Boy Scouts

Black Friday Scout Deals 2017

Black Friday Scout Deals 2017

Scouting is a fun and rewarding program. But the gear required can be expensive. So, to help you save some time and money, I’ve gone through all 148 Pages of Amazon’s Black Friday deals to find some pretty good Black Friday Scout Deals. I also went to Campmor to find a few more deals there on some higher end equipment.

Phone ChargersSleeping BagsCamp MattressesBackpacksHammocks
Hydration SystemsStovesMess KitsFlashlightsHats
Pocket KnivesCamping ChairsTents

Scout Meeting Tech


Great for movies (not so much for PowerPoints). Great for camp presentations, or year-in-review videos. It’s one thing to tell the parents in your unit about the amazing things you’re doing, but it’s quite another to show them. The first one costs a lot less but isn’t recommended for PowerPoints. If you’re not doing powerpoints, then it should be fine. The second and third are a bit pricier, but would do better for committee meetings.



If you’ve got old Troop year-in-review videos, or old training videos on VHS casettes, then you might want to invest in one of these. I picked one up a few years ago to convert some of my old videos. It’s actually where we got the only video of my dad, in the Troop’s Year-in-Review video for 1991. Brought back a lot of memories.



Phone videos are great. But a good camcorder is a step up.

Camping Gear

Phone Chargers

While we can all balk at having phones for the kids on campouts, it’s important that leaders are able to stay informed as to changes in the weather, and able to call for help if the need arises. And it’s important that those phones don’t run out of juice. You want to have some backup, especially in wilderness areas that will drain your battery.

Sleeping Bags

Especially on winter campouts, the right sleeping bag is key and can make the difference between a fun and exciting weekend, and pure misery. Here are three high quality bags.


Slumberjack Women’s Latitude 20 Degree…

Slumberjack understands the importance of quality recreation and family time. The Women… [More]

Price: $59.99 (Regularly $64.99)

Slumberjack Lapland 40 Down Hybrid Mummy S…

The Slumberjack Lapland 40 Degree Down Hybrid Mummy Sleeping Bag features Hybrid Zone C… [More]

Price: $79.98 (Regularly $139.95)

Camp Mattress

A good camp mattress will make a huge difference in how you sleep at camp. It’s what separates you from the ground – and will go a long way in keeping you warm and comfortable.

This is the brand that I’ve had – Thermarest – for 25 years. I’ve owned three of them, and they’ve all been pretty great. I remember going from a hard foam pad to my first Thermarest. It was luxurious.







Hydration Systems

Backpacking Stoves

There’s always the tradeoff with backpacking stoves. You want something small and lightweight – but you don’t want to be waiting forever for it to actually heat your meal. This one is certainly small (it’ll fit in your pocket.) and lightweight. It’s also gotten a lot of good reviews in terms of heating food quickly.

This is what I’ve used for decades. It’s a step up and takes a little more skill to operate. But I swear by this one. Cooks fast, weighs very little, and really lasts.

Mess Kits

Headlamps and Flashlights



Pocket Knives

On any campout, Boy Scout should never be without a sharp pocket knife.

What if my knife also had a thermometer, altimeter, clock, alarm, and barometer? This one’s probably overkill, but so is the fridge with the fridge with the computer in the door, and I still kinda want that one too. Maybe it’s just me.

Camping Chairs


The rule of thumb for Scout tents is that you want to go a person up when getting a tent. A three-person tent will comfortably fit two scouts and their gear. The Amazon Basics tent is a good place to start. It’s inexpensive and would be okay for Cubs and family camping.

What I’d consider the Gold Standard for Boy Scout tents over the past 30 years is on big discount at Campmor. I grew up in Eureka’s. They’re easy for scouts to set up, and really durable. They’ll take a beating. They’re easy to patch, and replacement parts are available without having to buy a whole new tent.

Eureka Timberline 4 Tent

The Eureka Timberline Tents are possibly the worlds most popular tent with millions bei… [More]

Price: $179.96 (Black Friday Sale, regularly $239.95).

You can get the two-person version here for $142.46.


Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting, 0 comments
Thank You Scout Leaders Everywhere

Thank You Scout Leaders Everywhere

On this Thanksgiving, we thought it only proper to thank all the people in Scouting who go above and beyond. None of them are ever thanked enough for the great things they do to help kids develop.

Thank You Scout Leaders

Thank you:

Scout moms, for your love, we’re sure you were sent from above.

Scout dads, for making us go when it’s 10 below.

Den Leaders who know the job’s not done ’til we’ve all had fun.

Cubmasters, for running the show, you always help our pack go!

Committee Members, greetings to you, thanks for the meetings you go to.

Junior Leaders, energetic and true, you’re the ones we look up to.

Camp Staffers, your best asset, is giving us memories we’ll never forget.

Scoutmasters, for your skill infinite, you can give us a lifetime’s worth of wisdom in under a minute.

And Commissioners, District Committee members, Trainers, Fundraisers, Council Board members, Professional Scouters, Scout Office Staffs, and Donors. While most never see what you do, we couldn’t have these life-changing programs without the support we get from you.

Most of all, and before we’re done, thank you, Scouts, for making it fun.

Okay, I’m not a poet, but it’s the thought that counts, right? To all of you fantastic scout leaders, and your families, thank you for all you do.


Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting, 0 comments
Cool Scout Christmas Ornaments

Cool Scout Christmas Ornaments

I’m not an artist. I’m not particularly craft – so I’m impressed with just about everyone who is. To that end, I came across some amazing Scout Christmas Ornaments on Amazon this week. The detail is out of this world. Seriously, if you gave me a billion years, I couldn’t imagine to make something this good. I can tie knots. I’m pretty good with graphic design, and I can write a pretty good article about scout camp, but in terms of something like this, I’m in awe.

