Many families come to Cub Scouts without much experience in camping and this page is meant to be a starter page to help guide them to have a comfortable experience and hopefully not spend a ton of money. Kids LOVE to camp, even if its in the backyard. The number of times your kids will go camping is directly proportional to how well of a good nights sleep YOU get and how stress free you can make cooking. Weather is another factor. We can’t control the weather, but we control what we put in our car to remain comfortable despite what mother nature does.
Essential Items to Buy
Camping is an affordable way to take vacation, but until you know you are in this for the long haul or that winning lottery ticket has yet to be purchased, then stick to the very essentials. Most everything you need to camp is around the typical house. I suggest beg, borrow or buy only the following (in the beginning). If nothing else, make sure you have your bases covered of Shelter, Eating and Clothing.
THE #1 MOST important item is a good sleeping mattress, cot or whatever it takes for you to get a good night sleep. Everything else is optional.
Borrow or Spend money on these (*items pack will provide on family camping trips so you don't need to get)
- Sleeping Pad– (The MOST important) It is essential to have something between your back and the hard cold earth. Self inflating REI / Thermarest brand air mattresses are the best, Walmart style air bed inflatable mattresses are second best, rollout foam pads work if you really like a firm bed….even the futon mattress in your house works well. If you spend any money on a luxury camping item, spend the money first on a Three+ inch Self inflating pad. (re-read the last sentence if it didn’t soak in, then take a deep breath and read it again).
- Tent– Ask your friends to borrow a large tent. If you must buy something, you can pick up a cheaper tent at Walmart. The more expensive the tent, the more waterproof it will be. Don’t forget to get some plastic or a tarp for the groundcloth.
- Sleeping bag – Bags are only necessary if the temperature is below 55 degrees. Sheets and blankets off your bed are quite suitable for above 55 degrees. Dont go for super fancy. A 30 degree bag is a good rating. If it gets any colder, bring an extra blanket, or two.
- Sleeping cap – Wear a thin cap if its below 50 degrees. If you don’t have a cap, wrap a t-shirt around your head. Anything that keeps the heat in.
- Footwear – A decent pair of sturdy shoes. Boots are only necessary if you are going backpacking. Anything sturdy and comfortable that you don’t mind getting dirty. Water sandals are key to anything that involves water.
- Camp Chair– The foldable ones at Walmart work well. $15
- Blue Tarp– Spend a few dollars on a big blue tarp, useful in so many ways when camping, especially when it pours like crazy on top of your cheap tent. Harbor Freight is a great place to get a decent tarp
- Flashlights – You need light and you probably have many sources of portable light laying around your house. If not a $15 headlamp is what you want to spend your money on.
- Camp Stove*– You need to cook on something and my pick are those two burner propane stoves.
- Cooler* – You need full size cooler to keep your food and ice in.
- Earplugs– Go to Home Depot or Dollar tree (snoring neighbors and barking dogs can ruin a good trip) $3. Eye-patches are pretty good too if you happen to have a street light above your tent.
- Food* – Oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwhiches for lunch, chicken and burger foil packs for dinners. keep it simple.
- Everything else you can find either around your house or at a thrift store or dollar tree…keep reading.
Collect these essential items from around your house
- Sleeping – Grab an old sheet, blanket(s), pillow and cap for your head.
- Cooking* – Grab an old pot, frying pan, plastic plates, old forks n spoons, sharp knife, cutting board, trash bags, coffee mug, plastic cups, salt n pepper, aluminum foil, etc. If you don’t have any old items, Goodwill is a great place to pick up old cookware. Find a big pot to boil water. Find a big tupperware container for carrying. Dont forget a smaller plastic bin, soap and a scrubee for cleaning up. Don’t forget a lighter to light the stove. Go to dollar tree for utensils, cutting board and tupperware container to put them in.
- Food* – Get a waterproof Tupperware box to put your food inside. A tight fitting lid keeps the water and animals out.
- Water jugs*– You will need water. Gallon containers of water from the grocery store work well.
- Weather – Rain jackets and umbrellas are essential. Goodwill is a great place to find a rain jacket if you are not ready to invest in a $100 breathable jacket. I would either a) go very cheap or b) spend the money a breathable and durable jacket.
- Daypack– Grab any old daypack for carrying around while you camp. You can carry your clothes in anything, even an old pillow case, but hiking around you will want a daypack and even a large fanny pack.
- Utility Bag – assemble a bag of string, duct tape, box cutter, scissors, candles, cable ties, zip lock bags, etc.
- First Aid Kit* – assemble a bag of band aids, neosporin, Epson Salts, tweezors, bandages and tape, Advil and Tylenol, etc
- Suntan Lotion and bug spray (depending on the season)
- Clothing– You can spend a fortune on fancy expensive clothes. Go to a thrift store and buy old clothes you don’t mind trashing. A hat is critical to keeping rain and sun off of your face and neck.I like to buy goodwill white fluffy shirts for
- Sunglasses – go to Dollar Tree and get three pair of UV glasses. $3 – if you break them, you won’t cry.
Preparing for camping can be stressful, but if you just bring the essentials and a good attitude you will discover a way to have great and affordable experiences for the rest of your life (and the life of your child). Seeing the world, if its in your backyard or on top of some mountain, begins with finding a way to provide you and your family with food and shelter in the most stress free method possible. Once you find your comfort level sweet spot then affordable adventures are just a gas tank away.