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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.

9. Orienteering

Game On
We created two equal-length courses in the forest, and planted three tacky- looking ornamental frogs along each one. The teams receive a compass and a course description–composed of the bearing and distance to each of their three frogs. The goal: find the frogs, gather them up, and return to the starting line as quickly as possible.

Team BACKPACKER simply took their bearing, spread out, and started running. "We knew one of us would find the frog ornament if we kept our bearing, so the exact distance was immaterial," explains Jeff. Smart. They finish in less than two minutes. Meanwhile, the Scouts wander waaaay off track in a meadow while looking for the second frog. Troop 43 needs an assist from the judge to get back on course. Readers: 5, Scouts: 4.

By the Book
The Boy Scout Handbook gives clear instructions on taking and following a bearing. (Compass in hand, turn the compass housing until the direction of travel indicator matches the desired bearing. Then rotate the compass until the red needle points north. You’re oriented. Now sight along the direction of travel arrow, pick out a landmark, and walk toward it.) The Scouts were good up until they passed an old logging cable that moved the needle a few degrees. Not in The Handbook: Metal throws off a magnetic compass. (The disorienting effect is often caused by car hoods and belt buckles.)

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