Scoutcraft is a term used to cover a variety of specialized knowledge and skills considered essential to safely enjoying outdoor activities such as camping, boating, climbing, etc. The specific areas of expertise may vary slightly, but typically include: camping (in varied conditions), cooking, first aid, wilderness survival, orienteering (navigating with map and compass) and pioneering (constructing shelters or gadgets from timber and rope lashings, proper care and use of axes, saws and knives, etc.).
Mastering these skills enabled early settlers and explorers to travel through uncharted wilderness and explore America’s western expanse.
Today, scouts must learn and master these skills as part of their advancement program. The advancement program provides “surmountable obstacles” that the boys can overcome – instilling a healthy sense of confidence as a benefit.
One of the ways to encourage the boys to work hard on these skills is to provide opportunities to practice. The outdoor activities program is one way to put the boys into situations where they can practice fire building, leave no trace practices, and setting up a safe camp. When a scout troop goes camping, it’s up to the boys to make the meal plans, organize the equipment, cook and clean up after themselves. In our troop, the adults provide oversight for safety’s sake, but otherwise let the boys practice leading each other.
Another program we use to reinforce skills is the annual Klondike Derby. Based loosely on the historical “Klondike Gold Rush” where an estimated 100,000 people traveled to the Klondike region of theYukon in the hope of finding gold, the derby is an inter-troop contest of skills.
The details of each derby will vary slightly, but typically consist of eight to ten “towns” or competition events. Scouts bring a home made sled to carry their gear and the scouts drag the sled from town to town. Competition events may include:
- Fire building using flint and steel or a maximum number of matches
- First Aid challenges where a staged “victim” must be correctly diagnosed and treated using approved methods
- Following compass settings and using the scout’s own pace to measure distances, complete an unmarked trail to arrive at the proper endpoint
- Demonstrate pioneering skills by assembling a tripod using staves and lashings
- Demonstrate the ability to tie various knots needed for pioneering projects
- Prepare a hot, nutritionally balanced meal for the sled team using minimal equipment and carefully packed supplies
- Using supplies carried on the sled, construct an emergency shelter large enough to protect all sled team members in the event of high winds or unexpectedly heavy snowfall, etc.
Throughout the competition, the sled teams, staffed by boy aged 11 to 17, must work out these challenges on their own. Adults are in place to administer the challenges and provide safety oversight only.
Scouts earn additional points for demonstrating good spirit, working together, completing tasks efficiently and by collecting bonus points for correctly answering scouting history questions or similar mental challenges.
While each team competes to win the prize of top sled, it is a friendly competition and requires scouts to demonstrate scouting’s ideals during the event – the scout oath and law are reminders that a scout must renew his commitment to these ideals daily.