Is your child a new Tiger Scout or maybe your child is a little older and just getting started; perhaps you’re curious about Cub Scouts and are a little worried about what sort of gear you will need when it is time to go camping. Many of us took that first step by searching the internet for camping gear and were quickly overwhelmed or we visited a local retailer to see rows of different gear and had sticker shock when we glanced at the price tag. Well fear not fellow adventurer, getting started and having fun doesn’t have to be intimidating or all that expensive.
To attend your first Cub Scout camping trip with Pack 350 you really only need two things (besides a good attitude and sense of adventure): 1. tent, 2. sleeping bag*.
Frankly it is amazing how many different styles and types of tents that are available to purchase, it is impressive, but how do you choose the right one? Tent shopping can be broken down to just a few simple questions.
Mode of Transportation
Older scouts in the BSA have the opportunity to participate in some exceptional long duration backpacking trips, but Cub Scout Pack 350 camp-outs are generally what people would call “car camping.” We drive our vehicles to the campsite, take our gear out of the bed of the trunk and set camp right there. Lower cost tents are often bulkier and slightly heavier than the high-tech backpacking tents on the market. If you’ve priced some of the nicer backpacking tents at somewhere like REI then you know the high-tech options can be quite costly. Luckily we won’t need anything near that spendy for the Pack 350 camp-outs; however, if that is the tent you want you are more than welcome to bring it.
How Many People
The number of people that a tent claims it will sleep is a bit misleading. If you’ve ever had three people in a “3-person tent” then you’ve wondered how small those people were and what they did with all their stuff. In Cub Scouts the only people in your tent will be you and your son, so a basic three or four person tent will often suffice. Your best option would be to visit a store that has some tents up on display so you can actually see how large they are. With that said you may want to take care not to buy a tent that puts some RVs to shame. Firstly depending on where the camp-out is being held there may be tent pads, extremely large tents may not fit on the tent pad. If the footprint of the tent is larger than about 8ft x 8ft you may run into issues. Ask the Pack 350 Pack Leader or your Den Leader about your campsite before the camp-out if there are concerns. Also, larger tents are taller tents and taller tents can have issues being stable in higher winds.
Pack 350 camp-outs aren’t exactly dog sled expeditions across Antarctica, so in choosing a tent we can consider normal conditions. The chances of snow on our camp-outs in central Texas aren’t exactly high (usually), temperatures in the winter generally still range in what is considered “3-season camping”. Bad weather that Pack 350 would more likely encounter includes rain and wind. Most car-camping tents you find at a retailer will include a rain fly, which will help keep water out of your tent under most conditions.
Answering our three questions:
- Only your family
- Typical 3-season camping
Sleeping bags are a bit like tents, there are a bunch of options ranging up to many hundreds of dollars. First of all you should know that you don’t actually need a sleeping bag. If the camp-out is in May the nights should be warm and you might be able to get by with a sheet or a light blanket. For choosing the right sleeping bag for us and our sons we only need to answer three questions.
For cooler weather the temperature rating of the sleeping bag is a great place to start. Sleeping bags are often rated for temperatures such as 40F, 20F, 0F, -20F, I’m not sure if central Texas has ever seen -20F recorded, so those bags would be serious overkill. A note about those temperatures listed as the rating, they don’t always mean “warm and toasty” they basically mean that is the lowest temperature the bag would be only “OK” in. Even then a 40F bag when it is 40 degrees outside you may want to bring a blanket or some sweats to wear to bed. Available for children are “play” sleeping bags that are perfectly suited for camping in the living room, but those bags don’t perform well for keeping your son comfortable while camping except in warmer weather.
Square vs. Mummy
Mummy bags are tapered to have less space at the feet (“the foot box”) and contour with your body to reduce the bulk of the bag and increase the bag’s efficiency. They’re great for backpacking for those reasons, but as car-camping Cub Scouts a square bag may be a good option. Square bags are typically less expensive, so you can get “more bag” for your money (a bag rated for colder temperatures).
Answering our two questions:
- A bag rated for 40F will work for most Pack 350 camp-outs, except in the winter.
- Square bags are perfectly fine.
- Air mattresses? Sure, they make camping more comfortable, bring a battery operated pump and the repair kit that comes with the air mattress.
- Cot? I prefer using a cot over an air mattress, but they’re big and won’t fit in some tents. In other tents they might “fit” but nothing else will. A test fit is in order.
- Camp stove/Grill? You won’t need it unless you are specifically asked to bring it.
Even if you find that your first camping experience didn’t go as planned, you’ll still have opportunity to have fun with Pack 350. More importantly your scout will have a great time learning and having fun with all of his new friends.