Are scout campouts some of the best times of your life? They should be! Some of my favorite Scouting memories come from the activities and games my troop would play during our camps. In this article, I’ll be sharing with you my top 5 camp activity picks for any troop.
The best scout camping activities are those that get your heart racing, help you to develop new skills, and improve your patrol spirit and teamwork. With these criteria in mind, my top 5 camp activity picks are:
- Scouting Skill Relay Races
- Patrol Sports Tournaments
- Scout-led Merit Badge Clinics
- Capture The Flag
Keep reading, because in the section below I’ll be breaking down each of these fun activities. I’ll also teach you useful pro tips that I learned, organizing these events myself, that you can use to successfully plan these activities for your next campout.
Exciting camp activities are the best way for scouts to develop troop culture and intensify patrol spirit! If you’re not having a fantastic time at each and every camp you attend, I challenge you to bring any of these fun activities to your troop to try the next time you’re camping.
My Top 5 Scout Camping Activities
1) Scouting Skill Relay Races
Patrol competitions are the heart and soul of Scouting! Not only do scout relay races teach your patrol cooperation and teamwork — these fun activities also give you an opportunity to show off the mad skillz you’ve learned. 😛
Summary: The only limit is your imagination when planning a Scout skill relay race. Do you want to add in a tarp-stretcher transport portion? How about a fire building contest? In these races, patrols complete, completing obstacles as quickly as possible to win the title of your troop’s #1 patrol!
Relay races are the best way I know of to build patrol spirit and cooperation. In these relays, leaders are given the opportunity to guide their patrols and develop great leadership skills. Here’s a quick video (3:18) of how one leg of your relay might look in action:
Below are some of my favorite scout relay activities that your patrols can compete in:
- Stretcher carry: Build a stretcher and carry a patrol member to the next section.
- Fire building: First team to light a fire exceeding 2 feet using only flint, steel, and brush.
- Pushups/situps: Each member must do x pushups and situps to proceed.
- Knots: All 7 required Scouting knots must be demonstrated.
- Footraces: Each patrol member runs 100 yards.
- Flagpole: Build a sturdy flagpole and raise your patrol flag to win the race!
Scout relays are a great activity to plan for Saturday afternoons during a weekend campout. I recommend adding up to 5 sections to your own troop’s relay race so that it can last around an hour. Create a starting and finish line beforehand, and have the race take place all throughout your campsite. In my experience, the more distance your troop can cover, the more fun it’ll be.
Here are a few pro-tips to make your troop’s relay races unique and even more exciting:
- Include patrol cheers and yells. Let yourself get hyped over this! These races should be competitive and exciting, but also sportsmanlike. The more into it you are, the more fun it’ll be.
- Let each patrol set 1 leg of the relay. Adding new events and changing things up is what makes this activity so fun. So that each patrol can fairly play to their strengths, let each patrol select an activity.
- Create a strategy beforehand. Make a plan to win! Talk with your patrol about how best to approach each obstacle.
- Make sure each patrol member is included. Select ‘mains’ for activities and have the rest of the patrol assist them. That way everyone will be able to energetically participate. This is one of the skills you’ll need to master to become a great patrol leader.
- Hold these races a least 2 times during a patrol’s term (at the beginning and right before the end). Your troop can even award a trophy or patrol flag ribbon to the winning team that’ll be kept until the next rematch.
- Relays are usually hosted by the SPL, scoutmasters, or the senior leadership patrol. Again, setting a plan beforehand will make this awesome activity so much more fun.
2) Manhunt (My Favorite Scouting Game!!)
Manhunt is basically an exciting hybrid of hide-and-go-seek and tag that your whole troop can play together. I loved this game when I was a scout! It’s a simple, fast-paced, and one that every scout can participate in together.
Summary: When playing Manhunt, there are 2 teams: the hunters and the runners. Runners are given time to hide and can run away if found by a hunter. Hunters, on the other hand, must find, chase down, and tag as many runners as possible. Once a runner is tagged, they join the team of hunters. If any runners survive until the time is up, they win. If everyone is tagged, the hunters win.
Here’s how it looks in action:
- Divide your troop into two groups: Those who are hunters (it), and those who are runners. Usually, only a few scouts begin as hunters.
- Runners are given time to hide: After setting area boundaries, runners are given 90 seconds to hide while the hunters aren’t watching.
- Hunters try to find and tag runners: Once 90 seconds pass, the hunters then work together to find and tag runners. Once a runner is tagged, they join the hunters and try to tag other runners.
