Organizing a Campout for Troop 16
[From the Troop Handbook: “The BSA program is designed for fun in the outdoors. The Troop generally goes on a camping event once a month. The activities planned for these events reinforce the skills and ideals of Scouting. These activities are set up by the Patrol Leaders' Council under the direction of the Scoutmaster during the Troop Planning Conference. The Troop Committee Outdoors Chairman, or the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, or other interested committee member(s), make the reservations, transportation, and other logistical arrangements. The individual also serves as Campmaster if they attend the campout. The Campmaster is responsible for arranging for camping facilities, transportation, pay fees, filing camp/facilities request forms, and insure adequate leadership is available. All drivers on Troop 16 campouts must be licensed drivers at least 18 years of age and must have property damage and personal liability insurance coverage at the dollar limits prescribed by BSA. Occupancy limits of the vehicle cannot be exceeded, and each occupant must have a seat belt. Troop 16 generally uses our own tents or makes arrangements for indoor sleeping (in some cases) for field events. Any money due for these events is used to cover the cost of the boys' food for the weekend, and the basic charge is $15 for the 2000-2001 year. Additional charges may be needed for some campouts where fees are needed (e.g., skiing, rafting). Money due is generally collected at the two Troop meetings prior to the camp-out. It is the boys’ responsibility to make sure that deadlines are met so that Patrol Leaders and Quartermasters can schedule their shopping.”]
Many of the parents and adult leaders refuse to even consider helping out with arranging a campout because they think it is too difficult or time-consuming. This tends to throw the work on a small group of leaders, who oftentimes have multiple other things to do in order to deliver the Scouting program to the boys. However, it is relatively simple if you take a little time to do it. What we need for a successful (and legal!!) campout are:
A good activity for the boys
A place to stay
A Scout is Reverent!
Verification and Communication
A Good Activity for the Boys
Every year in early August, the Scoutmaster meets with the Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) to determine what activities the boys want to do on campouts in the next 9 months. The Scoutmaster brings a variety of resources or ideas for activities to throw out for consideration, and oftentimes the boys have past activities they particularly enjoyed, and that they want to do again. We tend to alternate years for some activities (Huntsville, skiing, white water rafting), and Shiloh is an annual activity. The boys select their top nine activities, with 2-3 alternates.
A Place to Stay
Places to stay can range from private, state, or federal land in primitive sites; through organized group sites; to specially designated Scout camp sites. Sometimes, the activity dictates where we camp (e.g., Johnson Shutins). Other times, we have to find a campsite near our activity. For many of our winter or “indoor” activities (skiing, Huntsville, travel to and from long-term camps), we typically stay indoors at a church or other facility. How do you find a place to stay? First of all, ask one of the more experienced adults—they may know where the Troop camped the last time if this is a repeat activity. If that doesn’t help, check state parks in the vicinity. Many have group campsites or even Scout-designated campsites. Information on camping at State Parks can be found on the internet at: http://www.mostateparks.com/ . BE SURE to make plans at least three months in advance (or more) to make sure we can get the campground. Other groups will get the site if we don’t do so ahead of time. For long distance trips (whitewater rafting is one example), we have sometimes stayed at scout camps in the off season, or one of the Council camps (Lewallen, Pine Ridge, S-F). In Council, camps must be reserved through the St. Louis office. We MUST have a permit to be on Council property or we could get thrown off! Special events on Council camps (e. g., rock climbing/rappelling or ropes course at S-F) require reservations, obtained by participating in a lottery. The Scoutmaster gets the lottery form in July or August, from which we will be selected for a time and date to call for reservations. Other campsites may be found by using http://www.google.com and doing a search for the site/camp/area and “camping.” Finally, U. S. Forest Service lands are usually open for camping, although designated campsites may require a permit. Contact Mark Twain National Forest for details on Missouri sites.
For “indoor” activities, we’ve had good luck contacting churches in the area. Be SURE if you arrange for us to stay at a church, that you check a couple of weeks before the event to make sure we haven’t had the cafeteria or gymnasium “scheduled out from under us.”
This is one of the reasons we require a signup sheet for campouts. This provides a list of those going, who is driving, and how many seats are available. First, you need to know how many boys/adult leaders/parents are going. Then, you have to make sure there are enough seats to accommodate everyone. If the campout involves overnight, outdoor camping, we will likely need someone with a vehicle large enough, and with the right trailer hitch, to pull the Troop trailer. Rarely, for long-term outings, we may occasionally make other arrangements (train, bus, etc.). Parents who drive need NOT stay with the boys on campouts. We have had situations in the past where parents drive boys to the site, then go home until Sunday morning, and come back to pick them up.
A Scout is Reverent!
Depending on the timing of the Sunday schedule, we either attend church services on Saturday evening, Sunday morning, or after we return on Sunday. The former two cases require that you locate the nearest and most convenient church, with the most workable time for mass. You can find information on times for mass at: http://www.masstimes.org/dotNet/
The Campmaster should generally be in charge of menu planning and obtaining food for the adults, although this can be delegated to other people if they have more time or ability to do so. They boys plan their own menus, unless the activity dictates that we eat as a Troop. If we ARE eating as a troop, the Campmaster should get as many signed checks as needed from the Treasurer.
Safety considerations include making sure adult leaders have received Youth Protection Training (available online), having two-deep leadership for all events, and making sure we have certified or trained adults before we participate in activities such as aquatic activities, rappelling, or pioneering. Make sure their medical forms are with the group also, since these include signed releases from parents. Also, we tend to travel together, but this is not recommended where risks have to be taken to stay in the group. Thus, we use radios in case a car gets separated on a trip.
Before you organize certain activities, you should check to make sure Scouts under age 14 can do the activities under Safe Scouting Rules. For example, Scouts under age 14 cannot enter a wild cave. Sometimes, the activity can go forward—you just have to provide an alternative for the younger Scouts. You can find information about safety considerations in the “Guide to Safe Scouting” online at: http://www.scouting.org/pubs/gss/toc.html
BSA Regulations require a Local Tour Permit for trips outside the Council boundaries, but less than 500 miles away, and a National Tour Permit for trips beyond 500 miles away. Examples of outings requiring a Local Tour Permit are Shiloh, Johnson Shut-ins, Skiing at Paoli Peaks, and Huntsville. Those requiring a National Tour Permit include Camp Sabattis, Philmont, or other alternate summer camps far away from our area. Tour Permit forms are available on the GSLAC web site. The tour permits require itinerary information; training status of adult leaders for different activities; names, ages, driver’s license numbers, auto make, year, and model, number of passengers and seat belts; and liability insurance amounts for each car (per person & per accident; and property damage). You can almost bet that at least one driver will not have provided this information to the troop for each outing, so get it early!
Verification and Communication
It never hurts to call or email to verify who is attending. Do this at the troop meeting on the day before departure, or email or call everyone a couple of days ahead of the departure date. We don’t want to wait for someone who is not coming!
At a minimum, everyone will need to know what time we are meeting to leave, and what time we will return. For some activities, it may be possible to prepare a schedule to hand out at the Troop meeting before the campout. For others, just communicating times by email, phone, or at the meeting will be enough. A general rule is that you should give as much information as possible to parents before the campout.
Last updated November 10, 2004