Here’s some of the books that have helped me as a Scout leader and outdoorsman. This collection has helped me learn practical skills, history, outdoor lore, the Scouting program and provided inspiration for many years.
|The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide
Andrew Skurka’s new book will change the way 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.
|Four Percent – Eagle Scout History
Author Mike Malone is an experienced Scouter with an impressive resume of leadership. 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”.
Now available in a Kindle Edition on Amazon.
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.
|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. Some of the skills are represented accurately, some are a bit fictionalized, some are outdated. But My side of the Mountain is not a an instructional manual. 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.
|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 smartphone, iPod or similar device.
|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.
|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.
|Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Boy Scout
In 2006 a number of alumni of troop 826 in Irving, Texas gathered for a reunion camping trip. They swapped stories and enjoyed the food that their Scoutmaster, Mr. Street, still sharp and active at age 87, cooked for them. As author Richard Bennett listened he understood how much being in Scouting meant to him and the other men there. The result is ‘Everything I Need to Know I learned in Boy Scouts’ a simple, engaging and inspiring book that captures the universal, timeless aspects of Scouting.
|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
|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.
Available at Amazon
|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
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
|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 (paperback and Kindle editions)
|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.
Available at Amazon
|The Boy’s Book of Camping and Wood Crafts
Bernard Sterling Mason assembled a virtual encyclopedia of woodcraft in this book first published in the 1930’s. There is more practical information in this book on old-school fire building, cooking and woodcraft lore than in any other book I own.
Mason’s style and illustrations are engaging and easy to follow. The book has been reprinted with the title “The Boy’s Book of Camping and Wood Crafts”.
|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.
Available at Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions)
|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.
|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. As with any guide one must learn how to use it properly. Become familiar with the family descriptions and nomenclature featured in the front of the book and you will be a tree expert in no time.
The Golden Guides have been around for decades and remain popular for their clarity, simplicity and utility.
Available at Amazon
|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 (paperback and Kindle editions)
|How to Sh** in the Woods, 3rd Edition: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art
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!
Available at Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions)
|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 form 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