I know how it is. It’s Thursday evening. The kids have got Cub Camp or Brownie Camp this weekend. Its their first overnight camp away (or maybe their third!) and you want to get it right.
You want to make sure they’ve got all the clothes and equipment for camp that they need, but not so many things that they’ll struggle to carry them. You’re pretty sure there were a couple of things on the list where the leader said “Please don’t bring this”, or “Please bring that,” but you can’t for the life of you remember the details.
You also need to know which things you don’t have in the house so you can make a quick run to the shops in the morning – or make a last-minute plea to borrow stuff from friends and family.
And of course. Now you can’t find the list.
Never Fear – The Generic Cub and Brownie Packing List is Here!
Often this age group (approximately ages 8 – 10) are sleeping in bunkrooms or cabins rather than under canvas, so I’ve separated out a few items that they’ll only need if they’re tenting.
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I’m also assuming its a one-night camp, as most of them are at this age. If your child’s camp is longer, add more changes of clothing, always allowing extras in case they get soaking wet or covered in mud!
If you know they’ll be participating in activities that need special gear (like water sports), then make sure you pack the optional gear that makes sense for that activity (like swimming clothes).
As you gather everything and pack it, make sure you have a permanent marker with you to NAME EVERYTHING. The last camp that I was involved with (just last month), one child left their sleeping bag behind. I kid you not.
Basic Cub and Brownie Packing List
- Sleeping bag – a good quality, low-temperature bag is best – not a thin ‘sleepover’ bag. (We have a couple like this. They can usually be found for a surprisingly reasonable price)
- Pillow – preferably inflatable, or just a pillow-case which the child will stuff with some clothes for the night
- Blanket – good for extra warmth and can be rolled up like a pillow. A proper campfire blanket to sew their extra badges onto is highly prized! A wool army surplus or emergency blanket like this one is great.
- Gumboots/Wellingtons/Tramping boots – fairly sturdy outdoor footwear that can handle mud
- Inside shoes – to wear inside the Den or Cabin in the evenings so that the muddy shoes can be left at the door. Slippers or slip-on canvas shoes are great if you have them. Trainers/sneakers also fine.
- Raincoat – NOT a puffer jacket. Puffer jackets are no good in heavy rain, and can make your child cold and wet, which is the opposite of what you want. It doesn’t have to be a high cost item, something like this is great.
- Warm outer layer/polar fleece/woolen sweater – polar fleece and wool are both great as they dry quickly and easily and keep your child warm even if they’re a bit damp.
- Toiletries – toothbrush and toothpaste, soap in a holder, towel. The towel is useful for if they get rained on, even if they have no intention of washing 😉
- Sunblock and bug repellent depending on the season and climate – if they’ll be spending time on the water, sunblock is useful even on an overcast day.
- Drink bottle
- Warm hat and/or sunhat depending on the season – in some climates it is sensible to take both.
- Pyjamas – a tee shirt and boxers at the very least. The bathrooms are often in a different building to the cabins. If it’s a winter camp, then warm jammies are a good idea. Sometimes the kids prefer to just wear day clothes to bed. Some group leaders encourage this as it cuts down on the packing. Others discourage it because it can make sleeping bags filthy and kids can overheat from wearing too many layers to bed. If in doubt, an extra pair of soft shorts and an old tee shirt will be fine.
- Underpants plus a spare pair
- Socks plus 2 spare pair – warm thermal socks are better than cotton ones.
- Tee shirts and long-sleeved tees – enough for each day plus a spare set. Include at least one set of thermal or polypropylene tees if you have them.
- Trackpants and/or shorts and/or warm leggings – enough for each day plus a spare. Best bring at least one of each if weather can be changeable. NO JEANS – they take forever to dry and are cold and heavy, which is a real liability outdoors. No skirts for girls – they’re just not practical for most outdoor activities.
- Flashlight with batteries – make sure the light is ‘off’ when you pack it and that it won’t accidentally turn ‘on’ in the bag.
- Plastic or fabric bag for dirty clothes
- Small backpack or day-pack – a lightweight school backpack is perfect. For carrying their drink bottle, raincoat and hats etc when going out for a walk.
- Medication – this will normally need to be handed to a leader and some sort of form signed.
- Full uniform – usually the child needs to be wearing this when they arrive at camp, and again for the closing ceremony. In the Scouting movement, this will definitely include their scarf and woggle. For those in Guiding, the usual practice is to leave your badge-sash at home for camp (if your uniform includes one) and wear the rest of the uniform without the sash, but this may vary from group to group. It’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker either way.
