Jump to content

Creating a long term equipment investment plan for new troop

Recommended Posts

  • Replies 33
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Asking about camping gear is like asking about cars or the "best" football team..  Lots of opinions.   You are looking for value, not cheap.   CLOTHING Appropriate clothing is the first requireme

Look at the kind of camping you plan on doing, plus where you are going. In many cases, you don't need tents. In good weather, the scouts can sleep on the ground*. Or just create simple shelters with

Beg, borrow, but shy away from steal equipment, used, whatever, just to get by.  I started 18 months ago and so far we have tents (used from another troop that bought new tents) military surplus packs

One can teach minimalist camping and still plop like @@blw2 says.  It's the main reason why I'm up and packed in the car before the boys get up in the morning.  I learned a long time ago that what you take is what you can carry in one trip.  I afford myself the luxury of two trips for summer camp.


As a Civil War reenactor, I learned that if one were to carry the minimum they could take it all on the battlefield the last day of the event and when the battle was over, race to the car, dump the pack in the trunk and beat 50,000 other reenactors out to the highway and be well on my way at least 30 minutes before the massive traffic jam ensued.

Link to post
Share on other sites

oh, and nothing wrong with very basic tents from Big Lots or K-Mart for plop style..... they'll hold up fine for a while....



To quote the Doctor,  'RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!"


I've had bad experiences with K-mart stuff.  VERY BAD  :eek:


There are deals and programs out there. ALPS Mountaineering has the HIKERDIRECT.COM program.  Coleman, which I am leery of, has a program.  Other vendors have programs too.


As for backpacking versus plop camping, let me elaborate. Yes indeed there are ways to get good backpacks inexpensively.  I've mentioned facebook and ebay, But Government Surplus has been my friend for a very long time. :D


But I personally like to give folks some time to look at, try on, and get a feel on what to look for in a backpack, as well as get a chacne to see what is out there. Grant you there are a lot more resources available in buying a backpack nowadays compared to when I bought my first backpack as a K-Mart special that broke on the 2nd trip I ever used it on, the week long backpacking trip I might add,   but I like to give as much information and advice prior to buying a backpack.  Don't want what happened to me to happen to someone else. Nor do I want someone buying a backpack designed for canoeing to be used on a backpacking trip.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I knew there was a reason I liked you. My father and I did Civil War reenacting during my Scout-age years...he still does it. First as part of an artillery unit, then many years as part of the 1st US Signal Corps...I used to amaze the adults with my ability to build a signal tower.


As a Civil War reenactor, I learned that if one were to carry the minimum they could take it all on the battlefield the last day of the event and when the battle was over, race to the car, dump the pack in the trunk and beat 50,000 other reenactors out to the highway and be well on my way at least 30 minutes before the massive traffic jam ensued.

Link to post
Share on other sites

yeah, I guess I shouldn't have been so broad-brush.... I personally would be very selective of the cheap stuff.


My one experience on this end re. the subject of tents....


Before my wife and I even met, i had a little Kelty tent I used to camp in.

I don't recall how much exactly, put it was probably a couple hundred $ that I paid for that thing.

it was really overkill for my needs, but "I believe in buying quality" (that was me standing up puffing my chest out saying that....)

If that thing were set-up on top of a mountain a hurricane likely wouldn't topple it....


Meanwhile my frugal wife to be bought a cheap tent from Big Lots.  probably paid $20-$30 for it.


fast forward a couple years


When we started camping together, we used my tent once..... then used hers till sometime after our first kid!

That thing was just fine.

It was easier to set up than my Kelty

but had the same footprint size

it was a little taller so a bit more comfortable to change clothes in.

weathered rain and storms just fine...


We used it occasionally until my son and wife lost one of the poles at a Den Meeting his Bear year... or maybe it was Wolf (i was sick that day and couldn't make the den meeting where they were having "set-up-the-tent" races.....)


Meanwhile, the poly coating on my kelty turned to sticky goo so it went into the trash eventually.


SO, that's why I'm not afraid to recommend an in-expensive tent for someone starting out.

Almost certainly will last a season, likely more... and if it doesn't last, you're not out much and in the mean time have figured out what you want or need.


Backpacks and other things....eh, maybe not.....

