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. As an Eagle Scout, I’ve packed for countless Scout camps in the past and will be sharing with you the best gear to bring along for a safe, dry, and enjoyable outing. 🙂
What should I pack for a Scout camp? In my experience, there are 21 essential items that should be brought to every Scouting campout, along with 15 extras that are always nice to have. These items will help you to be prepared for everything, while also keeping you comfortable and ready for fun!
Disclaimer: I can definitely vouch for the quality of products you’ll see below. I’ve used, or have had firsthand experiences with virtually every one of these tools, and I’m confident that they’ll be able to help you or a loved one on their Scouting journey!
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In this article, I’ll be explaining exactly what you should bring to a Scout camp, as well as why you should bring it. I’ve also included Amazon referral links for each item so that you can see for yourself what the gear I use looks like. Hopefully, this will help you to make the right picks for your own Scouting gear!
Camp Packing Tip: Before we begin, a good rule of thumb is that when packing for a Scout 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 25-50 lbs.
Enough said! Let’s get packing. 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.
The 21 Scout Camping Essentials
- A Reliable Tent — Along With Your 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!
- Big, Lightweight Water Bottles (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.
Water Bottle Tip: A Scoutmaster recently emailed me a recommendation to share with all of you. They love using their Colapsible Water Bottle to save space on hiking-intensive camps.
- A Water-resistant 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 a headlamp (just to be extra-prepared, and b/c your buddy probably forgot theirs).
- A Sharpened, Reliable Pocket Knife/Multitool: I probably don’t need to tell you how important pocket knives are. You are a Scout, after all! However, I’ve noticed that pocket knives with multi-tool functions are even more useful! Whether you need to adjust the propane or get a can open, these multitool knives serve double-duty!
Camp Pocketknife/Multitool Tip: Always remember to sharpen your knife before heading to camp, and make sure not to forget your Totin’ Chip (link is to my guide). A dull knife is uper unsafe! By preparing you knife beforehand and cleaning it after each camp, you’ll be much more prepared for anything!
- A Personal First-aid Kit: Personal first-aid kits are something every Scout should carry. However, I’d recommend not purchasing a bulky hard-box-type first aid kit, as it’ll take up a ton of space. I bought a larger first aid kit, but often took out some pieces and put them in small bags when packing for shorter, less dangerous outings.
- A Temperature-Appropriate 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 lightweight, collapsible ground pad (instead of a foam mat).
- Your Scout Handbook (Keep in a watertight plastic bag): Every camp is an opportunity for you to get even more requirements signed off! I’d recommend always getting at least one requirement done at each camp you attend. Remember, making continual progress is your best strategy for becoming an Eagle Scout!
- Your Mess Kit/Cookware: Let’s face the facts, traditional Scout mess kits are kinda bad. 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, so these days I always use one that I can cook with and clean up easily! 🙂
Camp packing tip: While packing, think about the size and weight distribution of your gear. You’ll want heavier items to be closer to your back/hips inside your backpack, and for your backpack to be balanced. Don’t overpack, especially if you’ll be hiking into the campsite!
- 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, 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 (you’ve been warned)! 😉
- A Hooded 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 always packing a rain jacket or poncho! I’d recommend buying a quality rain jacket, as they’re more eco-friendly than ponchos, which can easily tear and are less effective in strong winds.
- Clothing (dry-fit or fast drying is ideal): As a general rule of thumb for camps lasting fewer than 8 days, pack:
- Daily Clothing:
-Your full Class-A Scout Uniform
-1 pair of pants for every 2 days
-1 shirt per day (Troop shirt, if you have one)
-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 sunscreen and bug repellant, along with a hat and other sun protection to prevent burning. Drink plenty of water and limit your sun exposure to 1-hour increments.
Camp packing tip: If you’re prone to mosquito bites like I am, make sure to always bring a comfy pair of dry-fit, long-sleeved clothes to sleep in. These are breatheable, so you won’t overheat, but they’ll still dramatically cut down on the number of bug bites you’ll get!
- 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. Plus rope is lightweight, easy 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 Quick-Drying 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!
- Flint&Steel, Matches, or a Lighter: If you’ve earned your Firem’n Chit, you should always carry some form of firestarter, such as flint&steel, a lighter or matches. When camping, your patrol will often need to light fires. Be the scout who’s prepared with their fire starter, beforehand!
- Tinder or 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! You can also use special fire-starter bundles, that work even better than lint or newspaper.
Camp packing tip: To avoid getting your things wet in the event of a sudden downpour, I’d individually bag the items I needed to keep dry like my Scout Handbook, clothes, and firestarter. Not only would this keep my supplies dry — it’d also give me extra bags, which are useful on any campout!
- 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 rarely ever needed to use 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. Plus, you can also complete quite a few rank requirements using your compass!
- A Light Camp 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 resting your head on that. 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 pack a few trash bags in your camping backpack when you have the chance.
Now that you know the 21 essential items that I’d always make sure to pack for any Scouting camp, you can be prepared for almost anything! Remember to choose lightweight options when picking out your gear so that you’re not overburdened. When camping or backpacking, less is more! 🙂
Camp packing tip: Keep in mind that your troop might be bringing some of these items in your patrol boxes (like tents and trash bags), so you won’t need to pack everything for every camp. Just pay attention during the planning process, and I promise you’ll be prepared!
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 a little ashamed to admit this, but I occasionally did homework during Scout campouts. I’m not that big of a nerd though 😛 . 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 liked this camp gear checklist, you’ll love my Top Scouting Item Recommendations. There, I’ll be sharing with you my favorite Scouting movies, books, and games. 😀
Thanks for reading this far! If you’re trying to earn your Eagle in Scouting, 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!