“How far have we gone?” “How many more miles before we get there?” “Do we know where we are going?”
We have all heard these statements, along with the inevitable “Are we there yet?”, when taking youth on a wilderness camp or even a day hike. This is a fun project that you can do with your group during a meeting prior to the outing as a hike preparation activity. The youth can be working on making Ranger Beads while you, or the hike leader, talks about other ways to prepare for the trip. When you are on the hike and someone wants to know when, where, or what is going on, you can refer them to their Ranger Beads for the answer.
Ranger Beads are pace count beads that help you track the number of paces you take while walking or hiking to your destination. This is a very old technique used to measure distance. Roman soldiers were said to use beads to keep track of how far they marched. In Rudyard Kipling’s book Kim, the young boy Kim is asked to watch what the enemy does and report to the British troops anything he finds out. He is taught how to measure the distance he has walked by using knots tied in a piece of rope.
If you know the length of your stride and are tracking the number of strides (or paces) you are taking with your Ranger Beads, then you will know how far you have gone, just like Kim.
This tutorial shows an easy way to make your own set of Ranger Beads.
How to use your new Ranger Beads
First, each person needs to determine his or her pace count. To do this, you must know how many strides you will take to cover 110 yards. A stride is the length your foot travels while you walk. To measure your stride, start walking with one foot and then count how many times the other foot takes a step. For example, if you started walking with your left foot, you would add one to your count every time your right foot touched the ground. (110 yards is 1/16th of a mile).
Next you need to count this for a specific distance: 110 yards. The easiest way to do this is to go to a local football field and have your group members count their stride from goal line to goal line, then multiply each stride count by 1.1 to determine their stride for 110 yards. This is the pace count that they want to remember for measuring the 110-yard distance.
Measuring distance with your Ranger Beads
To measure distance with your ranger beads you keep track of your strides as your walk or hike. Set your Ranger Beads to the initial position with every bead moved to the top (closest to the loop). Every time your count matches the stride count you determined was your number for 110 yards, you move a pace bead (one of the seven) from the top to the bottom of the pace section of the cord. This tracks every 16th mile that your have covered. Start your count over again, and move a bead each time you reach your pace count number.
When you have moved all seven of the pace count beads, don’t stop. Keep counting until you reach your pace count for the 110-yard distance an eighth time. Now you can move all the pace count beads back to the top and move one distance bead down. You have just walked 1/2 mile.
Continue this way to measure how far you have traveled. Remember that when you move the last distance bead down, you keep counting until it would be time to move another distance bead. Then you reset everything back to the top and you have now covered three miles (assuming you put a fifth bead in the distance group.)
This works the same way for kilometers, but you need to have nine pace beads and, typically, four distance beads. Once you know your stride count for 1/10 of a kilometer, every time you hit that count you move a pace bead down. When you have moved all nine you continue counting your stride (just like with the mile beads) and when you get your 1/10 kilometer stride count number, you move a distance bead down. You have now covered one kilometer. A configuration of four distance beads and 9 pace beads will allow you to measure five kilometers before starting over from the initial position.
Now that you have your Ranger Beads and have determined how to measure distance with them, it’s time to put them to good use. Take the group out on a hike and have them measure how far they hiked. If you know the distance beforehand, you can have small prizes for those that measure closest to the actual distance.
Understanding and awareness of distance and how far you have traveled are good skills for anyone to know. Ranger Beads are a fun way of helping grow that skill in youth.