The troop trailer Jim Rosensweet inherited when he became Scoutmaster had seen better days.
The year was 1987, but this trailer must have been from the 1950s or 60s. Inside the rickety old thing, Rosensweet found heavily used gear that needed replacing, too.
But instead of spending the troop’s money on a new trailer, Rosensweet steered Troop 55 in a different direction.
And that’s the day the troop out of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., became an all-backpacking troop.
“Several of the older boys wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, which is how we got into backpacking,” Rosensweet says. “Then it hit me. Why haul tons of gear around when everything each person would need can be carried in a backpack?”
So they got rid of the troop trailer, the eight-man tents, the heavy chairs, the picnic tables.
From then on, anywhere they went — weekend trips to state parks, district camporees, summer camp and traditional backpacking trips — the troop brought only the gear that Scouts could carry on their backs.
(OK, so occasionally they’d cheat and bring along Dutch ovens when car camping. But the rest of the time, the rule held.)
Now, this won’t work for every troop, but in Troop 55 it’s a hit. To hear Rosensweet tell it, it’s a better experience for both Scouts and adults.
“Boy Scouts is all about camping, and too many troops have gotten away from this basic part of the Scouting experience,” he says. “Backpacking is easier on the leaders, and the boys love it.”
What about the cost?
Troop 55 buys much of its gear from thrift shops. Gear is upgraded as funds become available — better tents one year, lighter sleeping bags the next.
The result, Rosensweet says, is smiles all around.
“The boys loved it, and my workload was cut drastically,” he says.