Walking in Dayton: What’s a Bear Bag?

We learned a lot of lessons on the first run into the woods with Troop 6.

The first lesson was Bear Bag does not mean what I thought it meant. And yes I do have the mind and sense of humor equal to or less than that of an adolescent. Fart jokes still make me laugh uncontrollably. Sue me.

As much as I dreaded the cold and then almost actually froze to death, there was so much good out of that weekend. I learned the entire time. And even at my age that’s a good thing. One of the lessons I learned from the outset; camping stuff is expensive as I don’t now what.

Let me tell you one thing, I don’t want to hear another peep about golf clubs, balls, greens fees, and what have you. Golf could never ever approach the expense of camping. I mean both are outdoors, both involve walking and at times carrying a heavy bag on your back, other than that…


My only camping experience before the Frank joined the Scouts. That’s our backyard.

And you’re kind of stuck you know. It’s Frank’s first gig with his new boys. Can’t have him in hand me down stuff. First of all there is no hand me down stuff. Tracy and I are not campers. If we’re not in a Marriott or something equivalent, we count that as roughing it.

So it was off to the outdoorsy store for stuff. I should have hit the prescription med store for some nitro pills first. Wow, my heart jumped a few times and I had not made it out of the special “hiking and camping” water bottle section yet. As I said in the original camping post, we did end up with some cool stuff, but that stuff cost a cool nickel. Again I was just in the accouterments area. I was on my way to tent/sleeping bags and then hiking clothes. Cause you know you need layers and such. And those layers should be as low key chic as possible. Although there was no peeling of layers on this trip. But I got Frank some good stuff and he was styling without looking like he was trying to be styling.

He did get a few things for Christmas so it wasn’t the full monty of equipment but it was close. I managed to cobble together my kit. Styling, low key or otherwise, just ain’t my thing. My old boots still fit and were in great condition. I was advised they weren’t great for hiking. I said, Boy these boots walked miles and miles, and most of that was the hard concrete of Air Force flight lines. They’ll be fine.  And they were.

Tracy had a sleeping bag and mat from a Cub Scout trip so I was good there. I wore a plain pair of kakis. I’m not dropping $45 on a pair of “specialized” hiking pants.  Honestly my old camo from work still fit me. The pants did anyway. But I had to balance not spending money and not embarrassing the kid. I get the situation. Trying to make an impression on his boys, he doesn’t need his old man wearing knee high black socks to the beach if you know what I’m saying.

Look man I’m not a granola eater. I don’t go out of my way to become one with nature and I build fires the old fashion way, with matches and small fire starter thing-a-ma-jigs I got at The Kroger.  All neatly vacuum sealed in a bag you use to seal up meat or veggies  or whatever. However I made myself keep an open mind and try to let some of these 14 to 16 year old kids teach me something. They’re all granola. And styling. And cool. And Frank idolizes them. So I gave way to these kids most of the weekend, and cheated the fire when they weren’t looking.

If I had thought to bring my small can of WD-40 I would have had that fire going tout suite. Nothing like good old Ozone depleting aerosol to get a roaring fire going at the spritz of vaporized lubricant. But like I said I did learn a few things. Helpful things for next time. If there is a next time.

Weight is an issue. This isn’t your typical overnighter. It helped to be mindful of what went in the pack. There is no conveyor belt to drop your bag on after the TSA agent unfolds all your undies. You got to hump that pack brother. So what goes in there better be necessary.

Food and water are more important than a second change of clothes.  This one I kind of knew myself. We didn’t have change of clothes on the flight line. And there were no rain delays. Plenty of days I spent the entire shift soaked. It happens, it won’t kill you. In this case the recommended three set of clothes, the set on your back plus two in the pack, was overkill. Likewise with the “camp shoes”.

Camp shoes are any foot type gear that isn’t hiking boots. Flip flops, Crocks, tennis shoes etc… This was so you could take off your hiking boots and relax your feet in camp. In my case unnecessary weight. I spent hours and sometimes days in those issue boots. A two mile walk and another eight hours in them was nothing.

