The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Webelos Walkabouts
For several years now, I have organized a three-mile hike for Cub Scouts. In addition to earning the Hiking Belt Loop, the event gives Webelos the chance to experience life as a Boy Scout unit. Many of them participate without parental supervision for the first time, which gives the boys a sense of independence and accomplishment at the end of the day.
When the BSA rolled out their program updates last year, they introduced Cub Scout Adventures as core requirements across all ranks. For Webelos, that three mile hike, once an elective, is now rank advancement. There is no getting around it.
The Webelos Walkabout adventure has 8 requirements.
- Create a Hike Plan.
- Assemble a Hiking First-Aid Kit.
- Describe and identify from photos any poisonous plants and dangerous animals and insects you might encounter on your hike.
- Before your hike, plan and prepare a nutritious lunch. Enjoy it on your hike, and clean up afterward.
- Recite the Outdoor Code and the Leave No Trace Principles for Kids from memory. Talk about how you can demonstrate them on your Webelos adventures.
- With your Webelos den or with a family member, hike 3 miles (in the country if possible).
- Complete a service project on or near the hike location.
- Perform one of the following leadership roles during your hike: trail leader, first-aid leader, lunch leader, or service project leader.
Step 1: Identify Trails with a Conservation Opportunity
The Wauponsee Glacial Trail has a three-mile segment that begins at the local Forest Preserve District office. This flat, paved segment is ideal for first-time hikers. The site gives us the opportunity for an hour-long service project. Our boys helped mulch the property under the supervision of Forest Preserve staff. We also included a few Tenderfoot Boy Scouts who needed service project time for Second Class advancement. In total, there were about 50 boys.
Step 2: Pre-Hike the Trail
Before I chose this trail as the location for our event, my wife and I hiked it. We wanted to get a feel for the trail, especially since it crosses three roads. By pre-hiking the trail, we could plan where we would take breaks. We knew where the boys would encounter scenic views.
We also developed our safety plan.
Step 3: Promote! Promote! Promote!
Once you select your trail and set your date, you have to promote the hike. The District Rountable and Council Website is an effective way to get out the word. Rainbow Council also served as the registration point for the event, taking Name, Rank, and Serial Number for both boys and adults.
The Council also took a $5 fee which covered the cost of the Walkabout Pin and event insurance.
Step 4: Recruit Assistant Hike Leaders
Our first Webelos Walkabout was a council-wide event. Nearly 50 boys participated. With that many boys to check-in, get to a service project, and then take on a hike; you will need help.
We divided the boys into patrols, each having six boys and one adult leader. Each boy was given a leadership role to complete Requirement No. 8. Having small Patrols made it easier to manage.
Step 5: Open Registration and Assign Pre-Event Work
Some of the requirements must be done ahead of time. We assigned pre-event work that the adult leaders checked before the service project began.
- Assemble a Hiking First-Aid Kit.
- Prepare a Nutritious Lunch, such as a sandwich and a piece of fruit.
- Learn the Outdoor Code from memory.
- Learn the Leave No Trace Principles for Kids.
We asked the boys to bring a canteen that connects to a belt or waist-pack with at least one litre of water. We banned soft drinks, energy drinks and juices.
We also banned open-toe shoes and Crocs. Gym shoes are adequate for a paved-surface hike, but some boys do have hiking shoes. We find that hiking shoes may not be broken in ahead of time, making a three-mile hike a bit uncomfortable for the boy.
Finally, we encouraged the boys to bring a backpack to carry everything. They could use the backpack they take to school. The rationale is they have more to carry than hands to hold it.
Step 6: Check-In Process
On the morning of the event, we set up a card table in the parking lot for check-in. An adult leader checks-in the boys and assigns them to patrols. We give each boy a card with the name of their patrol, leadership responsibility (assigned at random), and the cell phone number of their adult patrol leader.
Here is a sample Patrol Template.
Since our hike is a one-way event, we also have maps to the end point and phone numbers.
Step 7: Service Project
The goal of our program is to complete the Webelos Walkabout in its entirety in one day. Once Scouts have been assigned a patrol, Assistant Hike Masters will work with the Scouts to review their hiking first-aid kits, teach basics about poisonous plants, as well as discuss the Outdoor Code and the seven principles of Leave No Trace. We expect the Scouts to have memorized the Outdoor Code and principles of Leave No Trace ahead of this event.
Step 8: Hike
Before the hike, we review some basic rules. Patrols hikes alphabetically by name (Alligator, Bigfoot, Cobra, etc.). We instruct the boys on basic visual signals that we will use (halt, quicker pace, etc.). It take about 75-90 minutes to complete.
Once we are underway, we stop every mile for a mandatory water break. We rest for 5-10 minutes before resuming, and at Mile 2 we stop to eat lunch.
Some things to consider:
- Dress for the weather; Class A Uniform preferred. It’s great advertising for Scouting.
- Wear a hat of some form, preferably a Scout baseball hat.
- Recruit Tenderfoot Boy Scouts as pacesetters. These boys 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.
Step 9: Advancement Sign-Off
At the end of the hike, each adult leader signs the Scout’s advancement. The Cub Scout Packs are responsible for reporting advancement, even though we award the Walkabout Pin on site.
Step 10: End of Event and Post-Mortem
Once parents retrieve their boys, the core leadership group huddles for a brief post-mortem to discuss what went right and what we could do better.
Here’s a Dilbert-like definition of Post Mortem you might like.
If you have any questions, leave them in the section below.
I’m happy to help as much as I can.