I love Scouting. It has made a positive difference in my life and I know I have helped build Scouting in others, impacting their lives and those they, in turn, help. It’s the positive ripple effect of this great program. I often share that Scouting isn’t just for kids, it’s for adults too. Similar to the youth we serve, I often see adults – such as myself – benefit from the experience he or she gains through leadership roles.
Love of Scouting is in my blood. I have registered every year since 1984 and Scouting has guided me on my professional journey across the country. No matter where I go, I encounter awesome people and see some of the most phenomenal places.
As I reflect on those experiences along the way, I can remember moments when I was a little less prepared. I am sure we can all think back to a time when we were challenged in Scouting and realize those were times we developed character the most.
Today I share with you, based on those memories of challenge and character development, some Christmas gift ideas for the Scout in your life.
Here are my top ten in no particular order.
(Click to read more on each gift down the page.)
- Pocket Knife
- Sleeping Bag System
- Overnight Pack
- Weatherproof Light Weight Clothing
- Fishing Equipment
- Something Branded with Scouting
- Gift Card
- An Experience
Let’s go through the list a bit more, rather than simply sharing the overall idea.
- Pocket knives are one of the essentials. Truly, this is the time of the year when you can get quality for a good deal. If you are getting a knife, be aware the knife should not be any larger than the palm of the Scout’s hand. By all means, we are not talking about the Rambo-sized knife. I have seen parents get that as a gift and it is too big for a Scout. And, of course, the Scout thinks it’s made for the next campout and throwing.
- Sleeping bags are essential. The manufacturer’s temperature rating is for what keeps you alive and has nothing to do with comfort. As leaders, we have seen a parent buy a new bag, send the Scout out the door and they were not ready for the cold or to be comfortable. What some parents don’t realize is that there is more to a sleeping bag and being able to sleep in the cold. There is a philosophy and the practice of it to make it through the night. Your bag should not be on the ground. Blankets and foam pads and a number of other items can help build a comfortable and insulating sleeping spot. Your sleeping bag can be any temperature rating because you can add elements inside the bag, like a liner, or add to the outside, like blankets. I use an old Coleman flannel sleeping bag with a moving blanket on the ground. Then I use a high-quality inflatable pad. (Hey, my back hurts if I don’t.) I put my bag on top of this and smother myself with a down blanket or a heavy comforter. The key is finding your basics – your sleeping bag and your pad.
- Of course! Another headlamp is always needed! Why? Because the one you are looking for is lost, according to my sons. The reality is, headlamps can be bought at just about any store. If your kids can’t keep up with them, then one more can’t hurt. It can alleviate hours of looking for the one lost at home only to find, at the next campout, it was at the bottom of the sleeping bag. If this is your first headlamp or backup, you need to ask how long and how often you use it. The more it’s used, the more I recommend a higher quality one like Scheels, Sportsman’s Warehouse, or REI carries.
- Overnight backpacking packs are not necessarily needed for every Scout. As a person who loves backpacking and worked at Philmont Scout Ranch, I can share that quality matters. But the pack fitting right and carrying the load matters even more. If you are an infrequent hiker – like every other year – maybe a cheaper pack can get you by. A couple of things to be mindful of are how many liters the pack is (45+ liters probably is good to start), how many pockets it has, how you load them and whether it meets the needs of the backpacking trip. I recommend the first thing you do is to pick it up and grab the waist belt. If you can grab the belt and hold it 45 degrees from your body and the pack does not flop to the ground, you are going to have great weight transfer to your waist. The more you carry weight on your shoulders, the more it transfers down your back. Each joint in your back gets squished with each step you take and your body wears down. The goal is to slow down the tiring and pain so you can hike longer. It’s not getting a pack so large a Scout feels they need to fill all empty space with things like three fire logs and six flashlights.
- Proper clothing is one of the essentials. A poncho is great for emergency use, and I have absolutely had to use one. However, if you want to get a gift that makes a difference in hiking comfort and safety, consider weatherproof clothing like a jacket, pants, or both. You can go cheap or expensive. You can get insulated or simply go with layers of clothes. You can find a jacket at Walmart for less than $20, or you can go to Scheels and spend hundreds. Have you ever seen what a cheap poncho and Deet bug repellant can do? (Deet can melt a poncho if you get the right strength. Yikes!)
- Proper footwear enables adventure. Every Scout needs some form of footwear for an adventure. Consider getting these: hiking boots, trail running shoes, active sandals, winter boots, or even some climbing shoes. Notice flip flops didn’t make the list even though they are great for the shower at camp. Why is footwear on the list? Well, I really prefer not to have to use duct tape for a shoe on a hike with Scouts.
- Fishing equipment is great for summer camp or even a backpacking trip. (And for the Scouter in your life too.) You can never buy enough lures as they always get lost. Consider a collapsible fishing pole, a fly-fishing pole, or just a regular rod and reel pole. One of the best feelings is knowing you bought the rod in the photograph of your Scout holding their fish and grinning from ear to ear. It’s an instant lifetime memory.
- Visit any one of the Scout stores or Scoutshop.org. In our stores, you will find locally branded Scouting merchandise. If you can’t make it into one of our stores, give us a call. Our great sales associates can help you with ideas.
- Gift cards can seem unglamorous, but consider the fun and bonding in giving a gift card and then taking the Scout out to use it. Go to any camping or outdoor store, take advantage of the after-Christmas sales and let the Scout find something that excites them.
- Experiences in Scouting build character. Help contribute to Scout camp or the National Jamboree. Consider sending a Scout to a high adventure base. Or consider an adventure as a family. Go to the climbing gym. Pay for a welding class. Start a new hobby. Rent some skis. Do a pack mule experience to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Send a group of friends on a white-water river trip. Do a guided hunting trip. Do a STEM lab experiment. Sometimes there is no greater gift than time together.