When I was a Scoutmaster many years ago our troop went camping most months of the year. When I became the chartered organization head of the troop in the neighborhood in which I now live, I realized the boys in our troop went camping rather less often.
I think most of the reason for this wasn’t the dedication of the leaders or the time available to them. I believe they camp differently than I did back then. When I was trained as a Scoutmaster, and then later as a Woodbadge participant I learned the “model campsite” method of camping. And sometimes we used it. But I didn’t have the time or the adult resources available to camp like that every month and so often we’d do “simple camping”. Here’s how it works:
Last weekend two members of our troop committee and two leaders met our troop members at the church parking lot. The boys had been instructed to make a tin foil dinner, bring a trail lunch, grab their sleeping bags and packs with the 10 essentials, dress warmly and be at the church at 5:00pm.
We adults had prepared similarly, and had also thrown in pre-cut and split firewood, tarps to sleep on and under, 5 gallons of water, a first aid kit and a stove & pot in which to boil water for oatmeal and cocoa. We also threw in extra clothing, packs, food and equipment that boys tend to forget but need for health and safety. (not comfort).
We drove 90 minutes from the church in central Weber County to Willard Basin, arriving at about 7:00 pm–just as it was getting dark. We got the fire going, (the boys helped!) laid out the tarps and sleeping bags, cooked dinner and then relaxed for a while around the campfire before retiring. That night it was cold enough to put 1/4″ of ice on a small pond near our campsite but we all slept warmly.
Next morning we breakfasted, cleaned up the camp, and were on the trail to Ben Lomond Peak by 9:00. Old guys (two of us pushing 60) and scouts (aged 11-16) made the 7-mile round-trip hike in five hours including an hour lunch on the summit and a 30-odd minute detour to sneak up on a herd of mountain goats. We arrived home at 3:30 on Saturday, with time enough for everyone to do their weekend chores.
This outing took less than 24 hours to complete, an hour or two the prior week to prepare for and cost the troop less than $30. But boys and adults had a ball in spectacular surroundings and shared more time together than we will in 11 weeks of Sunday and weeknight meetings.
Boys like to spend time with caring leaders and they like to camp and have adventures. They don’t care if these adventures are complicated or simple. Model campsites are picturesque and worth doing when you have the time and resources to build them. But don’t miss a month of camping when you can simplify and have an adventure that’s just as impactful to the young men in your troop team or crew.