- If the hunters tag every runner, they win. If a runner survives until the time is up, they win!
I lived for this awesome game. About once a month my troop would play during meetings and we’d have such a great time!
Here are some pro-tips that I’ve personally found make the game more thrilling:
- Start with 3-5 hunters. A good rule of thumb is anywhere from 10%-20% of your troop.
- Younger or slower scouts make great initial hunters. By working together they can catch scouts who are faster than them, making the game more challenging for runners as it progresses.
- Clearly mark boundaries. Make sure each scout knows the areas that are on and off-limits. Manhunt is no fun if someone hides in a bathroom or across the street at Burger King.
- Set clear time limits. This game can be as long or as short as you’d like. Clearly set limits beforehand so the scouts in hiding know when to come out.
- Runners and hunters should ideally buddy up. So you’re not bored and just in case anyone falls, you should ideally stick with a buddy while playing manhunt. Your choice though.
And there you have it! Manhunt is super simple, but an awesome game that your troop can play together for years. I know that mine did. Hope y’all get a chance to play this game because it makes for an awesome troop activity.
3) Patrol Sports Tournaments
Flag football, soccer, kickball, basketball, and ultimate frisbee are just a few examples of sports your patrols can play against each other. Starting a tournament and seeing which patrols can win the most games is a great activity for scout campouts.
Summary: Pick the games beforehand and compete for patrol dominance! This one is pretty self-explanatory. Either make a bracket or go by total wins when competing amongst patrols. These tournaments are great because they can last anywhere from a single day to even a few weeks. Just make sure to keep track of patrol wins!
If your troop already plays sports together, a tournament structure will make things more exciting and competitive. Remember, scout spirit is everything! Look for chances to wave your patrol flag and give your patrol yell. The best scout activities get everyone fired up and ready to participate.
4) Scout-led Merit Badge Clinics
Earning merit badges is great, but you know what’s even better? Teaching merit badges to your troop! An awesome troop camp activity could be a patrol-hosted merit badge seminar. In my article, The 3 Easiest Merit Badges That You Can Earn Today, I go over 3 simple badges that you could literally earn in a few hours. PS: Merit badge guides included!
Summary: In my old troop, I’d occasionally teach merit badge requirements and encourage the younger scouts to advance. Leading a merit badge clinic during a campout is an enjoyable activity that will be rewarding for everyone involved. You’ll gain leadership experience, and your entire troop will earn a new badge. It’s a win-win!
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when planning a successful merit badge clinic:
- Make it interactive. Ask for audience participation, plan hands-on activities, and avoid lecturing to the group.
- Break up requirements within the patrol. If a patrol is hosting the clinic, have groups of 2 scouts explain each requirement, individually. This way, everyone can present and no one will need to remember too much info.
- Set timeframes. Don’t go for longer than an hour. These clinics can continue over the course of a camp so that scouts can absorb what they’ve learned. This also prevents boredom.
Protip: If you’re trying to be elected as your troop’s next SPL, hosting a merit badge seminar will really help. In my SPL election guide, I mentioned that teaching merit badges will help you to improve your leadership skills and build friendships with the new scouts. I highly suggest running a merit badge clinic if you’re looking for new activities to really push your boundaries.
5) Capture The Flag
Capture the flag is a classic, and for good reason! It’s the perfect game for scouts on campouts. I loved playing capture the flag, as any team member could suddenly do something unexpected and seize victory. You can play amongst patrols, or even split your troop into 2 teams for a large-scale battle.
Summary: Two patrols compete head-to-head to capture the opposing team’s flag. Set boundaries, mark each side’s jail, and hide your patrol flag somewhere within your territory. Then the game begins! You’ll need to coordinate your patrol strategically to have the best shot at winning.
For those of you who’ve never played capture the flag in the wilderness (you’re missing out!) here’s a video (1:56) that briefly outlines the rules:
Again, just try one of these activities and I guarantee an unforgettable afternoon of learning or fun. Seriously! Share this article with a scout friend or your SPL right now to make it happen. I’ll say it again:
I hope you enjoy playing these games and participating in these camping activities because they were definitely some of my favorite parts of Scouting. If you’re looking for ways to start a new patrol on the right foot, check out my article on Forming A Legendary New Patrol.
Thanks for reading this far! I hope you’ve found my article helpful. Be sure to check ScoutSmarts often, because I’m constantly putting out new content to help scouts like yourself. Until next time, best wishes on your Scouting journey.