They’re all about four inches high, and made of hard resin, and are the creations of a man named Kurt Adler.

The detail is incredible. Take a look at the intricacies of Family Life Merit Badge, and compare it to the representation on the ornament. Just incredible.

Check them out for yourself.

For Your Cub Scouts

For Your Boy Scouts

And For Your Eagle Scouts

Other Scout Christmas Ornaments


Hallmark Christmas Ornaments (with Snoopy!!!)

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Scouting, 0 comments
11 Steps for Recruiting Scout Parents
Excited leaders from Pack 112, Brownville, Maine.

11 Steps for Recruiting Scout Parents

“How do I get the parents in my den to help out?” might be the most common question I see from the people I know running Cub Scout packs. It’s also the most important, by far. Packs that are getting enough help tend to run a great program, which in turn helps you keep the scouts you have, and helps you recruit new ones. So, here are a few things to remember when you’re recruiting scout parents to be volunteers in your pack.

1. Let them see you having fun

Ever read Tom Sawyer? Remember how Tom got his friends to whitewash the picket fence. He made the job seem enjoyable. The difference for you is that you’re not actually asking people to do your work for you – but to do a job that will provide a better program and experience for their kids.

Let them see you enjoying what you’re doing. The one common element I can think of in big packs and troops out there is that the leaders are having fun. People like to have fun. Those are the teams that people want to be on. They like laughing and joking. Be that group. By the time you actually get around to asking for help, it’s going to be a lot easier to do so.

Volunteering is something that you get to do, not that you have to do. It’s something you get to do to help your kids – the most important things in your life. I know that in my time working with scouts, I’ve had a blast, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

Be Kermit, not Eeyore.

eeyore photo

We love Eeyore, but he’s not a good role model for recruiters.Photo by HarshLight

2. Be the Pack People Want to Volunteer In

This may sound like the chicken or the egg, but it’s really not. Run the best possible program you can with what you have. Start by making sure your current leaders you have been trained. Get trained yourself. Follow the program in the literature. It works.

Run aggressive programs. Go places. Do things – even if you think they’re a little bit above what your current resources allow. Don’t be afraid to ask your district for help in doing this. See if the other packs around you can do joint events if need be. But do a great program for kids, and people will want to join you.

And also…

Don’t cancel meetings or events unless of disaster. Unless it’s not safe to get to the meeting – find some way to make your meeting happen. People need to know that they can count on your pack. Disappointed kids stop showing up, and parents are the ones who have to explain a canceled meeting to them.

3. Thank the Volunteers You Already Have

Make sure that you’re publicly thanking the helpers you already have. Pretty much everyone likes to be recognized for the good work that they do. Letting the parents in your pack see that you’re grateful for the help you already get will plant the seeds in their mind. Put it in their mind that they might be the one being thanked someday.

Aside from the BSA’s leader awards, there are lots of other creative ways of thanking leaders.

4. Don’t Rush it, but Rather, Lay the Foundation for the Ask

Yes, I’ve heard the stories where a heroic scout leader getting in front of the room, telling a gripping story, and coming out with all the volunteers the pack could possibly need. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen others do it, but it’s risky.

You could wind up with the wrong people in the wrong jobs – or two, you could wind up with a volunteer who feels like they’ve been coerced into the job. Furthermore, you’re much more likely to get the wrong person in the wrong job if you haven’t taken the time to get to know them first. Den Leader may be the most important job in Scouting – so why would you trust it to the first person who doesn’t say no?

When you recruit new scouts, you should absolutely include a few expectations. Not an immediate ask, but rather a laying of ground rules. Something along the lines of “Our pack works much better the more help we get,” and “Everybody here has some talent that can help us provide a great program for your kids.”

And most importantly, tell them why you personally volunteer. Whatever your reason is, share it. Whether it’s to spend quality time with your kids before they grow up, to give back to the program that helped you, or just because it’s fun, let them know what your heartfelt motivation is.

But I’d discourage the hostage mentality. Yes, we need volunteers to run a good program. But “volunteer or else” isn’t the best long-term strategy to get committed volunteers.


5. Build the Relationship!

This is the key to recruiting scout parents or anyone at all. So I gave it a big subheading and changed the color – because it’s the most important one – by far. It’s the key to everything. Get to know people’s names. What do they do for a living? Learn what they’re interested in. What makes them laugh? What color eyes do they have? Do they have hobbies the kids would like? Where are they from? Where did they go to school? Do they have a Scouting history? Do your homework on them. Get to know them.

Building the relationship will make everything else easier. Whatever you’re going to ask for later will be made much easier if you’ve established a rapport first. This will also help you learn what they’re good at. What skills do they have? Do they have a dynamic personality, and are great with kids? Maybe they could be a good Den Leader or Cubmaster. Are they good with numbers and accounting? What about public relations? Are they very organized? This sort of person might be a better fit for your committee. By the time you’re ready to ask them to serve in a position, you’ll be able to ask them to serve in the position that’s right for them. You want the right person for the right job.

By the time you’re ready to make the ask, the relationship you’ve built will make you much more likely to get the “yes” you’re looking for.


6. Don’t Say No For Anyone

This one’s tricky. Sometimes it goes against human nature. If you think someone’s perfect for the job, but don’t think they’ll accept it, ask anyway!

The worst thing that will happen will be that they’ll say no. It’s very unlikely that they’ll hit you. More than likely, they’ll be honored that you asked. If they say no, take their no graciously, as it usually doesn’t mean “never”, it means “not now”, or “I don’t want to do that job, but I might like to do something else.”

In the words of my podcast guest Dave Parry, “Bless and release.”

