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Packing tips, kit guidance and looking after equipment

Packing for a trip doesn't have to be a puzzle, let's make it a breeze!

Whether you're a seasoned camper or it’s your first trip, these are our packing tips and equipment guidance to make sure you're ready for any adventure.

From rolling your clothes to keeping dry, we've got your back. So, grab your bag and let's dive into the secrets to perfect packing.

Choosing the right kit

Choosing the right kit is one of the best ways you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable camping trip. 

Take a look at the GO Outdoors Expert Advice Centre for hints, tips and tricks on lots of different outdoor activities.

GO Outdoors also can offer guidance in-store, along with a discount for Scouts members. 

Tents come in all shapes and sizes, with some being more suitable to different weathers and temperatures. 

If you’re looking for advice, take a look at GO Outdoors’ Tent Buying Guide. You can also pop into a local store to discuss your camping arrangements, view the tents and get expert guidance for your camping needs.

Here are some common tent set-ups that you might find on some Scout camps:

  • Modern nylon tents: Modern nylon tents are usually small, light, simple tents. These are technical tents, designed to be as lightweight as possible and excellent for camping expeditions and walking. A downside of using lightweight tents is that Scouts may need to be split into small groups to use them. The upside is that they are easier to transport, quicker to put up and cheaper to buy. This means that they can be carried on hikes too, if necessary. Many come with sewn-in groundsheets and they also tend to dry quicker than larger alternatives.  The most popular varieties of lightweight tent are ‘tunnel’, ‘dome’ and ‘A-frame’ tents. You can now find some that ‘pop’ open when removed from the bag and some that are inflatable. 
  • Canvas patrol ridge tent : The traditional Patrol tent, which is still commonly used in Scouts, consists of: two or three upright poles, green or white heavy canvas, a flysheet (in many cases), four main storm guy lines and a number of side guy lines. It’s well worth familiarising yourself with the parts of a Patrol tent. Patrol tents are robust and (if pitched properly) relatively weatherproof. They also allow young people to sleep within their groups. However, they’re heavy and can at first appear more complicated to put up than modern designs. 
  • Mess tents: The most common mess tents are made up of one piece of canvas and a frame made from metal poles, which slot together to make the support structure. 
  • Marquees: These tents are usually made up of two or more roof sections. These can be laced together and have separate walls hanging from hooks on the bottom edges of the roof sections. The main canopy is held up and supported by one or more large upright poles and the walls are supported by a series of smaller poles that are placed around the edge of the canopy. The basic principles for putting up a marquee are the same as for the Patrol tent, just on a larger scale. 

Camp beds are often a great way of sleeping off the ground, however they can be bulkier and hard to carry, especially if travelling light. Roll mats are low-cost option for those who don't want to sleep on the ground.

A foam roll mat offers a layer of comfort and insulation between you and the cold floor that will help you get a better night's sleep. However, you can often feel the damp or cold ground through them, so you may want to have a tent carpet or some interlocking protective foam floor mats underneath them. 

Self-inflating sleeping mats are a great middle for between foam roll mats and bulkier camp beds/air mattresses. These mats just need to be rolled out, open the nozzle to let the air in and they'll offer a layer of air between your and the tent floor. They often range from low-cost to more technical lightweight mats ideal for your backpacking trips.

A yoga mat is not recommended for camping, offering poor insulation and thickness. You’ll always be better investing in a proper sleeping pad, specially designed for sleeping outdoors.

The right sleeping bag can make all the difference. Take a look at Go Outdoors’ Sleeping Bag Buying Guide for expert guidance. 

Did you know sleeping bags are designed for different seasons and temperatures? They’re ranked by a scale of temperatures and conditions, which are: 

  • 1 Season: Ideal for warmer summer nights where temperatures above +5 °C. 
  • 2 Season: Ideal for cooler nights in the summer or spring, with a temperature range of 0 to +5 °C.  
  • 3 Season: Designed for colder nights without frost (0 to -5 °C).

Make sure you have anything else you may need, such as air mattresses, roll mats, pillows, pillowcases and spare blankets.

