By Andrew Olsen
Apr 12, 2015

Why do Scouts Camp in the Rain?

Andrew 15yrs old on staff

Andrew, 15 yrs old and on camp staff

The thing I like about Scouts, is that it has given me an archive of good stories to draw from for the rest of my life. Like the time my hair froze to the side of the tent on a campout, or the time we lost a tent pole on the way to our campsite on my very first Klondike Derby, or the time my flashlight batteries ran out in the middle of Nutty Putty Cave, or the time at my Eagle Court of Honor when they were going to present my Eagle award but it wasn’t there because we had left it on the kitchen table at home, or the time we (some fellow scouts and myself) spent over an hour pumping water with a clogged water filter to make what we thought was instant vanilla pudding, but to our utter disappointment, we found out it was Bisquick! Scouting creates experiences, good and bad, that we retain the rest of our lives. For me Scouting has created an overwhelming amount of positive experiences that I treasure.

I enjoy telling my daughter bedtime stories that are from my past as a young boy growing up in Alpine, Utah or some of fun and crazy experiences I have had in Scouting. Recently, I told her the story of a memorable campout as a young Boy Scout. We had a short weekend outing planned to camp at Willow Park near Lehi.

scouts in the rainUnfortunately, when we got to our campsite it was a dismal rainy downpour, and I still had to set up my tent. I remember wishing I was at my house where it was warm and dry. But our Scoutmaster was not going to turn around and go home just because of a rainstorm with no danger of thunder, lightning, or flash flooding. I got my pack out and hurriedly starting putting up my tent in the rain. My backpack was getting soaked along with my tent. As I was fumbling around with my gear to get my tent set up, along came another Scout. He threw this nifty green army tent on the ground, unzipped the tent, tossed his bag inside, then climbed in and zipped the door closed. I was wondering what he was doing, then watched with a combination of jealousy and amazement as he set up his tent from the inside!

Finally, I was able to get my tent up and get myself out of the rain, but I kept thinking of my friend that had this awesome tent that set up from the inside. I asked him where he got it and he said that his dad had given him this little army tent, and to this day I still remember how much I wish I had one of those tents. In fact, I would still like to find one of those tents. I have been on several outings since where a tent like that would have come in handy.

In hindsight, I am glad our Scoutmaster didn’t turn around and go home because of the pouring rain. Our leaders were good men. They knew their stuff and knew we would be safe while camping there, even though in the mind of a thirteen year old, it was as if the world had come to an end…we had to camp in the rain! I am glad for that experience. It would have been neat if someone could have told me at the time that I would remember this rainy experience the rest of my life. (Although even if someone had told me that at that moment in the rain, I may not have listened to them.)

So why do Scouts camp in the rain? As I said before, Scouting creates experiences that we retain the rest of our lives. For me Scouting has created an overwhelming amount of positive experiences that I treasure. And now, I get to tell these adventures as bedtime stories to my daughter!

Readers: I would be interested in reading your comments on some of the most memorable Scout campouts you have been on and why. It may have been a rainy campout or the time you had a bear come into your campsite. So, let’s hear your stories. Also if you know what kind of army tent sets up from the inside I would be interested in finding out more info on them. Thanks!

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Author: Andrew Olsen | Development Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA

 

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22 thoughts on “Why do Scouts Camp in the Rain?

  1. Scott MajorScott Major

    My Scoutmaster growing up had a van that we called “The Unit”. I remember frequently having to stop and fix something on the van. Lucky for us our Scoutmaster was a car mechanic and it never slowed us down too much.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Scott that sounds like a nifty memory of Scouting and taking “The Unit” around on trips. I had a Scoutmaster that had a Subaru wagon that leaked oil so quickly he didn’t ever need to change it! He would drive that thing in places that big trucks wouldn’t dare go. I remember riding in it with a full load of gear, climbing over rocks on the road and banging the underside of the car, but never once did it have an issue. It just kept going and kept leaking oil at its crazy usually rate. Fun times. I’m sure there are other stories out there of Scoutmasters that had similar type vehicles…

