Gearing Up for Scouting

Tips for Buying Gear | Local Vendors | Mail Order | A Final Word for Parents

a name="Gear List">Troop 889 Gear List

To participate fully in the Troop's outdoor program you will need the following equipment:

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Tips for Buying Gear
External Frame Backpack / Sleeping Bag / Foam Sleeping Pad / Sock Liners and Wool Socks / Rain Gear / Orienteering Compass / Long Underwear

If you are new to outdoor equipment for camping and hiking, choosing the right gear can be a daunting task. You quickly realize that you could spend a lot of money in no time at all. You don't have to spend a fortune, though, to equip yourself with good, quality gear. It just takes some smart shopping. These tips for buying gear will help you in that task. We have pointed out some of the important things to look for and given you some brand names and prices. We have also listed some potential sources for camping gear, both local and mail order.

EXTERNAL FRAME BACKPACK – A backpack is significant investment, but something your son will use extensively in scouting. Jansport, Kelty, Camp Trails, REI, and Peak 1 are all good brands. Jansport and Kelty make youth packs that fit children under 5'7" and expand as they grow. Camp Trails also sells a youth model called, what else, the "Scout." The Scout is adjustable in many different ways, making it an easy pack to fit properly. Proper fit is most important in buying a backpack. You may have to take back any model you buy to exchange it for a better fitting pack. So make sure it is returnable. Expect to pay around $80 for a youth model. A good adult model will cost around $100 to $130. Available locally at Bill & Paul's, Eastern Mountain Sports ("EMS"), MC Sports, Dunhams, and Gander Mountain. Mail order through L.L. Bean, Campmor, REI or Sierra Trading Post.

SLEEPING BAG – The important things in buying a sleeping bag are warmth and weight. Since we go camping year round, you will want to choose a sleeping bag that is comfortable in warmer weather, yet suitable for sleeping outdoors when the temperature dips below freezing. I use a 15 degree bag. In the summer months, when it gets very warm, I simply use a blanket rather than a sleeping bag. An alternative would be to select a bag with a higher rating, such as a 35 degree bag, and have your son "double-bag" or add a blanket in the colder months. I would not, however, recommend a bag that is rated any higher than 35 degrees. Sleeping bags come filled with many materials. Down is too expensive and impracticable for boys. If it gets wet, it will not keep your son warm. Stick to bags filled with synthetic materials like Hollofil, Quallofil, Thinsulate, or Polarguard. Try to find a bag that weighs no more than five pounds (which is a heavy bag for an adolescent boy). Sleeping bags may be purchased at all of the dealers mentioned at the end of this article. A 20 degree bag will range in price from around $60 for a Coleman bag (available at Target and Meijer) to much, much more. A higher quality bag that is taken care of well will last for many years. If you are going to spend a little extra on anything, spend it on a better quality bag. It can make a real difference in how much your son enjoys our outings.

FOAM SLEEPING PAD – A closed sell foam sleeping pad is light weight and relatively inexpensive. Ridge Rest makes a nice, durable pad. Pads are available at EMS, M.C. Sports, Dunhams, and Bill & Paul's. A sleeping pad is important, not so much for cushioning, but for insulating your son from the cold ground. Air mattresses are a poor substitute. They do not insulate well and they usually lose their air during the night.

SOCK LINERS AND WOOL SOCKS – These are important all year round for hiking. A synthetic sock liner wicks moisture away from the feet, keeping them dry and warm and preventing blisters. Wool socks are far superior to cotton when hiking. Available at Bill & Paul's, EMS, and Gander Mountain.

RAIN GEAR – Goretex and other breathable fabrics are expensive and don't perform as well as they claim. Basic rain gear made out of PVC-coated nylon is still the best way to keep dry. Fortunately, it is relatively inexpensive. Consider buying both a jacket ($20 to $30) and pants ($15), since its no fun to have wet pants when you are camping. Make sure the jacket is well vented. L.L. Bean makes a great outfit. Campmor and REI also offer PVC coats. Gander Mountain, MC Sports and Dunhams also carry them. What about ponchos? Ponchos are an inexpensive alternative, although they don't work as well. They tend to catch the wind, allowing you to get wet in windy conditions. Still, they are usually all a boy will need. You can buy a poncho for under five dollars. But your money would be better spent on a better quality poncho made of rip-stop nylon. Cheaper ponchos usually don't last more than one outing.

ORIENTEERING COMPASS – An orienteering compass is a compass that sits on a baseplate for use with a topographical map. The Scout Shop sells three excellent compasses: the Polaris ($11.75), the Four Fold Compass ($14,75), and the Explorer III ($18.25). Other stores carry similar compasses made by Brunton or Silva.

LONG UNDERWEAR – Good long underwear really becomes essential when we venture outdoors in the winter. Look for synthetic fabrics, like polypropelene, that wick moisture away from the skin. Don't buy cotton! Cotton retains water and increases the risk of hypothermia. While the synthetic fabrics cost a little more, they mean the difference between being comfortable and miserable and could be the difference between life and death.

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Local Vendors

M.C. SPORTS – Sells good quality gear at good prices. Staff does not appear to have any special expertise in camping and hiking.

DUNHAMS SPORTING GOODS – Like M.C., except staff has even less expertise.  Check out there hiking shoes for $20!

REI - Has everything and will unconditionally guarantee what they sell, but a little pricey.  The staff here can be very helpful for properly outfitting for camping.

THE SCOUT SHOP – This is the official Boy Scout store at the new building at 1776 Warren, in Detroit. They carry a number of scouting items and a small selection of camping quipment.

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Mail Order

L.L. BEAN – (800) 221-4221 – Good quality and selection. Prompt shipping. Easy return policy. Ask for their special Winter Sporting Catalog and Spring Sporting Catalog. If you have questions, the operator will put you in touch with an expert from their store in Freeport, Maine. On the Internet at WWW.LLBEAN.COM.

REI – (800) 426-4840 – REI is a cooperative from Seattle, Washington, that offers a wide selection of quality outdoor gear. You can buy from them even if you are not a member. Members get an annual dividend of 6 to 7% of their purchases. They now have an excellent store in Livonia, Michigan. On the Internet at WWW.REI.COM.

CAMPMOR – (800) 226-7667 – Campmor's catalog has just about everything in it. They are pleasant to deal with and often have items at special prices. For a free catalog, call (800) 230-2151. On the Internet at WWW.CAMPMOR.COM.

SIERRA TRADING POST - (800) 713-4534 - Sierra Trading Post offers closeouts and seconds of brand name products at savings from 35 to 70%. I understand that they are very good to deal with.

BOUNDARY WATERS CATALOG - (800) 223-6565. - The Boundary Waters Catalog sells high quality gear for camping and paddling. They also have a wonderful selection of books. On the Internet at WWW.PIRAGIS.COM/CATALOG/INDEX.HTML.

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A Final Word for Parents

It would be very easy to sink a lot of money into gear for your son. But it should not be necessary. With careful shopping you can find quality gear at reasonable prices. (What does it matter if the backpack you buy has a blemish on it? It will have more than that after your son's first backpacking outing.) What is important is getting good value for your money. I think there is a lot to be said for paying a little bit more and getting better quality equipment that will last for many years if taken care of properly. But taking care of it is the key. You should encourage your son to clean his gear after every outing and to air out his pack, sleeping bag and tent.

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Revised 12/13/02