From sturdy walking boots to comfy climbing shoes, whatever you’re doing, having the appropriate footwear is key. Take a look at GO Outdoors’ Walking Boots Buying Guide and Climbing Shoes Buying Guide. They also have advice on 10 Things to Check When Buying Walking Boots.

All GO Outdoors stores offer a boot and outdoor adventure shoe fitting service that’s free of charge. Their experts will help you through all these tests there and then to make sure the shoes or boots are right for your chosen activity. 

GO Outdoors stores are equipped with a walking slope to really make sure your new boots are right for you. They also have a discount for Scout members. Don’t forget to think about walking socks, too!

Whether you’re holding a sleepover, having an indoor residential event or going camping in the fields, there are ways to help make your trip better for the environment. Here are our top tips to plan an eco-friendly camp that everyone will enjoy:

  • Borrow items rather than buying new ones.
  • If you need to buy kit, opt to go for safe, high-quality second hand items.
  • Always clean and store equipment properly to prevent damage between trips.
  • Offer broken equipment or kit to the local community for free. Someone may be able to use the spare parts to help mend their own equipment.
  • Buy a selection of kit for your group or section, so it can be reused by future members.
  • Write a kit list to determine exactly what your group needs for your adventure.
  • Encourage people to bring biodegradable or sustainable plastic-free items, such as shampoo bars or bamboo toothbrushes. 
  • Have recycling bins available throughout the event 
  • Try to reduce paper and single use plastic, where possible, such as by using reusable plates, bowls and cutlery. You can also avoid paper napkins, plastic straws, water balloons, glow sticks and disposable barbecues.

Take a look at our blog on How to run a sustainable camp or sleepover for more guidance.

Whether you're looking for a large backpack for a camping trip o, or you're looking for a daypack for your essentials, there are some things you need to consider when buying and packing your rucksack.

GO Outdoors offer a great Rucksack Buying and Fitting Guide

Not everyone will have camping or overnight equipment and that’s OK. The item will be on the kit list for a reason, so the person will very likely need it. Therefore, it’s important to make sure to flag the missing items to the volunteers leading the trip, so they can help you.

Some Scout groups have a selection of kit available for their Group or Section to borrow and use.

Remember, if you don’t have some items, talk to your group before buying anything. They may be able to provide it, offer grant funding or have good advice on where to buy it second-hand.

The person leading the trip could also ask if other parents and carers or Scout Groups can lend or donate spare kit, such as sleeping bags. Depending on what the item is, it might be able to be shared between young people.

Remember, any equipment that is hired or borrowed should be inspected before it is taken. Any defects or faults should be noted and agreements made as to who will rectify it. This is especially important when hiring equipment, as it may affect a deposit being refunded.

You should make sure there’s adequate insurance in place for property and equipment you own, store, hire or loan out to others. Find out more about Insurance in Scouts.

There are some things that it may be best not to take. However, people may need items, such as mobile phones, for medical or other reasons. Older age groups may also want to bring phones, too.

Always speak to the volunteers leading the trip and follow their guidance. Your group will provide a kit list, so always follow this.

Some items you may not want to bring are: 

  • Electrical devices, such as tablets, cameras, mobile phones, hairdryers or tongs
  • Games consoles, such as Nintendo Switch
  • Foods that contain common allergens, such as nuts, depending on your Group
  • Jewellery
  • Any valuables items
  • Any precious or sentimental items
  • Aerosols, such as spray deodorant, as it can trigger asthma or smoke alarms
  • Medications, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. Always remind them that these will be available centrally via the leadership team.

Looking after your kit in Scouts

If you’re using your own equipment, you should always check it before you leave. It’s the responsibility of the permit holder to check equipment. However, this task could easily be delegated to one of the leadership team.

Large items, such as tents, ropes or canoes, should be checked at least 6 weeks before departure. If you discover any defects or parts missing, 6 weeks gives you plenty of time to repair and find replacements. 

Smaller items of kit, such as pots and pans, axes, buckets, kitchen utensils and lamps, should be checked at least 2 weeks before you leave. This means that items, such as cooking pots, will be clean and ready to use.

