Essentials of Camping

1. Pocketknife or multipurpose tool

These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a host of repairs on malfunctioning gear—not to mention cut cheese and open cans. Scout must earn the Totin' Chip before carrying or using any sharpened tool.

2. First-aid kit

Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters, but you can customize your kit with your favorite blister treatment and ointments for common outdoor ailments (a topical antihistamine, for example, to take care of itches and rashes).  Goldbond for rashes.

3. Extra clothing

Bring one more clothing layer than you think you'll need. Two rules: Avoid cotton (it dries slowly and keeps moisture close to your skin), and always carry a hat. A windproof, water-resistant fleece jacket can help you withstand ornery conditions. Plastic baggies or extra socks can help keep hands warm.  Plan on layering.

4. Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries

Headlamps and flashlights allow you to find your way in the dark or signal for help. Headlamps are convenient for hands-free use. New LED lights are light, and last longer.  LED lanterns are nice for setting up camp.

5. Rain gear

A dousing rain can quickly chill you to the point of hypothermia. Rain gear protects against not only rain, but also wind, cold, and even insects.   Rain suits are less restrictive, are better in wind, but need to be breathable.  Ponchos are cheaper and easier to carry, but make sure to get a good one  (not recommended for backpacking). Wide brim hats are good choice.

6. Water bottle

Dehydration leads to many unpleasant side effects such as nausea and headaches.  Options include Nalgene bottles, disposable bottles, backpack bladders, or canteens.  They should be easy to carry!  (if you decide to use Gatorade in your water bottle, only put it in wide-mouth Nalgene bottles – and be sure to mark it!  Once a bottle is used for drink mixes, it permanently is a smellable,  must be put up in a bear bag when camping in areas inhabitated by raccoons, possums, bears, skunks, etc.!  Never put drink mix in a backplack blader, such as a camelback, pladypus, etc.!)

7. Map and compass

A map not only tells where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident. A compass helps you find your way through unfamiliar terrain.  A GPS (global positioning system) can also help—but it is no substitute for knowing how to read a map

8. Matches and fire starter

Carry matches and a small amount of fire starter protected in zipper-locking bags. Windproof and waterproof matches are also a good choice.  Fire starter is anything flammable, from dryer lint to filled-in journal pages. Pine needles and birch bark make especially good starter, even when wet.  Dry grass is better.

9. Sun protection and sunglasses

Buy sunglasses that are ultraviolet ray (UV) resistant.  Plastic is cheaper and safer.

Don't use sunscreen that's been sitting in your medicine cabinet for a season or more: It has probably lost at least some of the effectiveness of its (SPF). A light-colored hat with a wide brim is also an effective sun deterrent. 

10. Trail food

Nothing boosts energy and spirits as much as a quick trail snack. You can make your own trail mix with nuts, raisins,  banana chips, and chocolate bits. The combination of sugar, fats, and potassium tastes great and provides quick energy, long-lasting calories, and replacement electrolytes.




11. Daypack

None of these items will do any good if you don’t carry them!


12. Whistle and mirror

Emergency signaling – a must for backpacking!


13. Garbage bag 

To pick up trash. Also useful as a substitute poncho, or to carry wet or dirty clothing.


14. Notepad and pencil

To write down the important things your Scoutmaster says, taking notes in an emergency, relay information to authorities if you need to leave a person to get help, or even, to leave a trail for yourself if you're lost!


15. Rope 

Hold things, fix things, 30’ – 50’ of 1/8” nylon.


16. Emergency blanket

Small, inexpensive extra protection.

Sleeping Bags:


Down is the best insulation for sleeping bags until you get wet. If your tent leaks or you sleep outside, then down will make you miserable when you get wet. Otherwise goose down's warmth, light weight, and lifetime durability makes it a great choice if you take care of your gear.


Synthetics can be good for beginners because of their low short-term expense, ability to retain more heat when wet, and quicker drying capabilities.


Comfort rating - When in doubt always err toward warmth.  20º is probably good for us.

Shapes: Mummy is lighter and warmer / Rectangular offers more room and can be zipped to another one.

Water resistance – A desirable option, but added expense

Weight – Fill weight indicates amount of insulation. Total weight ranges from 2-10 pounds.

Compressibility – Important for backpacking.

Separate liners offers additional warmth and keep the bag clean


Sleeping pads:


self inflating air pad or built in pillow is optional, but adds weight. For backpacking, extra clothing can be used as a pillow.

Store them unpacked – Long term compression reduces the insulating ability




Size: 3-4 person is best for 2 campers

Ease of set-up is very important for Boy Scouts

Taped seams and stitching show the ability of tents to avoid leaks

Waterproofing – Fabric Sealer / Seam Sealer.  DO NOT TOUCH THE WALLS AT NIGHT!

Bathtub floor – Floors that come 6” high prevent ground water from getting in.

Rainflies – Needed to keep moisture out and adds warmth. Ventilation is good, but the bigger flies keep it dryer.

Poles – Aluminum is more expensive, but won’t deteriorate. Fiberglass is cheaper, but may splinter in time.

Tarp over top is an option worth considering if you have an older or inexpensive tent.

Footprint to protect bottom – Use a tarp slightly smaller than your tent. As an alternative, you can also use 6-mil or thicker vapor barrier plastic cut slightly smaller than your tent for an inexpensive, but effective option.)

Keep food out of tents at ALL TIMES!

Leave your shoes outside your tent (but out of the weather!) if possible.

Set your tent up at home after all campouts to clean and dry it. It will smell better and last a lot longer.

Do not store backpacks or day packs in tents! They probably have had food in them, and that will attract bears, skunks, raccoons, etc.! Take this seriously!

 For more information about tents, hiking gear and other equipment, visit:




Cotton kills!  Wet cotton is uncomfortable and is likely to cause rashes.

Pants with zipper-off legs give more versatility.

Stocking caps are good for warmth in sleeping bags

Water wicking materials – Keeps skin dry and comfortable, but tends to absorbs odors

Wool blends are great, but expensive.


Buy cost effective shoes – Scouts will outgrow them quickly. Waterproof, comfortable boots are needed to keep the feet (and our Scout) happy.

If you're serious, get waterproof breathable liners unless you only do day hiking and never encounter rain, mud, or snow.

Light-weight fabric/suede hiking boots are lighter, more flexible, and breathe better and they trade this for long-term durability, support, and protection. This type of hiking boot would be great for day trips without a pack.

Mid-weights: Mid-weight boots are stiffer and provide more support and protection for shorter 2-3 day trips or even day hikes with no to a moderate load. If you hike for a few hours or up to 3 days, want more support on or off-trail, and hike easy to moderate trails get a mid-weight leather backpacking boot.

Extended Backpacking: The best level of support, protection, and durability for heavy loads and longer 3+ day trips on or off-trail on difficult terrain.

A light or mid-weight boot is a good place to start for your first hiking boot.

Camp shoes: Lightweight sneakers or water shoes (NO open toes).  Crocs should be avoided to since they have little traction and the holes allow sticks to come through, and should be avoided when cooking outdoors..


Sources to find products:


 Walmart, Kmart, Target, army surplus stores, Sports Authority, Dicks,  Bass Pro Shops, REI – Big list of websites. / / / /Ebay

Garage sales / Goodwill / Friends

 Keep an eye out for sales and plan ahead. Don’t be forced to buy full priced items at the last minute.