This is just a basic outline of what should be brought on a typical camping trip. Make adjustments according to the particular activity and weather that’s expected to occur during the trip. Always plan to have some variability in the projected weather. There have been outings where there was a projected 0% chance of precipitation where it rained like crazy as well as outings where it was supposed to be 70 degrees yet the highs never got above 50. Embrace that Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared!!!
Enclosed is a good starting point for items that should be included on just about every outing. And, to make sure that you actually bring all of that stuff with you, here’s a link to a Basic Camping Checklist. Review the material, then check your list before the outing!
Basic Outing Pack List:
These items should be packed in your personal gear bag. Ideally, the personal gear bag should be a waterproof bag that is the correct size to store all of your gear, including your sleeping bag. Water repellent bags can be found at relatively modest cost though a variety of online retailers.
NOTE: Just to be SURE that your clothes won’t get wet, it’s a good idea to pack your clothes into large or, if needed, jumbo (2.5 gallon) zip top bags. Pack up clothes for the day into each bag and label the bag with the day you’re going to wear those clothes to help keep things organized.
1. Shirts: Avoid cotton. Cotton holds onto moisture. If you get wet and the temperatures drop, you can become hypothermic quickly. Use materials that wick moisture away from your skin e.g., (lightweight polyester for your base layers). You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get these types of shirts.
Plan to use layers. It’s very common that conditions are chilly when we first get going in the morning, then temperatures warm during the day. Using layers of clothing that you can add to and easily remove means that you will likely be able to self regulate your temperature well.
Plan to change out of what you wear during the day before you go to sleep. No matter what you do during the day, you will create at least some sweat. Plan to change into a new base layer before going to bed and you’ll feel better, stay warmer, and keep your sleeping bag clean(er).
For a typical weekend outing, plan to pack at least 3 lightweight shirts. If conditions are expected to be colder, plan to add a sweatshirt or hoodie.
Follow the Scout motto: be prepared! Even if the forecast is for temperatures in the mid 60’s during the day with light breezes expected, think about how you would respond if the forecast was off by 15 degrees and the wind was more constant. Will you be warm enough with the clothes that you have? Remember, on nearly all outings, you will be outside ALL DAY. Going with layers will help a great deal… if it’s really cold, you can add layers. You can add a hoodie. You can use your rain gear as an additional layer to help keep warm. Be prepared and be sure to have an additional layer just in case.
NOTE: The base layers will help keep the additional layers from getting sweaty and uncomfortable.
2. Two pair of shorts or pants, depending upon temperatures and the planned activity. The same suggestions about avoiding cotton applies to pants and shorts. Please be sure to change into sweatpants or PJs before going to bed.
3. Sweatpants (sleeping, and in case it gets cold). A lot of Scouts use sweatpants as PJs.
4. Socks: The same suggestions apply to cotton for socks… it’s best to avoid cotton. The type of socks depends on the temperatures expected and the activity. For typical outings during the Spring – Fall, light weight socks are generally fine. Some Scouts choose to use the knee high socks to help prevent bug bites on the lower legs. During winter outings, using wool socks can help keep feet toasty!
One of the things that we have seen over time on outings is: new socks = new attitude. What does this mean? if you’re feeling chilly and wet from your head to your toes, it can become very easy to get a bit grumpy. When Scouts (and Scouters) get to that point, putting on a fresh pair of clean and dry socks can result in an almost immediate attitude improvement! Plan on bringing 4 pair.
5. Underwear: Again, avoid cotton. Plan on bringing 2 pair.
6. Sweatshirt: good for adding layers if temperatures drop.
7. Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb/brush, deodorant. Please do not forget deodorant! 😉
8. Sleeping pad: You don’t want to sleep directly on the ground. It can be uncomfortable, either from rocks and roots or from the cold. An inexpensive closed cell foam pad can make a big difference in comfort. For those that want to step up the comfort, can consider using a self inflating pad (e.g., Thermarest type).
9. Sleeping bag: the bag you use will depend on the conditions expected AND upon how you sleep. Some people are just cold sleepers, and no matter what they use, they tend to feel chilly at night. Other people are hot sleepers and can tolerate using lighter weight bags at lower temperatures. The conditions are important to consider (e.g., don’t plan to bring a 0 degree bag for an August outing in Maryland). Since our troop camps all year round, Scouts end up needing a couple different bags for the different conditions expected. The bags do not have to be expensive. For summer camping, many Scouts use light weight fleece bags.
