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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

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Pitch a patrol tent

Turn a tent into a home, as you pitch a patrol tent and prepare for your next night away.

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You’ll need

  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 paper
  • Canvas patrol tents
  • Camping equipment
Teach me about tents
PDF – 254.4KB

To watch in full screen, double click the video

To watch in full screen, double click the video

To watch in full screen, double click the video

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment.
  • Make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely. 
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Setting up this activity

  • You’ll need one tent for each small group of four to six people. It doesn’t matter if they’re not the same model or size. 
  • You’ll need a wooden mallet if you have wooden pegs. Rubber mallets are for metal pegs.
  • You could ask to borrow tents if you don’t have enough – other volunteers, friends and family, or other local groups may be able to help. Let people know what you’ll be using the tents for. If people have their own items of kit, or you’re borrowing kit, make sure they’re/you’re familiar with it and make sure it’s labelled/named. 
  • Check the tents before you begin, so you know there aren’t any missing or broken parts.
  • The camping equipment will depend on how you’re doing this activity – whether you’re doing it during a night away (when you’ll have everything you need with you), or as a practise.
  • If you’re practising, bring key items, such as sleeping bags, boots, ground mats, rucksacks, waterproof jackets, string, first aid kits, toilet roll, water bottles and bin bags.
  • If you want this activity to count towards the Scouts Outdoor Challenge Award, you’ll need to do it during a night away.
  • Decide where you’ll pitch your tents. Ideally, you’ll be spread out, but you could do it indoors or outdoors, as long as it’s dry.
  • If you need to remind yourself about types of tents and tent pitching, Scout Adventures have some really helpful resources. They also have a video with pitching in a tent. It focuses on lightweight tents, but a lot of the advice is transferable.

Pitch the tent

  1. Gather everyone together and explain that you’re going to pitch a patrol tent.
  2. Ask everyone to get into a group of four, five or six people.
  3. Everyone should find a suitable piece of flat ground or floor to pitch the tent. Each group should make sure there’s plenty of space between them and any other groups putting up tents of any kind – including enough space to move the poles around safely.
  4. Ask if anyone knows any tips for where to pitch a mess tent. Where possible, people should avoid pitching under trees, or on the banks of rivers or lakes. They should also make sure the door’s not facing into the wind. If they’re indoors, they shouldn’t pitch near doors or furniture, and fire escapes shouldn’t be obstructed.
  5. Everyone should clear the area of any obstacles, such as rocks, where the tent or their group’s tent will be pitched in. 
  6. Each group can now pitch their tent, following the manufacturer’s instructions for their tent to pitch it.
  7. There’s lots of roles people can take on while pitching the tent, so some people may want to direct or check the instructions.

How to pitch a patrol tent

We’ve included some general guidance, based on common features and steps, below. You may want to share this, depending on the instructions that come with the tent.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the model of tent you’re using.

  1. Carefully empty the bag and lay the tent and its parts on the ground.
  2. Lay out the groundsheet and peg in each corner.
  3. Put the ridge and upright poles together.
  4. Gently feed the ridgepole through all of the loops attached to the ridge of the tent. Don’t tread on the canvas – if you need to, you could take off your shoes and crawl on your hands and knees.
  5. Sort the tent pegs into different sizes.
  6. Put the spikes on the upright poles through the holes and eyelets in the ridgepoles.
  7. Fold the tent over the ridge.
  8. Use the four large pegs to secure the main guy lines.
  9. Put the dollies (which are attached to the storm guys) over the spikes of the upright poles.
  10. Stand the tent upright. Raise both ends at the same time to avoid bending the spikes.
  11. Lace or tie up the doors of the tent.
  12. Peg out the door and corner brailings.
  13. Use the larger pegs to peg out the corner guy lines.
  14. Peg out the side guy lines. The pegs should be parallel with the ridgepole, and the guy lines should follow the tent seams.
  15. Loop the brailings and use the smaller pegs to peg them out. This should keep the tent walls vertical. Looping the brailings will stop them slipping off the peg.


