Basic Boy Scout Camping Gear Recommendations

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

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Grow Your Group, Recommendations, Scouting
The Campfire Defender Keeps Your Fire Safe and Contained

The Campfire Defender Keeps Your Fire Safe and Contained

Campfires are useful and fun. They keep us warm, cook our food, and give us light. But they can also be dangerous, and susceptible to the weather. That’s where the “Campfire Defender” comes in.

It’s a campfire management tool – essentially a fireproof tarp you stake down over your fire. And it allows you to control your fire in ways you couldn’t before.

So let’s say you’ve had a great evening campfire, but now it’s time for bed, and to be responsible you need to douse your campfire. This leaves you with two problems in the morning. One, you need to restart your fire, and two, your fire pit is still wet from the night before. The campfire defender solves both of these problems, safely. Instead of dousing your fire, you cover it securely. The vents in the blanket allow the fire to get air but don’t allow any sparks to escape.

In the morning, you’ll have a much easier time getting your fire going again from the dry coals. Just take off the tarp, add some more fuel to your coals, and you’ll have a fire in no time.

It’s also a great tool for protecting your fire from the rain, wind, or snow. Most campfires will probably withstand a light drizzle, but be extinguished by a downpour. This obviously will put a damper on your attempts to cook on that fire. The campfire defender solves this problem. It also can help you control dangerous flying embers.

It’s also got the nice feature of being a heat reflector that can be used to deflect the heat from small fires.

The Campfire Defender in Action

It comes in two versions. The “lite” version weighs about four pounds and covers an area 34 inches by 30 inches. The “pro” version weighs 16 pounds and covers an area 68 inches by 60 inches.

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For more camping recommendations, check out our guide to summer camp essentials for new leaders.

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Recommendations, Scouting
Save Money with our Prime Day Guide

Save Money with our Prime Day Guide

I’ve scoured the Amazon Prime Day Deals so you don’t have to. A scout is prepared, and part of being prepared is having the right camping gear. Of course, for new scouting families, getting camping supplies on a budget is crucial.

You can spend hundreds of dollars equipping an 11-year-old. Having the right stuff on that first campout can make the difference between a scout having the time of his life, and telling all his friends, or dropping out of the program. Of course, most parents wisely won’t want to spend big money on equipment for a kid that age, knowing that they’ll be rough on it, and possibly lost it.

So low-cost alternatives are a very good thing. So here are a few deals I’ve found that could be helpful to your unit going forward.

If you’re not a Prime member, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial membership by clicking on the banner below.


Camping Lantern

This tiny, powerful and lightweight camping lantern will brighten your scout’s tent. It’s solar powered, so you don’t need to worry about batteries (or you can charge it off a USB cable.)

It weighs less than three ounces. It’s also got a handle that can be used to hang from the top of the tent at night.

And it folds up like an accordion. How cool is that? When it’s compressed, it works like a flashlight.


Every scout should have a good backpack. It needs to keep and protect their stuff. The proper backpack can make a hike much more pleasant.

There are very good arguments for external frame backpacks, but I prefer internal. I find them lighter and more comfortable. I’ve also got a vivid memory of nearly knocking myself unconscious trying to take off an external frame pack when I was 12. They also tend to have a greater interior storage capacity and leave you with less stuff hanging on the outside.

My dad, on the other hand, loved the old army ALICE pack. I always thought it was heavy when empty. He swore by it.

The Wasing 55L Internal Frame Backpack is a good-sized backpack at a reasonable price on Prime Day for a newer scout. It’s probably more than they should need on an early campout, but the extra room will come in handy by the time winter camping comes along.

Backpacking Camp Chair

The problem with most camp chairs is that they’re simply too large to take backpacking. They’re fine for camporees, summer camp, and car camping, but if you’re heading out into the backwoods, you’ll be leaving them at home.

On the other hand, this little chair folds up into a tiny package that can fit in a backpack. It only weighs a little over two pounds, and compresses down into a little carry bag – yet it will support someone weighing over 300 pounds!

It’s not a Laz-y-Boy, but it does beat sitting on the ground, or a rock.

Mess Kit

A good mess kit can make a big difference to a new scout. You want something that’s sturdy. If I remember correctly, my first mess kit was bought at KMart and had flimsy wire handles. It made cooking very precarious. All new scout cooking is adventurous at best.

All new scout cooking is adventurous at best. That’s how they learn.

(Here’s a tip… if anyone ever tries to rope you into judging an Iron Chef competition involving new scout patrols, find a way to decline in the politest way possible. However, watching the same activity is something you’re going to want to do.)

So you want to make sure you’ve got them using cookware that’s as easy to use as possible.

You also want something that will clean up easily, as 11-year-olds are not famous for their attention to detail, or their persistence when it comes to cleaning cookware. If it doesn’t get cleaned at camp, it’s going to be nasty coming home… and it’s not unheard of that the mess kit won’t be looked at until right before the next campout, and you could have a moldy mess on your hands. So an easy-to-clean kit is essential.

You also don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on their first set, so this high-quality 10-piece cooking set is a great deal right now. It comes with a one-liter pot, a frying pan, two bowls, a spatula, a spork and a sponge.

Hiking Socks

A blister on your heel can ruin your hiking trip in a hurry. While you can treat them with moleskin, it’s a lot better to not get one at all. One of the keys to this is having properly-fitted hiking boots. The other is keeping your feet dry.

The right socks go a long way towards making this happen. You want a pair that will wick away the moisture from your foot. This pair, made of wool, nylon and of all things, spandex will keep feet dry and healthy throughout the hike.

