Cub Scout Camping: Top Tips For Parents On Packing and Prep

Are you gearing up to camp with your Cub Scouts pack? Camping is a great opportunity for Cubs to learn new skills, enjoy nature, and get to know other Scouts. As the Cubs get older, they will become more self-sufficient. By the time they transition to Scouts BSA, they’ll be doing crazy things like choosing to cook steak for their dinner! 🤪

PS. This article is a guest post collaboration between Cub Scouting volunteer Jaci H and Cole 🙂

I remember an elaborate menu — including steak — my son described for a Scouts BSA outing! That was the choice of the boys though. At that age (11-18), they plan the meals, cook, and clean up. At the Cub Scout level, they’re just getting introduced to camping with families — and that’s a really special time too! 

In this article, I’ll share camping tips from former leaders, Scouts, and parents. I’ll keep the experience level geared towards the younger Cub Scouts and focus on preparing for the trip, along with supplies to bring. In Cub Scouts, camping is done as a family in the earliest years. As they near a transition to Scouts BSA, the rules start to change a bit

How To Prepare For Cub Scout Camping

To prepare for Cub Scout camping, you’ll want to make sure your Cubs understand how to camp, what to bring, and what to expect. If your family has been camping regularly, there likely won’t be any surprises for them. However, there are families who have never camped! As a result, the Cubs might be a little intimidated. 

To help alleviate some of that anxiety and practice the physical setup of camp, have a campout in your backyard a few weeks before an outing. It can be just your family or the families in your den! Get even the youngest Cubs involved in the setup and takedown of your tent. This video (4:47) provides a great walk-through!

Next, gather your sleeping bags, pillows, and a sleeping mat (highly recommended for comfort), and put them in your tent. To make it fun in your backyard, you can read a book with a camping lantern, play a simple game, or tell stories. If you have a Cub who likes scary stories, you can do that, too!

One pack offers a “Camping 101” den meeting to demo equipment options and share packing lists and tips before an outing. Another pack from San Francisco, CA hosts an “Ask Me Anything” Zoom meeting geared toward new campers. In addition, the pack has new campers matched with mentoring families. What a great idea! 😃

Another pack said every camping trip is “treated like it’s the first one.” An email sent before the outing recaps equipment needed (and what the pack will provide), menus/food provided, a reminder of the pack’s policy on food allergies and intolerances, a programming overview and schedule, FAQs, and parking fees. 

How Cub Scouts Should Get Ready For Camp

It is so tempting to do a lot to help your Cub, but remember that they are learning skills and independence. Let them accomplish as many tasks as appropriate for their age. Pack their overnight bag with them. You can make a game out of how fast they can collect their items! Start a timer and read the packing list to them one by one. 

Remembering The Six Cub Scout Essentials

Of course, there are a lot of important things to pack…but some are more vital than others! Scouting is all about being prepared, and that becomes even more important in the great outdoors. The six essentials that Cub Scouts should carry in small daypack are as follows:

  1. Small first aid kit
  2. Filled water bottle
  3. Flashlight
  4. Trail food (opt for nutritious foods like trail mix!)
  5. Sunscreen
  6. A whistle

Helpful Link: This Scout Life article has a good visual of camping essentials (although it shows the 10 essentials for Scouts BSA) and additional notes on items to consider!

I know we’re talking about Cub Scouts, but I really loved this idea from a Scouts BSA packing perspective. George L. had Scouts pack items in an old plastic peanut butter jar. First the Scouts decorated the jar with duct tape — you know there are many, many colors and patterns of duct tape to make something unique!

Mr. L. had the Scouts include a small baggie with 20 sheets of toilet paper. I think TP should be an essential item! In addition to essentials, the kids packed wipes, a small trash bag, and 20 feet of paracord. As the Scouts advance, they’ll use rope more. Learn 101 uses of paracord in this video (14:18). It’s mind-boggling!

Helping Cub Scouts Memorize The Six Essentials

As Cub Scouts pack the six essentials for day hikes and campouts, the list will start to become second nature to them. When you’re ready to pack a small backpack with the six essentials for your camping outing, have them pack the bag while you simply supervise. You might be impressed by how much they remember! 😉

To help Cubs memorize the six essentials list, play some games at a meeting before your campout. First, put 10 items on a table. Line up the Scouts a short distance away. Start a timer. Have them run one by one to the table and grab an essential item. After they have collected six items, stop the timer. Did they get the right ones?

For a different version, place the six essentials in a box or on a tray, along with four to six additional, completely random items. Give the Scouts 30 seconds to view what’s in the box, then take it away. Ask them to recite the contents. Finally, ask them which six items are part of the Cub Scout essentials. The game is more fun if your random items are silly!

Packing For Cub Scout Camping: The Must-Haves

This BSA website shares a list of the bigger items needed for camping and options for gear to purchase. Here’s a list of the obvious things to bring:

  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Ground cover
  • Sleeping bags
  • Large first aid kit
  • Cub Scout handbook
  • Maps and compass
  • Coolers
  • Mess kit
  • Cooking pans
  • Cooking stoves with fuel
  • Cooking utensils
  • Aluminum foil
  • Matches
  • Trash bags

What To Bring: The Nice-To-Haves for Camping

Now let’s get to the real stuff you want to know: what do people wish they had brought camping! Several personal items you might want for extra comfort include the following:

  • Bug spray
  • Lantern
  • Tissues
  • Rain gear
  • Sun hats and sunglasses
  • Books
  • Games
  • Solar charger for phones
  • Moisture-wicking clothing
  • Duct tape
  • Extra socks
  • An extra roll of TP! 

