Bad Decisions as a Path to Maturity

Several years ago, Den 1 of Cub Scout Pack 14 visited the Palo Alto Police Station. I saw this taped to the door of a holding cell in the basement.

Good judgement comes from experience.

Experience comes from bad judgement.

I thought that was a really positive attitude about arresting someone. They’ve made a bad decision. The police let them experience the consequences so they might make a better decision next time. That is the best possible outcome, right? Their judgement improves and the police don’t see them again.

This is one of the hard parts of being a Scouter, watching the leaders (the boys) do it wrong and not stepping in to fix it. If you fix it, they don’t get the experience and they’ll just have to do it wrong one extra time. Or four extra times. On the other hand, you do need to keep watching, because the experience shouldn’t be dangerous or so overwhelming that they don’t learn from it.

If you aren’t busy enough with that, take some time to learn from your own bad judgement and experience. I seem to always have a generous supply of that sort of experience.

MLD Speedmid Tent – Less is More

My big Christmas present was a lightly-used Speedmid tent from Mountain Laurel Designs. It sleeps two people in comfort and weighs under a pound and a half with tent stakes and stuff sack. It uses a single trekking pole as a center pole. There is no floor, so I bring a big sheet of Tyvek (12 oz.) or a single person polycryo groundsheet from Gossamer Gear (2 oz.).

I use a breathable bivy (Ptarmigan from Titanium Goat) in case of condensation or blown rain. I also like to tuck my head inside the bivy when the breeze picks up. The bivy is essential for tarp camping, but I’m not sure it is worth carrying for use inside the Speedmid, even though it is only 7.5 oz.

Here is the tent set up at Eagle’s Aerie campsite in the Sunol Wilderness. It is set up very low to the ground, because we expected wind and rain. In less threatening weather, the tent can be pitched with the edges higher for more ventilation and more room inside.


Not long after this photo, a big storm came through. With hail. My tent buddy and I ducked inside and stretched out for a nap. As you can see, it was a nice tight pitch, shedding the rain, hail and wind. Unlike a tarp, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time fussing with the pitch. I moved a couple of pegs, tightened the lines, and I was done.

You can see how the edge of the Tyvek sheet was nicely back from the edge of the tent so water would not pool on it.


It is plenty roomy inside. I’m 6′ 3″ and my tent buddy is nearly as tall, and we both had room, with our gear inside. The tent walls do slope at a pretty low angle—the heavy nighttime rain was surprisingly close to my head and a little distracting.

This was a very exposed campsite and it was uncomfortably windy and cold outside. It was plenty windy, enough to blow down the cooking tarp, but the tent didn’t show it. It felt very secure, much more so than my other, heavier, tents.

There was no condensation inside. I was a bit surprised at that, because it was very humid (raining), the tent was pitched for minimum ventilation, it doesn’t have a peak vent, and the 40º weather was perfect for tent condensation.

I expected some rain to come in when I opened the door, but it wasn’t a problem. Most of the rain falls on you, whether you are outside leaning over the zipper or underneath it and opening from the inside. Make sure you flip your sleeping bag away from the door, and it’s fine.

The tent does take a fair amount of space to set up. The base is nine feet square, so allow a 10×10 space, as much room as a big family tent. On the other hand, there aren’t any guy lines to trip over.

All this for $170, the same price as a five and half pound REI Half Dome. If you have the cash, you could upgrade to the roomier and even more storm-worthy MLD Supermid, but the Speedmid is a heck of a lot of tent at an affordable price and a very light weight. Less is more.