed
- I'm of mixed opinion regarding carbonated drinks -- however all sides
make me recommend against them. The first is a question of water content:
these drinks are 75%+ water, therefore heavy. Assuming you can get water
along the way, depending on them for water is silly. (Also, that means
that up to 25% of the weight is wasted solids, requiring you to carry even
more to compensate.) If you want a flavoured drink, brink drink crystals.
The second is more subtle: Many have a certain caffeine content, and
caffeine is a mild diuretic (ie. make you urinate.) This could cause you
to expel water more often than needed and require that you carry more
water than you otherwise need were you to have consumed a drink not
containing caffeine. Third, you have to carry out the cans or bottles.
Fourth, if you are hiking in a very hot or below freezing climate, there
is the risk of explosion in your pack from excess pressure since the gas'
pressure increases in hot weather, and in freezing weather the gas comes
out of solution in the freezing drink and results in an increase in
pressure. Also, ice expands in the container, in and of itself possibly
causing the explosion. Of course, you could plan your hike to be
always within a few moments of a water source and drink a sugar free,
caffeine free soft drink in a plastic bottle during a mild period and
subsequently use the empty bottle as your water bottle :)
- Coffee is the same as for soft drinks, and you have to bring a perk. BUT
since some people need their coffee as much as I my iced tea, look for
small perks (I have a 2 cup perk), use the "tea bag" style coffee sachets,
buy a small funnel & some filter paper to have filter coffee, or use
instant (YUCK! :) )


- Any pans you bring should be aluminum as opposed to cast iron or steel.
They're lighter. Learn how to use those very cheap grade pots and pans
that come with cheap mess kits. Note that I believe that cast aluminum is
heavier than sheet aluminum pots, if only because they end up being of
much heavier gauge
- Use engine block enamel to blacken the bottom of your pots. This will
slightly lower your cooking times by increasing heat absorption, therefore
slightly decreasing your fuel needs
- Bring one of those ultra-light hiking stoves instead of even a regular
Coleman single burner. Use aluminum foil as a reflector and wind break
around the stove to save on fuel (and therefore, you won't have to bring
as much of it!) Or bring a sterno (jellied alcohol) or a pocket wax stove
(in a flat lozenge can, tightly fit in corrugated cardboard with the edges
facing up and fill with melted wax. Use a candle or extra chunk of wax --
or beter yet, the stub from your expired candles -- as replacement fuel.)
- Instead of bringing two bottles of fuel, bring only one, perhaps a
slightly larger one. Either way, try to cut down on how much liquid
fuel you'll need by depending more on a fire so that you can cut out as
much fuel as possible
- Bring a Sierra zip stove -- the ones that have a small battery powered
fan and that burns twigs, bark, pine cones, and many other bits of
detritus from the forest floor. This completely eliminates the need for
fuel and uses much less wood than a regular fire. It is also lighter than
my Coleman Featherlight 400 when empty!
- If at all possible, don't bring equipment in their carrying cases --
such as the plastic boxes for lanterns, the stuff sacks for stoves,
plastic wrapping cases for KFS sets, and so on. If necessary, wrap them in
the clothes you bring
- If you can afford it, buy lightweight camping gear (such as clothing
made from thinsulate, lightweight stoves and lanterns, etc.)
- If you use the blue iodine cup to filter your water, either bring
lightweight soda bottles for collecting and receiving the filtered
water and leave the outside cup at home, or vice-versa. Do the same if
possible for other water filters
- Bring iodine or halazone tablets instead of a filter, or, if you're
using a fire, boil your water instead (note that this only saves weight if
you use a fire to boil the water and not your stove, as you would need to
bring a lot more fuel)
- Take the contents of your first Aid kit out of their box and put them
into a plastic bag that has a seal
- Fill the tanks of your liquid fuel appliances before you leave. That way
the extra fuel you bring can be in a smaller, therefore lighter bottle.
This put together with aggressive fuel management can actually eliminate
the need for spare fuel bottles
- If possible, bring one less hike stove and bring the same amount of fuel
its tank would hold in a small fuel bottle; the bottle will be lighter. Or
conversely bring a larger bottle of fuel.
- If you bring those little tea candles that have an aluminum cup, remove
the cup. Just be careful of the surface you put the candle on when you're
burning it
- Don't bring the nice cardboard box the candles came in when you bought
- Learn to live with a touch less light; use only one candle at a time,
and perhaps use them for less time (and therefore you'll need fewer
candles or can cut them shorter)
* If you make your own candles, use stearic acid -- it's a wax hardener
that also makes the candle burn longer (and as such, you won't need as
many candles)
- Travel in a group so that you can split equipment such as cooking gear,
food, other equipment, and so on. As well, agree in advance to stay
together or into two definite groups -- this can eliminate the need that
some people have to "bring a little extra -- just in case we get
- Use lightweight soda bottles and bottles from commercially bottled water
to carry water if they're lighter than water bottles sold for the purpose
of camping
- Bring only as many tent pegs as your tent actually needs to stand up; if
you know that you can tie the guy lines to a tree or other fixture, then
forget the pegs for them
- Use sticks found onsite as your tent pegs
- Bring a rope and tarpaulin instead of a tent and use it as your shelter
- Use a smaller backpack. I'm shocked at how heavy my backpack is -- no
doubt a similar quality and sized pack can be made lighter
- Pack everything into a smaller pack than that which you'll be using. If
it doesn't fit (into the smaller pack) then it doesn't go on the hike. If
you can use the smaller pack -- assuming that it is lighter than the
larger pack, then use it instead
- Use twine, doubled over several times, as a belt instead of a
conventional one. Use it carefully onsite and you can reuse it; either way
it can be lighter than some belts

Personal gear:

- Leave the knife from a knife/fork/spoon combination at home. You're
carrying a pocket knife and possibly a sheath knife already, right?
- Cut part of the handles off from your fork and spoon, as well as from
your toothbrush. Bore a few small holes in the remainder of the handles
using a drill and a small drill bit
- Use plastic instead of metal or glass/ceramic plates, cups, bowls, and
cutlery. Besides being lighter -- usually, anyway -- they're also not as
likely to get hot in your hands when full of hot food, soup or drinks, and
if they break they're not dangerous or broken into small shards
- Convert your metal soup spoon into a "Spork"(tm) by cutting a few slots
a milimetre apart and a few milimetres long with a hacksaw:
     /     _\
-----|     ==
-----|     ==

- Use your pots & pans to double as plates & bowls
- This goes against above-mentioned advice, but some stoves have metal
cases designed for them that can also be used as cooking gear, and are of
lightweight aluminum -- therefore you can eliminate the need for a plate,
bowl, pot and frypan by using one
- Choose between your Swiss Army knife and a sheath knife. I suggest you
bring the Swish Army knife; it's invariably lighter and has many more
functions. Granted others will choose the sheath knife instead
- Bringing a roll of toilet paper? Then forget the supply of tinder or
paper to start a fire. It can also be used to wipe your dishes and burned
before leaving. Also, take out the cardboard roll in the center before you
- Bringing a bar of soap? Then leave the shampoo at home -- you can wash
your hair with the soap and the bears won't care that your hair isn't
conditioned or using whatever kind of special shampoo
- Use expensive, concentrated shampoos and liquid dishsoap --
biodegradeable, of course -- you can often get away with using half as
much shampoo for the same cleaning power. Better yet, look for powdered
- Bears don't care whether or not you're wearing makeup. Leave it behind.
I also understand that by wearing it in the woods during bug season, it
just helps to attract bugs anyway
- Bears also don't care whether or not you've shaved -- guys your face and
ladies your legs. (Note that I still advocate hygiene.) Leave your shaver
or razor and shaving cream at home
- Rinse your dirty shirts and use them as face cloths


- Don't skimp on socks and the protective bags for sleeping bags and bed
mats -- gotta protect those investments :) -- but how about bringing one
less shirt?
- Dress in layers. That way you won't overheat yourself if you manage the
layers properly, and in cool weather you can use three or four lightweight
summer windbreakers instead of one heavier jacket. Chosen judisciously
they can weigh less than the heavy jacket and still be warmer

Gadgets, odds & ends, and pocket items:

- Leave your pager, wallet, house keys, coins and other pocket
paraphenalia in your car's glove compartment or at home. The only key you
need to bring with you is the key for the car door and ignition. If
they're two seperate keys, attach them to the key ring on your swiss army
knife, or use a simple key ring with no little doodads. Only bring a PHOTO
identification card that has all details (address and phone number that
can be used in the case of emergency) -- such as your health insurance
card, driver's licence or school ID card -- and a $20 bill (even in the
middle of the woods, you may need money if you need to get someone out
fast or bribe another hiker along the trail to help you out with something
- A cell phone or two way radio may be brought for the sake of security,
IF you'll be in range of the cell phone or radio network (otherwise
they're wasted weight)
- If you're careful and your hair allows it, the saw blade on your swiss
army knife can be used as a comb. It can also replace a saw if you're
willing to only have to cut relatively small wood
- Bring all of your personal medication in one pill bottle, and only one
or two pills above and beyond what you'll need
- Remove all unnecessary jewelry, particularly costume jewelry, broaches,
pins, etc.
- Take the buttons and pins off of your coat and hat. I'm talking about
the kind that are decorative, not the kind that keep your clothing
together -- they have funny jokes, pictures of your cat, "I love my kids",
names of rock bands, "Flower Power," "Peace, Man," and "Nano Nano" on
them, and as well as name tags (you're already carrying an identification


- If you're bringing a story to read to your troop/company/crew/group
either memorize it beforehand or, using a good photocopier with decent
reduction capabilities, photocopy your story instead of bringing the book
(but don't reduce it too much -- it can be hard to read at night,) and
remember to copy it onto both sides of the paper. Then burn it so you
don't have to pack it out
- Either hike in a area where there are plenty of garbage pails on the
trail or plan your route to pass a Rangers' station after an appropriate
length of time so that you can dispose of your garbage
- Burn what garbage you can along the way

And finally ...

- Bring doughnuts and bagels to eat. Surely the holes in the middle make
them lighter to carry! :)

Back to the top.

Clasp knives and Cubs

>Clasp Knife Training -- last year boys (Cubs)
>When and how to train. When and how can they carry a clasp knife.

My thoughts on clasp knives and cubs is that usually the need for knives
of any kind -- put aside table knives of course -- at that level is
minimal, but it is part of the program.

Firstly I like that you're keeping it as a "Last Year Cub" activity -- not
only is it reserving a certain degree of mystique and fun to the Scout
Troop, but I actually don't like the idea of Beavers being allowed to
carry a pocket knife, and therefore I of course have reservations about
also allowing younger Cubs as well.


As for timing within the program, two general considerations come to mind:
A) proper knife handling and safety is always a good topic
B) keep your general year long program in mind. I would think that you can
start somewhere around:
* January or when you're starting to think about the second or third camp
of the year as well as planning for your summer camp
* when you're getting into your winter cubbing, woodsman and so on badges
Such badges should have requirements on proper handling of a knife.

Before beginning, you should also get permission from the parents of the
individual Cubs -- some parents may have reservations about allowing their
child to have a knife and it is their prerogative to not allow their child
to have a knife. If they refuse to allow their child to have a knife, then
ask if they will allow the child to go through the training you provide


- set a short list of simple rules that the kids can relate to. As a
general rule, try keeping to a "positive" rule as opposed to a list of
"don'ts", such as:
* set a rule on how big the knife your cubs will be getting -- such as a
swiss army knife with a two inch blade.
* be very specific and adamant about the passing rule of acknowleging
receipt of the knife before the other lets go, an also to always pass a
clasp knife in the closed position
* a knife is a tool, so it should be used for productive purposes instead
of playing around with it, such as throwing it into the ground or
carving up trees
* emphasizing that a knife is a tool and to be respected (not feared),
that it can hurt someone if misused, and is not a toy that to be used
for games or hurting others
- suggest a particular knife to which you're partial that brings into
* expense (nothing too pricey)
* usefulness
* appropriateness to the age (such as not having an unusually large blade
or too many functions for a 10 year old)
* quality of the knife -- not dollar store specials which potentially can
lead to problems with the knife breaking at the least safe and opportune
- keeping the blades sharp -- blades that go dull make cutting dangerous
(a dull knife can be more difficult to use and also dangerous to the user)
- basic technique on how to sharpen the blades
- identifying which situation requires what size of knife -- a small
whittling job is appropriate for a clasp knife but not cutting up firewood
unless the wood is kindling
- try working both on a group level and a one on one level -- suppose the
last stages for the one on one to determine individually when each cub may
begin carrying a knife
- Use a Totin' Chip system whereby the Chip gives the holder the privelege
to carry and use a knife, but is revokable at any time when your set of
rules is broken

Back to the top.

(March 1997)

I decided to challenge myself on how to go about having that great
campfire that people remember for a long time to come, has that great
feeling, things work out great, no hitches, and so on.

So I figured that before giving tips on how to put together that "perfect"
campfire, I'd remember back on some of the memorable campfires I've been
to. Note that some of the musings will conflict with each other; this is
normal as one great campfire was great because of one thing while another
was great because of something totally different.

- Make it informal -- A number of the really memorable campfires I've been
to -- and run -- were "organized" that afternoon. I'd invited a group to
come over to the campsite, bring a skit or two, and we'd sit around and
wing it. Oh, of course I can do that because I've been running campfires
for years and have developped a sense of how to go about it. But try it
anyway -- but only with small numbers. (Honesty meter: This has also
bombed for me -- in recent years.)
- Make it formal -- I remember the first campfire I went to, a formal one.
It was well organized, ran smoothly, had a lot of good skits I remember to
this day (as of this writing, 16 years later -- and the campfire was
when I was a young Scout.)
- small numbers -- or at least, a defined group that had some kind of
connection to one another. That way everyone can relax.
- One of the really good and memorable pieces I saw was at a group camp
when one of the leaders told himself, "I'm sick of the campfires we go
to and all of the usual stuff. Hey, at that Leaders' Training Session I
went to, they suggested this ..." It was the "Rain in the Forest" piece
that, with a bit of digging, can be found in the campfire activities file
in; The moral: If you're at a
campfire and you can contribute something, DO IT.
- Another memorable piece was a Scout who'd brought his guitar and
played really well. It was a piece that he'd learned off the radio, so
people knew it.
- Yet another memorable piece: An American Scout sang a very nice song
-- and sang it very well -- at a campfire about 11 years ago. I
recently heard it again; it was about toy soldiers, a secluded mountain
village sending off its sons to battle ... Anyone recongize it?
- Stories. I have a book of favourite short stories that I bring to
most camps. I know a few of the stories really well and can, in a pinch,
tell them from memory. I've been doing this for years now and almost
always get compliments for my readings.
- Bannock. I've become well known in my circles for my bannock at
campfires. (1 cup flour, two tablespoons each of shortening, baking
powder and honey, some salt, and mix in a bag or bowl with water to
desired consistency and fry on a cast iron pan over very low heat or an
area where you just had the fire and cleared it off.)
- Organization. Make sure that all of the groups do know that they're
expected to contribute something -- perhaps if you have a list of what
you want (3 skits, 3 songs, an activity, a story, ...) and personally
see to it that each is ready a little while before the campfire starts.
Also, have each group about to "perform" ready in the wings during the
activity before theirs (isn't it annoying to call up the Eagle Patrol
and have to wait a minute or two for them to organize themselves?) Have
a few skits, songs and stories printed out and hand them to those who
obviously have no clue what to do.
- Relax. Don't get mad that one of the kids made a cat call or two
(though more is obviously innapropriate, rude, and should be dealt with by
pulling the kid away from the group.) An exception would be obviously
rude comments. That kind of informal joking around is in all likelyhood
what went on at BP's campfire on Brownsea Island.
- Traditions. Nothing particularly special here; but one group I know
starts its campfires with "Is there a program for us this evening?" at
which point the end of a string is presented, pulled, and at the other end
is a film container with the program in it; or the film container comes in
by parachute; or a poof of smoke and it appears; or ... You get the
picture. (Ideas that come to mind: Make a skit around it, such as
someone interrupts the chief and goes through all sorts of slapstick, and
the program is delivered in the process; a waiter delivering it on a tray;
deliver a sandwich, that happens to have the program in the middle (or
everyone gets a sandwich, and someone gets the special sandwich); a
courrier; if you're beside a lake, it comes in by canoe; etc.) I often
make bannock -- while telling a story from memory. I read or tell a
story. Make it a part of the invitation that each group, or person,
brings a log or a large branch, or a snack to put on a snack table. I
remember well a troop's traditional song that had apparently been sung
in the troop through at least 10 to 15 years before
- Special effects:
* A thin wire leading from a tree and on an angle sends a burning
toilet roll into the fire to light it
* battery powered firelighting
* a candle covered by a tin can is lit in advance, then the can is
removed at the right moment (by means of an attached string) to
light the fire
- Spice up your skits. Garth, my Venturer advisor from many years past,
spruced up the old corny standard "Peanuts" skit by announcing "Here
comes the Judge, here comes the Judge" in a style reminiscent of the
novelty 60's song by the same name. Allow for a bit of personal style
and improvisation (if the individual is able) to enter into the skits.
That the script isn't recited word for word is no great disaster; in
fact, twist endings or off-beat interpretations is what makes a worn out
skit more fun. While usually props and costumes are kept to a minimum, I
remember a few skits at my Beaver Part II in which a lot of creative
interpretations and props were originally -- and hilariously -- used.
Those who have been to Part II's usually know what I'm talking about.
- Hand a Scout a book of stories and have him select one to read later
that evening. Choose a book right and you don't have to worry about the
appropriateness of their choice.
- Ask a few people at the campfire -- primarily the kids, of course, but
an adult or two as well -- what they thought about the day, or what they
did that day.
- When reading a story, speak in a low voice. This will grab people's
attention and make them quiet down.

