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I think it would be an absolutely monumental task to try and replicate a summer camp experience offering even half of what most camps offer. Many camps offer over 40 merit badges, finding that many willing and able MBCs for a week and coordinating all of that alone would be tough to pull off.

Summer camps offer a pretty thrifty experience for scouts. From Sunday through Saturday everyone gets 17 meals in total. That probably eats up 1/4 of the camper cost right there. Throw in staff, facilities, equipment, extra programs, health and safety resources, training opportunities, insurance, bikes, boats, rifles, ammo, scoutcraft, games and activities, etc., and the cost is probably a bargain.

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If you are looking for a weeklong merit badge factory, then a council camp is your best bet.  If you're looking for adventure, it can best be accomplished elsewhere, and usually for much less.

IMO, the real reason to do a roll your own camp is to do a completely original adventure. - canoe trip -backpacking trip -bike/hike -WW rafting -wilderness survival/bushcraft

Absolutely nothing; as long as you can run a fun and safe program and that is what your scouts choose to do.  As @malrauxstated above it does require a lot of work, both by the youth and the adult vol

IMO, the real reason to do a roll your own camp is to do a completely original adventure.

- canoe trip

-backpacking trip

-bike/hike

-WW rafting

-wilderness survival/bushcraft

-fishing

... or combinations. 

Inherent to any roll your own is patrol (or individual) cooking including the menu planning, shopping and prepping.

All of these can incorporate one or more merit badges IF any of the scouts care to work on them, but the focus is fun/adventure not mBs.

I do not think trying to replicate a merit badge based BSA camp is likely to save all that much $ when all is said and done. As I began, the purpose of a roll your own is to do just that... something that is your own.

Edited by DuctTape
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By all means, have that discussion. Your Troop will never be the same after a self created adventure like that. The community created, the Patrol Method at work (if you let it)...

Waaay back in Paleo Scout days, I joined a Troop that had alot of WW2 and Korean army vet parents.  I did not make this connection until much later, but that is where they had been. The parents were of every type, bank accountants, farmers,  telephone pole workers, fed gov researchers, one dad became a embassy adjutant in Budapest. 

Somebody's brother's cousin had some property near Germantown MD, and the Troop started camping there. It was , as I remember it, just about ideal.  At the end of a long dirt road, we had to hike in about a quarter mile.  They (they!)  found a running spring, it drained into a far sized creek. The spring was capped,  a pipe installed ( I assume it was tested OK ), and voila, we had water.  We Scouts cleared some Patrol campsites (Totin' Chip  !) , two on each side of the creek. Later, it was decided we needed a summer camp (!!), so a privy/latrine was dug and built, and a three sided Adirondack  cabin was built into the side of a hill for "headquarters" . The logs were dragged in by Mr. Atwell's Jeep, he was the telephone lineman, and heck, the phone company had lots of old poles, right?  (so THAT'S how they notched and locked the logs in place for cabins !).  The older Scouts set the pace, did much of the heavy lifting, so to speak, we younger Scouts tried hard to match their example. 

"The Property" slowly became "Camp Freedom".  Several weeklong summer camps were organized and held. Canvas tents were bought and erected  (BSA Camper and Baker tents were favorites).  Tables and benches were built. Canvas dining flies erected.    We built cooking fire pits, rocks from the creek.. We had a grove (?) of dead American Chestnut nearby that provided the best firewood. Chestnut burns with a blue hot flame, did you know?   Mr McDaniels became our Quartermaster, in the cabin,  he doled out the food, menus were fairly standard.  Refrigeration?  Wood box in the creek, always at about 50 degrees.  Activities?  Easy. Hiking trails, nature exhibits, pioneering lashing stuff that was USED, not merely demonstrated. About the only thing we didn't have was a swim pool, but field trips were taken to local private pools that were known.   

When I "grew up",  the Troop was still using Camp Freedom, and also going off to Philmont and Camp Roosevelt on the Chesapeake Bay. 

Camp Roosevelt is now partially Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and a State Park.  Some of it may be a subdivision.   "The Property" , Camp Freedom was sold, it is now a church retreat center and homes....    Sic Gloria Mundi..... 

The important thing is INCLUDE THE SCOUTS IN THE PLANNING.  DO NOT just give them a fait accompli plan.  

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During my years as a scout there was one year we went to a summer camp that didn't have a dining hall.  We had to split the wood, build the fire, cook, and clean up ourselves.  Did it take time? Yes.  Did we earn one less merit badge? Probably.  But it forced us to spend time together, figure things out together, and discover how to work together.  Learn about each others skills and characters.  We stormed, we normed.  Looking back that was when we truly became a patrol, not just a bunch of guys who happened to wear the same patrol patch on their sleeve.

Edited by Oldscout448
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in 2020, my troop did their own summer camp due to COVID. It was a major undertaking, especially since we had less than 3 months to plan it AND we did not know if the camp would be open or not.

Pros= Cheap, Local, focused, flexible. Cheap as in the cost to camp was about $70/person. Local as in within 30 minute drive and we had committee show up to do BORs. Focused in that the Scouts who needed to do T-2-1 requirements were able to do them that week. Flexible in that we made our own schedule, adapted it to weather conditions, i.e. moving the Wilderness Survival nite to a nite it would not storm, etc.

Cons= no showers, VERY limited MB offerings, and local. No showers were a big turn off to the Scouts the improvised showers we created did not work. The biggest turn off for the older Scouts was the limited number of MBs They only earned one, if they had not already gotten it. and got a bunch of partials. A lot of the Scouts view summer camp as MB school. Local was also a con because it was a camp we always got to. They wanted someplace fresh. But COVID put a major damper on things.

