Adults must Be Prepared for high adventure, too

Scouts and adults hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch
Scouts aren't the only ones who should be physically fit before embarking on a high-adventure activity. Photo by Christopher Langlois

We at the BSA spend a lot of time teaching youth how to Be Prepared for rigorous Scouting activities. Since all Scouting activities are conducted under the engaged supervision of at least two conscientious adults, it’s clear that Scouting’s adults need to Be Prepared for high adventure, too.

High adventure isn’t supposed to be easy. In fact, the challenge of climbing a mountain or paddling 100 miles is a big part of what makes it so great.

The bottom line: Your Scouts need you to be OK so you can make sure they’re OK.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you, a conscientious adult, prepare for a challenging outdoors adventure.

  1. Meet with a licensed health care provider. You’ll have to do this anyway in order to complete Part C of the BSA’s Annual Health and Medical Record. Why not put it on your calendar and do this every January?
  2. Have an open and honest conversation with your provider about whether it’s appropriate for you to go on this outing. For some people, this is the hard part. It doesn’t help anybody if you aren’t totally honest with your doctor. Things like body mass index and heart rate only tell part of the story. How are you really feeling about this trip? Do you think you’re physically up for it? If not, do you think you could be by the time of the trip?
  3. Ask about any medical risk factors that you’re concerned about. Some risks are obvious. Some of them aren’t. If you have ever experienced any of these issues, talk to your doctor (this is not meant to be a complete list):
    • Excessive body weight
    • Cardiac or cardiovascular disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Seizures
    • Asthma
    • Sleep apnea
    • Allergies
    • Ingrown toenails, recent musculoskeletal injuries and orthopedic surgery
    • Psychiatric, psychological or emotional difficulties
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Any communicable diseases, such as pneumonia or COVID-19
  4. Get fit! Always consult your doctor before beginning a fitness routine, especially if it’s been a while. Many of the workouts in the SL Gym are great for adults, too. Check out our stories here, here and here for more fitness ideas.
    In general, though, keep one important thing in mind: There are no get-fit-fast shortcuts when it comes to being physically fit. It’s a lifestyle that includes a combination of proper exercise, diet and sleep. Your unit might have practice hikes planned months before an extended backpacking trip. Participate in those! If you’re getting in shape on your own, start months before your trip. The BSA’s Passport to High Adventure, for example, suggests starting the process six months before you leave and slowly building up, continuing right up to your departure date. If you’re already in excellent physical condition, that’s great! However, keep in mind that even the most avid gym rats can struggle to adapt to, say, a rigorous expedition at high altitude. Regardless of how much time you spend at the gym, there’s nothing like throwing on a loaded backpack and getting used to walking around with it months before your trip.
  5. Get trained! Training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is essential to allow proper and prompt attention to injuries or illnesses. In every crew, at least two people, and preferably three or more — either adults or youths — should be currently trained in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. We’re big fans of WFA. You never know when it will come in handy. Why not train all the adults as part of planning and preparation? (WFA trainees can be 14 and up.) Additionally, make sure your Youth Protection Training is up to date. Click here to learn more about the BSA’s Leave No Trace courses.

How do you make sure you’re prepared for high adventure? Let us know in the comments!

Adult Scouting volunteers exercising together
Photo by Tommy Penick

About Aaron Derr 468 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.