Every year we try to do at least one camp weekend with our GS troop. This year, since it's one of the things the girls really love and look forward to, I hope to do one a season! The planning process from troop leadership can seem overwhelming. It's a big weekend and the more girls/adults you have attending the more work you will have to put into it. But, after all is said and done, it's totally worth it. If you haven't considered an overnight or camp with your troop I strongly encourage it! The excitement, sister scout bonding, life skills and lasting memories are just a few of the things you and your group will take away.
The Planning process
Here are some things you will want to consider when planning your overnight. I start my planning 6 months in advance, at least to submit a rental application.
I always recommend considering one of your council's camp properties as a potential site for your camp. At least in our council, many of the camps have the equipment you will need, which helps cut down on spending, packing, and hauling to the location. There is also a sense of security knowing you're on a GS property. If it is your first camping trip you might want to try a cabin or lodge, building up their progression to tent camping. Another idea to consider is other GS council properties if you are looking for a destination farther away.
I love the idea of using patrols for camp. We assign patrols in advance and put each patrol in charge of a meal and activity. They get to pick the menu items and put together a shopping list. We use our pre-camp planning meeting to figure out those details. The girls can pick what activity they wish to lead. It can be teaching a new song at the campfire, performing a skit, or a craft. This allows the girls greater participation in the planning process and contribution to the campout! Keep it Girl Led!
How much money does the troop have to put towards the campout? Will the entire cost be covered by troop funds? Will parents have to pay a portion? These are questions you need to ask yourself or your girls. If you have older girls make sure to discuss the budget with them. Our troop typically covers the entire cost of troop camping with funds from the cookie sales program. One campout we did charge $10/per girl. So what should you consider in your camping budget?
- campsite or lodge rental
- activities and craft materials
- supplies (fire starters, aluminum foil, pie irons)
If you are on a tight budget there are many ways to cut back. Like I mentioned before, many GS camps will provide certain supplies and equipment. You can also have families pitch in if they have tents and other camping gear. When thinking about food, you can request that each girl bring something to share or you can think of budget-friendly meals.
Are the girls going to be making the meals? Are you going to be cooking over a campfire? One thing to keep in mind is that when you have scouts cooking, the amount of time it would take an adult to cook in a normal kitchen and then double that. Our first weekend overnight we set out to make spaghetti for 20 people. It took us 1 hour and 45 minutes because cooking that much pasta required the big pots and the water took forever to boil!
Easy meal suggestions for the girls to cook and budget friendly...
- Walking tacos
- Spaghetti (or one pot spaghetti in dutch oven)
- Crescent Dogs
- English muffin pizzas
- Pie Iron sandwiches
What goals are you looking to accomplish with this campout? Are you completing badges or a journey? Are you working on team building and GS traditions (songs and skits)? Is this trip just to get the girls in the outdoors? Will you have a theme? This will help guide you on the activities for camp. Have the girls plan out the activities and lead them! This is also an area to have another volunteer take over and be in charge to take the load off of you. Here are some suggestions for fun activities or time fillers.
- Swaps: These are great if you have a small pocket of time or right before lights out.
- Camp crafts
- Games: At our last campout we had a huge game of capture the flag. We were the only troop in the camp and so we got to spread out It was beyond fun. We played a couple of rounds and even changed the rules up.
- Songs and Skits
- Teambuilding exercises
Fun overnight themes:
- Harry Potter
- Disney and/or Princesses
- Zombie apocalypse
- Spa Sleepover
- Spa Science
- Mad Scientist
- Super Hero
Check out my Pinterest board for more activities.
Forms, Troop contract, and parent communication
Check with your council on the requirements for approved camp/overnights. Each council is different in their training but I'm certain there will be some courses you need to take. We have to have a CPR/First Aider and a couple outdoor training courses. If swimming is involved you will need a trained lifeguard. Depending on the length of your trip you might also need to submit a travel application for council approval.
You can't forget about communication. Parents are going to have lots of questions. In the past, I have put together a camp packet that includes all the details and information to hopefully answer most of their questions. The who, what, and where. At the end of that information packet, I include a Parent/Scout behavior contract.
Don't forget to get those permission slips! Make sure you have UPDATED health history forms and an emergency contact for when they are on the trip. Have a dedicated folder for these forms. When we travel, I also create a separate folder for each car that is transporting girls with a copy of their health history forms in the event that you get separated and there is an unfortunate accident.
I've also done a Facebook Live meeting with our GS FB group. I love the FB live meetings because it's recorded and people can come back and watch it and they don't have to leave their homes.
Planning a troop camping trip can seem daunting but I hope this sets you on the right path. The biggest advice I can give to you is delegate duties and have someone else shop for the food!!!