Scoutmaster Nick Brooks Reflects on Troop 1906’s First Backpacking Trip
Nick Brooks is an Atlanta-based teacher and father of two boys. He’s passionate about time spent in the great outdoors and is on a mission to share that passion with others. Nick mentors youth through his role with a local Boy Scouts troop, many of whom haven’t previously had easy access to wilderness and outdoor adventure planning.
Nick’s enthusiasm for backpacking and creating an inclusive space for outdoor skill-building and exploration resonates greatly with all of us at Gossamer Gear. Plus, he runs the fantastic account Outdoor Gear and Beer, which pretty much speaks for itself. Definitely check it out for outdoor inspiration and post-trail refreshments.
Interview with Nick Brooks, Leader of Boy Scouts Troop 1906 in Atlanta, Georgia
We caught up with Nick to learn about how he got involved with Troop 1906 in Atlanta, what it was like taking a group of young men on their first backpacking trip, and how Gossamer Gear played a role in keeping the troop’s pack weight down.
Gossamer Gear: How did you first get involved with Boy Scouts and Troop 1906?
Nick: A few years ago, some dads that I am friends with in the neighborhood reached out and told me that they were putting their kids into scouting and that there was a Pack (1030) that was small and they needed help to grow it. We were involved with that pack for four years under the leadership of one of my friends who is the Cubmaster, and became Atlanta Area Pack of the Year two years in a row. So, two years ago, my oldest son and some of the dad’s boys moved over to Troop 1906, a troop that is chartered by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. This is my third year with them, and my second year as Scoutmaster.
Why is this work important to you? What impact do you think outdoor adventure has for kids?
My father is an Eagle Scout and, when we were kids, he kept us engaged in outdoor activities. We would hike, fish, go biking, fishing, canoeing, and even go sailing. Growing up on the eastside of Atlanta (Decatur, Georgia), my triplet brothers and I realized that our friends who were also Black did not have the same experiences in the outdoors. As an adult, it has become a passion of mine to expose youth, as well as my adult friends, to the outdoors. I want to create a counter-narrative that people of color do, in fact, also enjoy the outdoors and all it offers.
What are some of the barriers youth face when it comes to outdoor recreation?
Depending on where you live, I believe the primary barrier can be opportunity. For example, I live in an urban area where outdoor recreation is not something you’d find taught in schools or clubs that have it as their focus. So, unless you know someone who knows someone, there’s very little chance you’d be exposed to an opportunity to engage in outdoor recreation outside of traditional athletics.
Another barrier is access to quality equipment or gear. Quality gear is very important to ensure that youth have a good experience in the outdoors. It can make or break whether or not one grows to love it or hate it. I once led a hike and had a scout who wore boots that were too small for his feet. Most of the kids loved the experience. That particular kid, however, hated every minute because all he could think about was his discomfort. I felt terrible for him. I’ve also seen where young people have gone out in the woods with heavy equipment and struggled to carry their gear, or don't have decent rainwear, and it killed the experience for them.
However, quality gear comes with a price. Sometimes, it’s hard for families to be able to afford quality gear, and, other times, it’s hard for the parents to justify paying so much for something they don’t have experience in or plan to do as a family.
Was this the first backpacking trip for any of the boys? Where’d you all go and how long were you out?
We did about eight miles on the Appalachian Trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Aside from my son, it was everyone else’s first backpacking trip. We were out for just one night. We did several day-hiking planning meetings for this trip. My son, the Senior Patrol Leader, taught the group about the 10 Essentials, how to pack their packs, how to dress and layer, and helped the patrols plan their meals.
Since it was their first overnight trip, we only did one night. I wanted to push the mileage, but my son thought it would be better to keep the mileage low so the scouts could work on scout requirements like setting up tents, cooking, practicing “leave no trace” principles, and how to set up camp.
What’s one of your favorite memories from this trip?
When I think back on the trip, the scene that pops into my mind are those initial moments before we actually started the hike. We were all at the trailhead, and I watched the boys eagerly putting on their packs, checking one another’s fit. It was really special to know that I was part of something that was introducing these young men to something they had never done before. The anticipation and excitement was electric! It was awesome.
Did any Gossamer Gear products serve as your gear MVP during the adventure? If so, what about the product did you enjoy?
Absolutely!!! Some of the boys had their own packs that they wanted to bring. On our last gear check when we went through all of our gear and the Mariposa came on the scene, and the boys saw how much lighter it was, they left their packs at home and went with the Mariposa! And the same with The Twos. I think their minds were blown and thought it was so cool that the tents didn't use traditional tent poles, but rather used the light trekking poles they used while hiking!!
How can folks follow along with your work and help support what you’re doing?
We are a relatively new Troop, and are working on building our social media presence so that folks can follow what we do. In the meantime, if anyone has questions on what we’ve planned for the future or want to know how they can help, they should email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.