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No trace nights away

When you leave your place, leave no trace. Plan and run a spy or ninja-themed night away.

You will need

  • Scrap card
  • Pens or pencils
  • Camping equipment, as needed for your programme
  • Spare tents, as needed

Before you begin

  • Let everyone know that you’ll be running a spy or ninja-themed night away (they can choose which) over a weekend, where the aim of the game is to not let anyone know you were there. Share with everyone these leave-no-trace principles. Explain that there will be secret missions to complete, which should be a mix of adventurous activities, team games and challenges. Try and make these as challenging and engaging as possible by involving your group in the preparations. We’ve provided some suggestions for these below, but you could tailor the camp to fit into your programme. Just remember to leave enough time to cook, clean and rest, and some time slots for structured free time.
  • You’ll need the appropriate nights away permit for the camp you’re running. As well as following all the usual nights away and practical skills guidance, you should have a look at the Nights Away book, which offers more detail to help plan and run a safe camp.
  • Make a suitable supervision plan that allows everyone the chance to work independently where appropriate in a safe environment.
  • Think carefully about the location for your camp. What you’ll need will depend on what missions you’re running, your accessibility needs and what time of year it is. Something like this is usually best run at sites with lots of space that allow open fires and for tarps and hammocks to be hung.
  • Get the group involved with planning your menu too. Check for any dietary requirements and preferences. An evening session spent planning the weekend camp could be useful.
  • Once the missions have been settled on, prepare mission cards for each one.

Set the scene

  1. Upon arrival at your weekend camp, show everyone around so they can see the terrain, facilities and boundaries. Make sure everyone is aware of all the relevant emergency procedures, such as what to do in the event of a fire. When you’ve done this, start to think about the goal of the camp: leaving no trace.
  1. Explain how the missions will work and set out ground rules. Everyone should need to work together to complete the challenges. Introduce the first mission.

Spy out some shelter

  1. You could start by spying out some shelter for the night. Everyone should pretend they’re a spy out in the wild, who must use what they have to find somewhere to spend the night. They could use natural materials or limited resources to make a shelter to keep them warm, dry and under cover. Strongest shelter challenge and Seeking shelter could work well, with a spy-themed twist, or you could try Tarp ten ways and Survival shelters.
  1. Give everyone time to find a spot and build their shelters. Leave some time at the end for everyone to show their shelters to the rest of the group, and for builders to make some final adjustments. Have an adult check the shelters to see if they’re substantial enough to last the night and keep everyone warm, dry and covered.

Track down dinner

  1. Now, you could run a mission to find something to eat. This is best run in small groups. One way to do this is to bring along ingredients and have the groups complete some challenges to earn each one. You could run the Tracking down dinner activity.
  2. Light a fire for everyone to use to cook their meal. Here’s some advice on lighting and cooking on fires. Remind everyone to wash their hands before handling food, and to dispose of any rubbish or leftovers safely and discreetly. Remember that they don’t want anyone to know they’re there!


The final mission

  1. The final mission could be to make sure no-one would be able to tell where you were staying. Everyone should move around the site and make sure everything is left as you first found it. Take down shelters and put natural materials back where they came from. Do a litter pick around your area of the site and make sure the rubbish is disposed of appropriately. Put out your fire, sweep the pit and replace any turfs, doing whatever you can to return the ground to its former state.
  2. Once you’re all tidy, think about running a Scouts Own to reflect on the weekend. If you’ve not run one before, check out A world of our Scout’s Own for some ideas.


Having a campfire is a great way to end the day when you’re on a night away. As well as singing some songs and toasting marshmallows, be sure to make time to stop, chill out and reflect on the day. Ask everyone to think about what they enjoyed most about the day and see if anyone wants to share with the group. If it’s the second day, ask how everyone found their first night’s sleep. If they stayed in shelters, how was it different to their normal bedroom? What could’ve been made better, or did anyone think that their shelter was ideal?

Can anyone think of anything they’ve done that day to help leave no trace or reduce their impact on the environment? Spending time outside is all about hanging out with friends and making the most of the great outdoors. It’s also about making sure we make responsible choices to help protect the area we’re in, so that others can visit the same places and enjoy them too.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. 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.

Hiking and walking

Follow the guidance for activities in Terrain Zero, or the guidance from the adventure page.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed.


Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.

Fires and stoves

Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.


Check for allergies before you begin and read the guidance on food safety. Make sure you have suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods.


This activity has specific rules and systems to make sure it’s managed safely. Visit the adventure page for more information.