25 ways Scouters can make the most out of summer camp

Some would argue that this Scouter is doing exactly what he should do at camp: Relaxing somewhere Scouts can find him if they need him.

I know a place where adults voluntarily give up a week of vacation to oversee a bunch of teenage boys.

Some might call these adults crazy. I call them Scouters.

Around this time every year, hundreds of Boy Scout council camps across the U.S. fill up with Scouts having a week to remember — and the adult leaders who make it all possible.

At council camps, the staff sets the itinerary, handles the program, teaches the merit badges, and even prepares the meals.

So what’s a unit leader to do? How does a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster make the most of his or her week at camp?

Here are some ideas, sent in by Scouters like you on our Facebook page:

How to make the most out of summer camp

  1. Summer camp is the best vacation! Take it easy, wander around and see what the Scouts are doing, encourage them. Don’t take your cell phone or laptop. Enjoy the outdoors, make your self available, but stay out of the Scouts way as much as you can.” — T.C. N.
  2. Attend to your Scouts! Go to their classes, and make sure they don’t skip class. Follow up on their merit badge paperwork to see if it is completed. It’s not a vacation, it’s an interactive position to build relationships with your scouts. If you want a vacation this is not the place.” — Jill R.
  3. Bring lots of bug repellent, keep Band-Aids in your pocket at all times, and don’t expect much sleep before 10 p.m. On the other hand, it’s going to be the greatest experience of your life.” — Michael B.
  4. Take pictures of the boys having the time of their lives, and share them with the Scouts and the parents that don’t go. We would love to see pictures of our kids grooming/riding the horses, climbing the tower, etc. Things they don’t do every day.” — Tracy H.
  5. Make sure nobody is practicing fire-starting while you’re napping!” — Jenna S.
  6. Be prepared to deal with: homesick younger Scouts, lots of questions you can answer with “have you asked your patrol leader or SPL?”, and discipline issues of every kind.” — Win R.
  7. If you have a boy-led troop then a Scoutmaster has a week of vacation. SPL and ASPL will take care of stuff, and if they can’t, they know where to find you: ‘Kicked back in camp.'” — Curtis S.
  8. Get plenty of rest. Have vacation days available after you week of camp to rest more.” — Bruce D.
  9. As for homesickness … hang on to those letters until the ride home. NO calls to home (the last thing you need is Mom ending the letter “I miss you,” and the boo-hooing begins). The kids are kept busy all day long and get worn out by the end of day, and it’s to bed. They’ll have lots of fun and the week will go by quick. Scouting magazine had an article on this a few years ago. It’s a really good article.” — Donald P.
    (Bryan says: Here’s the article!)
  10. “If possible, have the swim test done before you get to camp (at worst a Scout has to do a swim test again, at best, long lines avoided).” — Skot L.
  11. Make sure your hiking boots are up to the task. You’ll circumnavigate the camp at least 20 times per day! And be up on all your Trail to First Class stuff ’cause not only will you need to confirm that the boys learned it as you’re signing them off, but you may have to reteach or pitch in and teach.” — Janet J.
  12. Always look out for the safety of the Youth first, but CATCH the Spirit of camp, ‘put it on’ and live it!” — Ron M.
  13. Bring a hammock, and make sure the Scouts see you climb into it at least twice a day. The rest of the time tell them it is available for rent — two minutes for a handful of litter. You will have the cleanest camp site in the camp.” — Jerry J. 
  14. Make sure that your SPL (and your adults) know all the activities that are going on in camp. Encourage them to get involved. The more they are involved, the more fun they have and fewer issues of homesickness.” — Brian Z. 
  15. Get trained and get a comfortable chair.” — Curt N.
  16. Take advantage of opportunities to be a camper – archery, mile swim. Do the SM merit badge if the camp has it. Talk to lots of people from other troops.” — Beth K.
  17. Don’t forget your coffee cup.” — Renate M.
  18. Engage the Camp Commissioner. He is there to help your troop plan their campfire skit, learn a new skill, and design a custom experience.” — Donald M.
  19. Have fun, be involved as much as possible with what the camp offers, take a deep breath during frustrating moment, revel in the glory at the end of the week when you see true growth in each and every Scout.” — Karen H. 
  20. Every leader should bring earplugs and rotate who wears them each night that way someone is getting sleep and if needed the leaders on call can wake the others.” — Nicholas G.
  21. Know what ‘homework’ the boys need to work on BEFORE the last day of classes. Those monkey bridge models for Pioneering take some time!” — Robert W.
  22. Take a cribbage board and cards. Then, be available but on the sidelines.” — Paul K.
  23. Relive your days of youth and have fun. Learn new skills and become a better man because of it.” — Don S. 
  24. Guide and direct without ‘hovering’ … let the boys fail and deal with consequences. I had a good time by asking the camp leadership where and how could I help… this kept me busy and let the boys see that I had ‘things to do’ as well as they did.” — Lynne T.
  25. Keep one eye open!” — Rich L.

