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Tips for Assessment Camps

In Australian Guiding, there are qualifications for both adults and older Guides to work towards to enable them to take others camping. These camps can be indoors or outdoors, at established, fully equipped campsites, or at bush sites where you take everything in with you.

This page has some tips for people who are working towards a camping qualification. I hope they are useful. They are by no means exhaustive.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THESE ARE MY NOTES, WRITTEN FOR MY OWN GUIDES - THEY ARE MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON ASSESSMENT CAMPS AFTER HAVING BEEN AN OUTDOOR ASSESSOR FOR SOME TWENTY YEARS - THEY ARE NOT OFFICIAL NOTES.

   

Camping Qualifications

These comments are relevant to the following Australian qualifications:

  • Trefoil 3 in Indoor Camping
  • Trefoil 3 in Camping at established campsites
  • Trefoil 3 in Camping at bush sites
  • FD O6 Conduct an indoor camp
  • FD 07 Conduct an outdoor camp at an established campsite
  • FD 08 Conduct an outdoor camp at a bush campsite

What is an assessment camp?

An assessment camp, by definition, is a camp that the candidate is responsible for planning, organising, carrying out and evaluating, in conjunction with the campers, and it is assessed by a qualified, experienced camper and Guiding Partner. It is to all intents and purposes, although we no longer use the term, a test.

When you are going for a camping qualification, you will be tested on your ability to plan, organise, execute and evaluate your camp, and to deal with any and all situations that arise during the camp.

Who is the assessor, and what does she do?

The assessor is responsible for certifying that you are capable of being in charge of a camp. This means that you have shown her that you are responsible enough, knowledgeable enough, skilled enough and have sufficient leadership qualities to ensure a safe and happy camp according to the way Guides camp, not a family camp or a school camp.

The assessor will require you to adhere to some standards, and will expect you to fix those areas that she thinks need attention. These days, that doesn't mean you have "failed", like it used to in the old days. It means that you've not yet shown competence in all areas of camping, and you will need to show competence at some future date before you are awarded the qualification. It's not uncommon for some areas to need further work.

How do Guides camp?

Guides camp in a particular way. We have traditions going back 100 years. We have a very good safety record, because we pay attention to detail, and we camp in a safe manner. Having traditions does not mean that we are out of date. Having traditions means that we train ourselves and our people to be self-sufficient when at camp, without relying on lots of modern conveniences such as folding tables, barbecues or takeaway food. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use those conveniences when at camp, but it’s probably not the best idea to base your camp on them when going on an assessment camp. The assessor will expect at least some traditional Guiding camping to occur.

Before you apply for assessment

You need to apply to do an assessment camp. Local (state) requirements may vary, but in general you need to apply for your camp at least three months in advance. This is to give you time to do any required training, to plan your camp, and to train your campers.

I strongly urge you to go to a Guiding camp training before you even think about applying for an assessment camp. Even if you have staffed on umpteen camps, there are things to remember that you will not realise need to be done unless you have been to a training. Being in charge of a camp is a whole new ball game.

When you apply for an assessment camp, you will be assigned a Guiding Partner, an experienced camper who holds the qualification you are attempting. Use her as a resource, a sounding board, a trainer. Ask her advice, talk things through with her, invite her to camp preparation and planning meetings, get her involved in the process. That way she can see your progress, and you can get the benefit of her knowledge.

Timeline

  • Decide that you will go for a camping qualification.
  • Decide on when and where you will go to camp.
  • Book the campsite.
  • Send in your application form for assessment, at least three months before the date of the camp.
  • You will be contacted by your Guiding Partner.
  • Start planning the camp with your campers.
  • Train your campers. Do training yourself if you haven't attended one. This camp training page might help.
  • Keep in contact with your Guiding Partner throughout the process. Keep her informed of what you are doing.
  • Go to camp, and have fun!
  • Evaluate the camp - meet with your Guiding Partner to discuss how it went.
  • Submit the appropriate post-camp forms.

The planning phase

Before you go to camp, you will need to send to your assessor copies of everything. She needs to see your menu, shopping list, kitlist, program, forms, first aid kit, planning notes, etc. Get these to her before camp if possible. If you can’t get them to her beforehand, make sure you have a folder of everything ready for her when she arrives at camp.

You can find some planning forms here on the camp planning page.

Booklets

I often make up booklets for my campers, if I have time. These booklets can contain as much or as little as you want, but should probably include the program, menu, duties, duty roster, recipes, instructions on how to do things, songs, skits, camp challenges etc. The girls love getting these, and they are expecially useful if you have a long way to travel to camp (something to do on the trip), or when the girls are inexperienced and need a little bit more help.

