Choosing a Campsite
Some hikers throw their tent down any old place. Others spend as much time choosing a campsite as a couple of newlyweds spend choosing a house. Your comfort isn't the only issue to consider when choosing a campsite: You also need to follow minimum impact guidelines that will help protect the area for future users.
Choose even surfaces. It might surprise you to learn that the most comfortable sleeping spot isn't a soft meadow (which can be bumpy, wet, and mosquito-infested). Instead, look for forest duff or pine needles-or even mineral soil, sand, or gravel. On a closed-cell foam mattress, you'll find that it's more comfortable to be camped on a hard flat surface that a soft, bumpy one.
Spend a little time. Sometimes it's hard to find a flat spot. The ground might be too rocky or hummocky or densely vegetated. Once you've spotted a possible home for the night, lay out your ground cloth and lie down to check out the slope and whether there are big protruding rocks that will poke you all night long.
Look for overhead dangers. These include the possibility of rock-fall from a scree-slope and widow-makers (dead trees that have started to fall but are held in place by other trees).
Drainage. Choose sites that will drain well, even in a downpour. This means avoiding flat areas that lie in slight depressions- especially on non-porous hard-packed soil. In dry country, avoid flash-flood zones, like the sandy creek bed of a canyon.
Bug-free sleep. Mosquitoes are worst on a warm, humid night, especially if there is no breeze. Heading for an exposed knoll or a wind tunnel (look for a saddle between two hills) might find you a breezy spot.
Windy nights. On very windy nights, you'll want the wind to come from the back of your tent. If possible, hide in a clump of bushes, behind a rock redoubt. When storms threaten, give up comfort for protection-choose a protected spot over a flat one. Batten down. A calm evening can become a windy night. Set up your tent right the first time, with firmly planted stakes and taut guy lines. When the weather changes at 2 A.M., you can roll over and go back to sleep, rather than having to get up and fix things
Campsites and water. Be sure that your campsite is at least 60 meters from water to prevent inadvertently contaminating the water or scaring wildlife away from their nightly drink. Also, avoid game trails: animals might not be willing to approach a campsite, and that could mean they'll go thirsty if you are camped between them and the water they depend on.
Avoid fragile areas. Don't camp on meadows, especially in alpine areas, where several years of growth can be destroyed by the stomp of a Vibram sole.
Use established sites when possible. It's more aesthetically pleasing to come to a lake with ten or twelve heavily used sites than it is to come to a similar lake with signs of a hundred different sites scattered every which way, sometimes only a few yards from each other.
Practice leave-no-trace. When camping in pristine areas, try to remove all traces of your camp. so that the next party that comes through sees no evidence of your site.
Planning a Patrol Camp
Unfortunately, planning a camp isn't just a case of 'Hey! Lets go camping!', a number of things must be borne in mind in the planning procedure.
Firstly, what sort of camp that you are planning to do? This will have a major influence on other decisions. Are you ready for a full-blown, weeklong traditional Scout Camp, or do you need to have a training weekend before considering that summer canoe camp?
The next decision you need to make, again possibly after talking to the other members of your Patrol, is where you are going to camp. If it is to be a 'standing' camp (ie one where you stay at the same site for a number of days, what type of campsite do you want -- a permanent forestry campsite, or simply borrow a field from a friendly farmer down the road?
Once you have chosen where to go, you need to decide what sort of program you would like. When you have information on what is available on or around your site, discuss this with the Explorers that have expressed an interest in going, and decide what you want to do.
Have a look at your Troop's badge work too -- many rank and proficiency badge requirements can be checked off during a camp, and several proficiency badges can also be obtained under camp conditions. Draw up a provisional program, and don't forget to leave 'traveling time' if applicable, and time for boring but necessary things like washing up. Do not forget to have the appropriate camping permission forms filled in.
Having decided on your program, you then need to work out how you are going to get there. If it is a local site, and you are intending to either stay on site or everything is available within walking distance or through nearby public transport, you may just be able to ask several parents to take and collect everyone and everything. Nearer the time, you will need to make a menu, and decide what equipment you need to take. Make sure that you have sufficient transport available to take the equipment with you.
A few days before you go you need to work out how much food you need, based on the number of people going, and go shopping. Make sure you have a suitable place to store all frozen and fresh food until the time you leave. The cost of the food should be divided between the number of people going to camp.
Dutch Oven Cooking
For the very best baked meals where the weight of your equipment is not a factor, consider Dutch oven cooking. Try the free "The Dutch Oven Cookbook, by Mike Audleman. It is available for download at:
One Pot Meals
One thing you can use to help your Patrol think up ideas is the one-pot-meal planner table. Write on the board 4 column headings:
Begin with the first column. Ask the Scouts to list all of the meat or other protein foods they can think of: chicken, beef, cheese, eggs, etc.
Then go to the second column, list the starches: bread, pasta, rice, potato, stuffing mix, etc.
The third column: tomato sauce, gravy, soy, teriyaki, cream, etc.
Finally, the vegetables: carrots, peas, corn, etc.
Now, let's plan a one-pot meal: take one item from each column and put them all in one pot. Now some preparation might be needed for some components, and some items might need special cooking techniques, but that's how you can teach them to begin planning and cooking real meals.
By picking your foods carefully, you can create some interesting backpacking meals as well. Also consider dehydrating your own food using the many food dehydrators available.
When you first go camping you will see a lot requests for macaroni & cheese and spaghetti. Make your Patrol experiment with food at camp, If you don't raise the expectations, you won't ever see your Patrol really learn to cook.
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Last modified: July 03, 2013.