Organise the patrol tent

  1. Everyone should stay in the same groups. They should get some paper and a pen.
  2. Give each group a scenario. We’ve included some suggestions on this page, though you could adapt them or add your own.
  3. Each group should work together to organise their patrol tent and belongings to suit their scenario. They can also use the paper to write a kit list – what don’t they have that they’d need in their scenario?
  4. After a few minutes, gather everyone back together and chat through each scenario, as well as what was packed. With each group’s scenario, everyone should chat through about what type of campsite would be best for each scenario. What facilities would they need, and where would they pitch their tent? People could make notes or draw a quick picture if they think this will help them remember what they talked about.
  5. If you wanted to do this in a more active way, you could all move between the tents. You can take it in turns to explore the others groups’ tents. The groups ‘hosting’ should explain their decisions and how they tackled the challenge.
  6. Finally, in a circle, ask if anyone has any final hints and tips for camping in their scenario. For example, would any camp gadgets make the experience easier?
  • Dry heatwave: The weather’s super-hot and dry – it hasn’t rained for ages! You’ll need to think carefully about keeping cool. How will you stay hydrated in the night?
  • Stormy summer: It’s warm outside, but it’s also windy and pouring down with rain. You’ll need to think carefully about how you’ll stay dry and keep cool. Has anyone heard of ‘storm setting’ a tent? What does it involve?
  • Heavy snowfall: It’s a winter camp and the snow’s falling! Thankfully, you were prepared and you packed plenty of extra layers to keep you warm and dry, but the campsite’s really poorly lit. You’ll also have to be careful so you don’t tread snow into the tent or leave the doors open for too long. How will you secure your pegs with all the loose snow?
  • Water activities in the spring: Everyone’s enjoyed their time on the water – but now they’re exhausted and absolutely soaked! You’ll need to think about whether all of the wet clothes and equipment go into the tent. How will you keep the important stuff dry?


Strike the tent

  1. Everyone, or each group, should remove all of their equipment from the tent.
  2. Now, people can work together to take down their tent. This is usually the reverse to pitching it, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  3. If you can, it’s best to wait until the tent’s dry before you take it down. 
  4. Next, people should make sure the parts of their tent are clean and dry before they’re packed away. People can scrape or wipe excess dirt and grass from the sides of the canvas and the pegs. People should double-check that they’ve collected and securely stored all the frame components.
  • Turn the groundsheet upside down to dry it off. Use a dustpan and brush (or a damp cloth) to wipe any grass or dirt off.
  • Tie guy lines before you start to pack away, so they don’t get tangled. Make sure they’re completely dry before you tie them.
  • When you’re removing tent pegs, gently tap them backwards and forwards to loosen them. Avoid hitting them on the flat sides, they may split or break.
  • Shake or scrape dirt from pegs and leave them to dry before you pack them away.


This activity was all about learning to put up a patrol tent. Is putting up a patrol tent a useful skill? People may think about how parts of putting up a patrol tent, such as communication and patience, can be useful for other tasks.

Organisation makes it much easier to get ready for adventures, means you’re less likely to lose or break things, and keeps everything tidy and dry. Was it tricky to know how to respond to different scenarios? Had anyone experienced any of the scenarios before? What will people do differently next time they camp?

This activity also needed people to have good teamwork and communication. How did you communicate with others? Did you make sure everyone could contribute and take part? What went well and what could have gone better? 

Which part of this activity needed the most teamwork? Did people find it easier to work together on some tasks than others? 

Did people take on different roles in the team? For example, the people most familiar with pitching tents might not have been the best planners when it came to organising.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Heavy and awkward objects

Never lift or move heavy or awkward items alone. Ask for help or, if possible, break them down into smaller parts.

  • To make it easier, introduce beginners to patrol tents by putting up half of the tent and challenging them to make the other half symmetrical, and then they can pitch their own tent. You could also mark the different components with coloured tape or stickers to make it easier to identify the parts.
  • To make it harder, and if people are feeling confident, challenge them to pitch their tents together and create a patrol tent palace or kingdom.
  • If anyone may struggle to lift the tent parts or pitch the tent, they could help tell everyone what to do and lead the building.
  • If needed, let people be in bigger groups to make sure everyone’s supported in taking part in the activity. A young leader could join a group to help people to take part, too.
  • People could take part in building the tent while sat down. 

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Why not combine the tent building with another skill or a game? For example, you could play Hide and Seek or pass Morse code messages from tent to tent 

Let young people steer this activity – they should work together to practise these important outdoor skills. It’s up to them to make the most of their own tents.