5 Things I Learned Hiking with 10 Year Old Boys
In The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Webelos Walkabouts, I described our Council’s program to complete the Webelos Walkabout in its entirety in one day. Our first outing had nearly 50 Scouts. As you would expect, we learned a few lessons in the process.
Divide and Conquer
Tiger Scouts have the attention span of goldfish. Webelos aren’t much better.
What is worse is that 10 year old boys get distracted by every thing.
We learned a few years ago that placing a small number of boys into a Patrol made them easier to manage during the hike. We divide the boys in other ways too. For example, boys behave and are more responsive to adults they do not know. We separate parents from their children for this reason, which helps us with behavior.
Naturally, we make accommodations for boys with special needs such as autism. For the most part, however, the boys are part of our structure.
Organize Like Soldiers
Including adults and parents who wanted to hike with us, our group had 75 participants. That is a huge number of people and it demands organization. To make things easy, we organized like an army group.
- Patrols have six boys and one adult leader. This is a Squad in Army parlance.
- Platoons, which have no Scout equivalent, have three to four squads.
- The Troop, an Army Company, has two to four Platoons.
Each level has an adult leader with the Hike Leader as the Commanding Officer.
Here is the order of how the Troop hikes:
- Pace Setter – a Tenderfoot Boy Scout †
- Assistant Hike Leader – the Executive Officer who also supervises the Pace Setter
- Platoon A – Overseen by an Adult Leader
- Patrol A – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Patrol B – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Patrol C – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Patrol D – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Platoon B – Overseen by an Adult Leader
- Patrol E – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Patrol F – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Patrol G – Six Webelos and an Adult Patrol Leader
- Hike Leader – Commanding Officer, Cubmaster, etc.
† Tenderfoot Boy Scouts are about the same size as Webelos and will walk at a pace that is right for everyone. Having Boy Scouts also eliminates all the “Can I Lead?” drama of the Webelos.
Most 10 year old boys have never walked three miles at a 20-minute mile pace.
They get tired. They get cranky. They whine.
We stop every mile for a mandatory water break. We also have a nature observation opportunity where we also stop. Lunch at Mile 2 helps too.
Bring Extra Snacks
Even though we remind parents to feed their sons breakfast, we get hungry kids. Some forget their snack. I pack granola bars.
Have Extra Water
Bring extra water bottles to pass out before the hike begins. Some boys will run out of water, lose their bottle, or forget to bring one. It’s the nature of the beast.
Bonus Tip: Use Radios
In hiking, the accordion effect refers to typical deceleration and acceleration of hikers when the hiker in front decelerates or accelerates. These changes in speed propagate backwards and typically get bigger and bigger further down the line.
A 75 person hike can spread over ¾-mile, making communication difficult.
We equip every adult leader with a radio for this reason. It is easier and quicker to communicate up and down the column this way.