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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.

1. Bear Bagging

Game On
Each team gets a 50-foot section of nylon rope, a stuffsack containing 15 pounds of food–and no instructions. Ready, set, go. Team BACKPACKER dashes for a spindly pine. While Jeff knots one end of the rope to the sack, David ties off the other end to a chunk of wood. He sails the rope over a high branch. Louis and Jeff hold the sack aloft while David hoists it, then ties off the rope. Done in 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

Troop 43 has a rough start. Adam attempts to swing the heavy sack up and over a branch of a shrubby tree. Todd and Michael steal glances at the adults’ progress and pepper Adam with advice. "I told you we should have tossed a stick instead," complains Michael, after the sack lodges in a tangle of lower branches. Two more attempts yield similarly dismal results. Six minutes later, the Scouts give up.

Team BACKPACKER takes it in a runaway. Readers: 1, Scouts: 0

By the Book
Bear bags should hang "at least 12 feet off the ground … and eight or more feet away from the trunks of trees," says The Boy Scout Handbook. The accompanying illustration depicts stringing a bear bag between two trees, but offers no explanation on exactly how to do it. Try this: 1) Select a pair of branches 20 feet apart and at least 15 feet off the ground. 2) Tie one end of a rope to a tree trunk. 3) Throw the other end, weighted, over both branches in succession. 4) Tie a knotted loop (bight) in the cord midway between the branches. 5) Attach the bag to the loop with a knot or carabiner. 6) Pull on the unsecured end of the cord to lift the bag to the correct height and tie it off.

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