Great Books for Scouters

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great books

These great books for Scouters have taught me practical skills, history, outdoor lore, and inspiration that has enabled me to become a better Scout leader.

adventure Outdoor Adventure Manual
Published by Scouts UK with a forward by Bear Grylls The Outdoor Adventure Manual is packed with practical Scout skill tutorials ; tents and camping, fire, food and cooking, tools and gadgets, knots and lashings, navigation, first aid and survival, and more.Skills are explained step-by-step with photos and illustrations that really bring them to life. I’ve read a number of ‘how-to’ books that I suspected were written by people who had not actually tried out what they were describing. The Outdoor Adventure Manual leverages the know-how of many experienced authors to provide practical instruction that is inspiring and easy to follow.

Outdoor Adventure Manual at Amazon

fourpercent Four Percent
‘You don’t so much earn the Eagle rank as you become an Eagle—a fact only the Eagles in the audience, and the Scout’s parents, fully appreciate. And in becoming an Eagle, you are changed forever.’Four Percent is much more than a simple history of the award in this centennial year of the Eagle Scout – it is a significant contribution to what it means to be an Eagle Scout. It is a “must read”.

Four Percent at Amazon

BKULTIPS_medium Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips
I enjoy all kinds of camping but backpacking is my favorite. My troop is not a ‘backpacking’ troop, it’s a Scout troop that does go backpacking and it’s great fun.  provides a lot of useful information on making this part of our camping program better and I think it can do the same for you.

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips at Amazon

 gearguide The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide
This book changes how we sling a  pack on our backs and hoof it into the wild just as Fletcher’s Complete Walker once did. Fletcher’s first books recorded his monumental treks (The Thousand Mile Summer and The Man Who Walked Through Time) and these expeditions resulted in The Complete Walker. Skurka’s stunning 30,000 miles of trekking over the past decade have resulted in The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide. His writing is as focused, practical and essential as his twenty pound pack – there’s nothing in it you don’t need.

The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide at Amazon

backpacker-repair Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair 
Scouts are pretty hard on gear and a well-stocked repair kit and (perhaps more importantly) knowing how to use it can save a camping trip. If you wake up in the middle of the first night of a week-long backpacking trip to find your inflatable sleeping pad as flat as a pancake, or put a good-sized hole in your tent, or break the zipper of your rain jacket  you’ll be happy you invested the time reading the guide and  put together a good repair kit.

Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair at Amazon

men-of-schiff The Men of Schiff
Win Davis shares the stories and lives of a number of Scouters he was fortunate enough to have known, and weaves together a history of the Boy Scouts of America from the unique perspective of the men and women who “built a movement out of nothing but a book written by an English general, the interest of boys and the willingness of men… to take on the job of teaching boys to love the outdoors and live comfortably there.”

Men of Schiff at Amazon

Wildwoods Wisdom
Ellsworth Jaeger was an educator, author and curator. Jaeger’s early inspiration was author and Scouting founder Ernest Thompson Seton.
In Wildwoods Wisdom Jaeger records the ‘rich American folklore ‘ of living in the woods. Clear explanations accompany wonderful illustrations intended to help us learn to be less dependent on ‘the myriad of jingle jangle gadgets of some of our modern outdoorsmen’. No one can read this book without itching to try some of the ideas and techniques Jaeger illustrates.

Wildwoods Wisdom at Amazon

The AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership
A guide to how groups function in the outdoors, how to develop good expedition behavior and how to guide group development towards a shared goal. There’s a great deal of information about working with teens that Scout leaders will find particularly valuable. Kosseff also includes an excellent section on risk management and building risk management plans.I attribute the success of our annual extended canoe trips with studying the first edition of the guide but the skills are equally valuable on our weekend camp outs.

AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership on Amazon

Listen to my interview with Alex Kosseff on Scoutmaster Podcast 68
My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George authored the story of Sam Gribley and his falcon Frightful just over fifty years ago. 8 million copies and 12 translations later My Side of the Mountain has established itself as a classic of children’s literature.The story of  Sam Gribley’s adventures in the woods became a trilogy of  books (My Side of the Mountain / On the Far Side of the Mountain / Frightful’s Mountain). Sam’s learns how to survive and makes an existence for himself using woodcraft skills. The story has sparked the imagination of a generation and kindled the aspiration to learn about and experience the natural world.