Please email me if you would like a copy of a booklet that I have used successfully.

Here are some parts of camping that you need to organise

Finances and budgets

Guide camps should be financially self-sufficient, which means that the fees the campers pay should cover everything involved in the camp, including property fees, activity fees, food, program items and first aid kit updates. Traditionally, adult staff do not pay camp fees for unit camps (after all, they are giving up their time to be responsible for the girls), and the fees paid by the youth campers should cover the adults as well. Sometimes this is not possible, in which case the adult staff should be made aware of how much they need to pay before they come to camp.

If there is money left over at the end of camp, you should reimburse all paying campers. For example, if you have $100.00 left over, and ten paying campers, you should reimburse everyone $10.00.

If your camp fees do not cover the expenditure, you have a problem, and you will need to work out a way to cover the outstanding costs. Sometimes it is possible to use unit funds, although this is not recommended. Sometimes you might need to ask any adult staff to pay a little bit.

You need to work out potential costs before you decide on the camp fee. Here’s how:

  1. Find out how much the campsite fees are per person per day
  2. Work out how much you want to spend per person on food
  3. Work out transport costs, if any
  4. Work out how much will be needed to purchase
    • program supplies
    • first aid supplies
    • cooking and cleaning supplies

Here’s an example:

Camp fees

$8.00 per person per day

5 people

2 days

$80.00

Food

$5.00 per person per day

5 people

2 days

$50.00

Program supplies

 

 

 

$20.00

First aid supplies

(updating the first aid kit)

 

 

$15.00

Cooking/cleaning supplies

 

 

 

$20.00

Miscellaneous

 

 

 

$20.00

Total

 

 

 

$205.00

Cost per person

 

 

 

$41.00

Camp fee per person

 

 

 

$45.00

The above scenario gives you a budget of $125.00 to purchase all the food, program and camping supplies for your camp.

An excellent way to keep track of your camp costs is to use a spreadsheet. Email me if you would like a copy of the spreadsheet I use.

Here is a suggested way of doing your camp accounts, using the figures in the example above (this is obviously for a patrol camp – a unit camp would have larger figures).

Date

Details

Expenditure

Income

Balance

23/5

Camp deposit

$25.00

 

-$25.00

5/6

Camper 1 fees

 

$45.00

$20.00

5/6

Camper 2 fees

 

$45.00

$65.00

5/6

Camper 3 fees

 

$45.00

$110.00

5/6

Camper 4 fees

 

$45.00

$155.00

5/6

Camper 5 fees

 

$45.00

$200.00

8/6

Groceries

$132.75

 

$67.25

8/6

First aid kit update

$3.50

 

$63.75

12/6

Camp fees less deposit

=$80.00-$25.00 already paid

 

$8.75

12/6

Campsite badges

$8.00

 

$0.75

Yippee! Your camp came out just about even!

When you are doing an assessment camp, the assessor will ask to see your accounts.

The campsite

Think about your campsite before you start erecting tents. You need to think about the placement of tents, fireplaces and gadgets, where you will prepare and eat food, where you will do program activities etc; ie the camp layout. It's a good idea to visit the campsite to suss it out if you've never been there before. Check out the terrain, the equipment, the facilities and the person in charge.

Tents and personal gear

It doesn’t really matter what type of tent you camp in, as long as an entire patrol can sleep in the same tent. Make sure you know how to erect, look after and strike whatever type(s) of tent you intend to use. If you haven’t used the type of tent you want to use before, practise how to erect and strike it several times before camp. It should take no more than 15 minutes to erect a tent if you know what you are doing. The assessor will start thinking you don’t know what you’re doing if it takes an hour for a patrol to erect one tent!

Whatever type of tent you use, you need to ensure that all personal gear is waterproof, bug-proof and off the ground. Tents with floors are handy because gear should not get too wet, but in wet weather floored tents can get very soggy underneath personal bags, so alternative methods of protecting personal gear should be investigated. For instance, putting a tarpaulin under the tent helps to keep it dry, and also helps to keep the tent floor in good condition.

Make sure you know how to look after your tents. If you are using a bell tent, you will need to ensure that it is starred correctly, and that you loosen the guy ropes at night or in the rain, and tighten them during the day. Find out if you need to do this for other types of tent.

When you are doing an assessment camp, the assessor will expect to see well-erected and looked after tents and personal gear. Bedding must be rolled up and waterproof when not being used (even if you are using a dome tent with a floor), and off the ground if possible (put them on a gadget, stretcher or airbed).

Camp layout

Think carefully about where you erect your tents. They should not be under trees, in gullies or hollows, on top of ant nests, next to a fire place etc. If you have more than one tent, it’s nice to have the tents in a circle or semi-circle, with the doors facing the centre.

Camp Etiquette

Just as in a home, camps have their own etiquette. Here are a few etiquette rules:

  • Close your tent doors when you leave your campsite.
  • Do not walk through someone else’s campsite without permission.
  • Do not make lots of noise after lights out – other people are trying to sleep.
  • If you are sharing toilet and bathing facilities with other camps, negotiate with the leaders in charge of the other camps about who cleans what and when.
  • Don’t have a late, noisy campfire. Other campers may be younger than you, and need their sleep.
  • Do not allow girls to enter the leaders’ tent.
  • Only the First Aider and the Leader in Charge may use the first aid kit.
  • Girls must obtain permission from a leader to enter the store tent.
  • Girls must obtain permission to enter a tent that is not theirs.
  • Enter and exit tents by the door, not under the walls.
  • Don’t add wood to an already burning campfire in the middle of the campfire program. Make sure you’ve built the campfire properly. Have a look at the How to run a campfire page here.
  • The Leader in Charge does not leave the campsite, unless the program requires it. If you forgot the butter, send the Catering Officer to the shops!

Guiding Traditions at camp

Guiding has 100 years of traditions. Here are some of the ones we have at camp.

Colours and flagpole

Every Guide camp should hoist a flag with ceremony every day (maybe not for the under tens). The best way to do this is to erect a flagpole. If you are camping at a bush site, perhaps you could throw a line over a branch and hoist your flag on that, or attach the flag to a tent. Make sure you remember to bring the flag down at sundown – put it on your program so that you don’t forget!

Most campsites do not have flags - you will need to bring your own. It doesn't matter if it's a national flag, a World flag or a Unit flag.

Brush up on how to build a flagpole using gadget wood, how to fold and hoist a flag, and how to do Colours. Your assessor will expect to see a respectful ceremony.

Ceremony

Have some sort of opening and closing ceremony for the camp, plus a ceremony every day. The daily ceremony can be something as simple as a Horseshoe formation where the leader checks that everyone slept well, has on the correct clothing, etc. Perhaps a brief prayer or reading could start the camp day, followed by announcements or instructions for the next activity.

Guides’ Own

Guides’ Owns are a traditional part of all Guide camps. Make them meaningful to the campers. A Guides’ Own should be more than three minutes long. It can be 15, 20 or 30 minutes. More than that is probably too long, less than ten is definitely too short. Your assessor will appreciate an invitation to your Guides’ Own.

There’s a page on Guides’ Owns here.

Outdoor activities

Camping is a perfect time to explore the outdoors, and to introduce outdoor activities to the program. Your assessor will expect to see a large proportion of your camp program devoted to outdoor activities. Explore this website for some ideas.

A rest period each day

This is a traditional part of Guide camps, and serves several purposes. People often don’t sleep well at a camp – they are too excited, or unused to sleeping on the ground, or whatever. Also, girls often find that camping is tiring because they are doing so many things. A programmed rest period every day helps the campers to relax and regain some energy for the next activity. This is often programmed for after lunch, or between ablutions and dinner.

Showers/baths

Yes, I know most Australian Guide units and patrols camp over two days, but we are learning how to be self-sufficient in the bush, remember? Part of that is being able to keep ourselves clean. There is nothing more relaxing than a hot bath in screening, looking at the stars. Make sure that every camper has a shower or a bath for every full day in camp. Traditionally, the First Aider is in charge of showers/baths, to ensure everyone's safety (many little ones do not use showers at home, and turning on a shower tap to the correct temperature can be a challenge), and keep times to a minimum. For outdoor camps, erect a clothesline for wet towels.

Patrol System

Guide camping is based on the Patrol System, just as the normal weekly Guide meetings are. Use your Patrol Leaders to give instructions, teach skills and keep the program on track. Many units have PL Council once at day at camp, so that everyone knows what’s going on. Your assessor will expect to see the Patrol System in action, even if you are camping with only one patrol.

Duty Rosters

Make up a list of duties that need to be done over the time you are in camp (see some examples here).

Even if you are camping as a patrol, you can allocate duties to specific people. Here’s an example:

 

Cook

Wash up

Dry up

Put away

Fire

Hot water

Toilets

Day 1

Wendy

Beth

Joan

Patty

Jenny

Tanya

Everyone

Day 2

Tanya

Wendy

Beth

Joan

Patty

Jenny

Everyone

Day 3

Jenny

Tanya

Wendy

Beth

Joan

Patty

Everyone

 

Equipment and Safety

Outdoor camps

Know how to look after camping equipment that you use: how to store tools such as axes, spades, cooking utensils, tents, gadgets.

Also make sure that you know how to use the tools. Don’t use an axe or a bush saw if you’ve never been taught how. If you need to use an unfamiliar tool, ask your assessor to show you how to use and care for it.

Keep buckets underneath water taps, to stop puddles from forming.

Keep equipment out of the weather.

Make sure you know and use the safety precautions for all tools and equipment you use.

When working near a fire, make sure all hair is tied back, and that clothing will not get in the way.

When working with hot water, make sure you put cold water into the basin or bath before the hot water. Take the hot water to the receptacle, not the receptacle to the hot water (by that I mean, don't take the bath to the boiler: use a metal bucket to collect the water, and then pour it into the bath. Carrying a bath with hot water in it can cause accidents). Adult supervision around fires and hot water is a must.

Make sure you use hot water to wash up. Dry the teatowels on the clothesline you have made, or on the kitchen gadgets - don't put wet teatowels or bathtowels in bags.

Indoor camps

Never allow girls into the kitchen without adult supervision. Always have an adult supervising food preparation and cooking.

Don't allow running in the house - the potential to barge into someone and hurt them is high.

Make sure the girls know what a fire alarm sounds like - some schools simply ring a bell three times for emergencies rather than use a standard fire alarm.

Have an emergency evacuation plan, and practise it.

 

The Camp Program

  • Make sure you have enough activities to fill the time available at camp.
  • Use a noticeboard. This should include on it the program, menu, patrol names and members, duty roster, list of duties and some interesting pictures or information about the theme of your camp. I’m not sure how a noticeboard is used at a bush campsite, but perhaps it could be hung from a convenient tree, or you could make booklets for all your campers showing the program, menu and duties.
  • If you want to include adventurous activities in your program, make sure you have submitted the correct forms to the appropriate authority (Region or state) in plenty of time before the camp.

An indoor camp is different to an outdoor camp. An outdoor camp at an established campsite is different to a bush camp.

Why am I telling you this? Because I have seen people try to include activities in their camp program that are not particularly well suited to the type of camp they are running.

An indoor camp has more time for activities, because the duties don’t take as long as they do at an outdoor camp.

The cooking at a bush camp will be different to the cooking at an established campsite with cooking utensils and fireplaces provided.

Make sure you have alternative activities in case of wet, extra hot or extra cold weather.

 

Campfire

  • Make sure you have cleared the area around the fireplace of anything that can burn.
  • It is bad campfire etiquette to add wood to the fire in the middle of the program. Make sure you build the fire with enough wood to last the planned length of the program.
  • Make sure there is at least one metal bucket full of water near the fire – if you have two or four, you don’t have to keep going back to the tap to get more water to put out the coals!
  • A campfire program should last between 45 minutes and an hour. I personally think that anything less than that is too short, and anything more than an hour is too long. Other people may have other ideas. In planning your campfire program, remember that it takes approximately 25–25 songs to fill an hour.
  • Keep control of the campfire program. Make sure that everyone is sitting up and paying attention. Keep the program rolling along briskly, without long pauses while you think of the next item to do. Plan your program in advance. Conduct songs with big gestures that everyone can see so that everyone is coordinated.
  • Learn campfire etiquette. This includes: the leader's version is the one you sing; don't point torches in people's faces; don't lie down; don't grumble when asked to stand up; don't talk or giggle amongst yourselves, pay attention to the beat that the leader is using - there's nothing worse when people on one side of the campfire are three bars ahead of the people on the other side of the campfire.
  • Keep campfire blankets well away from the fire. Don't allow the girls to use the campfire blankets on their bedding if they are damp from dew. Only use pure wool for campfire blankets - other materials will burn, and polar fleece blankets are especially dangerous.
  • Go to my campfire pages for more information.

 

Food

Fires and cooking

Assessors like to see innovative ways of cooking at camp. You can try cooking without utensils, cooking with a dutch oven, haybox, solar cooker, mud oven or coals.

Make sure you have a metal bucket full of water near every fire, in case of emergency. During total fire bans, make sure you have an alternative method of cooking that does not require naked flame. Know the local fire restrictions.

