Camping Gear Lore

(From notes taken at a meeting for parents of scouts who had just crossed over from Pack 641, Jan. 2002.  Web sites added July 2002, flashlights in July 2004.  Disclaimer: Mention of particular brands or stores represents individual opinions only and not official policy of the troop.)

Essential Gear

Sleeping Bag
Insulating pad
Mess Kit
Rain Poncho, etc (see 10 scout essentials)

Necessary, but they can share for a while



What to Buy (and what to avoid)


Sleeping bag – This is the single most critical item!  If your boy isn’t warm (and dry) at night, he will have a miserable time.  You need a true, 3-season bag.  Unfortunately, manufacturers tend to … uh … overestimate the capability of their bags, to put it charitably.

You need to buy a bag from a reputable manufacturer, rated 20 degrees or below.  You should buy a light bag, too, since it will be carried on hikes.  If you spend less than $125, you are probably not  getting the bag you expect.  GI Joes has bags, and they are often on sale, but the only brand they carry that is any good is North Face.  REI has a good selection.

Insulating pad – Note that sleeping bag ratings assume the use of a pad.  You want one even in the summer.  Get a lightweight pad (not the self-inflating kind); this should only set you back a few dollars.

Mess Kit  -- Get a Teflon one; kids hate washing their dishes.  The Bugaboo Mess Kit, about $24 at GI Joes or REI, is popular with the troop.

Stove – definitely propane for the first stove.  To light it, a cheap lighter is more practical than matches.

Backpack – You don’t need a fancy pack, especially at first.  Don’t buy a youth size, as they are usually not as well made as an adult one (since the manufacturer reasons that you will be back in a couple of years for the full-sized one).  Pick one out, then when your son isn’t looking, get the same pack in a woman’s size.

Garage sales are a great place to pick up backpacks.  You can often find one that has only been used a couple of times.  We've had good luck at Next Adventure for backpacks.

Tent – You want a lightweight tent, about 5 lb is good.  You need a tent with a full-sized fly, or it will not work keep moisture out.  A good but affordable brand is Eureka [this is the hands-down favorite in the troop], and they can often be found on sale.  GI Joes carries them, and once in a great while they’ve even been seen in Costco.

Compass -- Get one similar to what the troop has, it should run $10, sometimes you can find one for as low as $6.  You need a "map compass", not a sighting compass or a pocket compass, and it is best to choose one with a tool-free declination adjustment.  Brunton 9090G is a good make.

Flashlight -- One of the most exciting developments in camping gear is the emergence of LEDs bright enough for flashlights.  Although more expensive up front, LED flashlights are much better for battery life and do not break.  They are much more cost-effective in the long run -- as long as they don't get lost.  Our favorite manufacturer is CMG, recently acquired by Gerber.

Knife -- Get one with a locking blade, large enough to hold comfortably.  (Don't buy a "scout knife" at the scout shop or one with a zillion blades.)  For a young scout, stick to something in the $10-25 range, preferably at the lower end of this range.  The boys like Leatherman-type multifunction tools, but they are not a substitute for a real knife.

Rain Poncho -- This being Oregon, always be prepared for an unexpected shower.  The most practical item for a short rain is a disposable poncho, available for a dollar or two at Fred Meyer.  Buy one that shows a hood in the picture.


Where to Buy Gear

In the Portland area:

REI (Tigard, Pearl district, Tanasbourne) – A favorite haunt, good equipment & selection at good prices.  If you only have time to go to one place, this is the one.

GI Joes – Good prices, convenient, but they also carry a lot of equipment that's meant  for the twice-a-year car camper rather than for extended use by a boy scout.

Next Adventure (Grand Ave near Starke) -- Great prices on used equipment, selection varies through the year.  If you make the trip, you might also want to check out Andy and Back's, just a block south.

Aloha Surplus -- Good for clothing useful for camping (if you don't mind a paramilitary look) and sometimes for knives, also interesting military-style gadgets.

Fred Meyer – Good to great for lanterns, neat doodads, stuff sacks, etc, but not for serious items like bags and tents.  Fred Meyer has compasses and knives.  Target has some doodads, too.

On the web:
Outdoor Reviews
Gerber Store  (Note: You can order Gerber items through Terry for boy scout discount)