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:

How to make the most out of summer camp

  1. Summer camp is the best vacation! Take it easy, wander around and see what the Scouts are doing, encourage them. Don’t take your cell phone or laptop. Enjoy the outdoors, make your self available, but stay out of the Scouts way as much as you can.” — T.C. N.
  2. Attend to your Scouts! Go to their classes, and make sure they don’t skip class. Follow up on their merit badge paperwork to see if it is completed. It’s not a vacation, it’s an interactive position to build relationships with your scouts. If you want a vacation this is not the place.” — Jill R.
  3. Bring lots of bug repellent, keep Band-Aids in your pocket at all times, and don’t expect much sleep before 10 p.m. On the other hand, it’s going to be the greatest experience of your life.” — Michael B.
  4. Take pictures of the boys having the time of their lives, and share them with the Scouts and the parents that don’t go. We would love to see pictures of our kids grooming/riding the horses, climbing the tower, etc. Things they don’t do every day.” — Tracy H.
  5. Make sure nobody is practicing fire-starting while you’re napping!” — Jenna S.
  6. Be prepared to deal with: homesick younger Scouts, lots of questions you can answer with “have you asked your patrol leader or SPL?”, and discipline issues of every kind.” — Win R.
  7. If you have a boy-led troop then a Scoutmaster has a week of vacation. SPL and ASPL will take care of stuff, and if they can’t, they know where to find you: ‘Kicked back in camp.'” — Curtis S.
  8. Get plenty of rest. Have vacation days available after you week of camp to rest more.” — Bruce D.
  9. As for homesickness … hang on to those letters until the ride home. NO calls to home (the last thing you need is Mom ending the letter “I miss you,” and the boo-hooing begins). The kids are kept busy all day long and get worn out by the end of day, and it’s to bed. They’ll have lots of fun and the week will go by quick. Scouting magazine had an article on this a few years ago. It’s a really good article.” — Donald P.
    (Bryan says: Here’s the article!)
  10. “If possible, have the swim test done before you get to camp (at worst a Scout has to do a swim test again, at best, long lines avoided).” — Skot L.
  11. Make sure your hiking boots are up to the task. You’ll circumnavigate the camp at least 20 times per day! And be up on all your Trail to First Class stuff ’cause not only will you need to confirm that the boys learned it as you’re signing them off, but you may have to reteach or pitch in and teach.” — Janet J.
  12. Always look out for the safety of the Youth first, but CATCH the Spirit of camp, ‘put it on’ and live it!” — Ron M.
  13. Bring a hammock, and make sure the Scouts see you climb into it at least twice a day. The rest of the time tell them it is available for rent — two minutes for a handful of litter. You will have the cleanest camp site in the camp.” — Jerry J. 
  14. Make sure that your SPL (and your adults) know all the activities that are going on in camp. Encourage them to get involved. The more they are involved, the more fun they have and fewer issues of homesickness.” — Brian Z. 
  15. Get trained and get a comfortable chair.” — Curt N.
  16. Take advantage of opportunities to be a camper – archery, mile swim. Do the SM merit badge if the camp has it. Talk to lots of people from other troops.” — Beth K.
  17. Don’t forget your coffee cup.” — Renate M.
  18. Engage the Camp Commissioner. He is there to help your troop plan their campfire skit, learn a new skill, and design a custom experience.” — Donald M.
  19. Have fun, be involved as much as possible with what the camp offers, take a deep breath during frustrating moment, revel in the glory at the end of the week when you see true growth in each and every Scout.” — Karen H. 
  20. Every leader should bring earplugs and rotate who wears them each night that way someone is getting sleep and if needed the leaders on call can wake the others.” — Nicholas G.
  21. Know what ‘homework’ the boys need to work on BEFORE the last day of classes. Those monkey bridge models for Pioneering take some time!” — Robert W.
  22. Take a cribbage board and cards. Then, be available but on the sidelines.” — Paul K.
  23. Relive your days of youth and have fun. Learn new skills and become a better man because of it.” — Don S. 
  24. Guide and direct without ‘hovering’ … let the boys fail and deal with consequences. I had a good time by asking the camp leadership where and how could I help… this kept me busy and let the boys see that I had ‘things to do’ as well as they did.” — Lynne T.
  25. Keep one eye open!” — Rich L.

What do you think?

Did any of these suggestions resonate with you? What other advice can you offer an adult leader? Leave your thoughts below.

Top photo by Kevin Via, Baltimore Area Council; Secondary photo by Charlie Tapia, Theodore Roosevelt Council


  1. Get Trained! Our camp offers tons of training, both serious (Scoutmaster Specific, BSA Lifeguard, Climb on Safely, Small craft safety) and not so serious, like the ever popular Nap on Safely. Find an activity you have not done, and try it, it sets a great example fo the Scouts!

