Summer Camp Hacks and Suggestions

Summer Camp Hacks and Suggestions

August is the time of year when scouts from all over the country head to summer camp. Summer camp is a “rite of passage” where friendships are made and the love of the outdoors is nurtured. For Adults, camping can be an uncomfortable experience only to be endured.

For me, summer camp is one of the highlights of the year because I get to spend quality time with my sons. I’ve been to summer camp many times myself and have so many great memories. My first experience outdoor cooking with a dutch oven was at Camp Mach-Kin-O-Siew in Elcho, Wisconsin. I also completed my Ordeal (Order of the Arrow) at Boy Scout Summer Camp. I’ll never forget all the great times.  

Having been to camp so many times, I’ve developed a personal list of hacks and suggestions I’ve found to make camp more comfortable — even enjoyable! I’d like to share my hacks with you today.

Now, I should say upfront, this isn’t an exhaustive list. If you’re interested a in a more comprehensive list of what to bring to camp, check out the Camp Edward Program Guide. I’ve seen so many cool ideas over the years and these are “hacks” that have made my trips more enjoyable. You may have others that are not listed here. Please comment at the end of this post with your favorite hacks.

What to Wear to Summer Camp

We leave for summer camp early the morning the day of camp because Camp Edward is about an hour from our home. We wear our swimsuits to camp because one of the first things we do at camp is take the “dreaded” summer camp swim test. Having our swimsuits on saves us time changing after our arrival at camp.

Summer Camp Accommodations

At Camp Edward, cub scout units receive camp assignments upon arrival which means scouts won’t know their accommodations ahead of time. Scouts may be assigned to a site with cabins, or not. If we’re not in a cabin, Camp Edward provides military style canvas tents. I’m not a fan of canvas tents so I bring my tent with me in the event our unit is assigned to tent site. If you’re OK with canvas tents, I’d recommend bringing a tarp because the tents sit on platforms. The platforms can get dusty and dirty while at camp. A large tarp on the platform of your tent will keep your gear from getting dirty at summer camp 

Camp Edward Canvas Tents

Sleeping in Comfort: the Mattress

Camping at summer camp can be comfortable and my gear choices attempt to make it as comfortable an experience as possible. It all starts with sleeping for me. I bring my 3.5 inch REI self-inflating sleeping pad. When I looked on the REI site today I couldn’t find the same model that I have — maybe my pad is old and out of date. Anyway, I paid $99 for my mattress but it’s worth every penny. You’ll want a good quality mattress whether you’re in a cabin or tent. Here’s a link to a pad similar to what I have: The model I linked to costs $169 but you can find other models for as low as $99 but with less insulation. By the way, I’ve found that the young scouts don’t seem to need as much padding as I do so you might go with a less expensive pad for your Scout. 

Camp Edward Cabin

Sleeping in Comfort: The Sleeping Bag

After the mattress, you’ll want to have a sleeping bag; but, there are alternatives. You might just bring blankets to summer camp and I’ve seen people do that (e.g. a few large wool blankets). What’s great about blankets is that you can take one or more of them off if you get too hot at night. It is summer camp at any rate. If you are going to bring a sleeping bag, you won’t need a 0℉ bag because it will be too hot. My recommendation is to bring a lighter, summer bag — a 30℉ temperature bag would work though.  

The Ten Essentials

Cub Scout Summer Camp is great opportunity to educate your scouts about what gear to carry in the outdoors. Every scout should have the ten essentials with them in a small daypack. Having said that, I want to emphasize that it will probably be warm, maybe even hot (like 90℉ hot). So Scouts should have water bottles with them and be drinking water frequently to prevent dehydration. With the sun out, you will also want to have sun protection which includes a good hat and sunscreen (plenty of sunscreen). 

Toiletries and Towels

We bring all of our standard toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, washcloth, etc) to summer camp. However, I don’t use standard cotton towels like the ones used at the beach or at home. Instead, I bring fast-drying, microfiber towels that I use throughout the camping trip. Microfiber towels like these found on Amazon: will dry very quickly and pack down to a very small size. You can use these towels to dry off after a shower or you can put these into your daypack. In the heat of the day, you can run the towel under cold water and put the towel on your neck back or head to keep cool.

Camp Edward Shower House

Summer Camp Games and Hobbies

At summer camp, I shed all connections with electronic devices with the exception of my GPS device (the Garmin InReach). Summer camp is the time when I disconnect from my mobile phone and engage with fellow campers. I usually bring a standard deck of cards and I’ll also bring one or more decks of Magic cards. If I’m watching camp or enjoying coffee at the lodge, I’ll make paracord bracelets that I award to scouts that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law.

Around the Campfire

Another defining element of summer camp is the camp fire and I always make sure I have a few comfort items for the fire. First, I make sure to bring my comfy camp chair, a camp mug, and packets of hot chocolate should it get cold at night. But a summer camp wouldn’t be summer camp without S’mores. So I always make sure to have two boxes of graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows. It’s also a good idea to have metal skewers for marshmallow roasting but a stick also works fine.

For the last few years, August has been drier than usual so Camp Edward has prohibited campfires due to the increased forest fire risk. We’ll make sure that campfires are permitted before lighting any fires at summer camp.


We hope you’ve found this post about Cub Scout Summer Camp helpful. If you’d like a more comprehensive list of suggested items for summer camp, I’d suggest checking out the Camp Edward Program Guide (2019 Edition)

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