Are you packing for an upcoming scout campout? Would you like to be prepared for anything? If so, great! You’re in the right place. I’ve packed for countless scout camps in the past and will be sharing with you the absolute essentials you should bring along to have a safe, dry, and enjoyable outing.
There was one common question in my troop that I’d always hear being asked before every campout. What should I bring to a scout camp? After hundreds of days of camping on my road to Eagle Scout, I’ve learned that there are 21 essential items that should be brought to every Scouting campout.
Before we begin, know that when packing for a Scouting camp, your backpack should weigh no more than 25% of your total body weight. This means that the weight of most scout’s backpacks should only range from 20-40 lbs. To not overload yourself, when packing for a camping trip, you’ll need to start with the essentials.
In this article, I’ll be explaining exactly what you should bring to a scout camp, as well as and why you should bring it! Below I’ve ranked the 21 most important items that every scout should be bringing to camp. Plus, I’ve also included my top 15 picks on non-essential items you could bring to make your campout 10x more fun and comfy. Enough said! Let’s get packing. 🙂
The 21 Scout Camping Essentials
- Your Tent, Rainfly, Tent Poles, and Stakes: If you’ll be sleeping in a tent, double-check to be sure all the parts are there before driving away! Whenever I arrived at a scout camp to find tent parts missing, I knew I’d be in trouble. Don’t improvise like I had to, and just take three minutes to make sure that you’re bringing your entire tent along before leaving for the campsite.
- Water (at Least 2L per day): If you’ll be camping somewhere without a water source nearby, bring at least 2L of water to drink per day. For camps without clean water that are longer than three days, I’d recommend bringing a water purifier and only carrying in 3L of water in bottles.
- A Headlamp or Flashlight: Personally, I think that headlamps are better than flashlights for nighttime Scouting activities. However, you should always pack at least one light source when camping. If possible, bring a flashlight and headlamp.
- A Sharpened Pocket Knife: I probably don’t need to tell you how important pocket knives are. Remember to sharpen your knife before heading to camp, and don’t forget your Totin chip.
- A Personal First-aid Kit: Personal first aid kits are useful for treating minor injuries. I’d recommend not purchasing a bulky box-type first aid kit, as it’ll take up a ton of space. If your troop has their own public first aid kit, like mine did, I’d recommend using those supplies first.
- A Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Mat: Being able to get a good night’s sleep will make or break your camping experience. Personally, I’d recommend spending a little extra for a comfortable sleeping bag and ground pad. In my experience, sleeping bags with armholes are the way to go!
- Your Scout Handbook (Keep in a watertight plastic bag): Every camp is an opportunity for you to get requirements signed off. I’d recommend always getting at least one requirement done at each camp you attend. Making continual progress is your best way to reach Eagle!
- Your Mess Kit: Let’s face the facts, traditional scout mess kits are terrible. They take up a ton of space, you can’t cook effectively on them, and they barely hold any food. A dependable mess kit will make your camp eating 100x better!
- Your Scout Uniform: You’ll need to wear your scout uniform while heading to camp, when raising and lowering the flag in mornings and evenings (do other troops do this?), and while returning from camp. Your SPL might get annoyed at you right from the start if you don’t bring your full uniform, so make sure to remember it.
- A rain jacket or poncho: Getting wet on the campout is miserable, especially if you aren’t able to quickly dry off. Prevent this problem by packing a rain jacket or poncho. I’d recommend buying a quality rain jacket, as ponchos can easily tear and are less effective in strong winds. A good rain jacket can make a rainy campout much more comfortable, and will last for years.
- Clothing: As a general rule of thumb for camps lasting fewer than 8 days, pack:
- Daily Clothing:
-1 pair of pants for every 2 days
-1 shirt per day
-1 pair of underwear per day
-1-2 pairs of socks more than the number of days you’ll be camping
- Sleep/Spare Clothes:
-1 pair of loose sleep pants
-1 quick-drying long sleeve shirt
- Weather Protection:
-1 light waterproof rain jacket or poncho
-1 Warm and fast-drying jacket (Fleece blend, nylon, or polyester)
- Optional: A swimsuit, hat, sunglasses, gloves.
- Daily Clothing:
- Sunscreen and Insect Repellent: Bites, sunburns, and heat-related injuries are common when camping in warm climates. Always pack a hat and sunscreen to prevent burning. Drink plenty of water and limit your sun exposure to 1-hour increments.
- At least 30 ft of Strong Rope (Like Nylon): Extra rope is always useful during a campout. You can use it to secure your tent, create a clothesline, or complete your advancement requirements. A rope is lightweight to carry and will be extremely helpful in the event of an emergency.
- Your Toiletries kit: Since camp toiletry kits can get pretty gross quickly, I’d recommend just using a quart-sized plastic bag to pack your toiletries. You’ll need:
- Dental Care:
-Floss or Floss-picks
-Nail Clippers (optional but surprisingly useful)
-Aspirin or another type of headache medicine (Pack in First-aid kit)
-Feminine Products (if applicable)
- Dental Care:
- A Towel: Even when we weren’t able to go swimming, I’d always bring a towel to camp. Towels can be used for everything! When you need to dry off after a shower, sit down in some grass, or create a bundle to use as a pillow, a towel and a bit of creativity will help you to be prepared for anything!
- Matches or a Lighter: If you’ve earned your Fireman chip, you should always carry some form of firestarter, such as a lighter or matches. When camping, your patrol will often need to light fires. Be the scout who’s prepared their fire starter beforehand.
- Tinder for Firestarter: I’d recommend packing dryer lint or old newspapers in the same bag as your fire starter. When I was a scout, by using either of these materials to spark a flame, we were even able to light campfires in the wind or rain.
