Outings

Scouting is all about outing. One of the things that has distinguished the Troop 8 program over the years has been the number and variety of outings.  From fun nights playing mini-golf or going canoeing at Gallup Park to two weeks of summer camp or 9 days skiing in Vermont, the outdoors is where the real magic of scouting happens for kids.  Boys get to work with and play with other boys in their patrol, learning from older scouts, helping younger scouts.   They get challenged to learn new things, and get the direct feedback that comes from experience ("If I don't clean the pot at night, then it's really gross in the morning and my buddies think I'm a jerk.")  They build confidence in their abilities by facing the challenges of climbing, or skiing, or watching a wild thunderstorm roll by. 

To prepare for and be properly safe on outings, the troop tends to run sequences of events leading up to more challenging trips.   A biking sequence might start with checking out bikes at a meeting and learning some things about bike maintenance, then progress to troop meetings at the favorite mountain biking parks around town, then to a weekend outing with some longer trail riding.   A water sequence might start with swim nights at a local pool, then canoe days on flat water, then moving water practice on the Huron, then a fun trip up north on a more challenging river like the Pine, then a whitewater rafting weekend.    The more challenging the trip, the more fun and adventure!  And the more preparation!   For a boy or adult to participate on the later trips in a sequence requires participation in some of the "pre-trips" and "gear-checks" which help us be prepared and safe.

In terms of logistics, we use one permission slip for the year, rather than individual slips for each outing.  We ask that you keep your son's health and medical information up to date through your personal page on the troop web site.   Once a year, a physician physical exam is required using the medical exam form for all adult and youth participants in events.   Trips normally leave from the St. Thomas school cafeteria, and when we return from trips boys are normally dropped off directly at home (please make sure they can get in if you are not there, or they will be going home with us!).  Boys should bring some personal money to pay for fast food meals on the road, but all trip expenses are covered by dues or will be billed home. 

How do I figure out what gear to buy for my son?

Yep, it's true.   Like any hobby, outdoor adventure has its own gear.   That can be confusing when you and your son are first getting into it.   We are adding resources to the troop web site including a gear guide, gear exchange, and our list of preferred vendors for various outdoor gear.   The primary source of information, though, will be your son's Patrol Leader, who can help him make choices about various gear options.   In addition, the older boys and adult scouters are happy to consult on major purchases, including meeting you at a local shop to look at options.   We want your son to be comfortable and well equipped as much as you do!

 

We do ask that before you make any major purchase (like a backpack or skis) that you speak with us.   The troop is very particular about the type and fit of gear for outings, because it matters so much for safety and comfort.   We do not want to put you in the position of buying a great bike for your son's birthday, only to have him told by his patrol leader that because of the quality or fit he can't use it on our biking weekend.   By consulting with us first, you can be assured not only that you're getting the right stuff, but also that you're getting the best deal.

I want to learn how to ski / rock climb / etc. Can I learn along with my son?

Troop 8 resources and instructors are here primarily for the boys.    If you participate on troop outings as an adult, you will undoubtedly learn a lot by watching, listening, and absorbing what the youth and adult leaders are teaching.   As they have an opportunity, those same boys and adult scouters may give you some pointers or instruction.    We are not, however, an adult program, and for most of our trips the leaders do not have the time or resources to run adult instruction and still manage the learning, safety, and comfort of the boys.    If you like, we can direct you to local resources that offer opportunities for adults to learn outdoor skills.   Alternately, you can sign up for Outdoor Leader Skill courses as part of becoming an Adult Patrol Leader in the troop.

I want my son to call and check in every night. Is this possible?

Sorry, that option will not be available to your son on troop outings.   Even when we conduct trips to frontcountry areas, 40 boys trying to use a phone is not possible.  Cell phone coverage in the areas we travel is very limited and unreliable, and game-playing, texting, talking with friends at home is not why we venture into God's wild places.

 

In the event of any sort of problem or issue with your son the adult field leader for the event will call you promptly.   If inclement weather necessitates a delay or change in plans for our return, you will be notified by phone and email.  

 

If you do not hear from us, rest assured that "no news is good news" and your son is having a blast. 

How can I reach my son in an emergency?

For each outing, an emergency contact phone number is provided on the troop website.   Depending on the outing, this might be as straightforward as the manager of a campground or lodge, or as complex as the ranger district headquarters that oversees hundreds of square miles of land where we are hiking. 