Any equipment that you’ve hired or borrowed from another group should be looked at before you take it away. Any problems with it should be written down and photographed. Before using it, anything broken should be fixed or anything missing should be found, either by the owner or one of your team.

Remember to keep all the hired equipment together when using it. This means the item is well looked after and helps to avoid anything going missing, meaning any deposits can be given back and disputes are avoided.

When checking kit, make sure all of it’s safe for use. If there’s any doubt, either fix it or get rid of it.

Look out for items that are gas or fuel-powered, the shafts of axes and mallets, and any life-safety equipment to check they’re all in a safe condition. You may need help checking specialist equipment, so get in touch with someone experienced and see if they’ll take a look for you.

Pieces of equipment are designed to do a certain thing. Using them for a different purpose can be risky and could result in the equipment being damaged.

One good example is metal tent poles. It may be tempting to use tent poles as goal posts or to use them to mark out a playing area, but avoid mis-using equipment not for its intended purpose or function. Make sure that each item is being used for its correct purpose or function to avoid damage or injury, and always make sure that everything’s being used safely.

When you return from an event, it’s important to spend time carefully checking and putting items away. This will save time when you or other people want to use the equipment next time - it also helps us carry out our Scout values of care and respect.

Everything you put away should be dry and clean. Make sure to list any damaged items, so that they can get repaired. 

Any leftover food should be donated or thrown away, as storing it may attract pests. Some food products may be able to be stored securely in air-tight containers, such as if it’s a tinned item. Make sure any food items are stored off the ground.

You should check that all cooking equipment has been thoroughly cleaned, including pots, pans, utensils, chopping boards and mixing bowls. Unclean items may cause illness when they’re next used or may attract pests. Cool boxes should be washed out, dried and stored with the lids off.

All tents and other canvas needs to be thoroughly dried out, while all groundsheets should be brushed off. Both need to be properly folded away into their respective bags. Similarly, rope needs to be dried out and preferably hung up when stored. Tent pegs should be cleaned of mud and dried, before being stored with their respective tent or all together in a suitable container. 

Gas lamps and stoves should be empty when stored. Keep any leftover gas or fuel in a suitable, secure container and store it in an appropriate place. It should be clearly marked and labelled with regulation ‘flammable substance’ warning signs. 

If you’re borrowing equipment, make a note of what you’re taking and when you need to give it back. You should also make a note of what condition the items are in. It can be helpful to take photos of the condition and way the items are stored.  

Make sure you check the item’s condition before you take anything and double-check that you’ve planned time to return things you’ve borrowed.

Returning equipment late or in a bad condition may mean you won’t be able to borrow it next time. 

Keeping canvas in good condition: Canvas should be treated from time to time with a waterproofing solution. Campers shouldn’t touch the inside of a tent when it rains, or they’ll disturb the water droplets trapped in the canvas and let them seep through. Using a flysheet helps keep the water off the inside canvas. Bags and other items should also be kept away from the sides of the tent for the same reason. 

Packing a wet tent: Try not to pack up a wet or damp tent. However, if this is unavoidable, you must unpack and dry it thoroughly as soon as possible when you get back. Mildew soon causes guy lines and brailing loops to rot. The easiest way to dry a tent is to pitch it outside to dry in the sun. Modern tents can easily be pegged to a washing line.

Storage: Always store the tent with its poles, a mallet and the correct number of pegs, ready for its next use. Make sure you’ve handed it back in a good condition with the poles and pegs, too. Each tent is different but usually folds into two or three sections. You then roll it up before putting it into the tent bag. 

Naked flames: Naked flames and tents don’t mix. Stoves, candles and barbecues must never be used inside tents, as a stray flame can set a tent on fire very quickly. There’s also an additional risk from carbon monoxide. Battery-powered lamps should be used inside tents. You must only use gas-powered lights outside. 

Weather: If very adverse weather is forecast, with high winds, torrential rain or flooding, tents can become easily damaged and dangerous if they collapse or come loose. Take this into account when deciding if the weather conditions mean you need to cancel your event. Even if no one is hurt, it would be very costly to replace ruined tents. 

