Eight attributes of successful Scout camps

When I ask Scouters about their best memories as a Scout, they often call upon times spent at their favorite Scout camp. Summer camp memories last a lifetime, which is why it’s important to help your Scouts choose a camp program that will keep them coming back for more. ChoosingCamp2

But with hundreds of top-notch BSA camp properties across the U.S., this process can prove to be a challenge.

To help round up a checklist of what to look for when researching area Scout camps, we reached back into the Scouting magazine archives to a 1995 article by Bill Sloan, called “What Makes a Happy Camper?”

Sloane asks, “What should young people and their adult leaders expect — and deserve — from a summer camp?” He answers this query with eight key elements that produce successful council camps. This checklist arose from a 1994 BSA survey of 50 successful council camping programs. But it’s not hard to see how these apply to today’s popular Scout camps, too.


  • Facilities. Structures and grounds should be clean and well-kept. Camp layout that places activity areas in close proximity to campsites is an advantage.
  • Staff. A well-trained, highly motivated and service-minded staff is a must. Longevity is a big plus in key leadership roles.
  • Food. Most boys like to eat, and most boys eat a lot. Consequently, quality and quantity of food is of the utmost importance.
  • Program balance. An equal balance should be maintained between troop programs and individual activities. The primary focus of a camp should still be on teaching merit badges and basic skills.
  • Environment. Every staffer should try to get to know the campers he works with and to make friends with campers and leaders. The key is for staff to help make the camp feel like a “home away from home.”
  • Profitability. By and large, the most successful camps are also the most profitable. This usually boils down to camp attendance. If a camp offers an exciting, varied, challenging program, the word generally spreads.
  • Challenge. More challenging activities are an absolute necessity if older Scouts are to return to camp. Many programs aimed at the older age-groups are highly staff-intensive and tend to cost more than normal camp programs.
  • Staff training. Capable, caring camp counselors don’t simply happen. They’re the product of a good counselor-in-training program.

(Read the full feature in the digital archive of Scouting magazine.)

Anything you would add to the list? Or delete? Share your comments on how to help Scouts choose the best summer camp program.

Plus, find a camp near you using the brand-new Camp Scout! app by Boys’ Life magazine. And, check out Scouting magazine’s Guide to Cool Camps to uncover some of the coolest camps in the nation.

Photo: Camp Meriwether in Oregon (above) is featured in the 1995 Scouting magazine article and it’s also among 23 camps featured in our Guide to Cool Camps. Is there something in the water? Perhaps that’s the secret to Meriwether’s staying power.

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