By Adrian
Jul 16, 2015

Ideas to “Spice” Up Your Campouts

I think just about everyone can agree that one of the big things that attracts and keeps Scouts in Scouting is the camping experience.  We are always competing for the boys time and attention with sports programs and other non-Scouting activities, so it is important that we try to do everything we can to make our campouts as fun and interesting for our Scouts as we can.

How to "Spice" Up Your CampoutsI have been the camping director for our Troop for the last three years and every fall, I get together with my team to plan our year’s worth of campouts.  The advantage to this is that we can set the dates in place early in the year so our Scouts and adults can plan their time accordingly.  Of course, we’ve never gotten through a year without a few last-minute changes, but at least we start out with a good framework to work with.

We are a boy-led Troop, so we try to involve the Scouts in the planning process as much as possible.  Sometimes, we offer several choices of different options and let them vote, or sometimes we do a survey to find out what their favorites are.  Lately, we’ve been inviting our whole Junior Leadership Team to the planning meeting so we have some real-time Scout input on our choices.

We try to anchor our schedule with a few traditional choices.  Our survey told us that the boys really love a few campouts that are the same each year as long as they are interspersed with a variety of other campouts.  For example, our Methodist church owns a campground up by Coalville.  Traditionally, we have our father-son campout there in the Spring to welcome our new rookies and their Dads.  I think the boys would be really disappointed if we didn’t have this one in the lineup and many of our Dads (and Moms, including me) come up for this one as it’s our only one with cabins and a full mess hall.

In the Fall, we have our Iron Chef Competition where the Troop stages a cooking competition similar to Top Chef.  It’s not the easiest competition because they have to cook with all sorts of weird ingredients like kale, pickled beets, and leeks, but the boys are CRAZY about it – we usually get a big turnout for this one!  They have just one hour to create a full meal including appetizer and dessert using two ingredients they can plan for ahead of time and one mystery ingredient they find out about that day.  Sometimes the results are delicious and sometimes they are just plain hilarious, but it’s always interesting to see what each patrol comes up with.

Here’s a quick video of one of our recent favorites

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It’s cheap fun and the boys really enjoy it.  We did a longer challenge that combined long-distance Frisbee throwing with orienteering in the afternoon, and then we did this accuracy challenge – the boys are trying to knock root beer bottles off of hiking poles for points.  Note:  It was windy so some of the kids are huddled up trying to create a wind break.

Other campout activities we’ve done:

  • Bicycling campouts – we grab a trailer, load up all the boys bikes (and helmets) and take them on a bike excursion during a campout – usually Antelope Island
  • Shooting (another traditional yearly event)
  • Catapults (I talked about our little Popsicle stick catapults in an earlier post), but we also did full sized ones and they competed to shoot tennis balls with them – like the Punkin Chunkin’ you see on TV.  It’s cheap fun – just made from scrap wood in our garage and info from the Internet.
  • Capture the flag – a perennial favorite activity, especially after dark
  • Photography campouts – One of our former Eagle Scout Dads is a professional photographer, so we invited him to teach the boys how to take photos and we had a photography contest with the resulting photos
  • Water sports – canoeing, kayaking, sailing, river rafting, or relaxing in the hot springs during the winter months
  • Snow caves/Klondike games
  • We’ve even done a golf campout.  Palisades State Park has a great little golf course and the boys enjoyed trying their hand at golfing during a campout.

Now, I understand that we run our campouts a little differently from the LDS units.  We do longer campouts, for one thing.  Since we have our own Chaplain’s Aide (a Scout leadership position) to do an abbreviated church service for us, we choose to do full weekend campouts.  So we are able to cram a bit more into a campout, but some of these things could easily be done on a Saturday morning campout.

Also, we get some economy of scale because we have a pretty large group and a good supply of adult leaders to help us put a more elaborate campout together.  Our fundraising guidelines are also a bit different than the LDS units, so we have a bit more money available to put towards equipment and such, but I wanted to share some ideas like the Frisbee golf and the catapults that are very low cost and are easy to do.

What are some simple tips you could incorporate into your next campout?  Think outside the box – ask your boys for some suggestions, take a poll of some other Troops in your area, maybe they’ve got some new and interesting ideas to try.

Author: Adrian |  Adrian is a blogger who is passionate about helping parents with parenting tips, managing their finances, and organizing their homes. She has a full-time job in the financial industry and is part of the leadership of Troop 411 at Hilltop United Methodist Church in Sandy, UT.

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3 thoughts on “Ideas to “Spice” Up Your Campouts

  1. AvatarDennis Freeman

    Great ideas for making camping count! As Baden-Powell said, “Scouting is a game with a purpose, and the game is camping.” Our traditional troop, also boy-led, mixes regular events with new, fun activities, too. Here are some more ideas: contests for best homemade gear (some of them regularly use solid-fuel stoves and cook pots they made from upcyed cans), fire starting contests, compass challenges, “survival hikes” w/ no tents. We have some traditions, too, like traveling to the Ogden area for our October camp out. We shop for cheap winter gear at Smith & Edwards, then do something fun like a museum or “mall crawl”.
    Dennis Freeman, SM, Troop 312, Green River, Wyoming

  2. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

    Your troop sounds just the the LDS troop I grew up in Salt Lake. We had 48 Scout and were boy-led too. In fact as Senior Patrol leader I got to run patrol competitions at campouts that eclipsed those the Mt. Olympus District did at Camporees.
    It is great to see that this good stuff is still going on in some troops!

  3. Pingback: Ways to SPICE Up Your Campouts - Adrian's Crazy Life

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