You Don’t Really Need All That Gear

Outfitting Your Scout for Camp


With the new school year starting, schedules once again get busier. For some families, Fall means the start of a new Scouting year. While some Boy and Girl Scout troops continue to meet over the summer, most in this area seem to take a break. There are many benefits to participating in scouting, not least of which is the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities. Many troops choose to camp and spend an entire weekend outdoors. Since troops general supply the big items, this is a good way for your child to try it out.

Camping doesn’t need to be an expensive activity, especially for younger children, but there are some items that are essential. Aside from personal items (clothing, toiletries), there are only a few things you really need for a basic camping trip. Many of them you will already have at home. Though this covers the basics, you should always check with the leader to see if there are any extra items needed for special activities.

A sleeping bag.

While the cute “slumber bags” many kids use for sleepovers with friends may work if the group is sleeping in a cabin, they will likely not be warm enough for tent camping. A 40-degree bag (which means you sleep comfortably when the temperature is as low as 40 degrees) should be sufficient for all but winter camping and can be purchased at a local department store for $20 to $30 or borrowed from a friend or neighbor. This will likely be your most expensive purchase.

Comfortable, sturdy shoes.

Everyday sneakers work fine in most cases, but boots are a good idea as well. (A second pair of shoes is important in case the first gets too wet to wear.) Closed-toe shoes are important for camping. The terrain is frequently uneven and injury can result when wearing open toe (or even open back) shoes. Expect them to get dirty.

Extra socks.

Even if there is no rain or water nearby, feet sweat. Wet feet are not only uncomfortable, they are more likely to get blisters. As heat escapes through your head and feet, wet feet also makes you more susceptible to hypothermia. Even if they don’t at home, many people like to sleep in socks when camping – and changing into clean, dry socks is preferred to wearing the same pair you spent the day in.

“Mess kit.”

While many new campers eagerly buy the army-style, metal mess kits, there are good reasons to instead assemble your own. Metal dishes get hot. This makes them tough to carry and impossible to hold on a lap, especially for young kids. A simpler (and cheaper) option is to pack a plastic plate, bowl and cup, and regular utensils (if you don’t have plastic plates, etc., check the dollar store; thrift shops offer forks, etc. often for .10 or .25 a piece). An insulated cup is also a good idea as hot chocolate is a staple on many trips. All of this can be placed in a “dunk bag.” (These are sold in stores, or pick up a mesh lingerie bag at the dollar store – it is the same thing.) This bag makes it easy to carry everything and allows air in to dry the dishes. (Towel drying dishes just isn’t done.) One caveat: don’t send your good silverware to camp. Dishes and silverware are among the most frequently lost items on camping trips.

Water bottle.

Reusable is better than disposable. Now you have a use for those giveaways from banks, sporting events, etc.

Flashlight and extra batteries.

When camping, the fun is not over when the sun goes down. There may be night hikes, nighttime trips to the bathroom and the possibility of flashlight tag.

Hat or other headcover.

Of course this will keep your child’s head warm and dry, but will also reduce the likelihood of ticks.

Sweatshirt or sweater and rain jacket.

Even if the weather forecast is for warm weather, the nights are sometimes cool.  A shower can pop up quickly and there will likely be nowhere to go. Not having a rain jacket is almost a guarantee that it will rain.

A day pack.

You don’t need anything fancy; a drawstring bag is fine for this. Your child will need a place to contain his or her things on a hike (jacket, water bottle, etc.). While camping with a group, everyone is responsible for his or her own gear.

There are of course, other items that your child may want to pack, for comfort or convenience. Make sure to pay attention to any directions of what is not to be packed as well. (Many leaders discourage or even prohibit electronic devices on trips.) You will also find many fancier options for all of the above at outdoor retailers, but they come at a price. High tech fabrics and equipment can improve the experience, but you might want to wait and make sure items will be used more than once before making those purchases. Camping equipment can also be quite specialized; you don’t need to spend the extra money on a backpacking tent if you will be camping next to your car. If your child catches the bug, there will be plenty of opportunities to upgrade gear later.