 

Please reserve this emergency number for true family emergencies.   We have had calls in the field because a parent has suffered a heart attack or a sibling has been killed in an auto wreck.   To support your family in such an emergency, whenever we get any call from you in the field we will stop all activities for all boys and immediately begin plans to get your son home with the emotional and personal support he needs along the way.

There was a snow day from school today. Is the scout meeting canceled?

In general, Troop 8 follows the calendar and operations of St. Thomas school. If St. Thomas is closed for weather or for vacation, there will ordinarily be no troop meeting that evening.   For snow days, St. Thomas ordinarily follows the Ann Arbor Public Schools; if Ann Arbor schools are canceled for weather, St. Thomas and the troop meeting will usually be canceled.

 

For the actual updates, check the troop website and your email account as we will usually send notices out to one or both.

My son has a conflict with meetings or outings with another youth sport/activity. Is this OK?

Scouting is a skill-development, team sport. Scouts don't have to attend every meeting or event, of course. Our recommendation, though, is that they attend as much as they possibly can. Our experience has been that kids who don't attend around two-thirds of the meetings and outings will drop out of scouts after a year or so. Boys who don't attend often fall behind their peers in skills and ability, and become less comfortable going on events where their friends may be far ahead of them. Boys who are heavily involved in youth sports programs ("travel" soccer and hockey, etc.) that keep them away from scouting events usually need to make a choice between the two programs in the first year or two.

 

Occasional participants are also frustrating to their patrol-mates.   Players on the team who are behind in skills and abilities can hold back a group or require more supervision and leader time.   That may mean that the whole patrol has to choose a less interesting route or less challenging activity.   In response to their frustration with teammates who don't show, the boys have established what is known as the "50-50" rule: any boy who attends less than half the meetings or half the outings in a six-month period can be dropped from the active roster by their youth leaders.

Should my son bring money or a check to pay for the event?

Boys should never bring money to pay the participation fees for the event.   You can imagine the chaos of having 40 boys with checks and loose change try to pay and get their payment recorded.   We'd go crazy.   We also don't want any boy to be embarrassed if his mom forgets, or if his family is having financial difficulty.   So if you send money for the participation fees, the youth and adult leaders will refuse to accept it.   All troop financial operations go through the troop treasurer.

 

For some events, your son may choose to bring a small amount of cash for personal expenditures.   On most outings, an "on the road" fast food meal is purchased on the way out Friday night and on the return trip on Sunday, so your son should have enough spending money to pay for his meal.   Some other events like a troop bowling night may afford the opportunity to gets some fries and a coke, or there may be a chance to play air hockey while waiting for his patrol's turn at Whirly Ball on a fun night.    A reminder to "bring some cash for games while you wait" will usually be posted as part of the event information on the troop web site.

What should my son bring on the outing?

For overnight outings, an equipment list is available on the web site and through the troop. Boys should follow the list closely, and bring all of the items without bringing any extra.   Even on trips that don't involve backpacking, it can be a hike from the car to the campsite, and tents are not very large.  Excess gear will make your son very uncomfortable and unhappy.   Before trips in the "bad weather" season from October through March, older scouts in your son's patrol will conduct "gear checks" for your son to help make sure he has the gear he needs.

 

In addition to gear, your son should also bring some money for fast food stops en route to and from the destination.

Are there any things my son should NOT bring on an outing?

Generally, the gear list provided for an outing is a complete list, and a boy should bring all of the items and nothing else. Exceptions may be made for small items (deck of cards, etc.). Many home-comfort items, like pillows, bathtowels, etc. are frowned upon and will only be ruined. At all costs, avoid items with cartoon characters (mighty mouse blanket), teddy bears, or other "kiddie" items.

 

Electronic devices (iPods, cell phones, games) are prohibited on outings.  Exception may be made for long car trips provided the devices stay locked in the car after we arrive.  We prefer, however, that boys spend the driving time interacting with each other, helping the driver navigate, etc.  rather than "zoning out".

 

Personal caches of food, as well as pop and energy drinks are also prohibited.

Are equipment checks required?

Generally, yes.   Equipment checks are one of the ways we ensure the safety and comfort of all participants.   Our older boys and adults will be firm about making sure everyone has proper equipment by inspecting it for quality and fit.   Some in-troop "loaner" and rental gear is available to assist younger boys especially in having a full set of gear.

