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Planning COVID-safe nights away in 2021

During 2021 we are seeing a gradual return to nights away activities in all jurisdictions. Check the readiness level table for the allowances and restrictions in your jurisdiction.  

The legal framework for this may be confirmed quite late in the day so all plans need to be simple and flexible. 

Throughout 2021 we may well still have guidance in areas like group size, transport, testing, social distancing and face coverings that impact our camping plans.    

Check below for the details in your location:

Remember both adults and young people will have been away from camping for over a year and so there will be a lot of skills rebuilding to do.  We will have more first-time campers than ever before. Leaders will need to supervise COVID controls that they have not had to follow on camp before.  The recommended approach for sections is for local camping with a back-to-basics outdoor Scouting programme.  Given the complexity, and the lack of practice camping, it may make sense for the early camps to be shorter than their pre-pandemic equivalents.    

All the standard guidelines for nights away apply. Remember that a Nights Away Permit Holder (at the right level for the event) must be present and the Nights Away Notification form needs to be submitted to your District Commissioner. This includes approval of the event risk assessment.    

The COVID-safe processes for each nights away event need to be built into the risk assessment provided with the Nights Away Notification (these do not require a COVID risk assessment to be approved through the smartsheet approval process). Risks are very specific to each event so your approval process for restarting nights away will be on an event by event basis rather than via a generic camping risk assessment. Standard parental consent for the nights away event will indicate acceptance of the covid-safe processes and permission for the child to attend.     

The Scout Technical Manual ‘Nights Away’ includes a lot of good advice on how to run a safe, healthy camp.  Following this standard good camping practice is one of the best ways to protect your camp from COVID.  This is a new, updated edition of the publication. 


Nights Away Advisers have an important role in helping section leadership teams return to camping safely as soon as they are ready. For example:   

  • Ensuring that the planning and notification process for nights away is well understood, including recent updates  
  • Providing advice on good camping practice, especially since there may be some ‘skills fade’  
  • Supporting leaders that want to change their permit levels.  Many sections may not be camping in the sites they normally use, since they may not be open or may be too far away.  Alternative local sites or camp formats may require upgrades from Campsite permits to Greenfield permits or Lightweight Expedition permits.   
  • Training leaders in the new skills needed for these permit upgrades (toilet management, water supply and waste disposal)   
  • Showing flexibility to work with DCs to allow fast approval if sections are ready to return quickly to simple camps and sleepovers  

Don’t forget that any changes to the level of nights away permit need to be approved through the usual process, with the Commissioner granting a permit on the recommendation of the relevant Nights Away Adviser. This does not need to be done through a practical assessment if the assessor can assure themselves the individual has the required skills through another method.   

Recording of the Nights Away adviser briefing on nights away in 2021

Watch now

Nights Away Approval Process

We are changing the COVID-safe approval process for nights away. Camps or Residentials taking place whilst areas are in Yellow must have covid hazards and controls included within the event risk assessment which is submitted along with the Nights Away Notification Form. This will be checked by someone within the District and like any overnight event requires DC approval but does not need to go through the restart risk assessment smartsheet process. Those organising camps or residentials MUST show how they comply with current government guidance on numbers, social distancing and safe use of accommodation and sleeping areas.