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, but I got the kitchen sink in my Duluth pack.  No one else did.   :)




Seriously though.  I had one parent, buy a Duluth pack from a national scout shop thinking it would be appropriate for backpacking. I don't know if she asked for help, but I can tell you that not everyone who works for supply division knows what they are selling, or to outfit someone. I had one coworker who would send folks to me to help them out. And there is pressure to make sales.



True story. My manager was furious at me because during a relatively quiet afternoon, I spent about 30-45 minutes talking to a new Boy Scout leader about camping gear. Talking about what to look for, different features and how they are used, size, and how to try out, i.e. bringing 25 pounds of gear to put in it. I even told the guy about other stores that may have backpacks that are better suited to him. He left without buying anything. Boss chewed me out, I think I lost 10-15 pounds in the glutus maximus from the chewing out :blink: 


He shows back up about 20 minutes later, brought some weight with him, and tried out some backpacks. Sold him a pack, mess kit, cutlery, hiking socks, and other stuff.

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Seriously though, it is surprising how much stuff one can carry using canoe pack "technology".  The boys hassled me throughout the Philmont trek because I used waist belt, shoulder straps AND tump line.  They all carried 25-40% of their weight I was 160# and carried close to 70# when I got my share of food and took my turn at extra equipment.  I was 50 years old they were 14-17 .....  Because of my age and weight, it was strongly suggested by staff that I carry 20%-25%  They had to stop and rest 3 times more often than I did.  Hassle me all you want, I still carried my weight and 9 days later I was still in better shape than most of the others.  To this day I still use it for carrying canoes, it does wonders for keeping most of the thwart pressure off the back of your neck.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

So my next question would be: Do I impress my personal preference for camping on the boys? Is there a place for both kinds of camping in a program? Because if I had my way, we'd backpack from the start.


I think that a program should have a variety of adventures for the boys.  We camp at BSA camps, national parks and state parks but we include an activity.  We've done day hikes, orienteering, kayaking, rock clmbing, COPE, bicycling and other activities.  The boys have mentioned doing sailing (both using Sunfish sail boats and going out overnight in a larger boat), horseback riding, whitewater rafting and fishing this year.  We also do a float trip -- the past two years we've done canoeing on the Delaware.  We're looking into caneoing on a large lake and camping on an island.  We do two to three backpacking trips a year ranging from 15 milers (with a shorter option for new scouts) to 50 milers.  Next weekend we are doing a District camporee and in the past we've done the West Point camporee.  The boys like the variety of experiences.  Over the past two years we've expanded the program based on a simple question -- what do you guys want to do?


That being said, we encourage the scouts to get gear that can be used for backpacking and use that for the "plop" camping.  Some guys use duffle bags for the first couple of campout and that is fine.  I've prepared a lightweight backpacking gear guide along with a sample gear list that I've used with our troop that I would be glad to share.  Typically, we tell new scouts to the following items in this order:


1.  A lightweight sleeping bag

2.  A sleeping pad

3.  A headlamp

4.  A water bottle (or use a Gatorade bottle)

5.  Plate / Bowl and Fork/Spoon/Spork

6.  Non-cotton clothing and socks

7.  Lightweight backpack


We normally don't have to tell them to get a knife, but encourage them to get a locking single blade knife if they only have a multi-tool / Swiss Army knife.


For "plot" camping our patrol gear consists of:


1.  Patrol Box - a plastic box containing cast iron griddle, wash basins, large and small pots, teflon frying pan, collander, utentsils and supplies.  I'd be glad to send you a list of what is in the boxes (we have a checklist that is used after each campout when the boxes are returned).


2.  Coleman two burner propane stove with carry case


3.  Coleman Northstar Propane Lantern


4.  Lodge Dutch Oven (with lid lifter and oven mits)


5.  Pop-up trash can


6.  Folding Table (for when there isn't a picnic table for cooking)


7.  First Aid Kit


8.  5 Gallon Water Cooler


9.  Plastic box for food


10.  Cooler for food


As a Troop, we also have Kelty tents that the boys can borrow and an "Ax Yard in a Box" that contains various axes, hatchets and saws.  Several of the scoutmasters have folding campfire grills that we allow the patrols to borrow if they want to cook directly over the fire (my favorite is Italian Sausages or the one time the adult patrol had strip steaks).  The Troop and the adults also have cast iron frying pans (the boys are now hooked on hot dogs cooked in the cast iron frying pan).


