Does the idea of setting up a tent or corralling your troop around a campfire give you nightmares? Do you place yourself solidly in the “non-camper” camp? In the true spirit of Every Girl in a Tent (Yes, we’re looking at you and your troop!), we’re here to help you get in a tent (and stay there for at least one night) in the most painless way possible. Camping with your girls gives them the chance to try something new, work together, and lead the experience. Plus, you might even have fun!
If you didn’t grow up camping or had a bad experience in the past, the idea of planning and preparing a camping trip with your troop can seem overwhelming. We’re here to help, but before we get to that part, let’s debunk some common camping myths.
Myth #1: There is one right way to camp
Despite what your most outdoorsy friend might tell you, if you set up a cot in your tent, you’re still camping. If your campsite doesn’t require a five-mile hike in, you’re still camping. If the campground has running water, guess what—you’re still camping. In fact, as a beginner, backyards, drive-up sites, or sites that are a short walk from your car are where you should be camping. As long as girls are spending time outdoors, learning new skills, having fun, and staying safe, then mission accomplished! As always, keep progression in mind—and maybe you’ll eventually work your way up to a backpacking trip…or maybe you won’t and that’s okay, too!
Myth #2 Camping has to be every Girl Scout’s (and leader’s) favorite activity
The beauty of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience is that it encompasses so many things that girls are interested in, like science, art, technology, friendship, and entrepreneurship. While Girl Scouts has a long and rich history of outdoor adventure and camping, it doesn’t have to be the only thing that girls do. That being said, spending time outdoors and trying new things is part of a well-rounded Girl Scout experience.
So in that spirit of trying new things, we hope you’ll join us in our effort to get every Girl Scout camping at least one night this year! We’ve compiled our best tips and resources for camping novices to help you along the way.
Tip #1: Prepare as a group
Camping brings a lot of new experiences. The more prepared you and your girls are, the smoother your camping experience will be. Break it down into manageable steps like setting up a tent, cooking outside, and going for a hike. First-time campers should spend two to three troop meetings and/or outings preparing for different camping-related experiences.
Just as important as practicing new skills, however, is mentally preparing girls for what to expect while camping. Together, talk through every detail of your trip, from setting up camp to how their legs might get tired when you go for a hike. You’ll calm fears about having to walk to the bathroom in the dark or complaints about having to lather up in sunscreen before they even arise. It’s okay if you’re figuring it out together! In fact, asking the girls, “What do you think will be important to consider when we set up our tent?” will help make the entire trip a girl-led experience.
Tip #2: Incorporate a variety of activities
Having a wide variety of activities on your camping trip will include and encourage those girls who might not be camping enthusiasts. Many of the same activities you usually do with your troop can be done while camping. Nature photography or engineering a primitive structure in the woods, anyone? Girls can also play games, work on badges, make their own snacks, and spend downtime together, just like they do at troop meetings and outings. Girls can plan these activities to ensure that everyone gets a say in what the group will do.
Tip #3: Consult an expert
We know you can’t be an expert at everything, but chances are someone around you would be excited to help out. Whether a state park naturalist or another troop leader, there are many people who would love to help you plan—and maybe even join you on your camping trip! Take advantage of I Can Camp! Programs at Minnesota State Parks. Use council resources (listed below) and consult your service unit’s outdoor champion—we’ve got your back! If girls want to try a new activity, like canoeing or rock climbing on your trip, find an activity-specific, certified instructor to lead the activity.
Tip #4: Choose your location and time intentionally
Is it the mosquitos or the thought of trying to sleep in a hot, stuffy tent in the middle of August that doesn’t quite thrill you about the prospect of camping? Many people think of camping as a summer-only activity, but that’s simply not true. Camping in the fall or spring (Or even the winter!) can eliminate some common camping hesitations, or head up north to escape some of the heat and humidity. Just be prepared for the wider range of temperatures—it can get especially chilly at night, even in the summer.
Tip #5 Prepare for the unexpected
It will probably be something minor, but unpredictability should be expected when dealing with nature (And with kids!). It might rain, a girl might get homesick, or you might really be wishing for a shower by the end. Take a deep breath—remember why you’re doing this and know that the girl who seemingly had the worst time of the group might be the one most fondly reminiscing about the trip later. When it’s all said and done and girls are admiring their glow-in-the-dark Every Girl in a Tent patch, you might still consider yourself a non-camper, but the memories made and relationships built will be worth it!
Girl Scouts River Valleys Camping and Outdoor Resources
- Camp and Outdoor Training
- Safety Activity Checkpoints
- Outdoor Gear Rental Resources
- Every Girl in a Tent Progression Guide
McKayla Murphy – McKayla is a program resources specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a minor in dance. McKayla is passionate about racial equity, critical media studies, and art education. She enjoys dancing, trying new food, and seeking adventure (including winter camping and travel). Staples in McKayla’s life include dark chocolate, her hammock, and plenty of reading material.