What do you think?

Did any of these suggestions resonate with you? What other advice can you offer an adult leader? Leave your thoughts below.

Top photo by Kevin Via, Baltimore Area Council; Secondary photo by Charlie Tapia, Theodore Roosevelt Council

57 thoughts on “25 ways Scouters can make the most out of summer camp

  1. “don’t expect much sleep before 10 p.m” Seriously? I’ve spent the last 17 years at Summer Camp and rarely turn in before midnight. You can’t know that everything has settled down and you can get a shower yourself until after 11pm. I’m just glad that although I can’t be there this year my Eagle son (28) is taking my place on the leadership team.

      • When it’s 88 degrees at 10:00 PM and you’ve been walking around camp and working in the campsite after free swim you need a shower before you go to bed and the waterfront has been closed for hours.

      • I take my shower in the AM when the Scouts are at Merit Badge session. They do their thing, I do mine.

  2. Comment on July 5, 2012 Bryans Blog

    26. One more way to get the most out of summer camp (adults).
    Ask your camp commissioner to be your learning facilitator to complete your OLS during camp week, thus gaining one more weekend with your family in the Fall.
    3 years ago at Camp Wolfeboro at 5700 feet elevation above Angels Camp California, the volunteer camp directors asked a camp commissioner to create the resident camp version of the Scoutmaster specific Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills (IOLS).
    The commissioner used his Wood Badge skills and resources to implement the course.
    · A call on the radio-phone link to the office. Reading the syllabus table of contents over the radio.
    · Making a progress card for participants.
    · Negotiating with the program department heads (all youth) to allow his participants to use their areas to learn and demonstrate the skills, not displacing the youth.
    · Meeting to complete overnight pre planning and post reflection. (The camp runs two short backpacking overnights out of camp each week.)
    · Awarding of the trained card and trained strip (if appropriate) at the end of the week.
    Camp commissioners have implemented the plan every camp session every summer for 3 years.

  3. I went to my 1st Boy Scout summer camp this year as a Scouter, but only stayed the 1st 4 days because of work commitments and lack of vacation days (8 of my 10 vacation days this year were for Scouting events). Our camp is 10 days & 9 nights. I am a Committee Member not a SM/ASM. On Day 2, I made sure that my 1st year son & the other young Scouts got to their 1st MB session. I then made sure all the 1st year Scouts got to their 2nd MB period which was “Trail to First Class”. During lunch, my son said to me, “I know where all my afternoon MB classes are so you don’t need to go with me.” After that, I became the In Camp Scouter (I had a bad knee that meant I could not walk more than 1/2 mile or so at a time) sort of holding down the fort while the SM went to his meetings & the other adults were doing their thing. Since I am already trained in every class being taught for Adults at camp, I passed the time making Paracord Bracelets. I didn’t take that many daytime naps as I usually got to bed before 10 PM. Whenever a Scout came and asked me a question, I would say, “Did you talk to your Patrol Leader.” Usually that ended the issue for me as our SPL did a great job running our Troop.

  4. I never considered going to summer camp, and I did for over fifteen years, “giving up vacation”. It WAS vacation.

  5. Funny how #1 and 2 contradict each other. I guess the adults just have to I so the boys and what they need.

  6. The best vacation I’ve ever had. I’m really going to miss going to summer camp this year for all of the reasons you list, but my vacation this summer is attending training at PTC so I can learn more to help scouting the best I can.

  7. Summer camp has been my vacation for the past 4 (or is it 5?) years. I will miss it this year because I need the time for other family plans including travel with my daughter during her first year in college.

    I always get home from camp tired, but at the same time feeling somewhat more fit. The miles of walking required each day is a major improvement over my desk job. The (usually) cooler air and outdoor scenery are hard to beat. The week spent away from the pressures of the office and daily life is even harder to beat. The time spent in camaraderie with the other adults in the troop and, more importantly, with my sons during these fleeting years is priceless (although I am there to serve the whole troop, not just my boys).

    On my first year, at Camp Whitsett, I completed my ASM training. This was a great way to get trained without scrounging for more free time on the calendar.

