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Gear Selection Guide

This guide is intended to help new scouts and their parents select equipment for camping trips.  The order of topics below is the same as the “Backpacking and Camping Gear List” page


There are many stores that carry camping gear, but with advantages and disadvantages of each:

  • Adventure 16 – awesome selection and great assistance, but pricey.  ALL scouts get 10% off, so be sure to ask for it.  Carry your registration card, but they will believe you without it.
  • Big 5 – inexpensive, but limited selection, poor assistance and better for car camping.
  • REI – awesome selection and great assistance and reasonable prices, but must deal with Santa Monica traffic.  Bet sure to get a membership to get dividends back each year.
  • Sports Authority – inexpensive, but limited selection, poor assistance, and better for car camping.
  • Sport Chalet – sort of a hybrid of the other stores.  Intermediate selection and poor to intermediate assistance.

Outdoor Essentials

1. Pocketknife

Scouts must earn the Totin' Chip in order to have the privilege of being allowed to carry a knife.  We do not allow scouts to carry sheath knives because they have long non-folding blades.  Other than that, almost any knife will do.  An easy rule of thumb is that the blade should not be longer than the scout’s palm.  A few accessory tools are fine, but avoid a knife with dozens of tools since they get in the way and it is heavy.

2. Compass

The best compasses for use with a map have a clear rectangular plastic base with the compass mounted on top so that it can turn.  The nice looking compasses with only a round, folding metal housing are hard or impossible to use with a map.

3. Matches/Fire Starters

Matches are preferred over lighters since it is easier to light lanterns, stoves and fires with matches over lighters.

4. Sun Protection

Chapstick, Hat, Sunscreen, Sun Glasses.  Whatever is packed, make sure it is something the scout is actually willing to put on.  Use a small size of sunscreen to save weight.

5. First Aid Kit

Small is fine as the adult leaders carry fairly extensive kits.  Several small kits are available, but the Second Class rank requires scouts to build up their own kit.  One option would be to buy a basic kit and add to it.

6. Water

Water is critical, so each scout must have a liter/quart size water bottle.  In order to be environmentally conscious, disposable bottles are not allowed.  Narrow or wide mouth is fine.

7. Trail Food

Scouts will almost always need a trail lunch for the first day of a trip.  Choose food that the scout will like to eat.  Also make sure that it carries well; hence bananas and pears are not good choices.  It is a good idea to add a couple energy/granola bars in case of an emergency.

8. Extra Clothing

Warm days in the mountains often turn into cool nights, so long pants and a jacket are needed.  To save weight on backpacking trips, pants with zip-off legs are good.  A knit hat is very lightweight and helps a lot to stay warm at night. It is also important to bring extra socks, in case the scout steps in a creek and gets them wet.

OK, scouts are not always into hygiene, but we do remind them that an important way to stay warm at night is to change out of the day’s wet socks.

9. Rain Gear

A raincoat is essential since it is difficult to stay warm outside when soaking wet.  Since most teenagers only wear sweatshirts for warmth, a simple “shell” raincoat is fine.  Avoid the $200 name brand model mountain parkas.  A poncho works well to cover the person AND a backpack and are inexpensive, but some scouts are unlikely to wear them unless it is really raining hard.  Finally, important when needed, but raincoats can usually stay home on most trips in Southern California.

10. Flashlight

Small and lightweight is fine.  Avoid ones that take 4 D cells or the big 6 volt square batteries.  LED flashlights are good since the batteries last much longer.

Personal Gear

Hiking Boots and Hiking Socks

Sturdy walking shoes are absolutely necessary on backpacking and hiking trips.  NO SKATE OR TENNIS SHOES.  But since the scout will outgrow them in six months, something affordable is fine.  Big 5 has many inexpensive options.

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags come in many styles.  A simple cotton bag in a rectangular style is fine for warm weather car camping, but too heavy and not warm enough for the mountains.  A down-filled mummy style bag is warm, lightweight, and compactable, but can be very pricey.  (And they are not effective if they get wet.)  So a synthetic-filled mummy style bag is a good balance between weight and cost.  Experienced campers will own two or more types.

Sleeping Pad

A quality sleeping pad is probably an issue of life or death for the adults, but scouts could probably sleep on a bed of rocks.  But seriously, a pad of some sort is required for warmth.  Closed cell foam pads are the lightest and cheapest.  Adults should consider Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads.  They are much more expensive, but are really comfy to sleep on.

Ground Tarp

Every scout who joins the Troop is issued a piece of 4 mil black plastic.  This is very inexpensive and lightweight.  You can get more from any hardware store.  Formal tarps are sold at every camping store, but are almost always heavier and much more expensive.


Needed only for backpacking.  For car camping, duffle backs are sometimes more convenient when car space is tight.  Even for car camping, all the scout’s gear should fit in one unit.  Something is bound to get lost if the gear bag, sleeping bag, lunch bag, tent bag and sleeping pad are all separate.


Toothbrush & toothpaste, soap, washcloth, emergency toilet paper. Etc.  Use small travel sizes.

Mess Kit

Cup, plate or bowl, spoon, fork.  For backpacking they can be all plastic to save weight and maybe leave out the plate or bowl depending on the food.

Scout Handbook

One is issued by the Troop to each new scout.  Always bring this if you have not yet reached First Class since lots of rank advancement occurs on trips.


On car camping trips, each patrol decides on a meal plan before the trip and assigns one or more scouts to bring the food. Coolers are available for each patrol to store and transport their perishable items.

Unlike car camping trips where patrols cook formal meals, scouts bring their own food on backpacking trips.  Typically, they bring simple foods that only need added boiling water.  So things like instant oatmeal and hot cocoa are fine for breakfast.  For dinner scouts can be creative or get prepared backpacking meals from camping stores.  Choose a reasonable size since some freeze-dried meals are designed for two hearty eaters.  The creative and cost conscious scouts could bring a fifty-cent ramen noodle package along with some slices of cooked sausage, green onions, and carrots to add in. 

Troop and Patrol Gear


Scouts do not need to buy tents as they are supplied by the Troop.  In fact, we only allow troop tents when car camping.  It is fine for a scout to bring their own tent if they choose for backpacking.  Lightweight is important.

Stove and Fuel

Scouts do not need to buy stoves as they are supplied by the Troop.  We have big Coleman stoves for car camping and lightweight stoves for backpacking.  For the gear-head scouts, they can consider buying a Jet-Boil stove for backpacking.

Pots and Pans

The Troop supplies each patrol with a kitchen cooking box for car camping.  But for backpacking each scout, or team of scouts, should have a small lightweight pot in which to boil water.  Cheap is fine, but for enthusiasts the titanium pots are very expensive, but really light and sturdy.

Water Purification Filters and SteriPens

​The adults typically bring these items, but scouts can consider getting them if they want to complete their gear.