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Backpacker Magazine – September 2009

Are You Smarter Than a Boy Scout?

Scoutmasters wrote the book on camping, and built an army of pack-toting teens. But do the troops truly rule when it comes to outdoor skills? We pitted three Scouts against three average readers to find out.

by: Jim Gorman, Photos by Nathaniel Welch

Michael, Todd, & Adam celebrate their pack loading win.
Michael, Todd, & Adam celebrate their pack loading win.
Team BACKPACKER takes 1st in fire starting.
Team BACKPACKER takes 1st in fire starting.
The tent pitching competition.
The tent pitching competition.
The Scouts run to a first-place first-aid win.
The Scouts run to a first-place first-aid win.
No bearing, no win for Troop 43.
No bearing, no win for Troop 43.

7. Cooking

Game On
Teams must prime and fire up an MSR SimmerLite stove, then cook an edible flapjack using pancake mix, shortening, and a nonstick frypan. The white-gas SimmerLite requires some know-how, and the Scouts properly pump the fuel bottle and insert the fuel line but cannot get fuel to flow. Minutes evaporate as Adam retries the same sequence without success. The Scouts' frustration grows as they peek over at the adults. Instructions to the stove lay unopened beside them.

Winner
In 5 minutes, 24 seconds, Team BACKPACKER presents a lightly browned cake, ready for syrup. David examines the Scouts' stove and identifies the problem. "You needed to snap this catch arm into place for the fuel to flow," he says. Readers: 4, Scouts: 3

By the Book
Inexplicably, The Handbook relegates flapjacks to car-camping fare. But backpackers can make perfect pancakes using a nonstick pan like the MSR Flex Skillet.



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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Bruce
Jul 26, 2013

As an Assistant Scout Master I have found that orienteering give most scouts problems. They just don't do it enough. Too many adults just don't let them get lost. It only takes one time getting lost on a trail to make you focus on this skill.

Star Star Star Star Star
J Pend
Jul 26, 2013

Great fun!
Next competition: Are you smarter than a Philmont Ranger?
And add some women to the competition.
Just dropped my daughter off for her fourth trek!

Star Star Star
Argosinu
Jul 26, 2013

Experience is the great teacher.
The orienteering match was turned into a test-taking skill by the so-called adults.
The mnemonic for the bowline is correct, but only if the original loop and tree are formed correctly.
It is amazing that an adult Eagle could fold a flag properly, but not do a square knot.
If you are going to cook a pancake, may as ell carry a toaster pastry and save the time and fuel.
Sun-repellant is not a universal essential. Clothes do the same and it depends on many factors like elevation, terrain, and snow on the ground.
More importantly, which group does a better job following the Scout Law, Oath, Slogan, & Motto?

Star Star Star
Argosinu
Jul 26, 2013

Experience is the great teacher.
The orienteering match was turned into a test-taking skill by the so-called adults.
The mnemonic for the bowline is correct, but only if the original loop and tree are formed correctly.
It is amazing that an adult Eagle could fold a flag properly, but not do a square knot.
If you are going to cook a pancake, may as ell carry a toaster pastry and save the time and fuel.
Sun-repellant is not a universal essential. Clothes do the same and it depends on many factors like elevation, terrain, and snow on the ground.
More importantly, which group does a better job following the Scout Law, Oath, Slogan, & Motto?

sam
Apr 18, 2012

i thnk that this compition was unfair. It is a big deal that these scouts were tied until the last event. I also think the boys chssen were nt at there peak and what about the adults they have a lot of expierence. Over all I think that the boscouts mon because one of the adults was not just a boyscout he was an Eagle scout I also think the boys should have won because the adults had more than one advantage. Another thing to think about is that speed is not everything and the scouts were still pretty fast. A few questions to think about were the activities tailored to the adults strengths and were they informed of the events and were able to prepare or was this impromptu. So in conclusion i think that the boys should have won and that we should still respect boyscouts as experts in this field.

Chris Barry
Apr 02, 2012

As one of Seven Eagle Scouts in my family(my father and all 6 of his sons), currently a Troop Committee Chair and District Assist. Commisioner, I see this an awesome learning experience for all involved. Even after all my experience, I am still learning. The Scouts need to experience more than archaic camping gear and friendly competition never killed anyone(that I know of).

Great article!

Anonymous
Sep 23, 2010

CM Scott
Oct 27, 2009

I think you should take the Eagle Scouts up on their offer! Put their skills where their mouth is. Looking forward to that issue!

