How to Prepare for the Best Part of Scouts – Camp Outs!

Our first camp out of the year is coming up in 10 sleeps! And I couldn’t be more excited!

Our scout group LOVES to scout. In fact, we love it so much, that when our GSM sent out an end-of-the-year questionnaire – so many people replied that they wanted to do MORE scouting.

As if the 3 camp outs we hosted last year, and opportunity to go to 2 additional ones not hosted by us, and the 1 Timberwolf Only campout – was not enough!

So of course, we added another camp out!

If it was up to the scouts themselves – we would be camping every month. Even in the dead of winter in the rainy and chilly Pacific Northwest.

While we, in the BPSA, scout outdoors in ALL weather – rain, snow (did that last year and my own daughter finally realized why it was important to pack/wear gloves), sun, heat (Drink. More. Water!), thunder (hide the tent stakes!) – we prefer not to be camping outside in the freezing weather.

Except for Winter Wonderee. In January. The only camp out we actually get to use a lodge for!

Besides, have you seen how expensive sleeping bags rated for anything under 30* are???

Anyways. Moving on. Where were we?

Oh yes. Scouts + Camping = best part of the entire program.

Why? Because I said so.

Just kidding. But it is is. And if you haven’t had the chance to ever participate in a scout camp out – I hope you get to at some point in your life.

The BPSA scout program is structured differently than others. And honestly, I have only heard through the grapevine how other groups do their camps. So I am not the expert on any other program or how exactly we are different. I only participated in a handful of scout of non-family youth related camp outs. And I did not particularly like them. I don’t remember much. Other than I didn’t want to be there. They were not exciting to me.

Or very memorable.

As an over 18 year old that is learning how to adult, I am not just a scout leader, but I also get to experience how to be a kid again.

Being a scout leader that has had practically zero scouting experience – has been both a blessing and a curse. I basically have a blank slate when it comes to scouting. Especially when it comes to camp outs. But that blank slate allows me to literally throw any idea I can dream of at the wall, and see what sticks…..

…..which has been interesting.

More on that later.

In the BPSA, each section – Chipmunks, Otters, Timberwolves, Pathfinders, and Rovers – all have different regulations on how their sections are run/what they are supposed to look like/etc.

For instance, once Otters are done with their 2hr section activity, they are relieved back to their parents.

Some Timberwolves get dropped off for the weekend so they are under the care and supervision of 2 deep leadership the entire weekend.

And pathfinders – they show up at drop off, head out in to the yonder, and then they disappear until its time to go home.

But the entire group – all families and leaders and youth and guests – we all camp together. We may not necessarily dine together. PF’s are responsible for their entire meal. And TW’s this year at our camp outs – will be responsible for a little more than last year, but not yet at PF stage.

It is a pretty amazing experience. During free time, I can sometimes be found sitting on a bench watching my Timberwolves show an Otter how to make a sundial – even though they themselves have no idea what a sundial looks like. Or a Pathfinder helping a non-scouting parent with a random task.

Anyways. Got derailed again. The programming. Yes. This is what I wanted to talk about. I joined scouts with ZERO clue what needed to be taught. ZERO clue how to run a meeting. ZERO clue how to handle a camp out.

Last year’s first camp out was, well, interesting. More on that later. But they progressively got better. And I progressively learned more and more about how to keep my scouts engaged and making memories.

In past camp outs, we have done a silly obstacle course to get 1st star requirement’s checked-off. We camped next to a beach and I had a grand idea of whittling on the sand. The scouts had other ideas and I was completely OK with that. And this last camp out, we were visiting Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, so we made a paper mache volcano over the course of 2 days and had the Otters come visit us to watch them EXPLODE! Oh and we made bamboo rafts the next day to see if they floated at a lake nearby.

I don’t have any scouting experience. And I don’t have any knowledge on what camp outs are supposed to look like. But I can tell you this. As a leader – camp outs may provide you with more time to teach more in-depth lessons.

But it is important to remember that what you may plan for a camp out, may not be what they remember. What they remember – is how dirty they get. How much fun they had climbing up the trees. How much fun they had playing glow-in-the-dark lawn darts right before lights out.

As leaders – we put so much time and effort in to what we want the camp-out to look like. We want them to be special. And unique.

We want our scouts to be engaged and learn new skills they may not be able to any other time. Especially if the camp out is located somewhere they would not be able to go to any other time. Like camping less than an hour away from Crater Lake and next to a Lake!

But we also want our scouts to leave tired, and dirty, and smiling. We want our scouts ready for more. Excited for what they get to learn/try next.

Our job as scout leaders may be to lead them, and teach skills that could prove useful in the future; but it is also our job to let them experience nature in the best way they can – laughing, running, playing a game, climbing, getting dirty.

Exploring.

I may have a lot planned for our camp out (which I will share with you AFTER the camp out), but I am also a proud supporter of scouts enjoying nature. However that may arise.

Leaders are there to lead, and supervise, and apply more advanced first aid, and be a mediator if necessary. Scouts are there to build a community with one another, make memories, and learn how they, themselves, are able to best connect with nature.

So when you are planning your camp out, especially your first one, where you may not have experience, or your own scouts have no experience camping – remember that:

  • It is OK to start slow, simple, and easy.
  • It is OK to start your first camp out with a silly obstacle course
  • It is OK to start with grand ideas that are grand to you, but not so to them

Because your scouts will find ways to connect themselves to nature.

And you will learn right along with them.

Just don’t overwhelm your scouts with too much. Been there. Done that. We were all done that weekend. I still have the scars to prove it (no…not caused by a scout. But by my own dog). More on that later. I also implore you to start thinking about your camp out activities more than a week in advance.

Ohplusalso, I urge you to not go in to a camp out with zero plan. Unless that is your plan…..well. As one of my besties says “Do the thing that works for you” – repeatedly told by Scrambles.

Scouting provides the framework on how to connect to nature. Leaders provide the tools to work with the framework. And scouts learn how to connect the framework to nature using the tools to power it on.

What are your favorite scouting camp out memories?

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