When your scout starts heading out into the wilderness, what do they need to bring with them?
The troop has many items for scouts to use: tents, cook kits, sleeping bags, backpacks, etc. Check with the Quartermaster for a complete list.
Clothes for various climates are a whole different list, though generally the rule is NO COTTON, and when backpacking, that also applies to underwear. If you look somewhat regularly, you can find all kinds of great non-cotton clothes at thrift shops. Most activewear and sport clothes are synthetic, and designed to wick moisture away from your skin. Layers of fleece are great at keeping you warm, even when wet. Wool and silk are also fantastic, though when purchased new are $$. I found a great merino wool top at a thrift shop the other day, though. Wool socks and synthetic underwear are probably best bought new, though.
You don’t need hiking boots for most hikes (regular athletic shoes work well), but keep the additional support in mind when you start hauling a pack. And don’t break in a new pair of boots on a long backpacking trek. Synthetic moleskin in your first aid kit and a scissors on your knife are really good foot care. As soon as you feel a hot spot on your foot that could become a blister, get some moleskin on that spot RIGHT AWAY.
For scouts who didn’t do cub scouts, there are six essentials that you should have along on every hike. For more advanced hikes, that list expands to ten essentials.
NOTE: Your kid is a kid. Surrounded by other kids. Sometimes kids are dumb. Stuff is going to get lost. Broken. Modified in ways you never really thought was logical. It happens. Get the cheaper kind, or the good kind at a thrift store, and send NOTHING of sentimental value.
- Water. 1 liter AT MINIMUM, but also remember for folks who are still waiting for that growth spurt, water is heavy. So maybe not 3 liters for them. Check to see if refills along the way are an option, and how hot/dry is the weather, and what makes sense for your kid for this hike. Hydration systems are a great option in that you can get one with enough pockets to carry everything else.
- First Aid Kit. As my scout’s cub den found out a few years ago, 20y old band aids don’t stick well, and when several kids wipe out, you go through a looooot of band aids. Every time something gets used, go through and replenish immediately afterward. Also, even high schoolers still like Paw Patrol band aids.
Keep in mind their kit is going on almost EVERY trip, so keep it small and packable. I bought my kids the HART weekend first aid kit for roughly $25. It’s compact, in a nylon zippered case, and fits a lot of stuff in a small space. It is also a great place to stash some of the other essentials that go with them on every trip.
- Trail Food. Granola bars, jerky, fruit sauce pouches, bags of trail mix, etc are good options. Ideally you want non-perishable stuff that can handle getting sat on, and maybe stay in the backpack afterward without turning funny colors/smelling, but frozen grapes are also the bomb on shorter hikes when it’s going to get hot.
- Sun Protection. Layer on the mineral sunscreen and learn to not care that you look like a ghost. Or mix in cocoa powder so you at least look sorta normal-ish. Or use whatever normally keeps you from frying. Whatever you do, layer on the sunscreen and WEAR A HAT. Broad-brimmed hats also keep the tops of your ears from getting scorched.
- Whistle and/or Signal Mirror. Cub scouts call out a whistle specifically, but a signal mirror is particularly good out in the desert. This is really good if somebody gets hurt and you need to wait for help to arrive. Lots of compasses also have a mirror.
- A Headlamp or Flashlight WITH FRESH BATTERIES. Yep, that three hour hike in daylight just became a six-hour slog into night when somebody’s healed torn ACL started acting up, or when you have to carry your injured friend off the mountain. Stuff happens, and a light is essential for getting you home if you’re out past dark. Also good for signaling after dark.
The rest of this list makes up the ten essentials, which are also generally a good idea to have onboard.
- Rain Gear. This is actually one of the most important essentials in that it protects you from wind and temperature in addition to rain. When I decided to get my scout rain gear, I looked at what Philmont Scout Ranch recommends, because according to my friend who has been there it rains a lot and can be hell if you’re not prepared. I bought my family Red Ledge Thunderlight jackets and Red Ledge rain pants for the holidays last year, which turned out to be good because we got three months of atmospheric rivers after that. Also, each piece was probably only $20 on sale, and Walmart also carries them so they’re pretty accessible. Frog Toggs are another affordable and easily replaceable option.
- Pocketknife. Once you have earned the right to carry a pocketknife, you should always have it with you on campouts, hikes, outings, etc. Most scouts carry some kind of multi-tool knife; it’s a personal preference. When my kids earned their knives, I got them the Swiss Army Knife Tinker. That one has a good toolset, and is relatively cheap and easy to replace. I also learned how to engrave the plastic scales so I can tell whose is whose.
- Map and Compass. These days, GPS and similar systems have become an important part of navigating the backcountry. Your phone is a great tool, too. Paper maps (free to print at home, or a nominal fee to buy preprinted, from USGS) don’t run out of battery, nor do compasses. If you’re going on a local hike, maybe you don’t need the map, but a compass is a great way to get your head back in the game if you get disoriented or lost.
- Fire Starter. Once you have earned the right to carry matches or lighters, it’s a good idea to carry something in case you get lost and need to stay warm. I bought my kids a flint and steel to keep with their essentials kit, because they are light and small and don’t need replenishment. Also…it’s really hard to light anything with it (except propane), so it’s harder to mess around with flint and steel and accidentally do something stupid. You have to actually be stuck and need the fire.
- BONUS, because other lists have a shelter as an essential. For most hikes, rain gear will suffice if you get caught in weather, but a bivy sack or emergency blanket can help keep you warm if you get stuck overnight. Daiso has some really light and cheap emergency blankets that you can carry around really easily.