My Side of the Mountain Trilogy at Amazon

Will To Live
As a Scout leader and outdoor program teacher I’ve been involved in a few (comparatively) minor wilderness emergencies. Anyone who has been in true danger in the wilderness does not want to repeat the experience.Reading Will to Live is an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen skills and learn an attitude of preparedness that will enable you to bring yourself and the people you lead safely home.

Will to Live by Les Stroud at Amazon

Interview with Les Stroud on Scoutmaster Podcast 58
Medicine for the Outdoors
Our first duty as Scout leaders is the safety and well being of our Scouts. We need to know how to keep them safe and how to respond if they are injured or ill. There is nothing in this book that you don’t need to know. I don’t think you have to memorize this book but I would encourage you to know what’s in it and how to find it quickly. Make notes and practice the skills before you need them. I have a Kindle copy that I can carry on a smart phone, iPod or similar device.

Medicine for the Outdoors at Amazon

Hear an interview with Dr. Auerbach on Scoutmaster Podcast 57
Working The Patrol Method
Working the Patrol Method a Scout leader’s guide to youth leadership training is the best work on the patrol method since ‘Green Bar’ Bill Hillcourt’s Handbook for Patrol Leaders last published in 1965 or Baden Powell’s Aids to Scoutmastership originally published in 1920.Authors Rob Faris,Ted Knight and Harry Wimbrough have written an indispensable book for understanding, implementing and maintaining Scouting’s centrally important concept, the patrol, in the 21st century.

Working The Patrol Method on Amazon

Listen to an interview with Rob and Harry  in Scoutmaster Podcast 40
The Scouting Party
A thoroughly researched, unflinching account of the founding and first decade of the BSA focused on the lives of Earnest Thompson Seton, Robert Baden-Powell and Daniel Carter Beard. No one has so thoroughly analyzed the events and personalities that, despite their differences and rivalries, brought Scouting to the United States.

The Scouting Party on Amazon

An interview with author David C. Scott in Scoutmaster Podcast 20
Camping’s Top Secrets
My first reaction to this title was “yeah, right”. I’ve been a camper all my life spending a thousand or more nights under canvas or on the trail. My camping education started forty years ago with Colin Fletcher’s book ‘The Complete Walker’ and expanded to the classics written by Horace Kephart, Nessmuk and Bradford Angier. I thought I knew all the tricks until I read ‘Camping’s Top Secrets’.

Camping’s Top Secrets at Amazon

Interview with Cliff Jacobson on Scoutmaster Podcast 54
Fbcfrontcoversmall Freezer Bag Cooking
The ingenious technique ‘boils down’ to this ;  measure ingredients into a 1 quart freezer bag and add hot water, wait a few minutes and viola! – a great-tasting meal. Most of the recipes consist of ingredients you can find on the grocery store shelf.Add a home food dehydrator and the possibilities really expand. Blogger and author Sarah Svien offers home made cozies (an insulating fabric envelope for freezer bags) and other supplies at the Trail Cooking Website that features a blog and quite a few recipes.

Freezer Bag Cooking at Amazon

Nessmuk_2 Woodcraft and Camping
‘We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it we go to smooth it. We have it rough enough at home…’‘ The temptation is to buy this or that bit of indispensable camp kit has been too strong and we have gone to the blessed woods handicapped with a load fit for a pack mule. That is not how to do it. Go light, and the lighter the better so that you have the simplest material for health comfort and enjoyment. ‘Nessmuk is the pen name of George Washington Sears. In 1884 he wrote the book Woodcraft and Camping and it has been in print ever since. His approach to camping is satisfyingly philosophical and completely practical. Worthy reading for anyone who wants to take to the woods.