 

Adults participating in a trip as well as youth are required to complete an equipment check.   

Are pre-trips required?

For some outings, the troop requires participation in "pre-trips" or "prep-trips" prior to the main outing. A prep trip is typically a day trip or a meeting, but may be several months worth of intensive work for a Venture outing. Prep-trips develop skill and familiarize scouts and adults with troop operating procedures.  They also allow our youth leaders and adults to assess the skills and maturity of boys and adults so that we can plan the outings to be within the ability level of the group.

 

The requirements are serious and are not "bent" for either scouts or adults.

Do I need to fill out a permission slip for my son for each outing?

No. We ask you to fill out one permission slip for troop events for the year, which we hold on to for all outings.   Occasionally, an outside agency may require a special permission slip, but that's rare.

 

We also ask that you keep your son's medications, medical history, custody information and insurance coverage up to date throughout the year, by filling out the online form available through your account on the website.   If no changes are made for a calendar year, you will be notified to check and confirm the information we have on file.

 

We forgot about the signup / trip deposit. Can my son still go on the trip?

Your son can sign up on the troop website, in person at a meeting, or by phone or email to his patrol leader.   If for some reason he misses the timeframe for all of those options, he should call his patrol leader or the scout listed on the web site as Trip Leader for the event.    Where possible, we will accomodate occasional forgetfulness, but because of lead time requirements for reservations, etc., it may not be possible unless someone else cancels. Please do not just "show up" at the outing without signing up, doing pretrips, or passing equipment checks.  We will send you or your son home, which can be very disappointing.

 

Generally, we'd ask that you help your son be responsible for the signup & deposit deadlines. It drives the leaders nuts when we get "maybe's" at sign-up time, and do not have enough deposits in to secure reservations at the best rate.

My son has band/sports/karate/etc. Can I bring him out late or pick him up early from the outing?

Much of the work and responsibility of camping is in camp set-up and clean-up. It's unfair to the other boys to have your son come for the fun stuff and avoid the work. Special arrangements also require the adult leaders to go out of their way, which means that other boys' experience is negatively affected by the diminished adult coverage.  For these reasons, the troop does not allow late arrivals or early departures from outings. Occasional, rare exceptions may be made by the adult field leader for the trip, with very strict guidelines. Please understand that such requests are a very big favor, and will not ordinarily be granted. Help your son to make good choices between activities rather than rushing from one to another.

My son lost something on an outing. Is there a lost and found?

At the meeting following an outing, misplaced gear will be brought to be returned. Scouts are expected to keep track of their personal gear, so adults who pick up after the boys leave stuff in camp or in their cars may demand "payment" of $1 per item.   Your son should be prepared for that.

 

Lost items are kept on hand in the troop room until the annual troop gear auction.   If not claimed, they are then auctioned off or disposed of.

My son came home with some troop gear from the outing. What should I do with it?

Generally speaking, your son should not have come home with troop gear!   If through some confusion he did not hand off his share of patrol gear to his patrol leader to return to our equipment room, we would very much appreciate it if you would:

  • Open up any tents or other nylon tent-like things and hang them outside or in your basement to dry thoroughly.  Wet nylon mildews easily, and wet nylon left compacted will destroy the waterproof coating.   Please do not launder or wash tents or other nylon items.
  • Wash any pots, pans or utensils.
  • Dispose of any food or garbage.
  • If your son borrowed personal gear from the troop (sleeping bag, extra clothing layers, etc.), please launder all polypro or fleece, but do not launder sleeping bags or rain jackets or pants. 

Most of all, please make a point of leaving the gear somewhere where you trip over it until it is returned to the troop.   Gear which gets lost in your basement is gear that will be missing for your son and his friends when they need it.   Please return gear at the start of the next meeting, even if your son can't make the meeting personally.  The Quartermaster needs time to inspect and repair gear so that it is ready for the next event.

My son doesn't seem to like outings, and avoids going on them.

There are often some comfort/maturity issues for first year scouts, and it's difficult to go from a webelos program that car-camped once or twice a year to a scouting program that goes on overnights and activities more than once a month. Talk to the scoutmaster about how together we might gently encourage participation.  Often if you push and we pull a bit, a boy will come out enough to get over his initial fear or reluctance.   Once he's developed some comfort and skill, he'll be raring to go.