  2. Train, volunteer to help teach a merit badge, man the observation tower at the water front, help serve meals, do a project to help the ranger out maintaining something at camp. One year I helped build that councils gateway for the 2010 Jamboree.

    Earn “Scoutmaster’s Merit Badge” and challenge your Troop’s adult leaders to do the same.

    I’ve been to base camp 3 1/2 weeks over the past 5 years. It is always a fun time for an adult especially after the Scouts get off to their classes on the first day. I’d be there this week if I weren’t leaving for Philmont on Sunday!!!

  3. YEAH, what THEY said…but here’s a couple more:

    – read a book. This is the perfect opportunity for you to read for your own entertainment or pleasure.

    – talk with other Scouters. Summer camp is unique as you have PLENTY of time to sit and talk with other Scouters — not just Scoutmasters but other Troop’s committee members, Commissioners, visiting Scouters (like me!) and “that guy you see every evening at the trading post or the pool and wondered who he is and what unit he’s out here with…”

    YES your job one is to be there for the youth of your unit. But most times in a successful, youth run-adult managed Troop, you will find yourself with a LOT of free time and unless *you’re prepared!*, you’ll spend most of it snoozing off somewhere. Don’t be *that guy* or gal! *laughter*

    Be Prepared!

    • Mike, Good as always to see you weigh in on the subject. Been a while since we chatted last. Glad to see you are still plugging away at this thing we love called Scouting!
      Your points (as always) are spot on.

  4. Mike, Just read a phrase that caught my eye….Youth Run-Adult managed Troop! There’s a concept…..I’ve see too many times leaders get this “Let the boys fail” mentality and just let them go without any shadow leadership. GREAT PHRASE! As for camp, hopefully a leader has sat down with each boy, asked their wants out of camp and planned what THEY want. If a boy wants merit badges, then plan out what he needs with what they offer at camp and decide not to do the one’s he can get on his own or at troop level. remember it’s ALL about the BOYS. We had a troop of Merit Badge go-getters, so us leaders cooked most of the meals. The boys were suppose to cook, but sinch they had a “Full Plate” we thought this was the best option. What ever you do, don’t be one of those “Loaf Around” leaders and make life hard for the boys…camp should be a great experience, not a lousy one…

  5. I agree with most of what was said. Summer Camp is NOT a time to follow boys around and make sure they get to class.. or stay in class for that matter. It is their week to have fun, be with friends and enjoy camp. Adults.. Get out of the way.
    I find it funny that the only two comments in the list from facebook that were not spot on were from female leaders. I am not sure why that is… but I would suggest they take a good book, a compfy chair, and leave the boys alone.
    Summer camp is for the boys, but there is a lot for adults to do, if they don’t want to read a good book.
    How about hitting up the commissioners or the business director and see if you can do a service project with a few other adults around camp.
    Go for a hike.
    Volunteer your time in the Trail to First class area.
    Learn a new skill, or sharpen an old one.
    Pick up whittling.
    Practice your harmonica tunes.
    Make a new friend over a nice cup o’ Joe.
    But for goodness sakes.. get away from the program area and stop hovering over the Scouts that are trying to have fun without you. Problem is they are to polite to tell you to leave them alone.
    You are there for YPT and a seat belt. Beyond that, the staff with do the rest.
    Sign a blue card or two and have a good week.
    Have fun and have a great Scouting Day!

    • Well women and men do have different views. ‘Tis is life’s fact. Knowing that I made sure when seeking feedback for a Scout project that I added men to our dominate female group to ensure a nice balance and ANOTHER perspective: male.

      I gotta agree that the first comment was definitely a mother not knowing the BP method. I didn’t see the second aimed at the boys but aimed at adult going to take full the opportunities that camp offers for themselves. when i look back i realized now i never understood the Patrol Method but then again NO ONE ever explained it to me. I went on ALL the campouts as a parent so I never had the training nor did any one sent or suggest it to me. I do remember being pulled into a training session of IOLS to learn a few things as a wiser Scouter said since she comes she should learn it so can catch ‘safety’ issues. I didn’t get the full training of IOLS but did earn my totin’ chit and knots and more. Just a thought that instead of saying they don’t know the B-P method, instead wonder if anyone suggested or explained the method to her.

      I remember my week at summer camp. It was done on a bet with my son. It was my first camp experience. I did nothing with my son yet had a ball with the leaders. Didn’t get as much out of it being deaf lesson wise because of the spur of the moment like I would a training session where I ask for the materials to read in advance. It was great fun though and relaxing to see a side of scOUTING without scouts!

    • Your are absolutly right Jerry!!! The boys that skip class this year wont be the ones to skip next year. It comes with the territory of growing and maturing.