It’s also a possibility that they might know someone else who’d be great at the job, and they may well be willing to help you recruit that person.


7. You’re Not Asking for You

You’re asking for them.

cub scouts photo

Photo by GraceFamily


8. Make Individual Asks

Now that you’ve built the relationship, you’re going to make an individual ask. You’re going to go in with a specific job description for what you want the person to actually do. Feel free to customize the national job description down to the four or five things you really need them to do.

Personalize the ask to them. Find a place where they’re comfortable, be it their home, favorite restaurant, or a campout, and make the ask there. If there’s a specific person in the pack they can’t say no to, have them help you in the ask meeting.


9. Don’t Downplay the Job

The temptation when recruiting scout parents is to undersell the importance of the job you’re asking them to do. But every job in Scouting is important in some ways. Because if the job isn’t important, why are you asking them?

It’s easy to think that if you pretend like you’re not asking them for that much, they’ll be more likely to say yes. But are a couple of huge problems with that:

  1. “If the job isn’t that important, why are you asking me?”
  2. When the job does turn out to be more difficult than you let on, you’re going to have lost their trust.


10. Let Them Know What Support Exists

Get to know all the training courses that exist for their position, and let them know about them. Let them know about roundtables. Tell them about BALOO, OWL, and Wood Badge. Let them know that there are leader guides to help them every step of the way. They don’t have to write the program themselves. Show them Scouting Magazine, Bryan on Scouting, and maybe even share my website with them. Help them create a my.scouting account.

Have a card with the names, emails and phone numbers of the people on the unit and district level that they can call for help.

Don’t let them think that they have to make the program up on their own.

11. Follow Up

Visit a few of their meetings. Call them on the phone from time-to-time. Catch up with them over a cup of coffee. Buy them lunch. See how things are going on a regular basis. Be encouraging. Be there to answer questions. You don’t want to leave them out there by themselves. That’s a great way to burn a volunteer. Not only will they never help you again, but they’ll tell their friends, and they won’t help you either.

Make sure they’re spreading a positive message about volunteering.

Any tips I missed for Recruiting Scout Parents?

Let me know in the comments below, and than you for reading.


Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Recruiting, Scouting, Volunteering, 0 comments
Mount Cardigan – My Favorite Mountain

Mount Cardigan – My Favorite Mountain

If there’s a perfect mountain for a whole Scout troop, it’s Mount Cardigan, in Alexandria, New Hampshire. In many ways, I grew up on that mountain. I had climbed Mount Monadnock previously, but it was on Cardigan that I truly found my love for the mountains. It’s challenged and rewarded me more than I can say. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve climbed it, which says something, considering the fact that I’ve never lived within two hours of it. I got engaged to my wife on that mountain because I wanted to bring the best girl in the world to my favorite spot in the world.


This isn’t me – but this gentleman has made the best video of a Mount Cardigan climb that I’ve seen.

Why is Mount Cardigan Great for Troops?

The final ascent to the Cardigan Summit. Photo by ragesoss

Because more than any other mountain I’ve done, it gives you options. So you can take your 11-year-old new crossover, and your 15-year-old Life Scout to the same mountain – and they’ll both be challenged.

Both groups of your scouts will start from the campsites, and head towards the Holt Trail. At the junction with the Manning Trail, you’ll take a left. You’ll then follow the Holt Trail until you come to the “Grand Junction.”

It’s here that your two groups will go their separate ways.  Your younger scouts should go left, via the Holt-Clark Cutoff (or “Cathedral Forest”) Trail. This trail makes Cardigan a great starter mountain. Every scout, if they are physically able, should climb at least one mountain during their career. It will challenge them, but it won’t break them. They’ll need to work to keep going.

Your older scouts should go right, to the Holt Trail. This will provide a challenging climb for your older, more experienced scouts. It’s a steep 4.9-mile scramble to the Mount Cardigan summit. At one point you’ll gain 1000 feet of elevation in under a mile. There are steel hand-holds at a few points. It’s the sort of climb that will get them ready for more difficult trails in the future.

But the reason this is an extraordinary mountain for troops is that both your beginners and your more experienced scouts should get to the summit at about the same time, give or take half an hour. Both trails culminate in a fun race to the summit. Once you get past the treeline, you’ll be hiking on exposed granite, with spectacular views all around you.

There’s nothing like a summit to give you a feeling of accomplishment.

One of the elective requirements for Camping Merit Badge is to “Hike up a mountain where, at some point, you are at least 1,000 feet higher in elevation from where you started.”

When I was a counselor for Camping, I used to make the Cardigan trek the last requirement for the badge. When they got to the summit, I’d hand them their completed blue card, and congratulate them on having completed the badge.

There’s also a small pond by the lodge that is available for swimming (no lifeguards provided) in the summer months.


Winter Adventure at Cardigan

Cardigan is challenging all-year round – but if you really want a life-changing experience, try climbing it in the winter – when it’s zero degrees out, and covered in deep snow. The Troop I grew up in, Troop 25 in Putnam, Connecticut, used to take the older scouts in the troop to climb Cardigan every year in January or February. One year, we estimated wind chill at the summit to be 96 degrees… below zero. At one point, the wind sent one of the metal fasteners on my backpack into my face so quickly, and with such force that it left a bruise.

It would take us around three hours to climb the mountain via the Cathedral Forest Trail. Stay away from the Holt Trail during the winter.

… And about 20 minutes to get down, using the ski trail, sledding on the rolled-up sleds that one of our scoutmasters had made from sheets of hard plastic. You can get similar ones on Amazon now for next to nothing.

This is not a trip for beginners. We used to restrict it to First Class Scouts who were 13 years or older. You’ll want to make sure they have the proper gear, the right boots, and an appropriate level of maturity for the trip.

