Newbie summer camp advice

campflagsIn one of the Scouting circles on Google Plus, a member asked for advice on going to summer camp for the first-time as an adult. “What one thing should I bring, or not bring?  Or what should I absolutely do?”

Circle members offered a variety of recommendations. Some of the “what to bring” ideas were:

  • Bring a good book, your swimsuit and a good chair.
  • A battery-operated fan for your tent, and a hammock to rest and relax.
  • Comfortable walking or hiking shoes are a must, as is a lightweight rain jacket so you can enjoy that liquid sunshine.
  • Bring your favorite camp mug and head down to the dining hall for that first cup of coffee.
  • A good cot (or inflatable ground pad) and a headlamp.
  • A lightweight rug or towel to serve as a “doormat” for your tent, or to have something clean to put your feet on in the morning. (I used an old bathmat.)
  • A small battery-powered lantern for your tent.
  • A hanger to hang your uniform on, and a bag for dirty clothes.

As for “what to do”, here are some thoughts:

  • Your boss is the Scoutmaster. Do what you can to help him or her.
  • Relax and enjoy the fellowship of the other adults.
  • Get to know the camp staff – commissioner, program director and camp director.
  • Enjoy the bird songs early in the morning and the wind in the trees when the Scouts are at program areas.
  • Watch (from a distance) and remember what the first-year Scouts do and their impressions of camp. They’ll grow faster than you realize – soon, you’ll be reminiscing about when the new Eagle Scout spent his first week at camp.

The most important piece of advice, though, was

  • Stay out of the way of the Scouts.

The most successful weeks of summer camp for our troop have been those where the adults took a back seat, camped in their own area and made sure the Scouts know that they are responsible. I remember one year when I arrived later in the week to find that the adults had set up their tents among the Scouts’ campsites “to keep an eye on the boys”. The adults got everyone up, assembled the Scouts and led them to flags and meals. The result was that the boys were actually less responsible, and it was because they didn’t have any ownership of their experience.

Summer camp is the culmination of a year’s worth of learning leadership and self-direction. Monthly campouts let them practice managing their own affairs, and a week at camp brings to life all those lessons learned. The adult role is to get them there and back, and be there in case you’re needed, but otherwise to remain “on standby” and enjoy the great outdoors.

One commenter summed it up: “Adult time in summer camp is a real joy. Relax!”


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