BTW, I counted the number of campfires I remembered in making this
challenge. I specifically can count 17 campfires from which I drew the
various suggestions -- ranging from my first campfire 16 years ago to
one last summer, and loads in between. Then there are the campfires I
remembered in the process but haven't been specifically referred to ...

Back to the top.

Knotboard making

>I plan to build a knotboard for my troop. Do you know of any innovative
>ideas that will make the board better? Do you know of any websites that
>discuss ideas for knotboards?

12 years ago I made a knotboard on large piece of pegboard -- about 2x2
feet -- using electrician's ties (using the pegholes) to hold them to the
board. You could also use a hot glue gun for mounting.

Choosing which knots to make is up to you. I went through my Scout Field
Guide and made most of the knots that were listed. Usually, the more
obscure knots need not be made unless you:

A) enjoy the challenge :)
B) want a really complete and impressive looking board
C) want to cover all possible bases
D) used them often

I would choose

A) more common knots
B) knots that you feel you would be using often in upcoming projects
C) knots that are hard to describe and teach, even using pictures, and
whose teaching would be facilitated by the knot actually being in front of

The knots I made were:

end knot -- obsolete in a world of plastic rope
whipping -- obsolete in a world of plastic rope
"s" knot
woven figure eight knot
reef knot
sheet bend
fisherman's knot
half "s"
modified timber hitch
clove hitch
two half hitches
timber hitch
8 1/2 loop
locking bowline
slip knot
guy line hitch
buterfly knot
corral knot (for the fun of it)
two 3 foot lengths as practice rope

For the timber hitch, modified timber hitch, and clove hitch, I have small
sticks in them.

Each knot is identified immediately above it with a label.

As I recall I needed about 25 feet of rope to complete the knots and the
practice rope -- and that's with next to no free ends on the knots!

Each of the knots are anywhere from two to four inches apart side by side
and there are four rows (given the above list, about five knots per row.)
I made another for a friend; the board was slightly larger and I placed
the knots closer together, making room for extra knots should he have
decided to put on more.

Be careful to secure the knots very well if you want them to survive and
not get lost. Also, I used cotton rope for the first set of knots and the
ends tended to fray a lot. When I redid the knots about four years after
first making the board, I used plastic rope for clotheslines. I don't
know offhand what it's made of but it's very pliable, and is a
transluscent centre with a white braided wrapping. All of the ends were
melted of course.

The reason for the practice rope is obvious: To allow for some
practicing. This came about as a result of having a few extra feet of
extra rope when I first made the board. It's a very handy way of always
having rope on hand to demonstrate all of the knots. The two ropes are
equal in length and are secured to the board.

As a fun way to let people use the board ... well, the best way to do that
is to always have the board out and accessible to the scouts, and even
cubs. Particularly at camps, I've watched other leaders and kids using it
during free time trying to learn the knots. It could also be a project for
each of your patrols to make a knotboard; this would also help with knot
practicing! (that's how I finally learned my basic knots!)

I checked for the word "knotboard" and didn't really find anything
interesting, but there are plenty of sites which discuss knotmaking,
though one reference mentioned that knotboards they sell are framed and
mounted on felt.

A good site for knotmaking is
A good site for knotmaking is Knots on the Web

Back to the top.

(July 1997)

I saw this question on misc.scouting and put in this answer. To my
surprise someone actually -- apparently -- thought my answer was a great

>We've just returned from summer camp and will shortly need to clean our
>gear. In our case, that includes all the cooking gear too. I'd appreciate
>any and all ideas on how to take some of the drudgery out of the task.

I find that having a dishwasher helps. You can take apart your coleman
stove and put it in, less the burners, of course -- cleans up nicely. If
you have a self-cleaning oven, wait to clean it until after camp. You can
put in your griddles, fire grille, blackened fireproof pots & pans
(plastic and woooden handles removed), turn on the self cleaning
cycle, and voila! Clean oven AND clean equipment.

As for making it fun for your kids ... beats me. Have you thought of
making it into an olympics style thing where you say you'll go to
McDonalds (or somewhere else) and everyone starts off with getting a basic
hamburger, but the number of points they get from washing up/putting away
a certain number of items will increase what they get, such as fries,
double burger, large drink instead of medium, etc? The points can be given
out by the number of items they wash up/put away as well as by effeciency,
effectiveness (ie how clean they get it), helping out the younger scouts,
and so on.

>Thanks for the great tips! Hey! Why couldn't you have been my scoutmaster
>20 years ago? Clean up Olympics! cool.

Because 20 years ago I was in Cubs. :)

Back to the top.

Torch Making for outdoor ceremonies

(September 1997)

>I am involved with a YMCA program for Indian Princesses. We have a
>POW-WOW coming up.

(For those unfamiliar with the program, here is a page describing the
program and another on resources for the program.)

>can you suggest a torch for children 6-11 to use? Each child will be
>accompanied by an adult. We'll have a campfire activity with a
>procession. I am trying to prepare a meeting (near Hallowe'en) where we
>make torches, hike with them into a wooded area by my house and tell a
>ghost story by torch light. The torches would then be used again at the
>pow-wow for the processional. I've seen these torches built with coffee
>cans attached to broomsticks but I am not sure what they put in the can.

