Cub Scout Camping 101

Family_Camp1So, you want to go camping as a family, eh?

Whether it’s a Pack Campout, or Cub-O-Ree, there are some simple but essential guidelines that you’ll want to follow – particularly for camping at Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch (BTSR). We’ve put together a few resources for you here, including advice on what to bring, how best to prepare, recommendations on where to buy things, and even a video on how to set up a simple dome tent. Click the links below and be prepared to have a great time!


There are a great many options for purchasing a tent. A family tent can make or break your camping experience. So for first time or not-so-experienced campers, we recommend the roomy, dependable, yet simple-to-set-up dome tent. The two pole version is the easiest and sleeps from as few as one or two all the to four to six people depending on the model. What’s more, you don’t have to break the bank to buy one. Of course, you can opt for something a little larger, fancier, or more expensive but, generally, it will be heavier, harder to set up, and take up more space, as well.

Here’s a link for a highly rated 6-person tent from Coleman that should be dependable, reasonably priced, and give plenty of room (for 4-5 people): Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent. Of course, you’ll want to shop around to be sure you are getting the best price and a tent that fits your needs – but it’s a good place to start. Also keep in mind that most tents are “three season tents” which means they are designed for use in spring through autumn. There is usually a large amount of mesh allowing for maximum air flow. This can be a major plus for warmer evenings or fair weather but if you want something that can be used in colder temps or harsher weather, be prepared to do some more research and pay a little more for the tent. That being said, if you have a good sleeping bag and an air mattress or cot that keeps you up off the ground, you should be well-equipped to handle cooler weather. More on sleeping bags, mattresses, and cots below.

View How to Set Up a Dome Tent on Howcast
 It’s important to note that the ground at BTSR can be very hard and rocky. To prevent poking holes in your tent, you’ll want to be sure to use a plastic tarp of some sort that you can place underneath. This will also help keep water from coming in during wet weather. Additionally, you’ll want to make certain that your tent is staked down well. It can get pretty windy at BTSR and the last thing you want to do is return from a fun day of program only to find out that your tent is upside down or blown to the far end of the canyon. Plastic stakes will not do! You must have both sturdy metal stakes AND a good hammer to not only beat them into the ground but also extract them when it’s time to pack up and head home. As an added measure, you might consider having a couple extra stakes on-hand in case one or two get lost, broken, or bent. Here’s a link to a kit featuring a rubber mallet, stake remover, a few stakes, and a storage bag: STAKES.

For additional tips on selecting a tent and for a good Top Ten Review, click here: Top 10 Family Tents.

The next most important thing to take care of is probably your sleeping system. That is, your sleeping bag and the mattress or cot you’ll be using to keep yourself off the ground. BTSR is located in the mountains, over 4,000 feet above sea level. That means that it can get chilly in a hurry. If your sleeping bag isn’t warm enough, you won’t sleep and you won’t be able to enjoy the next day no matter how sunny and warm it may be!

Because there are a number of factors involved, purchasing a bag can seem to be a daunting task. But it’s actually pretty easy. Basically, there’s style, shape, size, temperature rating and insulation material to consider.

Style and shape: In simplest terms, you have two choices – square or mummy. Square is, well, square or more likely, rectangular. The mummy features sides that taper down toward the feet and wrap more tightly around the head. If you are tent camping, a mummy bag may be the better bet since it is a more efficient design and will do more to keep air from moving in and out of your bag.

Size: Generally, there are three sizes. Junior (or child), regular, and tall. If you’re buying a bag for your son, you may want to consider a regular size that he can grow into and use for several years. A bag that is rated for tall (or extra long) is usually designed for those 6 feet or taller.

Temperature rating: Sleeping bags are usually rated in five or ten degree increments. Most 25-30 degree bags will keep you comfortable from spring through fall. However, the rating is just a general guideline. Some people sleep warmer or cooler than others. If you sleep cooler and are anticipating cool weather (like we often have at BTSR in the spring and fall), you may want to bring some pajamas to wear and/or an extra sheet or blanket to put in or over your bag. Also, keep  in mind that the temperature rating is often the limit of comfort that a bag is rated for. If it looks like the temperature on a campout will reach 30 degrees and you have a 30 degree bag, you’ll either want to consider getting a warmer bag or be prepared to wear those pajamas!

Insulation material: Basically, there are two types of insulation – down or synthetic. Both have their advantages. Down is light but it’s expensive and does not insulate when wet. Synthetic has come a very long way in the last couple decades. It often rivals down for warmth to weight ratio and will still insulate you when wet. In addition, it is almost always less expensive. Unless you’re going backpacking in the farthest reaches of the wilderness or in extreme cold temperature, you should opt for synthetic.

Finally, you must have a cot or mattress to be both comfortable and warm when you sleep. BTSR is famous for its rocks – both the ones that line the canyons as well as the ones that jut up from the campsites.


Weather at higher altitudes can be harsher and less predictable. BTSR is no exception.

Staying dry: Always be prepared with a good waterproof raincoat/poncho, and/or hat. Waterproof boots or shoes are a major plus, too.

Staying warm: Many people think that one big, thick, wooly mammoth style coat will be adequate. But the fact is, dressing in layers is far more efficient and far smarter. Layers trap pockets of air. Air is much easier to heat than material. What’s more, when the amount of activity is on the upswing and the body begins to get hot and sweat, if you only have on one heavy jacket, there’s only one thing you can take off to cool off. That’s not a good idea in cold weather. Sweating is especially dangerous because it can cool the body off too quickly which could result in hypothermia. With layers, you can peel one off before overheating and sweating. Or put one on before you get too cold.
backpacking-basics-2Other considerations are good gloves, thick socks, and a warm hat (not just a ball cap). Your hands and feet are like flashing information lights when it comes to your comfort. They tell the body whether it’s hot or cold. If your hands and feet are cold, chances are you will feel cold even if you have on warm clothing elsewhere. If you have warm hands and feet, you’ll feel more comfortable. As for your head, approximately 40% of your bodies heat escapes from your head. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to keep it covered during cold weather. As the old saying goes, “If you feel cold, put on a hat.”


One final consideration: Have a separate, dry set of clothing (pajamas, sweatshirt/sweatpants, etc.) that you do not wear during the day set aside to sleep in. After an active day, you’ll have a significant amount of moisture stored in the clothing you have on (whether you realize it or not). The evaporation of that moisture while you’re sleeping can cause you to become chilled before you’ve even had a chance to warm up.

Where to Buy? Of course you can go to Academy or Walmart. They will sometimes have what you’re looking for at an acceptable price. Sometimes. But now that you have a better idea of what you need, you may be better off shopping online from companies such as (click on any link to be taken to the site): Campmor, Cabela’s, or Sierra Trading Post. These retailers will often have brand names, greater selection, and frequently have clearance or heavily discounted items if you don’t mind last season’s styles/colors.

Snoopy Camping
Many of the other items you’ll want to bring really depends on how long your stay will be, whether or not you’ll be cooking, what restroom/shower facilities are available (BTSR has toilets and showers but you may want to bring extra toilet paper, just in case), and whether or not you’ll be putting on your own program or depending on someone else. Below is a list of some recommended items to bring (and what not to bring) on a typical family camping weekend. Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, it is only a guideline. There may be things that you would like to add or things that you may not need depending on your circumstances.
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