      Reply
  2. AvatarGranticus

    Great article, Andrew! It definitely brought back some Scout memories for me. That’s crazy your flashlight batteries ran out in Nutty Putty Cave. My memory from that cave was when me and my troop were crawling along in it and we heard a voice calling for help down in the darkness. We went down a tunnel and found two cute girls who’d been separated from their group and had been huddled there for over an hour. They were muddy and scared, so we helped them get back to the surface. We felt like total heroes.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Granticus,

      Thanks for sharing your story about Nutty Putty Cave and helping the girls back out to safety. If you didn’t know what you were doing in that cave it would be easy to get lost. Thanks again for sharing a classic story about the adventures you have in Scouting!

      Reply
  3. AvatarDarren Brown

    Ha! Your stories made me laugh and brought back memories. And it’s fun to be part of those experiences with the next generation. Last summer our troop headed for some adventures around Escalante, and we took “Yoda” (my old, green Dodge Neon) down the Hole in the Rock road, which is an adventure in itself. After visiting Hole in the Rock, we headed down the side road to the Coyote Gulch trailhead. It was dark, and after cresting a small rise in the dirt road, we hit a sudden downhill section of deeply-rutted talc. We bounced through in one piece and emerged from the choking cloud laughing out loud. It was better than Disneyland. After our Coyote gulch loop hike, I drove further down the road to help our other adult retrieve his truck from the original trailhead, but we got stuck in the deep sand (lesson-heed the warning signs). It took some real scout skills to dig out. Later we were trying to find some water pots and our dirt road turned into a dry wash that required some tricky maneuvering on the bends in order to keep moving forward in the sand and gravel. Yoda’s undercarriage clipped a small rock, which turned out to be a big boulder as it was ripped out of the ground by the force of our momentum and lifted Yoda’s wheels right into the air. The scouts were ready and got us back on the road in no time. Yoda is still running strong (surprisingly), though with a little more sand in his ears. Good times!

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Yoda sounds like an amazing scouting vehicle. I really think every Boy Scout Troop needs a truck or a car like that and one especially that has a cool name. So who’s idea was it to name it Yoda?

      It really sounded like a crazy adventure bouncing down a steep mountain trail is a cloud of dust. It reminds me of an old green suburban my aunt and uncle had a number of years ago. They called it the “Duckweed” and they would take it on all their camping and mountain outings. It was such a fun thing to ride in. When you started up the engine it sounded like a huge outboard motor on a boat idling and spitting and churning the water. Thanks for sharing your story. I want to hear more stories theses are great!

      Reply
  4. AvatarDarren Brown

    The boys named Yoda–they name all our scout vehicles. Yoda was superceded by Ramses (RIP), an old Oldsmobile Toronado that ‘almost’ made it all the way to hole in the rock on our previous trip down there–before the last 5 miles were graded. Ramses made it back alive, but died later after my son tried to turn in front of a semi-truck (as the driver of the truck said–he with the most lug nuts wins). Ramses was totaled, no one was hurt, and we saved the Olds emblem for a memento. Before we lost Ramses, we got some great hands on electronics experience by building a circuit board to bypass a faulty security ignition key that was giving us trouble.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Darren,

      These names of Scout vehicles are great and I like that the Scouts choose the names. I was a Scoutmaster for a short time in Orem, as I was finishing up m degree at BYU, and our Troop decided to paint and name our Klondike Derby sled. They painted it white with black spots just like a cow. Then they painted on the side in dripping black letters, “Fred the Holy Cow.” They loved this sled and it became a fun joke in our Troop. Sorry to hear that Ramses bit the dust a while back, it sounds like it was a great car as well! Keep the stories coming!