Torch suggestions:

- The coffee can suggestion is made by securing the coffee can on the end
of the broomstick, putting in a toilet paper roll, and soaking it with
kerosene. The can can either be open only on the top or on its side as
well, but with a portion of the can still being there so as to keep a
toilet roll there and the liquid (not much) kerosene in.
  /       \
 /        ||
|  open   ||
|   end  / |
\_     _/  |
| |   | |  |
| | * | |  |
| |___| |  /
|       | /
\_______ /

(*) this is the open side

Light the torch; it may be easier to use a propane torch to light it. Put
it out by covering with a piece of sheet metal on top. How long it lasts
will depend on how much kerosene you put in and how much manages to stay
in the can. Note that this can be smelly.
- Similar to above secure a candle in the can. (Use melted wax in the
bottom of the can to secure it.)
- Similar to above secure several candles in the can. (Use melted wax in
the bottom of the can to secure it.)
- Punch holes with a nail in the side of a can. Secure the can to a
broomstick. Secure a candle on the bottom and light the candle.
- Soak a very thick piece of natural fibre rope or a piece of burlap to
the thickness of a couple of pencils (and tied off) -- either about the
length of the can you'll be using or some other desired length -- in wax
and let cool. Secure a small soup can to a broomstick and pour in melted
wax (this has to be done after securing the can because it may be harder
to secure the can later, with the hardened wax.) Put in the rope or burlap
and support it with a string tied to a pencil lying accross the top of the
can. Temporarily support the torch upright until the wax cools. Light and
either blow out or put out with a can secured to a stick.
- Lay a piece of burlap on a cookie sheet, pour on melted wax, soak the
whole sheet, and pour off the excess wax. When cool, roll around a
broomstick and tie off every inch or so. To use, light the end. To put it
out, either have a can secured to a stick such that the open end of the
can is perpendicular to the length of the stick and nail to the stick or
soak the burning end in a bucket of water. Be careful as turning it upside
down will cause hot air to come up through the torch and burn your hand.
* For safety reasons, you may wish to secure an end to a broomstick.
* This will typically last only about 20 minutes, so you may wish to
secure a candle inside it to make it last longer.
- Wrap burlap around the end of a broomstick, about two or three inches
long and about two inches in diameter, a layer at at time and tying off
with chicken wire -- ie. it's like the fence work they use to keep
chickens in their pens. Completely cage the burlap. Soak in kerosene or
melted wax and light and put out as above.
- Wrap natural fibre cord around the end of a broomstick and cage it with
chicken wire as above. Soak in kerosene or melted wax and light and put
out as above.
- Carefully make a hole in the bottom of a plastic glass, secure a candle
in it, and secure this on a handle of sorts. BE CAREFUL OF MELTING AND/OR
- Secure a can to a broomstick without puncturing it. Find a metal lid
that will fit snugly over the top, and punch a hole in the centre. Using a
piece of cotton fibre rope, burlap or a cotton oil lamp wick, tightly pull
it through the hole a little such that most of the wick will still be in
the can when the lid is fit onto the can. Fill the can with kerosene or
lamp oil. Light and to put out, cover the wick with a can.

>also...if you can point me to a good ghost story or pow-wow skit for
>5-7 girls aged 6-10 that would be great.

The first place I will send you is

which contains 110+ skits and their scripts. These are of the short, easy
to remember, humourous-with-a-punchline type.

There are full scripts for "Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Caring and
Faith" ceremonies at:

Also, I have asked a Mohawk chief for an appropriate story for the
ceremony; it is here.

Back to the top.

Homemade Backpack Stoves

(October 1997)

>We are currently looking for ideas for homebuilt backpack stoves. If you
>have any suggestions for stoves please forward them to me.

The first things that come to mind are:

- lozenge/shoe polish cans ("buddy burners")
* make strips of corrugated cardboard the width of the can's height, use
it to fill the can, and pour in melted wax. Depending on the can size it
may need one to three 10" taper candles.
* Using a can large enough to hold it, suspend some coathanger wire
through holes punched with a screwdriver to make a cross. Put the
lozenge can on the cross. There should be holes punched on the sides of
the can on both ends otherwise you will suffocate the flames and it
will burn very badly and blacken your pot badly -- I made that mistake
once! (BTW, this may add weight to your pack but it will concentrate
the heat from your burner and therefore make it more efficient,
therefore requiring that you brink fewer chunks of replacement wax.)
- take a can, punch holes near the bottom and make a door near the open
end, turn upside down, and put a small fire in it. Use aluminum foil on
the ground to protect from spreading fire.
  /       \
 /        ||
|  open   ||
|   end  / |
\_     _/  |
| |   | |  |
| |___| |  |
|       | O/
|O      | /
\__O__O /

The "O"'s are holes.
- I was thinking of using either the firestarters I describe at: or other firestarters (such as
the white chemical chunks they sell for lighting charcoal briquettes as
fuel and using:
* four small pieces of sheet metal -- say 1/8" by 1" by 3" (or any other
convenient dimensions) -- cut as per below:
______     ______
|    |_____|    |
| __         __ |
| ||  _____  || |
|_||_|     |_||_|

* and one piece of sheet metal 1/8" by 3" by 3" to act as a base. (You
may wish to modify this base such that the square made from the strips
will be secured to it to increase stability.) Interlock the four small
pieces as above to make a square and lay it on the square piece of
sheet metal; light the fuel source on the square piece and lay the pot
on top.
- take candle stubs the height of the depth of a shallow candy can, place
in the can, and pour in hot wax. Allow to cool. Having several candles in
the can allows you to have low heat (two or three candles) or greater (as
many candles as you can place in the can.) This can also double as a light
source and heat source in a quinzhee (be careful of carbon monoxide
poisoning!) Support in a larger can as for the "buddy burners" listed
- Here's something fancy: Take a regular can, cut a hole in the side
bottom to which you can fix a small battery powered fan (let's say 1"
diameter(?) which you might find at a good hobby shop or Radio Shack) --
protect the fan blades in particular from melting -- and support a small
fire grate in the can (using some steel grating like they use for steel
stairways). Punch holes with a can punch around the edge of the open end
of the can. Light a fire on the fire grate and turn on the fan. It
should burn very hot and cleanly.
- A page on the Web

Back to the top.

Making Rope

>I've been looking for information on how to make rope from twine. Seems
>all the Scout Pages I have found thus far are no longer active URL's Do
>you know how or where I can find out how to make rope. I vaguely remember
>but not well enough to pull it together.

Start of with two pieces of sqare wood -- plywood being a strong
suggestion -- and, the two of them back to back, drill through them both
three holes like this:
|             |
|      O      |
|             |
|             |
|   O     O   |

Then take three pieces of coathanger wire and make three hooks:

Push them through one square, then bend them so that they look like
 _   ||
     || |
     || |

then bend them again so that you have:
 _   ||
(____||_  ||
     || |_||___
     ||   ||
and place the second board into the ends of the hooks. The spacing in
the drawing is somewhat exaggerated but should demonstrate the point.

Put handles on opposite sides of the boards so that you can hold onto
them very securely.

With a third board, attach three screw hooks in the same configuration
as your hooks as above, and put a handle on it so that it can be held

Now -- take three lengths of twine doubled over and tied at the loose
ends. Hook each end on a hook, ie. three loops on the second board and
three loops on the rotating end:

|------------------|| this is the "rotating end" with the double boards
Now you use the handles on the rotating boards to cause the outer board
to rotate. This will cause the three double pieces of twine to twist
around themselves until finally the tension will be such that the rope
will begin forming through the three twisted strands starting to twist
around themselves.

You will need to continue until the whole rope is completely twisted
around itself and there aren't any loose spots. You can tie off the
ends or weave them through themselves such as to have a clean end.

As I recall you get about 1:18 or 1:24 for the initial length of twine
you put in (ie. if single stranded, for every 18 meters of twine you lay
down on the ground, that would be: 3X6 meter lengths; double this over
to give you 3X3 (doubled) meter lengths; and this when turned to rope
would make 1 meter. The same math would work if it's 1:24)

Back to the top.

Rainy Day activities for Beavers

(March 1998)

Rainy days at camp can present challenges for a program that was
designed to be outdoors.

Here are some suggestions on how to deal with a rainy day at camp with
a colony of anxious Beavers:

- Continue with the program as planned -- indoors or out. Often rain is
light anyway, and if the boys get a little wet you can keep them inside
until they dry out. You'll also find that many program items usually
can be either directly implemented indoors or require very little
change to do indoors.
- I once did an outdoor envelope game (instructions, activities, songs
and general travelling over the campsite given in sequenced envelopes)
with Beavers in a light rain. The only rain-related comment was made
the following day when a Beaver observed that we could have done the
activity that day -- in the sunny weather -- instead the previous day
in the rain. I responded, "What would we have done yesterday?" This was
happily accepted by Beaver and Dad.
- A friend of mine always has two complete programs (or should I say
two overfilled programs) -- the regular program she intends on using
and a second complete program that can be completely done indoors in
the case of rain. The only time she didn't bring the second complete
program was the one time that she desperately needed an indoor program.