For backpacking, the Troop's gear consists of some old backpacks that the boys can borrow, the tents the boys can borrow (we are hoping to be able to get several lightweight tents specifically for backpacking reducing the tent weight from 8 pounds to around 2.5 pounds) and water filters.  For backpacking, each scout is responsible for their own cooking.  Some of them buddy up, most just cook for themselves.  Enough adults and scouts have backpacking stoves, so we share with the scouts that don't.

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably equally important is a plan to maintain and care for what you acquire, and part of that is buying equipment that is sustainable in a boy operated environment.


Also, keep in mind that the fundamental unit of scouting is the PATROL. Plan your equipment on the basis of patrol sized groups camping, cooking, hiking, etc. together. If I were equipping a new troop, I would at least want to explore the options for patrol size tent-age for heavy camping, but that would require different tents for packing.


There was a troop here locally that bought great new gear on the basis of what the Scoutmaster, a long distance backpacker, was fond of. None of that equipment held up well to boy use, and the troop degenerated into bringing a grab bag or random personal equipment and old hand me down heavy weight gear from other troops. It now travels heavier than almost any troop I have ever seen, it would be lucky to be able to pack in a hundred yards from a parking area. The other downside is, it killed the patrol method. Now fathers and sons tent together in the family tent. The entire troop mostly cooks as one group with mostly adults manning the kitchen.


At the other end of the spectrum, another local troop gained the use of a very large tent of the type used for outdoor receptions or church tent revivals, and they got it for about the cost of one high end backpacking tent. Now they have a tent the entire troop can camp under, or they can set up a consecion stand for a fundraiser, or any number of uses.


My own personal experience was with a troop that used Eureka Timberline Outfitter 4's, tough tents that lasted about 20 years. We slept two persons to a tent for plop camping. For backpacking we usually split the tent between three people. 4 man tents are often in something of a middle ground such that they are just light enough to pack if you split the load and just big enough to be comfortable plop camping with fewer occupants. Our older Scouts if they took an interest in backpacking sometimes invested in better light tents personally.


Also, if at all possible, don't buy one of those stupid carport canopies to use as a dining fly. Either get a real dining fly, or get a tarp and improvise a light set of poles and guy lines. The carports are nuisance and it is a tragedy the things ever became ubiquitous in Scouting.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Better yet, let the boys decide.  Spend some time visiting with the boys to see what style of camping they would feel the most comfortable about starting.  If they like the idea of plop camping, good, go for it but leave the door open down the road a year or two when the older boys might want to expand into a more lightweight option.  Nothing's locked in stone and for camporees and newbies the plop camping equipment will work just fine.


I have always used the patrol method and this will apply here as well.  Instead of individual scout accounts, I have individual patrol accounts and the boys that get out and hustle the most on the fundraisers get the equipment they want when the funds become available.  If they want to forego a new Coleman 2-burner stove so they can knock some money off the cost of summer camp, they should be deciding what they want to do.  They want to go minimalist with their efforts (maybe the older boys) then they can decide the equipment necessary for that .All they need to know is how much money is in the patrol account and they can figure it out.


Newbies?  Well it's like starting all over from scratch each year, unless down the road the older boys have aged out and that patrol's (really good) equipment becomes available.  The new guys on the block get first crack at it.  The other boys should be satisfied with the equipment they have, they've been working for it and saving for it.


When all is said and done, if one of the patrols doesn't want a dining fly, why should they buy one?  My new troop has one patrol, they have been operational for 18 months now and have yet to buy a rain fly.  When it rains, they get wet.  Their choice.  So far out of all the camping they've done (summer camp had dining flies provided) they haven't experienced a really bad situation they can't handle.


It might be a bit eclectic and mix and match if the boys do it their way, but then that's the nature of a boy-led, patrol-method troop.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well as they say, you don't know what you don't know. Big tent or little tents? Coleman stove or single burner? Or even fire. Back packs or duffle bags? Camp boxes or Tupperware tubs? Trailer of trunks? Lanterns or moon light? 


Borrow as much gear as you can and test it out. There some fun adventure in that and it will give the troop the experience to make informed decisions. 



Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...