Camping How-to Guide:
Camping is the most popular way to put the “outing” in Scouting. Pack 469 typically camps 3 times a year (Fall Winter, and Spring)as a pack and the Webelos will usually attend at least 1 additional Webelos only campout. Be sure to refer to the Guide to Safe Scouting rules for camping before setting up a campout.
The campout chairperson should secure other parents and leaders to take on various tasks and responsibilities for the campout. The roles can include but are not limited to, Site check-in/assignments MC for the campfire program, MC for the Scout’s Own Service, & service project coordinator. He/She also needs to ensure that leaders with the mandatory training will be attending the campout and that all of the required paperwork and equipment is available. The following guide will aid the chairperson in accomplishing all of the tasks required for a safe and successful campout.
Camping should be a budget-neutral activity for the pack unless special provisions for a specific event are made in the annual budget by the pack committee. For example, during years where the budget allowed, the pack paid for the scouts fees on special campouts such as the USS Lexington Live Aboard Program. For most campouts, participants pay the pack what ½ of a campsite costs the pack for the number of days staying. For example, if a campsite costs $25 a night and the pack is staying 3 nights,, each family would pay $37.50. It does not matter if the family only plans to stay one night or all 3. We have to pay for the campsite, so the price is the same. This amount should be adjusted as needed to ensure that the event remains budget-neutral. Some past campouts have included a pack dinner where the pack provides the Saturday night meal. In this case the fees would need to be adjusted accordingly. Families are still responsible for paying park entrance fees, and daily use fees upon their arrival. Families who camp often will benefit by purchasing a Texas State Parks Annual Pass.
Pack 469 typically camps in State Park campsites with both water and electricity. While this is not a requirement under BSA, it is an easier way to camp and it gets the younger scouts and their parents to participate. Most Texas State Parks charge anywhere from $16 to $25 per night for the campsites with water and electricity and they allow for 2 tents per campsite. Reservations with Texas Parks And Wildlife can be made on their State Parks Reservation Page up to 333 days in advance. It is highly recommended that reservations be made as soon as possible as parks sell out early and it is often difficult to book enough spaces to accommodate a pack the size of ours. We typically start by reserving 20 campsites which will allow for 40 families and will add or drop sites if needed and available. Texas Parks and Wildlife requires a deposit of the first night’s stay to reserve campsites with the balance due upon arrival. If cancellations are made at least 3 days in advance they charge $10 per campsite to cancel and the remainder is refunded. If cancellations are made within 3 days of arrival, the entire deposit is forfeited.
Many State Parks also offer Group Campsites for youth organizations such as Cub Scouts. These campsites are typically large open spaces with nearby restrooms and shower facilities. Potable water is generally available at a central location. These campsites can be easily utilized by our Webelos dens on their overnight camps, but are not large enough to hold a pack the size of ours.
In the past, Pack 469 has provided dinner for all participants on Saturday nights. In 2017-2018, we got away from this practice because our pack had grown too large. All meals are coordinated at the den level or by individual families. This can be done a number of ways. Several dens will assign responsibility for each meal to a different family. Others will have one person serve as “grubmaster” and families will reimburse him/her for their portion of the total food bill. We usually also ask each den to provide a potluck dessert to be shared with the pack before Campfire on Saturday night. Don’t forget to also coordinate whether or not a dining utensils will be provided or if people need to bring individual mess kits.
Each family is responsible for their own camping gear, but the pack has a limited amount of gear that can be loaned out to help new campers. When available, the Troop’s camping trailer can be utilized to haul the food and equipment that will be used by the pack at large. Be sure to check with the troop to ensure availability of the trailer. At a minimum, the pack should have a large first aid kit at a central location, Medical forms for all participants, permission slips for all scouts, tables for serving the Saturday night meal, pack banners, flags, flag stands.
An activity schedule should be planned and distributed to all campers. The schedule should tell campers when and where scheduled activities will occur and also should allow plenty of down time for families to explore the outdoors together.
Campfire Program – The pack usually puts on a campfire program after dinner on Saturday night. This should occur in a central location in an area large enough to accommodate everyone attending. Each den should perform at least 1 (preferably 2) song or skit. The adult leaders should also perform at least 1 skit. All skits should be vetted by leaders for appropriate content before the campfire program. There are multiple online resources for skits and songs. I also highly recommend the MC for the event pick up copies of “Superior Campfires” or “Campfire Magic” available at the scout store.