Woodcraft and Camping at Amazon

Tbaf To Build a Fire and Other Stories
‘He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his danger. Gradually, as the flame grew stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he fed it. He squatted in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame. He knew there must be no failure. When it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail in his first attempt to build a fire…’Jack London’s storytelling is as crisp and clear as a cold winter’s day. He wastes no words in drawing us into a the stark and challenging realities of the north woods. With each reading of ‘To Build a Fire’ I can feel the frost creeping into my fingers.

To Build a Fire and Other Stories at Amazon 

Wb Eric Sloane’s Weather Book
Eric Sloane explains the way weather works illustrated with his own drawings.A couple of hours spent with The Weather Book and you are thoroughly versed in the workings of the atmosphere and well on your way to becoming a reliable forecaster. Knowing the weather is an important skill for Scoutmasters and outdoorsmen in general and The Weather Book is a fine resource for developing your expertise.

Eric Sloane’s Weather Book at Amazon

LeopoldSandCountyAlmanac A Sand County Almanac
Leopold’s Sand County Almanac is a collection of essays that capture the ‘fierce green fire’ in a philosophy that has gone on to influence a generation of environmental awareness.
I cannot gather wood and light a fire without recalling Leopold’s essay “Good Oak”:…on a crisp winter’s day we laid a newly filed saw to its bastioned base. Fragrant little chips of history spewed from the saw cut, and accumulated on the snow before each kneeling sawyer. We sensed that these two piles of sawdust were something more than wood: that they were the integrated transect of a century; that our saw was biting its way, stroke by stroke, decade by decade, into the chronology of a lifetime, written in concentric annual rings of good oak.

A Sand County Almanac at Amazon

  The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook
In this unique and highly personal book, Ray offers hundreds of proven ideas for building strong, successful, sustainable troops that truly achieve the promise of Scouting. Beginning with Scouting’s aims and methods, the book moves quickly through every aspect of the program, from troop meetings and outings to fundraising and administration.

The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook at Amazon

Listen to my interview with Mark on Scoutmaster Podcast 72
  Golden Guide to Trees
I have a couple of other guides but reach for my well-worn Golden Guide to Trees first because I find it easier to identify trees from illustrations rather than photographs. The guide features over 730 species of trees grouped in 76 families. Each species description includes characteristics-tree shape, bark, leaf, flower, fruit and twig-for quick identification.

Golden Guide to Trees at  Amazon

0811731081_1 National Outdoor Leadership School Cookery
Each year 3000 students spend two weeks to three months in the back country on National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) courses. Thats a lot of back country cooking!The folks at NOLS have developed a simple, varied and inexpensive diet that is based on staple foods that can be found at any grocery store. There’s also a wealth of information on planning, packing and preparing meals for extended trips or just a weekend.My particular favorite receipt is Thai Gado-gado Spaghetti featuring a peanut sweet and sour sauce.  Mixing peanut butter in spaghetti raises some eyebrows but I have never had any leftovers.

NOLS Cookery at Amazon

How to Sh** in the Woods
Author Kathleen Meyer has written pithy, humorous, informative, completely frank manual about how and (perhaps more importantly) how not to sh** in the woods. Does such a evidently simple aspect of outdoor life deserve it’s own book? Anyone who has found themselves in the middle of the wilderness lacking key information about the subject would say yes!

How to Sh** in the Woods at Amazon

Expedition Canoeing, 20th Anniversary Edition: A Guide to Canoeing Wild Rivers in North America
Anyone planning a canoe trip of a few days or a few weeks will benefit from studying the advice given in this book. Author Cliff Jacobson offers solid, tested techniques and then points out the many ways things could go wrong. He uses stories from his considerable experience to illustrate how important it is to plan carefully, not to compound mistakes and thereby opens up the possibilities of canoeing in some incredibly wonderful places.There is a section devoted to accounts of expeditions by different authors that serve to inspire and inform planning. A very engaging and thorough book, the premier one on the subject.

Expedition Canoeing at Amazon

Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own
I actually made a canoe paddle, and plan on making some more. My new paddle served me admirably on an extended trip. This is as complete a treatment of the subject as one could hope to find. Making a paddle is a reasonably complex process but the authors explain every step with well-illustrated clarity.

Making Canoe Paddles at Amazon

Don’t forget to look at my own books The Scouting Journey and Thoughts on Scouting