But once their ready, they’ll have an absolute blast. And it’s the kind of thing that they’ll tell their teachers and friends in class on Monday that will result in disbelieving stares.

The nice feature for Cardigan in terms of extreme winter camping is that it has the lodge right there in case of emergencies.

Shop Campmor for Your Quickest Link to the Outdoors

Getting There

There are two main dropoff points to get to Cardigan – from the East and the West. The Eastern side is better for overnight trips, as that’s where the campsites are, so you’ll want to make sure you put the Cardigan Lodge in your GPS, to make sure you wind up in the right place.

It takes about two hours to get there from Boston. It’s a little over three hours from where I live in Connecticut. For more information, or to reserve a campsite, you can visit the AMC website’s Cardigan Lodge page. There is a lodge, in addition to some great campsites. There’s also the High Cabin on the mountain, which includes 12 bunks.



This is my favorite mountain for Boy Scouts. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by ragesoss

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting
Basic Boy Scout Camping Gear Recommendations

Basic Boy Scout Camping Gear Recommendations

I’ve seen the question come up on Facebook a few times, about what sort of gear you should get for your newly crossed over Boy Scout. So, to help out with that, here are some of the basic Boy Scout camping gear that I’d recommend for a Boy Scout under the age of 12. It could be very easy for you to spend a lot of money in a hurry – and you really don’t need to do that. First of all, check with your Troop to see if they’ve got hand-me-down equipment available. That’s how I got my first backpack. You should also keep in mind the part of the country you live in. A scout in Northern Maine will have different gear needs than one in Texas, for example.

Aside from the weather, the type of program your Troop does matters. A canoeing troop will want slightly different gear than a backpacking troop will. Make sure to have these discussions with your Scout leaders before making big purchases.

First of all, your 11-year-old has a lot of growing to do in the next few years. You’re going to want to contrast the fact that they’re going to be growing like weeds with the fact that you don’t want them to be miserable. So, in some things, you’ll want to save money, and in others, you’ll want to spend a little more for quality.

What I’ve done here is go through and shop for what the Boy Scout camping gear I would get for my son – and we live in the Northeast. I hope this at least points you in the right direction, and helps your scout enjoy the outdoors as much as I have over the years. Please read all the reviews, and shop around before you make your purchase. You know your child better than anyone. You also know your budget.


Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are rated in terms of degrees. In theory, a zero degree sleeping bag will keep you warm at zero degrees Fahrenheit. A 40-degree bag should keep you warm at 40 degrees. You don’t want your new Scout to be cold on his earliest campouts. You’re looking for a bag that is comfortable and warm.

This is one area where you can spend as much as $500 for a top of the road, high-quality bag. I wouldn’t recommend that much for a new scout. On the other hand, you can get a high-quality zero degree sleeping bag from Slumberjack from Campmor for much, much less than that. Slumberjack has been one of the industry leaders for years, and this one’s a great value for money. If you go to the link below and enter the promo code “SAVE20” you can save another 20%.

Sleeping bags are one item that your scout shouldn’t outgrow, and should last for a while if properly cared for.


Slumberjack Latitude 0 Degree Sleeping Bag…

Slumberjack understands the importance of quality recreation and family time. The Latit… [More]

Price: $69.98

Now, if you’re in warmer climates where you’re not going to see temperatures get that low, you can get a much bigger selection of bags at lower prices. I’d suggest, however, that you send along a fleece liner just in case the temperature drops.

Ground Pad

There are a few ways to go here – cot, ground pad, hammock, or inflatable mattress. Keep in mind that this is their bed in the woods.

All have pros and cons, and you’ll see huge debates over which is best. My dad was big on cots. Cots are great for camping, but not great for backpacking, as they’re heavier and tougher to fit in a backpack.

I personally love my self-inflating air mattress. I’ve had two Thermarests that have lasted me about 20 years. But they’re generally on the more expensive side. There are some relatively inexpensive ones on the market, like this one.

But for 11-year-olds, who can be rough on equipment you may want to go with something that can’t actually be punctured. Foam ground pads like this one tend to be your safest bet. While self-inflating mattresses can be sealed, that’s not something that an 11-year-old should be worrying about on a campout.

Hiking Boots

Again, you want quality at a good price here. Save the $100+ hiking boots for when they’re old enough to be doing long-distance trail hiking in a few years.

You want something that’s comfortable, durable, and here’s the big one – waterproof. Wet feet will ruin your scout’s campout. What I generally do with boots is try them on in the store, and then check them online, and buy whichever one is cheaper. If you don’t have a good store in your area, though, you can take advantage of free returns if the sizing or feel isn’t quite right.

Keep in mind that they’re going to spend a lot of time in them, so you’ll want to get this right.

Here’s a good starter boot on Amazon.

On the higher end, you’ve got this great boot from Merril. I’ve owned a few pairs of these, and I’ve loved every one.

You’ll also want to do some waterproofing of your own with either SnoSeal or Waterproof spray.



The old debate is about internal vs. external framed backpacks. The first backpack I ever used was an external frame.

The benefits of an external frame are that they generally have more pockets, more places to store stuff. They also tend to be a little bit less comfortable than an internal frame pack. They’re also a bit more expensive.

The capacity of a backpack is measured in liters. For an overnight campout, a backpack should be between 30-50 liters. If you’re going multiple nights, you’d want larger – but your new Boy Scout won’t be doing that for a few years anyway.

This one should be large enough for your new scout.

Mess Kit

If you’re shopping for an 11-year-old, you really don’t want to spend too much money here. You want something sturdy – so that it will be easier to handle in cold weather. But you have to realize that 11-year-olds are going to wreck whatever it is you get them. They’re going to get distracted and burn food. They’re going to leave messes in them.