  6. Get to national camp school and volunteer. My wife and I went to NCS this year and have signed on as volunteers for the next 3 years at our local council camps which depends on adult volunteers. I’m working as the shooting sports director, she will be doing activities director and our 3 scouts will get to be at camp for 2 weeks of camps as well! We are lucky enough to be teachers and have the time to support summer camp!

  7. I admit, after being on summer camp staff for several years, I don’t think I could just sit down and relax. While I’m not going to pester the scouts and follow them around, unless I’m the primary adult leader in camp, I’d be doign something. I’d probably do BSA Lifeguard again, or see if I could help teach a few merit badges I an MBC for.

    But no matter what, I would be having fun!

  8. My story:

    Summer camp is how I started down the Merit Badge trail.
    I could do a better job than the youth leading…
    That year assisted the first year program. Camp staff needed the help.

    Lead the Troop service project at camp one year. Coordinated the effort.

    Our Troop brings so many Scouts (62 this year ) that we now do our own First Year program. For the last few years I only come out for a day one two and work on special advancement requirements. This year: knife, axe, saw and fire building. Then renew my CPR or what ever else is available.

  9. take a turn doing the same daily chores the Scouts do (but don’t take on the chore only for yourself.)

  10. Don’t forget, be kind to Camp Staff! As the father of two camp staff, one of whom is on her eight summer and currently serves as program director at our busiest camp, I find that some adult leaders have completely unreasonable expectations of the young men and women who basically volunteer their summer as camp staff. Remember, they make between $5 and $100 per week to be available 24/7 to the demands of camp leaders. Last week, there was an ASM from an out-of-council troop spend 30 minutes dressing down the eighteen-year-old dining hall stewardess because they ran out of oatmeal and had to offer instant oatmeal packets instead. Lucky it wasn’t my week as commissioner because I’d have called him out on it. His SM offered the week excuse that he was an attorney in real life and used to “bulldozing” over people. Ugh!

  11. If you’re a DIY’er, find a camp improvement project. There’s not a ranger alive who wouldn’t welcome an experience leader fixing/improving something at camp. I’ve built a lifejacket shelter, tent platforms, permanent dining fly frames, axe yards, bulletin boards, etc. Our camps are always looking for skilled help, and every year I can go back and see how what I built is holding up!

  12. Pitch-perfect advice and good reference for the “Summer Camp Continuity Binder” we’re starting. A few adds from three years of “been there, done that”:

    – Be sure to not work so hard that you can’t spend some time with your own son(s). Not so much that you are a crutch or a buddy, but you will have a chance to create some special father-son memories — one of ours is completing the Mile Swim together
    – When in the program areas hanging out and taking pictures and an instructor asks, “Hey mister, want to do the zip line after the boys get finished?” say yes!
    – Likewise, when the instructor at the climbing tower asks, “Can you belay for us all afternoon so we can get more boys up the tower?” also say yes!
    – Use Troop Time / Siesta to work on Tenderfoot / Second Class / First Class requirements — or employ Star Scouts to use the EDGE method to do the same
    – Have a slushy at the Trading Post. You’ve earned it, and you need the calories to replace what you lost traipsing around the camp and sweating all day!
    – End the night with a good campfire and the sharing of great stories!

  13. As a scoutmaster who leads our scouts every summer too at camp I identify with all that you mentioned…..also we have scoutmaster competitions at camp & opportunities to take classes such as the COPE Leadership class with the scouts. I try and participate in many activities….at the recent camp one day we attended Chapel at 6:00am and were on the go until 11:30pm Astronomy Star-Gazing Party! It is worth every minute of it – great exercise in the high, cool altitude mountains of New Mexico too high for mosquitoes! Thanks to those parents and assistant scoutmasters who help out at camp – I could not do it all alone as I like to visit the scout areas throughout the day while encouraging, taking lots of pictures and helping the counselors!

  14. As an assistant scoutmaster, with 15 of our 18 scouts going through the first year camper program, I found myself spending most of my time helping there. I also had a great time wandering through camp checking in on all the merit badge classes. It was also fun and relaxing, working on the Scoutmaster merit badge so the scouts could see me working as well. I am now the scoutmaster still with a VERY young troop, (our SPL is 13!) and myself and three other adult leaders took 17 of these scouts to Gettysburg for a week doing the Heritage Trails program put on by the New Birth of Freedom Council. Although this was an experience of a lifetime, the years worth of planning and the 24/7 contact, including teaching merit badge classes took a lot out of us. I greatly look forward to going back to Summer camp and letting someone else do the planning and cooking!!! (Although we’re beginning to plan to go to DC for 2014, and this time, the scouts will be progressed enough to do a lot of the planning!)

