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How do your Scouts select tent-mates?

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Here is some background: I am Scoutmaster of a troop - we are in the midst of transitioning from adult led to boy led – about half way there. The majority of my knowledge is BSA training, what I’ve read on this forum, and what we’ve tried (successes and failures).


I’ve been convinced that one of our next important steps in the transition to a more boy-led troop is to transition away from age-based patrols to age-diverse patrols.


Age diverse-patrols have many many advantages – most notably, it gives a natural teaching hierarchy for which the older boys become responsible and the older boys have the tendency to become the Patrol Leaders. Also, weaker-skilled older boys have a boost in confidence on taking on a Patrol Leader role if most of the kids in the patrol are younger and less skilled than he. And younger scouts naturally tend to listen to and follow instructions from older scouts better than they do to same-age scouts.


The one disadvantage with age-diverse patrols is that scouts somewhat feel separated from their same-age friends. Up to now, they’ve always been, for the most part, in the same patrol during campouts.


Now, many of their friends are in other patrols. We’ve had a policy that within patrols, scouts choose tent-mates from those in the same patrol. I want the patrols to really form a team – and that means cooking, eating, teaching and sleeping together. Ideally, I want there to be at least 100 ft minimum separation between patrol campsites (and also from the adult patrol campsite). I’ve noticed some scouts still tenting with their old buddies in other patrols – even though, come morning, the scouts are back to performing their duties with their new patrol.


1) How much harm is there to the patrol-method if I continue to allow them to do this?

2) How do other troops handle this?

3) Am I having this issue just because we recently switched from age-based to age-diverse patrols?


Other details: Our tents hold 2 scouts comfortably – often they will squeeze in a third. I have declared that only Life and above scouts can tent alone. I also have a policy that older scouts do not tent with younger scouts (3 grade separation at the most – 5th and 8th graders can share a tent, but not 5th and 9th graders). And if you think I am a control-freak – let me know, I can handle it.


By the way (I learned by growing pains) – never allow a senior scout to decide who tents with whom. The scouts themselves can usually sort it out best. The only time an adult needs to step in to assign tent-mates has been when an unpopular scout is left without a tent-mate. (This is always painful – any advice you have on this would be appreciated as well.)

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Just did exactly what your talking about......


I looked at the roster.....I know who was strong in various skills and then divided the boys into patrols..... I didn't ask for permission from the boys, commmittee....Just did it....we went from Troop method to Patrol method in one month.........Now we are still progressing....


If you ever want any patrol spirit to build you need to make them stay together...... The first two campouts were awkward.....but now they have gelled it is fine.....


We tent by patrol.......the only time that changes is when we form an adhoc patrol for high adventure and it is the older guys.......It just doesn't make sense to have 2 patrols of 3 or 4 guys each


Unpopular scout......So why is he unpopular??? Nightmares, Lazy??? messy tent mate, Too much stuff????? smells, uncool?????? Still seeing how it is going to shake out.....the boys seem to be rotating tent mates..... I would find out the reason and then have and SMC with the lad about it.



None of my scouts seem interested in tenting alone.....When the hit the sack they generally chat and BS for an hour or so before they quiet down.... If a scout wants to tent alone.....let them providing you have enough gear.....


Patiences.....change will take time....


Have the patrols made their patrol flag, yell and patch????? had any competitions yet??? I developed Patrol awards and it has really helped with Patrol spirit.....


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It sounds like you are pointing me toward my gut feel - that tenting should only be by patrols.


Regarding your questions:

We've been doing menu selection and cooking per patrol for over a year now - this is working well.

We have only recently had the patrols create flags and yells. Patrol competitions are still having a tough time getting going - but we are progressing. Getting the older boys motivated is the hardest part.

Regarding the unpopular scout - my guess is he is just a socially awkward fella (also like this in school I hear).


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Want my honest opinion?. So many well meaning, but unneeded rules that muck things up. I won't call you a control freak though. I think you mean well.

Nothing should matter with patrols besides making sure Scouts are with their friends. I’ve never seen them follow any other system you could try to force them into. Maybe Basementdweller has figured it out, but my unit has learned that friend based patrol is the way to go. Sometimes they will make age based groups and sometimes they won’t. Allow the Scouts to choose and live with the results. Hopefully tenting will be done by patrols. Most of their friends should end up in their patrols. I wouldn’t sweat it too hard if they don’t, but if most of their friends are in their patrol, it’s logical to assume they will camp as a patrol.


My advice:

My unit uses New Scout patrols which are helped along by Guides. The Guides are experienced Scouts who enjoy working with younger boys and like to teach. This arrangement works well for us. The new Scouts pick their patrols. Normally this ends up being a den from one pack mashed with another, but if they have friends, that’s what counts here.

For all other Scouts, we let them choose what patrol they want to be with, and who they want to be in it. If the patrols get too large, we ask them to split into two. We’ve found from past experiments that went wrong that this is the only way to run things. It increases patrol spirit and cooperation. They form far more effective teams.

Some Scouts will mentor and train younger ones. Some won't. If you force the ones that don't into patrols with the younger boys, you will get absent older boys and the younger ones left in the lurch.


My unit lets no Scouts tent alone. And what is the difference between a 14 year old in 8th grade and a 15 year old in 9th?


As for the unpopular kid, just don't let the Scouts move on until somebody volunteers to tent buddy with him. Three person tents are PERFECT for this. As then a pair of Scouts can do the right thing without losing tenting with a friend. (Again the friend thing comes up).

The best answer to almost every question in relation to Scouting is "Boy's what do you think?"


I look forward to this discussion,




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