In a digital world where young people enjoy escaping to virtual gaming environments, Boy Scouting provides an alternative for learning and experiencing hard skills that increase their self-confidence and independence. When snow starts to fly, scouts enjoy taking on the challenge of making snowshoes, a traditional woodcraft skill with roots tracing back to 4000 BC. Troop 115 recently made this one of our activities.
After doing a bit of research, the scouts decided to follow the plans posted by Troop 1051 in Colorado, who use heated sand to soften PVC and allow it to bend into a form. We modified the design somewhat, taking an incremental approach that used readily available poly rope lacing instead of the HDPE deck, and a simple pack strap binding based on the traditional lamp wick style. The scouts learned that consistency in the sand’s temperature is key to even heating and material flexibility, so stir the pot before pouring into the PVC (best left to adults!).
Once assembled, lacing the shoe “toes and tails” was largely an artistic and engineering endeavor, with minimal guidance on what might work best for the application. Who could come up with the best, most effective solution? Of course, the only way to pick a winning design was to test the shoes on snow, so the following weekend the troop headed for Castle Peak in Donner Pass.
The conditions were optimal, with warm weather and five feet of snow as the scouts set off from the trailhead. They soon learned that the lamp wick binding was not optimal however, as most struggled for consistent tension and walking style. After walking about half mile the scouts decided a snowball fight and shelter construction would be a better use of the day! In later evaluating the project, the scouts enthusiastically voted the snowshoes a “winner” to be further improved on, beginning with binding refinements.
Make your own adventure, and get involved in Scouting today!!