Sometimes (but not always) needed
- Ditty bag – a drawstring bag with durable cup, bowl, plate, cutlery knife, fork, spoon, plus a tea-towel/dish-towel. Usually needed. Pack if you’re not sure.
- Baking or packet of cookies to share – customs vary from place to place. Not all regions do this, but every camp my children have been on has made this request. Baking gets handed to the leaders and distributed for snacks and suppers. Nut-free please – nobody wants to discover that a child is anaphylactic to nuts while on camp! Don’t worry about packing this if you’re not sure about the custom – if it is there’s usually more than anyone can ever eat anyway.
- A sit-upon – a square of heavy plastic about the size of a cushion for the children to sit on if the ground is damp. The kids will often have made these themselves with their leaders. If your child has no idea what you’re talking about when you ask, it’s probably not needed.
- Small game to play with others like a pack of cards.
- Teddy bear or other comfort item – some groups make this compulsory for all kids so that nobody feels self-conscious about bringing a sleeping toy. Others make it optional. Some require them to be left at home so nobody loses their special toy. Best check about this one.
- Pocket money – usually NOT needed in my experience, but longer camps may involve some free time near a shop of some sort, and I have seen various packing lists from around the globe with a small amount of spending money on them, which may need to be handed to a leader for safe keeping. MOST short camps will actually ask you not to bring cash or valuables.
If sleeping in tents
- Bedroll or sleeping mat – the roll-up self-inflatable ones (like this!) are great as they keep the children warmer. Note – some groups request NOT to bring those old-fashioned camp stretchers, as they are difficult for the children to put up and pack down, and can be awkward in modern tents. Other groups are fine with them.
- Second blanket – to go on top of the bedroll and under the sleeping bag. The more insulation between the child and the ground the better.
- Ground-sheet – a 2m x 1.5m piece of tarpaulin. Not always needed.
Special activities or conditions that might need special equipment or suitable clothing
Use your common sense and pack what your child will need. Check with your leader if you’re not sure!
- Winter camping in snowy climates – add gloves, snow clothes etc
- Summer camping in hot climates – add sunglasses, brimmed sunhats etc
- Kayaking – swimming gear
- Swimming – swimming gear
- Horse-riding – check if gear is supplied (it usually will be, but there might be particular footwear requirements for example)
Things NOT to pack
- Puffer jacket – kids often use them as a ‘raincoat’, but they are not sufficiently waterproof for camp activities
- Jeans – terrible if they get damp or wet
- Cellphones and other digital devices – most groups ban these from camps. The leader will have given you a contact number in case of emergency.
- Cash or other valuables – unless specifically requested to bring spending money.
- Knives – Cubs and Brownies don’t need or use pocket knives in their activities. (They might if they are a Scout or Guide.) But if cutting anything is required, a leader will have the equipment. If in doubt, do NOT let them take it. Many campsites have very particular rules around which types of knives are allowed to be used by campers, and different jurisdictions have specific laws about what constitutes a concealed weapon. Better to leave it at home.
- Matches or lighter – if Cubs or Brownies are cooking outdoors, the leader or quartermaster will have packed fire-lighting equipment.
- And the obvious do-not-packs, which I’m SURE you wouldn’t be packing for your child, but I’ll add anyway because this is the internet – alcohol, cigarettes, firearms, drugs (aside from any needed medication which is handed to a leader), fireworks etc.
Still not sure?
Is there anything a bit border-line that your child is insisting they absolutely HAVE to pack, and pulling out all the stops to convince you that it’s totally legit and they’ll be the only one without it?
Or maybe there’s something on the list that they reckon is dumb and they do NOT need it? (One of mine tries this with warm clothes. Every Time.)
Do give your leader a quick text or a phone call to confirm. They’d much rather field a few texts from parents before the camp and have the kids arrive with the right gear!
And one last thing:
Make sure you can be reached at your emergency contact number for the duration of the camp.
If a leader is trying to contact you during camp, it will because they need to.
If your cellphone automatically switches to Do Not Disturb overnight, remember to disable that function.
If you won’t be home while your kids are at camp, make sure the leader has a number where they can contact you, or provide contact details for another emergency person. Remember to get that person’s permission, and check that they will be able to hear their phone in the night.
If you do get called from camp, the most likely scenario is that your child has fallen ill. Have a plan in place to make sure that someone can head out to camp and collect your child if needed. Campsites are usually not well set up to care for a sick child, and the best place for them is home.