Your First Trip

Scouting differs from Cub Scouting in a number of ways. One is that in Cub Scouts, the adults are the leaders, while in Scouts the Scouts are the leaders.  Another is that in Scouts, parents aren’t mandated to attend trips. While we encourage parents to be involved with the Troop, and you are invited to attend any trip, please make sure that you stay home for one or two of your scout’s first few trips. They need to adjust to the idea that when they need help, they should get that help from their patrol leader, not from Mom or Dad. And they need to start developing independence and being responsible for their own advancement, which will happen faster if they find themselves in situations where they have to depend on themselves and the Patrol/Troop infrastructure.  Your Scout will tend to come to you and ask things like “when are we going to eat?” or “how do I set up my tent?” The appropriate response from a parent (and the response he’ll get from any of the adult leaders) is “Why are you asking me that? Go ask your patrol leader.”

For the first few ranks (Scout to First Class), most advancement happens on trips. It is imperative that Scouts bring their Scout handbooks along, so that advancement achievements can be signed off. Please make sure your scout’s book has their name in it, so when it gets misplaced we can see that it is returned to them! In Cub Scouting, parents sign off for many advancement requirements. In Scouts, parents can’t sign for anything (except for merit badge requirements, and then only if you are a registered counselor for that merit badge). In Troop 3, adult leaders usually won’t sign off on advancement requirements either (except for Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review). The older Scouts are supposed to not only teach skills to the younger Scouts, but also to ensure that the skills have been learned by testing them and signing off on them. The patrol leader is ultimately responsible for advancement within the patrol, but can and should delegate to any qualified Scout to teach skills and to sign off for them. Qualified means that the Scout signing off must already have the rank being worked on and in fact should be a Star scout or higher rank. Thus, a Star Scout could sign off on a requirement for a Tenderfoot Scout working on his 2nd Class rank. This is an important responsibility, and one that represents a beginning of the Scout’s leadership career.

New Scouts should begin immediately working on their Scout rank. It isn’t hard, but will require them to participate in at least a couple of outings, and it will give them an idea of how the advancement system works. Once they have completed the requirements, they will need to arrange for a Scoutmaster conference. There is no Board of Review for the Scout Rank. Once achieved, the Scout should start on the Tenderfoot rank. With the Tenderfoot rank and there-after, the Scout will need to get a Scoutmaster conference and a  Board of Review after completing the ranks requirements, although the Scoutmaster conference may be done before completing all requirements. The board is not an ordeal, rather, it is a chance for the adult leadership of the troop to get to know the Scout, help him set goals for his Scouting career, and generally to make sure that things are working well for him within the troop.  Boards of Review are scheduled monthly, but are also convened on camp outs when appropriate.  The Scout must be in uniform for both the Scoutmaster conference and board of review.

It is important to realize that the Scout can begin working on 2nd Class and 1st Class requirements immediately – there is no need to wait until achieving Tenderfoot. He should be looking ahead and taking advantage of opportunities to do things like cooking over an open fire or other requirements for which opportunities may not be frequent. He can also begin working on merit badges at any time – summer camp is a great opportunity to get started on this. We find that once Scouts reach Tenderfoot, they understand the system and will advance on to Second and First without problems, but occasional parental encouragement and reminders are always good.

Back to the trips. You already know they’ll need their handbook, and will need to think a little before they go about what requirements they might be able to achieve on the trip. They’ll need a few basic items as mentioned before (mess kit, spoon/ spork, flashlight, toothbrush).  Of course they’ll need clothes.  Scouts are required to wear their class B uniforms during the travel phase of any trip. Usually, when we reach the camp or trail head, the Scouts will change into something more trip appropriate, like a troop t-shirt, and will leave the khaki shirt in the car. Usually, for Friday evening travel, they’ll need to bring a sack lunch that can be eaten in the car or on arrival – the troop usually does not attempt to cook on Friday nights, although most times snacks (“cracker barrel”) will be served.  Other than this, they should not bring along any personal food or drink (other than water) of any kind unless specifically told to do so.  Scouts are supposed to participate in their patrol’s meal planning process (which is the time to speak up about any special food needs or preferences), and are expected to cook and eat with their patrol. There is an old Scouting saying “No Scout ever starved to death on a weekend camp out” although probably many thought they would. Of course if a Scout has special dietary needs they should speak to the Scoutmaster about accommodations – this should be done well in advance of the camp out. Such requests made after food has been purchased for the trip probably cannot be accommodated.

Scouts should follow the gear list for each trip as it changes depending on the activity.  Parents are encouraged to help the scout pack for the first few trips.  For backpacking trips or HATs there will be a full gear shakedown on the meeting prior to the trip.  Anything missing will have to be added before the scout is allowed to go on the trip. After a few trips they’ll probably know pretty much what they need and can be responsible for their own packing, but it is helpful for a parent to supervise packing or at least inspect the results for the first few trips.

We are blessed with a variety of good camping spots that are not very far away; so most troop travel is relatively short.  Scouts are expected to be able to entertain themselves during longer travel, and the ideal mechanism is with a good book.  A deck of cards or a magnetic chess or checkerboard can also be a good choice if other Scouts in the car share the same interest.

All Scouts are expected to pitch in and help with camp chores – in fact; each patrol will have a duty roster with specific assignments for cooking, cleanup, and other camp work.  The Scouts need to understand that this cooperation is what enables everyone to have free time for hiking, playing, fishing, and working on advancements.  Your Scout will likely come home and talk about all the work he had to do, but hopefully they’ll also talk about how much fun it was and how much they learned.  If you get one without the other, please bring it to the attention of one of the adult leaders so we can make sure all is well.

There are lots of good references available about camping skills and equipment. The Scout Handbook, which your Scout should already have, is a great starting place. See also the Scout Field Book and of course this Troop 3 Handbook.

That should be enough to help you be ready for his first trip.