 

In some cases, boys might not quite be ready to be separated from caring parents to face outdoor challenges with their friends.  In that case, you might consider taking a year off, and coming back to scouts when he is a bit older.   The scoutmaster can help you with that decision.

 

Ultimately, we understand that there are some kids who decide they don't like camping (it's dirty, smelly, cold, uncomfortable...).  Our feelings won't be hurt if you help him find some other fun youth activity.

Can parent(s) come on outings?

Parents are welcome on outings, and are often needed as drivers!   Parents must meet the same equipment and pre-trip requirements as the boys in order to participate. Parents who come on an outing serve as extra adult leaders, and are expected to stay with the adults and not interfere with the boys' activity by helping them cook, cleaning up after them, sleeping with them, etc.  Parents are expected to follow the rules set by the adult Field Leader, and not be either more or less strict with their child than the scoutmaster.

 

Mothers are welcome on outings as well as dads, and we have had quite a few camping moms over the years.   Within the troop, this is less common than having dads come out. We would encourage you to inquire as to your son's feelings about mom's participation before signing up.

I'm an expert canoeist/backpacker/etc. Can't I skip the pre-trips?

No. Adults must meet the same requirements as the boys.   Even experts need to get refresher training, and to learn troop procedures.  Canoeing with a mess of kids is different than canoeing by yourself or with a friend.  Plus, prep trips are fun!   Participating also provides a good example to your son of the importance of learning and being prepared.

I've been asked to drive on an outing by the Transportation Coordinator. What should I know?

You should read the online document on Driving+Procedures to familiarize yourself with the way we manage having 40 kids on the road together.   You should also go to your personal page on the website to make sure your driver information is up to date.   The Transportation Coordinator has to file this with the BSA.

 

You'll get specific instructions from the adult field leader or the adult patrol leader when we meet up prior to departure.  The scout trip leader will provide driving directions and maps for each vehicle, as well as designated regroup points.

Do I get reimbursed for gasoline costs when I drive on an outing?

Generally, no.  Driving is a volunteer effort on behalf of the program.   We try to share driving among the parent community as much as possible  Your driving mileage is tax deductible as charitable mileage if you itemize your federal income tax.

 

On some particularly long trips, like summer camp or the biannual Vermont ski trip, gas costs are built in to the trip fees and we will reimburse you for gas costs.   Please submit your receipts to the troop treasurer.

Can younger (or older) siblings come on outings?

No.  Just as a younger sibling can't participate in your son's 5th grade school trip or soccer match, participation in scouting is also off limits.   The troop does not know the medical history, abilities, maturity, personalities and level of preparation of siblings, and your other children don't have a relationship with our youth and adult leaders the way your son does.   The troop can't be responsible for brothers & sisters, and their addition complicates the logistics and the trip dynamic. A parent who comes on an outing is serving as a troop adult leader, and cannot be spending time tending to other kids.

 

On a few day-trip length events during the year, younger and older siblings may be allowed when the activity allows parents to directly supervise other children without impacting the program for troop boys.    These events will be indicated in the troop web site event descriptions. 

It's raining / snowing /etc. Is the outing canceled?

Troop outings go in all kinds of weather. Unless the outing is advertised as "fair weather only" it will almost surely be "on." In fair-weather-only cases, or in the rare event of a cancellation of a regular outing, all the boys who have signed up will be called. Our boys get very good at camping in bad weather.

It seems like the troop goes on a lot of difficult outings that make me nervous

Yep. Troop activities are exciting and challenging.  Just wait until your son joins the Venturing program!  

 

Challenging activities help boys to grow, and keep them interested and enthused. While exciting and challenging, the activities are also designed to be age and ability appropriate for boys in this group, and are as safe as we can make them. That's why we insist on things like gear checks, prep trips, and following troop procedure.

Why does the troop do so many trips that involve long drives and getting back late on Sunday?

Unlike the webelos camping program, which focuses on local car-camping trips appropriate to that age group, Boy Scout trips are designed to meet the needs and challenges of older boys. These are designed to fit the BSA program, providing opportunities to meet the requirements for 2nd class and higher ranks, and for merit badges required on the road to Eagle Scout. While the troop does run quite a few local day trips and some local weekend trips, the outdoor resources of southeast Michigan are somewhat limited. The patrol leaders therefore make use of upstate Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky,  Ontario and western Pennsylvania on a regular basis, because these areas offer variety and opportunities that would not be available locally. This does make for longer drives, but our experience has been that the benefits to the boys and the program are well worth it.