 

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17 hours ago, FireStone said:

I think it would be an absolutely monumental task to try and replicate a summer camp experience offering even half of what most camps offer. Many camps offer over 40 merit badges, finding that many willing and able MBCs for a week and coordinating all of that alone would be tough to pull off.

Summer camps offer a pretty thrifty experience for scouts. From Sunday through Saturday everyone gets 17 meals in total. That probably eats up 1/4 of the camper cost right there. Throw in staff, facilities, equipment, extra programs, health and safety resources, training opportunities, insurance, bikes, boats, rifles, ammo, scoutcraft, games and activities, etc., and the cost is probably a bargain.

If you are looking for a weeklong merit badge factory, then a council camp is your best bet.  If you're looking for adventure, it can best be accomplished elsewhere, and usually for much less.

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I pitched the build-our-own summer camp to our scouts ... no takers. But, I would just like to point out how special the scouter.com "bubble" is ... How many of you learned about home-grown camp weeds from your ...

  • District Roundtable,
  • Council Newsletter,
  • University of Scouting, or
  • Powderhorn?
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1 hour ago, qwazse said:

I pitched the build-our-own summer camp to our scouts ... no takers. But, I would just like to point out how special the scouter.com "bubble" is ... How many of you learned about home-grown camp weeds from your ...

  • District Roundtable,
  • Council Newsletter,
  • University of Scouting, or
  • Powderhorn?

The coolest scouter I met around this topic was at Powderhorn.  He exclusively did roll your own adventures and they were amazing.

Speaking of which, Texas Powderhorn is coming next month and there are still a few spots open.  I am on staff again and it really is the best Powderhorn course around IMHO.  DM me if you have any questions.

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On 8/10/2022 at 10:30 AM, Armymutt said:

If you are looking for a weeklong merit badge factory, then a council camp is your best bet.  If you're looking for adventure, it can best be accomplished elsewhere, and usually for much less.

The OP was looking for an alternative to council camps but with the MBs.

Without the MBs, sure, there are lots of ways to organize an alternative camp. But depending on what you might be looking for in terms of adventure, I'm not convinced that such a camp can be organized at much of a discount over council camps that already offer climbing, ropes courses, boating, mountain biking, ATVs, horseback riding, shooting sports, and other adventurous activities. And include food.

What kind of an adventure trip do you think could be done for less?

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37 minutes ago, FireStone said:

What kind of an adventure trip do you think could be done for less?

Backpacking easily comes to mind. Cheaper to do your own than go to Philmont.

Canoeing too.  I know I did a 64 mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness for significantly lower price than going to Sommers HA base.

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1 hour ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

Backpacking easily comes to mind. Cheaper to do your own than go to Philmont.

Canoeing too.  I know I did a 64 mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness for significantly lower price than going to Sommers HA base.

That kind of trip sounds great. I just think it's worth pointing out, it's not what the OP was looking for. At least based on the info given. They wanted a MB camp experience, counselors, etc.

They could work some MB offerings into a backpacking or canoe trip, but if the goal is to create a summer camp experience with a variety of MB offerings, more closely aligned to a typical council camp experience, then I still think that's hard to pull off at a cost savings.

Would be helpful to hear from 5thGenTexan on what exactly the troop is looking for, and if a backpacking or canoe trip would fit with their goals/expectations.

Edited by FireStone
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Our troop offered a weeklong aquatics camp as an option this summer. It was one of three weeklong opportunities offered to our approximately 25 active Scouts.  Several of our older youth attended the national Seabase program. We also had a well-attended session at our local council camp. The aquatics camp was more aimed at the younger and middle-aged (13 to 14-year-old) Scouts but had surprisingly good attendance from several of the older Scouts. Many of the Scouts attended two of the three options. The aquatics camp was based out of our own troop camp, so expenses were minimal (less than half of the council camp fees). For the first four days, Scouts journeyed to a nearby lake using canoes rented from the council as well as our own kayaks to work on canoeing and kayaking skills. Lots of instruction and fun water events. In the evening were other fun activities, a movie night and a presentation by a K-9 officer who is one of our Eagle Scouts. The camp wrapped up with a canoe trek on a nearby river.  We were very pleased with the adult support and turnout with an average of seven adults present on a daily basis. BTW, we have excellent lodging accommodations available for the adults at the camp which certainly helped encourage some parents.  Scouts tent camped by patrol adjacent to the main bunkhouse. 

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We just finished a week-long cycling trek on the Great Allegheny Passage...Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD.  Started from Camp Guyasuta ( @qwazse stomping ground).  Eleven Scouts (14 and up) and four adults,    Including fuel and tolls, and some donated MREs for two of our meals, and we hit $152 per person (Scouts spent a bit more for their lunch on the drive out, and ice cream stops along the trail!!!) Free camping in a few places along the trail.  Camping also at Ohiopyle State Park, Corps of Engineers campground in Confluence, PA,  and the YMCA in Cumberland, MD, at the end. (although I'd recommend finding an alternative to that one.)  We logged 168 miles total,  used a SAG Wagon. Great trip, and, with two local shakedown rides to prep, all riding requirements for Cycling MB complete.  50-miler award and NPS Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger opportunities also. Seven days (including travel days on front and back) total, six nights camping, five days cycling.

Doing your own adventures is far more Thrifty!

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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On 8/14/2022 at 5:56 PM, InquisitiveScouter said:

...  Started from Camp Guyasuta ( @qwazse stomping ground) …. and the YMCA in Cumberland, MD, at the end. (although I'd recommend finding an alternative to that one.)  …

My apologies if I didn’t mention Camp Potomac, although it would have added miles, and I’m not sure if there is a safe enough back-country route to it.

On the other hand, IQ did not PM me to arrange delivery of some outstanding espresso.

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