Pre-Camp: What Happens Before the Campers Arrive

Summer Camp.  It’s the event that thousands of Scouts in the Greater St. Louis Area Council anticipate and prepare for, all year long.  Of the 52 weeks each year brings, one week proves extra-special for these Scouts.

As a founding member of Troop 603, my troop’s first summer camp at S-F Scout Ranch in 2003 would be our first “real” Scouting experience.  Boy, did I have a blast!  Never before had I been so far away from home for an entire week, nor learn how to kayak and canoe, or learn firsthand what the “Patrol Method” was.  Our troop of a mere 7 Scouts had the time of our lives swimming in a 270-acre lake, earning a few merit badges, and cooking all of our meals on our campsite.

A few summer camps later, I enjoyed the summer camp experience so much that I was inspired to serve on summer camp staff.  As of today, I’ve had the privilege to serve 6 summers at S-F.  Forever I will cherish the memories I’ve made at camp, and I hope to have many more in the future.

Before The Season Begins…

Have you ever wondered what sort of experience the camp staff undergoes to prepare the camp for Scouts?  What happens “behind the scenes” before nearly 1,000 campers arrive at the S-F Scout Ranch for the first week of summer camp?  To find out, read on!


Camp staffers who are at least 18 years old are eligible to apply for an experience known as “pre-camp.”  Simply put, pre-camp is typically a 3-week term of employment in which camp staffers complete a variety of tasks to prepare the S-F Scout Ranch for another season of summer camp.  Such an experience is offered in addition to the applicant’s 6 or 7-week summer camp staff contract.  The pre-camp crew, therefore, arrives at S-F 3 weeks prior to the arrival of the remaining seasonal camp staff members, or about 4 weeks prior to the first round of campers.

What We Do

Ask any former pre-camp worker and you will soon discover the wide variety of tasks the pre-camp crew may be asked to do.  Here’s a simplified list of some typical jobs:

  • Set-up tent canvas on each camp’s staff row.
  • Deliver sailboats, paddleboards, and kayaks to their respective camps.
  • Move program area equipment (canvas, program boxes, etc.) to their respective locations.
  • Install floating, stationary, and fishing docks at each camp’s lakefront.
  • Install the mile swim line in the Boy Scout camps’ coves.
  • Weed-eat & mow program areas, campsites, fields, along roads, etc.
  • Complete a preliminary truck run of equipment to campsites.
  • Set-up each camp’s commissary, trading post, staff lounge, and program hall.
  • Install buddy boards at each lakefront.
  • Caulk and wax the water slides at Huck’s Cove.
  • Ensure utilities are up and running: electricity, water, telephones.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

After waking-up for breakfast and receiving morning assignments from the pre-camp foreman at 8 AM, the crew rides to the maintenance building to pick-up supplies.  Often times, this means grabbing weed eaters!  From there, we head-out to our project site and work until lunchtime.  After lunch, we re-group and receive our afternoon assignments.  The work day ends around 5 PM, at which time we have some flexibility in how we spend our evening.  Many days, this means showering and enjoying a relaxing dinner back at our cabins.  A few times, the crew brought together what food they had for a delicious pot-luck barbecue.  Other days, we choose to go into town and have dinner at a restaurant.  Either way, going to bed early is a common occurrence at pre-camp; most days are physically demanding, especially in hot weather.

What About Weekends?

Here’s one of my favorite parts of pre-camp: On the weekends, the crew virtually has the entire ranch at their disposal.  Swimming, kayaking, hiking, trying-out the new stand-up paddleboards – it’s up to you.  Exploring the ranch is incredibly fun when you have the whole weekend to spare.  It’s a nice reward after working hard all week.

Why We Love Pre-Camp

The more work we can accomplish during pre-camp, the more time the entire camp staff has to focus on training and development during “Training Week” – the week before campers arrive.  With this goal in mind, the pre-camp crew works hard to accomplish as many items as possible.


Anticipating this very blog post, I attempted to record our progress at pre-camp this past summer.  Here’s a timeline of my Twitter posts and photographs, arranged from the beginning of pre-camp to its conclusion and arrival of the entire camp staff.  Enjoy!

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