Scouts Own Service – The Scouts Own Service is a non-denominational outdoor service held on Sunday mornings after breakfast. All scouts and Scouters should be able to attend regardless of their faith. Emphasis should be on ethics NOT religious theology or doctrine. It is best if it occurs in a scenic location that is quiet and has a natural beauty. It should be in good taste and is not the place for skits, or run-ons. The service should be planned in advance and a program should be handed out that has song lyrics and readings are printed. It should also be participatory and include all in attendance. A great online resource to help plan a Scouts Own service can be found here.
Geocaching– Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity that has been embraced by Texas Parks and Wildlife and is great for scouts of all ages. It is basically an outdoor treasure hunt where scouts utilize a cell phone’s GPS system to find hidden caches in the parks. Some of the caches are large and contain toys and treasures for scouts to trade. Others are very small and only have a small log where people can sign their names once they find it. Start by downloading the geocaching app from the play store or app store.
Advancement – All ranks have advancement requirements involving camping and outdoor activity. Several hours each day should be committed to den time for accomplishing rank requirements. These activities should be planned and coordinated by the individual dens and den leaders.
Service Project – Pack 469 always tries to give back to the community. When staying at state parks we try to do some type of conservation project to help the park. Usually we will dedicate 1-2 hours of time to make this happen. The best way to do this is to call the park approximately 4-6 weeks prior to arrival and let the ranger know that you want to do a service project, the number of children and adults you expect to have, the skill level of the participants, and the amount of time you wish to spend. The ranger can then take all of this into account and come up with a project for the pack that will also benefit the park. In the past, we have done everything from trash clean up to removing invasive plant species. One time we were asked to clear an area of extremely heavy brush and undergrowth in order to open up the final section of a new trail the park was putting in. In just under an hour, our boys had clear-cut a trail that was 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall and 50 yards long!!!! Never underestimate the potential power of 50 cub scouts with saws and clippers.
Whatsit Box – The whatsit box holds a collection of items that the scouts must feel and describe. This is best done as a den activity that is available immediately following morning announcements with a turn in deadline shortly before the evening campfire program. This allows dens to come by at any time of the day and work on their entry. The contents of the box change at every campout but most items should be things that the boys will be able to guess. It is ok to have a couple of harder items to really make things interesting. Each den will do their best to describe the items based only on what they can feel. Scouts are forbidden to look inside the box. The den with most correct answers or the best descriptions of the items wins a token prize to be awarded during the campfire program.
Ancient and Mysterious Weather Rock – This is simply a large rock suspended from a tripod, banner, stand, tree branch or other convenient item. Each morning during the announcements, a leader will consult the weather rock for the day’s forecast. The forecast should be obvious observations (the rock is wet…therefore it is raining – or – the rock is swaying back and forth…therefore it is windy….etc). The funnier the observation, the better. In the past, the rock has only given its prognostication following the correct incantation being given by the group in a loud and obnoxious manner. The words are as follows: (said loud and fast)
Whether the weather is hot,
or whether the weather is not,
We’ll weather the weather
No matter the weather
Or whether we like it – or not!
Medical Forms_AB – BSA requires that the Pack have on file a medical form Part A & B for every person attending a campout. The forms are good for 1 year after the date they are signed and are typically kept by the pack committee secretary. The forms need to be complete with immunization records and copies of medical insurance cards. Information on these forms is protected by HIPPA laws, so keep them in a safe and secure location but make sure they are accessible by adult leaders on the campout.
Activity Consent Form – Permission slips or consent forms are required for every scout attending a campout. These can be downloaded, filled out, and collected in advance but it is often easiest to print the completed forms from the Scoutbook RSVP system and have parents sign them upon arrival at the campout. This serves as a check –in process and forces parents to come to a central location to get campsite assignments.
Campout Registration Form – Signups are often easiest to accomplish via some type of registration form. This is a sample registration form that has proved useful in the past and that can be easily modified to meet the needs of each campout.
Camping Roster Spreadsheet– The Excel file that I have used to consolidate information on the registration form into a more useable format. the various pages show different ways to manipulate the data. Scouts are highlighted in yellow.
Campout Schedule – A schedule should be published and distributed to all parents and leaders. This is a schedule we used for a 3-night camping trim over a long weekend. Feel free to modify as needed.
Before a campout can occur, leaders must have the proper training. For Cub Scout Campouts at least one leader attending the campout must have completed BALOO (Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation) training. In addition there must be at least one leader who has completed the online training for Weather Hazards (available at my.scouting.org), and one person with medical training. We require all people attending a campout who are age 18 or over to have a current YPT certification.