There’s the all-time basic mess kit from Coleman would do the trick on the low-end for your new Boy Scout, but this one from is only a tad bit more expensive, and would seem to fit the bill in terms of sturdiness perfectly.

Camp Stove

There are people who will warn you off of the simple Sterno stove, but it’s what I grew up using. It’s cheap and extremely simple to use. No pump priming, just drop a match in the can of Sterno (sold separately) and cook your food. It won’t be fast, and it won’t give you variable heat settings – but it’s perfect for beginners.

Eventually, they’ll be ready for a more advanced liquid fuel backpacking stove, like a Whisperlite or a Coleman stove. But not yet. These stoves will cook food much faster, but they’re much more elaborate and difficult to use.


Long Underwear

Seriously. This can make all the difference between a miserable cold-weather campout and a comfortable one. I used to call my great set of long underwear “season changers,” and having spent five years doing Scouting in Northern Maine, they made a huge difference. If you’re in Northern climates or doing serious winter camping you may want to look at taking a step up on long underwear. Otherwise, the cheap stuff from Target or Walmart would do fine.

This one can be tougher to size out. So here’s one for adult small.

Water Bottle

Hydration is key to staying healthy and happy on a campout. Every scout should have at least two water bottles. The two big names here are Nalgene and Camelback. There are people who swear by the Camelbak hydration systems like the one below. They’re a bit more expensive, and I’d see this as more of a luxury item, as a handheld bottle will do just fine.


Again, you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal – but cold, wet feet on a campout can be a deal-breaker. The old phrase “cotton kills” is one to remember. On a campout where you’re going to be doing a lot of vigorous activity, you want to have a sock that wicks moisture away from your foot and keep the foot dry. This reduces blisters and will keep your feet warmer. There are any number of materials that will do the trick. I personally swear by polypropylene socks – and I’ve got a few pairs that have lasted me for years. When hiking, or during the winter months, they can be worn underneath wool socks for greater comfort.



Scout Stocking Stuffers

If you’re looking for Scout-stocking stuffers, you can never go wrong with hand warmers. These little bags slip into your gloves or your pockets and heat up when you expose them to air.

Other things to think about

  • Rain Gear
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bug spray



Photo by Wesley Fryer

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Grow Your Group, Recommendations, Scouting
What the New York Times Could Learn About the Boy Scouts

What the New York Times Could Learn About the Boy Scouts

In the days since the Boy Scouts announced that they were going to allow Cub Scout packs to form dens for girls, a lot of misinformation has been coming out about the Boy Scout program. For example, I came across an article by Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times, Things Boys Could Learn at Girl Scouts. It’s well-meaning but misses what the Boy Scout program actually is, and what it does.

I’m not in any way putting down the Girl Scout program, which has been successfully helping girls develop into the best women they can be for over a century – but the Boy Scout program already covers pretty much everything she says it should cover – it just does it using different vocabulary. It’s not that boys shouldn’t learn the skills she’s talking about (they should) – it’s that they already do.

So I thought I’d go point-by-point, and show how the Boy Scout program already covers these topics.

I’ll start with this:

“Some Girl Scout badges promote stereotypical notions of femininity. Many are about helping others. Even the flowers badge asks girls to “find out how flowers help people.” There’s also a focus on appearance. The independence badge, for “striding down your path to changing the world,” includes learning how to “make your clothes look great.” The “eating for you” badge — recently called “eating for beauty” — emphasizes how nutrition helps with “smooth skin, shiny hair and strong nails.”

The Scout Law for each group includes similar virtues, like being honest, helpful and friendly. But girls might be better off, too, if more boys earned badges like those from the Girl Scouts for respect and fair play, and for taking responsibility for their actions, not to mention babysitting and making dinner. In that spirit, here are 10 Girl Scout badges that might benefit Boy Scouts:

Are we to assume that she thinks Boy Scout badges don’t include helping others? Who does she think First Aid will be performed on? The mention that the Scout Oath implores Scouts to “Help other people at all times” didn’t come up in her research? How did she miss the fact that Boy Scouts must complete service hours and help others to complete every rank



Most of the fastest-growing jobs, like those for health aides and physical therapists, involve caring for others, so boys would benefit from learning these skills. Researchers say caring for younger children or pets is a good way to do so (both groups have pet badges.) Even in two-income families, women still do more child care, another reason to teach boys early.

So the fact that Boy Scouts have a First Aid merit badge didn’t come up in her research? It’s the most-earned merit badge, and it involves caring for others. Somehow Family Life Merit Badge didn’t come up on the radar. She’s put a picture of it in the article, why not Google the requirements? I’m sorry, but “Discuss the following with your counselor your understanding of what makes an effective father and why, and your thoughts on the father’s role in the family” seems relevant to me.

And this is to say nothing of the leadership opportunities that Boy Scouts get in working as a Den Chief – helping out with a den of younger boys. Leading and taking care of others is a requirement for the highest ranks in Scouting.


Simple Meals

Women, on average, spend more than twice as much time as men each day preparing food and cleaning up afterward, according to the American Time Use Survey. But everyone needs to eat. The Boy Scouts recently made a badge for cooking a requirement of the Eagle Scout rank.

Um… Cooking Merit Badge was one of the original 57 Merit Badges created by the Boy Scouts in 1911.  It goes over the preparation of simple meals, and more complex ones. It also involves shopping for groceries. That this is somehow missed in her research is unforgivable. Really, how did she miss “Cooking” on the list? It’s the 3rd-most earned merit badge.

