SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

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.

Opponents: Troop 43 vs. Team BACKPACKER

TROOP 43: We recruited three scouts from a 40-member troop in Princeton, New Jersey, that spends 10 weekends in the woods each year; older members take a 50-mile backpacking trip each summer in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Yellowstone, or Yosemite. The contenders–Todd Kelmar, 15, Adam Perez, 15, and Michael Treves, 14–have all reached Life-rank (that's one step shy of Eagle) and acquired their camping merit badge.

TEAM BACKPACKER: We selected three readers with average hiking experience: David Mays, 35, a software engineer from Palmyra, New Jersey; Jeff Thompson, 29, owner of a window cleaning service in Philadelphia; and Louis Tevere, 42, an IT professional from Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Each camps between 10 and 20 nights a year.

Proving Grounds
The Pine Barrens of central New Jersey, at Lakehurst Naval Station

The Goal
Test outdoor know-how in 10 skills-based, head-to-head contests pulled straight from the pages of The Boy Scout Handbook:
BEAR BAGGING | FIRE STARTING | KNOT TYING | PACK LOADING AND FITTING | PACKING THE TEN ESSENTIALS| TENT PITCHING | COOKING FIRST AID | ORIENTEERING |FLAG FOLDING

 The Prize
Our Golden Boot Award is a 19-inch-tall trophy of rugged beauty–in the form of a Cabela's Laramie Peak Mid Hiker spray-painted in a lush gold-lamé shade.

Let the games begin
The teams gather on a warm, sunny day last spring, and after a few friendly hellos and pregame refreshments, things get testy. "It's time to kick some Scout heinie," taunts Jeff Thompson, the window cleaner from Philly.
"We'll see about that, old man," replies take-charge Adam.
"Got any more of those Cokes?" inquires a voice from the crowd that's attached to a visibly overstimulated 11-year-old.

 



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

ALL READERS COMMENTS

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.

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!

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?

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.

David dubnicka
Sep 17, 2009

We have a competition coming up in October between are boye in our troop.I think that we will try some of your event ideas,then the winning patrol will compete against a patrol made up of adult scouter.I'll keep you informed of the out come.

David Grubbs
Sep 17, 2009

I agree, a trip or two in Philmont and you won't forget any of those skills for life. I never made it past Life (Found it too much fun to be outdoors at summer camp to bother with merit badge classes), but in the 17 years since 95% of my trips have been solo. 14k' in CO or 4k' in NC, Bilzzard or drought, scouts definitly taught me the basis of all I needed. BTW, how many of these "average" hikers only have 3-4 years max backpacking experience as these scouts do?

Ed Stoddard
Sep 17, 2009

I was lucky to belong to a good troop (Troop 24, Kennett Square, Pa) that did a fair amount of hiking and camping. I have never lost the love of the outdoors ... and leave tomorrow for 5 days on the AT, solo (at age 63). Boy Scouting is a great program.

E. Avery
Sep 17, 2009

You picked very intelligent people, two adults in the computer technology field and one independent entrepreneur, did you also selectively choose Scouts from a high intelligence background Those adults are a lot more focused than teenagers, not a fair test, and the Scouts still did pretty well.

Mr. B
Sep 17, 2009

Nice to see that the Reader Team's leg up on the kids was his own Scout experience! I'm Scoutmaster of my old troop now and we just did the High Sierra Trail (nice BP Mag article on it BTW!). I'd match the elite TL Troop 76 Scouts, who went 73 miles in 9 days, crossed the entire Sierra, crossed the Great Western Divide, & climbed the tallest peak in the continental USA against anyone when it comes to Scout Skills!! Great article!!

Chip Nicol, Eagle 1973
Sep 17, 2009

Thanks for the interesting and skill packed article which was fun to read; but c'mon, having an Eagle Scout with at least 20 years backpacking experience and probably leading Team Backpacker certainly skewed the results. Final note - the BSA and Backpacker are symbiotic, I've read your mag since the beginning. I especially value your equipment reviews.

E Avery
Sep 17, 2009

Only 4% of all Scouts become Eagle Scouts, so why not pick an Eagle Scout who is a hiking/camping enthusiast. Adults who have never been in Scouts and become backpackers usually learn from someone experienced and retain more than most teenage boys, and don't reach the "average" camping skill level unless they are intelligent, in shape and active campers. Pitting them against teenagers in Scouts is an unfair to the boys, and those boys still did well. I'd rather go into the woods on a hike with almost any Eagle Scout than the average adult camper any day!

sandra
Sep 17, 2009

one more addition - we teach knive safety and usage rather than flag folding - otherwise our lists are the same!

sandra
Sep 17, 2009

enjoyed the article- I run a Girl Scout Camporee every spring where we teach the 10 basic camping/backpacking skills. I may use some of your "competition" ideas in our skills sessions! Thanks.