  15. Went to Summer Camp for the first time ever. 21 Scouts and 3 Leaders. We rotated jobs between the Leaders. There was always one Leader in camp encase of emergency. One would drive our paraplegic scout the mile and a half to and from the Horse arena. One would escort a first year scout to the ranges because no one else in the troop had shooting at the same time. The rest of the time, we wondered the program areas taking pictures of the scouts and lending a hand when asked.

    I did get two naps in.

    • Of course, in escorting a scout to an activity, two deep leadership and youth protection standards MUST be followed.

  16. From a FEMALE Scoutmaster – I have a blast at summer camp. I earn the scoutmaster’s badge, help in any area of camp needed, take tons of photos, love the trailblazers, help out at first aid, do anything that is asked, plus have a great time with the scouts. I have attended summer camp for over seven years now and enjoyed every year. I must disagree about checking on on your scouts – well I am a scoutmaster and that is part of what I do (my parents expect it) – I walk around take pictures for them and their parents, send photos to parents, post of FB for parents to enjoy, make sure they are drinking lots of water, no need of anything and I like participate with the class. Sit and listen and learn – have fun! I get to know staff, new leaders and make new friends as well as they do, and make lots of memories. Scouting to me has always been about my scouts and having fun together – I have so many memories to remind me of why I love scouting and summer camp! I have talked to the Camp Commissioner about starting leadership classes for our scoutmasters during the day but all in all I am there for my boys, making sure they have the time of their lives! We all work together to make it a great week for everyone.

  17. I have to say I agree with Scoutmaster Jerry. Camp is time for the boys to begin to spread their wings. They are starting down the road to adulthood. I am always there for any of my boys on campouts and I certainly assure their safety. This is the time for the boys to start learning responsibility. They need a scout leader that they know will be there for them if needed but they dont want a babysitter following them around camp. (my sons inform me that that is uncool and embarrassing) It is a great time for leaders to get additional training or renew training. It is also a great time to sit in the shade read a good book and nap. Remember most of us are giving up some of our vacation to go to camp.

  18. It was a great time to develop my wood-carving skills; I had a set of wood carving tools I won in a silent auction, and the Trading Post had easy-to-carve basswood precut slides to practice on.

    Before we left camp, half the Troop had started a project of their own. It felt really nice to introduce the boys to a hobby that I’m not very good at. I don’t have to be an expert to be a mentor.

    • I inherited my Grandfather-in-law’s wood carving tools after he passed away. Summer Camp was a perfect time and place to begin honing my whittlin’ skills. Slowly, I am carrying on his decades-long tradition of carving neckerchief slides. We miss you, PAT.

  19. These two pictures are exactly what I plan on doing next week (plus lots of other things). Drinking slushies and taking a afternoon nap EVERYDAY!

  20. As a new Camping MB Counselor, I sat in on the Camping MB session everyday to see how they teach it and exactly what is being covered. I told the camp counselor what I was doing, that I was not there to critique him, but to also learn.

  21. I am an female adult leader who completely disagrees with the two other ladies that posted. These kids do not need momma at camp. And, what you are suggesting, in my opinion, is having a momma at camp. They need to learn the responsibility and the lessons of being on their own and being responsible for themselves. This is a controlled environment where the stakes aren’t that high. So what if they don’t finish the merit badge. It’s on them in the end anyway.

    It’s important that the leaders who are bored stay out of the youths way. It’s equally important that parents don’t scout their own kids. I have my parents in my unit and I have my children in my unit. I’m the prime example of why you don’t scout your own child.

    Let them be. It’s a week of camp. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go exactly how some adult thought it should go.

    :)! Nap for me. A smurf in the blender icee after lunch. Alot of walking and picture taking and “so, where should you be finding that answer?” to questions.

  22. I always figured it was up to the boys to get themselves around to class. So after the first day, that was their responsibility. After all they do it in school the rest of the year.

    I’m a shooting instructor so I would volunteer at the rifle range. I did learn about leatherworking at summer camp as well as woodcarving. Both things that I still enjoy doing.

    I loved those weeks at camp. A week with no disturbances from the outside world. No cell phones, no internet. Entertainment at the dining hall. Swimming and hiking. For me it is better than a cruise.

  23. Get Trained! There are adult training opportunities at every camp that usually are not offered ANYWHERE else. Last year, I took Paddlecraft Safety and now our Troop can plan water events.

    Join in on the Fun! YOU can be a role model for your troop in some of the activities. Polar Bear Plunge and Mile Swim are great areas where your boys can see you doing and not just speaking about doing.

    Volunteer! Every camp needs some work done. Take some tools and find the Ranger. I am sure he would be glad to put you to work.

