Boy Scout Troop 70

Guide to Buying Gear

Probably the most frequent questions we get from new Scouts and parents concerns the purchase of camping equipment.  Here are some general tips to help you get started.

What equipment does the troop provide?

The troop owns several serviceable tents, stoves, water jugs, cooking utensils, plates and cups, dishwashing supplies and tools.  We do not have sleeping bags, clothing, packs or silverware, or anything listed in the Outdoor Essentials in the Scout Handbook.  The Scout needs to provide those.  See the information in our Troop Handbook.

What do we need right away?

Generally, we do car camping for most outings.  This means we do not need a lot of ultrallight backpacking gear, at least for the first few years.  The most basic pieces of equipment are a sleeping bag and a ground pad.  You really cannot get by without something for sleeping.  The purpose of the ground pad, in addition to comfort, is to keep the camper warm by preventing heat loss into the cold ground.  Following close behind is a pair of hiking boots and good socks.  You also need eating utensils, a water bottle and something to carry your stuff.  Look in the Troop Handbook  or Scout Handbook for a list of the Outdoor Essentials.

Where should we shop for gear?

Several places in and around Boulder carry camping gear.  First, we have a troop used equipment/uniform exchange that might have what you need.  As for stores, we do not endorse any.  The following are just places for you to start looking.

Play-It-Again Sports sometimes has serviceable equipment.  The Boulder Army Store has good prices, and gives a 10% discount if you show your Boy Scout membership card.  Eastern Mountain Sports is a good source, and also offers a discount to Scouts. REI does not have a Scout discount, but does have a rebate program for members.  Lowe-Alpine has a factory outlet store in Broomfield that occasionally has great deals on packs and other clothing.

There are several mail-order sources for equipment.  Campmor offers a Scout discount if the order is on Troop stationery, which you can get on request.  Other sources are Cabelas and Sierra Trading Post, which has an outlet store in Cheyenne, WY.

You can find good deals at places like Wal-Mart, Target and CostCo, but be careful.  Some of the equipment is not constructed to last.

What kind of sleeping bag do we need?

In April-September, you need a sleeping bag rated around +20 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you do not want to buy a bag, one can be made from blankets and blanket pins...we can show you how.  A winter bag needs to go down to about -20 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are ways to get there without buying such a bag.

If you decide to buy a bag, a mummy bag is best.  The filler can be synthetic or down.  Which to choose is an argument approaching religious intensity.  The main advantage of down is it provides the most warmth for the weight,  The advantages of synthetic fills are easier care and they provide some warmth even when wet.

Another important thing about sleeping bags is storage.  They should spend as little time in their stuff sacks as possible.  If they are stored in the stuff sacks, the fill gets compressed and forgets how to "fluff up" to keep you warm.  The best way to store a bag is to hang it from cup hooks in the basement rafters.  Most bags have loops on the bottom.  If not, you can add them easily.

What kind of ground pad do we need?

There are lots of choices.  The most comfortable is ThermaRest, but it is bulky and expensive.  Closed-cell foam is a good, cheap alternative.

What kind of footwear should we get?

A good pair of sturdy hiking boots that fits properly is important.  The places we camp tend to be rocky, and soft sport-shoe soles do not provide sufficient protection.  Socks should be synthetic or wool, not cotton, and have sufficient padding.

What kind of water bottle and eating gear should we have?

Plastic utensils are best.  Several places have kevlar utensils that are light and almost unbreakable.  Wide-mouth Nalgene water bottles are sturdy and convenient.

What about a tent?

The troop owns several tents the Scouts are welcome to use as long as they like.  They are heavy, bulky and hard to set up, but they work well.  As time goes by, most Scouts get their own tents.  The best choice is a two-man, three-season backpacking tent.  New Scouts tend to migrate into other Scout's tents over time.  This lets them try out various styles to see what they like when they get their own.  When you get a tent, be sure to get a ground cloth to protect the bottom from sharp objects.  Also look for one with a full-coverage rain fly.  This keeps you and your stuff dryer in a rainstorm.

How do we carry all this stuff?

Unless we are on a backpacking trip, a real backpack is not necessary, although it is great if you have one.  For car camping, some sort of duffel is good.  Suitcases do not work at all.  In general, the fewer pieces you carry, the better.  Pack everything in plastic bags inside the pack/duffel (ZipLock-type bags are ideal.)  This keeps things dry in case the outer container leaks, or in case something in your pack springs a leak.

What about winter gear?

This is something we cover in detail in September or October.  You can find the information in How to Keep Warm in Cold Weather.

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Last Modified:  Tuesday, 14-Jan-2003 21:25:02 MST
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