Learn the most efficient ways to lay and light fires. Don’t do what I saw recently: a leader who declared that she loves fires threw a bunch of sticks on the ground, and lit them using a huge wad of toilet paper. That’s not necessary if you take the time to learn how to build and light a fire that is appropriate to the type of cooking you intend to do. Try to light every fire, every time, with a maximum of two matches, like the original Guides and Scouts did: it's good training, good discipline, and cheaper. Sometimes I even challenge my Guides to light their fires with one match - the secret is to split it into two, and use each half-match separately.

For an assessment camp, you need to show the assessor that you are capable of feeding you and your campers in the outdoors. Here are a few things that you should NOT do with your cooking:

  • Don’t bring food that has already been cooked at home (parboiling is okay if you have a specific reason for it).
  • Don’t use a barbecue or gas stove all the time – try some different methods of cooking.
  • Don’t buy takeaway.
  • Don’t burn your food.

Take a gas bottle and stove for emergencies.

I recently saw some Guides cooking and attempting to eat totally black pancakes. When I suggested that they were inedible, I was told that the frying pan they were using was black, which is why the pancakes were black. My response to that was: (a) you’re going to make yourselves sick, and (b) clean the frying pan before you use it!

Make sure that you leave the cooking utensils in a better condition than they were in when you arrived at the campsite. At a recent camp we spent a couple of hours over the weekend cleaning some frying pans that were black on the cooking surface. There’s no excuse for leaving them like that.

Food storage

If you are camping as a Unit, you will probably have one adult as the Catering Officer, or Cook, or Quartermaster, or whatever you want to call her. If you are camping as a Patrol, you could assign one person to fill this role, or roster it.

Your assessor will expect to see your food and supplies well organised, well stored, and away from animals and weather. If the campsite has a fridge, use it, but you should also know how to store food at camp in other ways, in case you go to an unequipped campsite. Try using eskies with ice in them for food that needs to be kept cold, hanging fruit in a hanging larder etc.

Be Prepared

The Guide Motto is Be Prepared, especially at camp. Be prepared for wet, hot, cold, windy weather; tired campers; insufficient or wet wood or fuel sources etc. You will need to make an emergency plan for the camp - your assessor will ask to see it.

Make sure you have some interesting activities to do if your planned activities are cancelled due to the weather.

Make sure you have sufficient shelter for people to eat somewhere dry and shady.

Know the rules and regulations for the campsite and for Guide camps - look up the most recent edition of Guide Lines. Especially know the swimming, boating and adventurous activities requirements.

Make sure you and at least one other adult at camp is qualified in first aid, and check the first aid kit before you go to camp.

After camp

Gift for the assessor

It is traditional to give the assessor a small gift, as a thanks for the time she has spent with you before camp, and at camp. She's a volunteer too, and she has given up her valuable time and knowledge to help you. A nice card signed by the campers (or just the person being assessed), and a small badge or craft item is probably sufficient, maybe something to remind her of you, or of your camp theme. Of course, if she's been particularly helpful, give her a big hug too!

Evaluation

Don't forget to evaluate your camp, especially if it is an assessment camp. Things will go wrong, and it's a good idea to write down a report to yourself of what went well, what didn't and how the next camp can be better.

At the end of every camp, I do several things:

  • air my bedding and wash my clothes
  • write an evaluation report for future use (as well as filling in the evaluation form that my state requires)
  • put everything together and bind it in book form - I have a whole shelf of camp books!
  • take the noticeboard stuff off the camp noticeboard and paste it onto a large sheet of cardboard for future reference (see here)
  • put away in the camping cupboard the staple supplies that are used at every camp
  • replace the used supplies in the first aid kit

Your assessor will expect to see your evaluation, and she will also probably arrange a meeting for you to discuss the camp.

References

The best known book for Guide camping in Australia is Let’s Go Camping, by Nancy Eastick. This book has been around for many years, and has recently been updated to include information on dome tents and other modern camping items. Look for it in your District Library or local Guide Shop. It’s a really good reference book.

Specific Guiding skills can also be found in the old Australian Guide Handbook, the Eight Point Program Activity books and other books that will be in your District Library. If you are in New South Wales, you’ll find a lot of skills in the Rainbow Skills packs.

 

Good luck with your camping, and don't forget to make it FUN!

 

The information presented on this page is not an exhaustive list of how to run a camp, nor of what an assessor will require of you. It's meant as a starting point. I'm very happy to include suggestions from other people, and I hope to give this page more information when I can. It was written in a hurry when two of my Guides decided they wanted to run their own camps.

 

This page is copyright. Please do not reproduce this material without my permission.

Additions to this page are welcome. Just email me.