OC Scouting Editor’s Comment: If you are doing any sort of long term or potentially extreme weather outings (desert, snow, water) then you should consider backpack inspections. Not only does it help the person whose weight you may reduce or help them have the right gear, but it is also a great opportunity for Patrol Leaders to go through a checklist and help each member of his Patrol. It is a opportunity to learn a different leadership principle.
I covered a Mount Rushmore hike for Scouting magazine a few years back, and I still remember the big thud 11-year-old Curt’s backpack produced when it hit the ground.
Curt’s backpack was stuffed. It looked ready for an 80-mile trip, not the eight-mile day hike we were on.
One assistant Scoutmaster also noticed the backpack’s thud and picked it up to test its weight.
“Wow! This is heavy,” she said. “What have you got in here?”
“Let’s see,” Curt said before emptying the pack.
Inside, it was as if Curt had raided a convenience store. There were enough snacks and beef jerky to feed the entire troop, three full bottles of water (he had finished a fourth), and four D-cell batteries for a flashlight he’d left back in his tent. I should point out that despite having to lug this unnecessary weight, Curt hadn’t complained once.
But I had to wonder: Did anyone get a look inside Curt’s backpack before the hike?
I thought of this anecdote when A., a committee chairperson in Alaska, wrote me to ask whether other Boy Scout troops (or Venturing crews) have pack checks before a campout, backpacking trip or day hike. A. writes:
My question to you is do you know if other Boy Scout troops have pack checks? Our troop wants to put in place a pack check the day prior to a camp out. The plan is that the older Scouts will check the younger Scouts’ packs to make sure they aren’t missing anything important. It will also be a time to divide the food and equipment among all the Scouts to evenly distribute the weight.
Seems like a great idea to me, A.! Especially if it’s the older Scouts — not the adults — doing the pack checks.
Pack checks shouldn’t be punitive. They should be lighthearted occasions where everyone shares a goal: Make the upcoming hike or campout more fun.
What do you think?
How does your troop or crew handle pack checks? Leave some ideas for A. in the comments section below.