      Reply
  5. AvatarRich Lewis

    Rain, Snow, Cold,… I think that the most delicious baked beans I ever ate were cooked over a fire on a drizzly, wonderful wet Scout Camp. I didn’t even like baked beans but I still remember how delicious they tasted…. but most of all I remember the young men that I was with and the diligent leaders that, so wisely, chose to camp. That one camp changed me, I learned new things. I suppose that every camp since has changed me in some way. It is a magical metamorphosis that occurs in every Scout (Young and Old) Now every month, reliable as the U.S. Postal Service (my assistant Scoutmaster is a Postman) We go camping. On to the next great adventure.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Rich,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the story of your favorite baked bean recipe! I remember a trip I took as a Varsity Scout to the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming and one of our leaders (Hunt Willoughby former Alpine Mayor) had a small cherry cheesecake that he had packed up there. On the last night of backpacking and camping for a week he pulled that cherry cheesecake out of his backpack. It was a little crumpled from being stuff in the bottom of his bag all week, but it tasted so good. We had been eating dehydrated trail foods all week long and that cheese cake, even though we only got a small piece, tasted amazing. Keep the stories coming. I love hearing great Scouting stories. It is amazing the life lessons that youth and adults can gain from simple experience on any given camping trip.

      Reply
  6. AvatarRichard Holden

    As an 11 year old scout I remember our Scoutmaster teaching us how to build a tent out of a sheet of plastic, rope, walking sticks and rocks. We all thought it was a little crazy especially since we were required to use them on our first camp out. So the first campout comes along and it was camporee so we were camped in our plastic sheet tent alongside the rest of our troop who had nice looking store bought tents. After we got the tents set up it started raining and didn’t let up all night, it rained so much that they actually cancelled the camporee. But waking up the next morning was great, we came out of our tent to hear all the other boys complain about how the night was miserable and everything they had got soaked through while we had an awesome night and not a single one of us or our gear got wet.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Richard,

      That sounds like a classic Scouting story! I really like those types of stories, because as a Scout it give you something fun to brag about. Especially a tent made our of plastic, rope and walking sticks outdoing all other tents at that Camporee. Thanks for sharing. I have been on the other side of that story with being soaked in the night becuase of a torrential downpour and it is not much fun.

      Are you currently a leader and have you been able to carry on the tradition of teaching boys how to make a tent out of plastic sheets, ropes and walking sticks?

      Reply
  7. AvatarDon Thomas

    When the scouts would grouse about the rain I would tell them: girls are made of sugar and spice, there’s no sugar in you, you won’t melt in the rain. When the horrible tragedy was over (whatever it was), the scouts had a little swagger. The confidence of “remember the time that………….. “

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      I agree that after a crazy rain storm camping trip it does create a sense of being able to tough it out, even though the weather was not ideal. It reminds me of the time when I was working at Philmont Scout Ranch (in New Mexico) for a summer. During the monsoon season you would huge rain storms in the afternoon that would sneak up on you…when the morning was blue skies. I remember walking down a mountain trail that had turned into a river. At first I was trying to keep my hiking boots dry, but after a while it was impossible and I was sloshing through a current of muddy water running down the mountainside. Yet after that experience you are right, it usually makes you say, “I remember the time that I had too….” and another great story is born.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  8. AvatarPatricia

    Scouts in the Pacific Northwest would wonder why you wouldn’t camp in the rain. A newspaper reporter in Seattle described the scouts with their backpacks on and their rain flys covering them as they tried to traverse a muddy clear cut area in the forest. One tipped over on his back. The reporter said he looked like a beetle trying to get turned over so he could get up again. My son is tougher because of his adventure on that scouting outing. He learned you do not crawl into your sleeping bag wet, no matter how tired you are. In the middle of the night he was too cold to sleep, so he had to get out of his, now wet, sleeping bag and change into dry clothes. It was good for him!!

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Patricia,

      You are right that Scouts that grow up in different areas of the country have a different perspective on camping in the elements. I spent a year and a half in Anchorage, Alaska and found that the Scouts there have a different perspective on camping in the snow or taking weekend trips doing what some Troops save up for a year or two to do, such as Sea Kayaking in the Prince William Sound or hiking on glaciers.