  24. 1) Sit with the Scouts and review the Merit Badges they’re interested in. I’ve seen Scouts who “think” that they’ll have all the time in the world to earn 5 Eagle Required Merit Badges. Instead of completing them, they drop out. A little bit of experience goes a long way to guiding them

    2) NEVER have a Scout bring a cellphone, takes away from being away for a week. If Mom/Dad is worried, you can call to just say “He’s still alive”. Especially First-timers!!

    3) Mandatory International Shower Night, usually mid-week 🙂

    4) This whole week gives you a chance to actually talk “TO” to Scouts, very informal. Always have the best chats, talks with the boys during down time.

    5) Encourage, encourage, encourage the new/younger scouts. The worst thing is to see a younger scout getting dejected because things aren’t going as well for them as the older scouts.

    6) I prefer the motto “I don’t expect you to do anything that I wouldn’t do”. We have a rule that the last one out of their tents brings up the garbage to the dumps. Having been “called out” as being the last one up…ONCE, it was a cheerful service that the kids got a kick out of.

  25. “don’t expect much sleep before 10 p.m” Seriously? I’ve spent the last 17 years at Summer Camp and rarely turn in before midnight. You can’t know that everything has settled down and you can get a shower yourself until after 11pm. I’m just glad that although I can’t be there this year my Eagle son (28) is taking my place on the leadership team.

  26. Comment on July 5, 2012 Bryans Blog

    26. One more way to get the most out of summer camp (adults).
    Ask your camp commissioner to be your learning facilitator to complete your OLS during camp week, thus gaining one more weekend with your family in the Fall.
    3 years ago at Camp Wolfeboro at 5700 feet elevation above Angels Camp California, the volunteer camp directors asked a camp commissioner to create the resident camp version of the Scoutmaster specific Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills (IOLS).
    The commissioner used his Wood Badge skills and resources to implement the course.
    · A call on the radio-phone link to the office. Reading the syllabus table of contents over the radio.
    · Making a progress card for participants.
    · Negotiating with the program department heads (all youth) to allow his participants to use their areas to learn and demonstrate the skills, not displacing the youth.
    · Meeting to complete overnight pre planning and post reflection. (The camp runs two short backpacking overnights out of camp each week.)
    · Awarding of the trained card and trained strip (if appropriate) at the end of the week.
    Camp commissioners have implemented the plan every camp session every summer for 3 years.

  27. I went to my 1st Boy Scout summer camp this year as a Scouter, but only stayed the 1st 4 days because of work commitments and lack of vacation days (8 of my 10 vacation days this year were for Scouting events). Our camp is 10 days & 9 nights. I am a Committee Member not a SM/ASM. On Day 2, I made sure that my 1st year son & the other young Scouts got to their 1st MB session. I then made sure all the 1st year Scouts got to their 2nd MB period which was “Trail to First Class”. During lunch, my son said to me, “I know where all my afternoon MB classes are so you don’t need to go with me.” After that, I became the In Camp Scouter (I had a bad knee that meant I could not walk more than 1/2 mile or so at a time) sort of holding down the fort while the SM went to his meetings & the other adults were doing their thing. Since I am already trained in every class being taught for Adults at camp, I passed the time making Paracord Bracelets. I didn’t take that many daytime naps as I usually got to bed before 10 PM. Whenever a Scout came and asked me a question, I would say, “Did you talk to your Patrol Leader.” Usually that ended the issue for me as our SPL did a great job running our Troop.

  28. I never considered going to summer camp, and I did for over fifteen years, “giving up vacation”. It WAS vacation.

  29. Funny how #1 and 2 contradict each other. I guess the adults just have to I so the boys and what they need.

  30. The best vacation I’ve ever had. I’m really going to miss going to summer camp this year for all of the reasons you list, but my vacation this summer is attending training at PTC so I can learn more to help scouting the best I can.

  31. Summer camp has been my vacation for the past 4 (or is it 5?) years. I will miss it this year because I need the time for other family plans including travel with my daughter during her first year in college.

    I always get home from camp tired, but at the same time feeling somewhat more fit. The miles of walking required each day is a major improvement over my desk job. The (usually) cooler air and outdoor scenery are hard to beat. The week spent away from the pressures of the office and daily life is even harder to beat. The time spent in camaraderie with the other adults in the troop and, more importantly, with my sons during these fleeting years is priceless (although I am there to serve the whole troop, not just my boys).

    On my first year, at Camp Whitsett, I completed my ASM training. This was a great way to get trained without scrounging for more free time on the calendar.

    In addition to assisting with the usual adult supervision tasks, I spent a large portion of my time at camp integrating my photography hobby to document the troop’s time at camp.This helped to provide some structure to my days as I made a point to capture images of different scouts in different classes/events.

  32. The adults in our troop all get their training in “Nap On Safely”. This is serious stuff, complete with power point and “trained” card. Then they can spend the rest of the week practicing and honing their skill.

