postheadericon What does my son need?

One of the things every parent wants to know when their son is joining a Boy Scout troop, is what they need to get for him.

It always varies a bit per boy and per activity, but here is what he will need to participate in the activities of the Troop as a first-year Scout:

  1. Stuff you DON'T need to buy him.  There are some things your Scout will not be able to use right away, and others that he won't need at all, because the Troop either owns that gear or the BSA prohibits its use.
    1. Cooking gear.  We have full cook kits for all patrols.  Your son will need eating gear, but not cooking gear.
    2. Tent.  We have high quality tents for both drive-in camping and backpacking.  No need to bring your own.
    3. A pocket knife.  Boys are not allowed to carry or use knives until they are qualified for the Totin' Chip badge.  You might want to think about a folding pocket knife as a present or reward for when he earns that badge.  Once he earns his Totin' Chip, he will need a pocket knife on all future outings.
    4. Sheath knife.  These are forbidden by BSA policy.
    5. Axe or saw.  We have axes and saws as Troop gear.
    6. Electronics.  When we go on outings, we want them to be tethered to the environment, not to their cell phones, iPods, etc.  There is a general "No electronics," policy, although gps units are allowed for geocaching.  (See the information about the annual lock-in, though.)
  2. Scout Stuff
    1. Uniform. You can buy uniform parts at, or at Trailside Outfitters in Brunswick, or at the Council offices in Bethesda or Hagerstown. We also have a few extra trousers and shirts available for new Scouts.
      1. Scout shirt. We recommend that you NOT get 100% cotton. Not only is it extremely hard to keep free of wrinkles, cotton does not keep a person warm when wet, as synthetics do.
      2. Scout pants. The best ones to get are the zip-offs, but it is very easy to lose those legs when they get unzipped! Be sure to put his names on the insides of both of the bottom parts of the legs, as well as the waist band.
      3. Scout Socks. They are somewhat expensive, but not only are they part of the official uniform, they are excellent padded, reinforced socks for hiking. The colors recently changed from the green with red top to all olive, but either are fine.
      4. Belt. If you get the zip off pants, there is a belt integrated with them. Otherwise, you'll need to purchase a Scout belt. They come long, and you can cut them off, but be sure to allow enough extra length to let it still fit him when he is taller than you!
    2. Boy Scout Handbook. Your son will use this throughout his Scouting career as he works his way to Eagle. He will need to bring it to every Troop meeting and campout.
  3. Camping Stuff
    1. Hiking Shoes.  Don't get big, clunky boots that take a lot of energy to use.  Lightweight, inexpensive hiking shoes will be your best bet.  If your son is 11, he will probably grow out of them very quickly, so don't get him something made to go backpacking up mountains.  He will outgrow them long before he needs them.   Plan for something inexpensive, but plan to buy him a better pair when he is getting ready for Philmont or something similar, a few years from now.
      1. We do have quite a few "hand-me-down" hiking shoes, which your son is welcome to use.
      2. If his hiking shoes are still in good shape when he has outgrown them, we encourage you to donate them back into the hand-me-down pile.
      3. When one is planning to backpack in the mountains, the grade of shoe/boot required is much higher, to protect feet and ankles.  Plan accordingly.
    2. Backpack. This doesn't need to be very big for his first year, but it needs to be big enough to carry his gear for a weekend backpacking campout. Talk to one of the Scoutmasters before you purchase this item, as we usually have several smaller backpacks available for new Scouts. (If, on the other hand, your son has outgrown his first Scout backpack, you may wish to contribute it to the next crop of new Scouts.) Don't get him a monster pack for week-long trips to Philmont as a new Scout; it will be too much for him to handle when we do the shorter trips he'll do his first year.
    3. Sleeping Bag.
      1. Don't get down; it becomes useless if it gets wet, which is when it is most needed.
      2. It is hard to tell how to judge the rating on a sleeping bag, but a good rule of thumb is that the temperature rating is a survival rating, not a comfort rating. I.e., if it is rated to 20 degrees, that means you can survive outside in it at 20 degrees. Survival is not comfort. Every manufacturer rates bags differently, though, and there is no consistent standard.
      3. You don't need to get an expensive bag for him, but if you get an inexpensive bag, you may want to get a second bag. My personal bag setup is an inexpensive 25 degree bag along with an inexpensive fleece bag. Both bags together are less weight than a zero degree bag. Two bags gives you the following options:
        1. sleep on top of both in really hot weather.
        2. sleep in the fleece bag in medium weather
        3. sleep in the warmer bag in cool weather
        4. sleep in the fleece bag inside the warm bag in really cold weather.
    4. Sleeping Pad. He won't need this until he goes camping in cold weather, but a sleeping pad provides a very important extra layer of insulation from the ground in cold weather. There are two basic types of sleeping pads.
      1. Closed cell pads are the ones that are the same shape and size no matter what. They have the advantage of being very light weight, and can be rolled up tight and strapped easily on the outside of a backpack. For a boy's weight, they are generally all the padding he needs for softness.
      2. Adults generally need better padding than the closed-cell pads can provide. They can make do with the closed cell pads, but usually prefer inflatable pads. There are some good options for self-inflating pads. They are heavy for backpacking, but very comfortable.
    5. Eating Gear. (Note: eating gear, not cooking gear. We have cooking gear.)
      1. Something with which to eat, i.e., a lexan spoon or spork.
      2. Something out of which to eat, i.e., a plastic bowl
      3. Something out of which to drink, e.g., a wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle.
  4. Other Stuff. These are things he'll pick up along the way. Many of them he will prepare or make himself as part of his advancement requirements. These are not required the first year, as he will always be with someone else equipped for them -- but they will be required later on.
    1. A personal first aid kit.
    2. A compass
    3. A personal survival kit (not a requirement at all, but a good thing to have and learn how to use.)