      Thanks for sharing the story about why it is not a good idea to crawl into your sleeping bag when you are soaking wet. That sounds like a story that several Scouts get to learn…and it only takes one time doing it for the lesson to be learned. I really think that the Boy Scout Motto to “Be Prepared” usually comes from those who learn the hard way. Then when the next camp out comes along, there is some great motivation to really “Be Prepared.”

      Any other great little stories on lessons learned from rainy camp outs?

      Reply
  9. AvatarRiley

    The Army issued tent is the Individual Combat Shelter (ICS), but I don’t actually know if you can set it up from the inside. It would be nice on some of the ops that I’ve done.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Riley,

      Thanks for the tip on the army tent. I will check into the ICS’s and see what options are available. There is sure some great army surplus gear out there. Thanks for your service to our great country.

      Reply
  10. AvatarOrrin Olsen

    That was a fascinating article, Andrew. Those experiences reminded me very much of some of the camp outs I took scouts on through the years. My first year as a Scout leader was in 1973, when I was still in college. I got to work with lots of exceptional young men through the years and share with them a plethora of memorable mountain vistas. My assistant Scoutmaster about 25 years ago told me about the Scoutmaster he had in the Uinta Basin when he was a Boy Scout. For summer camp their Troop would load their gear into an old bus and drive to a trail head in the Uintas. Their Scout Master would set up his tent in the parking lot. He would then hand the boys a map and send them on their way, saying, “if you need help, you know where to find me.” Thinking of that always made me cringe. Besides the risks of sending the Troop off on their own, there were so many missed opportunities for that Scoutmaster to help the Scouts learn important life skills. He had not made the effort to become trained and did not understand the mission or the purposes of BSA. Luckily, his tenure as a Scout Master was short. The Boy Scouts of America has such exceptional leaders for the young men today. I marvel when I see the dedication of these leaders and their determination to make a positive difference in the lives of these outstanding boys, giving them opportunities to camp in all sorts of weather, while also focusing on advancement and leadership skills.

    Reply
    1. AvatarAndrew Olsen

      Thanks Dad! I think I remember you telling me that story about the Scoutmaster sending the boys up the trail while he camped in the parking lot. You are right about Scoutmaster’s who get trained and run the program the right way they can have a greater impact on youth. It is so important for Scoutmasters to know how to identify those teaching moments when they happen. It makes me think of the time we were in the the Wind River Mountain Range and the lesson we learned of why it is not a good idea to make a snow cone right after cleaning the fish!

      These stories are great. Keep them coming!

      Reply
  11. Stewart SchowStewart Schow

    I remember a Varsity All-Star course where it rained every day we were out. Monday Night it rain very hard. So hard that for supper that night I was given mashed potato soup. It was supposed to be mashed potatoes and gravy but as the rain fell the mashed potatoes became soup. At least they were warm. Later that week the young men prepared to go on an overnight experience with their squad. I was so impress the young men were well prepared for the elements. They had extra tarps and twine to make sure they stay dry. Luckily that night was the least rainy of the week.

    6 years later I meet one of the young who attended that week. See me he asked. Do you remember the camp we were at together where it rained all week. Yes I said, You know, said he, that was one of the funnest camp I ever attended. Ha, yes what we remember and how it makes us better.

    Reply
  12. AvatarAndrew Olsen

    Stewart,

    That sounds like a memorable Scouting trip. I was on staff at Varsity All-Stars for two years when I was 15 and 16 years old. That’s neat you got to go to it as well. Regarding the rainy camping trips, it is amazing how the rainy one are usually looked back on as some of the greatest camp outs. The mashed potato soup sounds like a classic scouting recipe…similar to scrambled burned pancakes or something. Where did you go on your Varsity All-Star course?

    Great stories keep them coming!

    Reply

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