    In addition to assisting with the usual adult supervision tasks, I spent a large portion of my time at camp integrating my photography hobby to document the troop’s time at camp.This helped to provide some structure to my days as I made a point to capture images of different scouts in different classes/events.

  8. The adults in our troop all get their training in “Nap On Safely”. This is serious stuff, complete with power point and “trained” card. Then they can spend the rest of the week practicing and honing their skill.

  9. The Camp Staff is not the enemy, they are there because they WANT to be there, and they like what they are doing, helping other scouts! Please, talk to the staff if you have a concern, or want to help, they’ll like you better for it!

  10. #2 and #11 miss the point of Scouting.

    Best vacations of my life, sans my 13-year-belated honeymoon.

  11. Get involved. Help teach classes. Most camp staff would love to have more adults in class especially adults who know the content.

    • Just make sure you ask permission before helping out. Most staff don’t mind help from friendly knowledgeable adults, they just don’t you teaching their class for them.
      (This comes from 10 years of summer camp staff experience)

  12. “NO calls to home (the last thing you need is Mom ending the letter “I miss you,” and the boo-hooing begins).”

    This year will be my 31st Summer Camp as youth, Staffer and now Scouter. The issue we have with this is that the mothers (not the dads …) insist that their children bring cell phones to camp and contact them every day so that they can reassure themselves that their children are O.K. We tell them that it is against Troop policy for the kids to have electronics. They acknowledge this, but then simply defy us and send their kids off with their cell phones. This has the predictable effect, mind you, but we cannot dissuade the mothers. They cannot conceive of the idea that their children might build up their self-esteem some if they developed some independence.

    • As a mom of 6 boys, have sent my boys to camp 10 times and about to send my 4th son to his first Boy Scout summer camp, the only reason I’d tell them to bring their cell phone would be to take photos. If I knew that one of the Scout leaders accompanying their troop was going to be official troop camp photographer, I would insist they keep their phones with me for the week. The boys want photos of themselves too. Yes, yes, we could just “buy a camera”. Well, we’ve tried that. Our family doesn’t own a separate camera that is tough enough to handle a week of outdoor camping, and I don’t want to spend the money to get a rugged one that will only be used once a year. The SM for my son’s troop years ago sent me photos every day, but didn’t tell my son he was doing that until Thursday (my son got a bit misty eyed and missed home, which I was surprised at, so good thing he didn’t have a phone all week!)

      If you have moms insisting on giving their boys phones and contacting them daily, consider this. Are they comfortable with the leadership that is going with their son to camp? That sounds like it could be a lack of confidence in their safety. Perhaps your troop could have a meeting with the first time camper-parents and let them get to meet the adults who will be with their sons at camp. At my sons’ current troop, we don’t have a meeting, and the only interaction the new parents have with leadership is at drop off and pick up. However, I’m NOT sending my son with a cell phone, because he’s my 4th son and I’ve done this before, and I am comfortable with the leadership.

  13. Elisabeth, the camera/cell phone. has any one brought up the idea of Troop historian, I have been in scouting for over 42 years. The times of no cell phones, yes we had the home sick ones but they soon got over it, after all that is what their body is for. But the Troop Historian ( one or two scouts) takes pictures during the troops trips, usually it is an older scout who pretty much has all the merit badges that the camp offers, but still likes to go along with the Troop. All the troops I have been with have had a Troop Historian, some of the pictures are getting yellowish, but we managed to save them on to CD, and now the digital age even better. And Photography is now being offered at most summer camp, even better for that young older scout looking for another palm. In all my years as a scout/camp staffer/ scouter, I have only had one really I mean really home sick scout. Everyone it was said somewhere up there “KEEP THEM BUSY” if they are not at waterfront or off exploring bugs or even FISHING or FLY FISHING, then sent them to arts and crafts. Any way the Really Really SIck Scout by Thrusday he did not want to go home…

  14. PS I carry a cell phone and I talk to the moms and let them know all is good and if I have pictures I send them to them as well. Yes a bit softy, but my dad’s more than moms like it. In fact more of my moms go to camp than dad (well Uncle Sam Does not help there) but never the less Elisabeth your right, how much trust do your parents have in the adults on the trip, are the adults soccoer dads, baseball dads where its my way of the highway type, some of you know what type I am talking about. All my adult leaders start training from Day 1, they get involved with us leaders that have been around for a while, picking our brains, and adding a lot of new stuff back to us.. Make sure as Elisabeth mentioned that you have a parents meeting. I have two one two months before camp for the new parents then two weeks before camp we have one with everyone, and include the scouts. Interaction is a great tool.

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