  33. The Camp Staff is not the enemy, they are there because they WANT to be there, and they like what they are doing, helping other scouts! Please, talk to the staff if you have a concern, or want to help, they’ll like you better for it!

  34. Get involved. Help teach classes. Most camp staff would love to have more adults in class especially adults who know the content.

    • Just make sure you ask permission before helping out. Most staff don’t mind help from friendly knowledgeable adults, they just don’t you teaching their class for them.
      (This comes from 10 years of summer camp staff experience)

  35. “NO calls to home (the last thing you need is Mom ending the letter “I miss you,” and the boo-hooing begins).”

    This year will be my 31st Summer Camp as youth, Staffer and now Scouter. The issue we have with this is that the mothers (not the dads …) insist that their children bring cell phones to camp and contact them every day so that they can reassure themselves that their children are O.K. We tell them that it is against Troop policy for the kids to have electronics. They acknowledge this, but then simply defy us and send their kids off with their cell phones. This has the predictable effect, mind you, but we cannot dissuade the mothers. They cannot conceive of the idea that their children might build up their self-esteem some if they developed some independence.

    • As a mom of 6 boys, have sent my boys to camp 10 times and about to send my 4th son to his first Boy Scout summer camp, the only reason I’d tell them to bring their cell phone would be to take photos. If I knew that one of the Scout leaders accompanying their troop was going to be official troop camp photographer, I would insist they keep their phones with me for the week. The boys want photos of themselves too. Yes, yes, we could just “buy a camera”. Well, we’ve tried that. Our family doesn’t own a separate camera that is tough enough to handle a week of outdoor camping, and I don’t want to spend the money to get a rugged one that will only be used once a year. The SM for my son’s troop years ago sent me photos every day, but didn’t tell my son he was doing that until Thursday (my son got a bit misty eyed and missed home, which I was surprised at, so good thing he didn’t have a phone all week!)

      If you have moms insisting on giving their boys phones and contacting them daily, consider this. Are they comfortable with the leadership that is going with their son to camp? That sounds like it could be a lack of confidence in their safety. Perhaps your troop could have a meeting with the first time camper-parents and let them get to meet the adults who will be with their sons at camp. At my sons’ current troop, we don’t have a meeting, and the only interaction the new parents have with leadership is at drop off and pick up. However, I’m NOT sending my son with a cell phone, because he’s my 4th son and I’ve done this before, and I am comfortable with the leadership.

    • Our Troop allows cell phones while traveling but joy at camp, summer or regular camping. The phones are collected and locked up until we ht the road again. This is a long standing policy and part of new parent orientation too.

      Only 1x has there been a problem and our SM handled it quite well IMO.

  36. Elisabeth, the camera/cell phone. has any one brought up the idea of Troop historian, I have been in scouting for over 42 years. The times of no cell phones, yes we had the home sick ones but they soon got over it, after all that is what their body is for. But the Troop Historian ( one or two scouts) takes pictures during the troops trips, usually it is an older scout who pretty much has all the merit badges that the camp offers, but still likes to go along with the Troop. All the troops I have been with have had a Troop Historian, some of the pictures are getting yellowish, but we managed to save them on to CD, and now the digital age even better. And Photography is now being offered at most summer camp, even better for that young older scout looking for another palm. In all my years as a scout/camp staffer/ scouter, I have only had one really I mean really home sick scout. Everyone it was said somewhere up there “KEEP THEM BUSY” if they are not at waterfront or off exploring bugs or even FISHING or FLY FISHING, then sent them to arts and crafts. Any way the Really Really SIck Scout by Thrusday he did not want to go home…

  37. PS I carry a cell phone and I talk to the moms and let them know all is good and if I have pictures I send them to them as well. Yes a bit softy, but my dad’s more than moms like it. In fact more of my moms go to camp than dad (well Uncle Sam Does not help there) but never the less Elisabeth your right, how much trust do your parents have in the adults on the trip, are the adults soccoer dads, baseball dads where its my way of the highway type, some of you know what type I am talking about. All my adult leaders start training from Day 1, they get involved with us leaders that have been around for a while, picking our brains, and adding a lot of new stuff back to us.. Make sure as Elisabeth mentioned that you have a parents meeting. I have two one two months before camp for the new parents then two weeks before camp we have one with everyone, and include the scouts. Interaction is a great tool.

  38. Take time to have at least one cup of coffee in your camp in the morning and make it “good” coffee.

  39. Just returned hone From Cole Canoe Base! I earned my CPR/AED certification, hiked, did the SM shotgun shoot, swam, volunteered to teach a mb, and thorougly enjoyed the experience. Utilize what your camp has to offer! Can I nap now?

  40. #9 is dead wrong. You don’t hold mail from any scout. The poor leaders did this to my son his first summer camp and he thought we “forgot about him”. I’m now SM and won’t make this same mistake!