- A Whistle: Cub Scouts are instructed to carry whistles so that if lost, they’ll be able to blow it and make noise without tiring themselves out. Although you’re much cooler than a Cub Scout, bringing a whistle along is actually a pretty good idea. A whistle won’t take up much space but can save your life in case of an emergency.
- A Compass and Map: Although I barely used it, I always kept a small compass in my camping backpack. If you have a map, a compass can help you to accurately navigate the area. You can also complete rank requirements using your compass.
- A pillow: Getting a comfortable pillow can really improve your camping experience! If you’re short on backpack space, don’t worry. You can create a makeshift pillow by bunching up your towel, or some clean clothes, and placing that inside a plastic bag. Sweet dreams!
- Extra Trash Bags: I’d highly recommend packing at least 3 extra-large trash bags for any camp that you attend. Trash bags are great for quickly waterproofing your belongings or storing dirty clothes. They also take up very little space and also weigh almost nothing, so throw a few trash bags into your camping backpack when you have the chance.
Whenever attending a Scouting camp, I’d always bring these 21 essential items. However, I’d also often pack extra gear to make camps more enjoyable.
Now onto the extras! Below are my favorite optional items to bring to camp. Some are useful, while others create fun activities that your troop can participate in together. Check out my list to see if there’s anything else you might want to pack.
15 Extra (But Useful) Items I’d Often Pack When Camping With Scouts
- An 8’x10’ Tarp: I always pack a small tarp whenever camping. These are so useful! On rainy nights I’d line the inside of my tent with a tarp to stay extra dry, and on hot days I could quickly make an improvised shelter. Tarps are inexpensive, lightweight and prepare you for the worst of situations.
- An Extra Roll of Toilet Paper: Most of the time you won’t know your camp’s toilet conditions beforehand. Always bring at least one roll of toilet paper. It’ll only take one crappy situation for you to realize the importance of always having toilet paper available. Plus, toilet paper even doubles as tissues in a pinch!
- A Deck of Cards: In my troop, cards were a staple nighttime activity. I’d recommend you bring a deck of cards to camp, but be warned, there’s a good chance your cards could get lost or damaged! At $3 a card deck though, I think that’s a risk worth taking.
- Extra Socks: Although I briefly covered this in point 11 of the 21 camping essentials, bring extra socks. Running out of clean or dry socks is one of the worst things that can happen when camping. Socks don’t take up much space and can even be double-layered at night if the weather becomes too cold. Pack extra socks. Please!
- Additional Trail Food: It’s always a good idea to bring along some extra food. Trail mix can be a lifesaver if your patrol can’t cook! I’d always share my snacks with the other scouts, which proved especially helpful when I became a leader.
- Cooking Equipment: I only learned this secret as an older scout, but I’ll let you in on it whatever age you are… Bringing your own cooking tools is the key to good eating in Scouting! A pan-type mess kit, skewers, or even an awesome grill-basket will ensure that you can always make tasty food for yourself while at camp.
- A Good Book: Occasionally I’d have the free time to sit under a shady tree and read while at camp. If you have backpack space, I’d recommend bringing a paperback book along. Be sure to keep it in the same plastic bag as your Scout Handbook. That way, if it rains, your book won’t get wet.
- A Hammock: The best place to relax during a scout camp is comfortably wrapped in a hammock. Heck, if you’re out on a clear night, you could even sleep under the stars. Whenever I go camping nowadays, I still always bring my hammock along.
- A Small Folding Stool: I had one of these from the days that I used to play soccer. Often, seats are in short supply during camp. By packing a small stool, you’ll always have a place to sit, whether you’re cooking, eating, or just relaxing.
- Equipment for Troop Sports: A soccer ball, football, or frisbee are my top picks for fun group activities with your troop. Try to pick a sport that all the scouts can participate in. For an article on my top 5 top camp activities, click here.
- A Camera: Cameras provide a great way to document the fun times in Scouting and possibly even earn the Photography merit badge. Your possessions could get wet or break during a campout, so exercise extreme caution if you decide to bring an expensive camera along.
- Writing Materials or a Journal: Keeping a short record of each camp will help you to remember the fun Scouting experiences you’ve had. If you don’t want to carry writing materials, you could even record some memories in your Boy Scout handbook to look back on in the future.
- Binoculars: If you’re interested in birdwatching or are heading to a scenic area, a pair of binoculars will give you a different perspective on nature. I personally only took binoculars on one or two camps but had a lot of fun with them nonetheless!
- Your Cell Phone: This is a controversial topic, but from personal experience, I know that many scouts bring their cell phones along to camp. Depending on your troop’s phone policy, you may want to bring your phone along to take photos or listen to music. That is, if your troop and parents allow it…
- Your Homework: I’m ashamed to admit this, but I occasionally did homework during scout campouts. Although camping is supposed to be fun, doing homework will leave you with less work on Sunday night. If you have free time during camp, bringing your homework along could help you to get ahead in your classes.
I hope you found my recommendations helpful, and want to wish you a great time at your next camp! If you still need to buy some of the equipment I’ve listed, check out my top recommendations for camping gear. This list contains my top picks for some of the most awesome outdoor products I’ve found over the years. 🙂
Thanks for reading this far! If you’re trying to earn your Eagle in Scouting, I also write merit badge and leadership guides. To prepare for any upcoming Eagle-required merit badges you’ll need to earn, I’d recommend you check out my Eagle-required Merit Badge Difficulty Rankings. The article also explains the best order to earn these badges. Hope to see you back at ScoutSmarts soon, and best of luck on your Scouting journey!