General principles:

- select a site with large, heated, weatherproof indoor facilities in
which ANY activity you plan for the weekend can be done OR
- Design your program such that the indoor facilities on your site are
reasonably able to accomodate most of your activities, be they designed
for the indoors or out.
- Make a program with at least half as much more activities -- all of
which can be done inside -- as you could possibly accomplish over the
- Make sure that your Beavers bring at least one extra full change of
clothing -- including and especially extra socks and waterproof boots
-- above what they will need for your activity, then don't be afraid to
bring the kids outside for half an hour. You can then bring them
outside and do at least some of your outdoor activities.
- Bring a box of big orange garbage bags for the Beavers who
inadvertantly forgot to bring a raincoat.
- Have a couple of leaders who don't mind getting soaked set up a big
army-style tent and/or other kinds of shelters that are reasonably
weatherproof. Not only will this provide extra activity areas,
depending on the nature of the shelters their novelty may appeal to the
Beavers and BE the program for a little while
- Research the area local to the campsite. Are there any FREE age-
appropriate museums, libraries, farms or other attractions to which you
NEED PARENTAL APPROVAL! (hopefully not too difficult a job with
Beavers, since many Beaver camps usually have a parent for many of the
Beavers present.) Also take into consideration transporation.
- rearrange the program order such that the indoor activities planned
for a later time are done during downpours.
- Always bring board games and toys with which the Beavers may play
such as travel games.
- Always be able to run two activities at once (this therefore
requiring two sets of leaders in the hall running concurrent programs.
Have one run a craft while the other is leading a game for the Beavers
who have finished the craft.)

Specific ideas:


- Ask the kids to suggest a few games such as "Duck Duck Goose",
"musical chairs", "I Spy", "Simon Says", etc.
- Blindfold your Beavers and provide them with a variety of bowls
filled with various items they must identify by taste, smell, touch or
sound. Use Jell-O, marbles, toy cars, leaves, straws, pencils, a
variety of coins, liquid soap, whatever will fit in the bowls!
- Go through the letters of the alphabet and come up with words
starting with each letter. Then use themes.
- Bring a roll of reflective tape and hide small strips around your
building, such as under tables, chairs, behind curtains, counters and
so on. When it's dark, the Beavers can use their flashlights to find
the strips using their flashlights according to simple clues and
instructions. Use a simple story book as the source of clues. (Thanks
to Tracey Griffith for this idea.) Or make the tape in the form of letters
for simple words as that would form the scavenger hunt ("tree", "leaf",
"rock", "chair", "food", etc.) -- or the letters of the theme for the camp
and then later find items that start with the letters (Dale Kelly)
- The MacScouter
- Games Galore (Boy Scouts of Canada, Ottawa, 1980 ISBN 0-919062-22-9)
- Handbook of Recreational Games (Neva L. Boyd, Dover Publications, New
York, 1973, ISBN 0-486-23204-2)


- always have loads of "busy sheets" and crayons (pictures to be
coloured, mazes, other paper games.)
- Make a farm scene, perhaps by lodge or by tail level. Each group
receives a collective job: One group makes the landscape on a large
piece of bristol board, including grass, some rocks, a stream. Another
makes the sky with a few birds, the sun and some clouds. The third
group cuts out farm animals, a tractor, a farmhouse, etc
- Use old newspapers to make pirate hats
- Make puppets and scenery using construction paper and attach them to
sticks; make short puppet plays. Cover tables with a blanket and use
them as the stage

General Activities:

- Bubbles -- use a liquid dishsoap such as JOY 2 or another that makes
good, big, long lasting bubbles and use all sorts of things
(coathangers, hoops, straws & string, use your imagination) to make
bubbles. It can be messy but the kids love it!
- Boatracing -- make sailboats that float any way you want, from corks
sliced in half lengthwise with a toothpick and paper sails to milk
cartons, plasticine and straws and in a tub large enough, race them by
each participant blowing them. (idea from Australia's "Joey Scout
Leader's Handbook")
- Make butter: Buy a litre of heavy whipping cream; divide it into a
few sealable wide mouthed jars and shake vigourously until the butter
congeals and the buttermilk separates. This will require a good five to
ten minutes of vigourous shaking, so you can sit around in small groups
and tell jokes or stories while each beaver has a turn shaking the jar.
Good on crackers; try adding a little salt.
- Have each lodge write new words to common songs like "Frere Jacques",
"Old Macdonald", "Grand Old Duke of York", "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and
other common tunes. Perform the songs in front of the group.
- Bat activities -- using a large trash bag, cut along the sealed end a
couple of feet, down the centre of the bag, and two armholes, as per
where the stars are:

     Sealed End
|*   ***********   *|
|*        *        *|
|*        *        *|
|         *         |
|         *         |
|                   |
|                   |
|                   |
|                   |
      Open End

Then the kids wear it like a cape. Make bats with toilet rolls, a funny
cutout faces, and cutout wings. (idea from Australia's "Joey Scout
Leader's Handbook").
- "The World's Longest Ice Cream Sundae" or "Make your own Sundae" --
buy some plastic eavestroughing and clean it well. Provide all sorts of
ice cream and sundae ingredients -- fruit, sprinkles, chocolate syrup,
and whipped cream and have the Beavers make sundaes in it. BE CAREFUL
about germs spreading. (Thanks to the Canadian Leader Magazine)


- Any song book by Jack Pearse
- A song collection
- The Campfire Book (pp. 44-67, Scouts Canada, Ottawa, 1993,
ISBN 0-919062-72-5)
- Scouts Canada Beaver Song Book, Item # 20-151 (Scouts Canada, Ottawa,
ISBN 0-919062-85-7)
- Scouts Canada Song Book, Item # 20-627 (Scouts Canada, Ottawa, 1994,
ISBN 0-919062-70-9)


- purchase your own children's story books -- that belong to either you
or the Colony but NOT to your child -- and bring them to your
activities. I've had Beavers prefer reading my supply of books to
playing outside when it was a NICE day!
- Farmer Brown's Gate

AND my big idea, all of which should fit into a large Rubbermaid
Roughneck container and should be brought to camp, put into the far
corner of your main cabin, and be forgotten until that time God is
watering his gardens:

Have a rainy-day-emergency-capsule that is opened and whose contents
when nothing in your program is working) and is above and beyond the
"overplanning" principle -- no cheating. Despite hopefully containing
good ideas, it will never be used. When used you should of course
change them for the next rainy-day-capsule. In it should be at least:
A) four indoor games which will last ten to fifteen minutes each
B) three ready-to-make-all-the-supplies-are-there crafts that will
occupy your colony for at least half an hour each
C) more general craft supplies above those required for these crafts
for "free-time" crafts
D) five songs that are very easy to learn (such as to known tunes)
E) four stories that will last ten to fifteen minutes each
F) cards, board games, magic tricks

A) Four Games (Here's six):

- Snowball toss: try throwing cotton balls into an elevated bucket (such
as an icecream tub, pot or your roughneck box), or use a hoola hoop. After
a successful toss, take a step back. Try varying it by blowing the cotton
ball, or using a feather, into the bucket. Try using balloons.
- Organize the Beavers into two or four groups, each group at opposite
ends of the hall. Each beaver lies on their belly and tries to move a
ball from their end of the hall to the other by pushing it only with
their nose. When at the end of the hall, a Beaver from the other group
takes over and returns it to the other end of the hall.
- 1) Everyone stands in a close circle facing someone's back; try to
sit on the knees of the person behind you as the person in front of you
tries to sit on your knees. 2) In pairs, stand Beavers back to back
with someone about the same height and weight, lock elbows, and attempt
to lift the person behind you. 3) In pairs, lie down on your back
beside your partner, and lift and lock legs; play leg wrestling. 4) In
pairs, stretch out your arms on your side (like a cross), lock fingers
of both hands, and try to push your partner around while keeping the
arms outstreched. 5) make a circle with alternating people looking in or
out, cross arms, and in each hand take one hand from each of the persons
beside you in the way that you would play thumb wrestling. Then thumb
wrestle. 6) lock a hand with a partner, place the same foot side by side
with that of your partner, and strech out the other leg. Try to unbalance
your partner
- Blindfold half of the group, who will be boats, and the other group are
boulders. A leader is a foghorn who moves around from place to place in
the room and makes foghorn noises -- from loud to quiet. The boats try to
find the foghorns. The boulders say "swish, swish" when a boat approaches
them. After a few rounds, have the boats and boulders switch places.
- Human Tic-Tac-Toe -- set up nine chairs in a 3X3 grid. Split up the
group into two group, one wearing headgear of some sort and the other
not. Each side takes turns sitting on a chair at a time.
- Pair up your Beavers and one from each pair is blindfolded. The other
guides the blindfolded Beaver along a predetermined route -- such as
around tables, chairs and through doors to different rooms -- by
standing behind them and tapping on the right shoulder to turn right
and on the left to turn left but not using voice commands
- Find a games book and put it into the box.

