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Every Packing List Starts With the 10 Scout Basic Outdoor Essentials

Illustration of items that should go on a backpacking trek

You’re going on your first camping trip or backpacking trek. What should you bring? Every packing list starts with these 10 items, and they’re called “essentials” for a reason. Then you’ll want to add other items depending on the outing.


The Scout Basic Essentials call for the following ten items. These items can help you stay comfortable, safe and prepared:

1. A pocketknife or multitool can be handy in a wide variety of situations. Use it to cut a cord or pieces of food, whittle a stake, tighten a screw and more. Keep your knife sharp and clean, and don’t forget to first earn your Whittling Chip (for older Cub Scouts) or Totin’ Chip (for Boy Scouts).

2. A first-aid kit can be a lifesaver. Literally. A few items will allow you to treat scratches, blisters and other minor injuries. They should also allow you to provide initial care while waiting for help for more serious injuries.

3. Bring extra clothing to match the weather. Temperatures can change during a trip. Have the clothing you need for warm days and cooler nights. Multiple layers are better than a single massive jacket, because layered clothing is adaptable to a wide range of temperatures.

4. Rain gear is very important. Rain can come in a hurry, and getting your clothes drenched is more than just uncomfortable, it can lead to hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition. Have your rain gear easily accessible.

5. A lightweight flashlight, headlamp or a rugged penlight is important for finding your way in the dark. Bring extra batteries, too.

6. Trail food is good for maintaining your energy. Make your own trail mix, bring a small bag of granola and pack a handful of energy bars. Bring more than you think you’ll need in case you get stuck (or lost) in the woods.

7. Water can prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Drink plenty of fluids, even in cold weather. Use a lightweight, unbreakable container with a secure lid.

8. Matches and fire starters may be used to light fires for heat, or for signaling for help. Store matches or lighters in resealable plastic bags. You may not plan to need an open fire, but Be Prepared to build one in an emergency.

9. Sun protection might include sunblock, sunglasses, lip balm and a wide-brimmed hat. Look for an SPF of at least 30. Apply early in the day, and reapply often.

10. A map and compass are probably the most important tools you can carry in case you get lost. A topographic map will help you identify landmarks along the way. Review your route-finding skills before you leave so you’ll be sharp on the trail.

It’s a good idea to bring a daypack for your Scout Essentials, so you can grab it and go if you’re hiking during the campout.


You should also pack clothing matched to the season. Check the weather for where you’re going to camp. It might be warm where you live, but the temperatures might be dropping where you’re going.


Here are some items you may need at night, depending on the outing:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Ground cloth
  • Pillow


Here are some hygiene and toiletry items you may want to pack, depending on the outing:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Soap
  • Comb
  • Waterless hand cleaner
  • Small towel
  • Washcloth
  • Toilet paper
  • Trowel for digging cathole latrines


Here are some cooking and eating items you may want to pack, depending on the outing:

  • Mess kit
  • Large plastic cereal bowl or kitchen storage bowl
  • Spoon
  • Cup or insulated mug
  • Water treatment system
  • Backpacking stove with fuel
  • Large pot and lid (2.5- or 3-quart size)
  • Small pot and lid (1.5- or 2-quart size)
  • Lightweight frying pan (10 to 12 inches in diameter)
  • For melting snow, add 1 large pot and lid (6 to 10 quarts)
  • Hot-pot tongs


Here are some extras you may want to pack, depending on the outing:

  • Watch
  • Camera
  • Notebook
  • Pen or pencil
  • Sunglasses
  • Small musical instrument
  • Swimsuit
  • Gloves
  • Whistle
  • Nylon cord
  • Insect repellent
  • Repair kit
  • Hiking stick or trekking poles
  • Binoculars
  • Fishing gear
  • Animal identification books, plant keys, geological studies, star charts or other guides

For car-camping where your campsite won’t be far from where you park, you can carry everything in a duffle bag. If you camp often, you’ll want to invest in a backpack so you can venture into the backcountry with all your gear.

