Thoughts on The Nature of Camping

by Clay Capp, 2002 National OA Chief

    The founders of both the Scouting Movement and the Order of the Arrow valued camping as a way to teach Scouting skills. But each Scout who has truly experienced the outdoors while camping will value camping for its own sake. True, it is in the outdoors that many Scouts learn how to tie their knots and their bandages, and first use a compass. But it is also true that the outdoors is where a Scout's self-reliance is fostered.

    Anyone who has spent time in the outdoors, attuned to nature, will say that there is a special connection to be felt with the natural world. From that connection grows the skills needed to feel a confidence that can start in the woods and extend to life in general. Learning to cook cleanly in a camp, and how to "leave no trace" are important skills, but the reason they exist is because true campers are always looking for ways to maintain their connection with the natural world.

    We all have an inclination toward nature. Whether it is expressed by watching sunsets or the Discovery Channel, it is enhanced when someone is immersed in a pristine outdoor place. Those that do not believe such a connection exists have not camped in earnest. Among campers it is commonly said during rough weather or a setback, "Well, you never hear anybody say, 'Hey, remember that time we went camping and everything was so easy and it was sunny the whole time and nothing went wrong.'"

    The reason we value the challenges of a rainstorm, or a missed trail marker (while those things are not preferable) is because overcoming the difficulty they represent proves to us that we are capable in the wilderness. It shows we are able to surmount obstacles with our own self-reliance and the combined efforts of our campmates and friends.

    Outdoor camping promotion is part of the Order of the Arrow's purpose because we try to instill in Scouts the appreciation for the wilderness that leads to two things. The first is the feeling of accomplishment and teamwork resulting from successful time spent in camp. And the second thing, realized by all who have had a truly wilderness camping experience, is the value of our nation's - and the world's - natural resources. It is our hope that Scouts grow to become good stewards of our land, and encourage the good management of our irreplaceable wild places.

    The Order of the Arrow provides two high adventure camping programs at the national level. Each provides the opportunity for Scouts to spend meaningful time in the wilderness.

    The Order of the Arrow Wilderness Voyage at Northern Tier is Scouting's premier experience for Arrowmen. Besides working on conservation projects in a partnership with the National Forest Service, Arrowmen have the rare chance to immerse themselves in the pristine, untouched wilderness that is our nation's northern boundary waters. Scouts from around the country join together for this unique experience, spending a couple of weeks in the wilderness with fellow outdoors enthusiasts who become good friends.

    The Order of the Arrow Trail Crew provides a way for Arrowmen to spend time with fellow campers in the backcountry of Philmont. In addition to working on trails to benefit future campers, the Scouts also spend time with fellow Arrowmen who also seek the wilderness experience.

    I strongly recommend the OA Wilderness Voyage and Trail Crew as a great way to spend an extended period of time camping in an untouched wild place with quality Arrowmen from around the country.

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