Camping Gear

Sleeping bag
Low End
Synthetic fill (not cotton)
rated to 30 degrees (6 lbs.
or less)
High End
Synthetic or down fill rated to 20
degrees (3 lbs. or less)
Cost: $90-$400
Cost: $25.00-$60.00
Sleeping pad / air mattress
Closed cell sleeping pad
Cost: $35 (REI)
Closed cell sleeping pad or
lightweight air mattress
Cost: $35 to $160
Get a compact sleeping bag that will fit in a pack and still
leave room for clothing and other gear. Synthetic is
better for wet environments. Down is lightest and most
Closed cell pads work for all levels of camping
Air mattresses are more comfortable, but weigh more
and must be inflated to work
Stuff sacks
For the sleeping bag and
foam pad or air mattress
Ultralight silicon nylon and/or
compression stuff sacks (latter is
for synthetic sleeping bags which
don’t compress as easily as down)
A comfy pillow from home
Use a fleece or clothing in a stuff You don’t want to be carrying anything extra when
sack (some have fleece covers)
Day pack
Low End
School backpacks are fine
High End
Lightweight day pack (18-25 liter
capacity) with adjustable shoulder
straps, waist belt & sternum strap
Daypacks offer a way of organizing the small stuff and can
carry a jacket, first aid kit, water bottle(s), and other small
items on hikes. My favorite is the REI Flash 18 ($35). A
CamelBak works, but must have storage space.
Cost: $35-$50
Not necessary
Don’t buy too small a stuff sack. Test fit putting the
sleeping bag and foam pad/air mattress in the stuff sack
long before taking them camping – items almost never fit
back inside the stuff sack they came with. I have a whole
box of different sizes. Lighter is better.
Internal or external frame pack
(75 liter plus capacity) with
adjustable shoulder straps,
padded waist belt & sternum strap
Cost: $65-$550 (decent packs can
be had in the $150-$275 range)
Proper fit is key. More expensive packs are adjustable for
height, so they will “grow” with your child. I recommend
renting or borrowing a pack for the few treks. Different
packs within the same brand fit very differently, so you
have to actually try the pack (loaded with at least 50-60
lbs.) to see if it is comfortable. Best to determine that
renting, rather than spending $300 and finding out the
pack doesn’t fit properly.
Water bottle
Mess kit (plastic plate, bowl,
cup, fork, spoon, knife)
Low End
High End
Any LED headlamp from
Home Depot, Lowes, Big 5
Petzl, Black Diamond, LED
Cost: About $10-$15
Cost: $25-$70
Nalgene wide-mouth 1 liter
Nalgene wide-mouth 1 liter
Cost: $10
Cost: $10
Any plastic plate, bowl and
hard plastic cup (6-8 oz.)
Any plastic plate, bowl and hard
plastic cup 6-(8 oz.)
Cost: Zero
Cost: Zero
Utensils (not takeout plastic)
Lexan fork, spoon, knife
More expensive units throw more light, have more
settings (high, low, strobe) or are water and/or shock
resistant. Not necessary for car camping. Lithium
batteries last longest.
For car camping, one is fine. For backpacking, have at
least two. A CamelBak does not replace the need for
Nalgene bottles.
Cost: $3/set
Knife (not a Swiss Army knife or
knife with millions of features;
a knife is for cutting things, not
building things)
Any folding pocket knife
with a liner lock or lock back
(to keep the blade from
closing unexpectedly)
Quality medium size liner lock or
lock back folding knife
Cost: $35-$150 (good knives can
be had in the $50-$85 range)
Cost: $1-$30
Not necessary
Leatherman, Gerber or SOG
Cost: $35-$125
Not necessary, but an
inexpensive recreational
compass suitable for
Scouting runs $15-$25
Suunto, Brunton or Cammenga
(GI) – I have a Suunto MC-3 Global
(with sighting mirro) and M-3
Global (without sighting mirror).
Cost: $50-$85
For a new Scout, a $1 (on sale) folding knife from WalMart works fine. If they lose it, it’s not the end of the
world. Better knives come from CRKT (Columbia River
Knife & Tool), SOG, Benchmade, Buck, Camillus, etc.
Most run in the $50-$80 range. More expensive knives
can be had, but for Scouts, it won’t make a difference.
Multi-tools are much more useful than a Swiss Army
Knife. Do not buy a cheap knife that has millions of
features. They invariably break or don’t work right.