Meanwhile, there are cooking requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Ranks. For some reason, the fact that Boy Scouts are in most cases expected to prepare their own meals, and clean up after themselves on most campouts also doesn’t merit mention. And this is to say nothing at all of the cooking requirements for Bear Cub Scouts.

Really, would boys would be benefitted by changing the name of the badge from Cooking to Simple Meals?

I don’t get it.



“Words are powerful tools,” this badge’s instructions say. “Just writing down your feelings actually makes you feel better!” Girls are taught to have a larger emotional vocabulary than boys. As a result, many boys end up suppressing their emotions or letting them out in destructive ways, researchers say.

Obviously, words are powerful tools. But somehow the fact that the Boy Scouts have multiple writing merit badges eluded her? From Communications to Journalism (how was this one missed by a newspaper writer?) to Movie Making, Theater (where Scouts are required to write a one-act play), and Public Speaking (where writing and delivering a five-minute speech is required.) – Boy Scouts have to do some writing.

As to an emotional vocabulary, and how to deal with emotions, this is again, one of the pillars of the Boy Scout program.



This badge requires Girl Scouts to “motivate a team to accomplish its goals.” Teamwork is one of the most important skills in the modern economy. Jobs requiring social skills, like lawyer, nurse and financial manager, have grown much more than those that don’t, like machine operator and welder, research shows. Teamwork is a core part of Boy Scout activities too.

Somehow the Patrol Method has eluded our author? That providing leadership to others is also a requirement for Star, Life, and Eagle has also slipped by her observations? Somehow the rather elaborate series of leadership courses that older Scouts are encouraged to complete is also missing. Not a word about National Youth Leadership Training, which includes a lot of coaching training.

Of course, if “teamwork is a core part of Boy Scout activities,” then why does she list it as a thing the Boy Scouts “could benefit from?”


Making Friends

Another badge focuses on social skills, this one for Girl Scouts who “show friends you care” and “learn how to disagree” — skills that would surely be useful for boys in their personal lives and their jobs.

Friendly is the fourth point of the Scout Law – which the boys repeat at the beginning of every meeting. Courteous? Kind? Nothing about the Buddy System? Again, it’s not so much that she’s getting things wrong about the Girl Scouts, but rather, wasting a lot of people’s time in imploring the Boy Scouts to do things they’re already doing, and have been doing for over a century.

Yes, making friends is a useful skill for boys to learn in their personal lives and in their jobs. But the BSA has been teaching these skills to boys since William Howard Taft was President. Parents bring have been bringing their boys to Cub Scouts to develop their social skills since 1930.


My Great Day

“Life is more fun when it’s running smoothly,” this badge’s instructions say. “Try out some great ways to get organized.” These include sorting, planning and doing homework. Schools reward skills like being organized, waiting one’s turn and following directions. Girls seem to develop self-control earlier, which might be one reason boys have more discipline problems and lower grades in school.

The entire Cub Scout program is dedicated to developing self-control. Has she not heard of the Cub Scout sign? Has “A Scout is Obedient” not come up in her reading?

As to organization, the Boy Scout program teaches this naturally. If you’re going to live in a self-sustaining manner out of a backpack over the course of let’s say, a 50-miler, you’re going to need to develop an organizational system that works for you.

Again, has the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared” not come up in her research?

As to discipline problems, boys and girls learn differently. Girls, as it turns out, are better at younger ages at sitting still for long periods of time. Boys need to move around. This has a lot to do with what schools consider “discipline problems.” These same boys don’t tend to have those problems at their Scout meetings, where they’re allowed to move around. The American educational system is failing our boys and could stand to learn a lot from the Boy Scouts in how to work with boys and young men.

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Respect Myself and Others

Respect for others is at the root of many problems today, whether political polarization or sexual harassment. Teaching it to children seems at least as important as woodworking and archery. The Girl Scouts start in kindergarten: It’s a petal badge, for daisies, who are the youngest members.

Is this supposed to suggest that the Cub Scout program doesn’t teach respect for others? The Boy Scout program is a character-building organization, that sometimes does woodworking and archery, not the other way around. These activities are a means to an end. The word reverent is a synonym for respectful, and “Respectful Relationships” is one of the 10 purposes of Cub Scouting.

Getting back to self-control – that’s one of the main reasons that Boy Scouts work on archery. You cannot be an effective archer without self-control. You need to learn to follow the rules of the range. The level of self-control eventually gets to the fact that in order to be an effective archer, you even need to be able to control your breathing.


Responsible for What I Say and Do

Boys tend to have more discipline problems, but the problem, according to educators and researchers, comes when people dismiss them with the excuse that boys will be boys. Taking responsibility for their actions — another petal badge, for kindergarteners and first graders — is a valuable skill for children of either sex. The Boy Scouts emphasize ethical and moral choices in their mission statement.

What was the point of including this one? She admits that the Boy Scouts emphasizes ethical and moral choices – so why include this badge? Boys in the Boy Scout program have fewer discipline problems than other boys, so they’re actually pretty successful in this.


Fair Play

This badge is for Girl Scouts who learn to “include everyone” and to “be part of a team,” with the idea that “everyone follows the same rules.” Research has shown that one reason women stall before reaching positions of power is that institutions aren’t inclusive. People tend to hire and promote others who look like them. When women offer ideas, they are often interrupted or considered to be too aggressive.

What does this have to do with the Boy Scouts… at all? The idea that fair play isn’t taught in the Boy Scouts is nonsensical. Sports Merit Badge is all about fair play, as demonstrated in requirement 3d, “Discuss … The attributes (qualities) of a good sport, the importance of sportsmanship, and the traits of a good team leader and player who exhibits Scout spirit on and off the playing field.”

As to interrupting others while speaking, a Scout is Courteous would seem to cover that.