B) Three Crafts (Here's four):

- Baked crafts -- Make a dough of one part water, one part salt and two
parts flour, knead it until it is a stiff dough. Mould into any shape
you like, add metal wire (no plastic coating) if you want to make
pendants, and bake for five to eight hours at 200F (until hard). Paint
according to desires. (Thanks to "The Colony Resource Book", Scouts
Canada, January 1986, ISBN 0-919062-52-0)
- Soap sculptures -- shred a lot of non-allergenic soap bars, such as
Ivory, and give them to the kids to make whatever they want.
- Go on a quick walk in the rain, and everyone finds a rock about the
size of a very large gumball -- or have a supply of them in the box --
and allow to dry. Paint the rocks like bugs (ladybugs, ants, roaches,
etc.) and allow to dry. Fashion as many sets of legs as needed --
probably no more than four double sets will be practical -- with pipe
cleaners and glue onto the bottom when the paint is dry using five minute
glue. Also arrange for wings and googly eyes!
- Mailtrucks: In plastic sandwich bags, have each of the following, cut
from construction paper: Two paper wheels about 3-4 cm in diameter; a
square about 2cm X 2cm (to be used as a window); two pieces of paper
the size of playing cards. In addition, each child should receive a
letter-sized piece of construction paper. The sheet is folded over
along its length, and a strip of glue along each end is applied as

This end is unsealed
|*                  *|
|*                  *| <-- then glue the cab here

This end is folded (11" long)

The two pieces of playing-card sized papers are glued together as below
and then glued to the longer sheet as shown above;
    |     |
 ___|_ _ _| Glue this end of the cab to the trailer as above
|         |

Attach the small square in the place of where a window would be on the
cab, glue on the wheels, and decorate appropriately.

C) Craft Supplies:

- A craft book that specializes in crafts using household items
- loads of "busy" sheets -- at least a variety of five different sheets
and at least one of each variety per Beaver
- Blank sheets of paper (they may wish to try the "Captain's Shirt"
story listed below) as well as for any other crafts
- construction paper
- straws
- glue
- scissors
- crayons
- paints -- perhaps dry water colours
- yarn
- strips of material
- old newspapers and magazines (use the magazines to make theme and
Tail or Lodge related cut-out activities, such as food groups,
occupations, nature ...)
- wooden stir sticks
- paper cups of various sizes (from regular sized to the little ketchup
cups in restaurants)
- the little, plastic restaurant creamer containers
- Kraft paper bags
- pipe cleaners
- clean sand
- toothpicks
- paper plates
- elastics

D) Five Songs:

- to the tune of "Camp Town Races"

Big Brown Beaver is our friend
doo dah doo dah
He shares our meetings to the end
oh, doo dah day
He's our mascot true
Shared by me and you
Big Brown Beaver is our friend
oh, doo dah day
We all pat big beaver's head
doo dah doo dah
He likes it when he's being fed
oh, doo dah day

(thanks to Don George, another member of the "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Lodge, Quebec Beaver Part II 1989 -- We (both) used to be a "Don't
Worry, Be Happy," and a jolly good "Don't Worry, Be Happy", too ...)

- We are Beavers -- to the tune of "Frere Jacques"

We are Beavers,
We are Beavers,
Having fun,
Having fun,
Playing games together,
In any kind of weather,
Sharing too, Sharing too.

(Thanks to "The Colony Resource Book", Scouts Canada, January 1986,
ISBN 0-919062-52-0)

- To the tune of "Old MacDonald had a farm"

Old MacBeaver went to camp, and it rained and poured.
So at that camp he sang some songs, and had a lot of fun.
With a 'Do-re-mi', and a 'la-te-daa'
Here some crafts, there a story, everywhere some good times,
Old MacBeaver went to camp, and had a wonderful time.

- To the tune of "Grand Old Duke of York" / "A-Hunting we will go"
(action song)

It's raining hard outside,
So we have to play inside,
Here we are just singing a song
and we're getting along.

We'll stomp our feet like this (stretch leg like in the "Hokey Pokey")
To ward away the clouds, (wave arms)
And scare the rain away (make scary face)
So that it will be a nice day!

- To the tune of "Mary had a little lamb" (action song)

I can kneel and I can stand, (kneel & stand as per words)
kneel and stand,
kneel and stand,
I can sit and I can stand
And it is fun to do.

More actions:

walk & run
frown & smile
laugh & cry
see & hear (hand shading eyes, hand cupped to ear)

- Also bring a song book in the box

E) Four Stories:

- Pack some storybooks you've bought and with which hopefully few (or
none) of the children are familiar. Try to find a variety of books --
at least three -- and make sure the stories are in a style that they
can be read to a group (as opposed to the kind of story that is
normally read alone.)
- Print out this story: A story about How the Chipmunk Got Its Stripes
- Print out these stories: Two Stories, Why the Bear has a short Tail,
and Why the Rabbit Has Long Ears
- The Captain's Shirt:

In advance, fold a piece of paper as follows:

* Two ends together, lengthwise, such that the ends with stars meet
  |           |
* |           | *

* Two corners from the inside fold toward the center such that you have
a triangle with flaps on the bottom, as such:
 / | \

* Fold up the flaps on the bottom such that you have something that
looks like a pirate's hat -- or should I say a sailboat:

Practice the story in advance so that another leader is doing discreet
sound effects.

Here's the story:

One day a sailing ship (show your folded paper floating nicely on the
sea) was sailing on the sea. She was commanded by a very brave captain
and crew. They had many adventures together and were about to embark on
another to explore the Carribean Sea.

One day on their trip they happened upon a very violent storm (make the
ship look like it's going over very big waves by bobbing it.) The crew
was very valiant and tried to keep the ship afloat but soon the wind
was so strong that it ripped off the mast! (Tear off the crown of the
boat.) After several hours of bobbing around in the wind it ran ashore
on an island and this made a big hole in the bow! (rip off one end of
the folded over flaps.) Once finally sunk to the bottom of the sea, the
stern was broken off when it hit bottom! (tear off the other end of the
folded over flaps.)

When the storm was over, the shipwrecked crew swam out to the wrecked
boat on the sea floor to find what was salvageable, but -- (open the
flaps and the folds that make the sail) -- all they could find was the
Captain's Shirt!

(The kids will love this story and want to do the paper folding
themselves, so be sure to have enough sheets of paper for them to do it
at least once.)

F) cards, board games, magic tricks

This one is easy enough except that for board games, you may wish to find
activity books in which there are board games, photocopy the playing board
and bring the dice and markers as required. Also have the instructions to
a few simple card games and card tricks that the Beavers can play and will
likely already know -- if only so that the adults will know how to play
the games along with the kids!

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Finding North using an old style watch

(April 1998)

First, I'm dating myself as a Gen-Xer -- I would consider an analog watch
an "old style watch", having grown up first using one, then moving onto
the nifty "I gotta know the precise time down to the hundredth of a
second" digital watch in the early 80's, and now proudly wearing my
father's 30 year old analog watch. Also, I want to be sure that the youth
and anyone else reading this section know that I'm referring to a watch
that uses hands to tell time, not a digital watch that displays numbers.


>Somehow a person can use the Sun and their analog watch and be able to
>point to North. I've tried, but so far I just can't get it to work all
>the time.

This only works in daylight (NOTE NOT MOONLIGHT!)

