boy scout gear guide

Basic Boy Scout Camping Gear Recommendations


I’ve seen the question come up on Facebook a few times, about what sort of gear you should get for your newly crossed over Boy Scout. So, to help out with that, here are some of the basic Boy Scout camping gear that I’d recommend for a Boy Scout under the age of 12. It could be very easy for you to spend a lot of money in a hurry – and you really don’t need to do that. First of all, check with your Troop to see if they’ve got hand-me-down equipment available. That’s how I got my first backpack. You should also keep in mind the part of the country you live in. A scout in Northern Maine will have different gear needs than one in Texas, for example.

Aside from the weather, the type of program your Troop does matters. A canoeing troop will want slightly different gear than a backpacking troop will. Make sure to have these discussions with your Scout leaders before making big purchases.

First of all, your 11-year-old has a lot of growing to do in the next few years. You’re going to want to contrast the fact that they’re going to be growing like weeds with the fact that you don’t want them to be miserable. So, in some things, you’ll want to save money, and in others, you’ll want to spend a little more for quality.

What I’ve done here is go through and shop for what the Boy Scout camping gear I would get for my son – and we live in the Northeast. I hope this at least points you in the right direction, and helps your scout enjoy the outdoors as much as I have over the years. Please read all the reviews, and shop around before you make your purchase. You know your child better than anyone. You also know your budget.


Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are rated in terms of degrees. In theory, a zero degree sleeping bag will keep you warm at zero degrees Fahrenheit. A 40-degree bag should keep you warm at 40 degrees. You don’t want your new Scout to be cold on his earliest campouts. You’re looking for a bag that is comfortable and warm.

This is one area where you can spend as much as $500 for a top of the road, high-quality bag. I wouldn’t recommend that much for a new scout. On the other hand, you can get a high-quality zero degree sleeping bag from Slumberjack from Campmor for much, much less than that. Slumberjack has been one of the industry leaders for years, and this one’s a great value for money. If you go to the link below and enter the promo code “SAVE20” you can save another 20%.

Sleeping bags are one item that your scout shouldn’t outgrow, and should last for a while if properly cared for.


Slumberjack Latitude 0 Degree Sleeping Bag…

Slumberjack understands the importance of quality recreation and family time. The Latit… [More]

Price: $69.98

Now, if you’re in warmer climates where you’re not going to see temperatures get that low, you can get a much bigger selection of bags at lower prices. I’d suggest, however, that you send along a fleece liner just in case the temperature drops.

Ground Pad

There are a few ways to go here – cot, ground pad, hammock, or inflatable mattress. Keep in mind that this is their bed in the woods.

All have pros and cons, and you’ll see huge debates over which is best. My dad was big on cots. Cots are great for camping, but not great for backpacking, as they’re heavier and tougher to fit in a backpack.

I personally love my self-inflating air mattress. I’ve had two Thermarests that have lasted me about 20 years. But they’re generally on the more expensive side. There are some relatively inexpensive ones on the market, like this one.

But for 11-year-olds, who can be rough on equipment you may want to go with something that can’t actually be punctured. Foam ground pads like this one tend to be your safest bet. While self-inflating mattresses can be sealed, that’s not something that an 11-year-old should be worrying about on a campout.

Hiking Boots

Again, you want quality at a good price here. Save the $100+ hiking boots for when they’re old enough to be doing long-distance trail hiking in a few years.

You want something that’s comfortable, durable, and here’s the big one – waterproof. Wet feet will ruin your scout’s campout. What I generally do with boots is try them on in the store, and then check them online, and buy whichever one is cheaper. If you don’t have a good store in your area, though, you can take advantage of free returns if the sizing or feel isn’t quite right.

Keep in mind that they’re going to spend a lot of time in them, so you’ll want to get this right.

Here’s a good starter boot on Amazon.

On the higher end, you’ve got this great boot from Merril. I’ve owned a few pairs of these, and I’ve loved every one.

You’ll also want to do some waterproofing of your own with either SnoSeal or Waterproof spray.



The old debate is about internal vs. external framed backpacks. The first backpack I ever used was an external frame.

The benefits of an external frame are that they generally have more pockets, more places to store stuff. They also tend to be a little bit less comfortable than an internal frame pack. They’re also a bit more expensive.

The capacity of a backpack is measured in liters. For an overnight campout, a backpack should be between 30-50 liters. If you’re going multiple nights, you’d want larger – but your new Boy Scout won’t be doing that for a few years anyway.

This one should be large enough for your new scout.

Mess Kit

If you’re shopping for an 11-year-old, you really don’t want to spend too much money here. You want something sturdy – so that it will be easier to handle in cold weather. But you have to realize that 11-year-olds are going to wreck whatever it is you get them. They’re going to get distracted and burn food. They’re going to leave messes in them.

There’s the all-time basic mess kit from Coleman would do the trick on the low-end for your new Boy Scout, but this one from is only a tad bit more expensive, and would seem to fit the bill in terms of sturdiness perfectly.

Camp Stove

There are people who will warn you off of the simple Sterno stove, but it’s what I grew up using. It’s cheap and extremely simple to use. No pump priming, just drop a match in the can of Sterno (sold separately) and cook your food. It won’t be fast, and it won’t give you variable heat settings – but it’s perfect for beginners.

Eventually, they’ll be ready for a more advanced liquid fuel backpacking stove, like a Whisperlite or a Coleman stove. But not yet. These stoves will cook food much faster, but they’re much more elaborate and difficult to use.


Long Underwear

Seriously. This can make all the difference between a miserable cold-weather campout and a comfortable one. I used to call my great set of long underwear “season changers,” and having spent five years doing Scouting in Northern Maine, they made a huge difference. If you’re in Northern climates or doing serious winter camping you may want to look at taking a step up on long underwear. Otherwise, the cheap stuff from Target or Walmart would do fine.

This one can be tougher to size out. So here’s one for adult small.

Water Bottle

Hydration is key to staying healthy and happy on a campout. Every scout should have at least two water bottles. The two big names here are Nalgene and Camelback. There are people who swear by the Camelbak hydration systems like the one below. They’re a bit more expensive, and I’d see this as more of a luxury item, as a handheld bottle will do just fine.


Again, you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal – but cold, wet feet on a campout can be a deal-breaker. The old phrase “cotton kills” is one to remember. On a campout where you’re going to be doing a lot of vigorous activity, you want to have a sock that wicks moisture away from your foot and keep the foot dry. This reduces blisters and will keep your feet warmer. There are any number of materials that will do the trick. I personally swear by polypropylene socks – and I’ve got a few pairs that have lasted me for years. When hiking, or during the winter months, they can be worn underneath wool socks for greater comfort.



Scout Stocking Stuffers

If you’re looking for Scout-stocking stuffers, you can never go wrong with hand warmers. These little bags slip into your gloves or your pockets and heat up when you expose them to air.

Other things to think about

  • Rain Gear
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bug spray



Photo by Wesley Fryer

Facebook Comments