75 Comments on Every Packing List Starts With the 10 Scout Basic Outdoor Essentials

  1. Now, I’m not a Scout, but this is a perfect checklist!

  2. All great comments, one I didn’t see was keeping it packed at all times, means that when you come home you clean it and repack the used items and come the next time add any additional items.

  3. Tenderfoot kid // September 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm // Reply

    This is very helpful if you are a new scout.

  4. Each boy in the troop is expected to have his “scout bag” with him at all times…outside of the campsite. Each one has the top ten, plus handbook, pen or pencil, paper and min. Of ten feet of rope. Anything extra is on them, but sometimes we ask for event or weather appropriate extras. I think these lists are in the handbook, I know they are in the E. PREP MB book. Be Prepared!

  5. Really helpful. 🙂

  6. What about the whistle?😕

  7. ExplosionAF12 // June 9, 2014 at 9:10 pm // Reply

    Toilet paper should be one of the ten essentials because you can use it as a fire starter, trail marker, rope (if you have a HUGE amount of it), as well as other things. My troop calls it the eleventh essential.

  8. Fishin6061 // May 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm // Reply

    Out here in NV, I recommend a signal mirror to fellow scouts and hunters. Also, Consider iodine tablets or a life straw or similar devise. Remember, Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.

  9. Rope or 100 mile cord
    Mole skin
    Extra Socks (x2)
    Baby Wipes
    Duct Tape
    Baby Powder or similar drying powder for feet
    Headache medicine/Muscle ache medicine

    • Dave's Mobile Home Phone // July 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm // Reply

      @Mr. C
      I believe the list did mention a water purification device, but good thoughts!

  10. The top ten are probably the most likely to be needed – whether a day hike or longer trek. I keep those first 10 items in my truck all the time in a small day pack, then move them to my backpack for longer treks.

    Not every item is needed every time, but I cannot count the number of times that sun shine somehow turned liquid (and not in the forecast for the region) or changing my shirt was a wonderful way to feel refreshed after a sweaty section of a trail.

  11. why, comatose, why??? // April 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm // Reply

    Awesome! Im going to go pack all this into a bag tonight!

  12. Also remember the three layers for cold weather wicking, warmth, and weather layers. Wicking is the t shirt and undies the warmth is like long johns and a fleece, and the weather layer is like a poncho or wind breaker or both. don’t wear cotton. cotton kills

  13. Duct tape is a great thing to have

    • old eagle // May 7, 2014 at 7:27 am // Reply

      Duct tape is great. Just remember it is a “smellable” in bear country, so don’t keep in your tent.

  14. this is helpfull sence im so forgetfull

    thanks for posting it

  15. A Scout @ Troop 853 // May 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    Real handy list! It’ll help me prepare for next camporee.

  16. gorrilla guy // April 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm // Reply

    this list definitly needs a rope on it
    I also noticed that tent wasn’t on it, but I suppose that It would be hard to forget it
    Also maybe sleeping bag.

    Other that that I thought it was great

  17. To those that mentioned rope, I think the aforementioned “nylon cord” refers to 550 Paracord which is excellent as a “rope.” It has a high tensile strength and a multitude of uses.

  18. needs rope and back up knife

  19. Awesome dude385 // November 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm // Reply

    I agree, but rope should be one of the basic essentials also.

  20. YA BOY BILL NYE // November 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm // Reply


  21. campchamp37 // June 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    I usally pack that stuff

  22. L U V I T ! 😉 🙂 😛

    • Also a 3DS User! // August 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm // Reply


  23. Patrol leader of the Monkey Patroll, troop 413 // April 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm // Reply

    Our patrol plans every camp out months ahead, and we always include every item from this very list. Thanks Boys Life!

  24. Camp Time 621 // October 5, 2011 at 9:28 pm // Reply

    Don’t pack it all. When you use this, think about the campout. If your going to a state park, you won’t need a latterine. Also, check the weather, you may not need a sweater or rain gear.

    • campcommonsense // November 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm // Reply

      @camptime But also remember that the weather in the mountians or a the beach, or pretty much anywhere can change in an instant. Scouting is about being prepared, so never leave your rain gear at home!:)

    • Tr00p 363 Member // September 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm // Reply

      you should always pack your rain gear because you never know for sure.

