Tips for first-time campers who are new to the Cub Scout family

The first time taking your Cub Scout camping can be a little scary, especially if you are a little (or a lot) inexperienced. Here’s the best news: You are not alone! And you’re part of an organization that specializes in teaching kids (and their adults, by default!) how to camp.

The BSA offers training to prepare you for camping with your Cub Scout, whether it’s an overnighter with your pack or a longer council-organized outing. First of all, go over this checklist for Scouting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, for a pack overnighter at a council-approved location, at least one registered adult leader who is attending must complete Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO) training.

For help preparing for all the other camping details, I chatted with BSA employees Andrea Watson and Brad Hagberg, who both have Cub-Scout-aged kids.

Getting started

What is the first thing you think of about camping with a Cub Scout?

Brad: Keeping my kids entertained. I am a big fan of games. I also find a lot of value in conducting some research prior to heading out so that I can grab pertinent books and educational resources pertaining to where we are going. Best of all, I love to get them involved in the process – kids love to help. Give them tasks to help you with every step of the way.

Andrea: Excitement of the Scouts – their energy is palpable and makes me even more excited. They are excited about every single part, even unloading the car.

Did you practice camping in your backyard before heading out for the real thing?

Brad: Yes, just to get the kids introduced to the noises and sounds of sleeping outside. Get them to understand the temperature variance, and find out what they need — some may need to sleep in an extra layer.

Andrea: We should have. Our first campout was pretty remote as a family and I remember we had just laid down to sleep and one of our twins asked to go home. It was at that moment I thought, maybe we should have tried this out first. I would definitely recommend that for families.

Gear you need

What can you not under any circumstances leave home without?

Brad: A comfortable sleeping pad.

Andrea: My solar charger. My cell phone is my watch, alarm clock, stars app, camera. It is important for all kinds of reasons.

What can your Cub Scouts not leave home without?

Brad: Their pocketknife and a warm sleeping bag.

Andrea: Their flashlights.

What does prepping for your campout look like?

Brad: We create a checklist and always double-check to make sure we have everything we need. Also, it is so important to pack your food. That includes everything from coolers and food seasonings, to planning the meals.

Andrea: Gathering all the items from all around the house and then pre-staging in the garage. As a den leader, I also want to ensure my den knows what they need to bring, and if we are going to share equipment as a pack, that we each have our assignments in advance, so we don’t have too many duplicate items. Pre-staging is key to ensure we don’t forget anything — like paper towels or trash bags!

At camp

What is your favorite camping meal?

Brad: My family loves Hobo burgers, pizza in the cast iron or on a grate over the fire, or nachos in the cast iron skillet.

Andrea: Breakfast – it always smells so good and usually we eat a better breakfast when camping than we do at home.

What are your favorite games to play?

Brad: Frisbee, fishing, any and all of the backpack games – variety is the spice of life and the best way to keep my young kids interested.

Andrea: We love to geocache. We also just love playing hide-and-seek in buddy form. At night, we love to play dominoes. Dominoes are great because they are easier to keep track of than playing cards with our young Scouts.

How do you configure your sleeping set-up?

Brad: We like sleeping in one tent; we are a family of four and use an 8-person tent, and that gives us room to change and room to walk around. We use both air mattresses and blow-up sleeping pads.

Andrea: For our family tent, our twins love to be in their own sleeping bags but pretty close to mom and dad. Everyone needs their own sleeping pad so we all sleep better. Tired Scouts make for a long day.

What’s your nighttime bathroom situation like?

Brad: We stick to campgrounds with bathroom facilities when we are with our kids. For true middle-of-the-night emergencies, we have a bucket potty. It can be stored either in an outhouse tent or in the tent vestibule.

Andrea: It is a non-negotiable that we have the kids go to the bathroom before coming to bed.

Top tips for first-time campers

To recap, there is no limit to the fun you can have camping with your Cub Scout. Just remember to Be Prepared.

Plan your camping activities ahead of time; if you need some ideas, check this post out. For meals, check out the Scout Chef Kitchen recipe ideas. Also, check the weather forecast. Rainy days may not be ideal, but they are totally doable with proper planning and gear.

As far as gear, see what the Scout Shop has. Here are some ideas for sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pocketknives, portable chargers and flashlights. For an in-depth list, read this post.

If you have any tips for a first-time Cub Scout parent, feel free to share them in the comments below.

About Kate Matthews 14 Articles
Kate Matthews is the main word wizard behind Scout Shop's "Living the Scout Life" blog. She loves the planet, discovering new places and sharing how we can all be Living the Scout Life.