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What I Wish I Had Known at My First Jamboree

If you’re fortunate enough to attend a Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree you’re in for the experience of a lifetime! It’s an awesome journey in a world-class high adventure setting that’s basically like camping with thousands of your best friends.

In 2013, the Jamboree was held at its new home in West Virginia, the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Boy Scouts and Venturing Crews from 50 states and 20 countries converged and for ten days lived out the Summit’s inaugural Jambo theme – ‘Go Big. Get Wild.’

If you ask any of the 40,000 campers who attended the 2013 Jamboree for some tips on how to have the best possible 2017 Jamboree experience, you’re likely to hear many of the same themes – and almost all involve proper planning.

I was an Assistant Scoutmaster at Jambo 2013. I’ve shared a lot of great stories and memories with Scouts and staff alike since then, and I’ve also collected a few “wish I had known to..” observations from Scouts and staff alike since then.

In the spirit of the Boy Scout Motto, we’ve boiled those “wish I had knowns” to 4 tips that can help you ‘Be Prepared’ to have an awesome Jambo experience:

Pack Smart

The packing list provided to you by the jamboree and by your Troop leaders represents years of trial and error experiences. Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from theirs! There is a Trading Post at SBR that sells most any piece of gear or clothing or sundry needs you may decide you need on-site. Pack smart! The weather in the West Virginia mountains can change quickly — carry basic rain gear in your daypack even on hot sunny days, and a Nalgene water bottle.

Solar Power is Awesome!

Basecamp Shower HouseEach campsite has several bath houses. They are clean and efficient and designed with environmental sustainability in mind. In fact, the entire Summit was designed to minimize the environmental footprint of the tens of thousands of Scouts and staff who camp there. Many of the systems in place there are at the leading edge of low-impact environmental technology. The water you wash your hands with in the bath house becomes “gray water” and is routed to be used in the toilets and urinals, and so on. More importantly for campers to know, there is no “hot water” system. Using only ambient temperature water reduces water use by several million gallons per year and eliminates energy costs, but it can also mean a cold shower! Solar Shower bags work great, and they are inexpensive and efficient. A smart investment. Leave the solar shower bag filled with water by your tent in the sun, and when you return to camp for dinner you’ve got hot water to take to the bath house. A wise investment.

You may also want to take a look at solar charger systems that can help keep your smartphone operational. The Summit has added more charging stations for Jambo campers, but bringing your own solar charging system is a great backup if you plan on using your smartphone to take a lot of photos and videos. There are many different portable solar charging systems on the market — here are a few.

Arrive With a Plan

If this is your first Jambo, I can promise you’ve never been to a place quite like the Summit. There are more activities available than one Scout can possibly do in ten days (you’ll hear adult leaders refer to these activities as “program elements”). There’s not just zip-lines, there are several kinds of zip-lines. There’s not just bikes, there are several kinds of bikes and biking experiences. There is rock climbing, white water rafting, skateboarding, hiking, and several kinds of boating activities. Actually, there are too many “program elements” to list here, but the point is this: There are tons of cool things to do, many you’ve never tried before, and you’ll probably want to do them all – which is impossible in just ten days. So look through your Jamboree materials before you arrive at camp, and arrive with an idea of what activities (“program elements”) are available and which you want most want to try. Know what you really want to do the most – and have a general plan. Your Troop leaders can help with logistics from your campsite.

The Jamboree App

Jamboree staff, Troop leaders, and Scouts alike can download the 2017 Jamboree app to their smartphone and have lots of helpful tools right it their fingertips. The Jambo app will have maps of the Summit, activity schedules, weather forecasts, emergency alerts, concert showtime reminders and more — it can even help you keep track of your friends at SBR. When your Troop leader lets you know the Jambo app is available, download it and learn how to use it before you arrive at the Summit.

Contributor: Mark Ferrell

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