Scouting Tip: To keep warmer, wear a beanie cap and socks at night. I’ve done this consistently when camping, and it is awesome! Another parent recommended placing the clothes you’re going to wear the next day in the bottom of your sleeping bag so they’re warmer when you put them on.

The following items are also pretty handy to have with you:

  • Lightweight camp chair
  • Small mat outside tent
  • Tiny broom to sweep it off
  • Windup flashlights
  • Earplugs
  • Extra shoes that are easier to take on/off when not hiking
  • Any of the fun items and snacks listed in Cole’s Essential Scouting Gear Packing List!

While the Scouts are Bears, they learn knife safety. Scouts who have earned their Whittling Chips are allowed to bring a pocket knife, but they must also have the Whittling Chip card with them. You’ll have to decide when your Scout is ready to take their pocket knife on an outing and whether it will be needed.

Games are a lot of fun on camping trips. Scouts can enjoy outdoor activities like frisbee or football toss, as well as card or board games. When my son was in Cub Scouts, he loved playing games with his fellow Scouts at night. Now in Scouts BSA, his favorites are card games like Munchkin and Exploding Kittens (terrible name)! 😂

Scouting Tip: Remember…valuable jewelry and electronics have no place on a Scout camping trip! 

While I was doing research for this article, some parents recommended Dominos as a game that worked well for younger kids. The parents felt that it was easier to keep track of than a card game. Yahtzee and Steal the Bacon were other favorite games. Geocaching is also a lot of fun!

My husband, a former Cubmaster and current Scoutmaster, loves to geocache. Basically, it’s an outdoor adventure looking for a hidden item. He first led Arrow of Light Scouts on such an adventure and they loved it! It does require use of a phone app by the leader. This video (1:16) gives a quick overview for those who have never done it: 

For more awesome Cub Scout game ideas, make sure to check out my article on the 11 Top Indoor and Outdoor Cub Game Suggestions!

How To Pack Your Cooler for a Campout

It may seem like there’s just one rule for food: bring it! But in fact, there is a right and a wrong way to pack a cooler for a campout. If you want your cooler space to be optimized and your food to be cold, un-squished, and safe to eat, you need a strategy.

The first tip is to have food and drinks in two separate coolers! Be sure to prechill all items. Place frozen packs or water bottles on the bottom, followed by frozen foods, sealed items, and crushables on top. Put a blanket over the cooler. Check out this helpful training video (2:33) for an example: 

Advice From Experienced Cub Scouting Campers

In this last section, I’ll share some final random words of wisdom about camping. 

  • Enforce the buddy system. No Scout should wander off alone! 
  • Have your Scout carry their own daypack when camping and hiking.
  • Keep your shoes inside your tent at night so they stay dry and stay with you!
  • Store all “smellables” (e.g. food, candy, toothpaste) in your car to keep animals away. 
  • Have a mandatory bathroom trip right before bed!
  • Air out your tent when you get home. 

When it comes to cooking, if you coat the outside of your pans with soap, they will be easier to clean afterward. In all these years, I’d never heard this tip so I asked some other parents in our Scouts BSA troop in Southern California. Assistant Scoutmaster Dave W. replied, “It totally works!” 

Another great idea: for fun and to see Scouts better at night, give them all glow bracelets. Scout volunteer Kelly R. from Ft. Myers, FL recommended using small solar garden lights to mark nighttime hazards such as tent tie-down cords, stumps, large rocks, and holes. They can also light the path to the bathroom. 🙂

Ms. R. said, “Set the lights out during the day to charge and place them near any night tripping hazards before sunset. Be sure to include the Scouts in this project. They will feel a sense of duty and responsibility and know exactly where the tripping hazards are!


Writing this article brought back a lot of fun memories of camping as a family with Cub Scouts! The adventures were always fun and I definitely learned what to bring by trial and error. I hope the camping tips for Cub Scouts and parents will save you some grief by giving you a good packing list and ideas on how to prepare for your trip.😉

With all of that said, the most important thing is to keep going on adventures with your Cub Scout. Hopefully, they will enjoy the experience and be prepared to transition into Scouts BSA, where you will both continue to enjoy all that Scouting has to offer!

Thanks so much for dropping by, and wishing you some incredible Cub Scout camps in your near future! If you enjoyed reading this, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles:

I hope this article helps you out a ton! Be sure to share it with the other Cub Scout families if they need a hand, and come back to ScoutSmarts for more Scouting support soon. Until next time, I’m wishing you an incredible Cub Scouting journey ahead! 😀

Jaci H

Jaci H is the proud mom of an Eagle Scout. She enjoyed volunteering with her son's Cub Scout pack and troop, most recently as the fundraising chair. She works as a freelance writer in Southern California.

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