Eric D
Oct 18, 2009

I am a 16 year old Eagle Scout and a subscriber to the magizine. As others have said, the scouts did win. One of the adults was an Eagle Scout. Nevertheless, any A-list scout, like me, who has lead a crew at Philmont, Sea Base, and a Canoe Trek in the Adirondacks, I believe could take on even the most skilled backcountry men backpacker magizine has to offer. My troop is an Eagle Scout factory, six in 2009, that has a 6 year leagacy of winning Klondike Derbys, one that was two county's wide. Four of my best friends are Eagle Scouts and we have over 200 merit badges between us. Yes, the competition was about average scouts, but I'd like to see a hardcore version of this. Maybe an, "Are you smarter than an Eagle Scout?" ... and disregard notions from this superintendent's idiotic claim http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,567700,00.html

email me if ya need an eagle scout! americanscout32@yahoo.com

Pat Gensler
Oct 13, 2009

Think back to when you were 15? Ever think of competing in anything with an adult? Eagle Scout Troop 330, and know the Boys did great. At 33, I can still fold the flag, and cringe every time I see a 'patriot' flying a faded, ratty symbol of our country that should have been honorably retired years ago! Take 'em down, take'em to the Boy Scouts, and see they're retired with honor like they should be, instead of thrown on the dumpster in disgrace!

Anonymous
Oct 04, 2009

well im an eagle scout and one eagle scout can definatly lead a team to victory un fair scouts rule you guys used modern gear that the scouts almost discourage

Mike B.
Oct 02, 2009

I believe that the boys just need more experience. As for weather the Boy Scouts won of not, well they did win. It was a Former Eagle Scout on the other team that helped the adults to win, both teams and the spirt of Scouting won.. once a Scout always a Scout. I was a Cub Scout, and a Boy Scout also served in the US Army for 10 years, and am now returning to the BSA as an Assit. Scout Master, and my son Niko is starting..

Jon Heffron
Sep 30, 2009

I enjoyed the story and took it with a grain of salt. As a Unit Commissioner for the Boy Scouts I was pleased to see a story in a major magazine.

Mike
Sep 27, 2009

I too become frustrated when all that I see in the magazine is expensive gear and places to go that would be out of range for our boy scouts to even think about. We do operate on limited funds, but we still have fun and learn along the way, no matter what our equipment costs or where we take them backpacking.

Justin
Sep 23, 2009

As a 20 year old eagle scout, I feel the boys selected in this challenge weren't fully at their peak of their scouting career and was an unfair match for the readers group. Now if the scouting group were life and eagle scouts 17 and 18, maybe even 16 the readers group would have been done for.

Rob Forney
Sep 20, 2009

I am an Eagle Scout myself. I also am a regular subscriber to Backpacker. I was laughing the whole time while taking the Boy Scout quiz! Some of the stuff like the hypothermia challange I have acctually never heard about until I took the quiz. One good story idea if you want to go further into the scouts is to try going to Philmont, one of three BSA high adventure bases. I went there this past summer for my first real multi-day backpacking trek and I learned a ton of additional skills like bear procedures, firemaking safety in the New Mexican wilderness, and hands on experience with treating a guy for hypothermia. I think it would make a great stoy!

Mama Scouter
Sep 18, 2009

Have a daughter with Venturing Silver and now a son with Eagle

Life Scouters at 14-16 yo still have a disadvantage of maturity/team work. They are on the cusp of the "cross-over" to adulthood.

good job for the scouts!

Toni
Sep 18, 2009

Pitting MEN with 20 years camping experience (one an Eagle Scout) against teen scouts with only 3 or 4 years of Boy Scouting seemed unfair. I agree with other readers that the competition would have been fair if you had selected Eagle Scouts, or even readers of Backpacker with the same # of years experience as the boys. The article was fun, and this Female Scout Master will definitely share it with my troop. Yes, that's right, a female Scout Master, Silver Beaver recipient, mother of 4 boy scouts (2 Eagles), and proud to be associated with Boy Scouts of America. Thanks for the article Backpacker!

Papa Bear, Scoutmaster, LI,NY
Sep 18, 2009

We teach our boys never to use PAPER--can't always relie on it or have it at hand. So the boys did it right.

Jeff Thompson
Sep 17, 2009

I was on of the adults that competed in the comp. I was very impressed by the boy scouts we competed against. They had an amazing amount of confidence and a great set of skills. It is nice to see young men on a great path in life.
I would say our biggest advantage was experience with the outdoors and experience with team work. I have been backpacking and doing every thing outdoors for most of my life, so of course it was not quite a fair competition. But I think the scouts had a lot of fun and were able to see that the joy of the outdoors does not have to diminish with age.

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