Preparing New Scouts for Summer Camp

Before they leave home for a week…

It’s probably a good idea if a Scout’s first camping experience is NOT a week-long adventure at Summer Camp. It could be great – but it could also be a disaster!

And really, whether new Scouts are going to summer camp immediately after joining or not, camping is synonymous with Scouting. So the best way to “set the hook” is to have a series of awesome outdoor experiences that include camping. (Also, it wouldn’t hurt some of your seasoned Scouts – who may be stepping up to leadership roles in your troop – to have some outdoor experiences in their new roles before a week of summer camp as well.)

How much you can and want to do before summer camp depends a lot on your schedule, the time between when new Scouts join and your week at camp, how much your troop may already have going on, as well as the Age Appropriate Guidelines for Camping. But here are two ideas – the planning for which should at least involve your current Scouts:

Outdoors Skills Day

Find a nearby park where new Scouts can be introduced to the troop’s outdoor gear, the gear they need (or may already have) and how to use it. This can include setting up taking down tents and dining flies, cooking gear, patrol boxes, etc. It’s also a chance to go over proper sleeping bags and duffle bags, rain gear, footwear, and what else to bring (and not) on a campout. Cook an easy meal (maybe foil dinners) and have some fun along the way, including some games. Other skills can include some basic first aid, campout hygiene and knot tying.

Talk about the planning that goes into a campout – menus, gear, watching the weather, being well-rested and eating properly before you go, etc. Talk about the buddy system, safe camping practices and telling a leader if you don’t feel good. Allow for Q&A and anticipate some questions that might not get asked. (For instance, Scouts might wonder about bathrooms – but not want to raise the issue.)

1st Campout – One night

Putting the Outdoor Skills Day into action! Camp at a nearby favorite park (maybe the same location), with continued introduction to what your troop likes to do on a campout. Maybe it includes orienteering, pioneering, hiking, or fishing. This is also a good time to introduce Scouts to the Outdoor Code. Again, make the meals easy to prepare, but emphasize teamwork and shared responsibilities. Have a campfire with smores! Have a good breakfast in the morning, a short nondenominational service, make sure everyone participates in cleaning up the campsite and packing up troop gear, then packs up to go home.

Talk about what to do when they get home

Unpack everything and help with laundry – or do it themselves – and dry out things like sleeping bags, tents, foot gear and rain gear.

Then put it all away.

Teach new Scouts to remember the golden rule of coming home: MMH: Make Mom Happy!