Everything you need to stay alive is in a bag strapped to your back. You take the final few steps into a magnificent clearing after a hard afternoon’s hike. You’re tired and hungry. You drop your pack, sit on a nearby log, and remove your boots. Opening your pack, you pull out a small stove. You fill a small pot with water from a nearby crystal clear stream, and boil it on the stove. You prepare your meal — this time, it’s a home made dehydrated spaghetti dinner. You sit in quiet contemplation as you eat and energy is restored to your body. Then, as evening approaches, you unpack your tent and sleeping bag and set up your home away from home for the night. Once everything’s squared away, you build a little campfire and stare into the flames as darkness falls. Yawning and pleasantly exhausted, you climb into your sleeping bag and rest. In the morning, you awaken to a magnificent sunrise, eat, pack your things, and set about on yet another day of wilderness exploration.
Do you like the sound of that?
Our Timberwolves have the option of participating in backpacking outings. Backpacking means overnight camping, on foot, away from vehicles. There is no reliance on electricity, running water, indoor heating, or elaborate cooking. This is a type of outdoor adventure that a Timberwolf scout may never have experienced before!
Eligibility for Backpacking Outings
For the 2016-’17 scouting year, the requirement for scouts to participate is to have at least 4 nights of camping. (Timberwolves who moved up from Otters can use their camping nights from their time as an Otter toward this requirement.)
For 2017-’18 and future years, scouts must have both:
- Camper Badge
- Participation in at least 6 day or night hikes
Participation is also at leader discretion. Scouts must follow all leader instructions at all times (this goes without saying but is doubly important on such outings). Scouts who cannot follow instructions, or who create dangerous situations for themselves or other scouts, may be asked to not participate in future backpacking outings.
Only BPSA registered leaders and background-checked adult volunteers are permitted on backpacking outings.
The following rules are in effect during backpacking:
- Timberwolf scouts will have no knives. Knives can’t be brought in any manner, including in the scout’s backpack. While we teach and expect our scouts to handle knives in a safe manner, an accident with a knife in a wilderness setting is an incredibly serious matter. And even if the injury is minor, the need to treat the scout may have a significant impact on the overall trip, possibly leading the entire group to hike out and cancel our plans. For this reason, knives are to be carried by leaders and parent volunteers ONLY.
- The creation of a campfire is at the discretion of leaders, and scouts should not assume a campfire will be possible. Rules for behavior around fires will be STRICTLY ENFORCED. Leaders will have water available at fireside to immediately douse a fire should rules not be followed appropriately.
- No scout ever leaves the eyesight and ear-shot of the group. If you cannot be seen, or heard, the entire group will abandon its activity to search for you. If this occurs, you will probably be asked not to attend future backpacking outings.
- Scouts must have fresh liability and medical forms signed by their legal guardians. Scouts must have hard copies of these to hand to leaders at the beginning of the event.
- A printed copy of these rules must be in the scout’s possession during the event.
The Packing List
To make sure you have everything you need, always follow the Packing List. To make sure you’ve done this properly, print it out and check off each item as you pack it. Bring the checked-off list when you arrive at the start of the trip. The leaders will collect it.
The Ten Essentials are an innate part of backpacking. It’s always assumed that we’ve got the Ten Essentials whenever we’re outside as a Pack. I (Akela, 503rd) personally like the list REI has on their website.
Please make an effort to make your gear as light as possible. There are many creative ways to do this, which you may learn along the way. Bring no unnecessary items. Despite such measures, if a scout has trouble carrying all their gear, other members of the Pack will assist with the carry. We help each other by sharing the load.
Here’s a guide to packing your pack.
And here’s a guide to feeding yourself on the trail.
Other Things To Consider
Going to the bathroom
Toilets are not normally available in backcountry settings. This can be a challenge for scouts as well as adults! For some, this may be the most challenging aspect of backpacking. Read this section and ask yourself honestly — am I prepared to do what it takes?
Here’s how it works:
- For going “number one,” it’s done directly on the ground. If you use TP, it’ll need to be packed out (best option), burned (may not be possible), or buried (least desirable).
- For going “number two,” a small trowel is required. Dig a “cat hole” 6-9 inches deep. Do “the business” into the cat hole. Any TP used also goes into the hole. At the end, a stick is used to stir things up a bit along with some dirt, then the hole is covered.
These activities must be done far away from any trail, water source, or camp site. Human waste is one of the biggest strains on our wild spaces due to human activity. For trips of 24 hours or less, it may be possible to “hold it” and take care of business back at the trail head.
If you’re not careful, it’s possible to soil yourself trying to do this. Because of BPSA youth safety regulations, leaders are not able to directly assist scouts if they have this kind of problem! These problems can also be quite embarrassing for a scout. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that a scout carry a change of undergarments in case of an accident. This way, the scout can quietly and privately solve their problem without embarrassment.
Hand sanitizer must be used after going to the bathroom, every time!
Hazards are plentiful in wild places:
- Swift and/or deep water
- Steep drop-offs or cliffs
- Slippery or unstable trails
- Poisonous plants and venomous animals
- Aggressive creatures
- Falling trees and rocks
- Injury and infection
For the most part, humans have learned how to deal with these hazards, and your leaders have plentiful experience to minimize risk. However, risk can never be reduced to zero, and there is always some probability of an accident.
It’s critical that scouts follow all leader instructions immediately and without debate — ACT first, ask questions after! Your safety is our top priority.
In the wilds, insects are a fact of life. In an Oregon forest, there may be over 1 million insects within 100 feet of your location. Mosquitoes, flies, and yellow jackets exist universally. A scout with an intolerance of insects will have a challenging time in the wilderness. Chemical insect repellents such as DEET work quite well. All-natural repellents also work to a certain extent. Physical barriers like mosquito hoods are also an option. Nothing will eliminate contact with insects 100% though. It’s just the reality of being in wild places.
There are fewer insects in the colder months. So, if you absolutely can’t stand the summer bugs, you could consider a backpacking outing that occurs in late fall or early spring.