Pocket Knife

Every scout needs a pocket knife (once they’re old enough). It needs to be sharp, compact, and useful. On Amazon Prime Day, there’s a 13-function knife that will be on sale. Just make sure they know their Totin’ Chip rules before they start carving on their own.



Not great for camping, but great for working on Robotics merit badge, it’s Ozbot (which admittedly sounds like somthing Mork would say when upset.)

It’s a small programmable robot that also looks like it would be a blast with Cub Scouts… and people in their 40s.

Unit Presentation Items

Having a good video projector can have many great uses for a Scouting unit. From recruiting nights, training presentations, Courts of Honor, Camp presentations, pack meetings, to year-in-review videos, a good projector can be a big help to a unit.

There’s a pretty good ViewSonic that’s going to be going on sale on Prime day.

And here’s another handy thing to help with your presentations. It’s a wireless clicker to help with any PowerPoint presentations that might come up during training. Saves you the awkwardness of someone sitting next to the laptop, and you screaming “now” at them every time you want to advance a slide. Plus it’s got a laser, and who doesn’t like lasers.

Not a Prime Day Item… Just Awesome

Come on now… how is the Ninja Squirrel Patrol patch not the best thing you’ve seen all day?

Photo by theglobalpanorama

Posted by Mike Cooney in Grow Your Group, Recommendations, Scouting
Summer Camp Essentials for New Leaders

Summer Camp Essentials for New Leaders

Summer Camp Essentials

So, you’re going to be going to camp for the first time with your scouts. Congratulations, you’re in for a week you’re never going to forget. But, as the Scout motto says, Be Prepared. So here are a few of the things that I’ve found to be summer camp essentials for a unit leader to have on hand to make sure they, and the scouts in their care have an awesome time at camp.

You’re probably nervous. You should be nervous. It’s a big responsibility. The thought of being in the woods with other people’s children is a daunting thing for sane people. It’s also one of the most fun thing’s you’ll ever get to do. You’re going to laugh harder than you thought possible. You’re going to get to see kids accomplish miraculous things. The stories that come from camp stay with you the rest of your life.

So, to reduce the number of the things you have to worry about, and to make you as comfortable as possible – so that you can focus on making sure the kids in your care have the best possible experience, here are a few summer camp essentials for leaders.

A Good Cooler

On a hot day, you’re going to want to make sure you have cold beverages in the camp site. As summer camp essentials go, this one’s extremely important. Keeping everyone hydrated is one of the most important parts of having a good week at camp. So you’re going to want to have a big cooler full of ice with beverages in it, or at least have a full Gatorade bucket (or generic alternative.)

You’ll probably also want to have a good supply of drink mix on hand. Make sure you’re reminding the kids to keep drinking water. Water toasts are a fun way of getting this done. But a kid who’s not drinking enough water will wind up spending more time than they’d like to either in the latrine, or in the camp nurse’s office, and that’s not good for anyone.

A Good Camp Chair

Especially for Boy Scout leaders. Frankly, it should be a requirement. Being a Boy Scout leader pretty much requires a good camp chair. For some new leaders, it should have restraints, as the temptation to hover over the boys is all too tempting. Camping is not about suffering, so get a nice chair.

There are two schools of thought on camp chairs. There’s the people who like to put their feet up, and go the ottoman style. Then there are people who like to have a little bit more shade, and get a camp chair with a little roof. Then there are people who take it way, way too far, and get a camp chair with a little roof… and an ottoman.

And then spend the week getting the 11-year-olds out of it.


Camps can get pretty dark at night, so you’re going to want to have some lighting above and beyond the campfire for boys to play cards, do merit badge work, or read after the sun goes down. You can go with the traditional kerosene lanterns, but for the less experienced leader, the electric ones are easier to operate, and safer. This Streamlight lantern is pretty cheap, and puts out an awful lot of light.

Bug Netting

Essential. Don’t imagine going to camp without it. You don’t want to be the sleepy leader in the morning because a mosquito was buzzing their ears all night. I’ve been that guy. Don’t be like me. Be smart. Get the net. Also, don’t forget to pick up some wooden dowels and duct tape to hang the thing.

Battery Operated Fan

Okay, maybe this one’s not essential, and maybe, just maybe, it gives away how soft I really am. But I like sleeping with a fan at night. I like this one, because it will clip on to the bunk frame at night. Mock me now, but when it’s late July and it’s not getting below 90 at night, you can thank me later.

Cell Phone Charger

It’s the 21st century, and as much as we can caution against the kids having cell phones in camp, it’s irresponsible for the leader in camp not to. You need to be in contact with the camp office, with parents, and ready in case there’s an emergency in the middle of the night. It’s important that you’re able to keep an eye on the weather. You’re also going to want to take a lot of pictures and videos to use in recruiting in the fall.

There are really two ways to go here, you can go with the solar charger. Makes you look really outdoorsy. Or you can go the brick route.

I kinda prefer these things, for two big reasons. They’ll last you a month at camp, are easy to recharge, and they have the added bonus of being able to jump start your car. If you left the dome light on when you left the car on Sunday, this baby is ready to bail you out. They’re not too large.

An Extra Sleeping Bag

Not to be indelicate, but accidents will happen at camp, and you don’t want to wind up at 2 am with a scout who’s had an accident, and now is without a sleeping bag. You’re going to want to make sure you have an extra one. Nothing fancy, just an extra one.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Other Assorted Summer Camp Essentials


Reader Suggestions

  • Tarp
  • Solar Lights
  • A clothesline for hanging towels, and uniforms. If it’s between two trees, keep it away from trails, and above head level (6′). If it’s in your tent, tie it between the upright poles, never put anything

Anything you think I missed? Please put it in the comments below, and we’ll add it to the list.





Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Recommendations, Scouting