      • Flash_EXE // October 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm //

        Look, if your going somewhere like: Bass Lake, and the forecast says: Clear sky today! the day your going, then I don’t really think that you have to bring Rain Gear. You could, but if your backpacking, then thats just more weight.

      • Bushcrafter // April 22, 2014 at 12:57 pm //

        I have always advocated carrying one or two simple plastic garbage bags. They can function as emergency rain gear, emergency shelter, water containers, or…trash bags if the area is badly littered.

    • cmaxwell9 // June 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm // Reply

      u forget it your in trouble if it

  25. to much stuff but thanks anyway

  26. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!! Thanks a TON BL

  27. kick ninja // June 2, 2011 at 8:43 am // Reply

    best check list 😀

  28. i normaly carry all this stuff and makes pack weigh a ton 🙁

    • Yes it does, but if you make it small and you exercise often, it will make it a lot easier. Plus, I have found it easier that if you camp and hike with others you must split the gear out between all of you.

    • when you exercise try it with your pack on too, that may help.

  29. thats rely good

  30. Yeah i always will use this thanks bl

  31. LUV IT

  32. awesome checklist! i forget half this stuff on most campouts, so it’s helpful

  33. Camaro Boy // July 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm // Reply

    Life saving checklist. me would have defintly forgot half stuff on there : )~

  34. Many of the things on the check list aren’t as essential as lets say a tent or sleeping bag

    • I think I know what to bring now
      THANK YOU BOYS LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • underthestarscamper // May 21, 2013 at 11:37 am // Reply

      tent is not essential, man! what kind of trip is a tent a nessecity? I have never used a tent on my camping trips and will use one for the first time this summer, but it is not neccesary. sleeping bag? neccesity as much as the rest of your gear. tent? usefull, not essential

  35. This is awesome!! Thanks Boyslife!

  36. this checklist rocks!!!!!!!!!:)

  37. Why would you take a musical instrument but yeah i would never remember to take a towel im always fogetting something!

    • does tuba count as small instrument

      • Flash_EXE // October 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm //

        When it say’s “Small” it doesn’t mean you HAVE to take a small instrument, its just saying that you could bring one, in reality you can bring whatever sized you want!

      • @buby22
        No, not really.
        Is it full size or 3/4 size?

      • bandatthecampfire // May 21, 2013 at 11:39 am //

        harmonica for around the bonfire. if you play tuba around the bonfire then I’d love to camping with you and bring my drums. maybe bring a grand pianist along too…

  38. Best Scout in America // June 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm // Reply


  39. The Big "G" // May 26, 2009 at 3:13 pm // Reply

    I think I just might have to refeer back to that checklist in a couple of months when I go to BSA Camp.

  40. The Big "A" // May 23, 2009 at 2:49 pm // Reply

    That is a great checklist!!!

  41. What are those iodine tablets used to purify questionable water? What ever they are could you please add them to the list? Other than that it was really helpful.

  42. The checklist is extremely helpful- I would never remember things like sun protection or the trowel.

  43. Ithink that was a good idea about the trail food.

  44. Master Monkuku // March 5, 2009 at 6:01 pm // Reply

    I think all this gear is good ,but you should add a portiable water purifire.

  45. This is all great stuff!

    Each of the other four lists has a link to a PDF that can be downloaded and printed. It would be nice to have a PDF for this list as well.

    Thanks for the outing-specific lists.

  46. Is there a button to print just the checklist?

  47. While I agree with your “Essentials Checklist” I was surprised to see the whistle listed on the “Extras” list and not on the Essentials.

    It’s smaller than everything else on the Essentials list and is probably one of the best/easiest signaling devices a scout (or anyone else for that matter) can carry on a hike should they become lost.


  48. Usually I forget my toothbrush and all these things. Ewwww! I never realized that these things were “essentials.” I appreciate Boyslife for making these handy-dandy little checklist that tells scouts “essentials” for outings.

  49. I liked the fact that you mentioned trail food I go out with my troop sometimes and theres allways that one guy who didn’t bring along anything to keep him going on a long hike.


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