In the temperate zone (between lattitudes 23 1/2 & 66 1/2 degrees) of the
Northern Hemisphere (stray out of it and the angle of the earth's
declination and that due to the curvature of the earth is either too small
-- near the equator -- or too great -- near the poles -- for it to be

- Set your watch to standard time (so as to take out errors from daylight
savings time);
- Push a thin stick into the ground so that it is upright;
- Lay the watch on the ground and turn it slowly until the shadow cast by
the stick cuts the watchface in have over the 12 and the 6 (1 and 7 if
during Daylight Savings Time)
- The bisection of the distance between the shadow and the hour hand is
the north-south line, south being the end nearest to the sun.

Assuming it's 3pm:

      O (this is the sun)

      o (this is the stick)
    __|__  / (this end of the line points north)
   / 1|2 \/
  /   |  /\
 |    | /  |
 |9   -/->3|
 |   /|    |
  \ / |   /
  /   |  
 /    | (this vertical line is the shadow cast by the stick)

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Mystery Trips to Camp (June 1998)

>This weekend we run a cycle ride for our scouts to a campsite about
>twenty or so miles away. Has anyone got any ideas for how to liven it
>up a bit or make it have a bit more interest than just being a "cycle

A) Do they know they're going to camp? I just realized that the camp may
merely be a benchmark for a day trip; why not make it an overnight?
Challenge the troop to bring enough equipment to do an overnight -- but of
course only what can be reasonably carried by the individual Scouts on
their bicycles. Or arrange that their equipment be secretly delivered
there during the day (therefore, you have to arrange for discreet
packing services. :) )
B) Do they know which camp they'll end up at? Try to make it a "surprise
destination" whereby the scouts are to show up at the starting point, here
is the instruction set to get to the first check point. And guess what
they find at the next check point? Instructions to the next. Having the
mystery destination can make it interesting, or at least a mystery route.
C) Ever hear the expression "Getting there is half the fun?" Why not
research the local attractions along the way and have the Scouts go to
each along the way. Or make your own. (Some offbeat ideas come to mind
such as creating a staged/planted "travelling circus", a lemonade tent
set up out in the middle of nowhere along the planned route, and a
Hansel & Grettle style Ginger Bread house ... (?!?!) )
D) Simple rally ... timed. Or give one patrol one route and the other
another of equal distance and difficulty.

Back to the top

Backwoods Ovens (June 1998)

>I have been asked to find out if anyone knows how to backwoods cook a
>Lasagne and a peach and raisin crumble

Depends on how backwoods you want to go -- the farther in, the less you're 
probably willing to carry.

A Dutch oven (the large, heavy cast iron beasts with 3 legs and a lipped
lid) can be used to make it by using charcoal briquets underneath and on
the lid and by layering the cooked ingredients inside for the lasagne. As
for the cobbler, do the same thing by making the cobbler however you make

Now if you really want to go backwoods, I would just bring the premade
items in normal bake tins, then build an oven. (Maybe I should do this
next week with my Scouts ... :) )

To build an oven, pile some brush tightly lengthwise about a foot high and 
wide and 2-3 feet long. Place a grille a little wider than that over it.
At one end of this, make a vertical stack of brush. Then place about half
as much on top of the grille. Pack several inches of mud over it, and in
the same fashion a vertical chimney at one end. Only the end of the brush
that does not have the vertical brush and the top end of said vertical
brush are left open.

Light the brush. When the fire has burned down, you have a baked oven
ready to use -- and if you maintain a small fire on the bottom, it's
already warm.

Place your lasagne and cobbler inside to bake and maintain a small fire.

An alternative is to take a tin can of any size convenient to your use,
put a rack in it (smaller tin cans will require that you fashion your own
racks out of coathanger wire along the height of the can.) Lay the scrub
brush as described above, lay the can on its side on top of the brush, and
build the mud walls around all this.

Of course unless you're dealing with a five gallon can, most of these tin
can ovens are personal ovens or maybe good for two people max (ie a few
biscuits, very small roasts, and the like.) Good way to encourage your
Scouts to bake on a hike!

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Nylon Tent Repairs (July 1998)

This was from an answer I posted to a question in uk.rec.scouting.

>Can anyone recommend somewhere that can repair a ripstop nylon tent (that
>didn't stop ripping :-(

If it's a long, clean rip you can just fold over the edges of the tear and
sew along the tear and then use a rubberizing seam-sealing compound along
the length and stitching; allow to dry. The brand name of the stuff I use
is SeamGrip and is in a small white tube with blue writing.

The other thing I often do is take an old piece of fabric -- the current
piece I use is a thin, cheap (non cotton) material that would do as a thin
sheet on a bed -- cut longer and wider than holes/tears/weak spots on my
tent, fold over the edges, sew around the edges by hand, and then start
sewing over the whole surface of the patch. In particular make sure that
all along the length of the tear. Then I add the rubberizing seam-sealing
compound over the whole patch and over its edges; as necessary I also add
it on the underside of the patch.

My tent is full of such patches, mostly along the sleeves where the poles
go but also a few on the inside floor, the door and at the stress points
where the poles attach to the bottom of the tent. Probably stronger now
with all the patches. :)

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Dehydrated Meals tips (September 1998)

>As an alternative to the high cost of purchasing many prepackaged
>dehydrated meals, I've recently purchased a food dehydrator. I've been
>dehydrating vegetables, eggs, fruits, etc and packaging them all
>seperately in my freezer. What I'd like to get from you fellow Scouters
>are tried and true recipes using dehydrated ingredients. My idea has
>been to dehydrate items seperately and combine them in "meal" packs.
>However, I've just read that some people like to cook soups, stews or
>chili, etc first and them just dehydrate that.

I do a bit of both.

First, most of the time I just dry the ingredients at random whenever I
buy them or want to do a lot at a time on whim; rarely do I time an
orchestrated drying effort for a Scouting event.

Two notable times were when I dried a lot of fruit -- enough to last
either six people at camp four days or fourteen people at camp about three
days (two one gallon pickle jars tightly packed with a wide variety of
dried fruit). A few other times I've done small amounts, such as just
enough latke mix for the group on a hike or enough personal stock of dried
fruit for the weekend.

What I generally do is as you're planning; dehydrate ingredients here and
there according to whim and then mix up the bags when the time comes. The
nice thing about this is that it can even be an orchestrated effort done
over several weeks so that you don't burn out on drying; just decide on
what your soup or stew will need, and over however many weeks slowly
purchase it all and dry it. At your convenience beforehand -- or better
yet, at a troop meeting -- bring all the unsorted dried goods in and have
your Scouts make their own bags of stew or soup. Both the orchestrated and
whim approaches will work with this and a Scout can't later say "But I
don't like onions!"

My suggestions are:

A) add a soup base such as beef or chicken or vegetable, salt and spices
as necessary to the bag if you're not using a particular recipe. Make sure
that you are supervising this since it can be very easy to overdo the
addition of salt and some spices.
B) If you want to add dried meat then either purchase dried meat --
expensive! -- or make jerky with a curing sauce that will go along with
your soup or stew. This may eliminate the need for the soup base and salt
depending on how much flavouring and salt is in your curing sauce and of
course how much meat you add.
C) Don't forget that you can add rice and pasta into your mixes, although
in the case of pasta, you may wish to have each person's pasta in a
smaller bag inside the big bag to add later in the cooking since the pasta
can very quickly become soft and mushy.
D) Also remember that stews will require much more tomato paste content --
easily made by drying tomatotoes and then grinding them up into a powder
in a blender -- as well as other vegetables (ok, my stews do anyway :) )
and any other thickening agent such as flour or cornstarch. They will also
need longer cooking times than soups, which in my experience only require
as little as bringing the reconstituted ingredients to be brought to a
boil and left standing for a few minutes. The key is that if you want as
close to the intial volume is to cook it for a long time and probably add
a little more of the thickeners and veggies.
E) I often will take a serving of a stew or pasta dish and dry it to later
add to a soup I make. The serving will either be divided into smaller
amounts for a single serving of soup or all thrown in for larger amounts
of soup.

