10 tips for helping Scouts balance fun and advancement at summer camp

At summer camp, what’s more important for Scouts, advancement or fun?

Trick question. Scouts who attend the best summer camps and have effective Scout leaders guiding them don’t have to choose.

For these Scouts, advancement is part of the fun.

That said, there are always Scouts who take it to the extreme. There are the overachievers, who cram their schedule with merit badge classes and don’t leave any time to visit the waterfront, horse around with friends, or relax.

And then there are Scouts who do exactly the opposite, choosing to wander around the camp all week or just stay in their campsite and play cards.

Part of the responsibility for maximizing a boy’s time at summer camp falls on you, the Scout leader. With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can maximize both fun and advancement at summer camp this year. They come courtesy of our Facebook friends. Continue reading


Chill out! Philmont’s open in the winter, too

One night in a snow shelter, and you’ll be hooked.

I’m speaking from experience. In 2000, I attended Kanik, Philmont’s winter offering, with Troop 1776.

The crisp morning air, the snow-covered mountains, and good friends — all in a setting unlike any I had seen. Sure, I had been to Philmont a couple times before 2000, but those trips were in the summer. Seeing Scouting’s paradise covered with an impossibly white layer of snow made this trip unforgettable.

It’s like taking your favorite dessert and adding a layer of icing. Very sweet indeed.  Continue reading


How do you know if a campfire skit or song is “Scout-appropriate”?

Just when you thought the Friday night campfire was going smoothly, the Eagle patrol had to do that skit.

You know, the one with salty language, an inappropriate ethnic joke, or sexual innuendo?

Now you, the Scoutmaster, will spend all week fielding angry calls and e-mails from moms and dads in the troop.

If only this could’ve been avoided…

Before your next Scout campfire, let’s work together to answer two questions: (1) How do you screen a skit or song to make sure it’s appropriate? (2) What criteria do you use to determine whether it’s “in good taste”?  Continue reading


25 ways Scouters can make the most out of summer camp

Some would argue that this Scouter is doing exactly what he should do at camp: Relaxing somewhere Scouts can find him if they need him.

I know a place where adults voluntarily give up a week of vacation to oversee a bunch of teenage boys.

Some might call these adults crazy. I call them Scouters.

Around this time every year, hundreds of Boy Scout council camps across the U.S. fill up with Scouts having a week to remember — and the adult leaders who make it all possible.

At council camps, the staff sets the itinerary, handles the program, teaches the merit badges, and even prepares the meals.

So what’s a unit leader to do? How does a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster make the most of his or her week at camp?

Here are some ideas, sent in by Scouters like you on our Facebook page: Continue reading


This summer, make safety on the water your top priority

Most of my best memories from summer camp involved the water.

Where else but Camp Cherokee’s epic waterfront could I swim, canoe with my friends, or sit on a massive airbag called “the blob” and get propelled 15 feet into the air?

At camp or not, summer isn’t summer without water activities. But with great fun comes great responsibility, and that’s where you come in.

Continue reading


Photo Fridays: Great Moments at Summer Camp (39 photos)

To be honest, this week’s Photo Friday topic — Great Moments at Summer Camp — is a little redundant.

After all, it’s hard to find any moment at summer camp that isn’t great.

I speak from experience. I attended Camp Cherokee (now called Trevor Rees-Jones Scout Camp) with my troop six years in a row when I was a Scout. The location stayed the same each year, but the adventures, challenges, and excitement were fresh every time.

From the looks of the photos you sent me this week, it appears I’m not the only one who had a blast at summer camp.

That’s the concept behind this week’s edition of Photo Fridays, a feature highlighting real photos submitted by real Scouters. So far we’ve covered Cub Scout Fun, High Adventure, and Funny Moments.

Next week’s topic: “Scouters Can Have Fun, Too!” E-mail your best shots to me.

But first, enjoy these 39 photos!

Continue reading


Ask the Expert: Interpreting Camping merit badge Requirement 9a

When it comes to life-changing experiences, there’s no substitute for camping.

And when it comes to the Eagle-required Camping merit badge, there’s no substitute for Requirement 9A.

It reads as follows:

9. Show experience in camping by doing the following:

a. Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events. One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.

That one paragraph has caused a few Scout leaders some consternation. Bill, a district-level training chairman, sent me this e-mail:

Continue reading


During National Park Week, the great outdoors becomes even greater

What’s the only thing better than visiting a national park with Scouts?

Taking that same trip for free.

That’s the beauty of National Park Week, held this year from April 21-29. For these nine glorious days — spanning two full weekends —  all 397 national parks waive entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees.

National Park Week is one of several fee-free periods each year, but it’s by far the longest, giving you plenty of time to put your wallet away, find a park, and watch America’s Best Idea get even better.

Continue reading


Which freeze-dried meals taste best?

Hungry after a long day of hiking, paddling, or snowshoeing with your Scouts?

Three little words can save the day: “Just add water.”

The beauty of freeze-dried meals comes in their simplicity: Boil water, add mix, and you’re done.

But — speaking from experience here — ease of use often comes by sacrificing taste. The freeze-dried meals I remember were bland, watered-down concoctions that were a chore to eat.

That was years ago, and times have changed, says Brandon Garrett of The Ready Store in Draper, Utah. Continue reading