Mark Andrus
Sep 17, 2009

The real winners should be the men who were Boy Scouts and then kept the interest in the outdoors as adults. Should be the same with the women who were Girl Scouts. I was a Boy Scout from 1964-68, which was toward the end of the Canvas Age before the introduction of most of the modern equipment from the 1970s on. Our tents and packs were made of cotton canvas before they came out with the nylon tents and packs. We did not yet have the small camp stoves we had now, so our cooking was over an open fire. I enjoyed camping and I was selected to the Order of the Arrow.

Now, I am happy to have the modern equipment when I camp. I do a lot of canoe camping and many of the people I go with on outdoor trips statered out as Scouts when they were young. My canoe camping includes week long trips on the Pecos and Rio Grande including the Lower Canyons which are very isolated trips.

Joe Zairo III
Sep 17, 2009

To be fair you should have pitted adult scouters against the non scout adults. As a scout leader my skills are sharper than they were 40 years ago when I received my Eagle Scout award, I always have to prepare my outdoor skills before I teach them to the boys.

Pat
Sep 17, 2009

I learned a lot when I was a Boy Scout (I was a Life Scout also), but learned more as an Explorer, and years later as a member of a college Outing Club. You get your outdoor education when you encounter an unexpected problem (like a spring snowstorm in the Smokies) and deal with it.

David Grubbs
Sep 17, 2009

I agree, a trip or two in Philmont and you won't forget any of those skills for life. I never made it past Life (Found it too much fun to be outdoors at summer camp to bother with merit badge classes), but in the 17 years since 95% of my trips have been solo. 14k' in CO or 4k' in NC, Bilzzard or drought, scouts definitly taught me the basis of all I needed. BTW, how many of these "average" hikers only have 3-4 years max backpacking experience as these scouts do?

Rob
Sep 17, 2009

As a Father of 3 scouts and a life long camper that spends 4+ weeks a year camping, each of my boys were in a tent before they were a year old.
You should give the scouts more respect. They make capable young men out of a bunch of undisciplined boys. They make due with old worn out equipment and few volunteers and very few involved parents.

I stopped getting your magazine because it seemed to be focused on over equipped yuppies with hi tech gear that most of us can't afford.

In our Troop the boys teach the training classes for the new adult volunteers. We also routinely do a survival trip in December (20 degrees) with only a tarp and a blanket, 95% of your readers would need $1000 worth of gear before they would even consider going out in this type of weather.

Don Holdegraver
Sep 17, 2009

As a Scoutn leader for 15 years, and veteran of two treks at Philmont over the years (including north over Baldy Mountain), I agree with Ron. But a great article and challenge anyway.

Mark
Sep 17, 2009

Scouting will celebrate its 100th anniversary and GLADLY has never wavered in its values for Scouts to be physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. Attacks from todays society who don't share these values are attempting to cheapen and lessen the quality of Scouting.

Thanks for this fun competition, great read and the scouts did very well as they probably have been in Boy Scouting for about 3-4 years.

Peter
Sep 17, 2009

Yes, I am not a Bigoted Organization that discriminates against its own members who worked hard for years to get to the top and then be thrown out for sexual identity and/or non-belief in a supernatural being.

Jack P
Sep 17, 2009

Great article. Respectful of Scouts which I agree is becoming less of a given today. Another way to look at this is adults vs teens. But if your adults are former Scouts...Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, well then you have a very strong combination. (where was he lady backpacker?)
As a backpacker and Adult Scout Leader, I think there is no better advertisement for continuing a life long hobby than to tie in Scouts with Backpacking magazine. Great Job !!

Grant
Sep 17, 2009

Nice article and, thankfully, quite respectful of the Scouts. Not something I expected in this day and age. I'm an assistant Scoutmaster and responsible for teaching the guys hiking, backpacking and camping. Seeing information like this is very useful to the training we try to instill in the guys. Thanks.

Sharon, District Exec
Sep 16, 2009

I thought the article was funny and endearing. Of course the older guys won - they have 20 years on these boys and hopefully 20 more years of practice but the boys held their own and proved that they knew it. Speed isn't always the answer! Knowing IS the life saving answer most of the time. Well done boys!! great advertising for the movement Backpacker!

glenn lao
Sep 16, 2009

why not select eagle scouts?

adsii1970
Sep 15, 2009

Well, with rules being rules, it is obvious that the "win" for the flag category needs to be awarded to TROOP 43 - since the adult is an Eagle Scout of that troop... :)

Ron Settele
Sep 15, 2009

Caveat: I am the Scoutmaster of Troop 181 in Circle 10 Council. After reading "Are You Smarter Than a Boy Scout?" in your September edition, I was disappointed to see that you didn't select Scouts that have been to Philmont Scout Ranch. After experiencing a 11-day, 78-mile trek this Summer with nine of my Scouts, I know that they would have given you a run for your money!

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Guy line damage
Posted On: Jul 09, 2014
Submitted By: reubenstump
Trailhead Register
Life's Simple Pleasures (let's hear them)...
Posted On: Jul 09, 2014
Submitted By: frihauf

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions