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Camp Practices

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Scouting for Boys

Campfire Yarn Number 9


Comfort in Camp 

Camp Equipment

Camp Pitching 

Fire Building  

Camp Practices


Some people talk of "roughing it" in camp. Well, a tenderfoot may find it rough and uncomfortable. But there is no "roughing it" for an old Scout; he knows how to look after himself and make himself comfortable. If he has no tent, he doesn't sit down to shiver and grouse, but sets to work to rig up a shelter or hut for himself. He chooses a good spot for it where he is not likely to be flooded out if a storm of rain were to come on. Then he lights a camp fire, and makes himself a soft mattress of ferns or straw.

An old Scout is full of resource. He can find a way out of any difficulty or discomfort. 

When you go camping, you must first decide where you will have your camp, and then what kind of camp it shall be.

The nearer it is to your homes, the less will be the expense of travelling.

To my mind, the best place for a camp is in or close by a wood where you have permission to cut firewood and to build huts. So if you know of an owner in your neighborhood who may let you use a corner of his wood, there is your chance. Inside a wood the ground may be damp and the trees will continue dripping in wet weather. Be on the look-out for this. If you build good rainproof huts, you need no tents.

The seaside also gives some good camp grounds if you find a place where boats are available and bathing possible. Sometimes you can get the use of a boathouse to live in. Don't forget that you will want good water and some firewood.

Or you can go to mountains, moor, or river, and get permission to pitch your camp.

In choosing the camp site, always think what it would be if the weather became very rainy and windy. Choose the driest and most sheltered spot, not too far away from your water supply. Remember that a good water supply is of first importance. And make sure that your drinking water is pure.

Tramping Camps

Instead of a fixed or "standing camp", many Scouts prefer a "tramping camp".

Of course, it is much better fun to go over new country. But to make a tramping camp enjoyable you want good weather.

In arranging your tramp, your first point will be to select the line of country you want to visit, and mark out from the map where you will halt each night. You will find that about five miles a day is as much as you will want to do.

You might want to make a trek-cart for carrying your tents, blankets, waterproof sheets, and so on.

At the end of each day's march you would get permission from a farmer to pitch your camp in his field, or get the use of his barn to sleep in-especially if the weather be wet.

The "ridge tent" or "wall tent" is one of the favorite tent


Before you know which type of tent you will want, you must decide whether it will be wanted for a standing or moving camp.

For a standing camp, from which you don't mean to move, I prefer the kind used by explorers called a ridge tent or wall tent. They are unequalled for comfort and for making the camp look neat. If they have fly-sheets, they will be quite waterproof, even if you touch the inside of the tent, and the fly-sheet will keep the tent cool in hot sunshine and warm in frosty weather.

Smaller Scout tents also do very well for camp if you can have two or more for each Patrol. You can make your own tent during the winter months-and this, perhaps, is the best way of all, as it comes cheapest in the end. And if, while you are about it, you make one or two extra ones, you may be able to sell them at a good profit.

Where the expense of tents prohibits buying them, remember that used tents may often be hired for a week or more at small cost.

Camp Equipment

Your next point is to look to the equipment--that is to say, what you will need in the way of cooking gear, buckets, tools and so on. Here is a rough list of things that are useful in a standing camp, but they will not all be necessary in a bivouac or tramping camp:

For Tent-

bullet lantern and candles, 
bullet matches, 
bullet mallet, 
bullet basin, 
bullet spade, 
bullet axe, 
bullet hank of cord, 
bullet Patrol flag, 
bulletstrap for hanging things on the tent pole.

For Kitchen-

bulletSaucepan or stewpot, 
bullet fry-pan, 
bullet kettle, 
bullet gridiron, 
bullet matches, 
bullet bucket, 
bullet butcher's knife, 
bullet ladle, 
bullet cleaning rags, 
bullet bags for potatoes, etc.


For Each Scout-

bulletWaterproof sheet, 
bullet two blankets, 
bullet cord or strap for tying them up, 
bullet straw mattress (to be made in camp- twine and straw required), 
bullet ration bags. 

It is important that enough sleeping bags or blankets be provided to enable each Scout to make up a separate bed.

Personal Equipment--Each Scout will need:

bulletComplete Scout Uniform, including hat Pajamas or change for night
bulletSweater Mending materials
bulletRain coat 
bullet Plates, cup or mug
bulletSpare shoes 
bullet Knife, fork and spoon
bulletBathing suit 
bullet Matches
bullet Haversack or pack
bullet Soap, comb, brush, toothbrush, in toilet bag

An old camper always has with him in camp three or four little linen bags for carrying his provisions. Of course, he makes these for himself before going out into camp.

The ration bag need not be bigger than 6 inches deep by 3 inches wide, and should have a tape run through the hem of the neck with which to draw it tight.

While you are about it, it is also useful to make yourself some bigger bags to keep odds and ends in, in camp-such as string, spare buttons, needle case, scissors, and so on.

I have linen bags, too, for putting my boots into when packing up. It prevents them from dirtying the clothes among which they are packed.


If fresh meat is used, be sure that it is fresh, and remember that eggs, rice, and porridge keep better. Fruit is easy to stew and good to eat. Chocolate is very useful in camp and on the march.

A good kind of bread for camp is what the Boers and most South African hunters use, and that is "rusks". Rusks are easily made. You buy a stale loaf at the baker's at half-price, cut it up into thick slices or square junks, and then bake these in an oven or toast them before a hot fire till they are quite hard. They do very well instead of bread. Soft bread easily gets damp and sour and stale in camp.

Making Camp

In Scout camps the tents are not pitched in lines and streets as in military camps, but are dotted about in Patrol units, fifty or a hundred yards apart or more, in a big circle round the Scoutmaster's tent, which, with the flag and camp fire, is generally in the centre.

Pitching Tents

When you have chosen the spot for your camp, pitch your tent with the door away from the wind.

This trench should lead the water away downhill. Dig a small hole the size of a teacup alongside the foot of the pole into which to shift it if rain comes on. This enables you to slack up all ropes at once to allow for their shrinking when they get wet.


You can smile at the rain if you have pitched your tent properly.


Water Supply

If there is a spring or stream, the best part of it must be kept strictly clear and clean for drinking water. Farther downstream, a place may be appointed for bathing, washing clothes, and so on.

The greatest care is always taken by Scouts to keep their drinking water supply very clean, otherwise they may get sickness among them.

All water has a large number of germs in it, too small to be seen without the help of a microscope. Some of them are dangerous, some are not. You can't tell whether the dangerous ones are there, so if you are in doubt about the water, it is safest to kill all the germs by boiling the water. Then let it cool again before drinking it. In boiling the water, don't let it merely come to a boil, and then take it off, but let it boil fully for a quarter of an hour, as germs are very tough customers, and take a lot of boiling before they get killed.


The cooking fire is made to leeward, or down wind of the camp, so that the smoke and sparks from the fire don't blow into the tents. Cooking fires are described on pages 124-127.

Old Scouts always take special care to keep the kitchen particularly clean, as, if scraps are left lying about, flies collect and are very likely to poison the food, and this may bring sickness to the Scouts.

 Arriving in camp brimming over with hopes
He finds out that tents are supported by ropes.

So keep the camp kitchen and the ground around it very clean at all times.

To do this you will want a wet and a dry pit. These are holes about eighteen inches square and at least two feet deep. The top of the wet one is covered with a layer of straw or grass, and all greasy water is poured through this into the pit. The covering collects the grease in the water and prevents it from clogging up the ground. The straw or grass should be burnt every day and renewed.

Into the dry pit is put everything else that will not burn. Tin cans should be burnt first and then hammered out flat before being put in the dry pit. Burn everything you can or your pit will very soon be full. The rubbish should be covered with a layer of earth every evening.


Another very important point for the health of the Scouts is to dig a trench to serve as a latrine. On reaching the camping ground the latrine is the very first thing to attend to-and all Scouts bear this in mind.

Before pitching tents or lighting the fire the latrine is dug and screens erected around it. The trench should be two feet deep, three feet long, and one foot wide, so that the user can squat astride of it, one foot on each side. A thick sprinkling of earth should be thrown in after use, and the whole trench carefully filled in with earth after a few days' use.

There should also be a wet latrine made by digging a hole and half-filling it with stones for drainage.

Even in a one-night camp, Scouts should dig a latrine trench. And when rearing away from camp a Scout will always dig a small pit a few inches deep, which he will fill in again after use. Neglect of this not only makes a place unhealthy, but also makes farmers and landowners disinclined to give the use of their ground for Scouts to camp on. So don't forget it, Scouts!

A bulletin board may be put up for "Standing Orders" 
and "Camp Routine". Notice the Patrol dining room 
in the background.

Camp Routine

Here are two suggested time-tables for the day:

bullet7:00 a.m. Turn out, air bed, wash, etc.
bullet8:00 a.m. Hoist the flag; prayers: (It may be found better to have this directly after inspection.)
bullet8:15 a.m. Breakfast.
bullet9:45 a.m. Inspection
bullet10:00 a.m. Scouting practice. Swimming
bullet1:00 p.m. Lunch
bullet1:30-2:30 p.m. Rest (compulsory)
bullet2:30-5:30 p.m. Scouting games in neighborhood. Swimming
bullet6:30 p.m. Dinner, followed by free time
bullet8:30-9:30 p.m. Camp fire
bullet(Or 9:00-11:00 p.m. Night practices.)
bullet9:30 p.m. Turn in
bullet10:00 p.m. Lights out. Silence in camp


bullet7:00 a.m. Turn out, air bed, wash, etc. 8:00 a.m. Flag break; prayers
bullet8:15 a.m. Breakfast
bullet10:00 a.m. Inspection
bullet10:15 a.m. -12 noon. Scouting activities
bullet1:00 p.m. Dinner.
bullet1:30-2:30 p.m. Quiet hour
bullet2:30-5:00 p.m. Wide games
bullet5:00 p.m. Tea and biscuits
bullet5:30-8:00 p.m. Recreation and camp games
bullet8:00 p.m. Cocoa
bullet8:30-9:30 p.m. Camp fire 
bullet 10:00 p.m. Lights out