  41. I’ve watched plenty of men interfere, hover and baby the boys, I think it’s more about that persons personality. With that said, we sure don’t want a parent to come along as leadership only to have them just hang out in camp or tag along with their Scout and be the helicopter parent.

    We are there to make sure the boys are safe, healthy, to develop their self confidence and leadership skills. We are also there to support the SPL and his team.

    The first day you make sure all the younger scouts know where their classes are, remind them how much water they need to consume (we are in Texas) and take pictures. While doing all this I scope out a good spot(s) to park myself during class changes. A place that is shady but we can see our younger scouts move from class to class, as well as our special needs kiddos who need some atonomy. The boys figure out on their own that they can usually find an adult from our troop there ( instead of all the way back in camp) if they need us.

    I also will go to their classes but only to capture Kodak moments to share with their families and post on our troop FB page.

  42. I meant to mention that I will take pictures with my phone and to the parents, especially the nervous moms. I make sure it’s showing the scout having a good time, smiling etc. We also make sure that one of us has sent out an email by Monday saying we are all settled in and things are going well. We try to send a daily email sharing stories and pics but it’s not always possible. The parents appreciate it and it seems to lessen the anxiety of the parents of the first year scouts.

  43. There is a parenting technique called “scaffolding”. The camp and the adults provide the structure. This keeps everyone safe. The scouts should be allowed to act independently within this structure. The adults are providing support as the child is stretching beyond their current abilities. This is how they grow. As the scout grows the scaffolding can be removed. The structure is in place to make sure if they fall, they are still safe. Helicopter parents don’t allow scouts to grow in this way. They become reliant on the parent. When the scout goes to camp, they expect the this to continue and the leaders to take the place of their parents.

    Scouting is about teaching self reliance. It should be a safe place to fail. Yes I said “fail”. Adult life is full of failures. We need to teach our scouts what it means to fail and how to stand up, dust yourself off and move on.

    I encourage al adults with scouts to take Wood Badge. It will help you better understand the scouting program and how boy led troops operate.

    Two important lessons I learned at Wood Badge. First, “Boy led” does not mean “adult abandoned”. Adult leaders play a very important role in the program. They are the ones to help a scout stand up, dust themselves off and move on. Second, leaders should be seen but not heard. We know who’s not going to merit badge sessions (they are not classes). We know who is hanging out at the trading post. We know who is struggling and starting to feel homesick.

    Meal time is a great time to catch up with all your scouts. I make it a point of asking each scout how their day is going. How are they progressing on their merit badges. If there is a problem, I will discuss it with them and try and help them find a solution. Unless it is a health and safety issue, I will not solve it for them or tell them what to do. If they want to spend the week at the trading post drinking Slurpee’s, that’s fine with me.

    One pet peeve I have is with the parents that don’t go to camp. Instead of a thank you for taking a week off work and making it possible for my son to go to camp, I sometimes hear complaints about how their son did not complete all the requirements for a certain merit badge and I should have done something about it and why I “let” their son spend all day at the trading post drinking Slurpees. I tell them to ask their son. This is all part of learning to be self reliant.

    • I was one of those Scouts who earned zero merit badges and drank Slurpees. Did it my first year of summer camp. If you would have told anyone that I would go on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout five years later, I would have had some serious doubters. Learned a lot what not to do at summer camp in that first year.

  44. Take the “Nap on Safely” and “Safe Sleep Defense” adult leader training courses.

    If you’ve got special training credentials, such as NRA or USA Archery Instructor credentials, the shooting sports area will love to have you helping do individual coaching for scouts that need a little extra help. If you’re a climbing instructor, the climbing area will put you to work. BSA lifeguard, aquatics can use you. Then if you have special hobbies, e.g. bird watching, talk to the relevant area to see if you can help out.

    Sleeping is fun, it’s also very rewarding to help out in various program areas and watch scouts develop over the week.

  45. Great info here and comments. One thought I would add is re the use of whistle. Each Scout should hike with one- they are for Emergency Only and should not be used around camp especially by the Leaders to gather the boys.

  46. Be available, but don’t hover, nag, or “baby the boys.” I like the idea of taking advantage of any adult leader training that is offered (Position Specific, Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat, Youth Protection, etc.). If you’ve ever been on camp staff, you know the work that the staff performs is a valuable asset to every camper. If you can offer some assistance, volunteer to help, but don’t “take over.” Remember, the staff member is the person who is supposed to be the expert. Assist but don’t usurp the staff member’s authority.