For typical Spring and Fall camping in our area, it makes sense to consider getting a properly rated 30- 40 degree bag. For colder weather, you can combine the fleece bag with the 40 degree bag to be comfortable in lower temperatures. For winter camping in very cold temperatures, consider getting a lower temperature rated sleeping bag.
NOTE: You want to be comfortable, so please try out bags and find what works best for you before the outing if you can. For example: you may discover that you are an active sleeper and prefer a rectangular bag instead of using a mummy-shaped bag.
Also, for smaller Scouts, use a smaller bag. Sleeping bags work by trapping existing body heat. They don’t create warmth… the camper has to provide the warmth. If the bag is too large and there’s a lot of space available for heat to go to in the bag, you won’t be able to generate enough heat to keep the bag warm. That lovely, expensive, zero-degree, extra large bag may not work well if you are not extra large size!
Optional: travel pillow. They can be inexpensive and may help you sleep more comfortably.
Please be sure to LABEL your gear! Use waterproof markers and mark every piece of gear and clothing.
We pack the Troop trailer during the Wednesday meeting before the outing. Please be sure that you pack your gear (don’t let your parents pack for you) and bring it with you to the Wednesday meeting so that it can go on the trailer.
NOTE: These items should be in your day pack. Your day pack should be with you when we leave for the outing. Do NOT pack these items in with the gear that will go onto the trailer.
Day Pack: Need something small and light weight to bring with you on every outing.
Flashlight: If you do not already have one, please consider getting a head lamp instead of a flashlight. A headlamp does not have to be expensive (e.g. I have not tried this particular model, but at the time of this posting, it was < $15 at Walmart). You can always choose to find a more pricey headlamp later on. Petzl, Black Diamond, Princeton make high quality headlamps if you find you need something more than a basic lamp.
So: Why use a headlamp instead of a flashlight? A headlamp allows you to use both hands. The light also goes to wherever you look. It’s just much more practical than a hand held flashlight. A hand held flashlight requires that you use one hand to hold the light. Since Scouts typically end up setting up their gear at night, it just makes a huge amount of sense to use a headlamp rather than a flashlight. Set up will be more efficient and it’s ON your head… it’s one less thing to drop and possibly loose.
Work gloves: You will generally be setting up tents and cooking areas when they first get to camp. You don’t need something pricey, just something basic (like these from Harbor Freight for under $2) to help protect your hands while you’re setting up.
First Aid kit: This does not need to be purchased. In fact, a basic first aid kit can be put together very inexpensively from items you probably have around the house. Plan on packing a handful of band-aids of various sizes, some gauze pads of various sizes, some antiseptic wipes, small packets of antibiotic ointment, a small roll of adhesive cloth tape, small scissors, some moleskin. All of this can generally fit into a quart size zip top bag.
Remember: This first aid kit is for your personal gear and is intended to allow you to take care of minor cuts and scrapes as well as deal with blisters that may develop. The Program Staff have more comprehensive first aid kits if needed.
Rain jacket/rain pants: rain gear doesn’t have to be expensive. To be effective, it needs to be waterproof and it needs to be available. If you happen to pack your rain gear in your personal gear bag and it’s raining when we arrive at the camp site on Friday, understand that you will get wet.
Water bottle: one of the most common reasons for boys to end up not feeling well on an outing is that they don’t drink enough water. Be sure to pack a water bottle on all outings. Make sure the bottle is large enough (e.g., at least 20 ounces) so that it doesn’t need to be refilled repeatedly throughout the day.
Mess kit: The BSA mess kit isn’t great. In fact, it’s pretty bad. For general outings, would be helpful to purchase something like the Light My Fire kit or you can even make your own.
Sun Screen: keep it with you so that you can apply it when needed.
Bug Spray: keep it with you so that you can apply when needed.
Small towel or bandanna.
Scout book: labelled with your name and stored in a zip top bag. Include a pen inside the bag to go with the book.
Outings are a great time to knock off accomplishments for advancement. Scouts may even be able to have a Scoutmaster conference and a board of review on an outing (if there are enough appropriately trained parents attending) so that they can advance in rank. You’ll need your Scout book to complete those accomplishments and get them checked off.
Finally, please do not pack your uniform! You will need your uniform on you in order to go on the outing.
If you pack your uniform into your personal gear bag and the bag gets packed onto the trailer, you won’t be able to GET your uniform. You cannot travel to an outing without your uniform. Which means, your gear will go on the outing while you stay home.
For tips on how to prepare for cold weather camping: There’s a quick video available below that was created by one of the Troop 615 Scouts.