Finding Common Ground

The requirements for this badge include “get to know someone different from you,” “make decisions in a group” and “explore civil debate.” The Boy Scouts have citizenship badges that include attending a city council meeting and learning how to express differences of opinion. Often people’s biases are unconscious, researchers have found, so practicing treating others with openness and civility — for both genders — is bound to help.

This is covered by multiple Merit Badges and in the Scout Oath and Law. It’s also a big part of the Patrol Method. I’d also suggest that some unconscious biases are at work in this article.

Is she suggesting that boys in the Boy Scout program aren’t taught to treat people of both genders with civility?

There probably are things the Girl Scouts do that the Boy Scouts could incorporate into their program – I’ve never been involved with the Girl Scout program, so I don’t know. But I don’t see those things here.

I think Clair Cain Miller is well-meaning – but the crux of her article would seem to be that the Boy Scouts have different titles for their merit badges. They teach some of the same skills in different ways.  I’d like to encourage her to get to know the BSA’s programs a little better. I think she’d like them.


Note: I’m going to cover the addition of Girls to the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs in a podcast later this week. I’ve been sick, and my voice isn’t back to 100% yet. Thanks for your patience.


Photo by alextorrenegra

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting
5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Scout Popcorn

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Scout Popcorn

It’s fall again. The kids are back in school and all over America, you’ll find Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts set up in front of grocery stores, hardware shops, and restaurants, selling popcorn. You may also find them going door to door with a wagon full of popcorn behind them. Not only is this a vital fundraiser for these local scouting units and councils, but it’s a  So here are five reasons you should buy scout popcorn this fall.

1. When You Buy Scout Popcorn, You Fund Life-Changing Program

Whether it be earning their way to Scout Camp, funding the purchase of needed program supplies for their pack, or pay for that high adventure trek – the programs that scouts receive change their lives for the better.Whether it be making them more likely to go to college, get a better job, or be a contributor to their community – the Scouting program teaches young men to be leaders. It teaches them to set goals, and reach those goals. Best yet, they’re learning to pay their own way.

They’ll learn a wide variety of skills that will last them the rest of their lives. For starters, they’ll learn to cook their own meals and clean up after themselves. They’ll also explore careers and hobbies through their advancement programs. And they’ll learn to remain calm in an emergency. Our scouts save lives.

And above that, they’ll learn values. They’ll learn the value of reflecting on ideals, like those presented in the Scout Oath and Law. They’ll learn the importance of making the right ethical choices. The scouting program teaches kids the benefits of helping others, doing their best, and working as a team.

Because that’s what you’re getting when you buy Scout Popcorn. What other snack-food purchase could possibly give you all of those benefits?


2. You’ll Help Them Learn Salesmanship

buy scout popcorn

How can you say no to this face? Photo by shawncampbell

Salesmanship is one of the most important skills we can learn in our lives. We’re selling our whole lives. At some point, selling became a dirty word, but at its base, it’s just using the power of your words to convince another person that something we have will help them.

On a job interview, we’re trying to convince a potential employer that hiring us will benefit their company – even if that job has nothing at all to do with sales.

It’s hard to ask someone we don’t know to do… anything. But it’s a skill that we all need to develop in order to be successful in life. And interacting with you in a positive way, even if you don’t buy anything, is giving them a valuable learning experience. Of course, if you do decide to buy something, all the better.

Feel free to ask them questions about what they’re selling. Ask them what their favorite flavor is. Maybe also take a minute or two to ask them what they like most about Scouting.

The exercise of developing their sales pitch, giving you the benefits of buying, addressing your concerns, and talking to you in an open and friendly manner will help them build this valuable skill.

3. You’ll Help Them Build Confidence

The fear of rejection can be a tremendous limiting factor in our lives. It can hold us back and prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. The biggest part of accomplishing anything worthwhile in your life is the belief that you can. The idea that someone will buy what you’re selling is a tremendous confidence booster.

And if that someone isn’t mom or dad, or an aunt or an uncle, but someone they’ve never met, it’s all that much more powerful. This mom’s Facebook comment says it all.

You being friendly makes a huge difference. Your friendliness in talking to a young scout can help him to overcome shyness, help get him out of his shell, and help him build confidence. For me, that’s the best part of buying popcorn from a scout. Even better than the product itself.

4. You’ll Help Spread Scouting to More Families

In order for a child to benefit from the scouting program, they first have to join the program. They need to be recruited into the program and have that program run by the highest quality, best-trained leaders available. When you buy scout popcorn, a portion of the proceeds goes to support local Scout councils, whose job this is. They, in turn, provide support in starting new scouting units and recruiting new scouts into the program. In addition, they also provide financial assistance to ensure that no child is denied the scouting program because of a families financial need.

They also train leaders to make sure that scouts get a safe, exciting, quality program.


5. And oh yeah, You’ll Get a Great Product

As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying a bag of caramel corn that my wife bought from a Cub Scout selling in front of our local Target this weekend. I like it. You will too.

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Fundraising, Fundraising, Grow Your Group, Scouting
Our Favorite Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

Our Favorite Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

One of the keys to online popcorn sales is connecting with your customers. Letting them know why they should buy popcorn from your scout. Letting them know what their purchase will help your scout do. Not only are they getting a pretty tasty product (my wife just brought home some caramel corn from bought at a show and sell outside our local Walmart), but they’re supporting a young person getting a life-changing program. Ideally, you’re looking to make sales to friends and family who live in areas where delivering product to them yourself isn’t practical. Creating great Cub Scout popcorn sales videos can really help increase your sales.

Here are a few of my favorites to give you some ideas to get going.