Does the troop carry accident insurance for outings?

Primary coverage for any accident or injury your son has while on a troop outing is going to be your family health care plan. The troop does not as a matter of course provide health coverage. Some limited coverage may be available in a particular year through special arrangement with the BSA and the local council.  Such coverage is "excess" coverage for your personal health care plan, and is very low-limits.   Please talk to the parish Scouting Coordinator if you have questions.

What is the Venture8 program?

The Venture8 (Venturing Crew 8) program is a St. Thomas program for high school aged boys who have become experienced campers through the Troop 8 program.  Venture8 focuses on "high adventure" outings and activities of a challenging nature. These include backcountry skiing, caving, rock & ice climbing, advanced backpacking and mountaineering, whitewater kayaking, scuba, coastal and blue water sailing and a variety of others. Troop 8 Venture scouts become strong outdoor leaders capable of running their own expeditions.

 

The program follows the outdoor leader curriculum of the Wilderness Education Association and the National Outdoor Leadership School. In accord with BSA guidelines for Venture Patrols/Venturing Crews, Troop 8 runs 2 extended trips each year, usually over spring break and in early August. Months of effort, preparation, training and practice are required prior to each major Venture expedition.

 

For more information, check out the Venturing program's separate website at venture.troop8.org.

How does my son join Venture8?

To be part of the Venture8, a scout must be entering high school and at least First+Class rank.   More importantly, a scout must be selected into the crew by the current members and adults, based on their maturity, reliability, and level of camping skill. This generally happens around age 15, and begins with inclusion on training trips and short events before full participation.   An aggressive and challenging "pre-V" trip is often used to assess whether a boy's skills and maturity have reached the point where participation in extended high adventure expeditions will be successful for him. 

 

There is no application for the Crew 8 program; when the guys feel he's ready, your son will be invited.

My son is working toward First Class and has to buy food for a weekend outing. What should I do?

If it's his first time around, his menu will have been approved by his patrol leader or one of the adult leaders.   You should go with him to the store and buy food. He should have a list and a number of people to buy for. While the youth and adult leaders do their best to screen menus, sometimes the oddest additions of "pop tarts" seem to happen along the way!   Please exercise some judgement in terms of nutrition and minimizing cost, and help him to understand these pieces.  However, please do not add significantly to the quantity of food planned.  Unlike at home, extra food in the field cannot be saved and creates a real disposal problem, as well as an attractive hazard for animals!

 

Save the receipt from food shopping, and submit it to the treasurer as soon as possible for a credit to your troop account.

Can my son snowboard instead of ski on a ski trip?

As with all of our events, our winter sports outings are a combination of fun and learning.  We do our best not only to “get kids outdoors” but to build their skills rapidly through hands-on learning opportunities.  Our Troop 8 staff and senior scouts are very capable alpine, telemark, and Nordic ski instructors.  We are therefore able to offer the equivalent of double-length private small-group lessons to our skiers on all of our outings and our first few days in Vermont, using current Professional Ski Instructors of America materials and techniques.  The result is that our skiers progress very quickly to levels where they can safely ski Vermont intermediate (Michigan Black Diamond) hills on their own. 


We love our snowboard riders, too!  Snowboards have the advantage/disadvantage of having a steep learning curve.  Progress is painful, but for those who stick with it is also relatively rapid.   Troop 8 does not, however, have the depth of instructional skill in snowboarding that we do in skiing.   For that reason, in order for your son to keep up with his peers (and keep the safety/supervision burden manageable for us), he will need to avail himself of appropriate professional lessons on troop trips for at least part of the time. For this reason we have added (or will add) appropriate professional lesson fees to your son’s scout charges.   These fees are in general not eligible for financial aid. Because professional lessons are shorter and less comprehensive, we will still try to have one of our youth or adult leaders available to help coach our snowboard riders in addition to their lesson time.


As a parent, if your son is a “raw beginner” or has only been out a couple of times, our youth leaders would like to encourage skiing as a better choice.  That’s particularly the case if you know your son is likely to become upset or discouraged by initial failures, since the first couple of times out on a snowboard can be very frustrating.  Regardless of your choice of snow sliding equipment, we are happy to do what we can alongside our professional colleagues to help develop your son’s snow riding skills.