Sit your ass down. Bad move on my part. I had plenty of opportunity to sit. I just didn’t. No idea why. And it became a problem when I got up the next morning to hit the old #1 tree. My legs didn’t work. Cramps in both calves and thighs. Down on my face in frost covered leaves.  I’m old what are you gonna do?

Get off the ground. Two different adults had no tent. They strung hammocks and put a tarp over themselves. (Good call G. Granroth) With a sleep mat lining the hammock in addition to his sleeping bag, the one guy said he actually stuck his feet out a few times because he got a little too warm. The gel in my iris’ almost froze solid and this guy was so warm his little pig toes had to get some crisp, fresh air a few times during the night.

The ground he said, the ground saps your heat. I knew that too. Damn it. Well I’ve never been accused of being the brightest bulb. Have my eye on a light weight camping cot now. This Scout parent will be sleeping in comfort next time.

Be smart about packing your food.  This was one of the biggest lessons I learned. And it provided the funniest/scariest moment of the trip. Well, aside from my stranded turtle scene early in the AM.

As it turns out hiking/camping food is either a smell-able or it isn’t. Meaning bears can either smell it or they can’t. If they can, they’re coming for it.  And they can smell a damn lot from a long way off.  I was looking forward to hitting a few Slim Jims that I was going to stash in my sleeping bag for a middle of the night snack. Yeah, no. Into the Bear Bag please.

The what now? Bear Bag? The Bear Bag is for all the smellables. It’s just any type of bag that can hold all the food, and is then strung up in a tree away from the camp for obvious reasons. Can’t have no bear traipsing through camp looking for my Slim Jims at 2am. Speaking of which…


Skippy you home? Is that bacon, why I had no idea.

So I learned what would be Bear Bag necessary. Some things are not as obvious as others. Factory sealed foods like Slim Jims can still be smelled by bears from a long distance. Didn’t know that.  Bacon, Bear Bag. Even I knew that one.

Yet somehow the community bacon that was going to be cooked for the morning meal provided to all the scouts was left with the youngest member of the troop. Said young man failed to offer it up when the Bear Bag went round. Everyone got a portion of the community meal to put in their pack. Share the weight as it were. This poor kid knew less than me about camping and that’s saying something. He had no idea, no one had any idea four pounds of Oscar Meyer’s finest was tucked neatly and safely in Skippy’s pack.

He might as well have been carrying a live grenade. It wasn’t until the morning when the call went out for breakfast to be assembled that the Bear Bag came down so the food could be sorted. 

Adult 1. Hey where is all the bacon? (Names changed to protect the guilty.)

Adult 2. I think Skippy has it. 

Adult 1. He ate all the bacon!?! When!?! Did he eat it raw!?!

Very young scout 1. Yeah I think Skippy ate it all. (Very young scout 1 has no idea by the way. Skippy has eaten none of the bacon.) 

Adult 1 to other adults who will not be numbered. Holy cow who gave Skippy the bacon to carry? He ate it all. 

Other adults. Undecipherable mumbling and dismissive/judgmental shaking of heads.

Skippy. (Walking up still in PJs, bed head, and 1 sock, oblivious to the great Dayton bacon incident of 2020) Hey what should I do with all this bacon?

Adult 1. (Pale as a mother f*****g ghost when he realizes what has actually happened and the lawsuits that would have sunk Boy Scouts had Timmy been pushing up daisies in the belly of a bear because most of the veteran adult campers just assumed everyone else knew what they were doing on their first camping trip.) You had that in your pack all night Skippy!!!!!!

Other adults’ begin to shake their heads for real when they realize 1. they dodged a huge bullet and 2. four pounds of bacon packed sloppily in Saran Wrap was like setting out bear bait. Skippy and everyone who was slower than they, probably should have been eaten in their sleep by a pack of roaming bears.

But unlike us, the damn bears knew what the temp was gonna be and packed it in for the night. No doubt all snuggling together in a nice cave somewhere, deciding Skippy’s bacon wasn’t worth the nut freezing cold.

So a big lesson learned there kids.

If someone has the bacon in their tent for the night, make sure you’re not the slowest runner in camp.