Any of the listed brands are good. Some have more
features, but a nice compass can be had for $22. Do not
buy Silva brand compasses. Silvas currently sold in the US
and Canada are not made in Sweden – they’re made in
Indonesia and are not made to the same standard – and
they are not accurate.
EQUIPMENT (cont’d)
Whistle/Signal mirror
Low End
Not necessary
High End
JetScream whistle, SOL signal
Cost: $15-20 total
The JetScream works even when wet, as it has no pea
(the little thing that rattles around in old whistles). Don’t
buy the very small small mirror – they’re hard to handle
and sight with. Get the regular size.
50+ SPF
50+ SPF
Insect repellant
Cream type or wrist band
Cream type or wrist band
First Aid kit
Not necessary
Build your own (Band-aids, needle
nose tweezers, bandage or folding
scissors, triple antibiotic,
aspirin/ibuprofen, self-adhesive
bandage tape, gauze, burn gel).
Stored in Zip-Lock bag.
Firebuilding supplies
Not necessary
Magnesium fire starter & striker,
cotton balls (soaked in Vaseline)
or chemical tinder,all stored in
separate pint Zip-Lock bags. This
stuff works in the rain.
Lifeboat (windproof/waterproof) matches, fire piston,
lighter are optional. The magnifying glass on a compass
can be used to start fires, as can a 9 volt battery with
steel wool.
Zip-Lock Bags (Freezer)
Extra clothes go in a gallon
bag; socks and small items
in quart bags; mess kit goes
in a gallon bag. Label with
Everything goes in Zip-Lock bags.
Carry extras (can be used to carry
or collect water, plants for food or
medicinal purposes, etc.
Use the heavy-duty freezer bags (without the zipper).
Can also be used to protect GPS, cell phones, cameras
and other items susceptible to water damage (if you
don’t have a LifeProof case).
Duct tape
Not necessary
3-4’ rolled in a small roll
Useful for repairing tents, sleeping bags, clothing, packs;
also to secure things when line won’t work well
550 parachute cord
Not necessary
50’ (ends sealed by flame, stored
in a quart Zip-Lock bag); 8’
lengths can be carried in the form
of a “survival” bracelet.
Useful for just about everything needing tying. Can be
used as replacement shoe laces, tent lines, etc.
Avoid sprays, as they get in one’s eyes and are bulky
Low End
High End
Bush hat or BSA ball cap
Bush hat or BSA ball cap
Shoes / boots
Sneakers, boat shoes
Hiking/backpacking boots
Cost: Zero
Cost: $40-$300
Leather boots needs to be broken-in over a several week
period of time. Test boots on shorter hikes before using
them backpacking. 25 miles down the trail is not the time
to realize the boots don’t fit properly.
BSA socks (1 pair to wear, 1
pair as a spare)
BSA or Thor-lo socks (1 to wear, 1
spare for every 2 days on the trail)
The BSA socks are quite good. For rugged terrain hikes or
backpacking, Thor-lo brand socks are best.
Rain jacket/poncho
Anything works (even a
large trash bag with a hole
cut out for one’s head)
Gore-tex or other breathable with
It’s easy to go crazy here. Look for sales and clearance
racks. I have jackets that cost $100 – and $300. The
difference is weight and compressibility.
Anything, even a hoodie
Wool sweater or microfiber fleece
Most expensive items are water/wind resistant. Cotton
loses its insulation properties when wet, which is why it is
not suitable for longer hikes or backpacking.
BSA Class B
Synthetic t-shirt, nylon or other
synthetic long-sleeve shirt
(breathable) with pockets
For short hikes, the BSA Class B is fine. For longer hikes
or backpacking, a synthetic shirt is a must. Cotton gets
wet, heavy and offers no insulation. Pack both a short
sleeve and a long-sleeve shirt, even in the summer.
BSA pants
BSA pants or synthetic cargo pants
from Royal Robbins, 5.11,
Woolrich, Blackhawk, GI surplus
Avoid cotton pants. They won’t dry out properly. Bring
one pair of shorts (with cargo pockets) and one pair of
long pants (with cargo pockets)
Note on Sales: Best to wait for big sales before buying a sleeping bag. I paid $90 each for the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 degree sleeping bags for my boys at
Sports Chalet – they normally sell for $150-$160. The bags are nearly as good as my $400 Marmot. If one doesn’t mind used gear, REI and Adventure 16
both have annual used gear sales. Get there at least 3 hours before the start (the lines form the night before). Grab anything and everything you can and
then sort it out on the side before purchasing. You can also get great deals on packs. I would buy boots new though. Both REI and Adventure 16 have
“clearance” areas (the Adventure 16 clearance area is at the Oceanside store only). I’ve gotten terrific deals by sorting through the piles of stuff.