Bathing and Swimming

When in camp, bathing will be one of your joys and one of your duties-a joy because it is such fun, a duty because no Scout can consider himself a full-blown Scout until he is able to swim and to save life in the water. But there are dangers about bathing for which every sensible Scout will be prepared...

There should always be a bathing guard posted, while bathing is going on, of two good swimmers, who will not bathe themselves but will be ready, undressed, prepared to jump in at any moment and help a bather if he is in difficulties. The guards should not bathe until the others have left the water, and a life line must be available.

Many lives are lost every summer through foolishness on the part of boys bathing, because they don't think of these things. Bathing must only be permitted in safe places and under strict supervision.


Be careful to get permission from the owners of land before you go on to it. You have no right to go anywhere off the roads without leave, but most owners will give you this if you go and tell them who you are and what you want to do.

When going over their land remember above all things:

  1. Leave all gates as you found them.
  2. Disturb animals and game as little as you possibly can.
  3. Do no damage to fences, crops, or trees.

Any firewood that you require you must ask for before taking it. And be careful not to take out of hedges dead wood which is being used to fill up a gap.

Loafers in Camp

A camp is a roomy place. But there is no room in it for one chap, and that is the fellow who does not want to take his share in the many little odd jobs that have to be done. There is no room for the shirker or the grouser-well, there is no room for them in the Boy Scouts at all, but least of all in camp.

Every fellow must help, and help cheerily in making it comfortable for all. In this way comradeship grows.

Plenty of blankets below-he'd been told.
But Tommy knew better-and so he got cold.


Camp Beds

There are many ways of making a comfortable bed in camp, but always have a waterproof sheet over the ground between your body and the earth. Cut grass or straw or bracken is good to lay down thickly where you are going to lie.

I think you never find out how full of corners you are till you have to sleep on a hard bit of ground where you cannot get straw or grass.

Of course, every Scout knows that the worst corner in him is his hip-bone, and if you have to sleep on hard ground the secret of comfort is to scoop out a little hole, about the size of a tea-cup, where your hip-bone will rest. It makes all the difference to your sleeping.

Your night's rest is an important thing; a fellow who does not get a good sleep at night soon knocks up, and cannot get through a day's work like the one who sleeps in comfort. So my best advice is: Make a good thick straw mattress for yourself.

Making a Mattress

To make a mattress, set up a camp loom and weave it out of bracken, ferns, heather, straw, or grass, six feet long, and two feet nine inches across. With this same loom you can make straw mats, with which to form tents, or shelters, or walls (page 133).

Another good way of giving yourself a comfortable bed is to make a big bag of canvas or stout linen, 6 ft. long and 3 ft. wide. This will do to roll up your kit in for travelling. When you are in camp you can stuff it with straw, or leaves, or bracken etc., and use it as a nice soft mattress.

A pillow is also a useful thing for comfort in camp. For this you only need a strong pillow-case about two feet long by one foot wide. This you can also make for yourself. It will serve as your clothes-bag by day and your pillow by night with your clothes, neatly rolled and packed in it, serving as the stuffing.

I have often used my boots as a pillow, rolled up in a coat so that they don't slip apart. 

Camp Dodges

Camp candlesticks can be made by bending a bit of wire into a small spiral spring; or by using a cleft stick stuck in the wall; or by sticking the candle upright in a lump of clay or in a hole bored in a big potato. A glass candle shade can be made by cutting the bottom off a bottle and sticking it upside down in the ground with a candle in the neck. The bottom of the battle may be cut off by putting about an inch or an inch and a half of water into the bottle, and then standing it in the embers of the fire till it gets hot and cracks at the water-level. Or it can be done by passing a piece of string round the body of the bottle, and drawing it rapidly to and fro till it makes a hot line round the bottle, which then breaks neatly off with a blow, or on being immersed in cold water. But remember that cut glass is a dangerous thing in camp.

You can make a camp candlestick in a number of different ways.

How to Squat

It is something to know how to sit down in a wet camp. You "squat" instead of sitting. Natives in India squat on their heels, but this is a tiring way if you have not done it as a child. It comes easy if you put a sloping stone or chock of wood under your heels.

South African Boers and other camp men squat on one heel. It is a little tiring at first.


The old camper has his own way of squatting, to keep off the ground.

Part Two: Fire







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.