  47. I spend many summers at camp as a Den Leader and as a Troop Leader (I say this because I was a committee member, ASM, to Co-SM.) I went because I had wonderful experiences as a Girl Scout with my camping experiences and I wanted that for the young men in my charge. My biggest piece of advise to an adult in camp is NETWORK with other adults from other units regardless of council. I got some of the neatest ideas for trips and other events from those discussions. This even went to far as to the networking I did as a member of the Fire Department at the Jambo in 2005. My health has prevented me from being as active a member of the Scouting program as I would like to be now but, the memories will last me a life time. As a foot note, my son is now as ASM and my daughter is a campmaster during the school year and this summer is working her 7th summer as a full time camp staff at one of our council’s camps. I guess you could say Boy Scout Summer Camp runs in our blood.

  48. Number 10 I have to disagree with. If I was the aquatic director I would want to see every participant swim. To be able to identify kids and adults who will need special attention and to get a chance to familiarize myself with their swimming habits so that I can better prepare my aquatic staff.

    • Okay. How about this? Take the swim test before you arrive at camp so the Scout will not be taking his first swim test (or swim test of the year) at camp. Ever seen a Scout, who passed the swim test last year, not pass this year? A little bit of confidence goes a long way for a lot of Scouts.

  49. I have a son with aspergers and he went to camp for his first time. It was not a good week for him, it was not the worse ether. He got home sick and wanted to come home after the first night. If it had not been for talking to him insuring him he was with trusted adults he would have not stayed long enough to finish his classes. We got him to stay until Thursday. He was saying he was never going to camp again. I think he had since changed his mind and talked about the good stuff. Contact with home should be based on the child’s need. Some kids can get by while others need that asurance. Our troop leaders also kept up informed with pictures during the week.

  50. I hope I don’t get in trouble but there was a couple of suggestions that caught my eye that I felt were incorrect. The thing was they were all suggested by the ladies. Now ladies all these suggestions sound like they came from Cub Scout Leaders, not Boy Scout Leaders.

    I especially disagree with 2 and 11. It is not my responsibility as a Scoutmaster to make sure the Scouts are attending their classes. Which is what is being suggested.

    As for 16 and 19 I have been there and done that. What I found out was they get in the way of my afternoon nap.

    2. “Attend to your Scouts! Go to their classes, and make sure they don’t skip class. Follow up on their merit badge paperwork to see if it is completed. It’s not a vacation, it’s an interactive position to build relationships with your scouts. If you want a vacation this is not the place.” — Jill R.

    11. “Make sure your hiking boots are up to the task. You’ll circumnavigate the camp at least 20 times per day! And be up on all your Trail to First Class stuff ’cause not only will you need to confirm that the boys learned it as you’re signing them off, but you may have to reteach or pitch in and teach.” — Janet J.

    16. “Take advantage of opportunities to be a camper – archery, mile swim. Do the SM merit badge if the camp has it. Talk to lots of people from other troops.” — Beth K.

    19. “Have fun, be involved as much as possible with what the camp offers, take a deep breath during frustrating moment, revel in the glory at the end of the week when you see true growth in each and every Scout.” — Karen H.

  51. I took troops (3) to camp for 8 years, 6 of them as the lead SM. I found myself doing all of these things, but not every year. There were times I was constantly plugged in, following/escorting Scouts, following up, following through because that is what the troop needed from me. Other years, when Scout leadership was solid and the majority of my Scouts had at least a year under their belts and First Class on shirts, I did SM merit badge, took naps, read Harry Potter, interacted more with other SMs and camp staff. I’ve done training, adult service projects, range aide and more. I have washed dishes and prepared lunch with the dining hall staff. None of these paths is exclusive and none wrong. I grew each year no matter what. Taking a troop to camp is a highly personal and highly rewarding experience. Make it yours and your troops’ each year and don’t let anyone judge!

  52. After the first day, the older boys know where things are in you are at a new camp. Give them the opportunity to lead and encourage them. Get training done, nap-on safely, get to know the staff, help out at program areas… learn a new skill! I learned how to fix arrow fletchings this year! Homesick kids need an adult but also the support of their fellow scouts. Scoutmaster Patches are fun & promote the adults getting to know each other better… have fun!

  53. I have been to camp several times. I have done multiple trainings, taught merit badge classes, helped at other merit badge classes, enjoyed nature and networked. It was at camp that I learned about merit badge clinics and met other scooters who were merit badge counselors for more unique merit badges. This allowed some of our scouts to earn textiles, fingerprinting and language interpreter strips. Use your time wisely!

  54. With almost 40 years as an adult leader in, I’d recommend a good book and let my SPL do his bit. Get your secondary tng in and help out at 1st yr tng as they REALLY need it! I have done SM at summer camp all these years as it has served to serve as a mentor to my boys and I’ve learned more about them as young men than I ever heard of them during regular weekly mtgs. Living and working with them all week showed me more of them (and them of I) than I could have had in any circumstance.

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