It’s no secret that camping is one of the all-time best parts of Scouting. Fun camp experiences provide scouts with a greater appreciation of nature, opportunities to learn useful new skills, and time to become even closer friends with their troop buddies! What’s not to love about that? 😀
Having personally attended over 50 campouts on my path to Eagle, in this article I’ll be sharing with you some amazing crowd-sourced camping tips, along with a few tips of my own. Putting these learnings into practice will be sure to help you and your troop to have even better and more engaging camps!
The Best Tips And Hacks For A Great Troop Campout
“What’s your best tip for better troop campouts?” Is the question I asked in my ScoutSmarts Scribe Newsletter, and I received some extraordinary answers. For their privacy, the repliers will stay anonymous, but a huge thank you if you wrote in with your best camping tips and hacks!
Now without further ado, let’s dive in…
23 General Tips For Planning A Scout Camp:
- Keep it fresh. Camping at the same place over and over is easier but loses its luster quickly. A new site or new experience is best to keep the scouts interested and engaged.
- Have those who make the meals oversee the clean-up of those meals
- If your troop has problems scheduling outings because everyone is busy, designate certain times of the month (like the 3rd weekend) to camp. This way, everyone knows there’s an outing and won’t plan other things.
- In my troop, campouts work best when duties are assigned to patrols. This has helped the work get done more quickly so that everyone can enjoy being at camp.
- Be prepared. Try to avoid underpacking or overpacking.
Packing the correct amount of gear (not too much or too little) is key to having a great camping experience. Being unprepared and having a tough campout can be especially demoralizing for newer scouts, so its important that a seasoned leader is there to guide them through camp preperations. You can see my other article for full a guide to the Scout camp packing essentials!
- Communication and planning. Without plenty of both, troop campouts can be very frustrating experiences.
- ASPL and staff should keep an eye on the younger scouts who might be struggling.
- Have patrol campsites figured out before arriving on-site.
- Make sure to have a designated Senior Patrol Leader, along with two Assistant Patrol Leaders.
- Planning: everyone needs to know the plan and expectations
- Make sure everyone has some type of responsibility. It could be cooking, cleaning, fire, water, or even waking people up. Giving every scout a responsibility makes sure no one is doing too much, yet everyone is still engaged and feels valuable.
Cole Here — Any great campout begins with a solid plan! Before leaving, make sure to prepare a rough schedule of camp activities, that every scout can participate in. I’ve found camps to be the most fun when everyone has an activity they’re looking forward to! 🙂
- Make sure that you have as many people going as possible. More scouts often mean a more fun campout!
- Communication: Keep both the scouts and their parents in the loop.
- Make sure each person knows what they need to bring, and make sure that the things are spread evenly among everyone.
- Our troop uses large Ziploc bags that hold an entire outfit. Kids can grab a bag on their way to the shower and have everything clean, dry, and in one place.
- Have a good campfire program.
- Scout leadership: as they say, scouts need to lead. They should know what the troop wants to do and get as many on the wagon to do the work.
- Have a good game plan but also have the ability to be flexible.
- Organization: Everything goes smoother and turns out to be more fun when everything happens when it needs to happen.
- Get out on Friday evening so you have all day Saturday for activities.
- Be as organized as possible before the trip and assign specific tasks to scouts to split the workload.
- Make sure to poll ideas with the troop or PLC before implementing them. Something that sounds cool to the SPL or adults may not interest the overall troop.
- Plan ahead and make sure everyone has something to do. This helps to prevent campouts from getting long and boring, keeps everyone interested, and, if there are any new scouts, ensures that they have a fun time.
Be prepared for unexpected wet or stormy conditions, and always check the weather forecasts! Even if you feel you won’t need it, pack fast-drying clothing, rain gear, and your tent fly. I once attended a weekend camp and left my rain stuff at home, thinking the weather would stay sunny. Imagine my shock when I woke up in a big puddle!
9 Camping Tips For New Scouts:
- Always bring your scout book in a plastic gallon bag. If unexpected weather happens and your tent gets water in it, all your progress is safe from damage.
- Be active, alert, and learn as much as you can!
- Bring everything that you think you WON’T need.
- Make sure to have fun! Don’t let requirements get in the way of enjoying your time in the outdoors.
- Don’t get into arguments.
- Pair an older scout with a younger scout as a buddy to help them along.
- Don’t forget a deck of cards or bag of dice to play when you have free time, or when it rains.
- Make sure leadership has communicated with the new Scouts about how & what to pack – especially using a Rubbermaid tub to put everything into so nothing gets wet from being on the ground!
- Bring three or four moderately-sized garbage bags. They have a variety of uses.
After your first camp, take note of the things you needed and didn’t have, along with supplies you didn’t use. By regularly reviewing what’s in your camping backpack, and adding or removing things, you’ll be super prepared for any upcoming camp in no time!
For more info on what to pack and how to thrive during a campout, check out my Ultimate Guide to The Camping Merit Badge!
10 Cooking Tips For A Scout Camp:
- Have a plan and don’t let the troop pick what to eat. Instead, have the PLs come up with ideas and then vote. This makes meal-choosing a lot easier and less stressful.
- Research some cool meals. Better food makes it more fun!
- Make sure to follow proper duty rosters for cleaning and cooking.
- You can do all the cutting and food prep beforehand so it takes less time to cook and eat!
- If you plan the meals make sure to have lots of good food to entice people into coming.
- Make the meals simple. Hot dogs, s’mores, burgers, ramen, etc are delicious and easy to make so you can spend more time on other things.
- We base cooking patrols on the food needs of our troop – for example, vegetarian patrol, and meat patrol.
- Have those who make the meals oversee the clean-up of those meals
- Make as many decisions beforehand as possible as part of your planning. Include lots of free time and snacks. Have an easy but filling breakfast on Sunday so there’s not as much to clean up before breaking down camp.
- Plan meals that can accommodate a variety of dietary needs. E.g. tacos can easily serve vegetarian, meat-eating, and gluten-free campers alike.
Always bring a filling snack in your backpack like instant noodles, granola bars, or beef jerky. If there are ever issues with your patrol meal (it could drop, burn, spoil, etc), at least you’ll have an easy source of food to tide you over.
For more ideas on foods to bring along, check out my article on The 5 Best Scouting Trail Snacks!
18 Activity Tips For A Fun Scout Camp:
- Plan some advancements, but also plan some time with nothing to do. This gives the scouts time to use their imaginations
- Plan a theme ahead of time
- Have a variety of campout types – tent, hammock, cabin… This will encourage all scouts to attend some campouts.
- Troop campouts can be great learning experiences for scouts – however, you have to do them right. If you try to pack too much work into a campout, nobody will have any fun. If you try to let scouts do whatever they want, nobody will learn anything. My advice is: When on a troop campout, make sure your scouts enjoy themselves. Give them fun opportunities, but make sure they’re able to learn things there as well. Your campout shouldn’t be a lecture, but it also shouldn’t be a free for all. Play games where scouts learn things, and have fun with it. If you do it right, every single person will walk away from that campout having learned something new.
- Be active! Go on hikes, do yoga, and all that fun stuff!
- Try out an orienteering challenge.
- Learn something new on each trip.
- Have a good mix of “activities” and “hang out” time. Some patrols want more of one than the other but I think a balance is doable.
- Make sure there’s something to do at camp other than just camping. It could be something like a hike to a waterfall or a pond, or somewhere to complete a merit badge activity!
I’d highly recommend planning some scout-led instructional demonstrations or merit badge seminars! Really though, anything that’s hands-on and new will be a great time.
For some inspiration, you can check out my other article for 5 more fun activity ideas to do during a scout campout!
- I throw a frisbee in my backpack so we can always play and have fun. Campouts with an activity like kayaking or fishing are my favorites since you can have fun and also earn a Merit badge.
- Make sure to have something for all scouts to do at all times. Teenage boys with nothing to do can cause serious trouble! 😉
- Do activities as a group to build better bonds.
- Fill your itinerary with activities…leave the cell phones for pictures only.
- Be adventurous: Plan new things and places. The usual is ok, but let’s face it — we all like some new scenery. Being out of our comfort zone is a good thing to test us and grow.
- Make sure your troop is working on merit badges or other rank advancements so that you are actually accomplishing things on the campout.
- Don’t overbook your campout schedule. Allow the flexibility to run your day.
- Do a service project for an hour at the camp to earn conservation service hours such as Trail Maintenance (Trimming trees, maintaining a trail, cleaning litter)
- Make sure scouts are involved in planning the Cracker Barrel.
- Always have a campfire if weather permits! Campfires are 100% guaranteed to bring the troop together in some way.
Scouting camps can really fly by, so I’d encourage you to enjoy each moment and try to always stay positive. Appreciate the little things in nature. Build something amazing. Have some good laughs with your fellow scouts. I’m wishing you a wonderful next campout! 🙂
Thanks for reading! I challenge you to find at least one of these tips to share with your troop and put into action during your next campout. Remember that Scouting should be Scout-led, so don’t be afraid to share your ideas with your troop and think outside of the box. This makes Scouting even more fun!
If you liked this article, be sure to check out my other crowd-sourced article where over 50 scouts share some of their favorite unexpected benefits of Scouting! Learning about the importance and benefits of Scouting will be a huge motivator on your path to Eagle, so check it out today!
Hope these camping tips and hacks really help you to have some amazing troop adventures out there! Looking forward to seeing you here again at ScoutSmarts.com soon and, until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your Scouting journey. 😀