There are so many different, cool things that you can spend money on to make your camping or backpacking adventure more fun and comfortable. And some of it is necessary, really. But a lot of stuff is just fancy or about making the outdoors feel more like the indoors. In keeping with the 9th Scout Law—a scout is thrifty—we want to only buy the gear that really helps us.
To help you wade through all the options and find the right gear for your scout, the leaders of 17th Black Bears offer this curated list of gear and supplies. This list has ideas for the things we specifically list on our “What to Bring Camping” list. These are just some ideas to get you started. Ultimately the best camping gear is the thing that you enjoy using. If you have a great sleeping bag and it fits in your backpack, then you don’t have to get a fancy hiking one. And if your sleeping bag doesn’t keep you warm enough, it doesn’t matter how cool it is or how small you can make it.
The type of gear a scout needs is based on what kinds of camping they plan to do and their age. Pathfinders are going to be looking for more opportunities to go backpacking but will still be participating in our more traditional car camping adventures. Timberwolves may hike into a site to start learning about backpacking but will not be expected to take everything with them. Otters and Chipmunks still camp primarily with the troop and families so need very little of their own personal gear.
17th Black Bears does receive a small percentage of sales made through links on this page to Amazon as part of the Amazon Affiliates program. If you chose to purchase through one of these links, a portion of the sale price will be donated to the troop by Amazon and will be used to fund future camping and outdoor adventures for the troop. Thank you!
The first thing you need is a tent. Something easy to set up and easy to pack back up at the end of a trip. For most of our Black Bears camping trips, the troop has tents for the scouts to use. But if you want one for your own use, these are the ones we recommend. When buying a tent, remember that the tent will practically sleep one or two fewer people than it says it will.
The 2-person version of this tent is what the troop has for the Pathfinders.
This tent is just over four pounds and packs up a bit smaller than the Coleman, making it a better option for backpacking.
Sleeping bags come rated for different seasons and degrees of temperature. The Black Bears typically do not camp in the winter so we opt for 3-season bags that are rated to about 35°F. When looking for a sleeping bag, pick a temperature rating that is about 15-20 degrees colder than you expect the temperature to get at night.
This one is a good choice. It comes with a compression sack and it is rated to about 32°F, making it suitable for late fall camping trips.
This is rated to 40°F but is a bit roomier, for those of us who need more space to feel comfortable at night.
Sleeping Pads, Ground Mats, and Pillows
An often overlooked, but absolutely critical, piece of camping gear is the ground mat. Do not leave home without one! The ground mat provides a critical layer of insulation between your body and the ground that keeps you warm at night. The goal isn’t that it provide cushioning, although that is a nice bonus. The real point of a ground mat is to keep the ground from zapping away your body heat during the night.
A good ground mat inflates quickly, deflates fully, and can be packed up small. This is a great example.
This ground mat is made of foam so it does not need to be inflated. It is a bit bigger than the ones above so would need to tie to the outside of a backpack.
This ground mat by Klymit is designated as a 4-season mat and provides the highest level of insulation of the choices shown here. It compresses down to about 8 inches, making it the most compact of the mats too. Overall, it is a better pick for backpacking.
Why are all the inflatable ones orange? Lots of camping gear is orange, I am noticing. Anyway, an inflatable pillow is definitely a “nice-to-have” item. It isn’t necessary but it can make sleeping outdoors more comfortable.
This has a nice flannel pillow cover that can be washed. It is soft filled, as opposed to being inflatable, so it doesn’t shrink down very small. But a great option for most camping trips.
This one is inflatable and, when deflated, is about the size of a can of soda, making it a better option for backpacking. It also has a strap to attach it to your ground mat or sleeping bag so it doesn’t move away from you at night. I like that.
Mess Kits and Kitchen Gear
The troop provides a lot of kitchen gear for our big camping trips. But every scout should have their own personal mess kit. A mess kit doesn’t have to be anything special. Plastic dishes from your home kitchen work great. But every mess kit should have a plate, bowl, cup, fork, knife, and spoon. Ideally they would all be together in a mesh bag for easy storage and drying after washing dishes. For backpacking trips, scouts may need to have a bit more so they can cook for themselves.
Good, simple mess kit. Many Black Bears have used one just like this for years. Plastic doesn’t get hot like metal, so it is also safer for younger scouts eating around the campfire.
This set folds up into a compact bundle for backpacking. The plate and bowl double as a pot and pan for cooking.
These are the perfect eating utensil and Black Bears has extras we bring on big group camping trips. They have a spoon, fork and knife all built in to one tool. This is a great item for every scout to have.
Of course, plastic is lighter weight. This one holds up to 32 oz. and weighs 6 oz. These generally fit well on the outside of a backpack for hiking in your own water to more remote campsites.
This is a lightweight water filtration system that removes bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics from water. It is easy to use and relativity inexpensive. And it can thread onto a water bottle making the filtration easy to do while moving.
Hiking backpacks are a bit complicated. If you can, I highly recommend taking your scout to REI and having one of the experts there do a fitting. They will measure your scout to find out what size bag they need and teach you how to put it on correctly. This is one place where you need to make sure you have something that fits correctly for your size and body type. They do make different bags for women than men, and it isn’t just about size. Women’s bodies are shaped differently and that matters for backpacking. We are recommending some different ones to look at here, but you really need to read the descriptions carefully. This video is a great explanation of how to pick a good pack. And REI has some great tips on this website.
Listed here, are bags that carry 40L to 75L of gear. Giving a smaller person a smaller bag can help them to remember to not pack so heavy that they will injure themselves. Packing carefully, 40L should be enough for a weekend in good weather. 75L is supposed to hold enough gear for a longer or winter trip. Scouts should plan for their pack to weigh 20% of their body weight or less when packed so that they don’t get hurt.
Adult Men's Backpacks
This backpack for men is adjustable for a 15″ to 20″ long back. It should fit most male pathfinders with room to grow.
This is very similar to the one Richard uses. They come in S, M & L, so a better choice for adults or those done growing.
Adult Women's Backpacks
This fits females with backs about 14″ to 20″. A good adjustable option for female pathfinders who are still growing. Deuter is one of the few brands that makes a women’s vs a unisex bag, Osprey is another. Premium brand, very high quality; known for being very adjustable.
This bag by Teton is a good value unisex bag. 66 Liters is a lot of space so it will be more forgiving for youth sleeping bags and economy tents that take of up more space. Kids will still need to be mindful of their overall packed weight; Just because it fits doesn’t mean they should carry it.
The REI backpacks are not the least expensive but a good value; Solid construction with a lot of adjustability.
Anna uses this 40-Liter which is big enough for an overnight but has to be packed carefully. The 65-Liter is bigger and adjusts to a larger size. Similar to the High Sierra pack, either can be loaded to more than the 20% of body weight target for a safe hike.
This bag has all the fancy features of the nicer adult-sized bags but is sized for kids. 70L is a lot of capacity, suitable for a long trip.
This pack costs less than most of the other options. It has plenty of grow room, and is often recommended for scouts. It has the padded belt and shoulder straps you need, plus plenty of room to carry gear.
Just a few things from the 10 Essentials list that we need to make sure we have on any camping trip. Every scout should have their own flashlight and will age into the rest of these.
Hiking meals should be simple and easy to make with minimal supplies. You can pack jerky and trail mix, granola bars, other simple things like that. Another option is dehydrated meals in pouches. They are easy to prepare and there are lots of different options.
These are all “nice-to-have” items that make camping more comfortable. But you have to balance that comfort against having to transport them or set them up.
This chair can fold down to fit in a compact stuff sack and weighs only 2 pounds.
Richard took one of these on the backpacking trip in October and was glad to have it with him. It folds down small to go in or on your backpack.
On the other end of the spectrum is the camping cot. This is the style that Richard has for when we go car camping. It is big (80×44 inches) and weighs 25 pounds. But it is easy to set up and I highly recommend one for the adults who want to camp but can’t get comfortable sleeping on the ground.
Another option for avoiding sleeping on the ground is a hammock. You have to plan carefully for using one of these. Not all sites have good trees for putting up a hammock and not all campgrounds will allow you to hang something around the trees. But if the site allows it, these can be a great option for folks who don’t like tents.
This is another style of hammock that includes a tarp cover. Because it always rains when we camp.
Having the right kind of clothing is important too. For the most part, any durable, comfortable clothing is good for camping. You want to have things that layer well, fit close but not tight, and are easy to get in and out of. Here are a few things to think about when packing clothing for camp.
You always need more socks than you think you do. You want to change socks every night before you go to bed. Sleeping in socks you wore all day is a recipe for cold toes. Sturdy socks designed for hiking are better than your typical athletic sock for camping. They are designed to keep you warm and prevent chafing.
Hiking boots can be a bit heavy and awkward for kids who don’t wear that style shoe much. Another option to try are Trail Runners. These are like tennis shoes but for outdoors. They are waterproof and have good traction but a softer shell that is more comfortable and lighter weight.
Pants that can convert to shorts are efficient and fun! Columbia makes high quality convertible pants in a verity of colors and styles for everyone.
If the zipper around your leg seems weird, another scouty option to consider are these quick-drying cargo pants. Lots of pockets to hold all your essentials and a partially elastic waist, so they grow with your kid.
There is no such thing as bad weather. There is only bad gear! These rain jackets by Columbia are great. They can pack up small, the hood can be hidden in the collar, and they just last forever.