The campout is over, the scouts and a pack full of possibly wet and probably grungy clothes have been dropped of at their homes, and everyone just wants to relax for a while on a Sunday afternoon. Sorry, but there’s still some work to be done! Patrol and/or troop equipment must be maintained. Some items can wait, but some must be attended to fairly quickly.
The patrols will typically drop off a piece of gear at some of the scouts’ houses. It is a good idea for parents to ask their boys if they were given any equipment to care for, as they can be a bit absent-minded about this task. Not all patrols will handle this the same way, but the following is a general guide to what needs to be done.

Tents: Each tent comes in a bag, and consists of the tent itself, a rain fly, a plastic ground cloth, aluminum poles, tent stakes, and two plastic six inch tubes called “spiders”. Some tents also have another piece that attaches to one end of the tent to form a vestibule. The scout should take an inventory, and if anything is missing or broken, he should tell his patrol advisor. The tent components need to air dry quickly, or they will mildew, which not only causes the tent to smell but reduces the waterproofing of the material itself. Please don’t put this off longer than the next day! The tent doesn’t need to be erected. It can be hung up in a garage or basement, or even draped over a shower curtain rod in a pinch. This should be done even if there was no rain on the trip, as condensation from the scouts’ breath dampens the tent. Once dry, shake out any leaves or dirt that may be inside. Don’t put the tents in the washer or dryer, as this ruins the waterproofing! The tent can be either rolled or simply stuffed back into the bag. Remember to include the small pieces like stakes and spiders.

Dining fly: This is the large tarp that is set up over the camp eating area. Some patrols pack the fly along with its poles and ropes, others may separate the components. Again, just air dry all the bits and pieces. If there are stakes, there should be at least ten and possibly more. Let the patrol advisor know if anything is missing.

Camp stove: The stoves often get pretty greasy, so clean the inside and out with anything that cuts grease. If there’s burnt on food residue, a little oven cleaner will help. It doesn’t have to appear spotless. Check the threads on the connection for the propane line for dirt and debris, and make sure that the regulator (a threaded tube thing that screws into the right front corner of the stove) is stowed inside the stove casing. Dutch oven: This is a cast iron pot with a lid and short legs. If it’s wet, it will rust overnight, so dry it off right away. Try to clean it with a plastic scrubber and hot soapy water. If food is too badly burnt on, you may need to escalate to a metallic scouring pad or scraper, but this can damage the seasoning, which is a non-stick coating that cast iron develops through proper use. Extreme cases can be cured by putting the oven in a self cleaning oven and running it through the self cleaning cycle. Scrape out as much of the burnt on stuff as you can before you do this, or you may find out if your smoke detector is working. You can also burn off this residue by placing the oven upside down in a gas grill turned up to “high”, but this method may use up a lot of your propane. If you’ve had to scrape or burn the residue off, the oven needs to be re-seasoned. Coat it inside and out with vegetable oil or Crisco, and bake it in the kitchen oven for about an hour at 250 degrees. Even if the oven came out pretty clean with just a plastic scrubber, it never hurts to add to the seasoning by taking this step, and it will be less likely that food will burn on in the future. A very light coating of vegetable oil wiped on with a paper towel will help prevent rust while the oven is stored.

Patrol box: Each patrol has different items in their patrol boxes, but essentially what this box contains is all the utensils, pots and pans, and cleanup gear. Since there’s no reliable way to tell what’s clean and what’s not, just run all the pots, pans, and utensils through the dishwasher to be on the safe side. Sponges and scrubbers should be cleaned and dried. Let all the contents of the box get good and dry before you close the lid. Patrol boxes usually have containers of dish liquid and bleach. You can either top these off, or let the patrol advisor know if there isn’t much left. The same goes for things like paper towels and trash bags. You don’t have to completely restock it, but try to help the scouts (and patrol advisors) avoid surprises when they open up the box on the next campout!

Rope bag: This one’s pretty simple; it’s a bag of ropes. Just let them air dry, and the scout can practice untangling and coiling them back again.

The troop has made a considerable investment in all this gear, and help from scouts and their parents goes a long way towards making it last. Some troops seem to believe that the scouts will never do all this work, and if they do, it won’t be done right, so their adult leaders do all the maintenance. Troop 1988 knows better. The boys are a constant source of pleasure and amazement with the things that they learn and accomplish, so let’s encourage them to demonstrate that they are trustworthy when it comes to caring for troop equipment.