As another school year approaches, challenge yourself and your troop to try something new or expand on skills you already have. (Need some tips on getting girls to try new things? We’ve got you covered.) With the recent roll-out of some new outdoor badges (and more to come), here are a few tips and tricks to help you get outside, whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro.
- Don’t have the gear? No worries! Did you know many universities have outdoor adventure programs that rent out camping gear to their local communities? Most offer very affordable rates, so if you want to give it a try before committing to buying the gear (or you simply don’t want to buy it), this is a great option. Of course, you can always check with family, friends, other near-by Girl Scout troops, and your service unit.
- Start small. Never been camping before? Try setting up a tent in your backyard, local park, or even in your living room. Familiarize yourself with the parts of your tent and how to set it up. There’s nothing worse than struggling with how to put the rain-fly on when it’s down-pouring. If you can, test it out overnight in your backyard—the comforts of home are just outside your tent door. As you get more and more comfortable, you can progress. Spend a night in a state park. Next time, add one or two additional nights. After that, try a hike-in site. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail! (Ok, maybe I’m getting a little too eager here, but we have a lot of great trails in Minnesota where you can spend one night or two weeks backpacking).
- When should I go? Any time is a great time to get outside, but I may be a little biased. Most state parks in Minnesota have a peak season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. These summer months typically include warm, sunny days along with longer hours for visitor centers and exhibits, as well as special programs. This also means larger crowds, and depending on location, peak season prices. Weekends during the spring and fall months are often-times overlooked. You’ll have smaller crowds, potentially lower fees, and absolutely beautiful scenery with spring flowers in bloom or the fall colors at their peak. (These times of the year also typically mean fewer bugs.) Challenge yourself and your troop to try camping in every season. (Yes, this means winter too!).
- What will I eat? While there are many options out there for camping and backpacking (I’m looking at you, pre-packaged meals), you can really eat anything you would typically eat at home. If you search online for backpacking meals, you’ll find countless recipes on how to package your own meals for a campout or backpacking trip. You can have anything from fajitas to pizza to scrambled eggs. Get creative and try a variety of recipes. Take it a step further and create your own. Not only will your trip be more enjoyable with your favorite dishes, but it will keep your budget low as well.
- Why? Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to get outside! Whether you are there to connect with nature, see your surroundings, learn a new skill-set, or just want to get away from it all, the great outdoors can provide something for everyone. If you’re not confident in your own skills, reach out to your service unit’s outdoor champion. They’ll be able to offer tips and tricks for your camping adventure. You can also check out our website for additional outdoor resources. During the planning process, make sure to include the girls, too. See what they would like to gain from this experience. Have them help with the route and location, the meals, and even the games and activities once camp is set. The more they are involved in the planning process, the better experience they will have.
The great outdoors is calling, so head outside and happy trails! Let us know what adventures you’ve chosen—share your story with us.
Heather Fleetwood – Heather is a program coordinator at Girl Scouts River Valleys. Originally from Chicago, her previous work as a park ranger has taken her all over the U.S. from Wyoming to Florida, before landing in Minnesota. Heather graduated with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism administration from Western Illinois University and loves spending every free moment outside. Whether kayaking a nearby lake, checking out a new trail, scoping out a rock-climbing area, or even learning to fly fish with her husband, Heather is always ready for an adventure and loves to share her passion for the outdoors with others.