Other notes:
1. Sleeping Pad / Air Mattress – Heavy air mattresses suitable for the beach are NOT suitable for camping. Closed cell foam pads are light and warm, but
don’t offer much cushioning. They are however, much cheaper than ultralight air mattresses, which can run upwards of $160.
2. Clothing – (a) A hat is essential to keep the sun off. Bush hats are best, but even a Scout ball cap is fine. Camo is technically not allowed, but in a hat,
it’s probably not a big deal. BSA just doesn’t want us to look like a Ranger Battalion. (b) Sunglasses are advisable. (3) A jacket / fleece / hoodie is also a
good idea for night time and early morning. (4) During the day, Class B Troop tee shirt and BSA pants are fine. (5) Scout socks are actually quite good –
well-cushioned. I also like Thorlo brand hiking and backpacking socks, as they are extremely well made. Again, best to buy on sale. If rain is expected,
any rain jacket or poncho will suffice as long as it has a hood. Once we get into backpacking, the story gets more complicated. In a pinch, a large trash
bag works too. (6) Sneakers are fine for car camping. We’ll talk to the Scouts about hiking and backpacking as they get more advanced. They don’t
need to go out and buy special shoes or boots for Balboa. (7) A change of underwear and a change of socks are all they will need for a weekend. These
should be packed in a large zip-lock bag to keep them organized and dry.
3. Personal Gear – (a) Personal care items consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, small hand towel (microfiber is best, but for car camping, a towel from
home is fine), personal medications (which must be given to an adult leader with the necessary form and dosage information), small (pocket size) bar of
soap in a small zip-lock bag or small cold water liquid soap, and a small (pocket size) bottle of hand sanitizer (Purell has the highest alcohol content) are
all that the Scout needs. No one combs their hair on a campout. (b) For eating, a plastic plate and/or bowl (medium size), utensils (either metal from
home or Lexan if the Scout wants to buy a set of fork, spoon and knife), and a plastic or metal cup (I like a metal Sierra cup for backpacking, which can
also be used for cooking, but for car camping like Balboa I typically bring a small hard plastic cup that holds about 8 ozs. (c) For water, the best option is
a large mouth Nalgene bottle (non-BPA). These can be found at Sports Chalet and most other camping gear retailers for $10. A military canteen (plastic)
is a cheaper alternative, but not as versatile. (d) To find one’s way around in the dark, a basic headlamp is necessary. Inexpensive ones can be found at
Home Depot, Big 5, Lowes, Ace Hardward, Harbor Freight Tools, etc. I would not spend more than $10-12. Spend the extra money on a package of
litium AA batteries – they last longer (include two spare batteries in a zip-lock bag in case the Scout leaves the light on and kills the batteries the first
day). (e) Sunscreen, 50 SPF preferred, and lip balm are advisable too.
4. Pack – Do NOT buy a fancy pack yet. First, it’s not necessary for car camping. Second, the Scout will grow out of the pack in no time. A duffle bag (GI
surplus works well, as they have shoulder straps) is sufficient for car camping. Used is fine. For hiking, a small, lightweight day pack works well. I like
the REI Flash 18 (last year’s model was selling for $20 on clearance; the current model is around $35). It’s small and light, has a waist and sternum strap,
has room for a drinking water bladder (not included) and is big enough for a jacket, water and snacks. It also can be stuffed into a larger pack for later
use as a “summit pack” on a longer trip, so it can serve double duty over the years. For backpacking (a future concern), fit is extremely important. I tried
on several brands and models within brands before settling on one or two that fit me.
5. Knife - Until the Scout has his Totin’ Chit, he should not bring a knife to a Scout campout. We will go over the different types of knives and their uses
during the training at Balboa. I prefer medium-size folding knives that lock open (e.g., liner lock or lock back). They are much safer to use (won’t close
by accident on the user’s hand). Scouts are not allowed to have fixed-blade knives on campouts.
6. Ten Essentials – Again, this is not necessary the first time out for new Scouts. We will go over this at the campout. Scouts should NOT buy pre-packages
“survival kits” until we go over this and let them know which ones are decent – and which ones are worthless. It’s easier to put together kits by the
Scouts pooling resources to buy the individual items and then splitting them up so each Scout has only what they need – not 3-4x the amount of each
item, which will happen if they buy everything by themselves.