The Commercial

If this young man ever winds up as a news anchor, you’ll see where he got his start. This one takes a little more technical skill to pull off, but a picture of a Tiger and some popcorn is always a winner.

The Straightforward Ask

This one takes a lot less technical know-how, but can be just as effective.

The Campaign Video

Here’s another cute one. It starts with a lot of great program pictures and ends with a good sales pitch. The campaign message at the end is very endearing.


The Behind-the-Scenes Video

Sheldon’s pretty awesome. The soundtrack reminiscent of “This Old House” helps too.

Sing a Song

These two Cub Scouts (and their little sister) will amuse and entertain you in a video where the cuteness jumps off the screen. They’ve also got a pretty awesome popcorn website.


Movie Trailer

If you’ve got an iPhone, then you’ve got a movie studio in your pocket. This video was made using the iMovie app. You don’t need a lot of technical skill to pull off something like this, just a lot of imagination.

Make Your Own Cub Scout Popcorn Sales Videos

If you’ve got a cell phone with a video camera, you can make a pretty good popcorn video. They also make lavalier microphones that will hook right up to your cell phone, so that your Cub Scout’s words can be heard clearly.

If your phone doesn’t take great video, you can get the video cameras that won’t break the bank. Or, if you’re going for a little more advanced, you can opt for a video camera with an external microphone.


If you’re just doing a plain, scout looks into the camera video, then you probably won’t need any special video editing software. But if you’re looking to be a little more elaborate. They also help if you need to do more than one take.

If you’ve got an Apple product, you can use iMovie. Unfortunately, on a PC, the good ol’ Windows Movie Maker has been discontinued, but there are some good free alternatives out there, of which Shotcut is probably the best. If that doesn’t work for you, I use Movavi Video editor, which is a paid software. Use promo code “SCOUT” at checkout, and you’ll save 10%.

Once you’ve got your video complete, make sure to share it with friends and family on Facebook.

Make Sure Your Video Includes

  • The link to your Scout’s online selling page (also in the description)
  • Some of the activities your Scout does during the year
  • A brief description of some of the products your Scout likes
  • Make sure to follow the BSA’s social media guidelines.
  • As tempting as it may be, don’t use copyrighted music in your videos. Audio jungle will give you royalty free music for as little as $1.

Creating great Cub Scout popcorn sales videos can help your scout increase their sales, and help to grow your pack’s revenue. You can reach customers you would otherwise miss, and the best part is, you can have a lot of fun with your scout while doing it!

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Fundraising, Grow Your Group, Marketing, Scouting
GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

If you’ve been to a scout camp in the last four years or so, you’ve probably seen kids playing a lot of GaGa Ball. It’s been the hit of our day camp for the past five years, and it seems like the pit at every resident camp I’ve visited is in near constant use. There’s even a “Gaga Center” on 93rd Street in New York City.

It’s a great game that will keep kids moving, and entertained for hours. It’s painfully simple to learn, and as kids play, they’ll start to develop strategies. Teenagers can play a fast, exciting physical style, and yet the game can be played effectively by kids as young as four or five.


The Origins of GaGa Ball

According to Stephen Silver of Tablet Magazine, the inventor of Gaga Ball is Steven Steinberg. Steinberg was a 17-year-old camp counselor at a JCC camp in Maryland, Camp Milldale.

One rainy day in 1975, Steinberg took the six-year-olds in his care to a covered, wall-less shelter. There they started playing a “form of dodgeball”. In order to stop the ball from rolling down a nearby hill, he laid some benches along the sides to contain the ball. And Gaga Ball was born?

And what about the name? Gaga Ball? It’s been said in some places that it’s from “touch touch” in Hebrew, but according to Steinberg, it isn’t quite so cultural. Apparently, during a moment of frustration with the children, he called his six-year-old charges, “a bunch of babies”, and they responded by making baby sounds. Goo goo, ga ga.

The name stuck. And when the activity became scheduled, it was written down as “ga-ga.”


Gaga Ball Rules

While the rules seem to vary by location, here are a set of “official rules” according to the Gaga Center in New York, here:

  • All players start with one hand touching a wall of the pit.
  • The game begins with a referee throwing the ball into the center of the pit.
  • When the ball enters the pit, the players scream ‘GA’ for the first two bounces, and ‘GO’ on the third bounce, after which the ball is in action.
  • Once the ball is in play, any player can hit the ball with an open or closed hand.
  • If a ball touches a player below the knee (even if the player hits himself or herself) he or she is out and leaves the pit. If a player is hit above the knees, the play continues.
  • Using the walls of the octagon to aid in jumping is legal as long as the player does not permanently sit on the ledge of the octagon.
  • If a ball is caught on a fly, the player who hit the ball is out.
  • Players cannot hold the ball.
  • If needed, a second ball can be thrown in the pit to expedite the end of the game. The last player standing is the winner of that round.

Making Your Own Pit

So, if you’ve got the time and a suitable permanent location, you can build your own Gaga pit. You’ll just need twelve 2x12x16′ boards, six 1x6x12′ boards, sixteen 3″ hinges, and two pounds of 2″ deck screws. And some tools. And it would help to be a much, much better carpenter than I am. But if you this kind of person, or you know somebody who is, you can find a complete set of instructions at


Or… you can buy an inflatable portable one

As you can see below, Gaga pits are on the expensive side. Probably out of the price range for most packs. But if you’re a council or district representative, you might want to look into investing in one. I know of at least one council that has one and lends it out to packs and troops as needed. They’re great for joining night activities.

The nice thing about it is that it’s portable and relatively easy to set up. It’s a little on the heavy side, but a couple of adults should be able to maneuver it. You will need an outlet to power the pump.


Photo by Camp Pinewood YMCA

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting