See the Activities section for more instructions, hints and tips.
Here is some information that I put together for new families in our troop, but it may be useful to others. I try to steer you towards good equipment that you will use and will last a long time and not waste money on gear you donít really need. Itís good information for general car camping. If you are going to be in extreme conditions (cold, hot, or wet) or backpacking then extra equipment should be added.
Stoves and cooking gear are usually provided by the troop and are not covered here.
Amount of Gear
Take enough gear that you are comfortable and safe, but not so much that it is difficult to transport or fit in your car/truck/trailer. You don't want to make multiple trips to move your gear from your vehicle to your campsite. Ideally, your goal should be to get gear for backpacking Ė that is everything you need is carried in one pack. Use a pack list and cross off things you don't use. Always strive to pack less.
As you get comfortable camping you will take less gear which will be less of a hassle and youíll enjoy yourself more.
Be prepared Ė know what weather extremes can happen in your area and watch weather forecasts. You donít want to be a statistic and make the local or national news.
Purchase a good quality tent. It will keep you dry in pouring rain and almost nothing makes you feel better than that! It should have a rain fly that extends almost all the way to the ground. The poles should be strong, lightweight, and bungee corded. Use a ground cloth or plastic tarp to protect the floor of your tent from rocks and sticks. The ground cloth should not extend beyond the floor of the tent or rain will end up under the tent. Get a tent that is light weight. Having a mansion for a tent is a lot of work. They take a lot of time to put up, are difficult to put up usually taking at least two people, and weigh 30 or more pounds. A 2 or 3 person tent can be set up quickly by one person and will weigh 5 to 10 pounds. Backpacking tents are much more versatile and a lot less hassle. Seal the seams of the bottom of the tent and the rain fly so they donít leak.
Outside of a tent, a sleeping bag is probably the most important piece of gear you will own. Bag ratings are exaggerated. Expect a bag to keep you warm at 20 to 30 degrees OVER what they are rated. So a 20 degree bag may keep you warm at 40 degrees. A mummy style is best because it has less space to heat. Always keep your bag dry. Get a good water proof stuff sack for it and also pack it in a garbage bag. Also, use a sleeping pad to insulate you from the cold ground. A closed foam pad isnít that expensive. Air mattresses (if they donít deflate) may be comfortable, but are cold because of all the air you are constantly heating up. They are also a pain to inflate and deflate. The best solution is a Therma-restô pad. They combine the two and are very comfortable, easy to use, and very reliable. Cots are not recommended unless you have back problems. Use a pad with them also.
Youíll stay warmer if you change into new clothes before getting into your sleeping bag. Your old clothes will be moist and cool you down. Wear a toboggan. In really cold temperatures you can put one sleeping bag inside another.
Cotton clothes may feel good in civilization, but in the wilderness they can be dangerous or deadly. If cotton gets wet, it makes you cold and it takes a long time to dry. Synthetics and wool will keep you warm even if wet and they dry faster.
Nylon convertible pants (have zippered legs to make shorts) are very nice for adapting to changing temperatures. Zippers at the cuff make them easier to put on and take off over boots.
Boots arenít necessary but are great in wet weather. Get a pair made of a breathable waterproof fabric. Using two pairs of socks will help prevent blisters. Use a thin inner sock and a thick outer sock.
In sunny weather wear a wide brimmed hat, in cold wear a toboggan.
You donít need a huge lantern or 4-D flashlight. The latest flashlights use LEDs that are very dependable and run a long time on their AA or AAA batteries. A headlamp is the most convenient because it leaves both of your hands free to set up your tent, Ö.
You need a canteen because water is so important to your body. A bladder system like Camelbakô is the most convenient so youíll stay more hydrated. Nalgeneô bottles are very dependable.
You only need a few items for a mess kit Ė a plastic bowl (doesnít heat up like metal), a spoon, and a mug with a lid (to keep things out).
A camp towel is handy because you can wring it out and reuse it. You canít do that with a towel.
Rope is always handy to have. Parachute cord is a good choice.
A fanny pack is nice for carrying all those little things you frequently need. In mine, I carry a survival kit, trash bag, waterless soap and Campsudsô (soap concentrate), disposable poncho, LED flashlight, sunscreen, toilet paper, compass, knife or multi-tool, matchers or lighter, paper and pencil, first aid kit, duct tape, loud whistle (for emergency signaling), and a map of the area.
Toothbrush and paste Ė itís amazing how much better youíll feel with a clean mouth.
Always have a first aid kit for at least the most common injuries like blisters and cuts. Know how to use everything in the kit.
Be sure to take along any medicine that you use on a regular basis.
Donít forget the sunscreen and insect repellant. Teach children how and when to apply it. Waterproof Coppertone Sportô is a good sunscreen. You donít need it in the evening as the sun is going down. Keep insect repellant away from your face. Youíll need it especially near dusk.
Chairs are wonderful for relaxing around camp. They are widely available and inexpensive. A small camp stool is handy when you are on the move. A 5 gallon bucket with a lid can be used as a chair and as a waterproof container for clothes and gear.
Your perception of the temperature depends on the conditions: sunny or cloudy, calm or windy, humid or dry, if you are wearing light or dark clothes, and what activities you are performing. Layering is the key to being comfortable. Donít buy a thick heavy coat, use layers of thinner clothes. The layers will trap more insulating air and it is easier to adapt to changing conditions. Youíll want to get clothes made of fabric that will not hold water, avoid cotton. Wool and synthetics like polypropylene, nylon, Coolmaxô, and Underarmorô are very popular. They donít absorb water, will keep you warm even if wet, and dry quickly.
Make your outer layer windproof. This will hold more heat close to your body. A rain coat works well.
You lose more heat through your head than any other part of your body. Cover it up with a toboggan and donít hesitate to put on a windproof hood.
My rule of thumb is one layer for each 10 degrees below 90. So at 80ļ a T-shirt is fine, at 70ļ add a jacket, Ö
Hypothermia is more of a problem at 55ļ than 30ļ because people are more prepared at colder temperatures.
Use a wide brimmed hat to protect you from the sun. Stay out of the sun when possible and use sunscreen as needed. Drink plenty of water. A wet bandana around your neck will help cool you down.
At night in your tent, a battery powered fan is extremely valuable. Popular ones run for 100 or more hours on 4 D batteries. Also, keep a wet rag close at hand to wipe off with. The evaporation of the water will cool you down.
Get a good rain coat - Gortexô or another breathable fabric if you can afford it. Breathable fabric lets some of the moisture generated by our body out so you donít get as wet and sweaty. That makes you more comfortable. Get a rain coat larger than you would normally wear so you can put layers on underneath for cold weather. A hood is important. A poncho isnít nearly as good as a rain coat especially in windy conditions. Youíll also want a pair of rain pants. Itís not as important to get a breathable fabric, but zippers at the cuffs are important for putting on over boots.
Imagine that someone threw your pack into the lake for a couple minutes. How would your gear fare? Pack everything in plastic garbage bags and zip-lock bags. Important gear like clothes should be in zip-lock bags inside garbage bags. Sleeping bags should be inside a trash bag and a waterproof stuff sack. Take some extra plastic bags along just in case.
In an emergency, you can fashion a makeshift poncho and hood from a plastic trash bag. Cut a slit in the side near the bottom corner.
Youth should pack their own equipment in duffel bags or packs. This is important so they know what gear they have and where it is in their pack. Donít carry things loose or in plastic or paper bags. It should all be in your pack.
All gear should be packed in large zip lock bags. These bags are placed in large plastic garbage bags and then placed in a waterproof duffel bag or pack. You never know when it will rain.
You donít need a pillow; just stuff some clothes in your sleeping bag stuff sack.
After a campout, be sure to air out and clean up your tent, ground cloth, and sleeping bag. If they are dirty, they will suffer more wear and tear. If they are not dried out totally they will mildew and be ruined.
After a campout, it is a good idea to check for ticks. They are especially active in the spring and summer. Ticks like places that are difficult for people to check themselves. If you need more information on ticks, ask an adult leader or doctor.
Make sure EVERYTHING the Scout takes has his name on it. Socks, shoes, underwear, flashlight, shirts, ... it all looks the same to them. They usually camp two per tent and everything gets mixed together. On Sunday morning when they are packing up, itís ďPack it up now and ask questions later.Ē At least if it has a name on it we can eventually get it back to the rightful owner.
Do not take personal snacks and drinks. Eat and drink what the patrol has planned. Remember food that is kept in your personal gear may attract animals and insects into your tent.
Do NOT take any electronic games, CD/DVD players, tape players, radios, or cell phones on any Scouting activity. We are in nature to enjoy nature and each otherís company, and get away from civilization. The only electronic gear allowed are flashlights, fans, and clocks.
Scouts should be in class A uniform (BSA Scout shirt, troop neckerchief and hat, ...) while traveling to and from camp. During camp, a class B uniform (Scout related shirt or plain colored shirt) should be worn.
Youth are not allowed to take ANY medicine themselves, even over the counter. Medicine must be administered by an adult leader. Be sure the medicine is in a sealed container with the Scoutís name on it and detailed directions. Parents should spend some time talking to the adult leader about the condition, symptoms, and medication to insure he understands.
No aerosols deodorant, insect repellant, sunscreen, Ö are allowed. Many are flammable and no one needs that temptation.
No open toed shoes or swim shoes. They donít protect your feet from rocks, roots, and all the insects, scorpions, spiders, and snakes that youíre liable to encounter.
No camo Ė thatís for the military and hunters.
It's important to educate everyone, but especially children, on the sounds of the night. Take some time before retiring to listen to the night. What sounds can you identify - crickets, frogs, owls, ... Can you tell where they are coming from? If you know what the sounds are then you are less likely to be afraid of them.
Once you get settled in the tent review the sounds that you hear. Also, notice the noise that the tent makes in the breeze. Explain that animals usually don't visit tents and the noises they are hearing are only the wind.
Let them talk about their fears and do your best to truthfully put them at ease.
Giving them a flashlight will help give them confidence, also.
You may also be interested in Dealing with Weather.
You may also be interested in Wilderness Survival.