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Gear Recommendations

This is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion about camping gear, rather it focuses on several key items.  For a full list of what to pack  see the packing list or the backpacking list.

Sleeping Bag

We all like to crawl into bed after a long day outdoors.  Our bodies need a good nights rest in order to recover and be ready for the next day of fun.  It is important that Scouts have a sleeping bag that will keep them warm in a wide variety of temperatures.

Temperature Ratings

Bags have a "temperature rating" that is the air temperature at which a person can still comfortably sleep while wearing a base layer and a hat and using a sleeping pad.  So a bag rated +32F means that it will keep most people warm if they are wearing long underwear and a hat combined with a sleeping pad if the air temperature outside drops to +32F.

A good rule of thumb is for the sleeping bag to be rated 10F colder than the coldest temperatures you expect to face.  We recommend a sleeping bag with a +15F to +32F rating.  It is difficult to recommend one single rating because not all people have the same metabolism.  I.e. some sleep hot while others get cold.


There are two choices: down or synthetic.  Get a synthetic bag.  Synthetic bags are slightly heavier but stay warm when they get wet.  Down bags are lighter but when they get wet can lose all of their insulating qualities.  With Scouts there are no guarantees that they will not get their sleeping bag wet (tent door left open, water bottle spilled, and more).  We have seen it all.  When Scouts are older and more responsible a down bag is reasonable because they are lighter and pack down smaller.



  • Avoid the Coleman roll-up sleepover variety, way too big and bulky
  • Get a "mummy bag" - the hood will cover your sons head while sleeping to keep him warm
  • If you have a choice, look for a sleeping bag that packs down smaller for backpacking trips
  • One sleeping bag will likely last for your son's scouting career, take good care of it!
  • Make sure you store your sleeping bag OUTSIDE of the stuff sack or it will lose its insulating abilities
  • Always air out the sleeping bag after every camping trip
  • If possible, get a sleeping bag that packs smaller (< 15L stuff sack) so it will work for backpacking trips


Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad is a must for any campout.  It prevent the cold ground from drawing away body heat and give you a comfortable surface on which to sleep.  We recommend a lightweight, closed-cell foam sleeping pad.  The best one out there is the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite for several reasons:
  • Closed-cell foam is very durable and will withstand years of use/abuse
  • Folding design is easy to pack and unpack for Scouts
  • Egg crate design traps heat
  • Lightweight, just 14oz for the "regular" size pad
  • Relatively inexpensive ($40-45)
There are more expensive and lighter weight options available but there is no reason to spend more money unless your Scout will be going on long backpacking trips.

Recommended purchase: Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Pad


Your son will need a way to carry of his gear to and from the campsite.  For car camping this can be a duffle bag.  Eventually though he will need to carry it farther and over rough terrain.  We recommend purchasing a backpack before summer camp.  There are many options to choose from and it comes down to fit.


  • Capacity
    • Choose a pack that can carry 65-75 Liters
    • When Scouts are younger a 65L pack might be too big and heavy (4.5-5lbs empty!)
    • May need to start them with a smaller, say 50L pack, and buy another as he grows
    • For Philmont a 65L pack is the minimum required for all the necessary gear
    • Choosing a 65L pack requires smart packing (small sleeping bag, small tent, small pad)
  • Torso
    • Have the store measure your son's torso length
    • Some packs have adjustable shoulder straps to fit a range of torso lengths
  • Fit
    • Have the store load up the backpack and wear it around the store
    • Most of the weight should be on the hips
    • Make sure the waist belt fits and sits on the hips
    • Make sure the shoulder straps fit snugly on shoulders and don't lift up
    • Many scouts have small waists, consider a youth or women's pack


Hiking Boots

For troop meeting tennis shoes are just fine.  For hikes or campouts you really need some lightweight hiking boots.  They will give you traction, protect your ankles, give you support, and keep your feet warm and comfortable.


  • A Scout is Thrifty...  Don't spend a lot of money, your son will outgrow his boots...
  • Look for waterproof boots but you don't need to have Gore-Tex
  • Stay away from full leather boots for now, they take too long to break in
  • Look for a mix of synthetic and leather boots, they will be comfortable from the start
  • Make sure the boots fit - your heels should not slip and you should have room for your toes to wiggle

Fleece Jacket

Staying warm is important and the key idea is "layering".  When you get cold you add a layer and when you get warm you remove a layer.  Cotton clothing is not good for several reasons: it doesn't have the same insulating qualities and it takes a long time to dry out if it gets wet.


Cotton hoodies BAD.  Fleece GOOD.

Fleece Beanie

There is an myth that you lose 80% of your body warmth through your head.  That is actually FALSE but your head is part of your body and you wear clothing everywhere else when you are cold so why not on your head?  You will lose warmth through your head if you do not have a hat.

For cool evenings/mornings and sleeping we recommend a wool or synthetic hat.