KA Hanna led a Girl Scout troop for 10 years, served as Activity Consultant for her Service Unit and believes in the power of the Thin Mint.
You've taken your training and are ready to take the plunge—a camping trip with your Girl Scout Troop! Here are some tips to make things go a little more smoothly:
- Packing list for girls: The girls will need different things for tent camping than they will for cabin camping or backyard camping. Even though little kids can sleep on the ground seemingly without any discomfort at all, they will need a sleeping pad to go under their sleeping bag to protect them from the cold ground when tent camping. If the weather is cool, they should bring an extra blanket or two. Prepare an appropriate packing list for the girls based upon weather, location, planned activities and number of trip days. Go over the items on the list at a meeting well in advance of the camping trip.
- Gear list for leader: I keep a master gear list, and go over it after the girls have prepared their camping menus. I cross out items they won't need, for example, if they aren't cooking anything that requires the box oven, I cross it off the list. If there is anything on the gear list that I need to buy, like charcoal or propane for example, I add the item to my shopping list. I also use the gear list as I pack the car, crossing off items as they get packed.
- My troop's gear list appears at the end of this article.
- Shopping list: I make up the shopping list after the girls have made their menus. I shop for consumables a couple of days before the trip. Consumables include: food from the girls' menus, items from the gear list, personal hygiene and first aid items. You can make your job easier if you have each girl shop for and bring two or three food items from their menus, however, you must be prepared to allow the girls to make do with what they have, should anyone forget to bring a food item. Always remember: nobody will starve. Girls are resourceful. On one of our troop trips, someone forgot to bring cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. The girls were able (on their own) to figure out that they could use half of the bacon from the next morning's breakfast to make bacon and lettuce sandwiches for lunch instead. Nobody starved, and the girls were proud that they thought of a solution. Another tip: you will use more bandages and possibly hygiene items than you imagined—bring a fully stocked first aid kit. Try to make it your goal to shop only for ice on the day of your trip. This will help keep your stress levels down.
- Food Coolers: I bring one cooler per meal (generally two breakfast coolers, one lunch cooler, one dinner cooler and one snack cooler) for a weekend trip, assuming 10 girls and two leaders. Coolers are labeled: Saturday Breakfast, Saturday Lunch, Saturday Dinner, Sunday Breakfast, Snacks. Food for that meal goes into the appropriate cooler. That way, food stays fresh and girls are not rummaging through multiple coolers trying to find food. If you have a small troop, you could use just three coolers, putting breakfast and snack items into one cooler. Or, follow the basic cooler-rule-of-thumb, which is one cooler per four people. I also seal ice for the coolers in XL Ziplock Storage Bags. This keeps food from swimming in water as the ice melts. Depending on the campground rules, I either bring a small tent for storing the coolers, or I lock the coolers in one of the cars. Tight-fitting bungee cords are also useful to keep raccoons and other animals out of the coolers. It will take a while for the girls to get the hang of bungee cords.
- Hand wash station: Set up a hand wash station on your campsite and require your girls to use it before preparing food. Public restrooms are never as clean as your bathroom at home. With many girls handling food, it is best to be as careful as possible. In all the years our troop has camped, no girl has ever gotten sick.
- Enforce a "no electronics" rule: Our troop has always had this rule, but one year, a girl brought her iPod with her on a camping trip. In the morning, the girl discovered that the earbuds on her earphones were missing—something during the night had chewed them off and taken them away. Since then, the girls bring games or simply have fun talking to each other.
- Bring a back-up or rainy-day activity: I actually assign this to one of the girls to bring along—some type of low-key activity that the girls can do if something falls through, or if the weather isn't cooperating. When cabin camping, games like Twister or Guesstures is popular. So is fingerweaving or doing each other's nails. When tent camping, the girls like to make a "stage" area at the campsite and act out plays.
- Bring your own tent: If your girls are old enough to feel comfortable in tents on their own, I highly recommend that each leader have their own tent, just so that you have your own space to unwind and relax.
- Use a kaper chart: Encourage the girls to check the kaper chart so that they know what their job is for a particular meal. For young scouts, list all the things that they are supposed to do for that job as well. They won't use the kaper chart the first couple of times they camp, but if you make it a point to ask them to check the kaper chart, or if you have the patrol leader read off the assignments, they will get the hang of it over time. Also, don't forget night-time clean-up. S'mores are fun, but there is clean-up to be done. Make sure that the girls know, in advance, who will be handling clean-up. It's best to assign the oldest girls to night-time clean-up for the first trip. The younger ones will be too tired to be able to function cheerfully.
- Let the girls get messy: Enforce keeping tents zipped closed, and keep food out of tents so as not to attract critters. But ignore the dirt. You might be amazed at how dirty the girls get on a camping trip. Don't spend time wiping faces or getting girls to change dirty clothes. They'll just get dirtier anyway.
Remember to have fun with your first troop trip, even if things don't go exactly as you planned. The girls don't expect you to be perfect, all they really care about is spending time with their troop, and with you.
Don't Forget the S'Mores!
Leader's Gear List
2 Large tents (plus rope, stakes, hammer and mallet)
1 Small storage tent
2 Leader tents
1 Cooking table
2 Side tables
1 Screen room
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4 Big coolers
1 Med cooler
6 XL Ziplock Storage Bags
1 Rubbermaid tote (dry goods keeper)
Handwash station (plus soap, water, sanitizer, paper towels)
3 Dishwash buckets (plus dish soap, bleach, sponge)
2 Coleman stoves, Propane
1 Box Oven (or Coleman oven)
1 Bag charcoal (easy-light kind, no chimney required.)
Chuck Box (3 skillets, 2 griddles, 2 pots, 1 stockpot, 3 bowls, cutting mats, 2 potholders, grater, colander, coffeepot, marshmallow roasters)
Utensil box (3 knives, 2 spatulas, 3 big spoons, 2 tong, 1 ladle, 2 pancake turner, measuring cups, measuring spoons, can opener, whisk)
Kitchen kit (coffee, salt, pepper, foil, paper towels, kitchen towel, baby wipes, Pam, plates, eating utensils, cups, bowls, dunk bags, empty coffee can, 2 tablecloths, napkins, rubber gloves, food handling gloves, Ziplock bags)
Bucket (5 gallon size)
Camping Dan on March 03, 2009:
The best tip is to not coddle them because they are girls. Allow them to get out there and have an adventure. My daughters troop did a Colorado ski hut to hut in the winter as well as a Class 4 river rafting trip. She loved every thrilling moment of these trips and tells everyone about them constantly.