Now as for dehydrating ready made stews:

A) You'll always lose a certain amount of your initial volume after
drying. "AHH," saith he, "but if I had a litre of stew, then I should add
enough water to the dry ingredients so that I have a litre again, right?"
WRONG! You should only do that if you like watery chili or can add a few
extra things to it to bring it back to a litre. It has something to do
with the cells not being able to quite reabsorb all the water it used to
contain, although I once came close with a soup I once made which I cooked
for several hours; but I digress. Always make about 15% more
stew/chili/whatever than you want and dry it all.
B) I've found that it all dries more evenly if you cook your stew and
run it through a blender to just-short-of-liquefy-it, but you end up with
a paste when you rehydrate it.
C) If you don't do as per B), even though much of the stew seems bone
dry, you'll have to dry for a few hours longer since the uneven
consistency and thickness of the stew will allow for some pockets of
moisture to develop which, if insufficiently dried, could spoil your
D) I've found that many dried stews turn an almost sickly shade of brown
when dried. Be forwarned; this will only slightly affect your end product
but may initially turn you off.
E) When drying large amounts of liquid, don't use aluminum foil to line
your dryer trays; use plastic wrap instead, or cut out a sheet of stiff
plastic or food grade styrofoam. The aluminum foil tears when you're
trying to remove it from the dried food and remains in it!

Be ready to flatulate (fart) frequently for a few days following your
culinary experiments.

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A simple Running Water System (October 1998)

>I need some input regarding hand washing and dish rinsing at
>camp. What do you use and how do you use it? We use bleach i
>water for both hand washing and dish rinsing but are having some
>concerns about the effectiveness of this.

Several years ago I fitted a couple of water jugs -- the blue five
gallon type from Reliance (although any water jug that can be modified
as follows will do) -- with a couple of rubber bungs (corks), rubber
tubing and plastic crimp locks so that when lifted into a rack built in
a tree, I'd have running water. That way, I could wash dishes with my
troop in boiling water (if I could get the kids to use water that hot!),
spray with bleach, and rinse with the running water. Normally I air dry
the dishes.
 /     \
/       \
|       |
|       |
\       /
    |  The regular tap to the bottle had the bung with a hole in it
    |  fitted into the tap and a piece of stiff plastic tubing (2" long)
    |  into the hole; this is secured to the tap by using electrical
    |  tape. Then the tubing (about four feet) was fitted onto the end
    |  of the stiff plastic and where the '+' is I placed a plastic
    |  lock. All materials available at your local winemaking/brew store
    +  and should cost less than $5.

You can also put two or more in tandem by putting a bridge of tubing in
the tubing so that the water level drops evenly in the two jugs. The
winemaking/brew shops should also carry the 'T' joints to do this.
  _____     _____
 /     \   /     \
/       \ /       \
|       | |       |
|       | |       |
\       / \       /
 \__0__/   \__0__/
    |         |
    |         |
    |         |
    |         |
    |         |
    +         +
    |         |

When using, you should first lash two sturdy spars between two trees
that are close (about 3 feet max spacing) about seven to eight feet of
the ground. The space between the two spars should be wide enough to
support the two jugs but not so wide as to allow them to fall out.  Fill
the jugs, screw on the taps, bring over to the support, make sure that
the jugs' taps are open but that the crimp locks on the tubing are
locked, open the air holes, and using a handy picknick table, lift up
(HEAVY!) the jugs to the spars. Allow the tubing to drape down. You can
use the water both tubes at a time or individually. That both are being
used at the same time will not affect the flow rate noticeably.

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Keeping Raccoons and other animals out of your tent (June 1999)

>My son is a counselor at Scout Camp, near Bloomington, Indiana. Is there
>any way to keep unwanted animals, such as racoons, out of his tent? He
>had heard that you can put moth balls around the tent, but don't know if
>this will work or would harm anything. He hasn't taken any food but would
>like to, although some of the other counselors have. Know that would
>probably get even more racoons.

I'll deal with raccoons since these are the greatest of the nuisance
animals he'll have to deal with.  If he has to deal with bears, then the
local Scouting authorities should be taking actions to avoid and deal with
the problem on a campsite desing and protocol/policy level.

Raccoons are both highly intelligent and creatures of habit at the same
time -- and only intelligent when it's in their favour, regardless of how 
it affects you. I was once camping on a popular campsite at our local
Scout Camp for about three weeks with varying groups and sizes of Scouts.
We never really could completely rid ourselves of the raccoons on the site
since this was also the composite site from year to year and as such at
best the sanitation and garbage cleanup was inconsistent even from week to
week, let alone from year to year, hence a platinum engraved invitation to
raccoons to stop by and pester us on a regular basis -- even when were
getting really good at cleaning up, removing garbage, washing tables, etc.

Which leads to the common preventative measure:  Don't keep food in your

This of course is his plan, I presume, but may not be good enough. A few
more ideas are needed:

A) no food in tents.
B) no garbage in or around the tent -- which means by dinner time he has
to dispose of *any* garbage in and reasonably near his tent (ie. within
C) if he's keeping any dishes in or around his tent, they should be
properly washed.
D) any linen used to clean said dishes and tables should also be clean.
To do this they can either be cleaned by usual methods or boiled.
E) if he's working in the kitchen, he should leave his kitchen whites in
the kitchen or wash them regularly (ie daily.) The food smells may act as
an invitation to find out from where it's coming -- obviously not his
tent, yet, since it's from his clothes, it is from his tent.
E) His tent should be reasonably removed from the other tents -- hopefully
that way if he respects the rules but others don't, he'll be a little less
likely to have visitors sniffing around.
F) Any tables, stoves, pots, pans and related paraphenalia near his tent
should be meticulously washed after every use. Bits and crumbs of food
must be put in the garbage. Surfaces must be washed with *hot* water,
preferably with bleach in it (1 capful from the bottle per quart.) If he
has flies, then he'll have raccoons. No flies, good possibility that the
raccoons won't smell anything there either, but no guarantees.
G) Any waste water from washups -- regardless of source (handwashing,
toothbrushing, urinating, washing tables, stoves, pots, pans, plates,
bowls, utensils, and the related food wastes therefrom) -- *must* be
properly disposed of away from his tent. Pour it all down the toilet or
designated sink, but check first if this is going to a septic tank,
cesspool, or pit. In the latter case he may not be allowed, as for the
cesspool as well. (Either way, as a side note, if he's using latrines
going into a pit, he should always be using the lime provided.  If there
isn't any lime, he should ask for some, or bring it up himself.)
H) If he *wants* to have food in his tent, then he should have them in a
*locked* box -- *outside* of his tent, at closest five feet away. This
means something akin to a small padlock/combination lock (a rope system
will also work provided that the rope cannot be readily untied nor simply
slipped off -- it has to be secured to the box by means of physically
crossing through the plastic walls so that it *has* to be untied to be
removed by means of pulling it through the holes. Heavy rocks and jamming
the box under a picnic table don't count since the raccoons are smart,
strong and ornery enough to push the rocks off and push boxes out from
underneath picnic tables. NOTE that I still recommend against keeping food
*in* the tent, even by this method, since they'll smell it anyway and try
to get in, wrecking the tent in the process.  Perhaps even give him a
fright -- or worse, rabies.
I) Keep the tent doors closed -- assuming we're discussing a personal tent
that can be completely closed up (ie integrated floor with zippered doors)
and not a floorless tent or a larger army-style tent on wooden platforms.)
This isn't essential if he follows the guidelines above since I've slept
in both and never had an animal in my tent -- regardless of style. It also
won't keep out most animals anyway *if* there's food in the tent that they
want to eat since the tent will easily tear if they use their claws -- but
it does at least keep the unmotivated from aimlessly meandering through.
For that matter I normally keep my tent (which can be 'sealed') completely
open during the day and to my knowledge have never had an animal of any
size wander in uninvited -- including those of the human variety. :)

I'd try the mothballs, but doubt it'll do much good against the raccoons
after a few nights when they figure it out.

What he has to do is convince -- no doubt but hopefully not to great
difficulty -- the other counsellors, staff and any youth around him to
also abide by these guidelines.

I've never actually had raccoons in my tent, and don't recall having done
anything in particular to keep them out of *my* tent beyond not keeping
food in it.  I've even kept peanut butter under the tarpaulin and the
worst that happened was a raccoon *only* attacking the jar, but didn't
actually try to get into my tent.

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