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Training for the Backwoods

An old Canadian scout and trapper, over eighty years of age, Bill Hamilton, once wrote a book called My Sixty Years in the Plains describing the dangers of the adventurous life of the early pioneer:

"I have often been asked," Hamilton wrote, "why we exposed ourselves to such dangers. My answer has always been that there was a charm in the open-air life of a scout from which one cannot free himself after he has once come under its spell. Give me the man who has been raised among the great things of nature. He cultivates truth, independence, and self-reliance. He has generous impulses. He is true to his friends, and true to the flag of his country."

The trained backwoodsman knows the ways of the woods

The trained backwoodsman knows the ways of the woods. He can make himself comfortable in a thousand small ways.

I can fully endorse what this old scout has said, and, what is more, I find that those men who come from the farthest frontiers-from what we should call a rude and savage life-are among the most generous and chivalrous of their race, especially toward women and weaker folk. They become "gentle men" by their contact with nature.

Play Hard - Work Hard

Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America (1901-1909), also believed in outdoor life. When returning from an hunting trip in East Africa he inspected some Boy Scouts in London, and expressed great admiration for them. He wrote:- "I believe in outdoor games, and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games, or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured. I have no sympathy with the overwrought sentiment which would keep a young man in cottonwool. The out-of-doors man must always prove the better in life's contest. When you play, play hard; and when you work, work hard. But do not let your play and your sport interfere with your study."

Learn to Look after Yourself

The truth is that men brought up in a civilized country have no training whatever in looking after themselves out on the veldt or plains, or in the backwoods. The consequence is that when they go into wild country they are for a long time perfectly helpless, and go through a lot of hardship and trouble which would not occur if they learned, while boys, to look after themselves in camp. They are just a lot of "tenderfoots".

They have never had to light a fire or to cook their own food- that has always been done for them. At home when they wanted water, they merely had to turn on the tap- therefore they had no idea of how to set about finding water in a desert place by looking at the grass, or bush, or by scratching at the sand till they found signs of dampness. If they lost their way, or did not know the time, they merely had to ask somebody else. They had always had houses to shelter them, and beds to lie in. They had never had to make them for themselves, nor to make or repair their own boots or clothing.

That is why a "tenderfoot" talks of "roughing it" in camp. But living in camp for a Scout who knows the game is by no means "roughing it". He knows how to make himself comfortable in a thousand small ways, he enjoys it all the more for having seen the contrast.

And even there, in the city, he can do very much more for himself than the ordinary mortal, who has never really learned to provide for his own wants. The man who has to turn his hand to many things, as the Scout does in camp, finds that when he comes into civilization, he is more easily able to obtain employment, because he is ready for whatever kind of work may turn up.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

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