Outdoor adventures like camping have been at the core of the Girl Scout program for over a century. Through camping, girls learn wilderness skills, hike mountains, build fires, and gain a deep appreciation for the great outdoors. But whether you’re camping for the first time (as a girl or as a troop leader), or leveling up your survival skills, it can be a little nerve-wracking to get started.
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Never fear, we’ve got you covered. There’s a troop camping badge for every level of Girl Scouts, with age appropriate resources and skill-building activities to turn your troop into happy campers.
The Buddy Camper badge is the perfect way to introduce your girls to camping. Instead of just going on a camping trip, your Daisies can help with appropriate planning, packing, and event tasks. Learn to tie a square knot, create a camping chores schedule, go on a short hike, and learn smart safety tips like avoiding wildlife and poison oak. Not only will your girls learn basic skills that will help them get the most out of their first camping experience, but they’ll understand the whole process, so whether it’s in a national park or in their own backyard, they can go camping in the future with confidence.
Missing any gear, or need to learn some basic camping skills yourself? Lean on us! Check out our volunteer trainings, or attend your local service unit meeting to see if other troops can lend both advice and camping equipment!
Whether your Brownies got to go camping as Daisies or not, they’ll learn all about cabin camping with the Cabin Camper badge! Involve your girls in picking out a campsite, have them practice packing and carrying their own bags, and let them plan (and cook, with your help) a meal at the campsite. Teach them how to build a tepee fire with the straightforward and fire-safety-focused guidelines (found in the badge packet), sing songs, and play games by firelight.
Moving to the next step? If your Brownies are bridging to Juniors next year, consider hosting a very special outdoor bridging ceremony! Bridging in a forest filled with birdsong will be a memory they won’t soon forget.
It’s time to camp overnight in a tent with the Camper badge! Take a field trip to your local outdoors outfitter and have the girls ask questions about the best local campsites or gear they might need for any new activity you have planned, like learning to read a map and use a compass, or go bird-watching. The girls will learn to “leave no trace”, the best ways to cook on a campfire, and maybe even go on a night hike!
Bonus Badge! Juniors can also earn the Eco-Camper badge by learning all about “leave no trace”, going on a conservation hike, and planning campsites and meals that won’t leave an impact on the environment!
Even for experienced campers, primitive or backcountry camping is physically and emotionally intense. To earn the Primitive Camper badge, you’ll be going without electricity, running water, and maybe even cellphone service for the duration of your trip, so talk to experts like more experienced Girl Scouts, or your local park ranger, and get ready to bring everything with you. Spend a meeting learning how to layer your clothes properly, weatherproofing your gear, and studying trail maps. Whether you get to your campsite by hiking in, kayaking, or even snowshoeing in, your girls will learn invaluable survival and planning skills, and make memories that will last a lifetime. You may be roughing it, but don’t forget the s’mores—they’re not just a Girl Scout tradition, they’re a Girl Scout invention!
Pro Tip: This kind of intensive camping is the perfect opportunity to learn some really cool survival skills! Cook a recipe from a nomadic culture for your trail food, learn how to identify edible plants, or build an emergency shelter and spend the night in it!
When you plan an adventure like kayaking, mountain biking, or rock climbing, why not combine it with an overnight camping trip to earn the Adventure Camper badge! Adventure camping requires minimal equipment and maximum enthusiasm, because you’ll be active during the day and maybe even moving from campsite to campsite. Be prepared by taking a wilderness first aid course, see how long you can carry your pack on a practice hike, and get ready to put your camping skills to work! Adventure camping is an intense experience by nature, and it will inspire your girls to think and feel differently about themselves as they grow, so encourage them to express themselves by keeping an adventure journal, or sketching the beauty all around them.
Unsure of where to go adventure camping? State and national parks are an incredible place to start! California is full of world-class parks from Yosemite to Death Valley, but road-tripping to the Grand Canyon or even out of the country to Banff National Park in Canada would make for an epic camping adventure.
Your Girl Scouts are nearly grown up now, and ready for the challenge of survival camping to earn the Survival Camper badge! Learn to purify water, build up your hiking stamina, and cook with a solar cooker on this minimalist camping adventure. Practice your knot-tying skills to create an emergency shelter, learn about cairns and trail signs, or put your pathfinding skills to the test (but bring that map and compass as backup!)
Prepare for the future: Survival camping as a troop will bring your Ambassadors together in a way they’ve never done before, strengthening bonds of friendship into a life-long sisterhood as they rely on each other and work together as a team to plan and execute this camping quest.
Camping is not only a vital Girl Scout experience and an amazing opportunity for troop bonding, it’s a rite of passage for girls and young women alike. Communing with nature, working with their hands, and using their wits to succeed will give your girls the confidence, calm, and courage to seize life with both hands, and unite your troop with bonds of sisterhood and trust.
So what are you waiting for? Get outdoors!
What to do next:
- Looking to earn two badges with one trip, or just for more outdoorsy ideas? Check out these 20+ outdoor activities for Girl Scouts!
- For a related read, Girl Scouts River Valleys Troop Camp 101 covers some awesome tips to ensure your girls have the best experience possible.
- Is your girl desperate for more outdoor adventure, but you’re not sure about leading it yourself? Send her to Girl Scout Summer Camp.
- Are your Daisies adrenaline-seekers? Do your Brownies have a need for speed? Plan a trip where they can safely take risks with this article on how to plan an age-appropriate high adventure!
Katie Mock—Katie is the Marketing Copywriter for the Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she writes everything from tweets to Trailhead articles, and makes sure everyone dots their ‘i’s and crosses their ‘t’s. Although she was a Girl Scout for only a few years, her experiences with Girl Scouts, combined with attending a single-sex high school, gave her a profound appreciation for the power all-girl spaces have to change girls’ lives for the better. Katie moved to the Bay Area after graduating from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Linguistics; when she’s not diving into writing with a red pen, you can find her geeking out about the latest sci-fi novel, cooking anything from traditional Japanese Cuisine to pizza, or cuddling her two cats.