Monitor the guy lines: While on camp, make sure all non-synthetic (natural fibre) rope guy lines are loosened at night or during rain, as the moisture causes the fibres to expand, making them tighter. Adjust these as appropriate in the morning when you get up. Nylon guy lines don’t need to be loosened as they don’t shrink. Guy lines should be checked and tightened every now and then to stop the canvas sagging. However, guy lines shouldn’t be too tight at any time, as this can also put a strain on the tent material and the poles. The guy line tension should be even all around the tent. 

Move tents around: Moving the tents occasionally lets the grass underneath recover. You should move the tents slightly if you’re there for more than a week. 

Top 10 packing tips

Remember everything needs to be labelled. Permanent marker initials, stickers or engraved names on items helps to find the right item, especially when several people turn up with the exact same thing.

Talk through what each item will be used for as you go, such as what to wear at night-time or if there’s bad weather. Perhaps include a list or a photo record of everything that goes into the bag. This’ll help with getting everything packed up again at the end of camp.

Separate clothes into bags to help keep organised. You could label outfits by activity, such as ‘swim-kit’ or pack each kind of clothing in different colour bags, such as t-shirts in yellow and socks in blue. This makes things easier to find when you are rummaging around your rucksack. You should have a cloth bag for plates and cutlery, such as tote bag.

Have an extra bag for dirty clothing to go in, such as a bin bag. This’ll help make sure that the mud stays in one place. An old shower cap works really well to cover the bottom of muddy boots, too. 

Remember, if you don’t have some items, talk to your group before buying anything. They may have spare kit or good advice on where to buy it second-hand.

Bring more spares and layers, especially for bed, than you think you’ll need. It’s always good to put spare socks in your day bag for a mid-afternoon switch. 

A wet bag is heavier, and soggy clothes will put a dampener on your trip. Very few rucksacks are 100% waterproof, so try to put everything inside a rucksack liner or clean rubble sack for extra protection. If possible, avoid tying things to your pack, as they’ll be exposed to the elements.

Put the things you’ll need least or last at the bottom, such as spare items. At the top of the bag should be some waterproof clothing and ready to throw on.

Once it’s packed, try your rucksack or holdall and walk around your home. If it’s too heavy, you can reduce it down or redistribute items – your back will thank you for it!

The people running the trip know best as to what you’ll need and there’s always a good reason for every item on the list. Ask if you’ve any questions and make sure to let them know if there’s anything you’re missing, so they can help you get it.

How can I stay safe when camping and cooking outdoors?

When camping and cooking outdoors, or taking part in other recreational outdoor activities, you may be taking part in activities that potentially put people at greater risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Take a look at how to stay safe from carbon monoxide and our gas safety advice for on camps and outdoor cooking.

Here are some top tips to help keep you safe:

Never use barbecues, candles, camping stoves or portable heaters in enclosed spaces (such as tents, yurts caravans or cabins), without proper ventilation. If you need a sheltered cooking area, consider an open sided gazebo, dining shelter or a marquee that has sufficient air circulation and ventilation.

Always properly and regularly maintain appliances, and only use them for their intended purpose. Never use cooking appliances, such camping stoves, hot plates or barbecues, as heaters.

Campfires and barbecues are still dangerous even once you’ve finished cooking. Barbecues and campfires can give off CO even after they’ve gone out.

Always cook or use appliances in a properly ventilated area. Never cook in small poorly ventilated spaces or areas where people sleep. If you need a sheltered cooking area, consider a gazebo or a tent porch with sufficient air circulation and ventilation.

CO can build up without you knowing, putting you and the people around you at risk.

Never move or use a barbecue, campfire or gas lamp indoors or in an enclosed space, such as a tent. You can use battery-operated or solar powered lamps, instead of gas lamps.

All gas powered items need plenty of ventilation to prevent producing carbon monoxide. Never use gas stoves, barbecues, fuel burners, gas lamps, or patio or camping heaters to heat your tent when cold. Instead, stay warm by making sure you layer your clothing, and pick up a warmer sleeping bag.

Never operate petrol or diesel powered generators and engines in enclosed spaces. Petrol or diesel powered engines and generators can produce CO when used in enclosed spaces without sufficient air supply and ventilation.