Patrol Cooking at Camp


Scout camps all across the world typically provide food through a dining hall system where kitchen staff cook and serve the meals, but there is another way for troops to get their daily dose of nutrients. Here at McNeil Scout Ranch, we offer an alternative method that promotes leadership skills and team building all while creating memories through cooking.

Amongst the morning breeze rustling through the grass, one might also hear the sound of sizzling bacon cooking on a camp stove as scouts prepare breakfast for their troop patrol. Although dining hall meals offer an easy and reliable way for participants to eat before their exciting day full of adventure, the patrol method teaches youth valuable life skills. First used by Baden-Powell in 1907, patrol cooking is an easy and fun way for troops to cook, eat, and clean during their weeklong camping experience at McNeil Scout Ranch! In this post, we’ll define Patrol Cooking, describe a typical patrol cooking setup, and provide 4 tips and tricks to get started with Patrol Cooking in your troop.


Patrol cooking stems from the root source of the Patrol Method: youth working together towards a common goal where each participant has an important role and adults act as guides that supervise. The patrol method allows Scouts to lead each other through teamwork.

A Scout patrol is a small team of normally six to eight youth from the troop and can be made up with a Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) or a Patrol Leader (PL) who organizes and leads roles and assignments for the members. Having a troop split into smaller groups leads to self-accountability and responsibility for troop success.

Patrol cooking is set up where each person in the patrol has a job. Two scouts might be in charge of getting the food from the drop-off location and bringing it back. Another scout might be responsible for preparing the food and another cooking it. Lastly a scout or two sets up the wash line for all the scouts to clean personal mess kits and cooking equipment. Every person must complete their task for the patrol to be able to eat and continue on with their day.


Patrol cooking creates jobs for each person in the patrol where if incomplete the system doesn’t function. It encourages the scouts to rely on each other for the success of the group. Without a scout preparing the food, cooking, and cleaning, a patrol can’t continue in their day at camp. Having scouts cook their own food cultivates a love for cooking and creating the food that fuels their bodies. Cooking one’s own food fosters memories and connections among youth. The hard work and effort put into making a meal leads to satisfaction that the dining hall simply cannot replicate. By cooking their own food youth gain a sense of accomplishment all while honing their communicative and leadership skills. Patrol cooking cultivates an environment where youth gain valuable life skills.


Scouts need to work together timely to complete all their tasks on time for them to eat and clean up.


Each patrol is a team that works together towards a common goal.


Scouts might need to overcome the challenges of cooking or working well together if arguments arise.


Youth are encouraged to take action for what needs to be done in order for the food to get made and the site cleaned up. Patrol cooking fosters leadership skills.

Planning and Organizing

A Patrol needs to plan who does what job and who is responsible for certain aspects of the cooking process. A great way to do this is by making a duty roster that alternates jobs.


People learn so much through hands-on interaction like cooking for themselves. Patrol cooking is the perfect opportunity to create a learning environment.


Who decides which participant is going to gather supplies, prep, cook, or clean for each meal?

Each patrol is led by a patrol leader who is typically in charge of making something called a duty roster. This is a list of job assignments and a space to write the name of the person doing that assignment for their specific meal. These assignments should be rotated every meal so that a scout isn’t stuck doing a specific job the entire week. Duty rosters keep the patrol organized and running smoothly during mealtimes.


Food Runners

These scouts are in charge of going to pick up the food from a pre-assigned meeting location. If a patrol doesn’t know where this is already, they should ask a counselor ahead of time to show them. This crew needs to be made up of at least two individuals for the buddy system as they are leaving their campsite to go pick up the food and bring it back. This crew is also in charge of making sure they have the right amount of food for their patrol when picking it up. Typically, the ingredients are split up into bags with the number of servings written on the bag. The scouts are responsible for making sure this number matches the number of scouts in the patrol while also reading the ingredient list to make sure they have all the ingredients they need before heading back to camp.

Cook Crew

The cook crew is responsible for preparing the food and cooking it. This crew should ideally have at least two individuals but can be done with one if the patrol is small. Here they are tasked with reading the cooking instructions and following them accurately. They must follow all food safety procedures such as washing their hands before starting and making sure meat is cooked thoroughly. This crew holds a large amount of responsibility as they are the ones using knives to cut the food and fire to cook it. It is important for these scouts to give their full attention to the cooking process. If they aren’t sure of what to do it is important that they first problem solve, then discuss the issue with their PL or SPL and as a last resort reach out to a counselor or adult leader.

Cleanup Crew

Here the scouts are in charge of cleaning any leftover food, trash, and dishes. Ideally, this crew has at least two people to carry water buckets. These scouts should start a pot of hot water as soon as they can so they can pour it into the wash line. Cleaning can be a chore done during cooking. Putting up packages and unused utensils as well as throwing away waste as the food is being cooked cuts down on the time cleaning up after the meal. Placing a pot of water on the stove ensures hot water is ready for rinsing dishes by the time people are done eating. There are four buckets in a wash line, and everything but hot water can be prepared ahead of time. The Goober Bucket needs cold water and a scrubby. This bucket is for getting any food residue from the dishes. The Soap Bucket needs warm water, soap, and a scrubby. This is for scrubbing the dishes clean. The Rinse Bucket just has warm water in it and is used to rinse off the soap. Lastly, the Sanitize Bucket has cold water and 2 sanitation tablets. This bucket sanitizes the food from germs. All the scouts should be helping clean the actual dishes and are responsible for cleaning their individual mess kits. The cleanup crew needs to dump all the water into the sump at the end of the cleaning process. To do this they should first dump the Goober Bucket, then dump the Soap Bucket into the Goober Bucket and re-dump that into the sump. Then dump the remaining buckets into each other in order until the Goober Bucket has had all the other bucket’s liquids dumped into it. Then the cleanup crew can set the buckets out to dry.


Plan out job assignments for each meal.

Having this set up ahead of time eliminates confusion and anger about who’s doing what. Be clear about what the responsibilities are for each job as well to minimize conflict. It is important to change up the job assignments each meal so each scout can experience different responsibilities and learn different skills.

Work together as a patrol.

Everyone should have a job in the patrol so that the cooking can run smoothly, and the youth can work together as a whole to achieve a common goal. Dividing up tasks gives everyone the opportunity to participate and learn while also not putting the weight of the group’s success on one individual.

Leave any drama at the campfire

Remember you’re here to learn to work well with your patrol. Problem solving and communication are arguably the biggest parts of a successful patrol and knowing when to let something go is essential. A scout doesn’t want to waste all of their cooking time arguing with their patrol about something.  

Cook the right amounts for your patrol.

Leave no trace is an important part of the outdoor code and applies to when you’re cooking too. By making the right amount of food and eating all of it, a patrol can prevent critters from making a home in the campsite and assures each participate is full of nutrients for their busy day of scouting!


Patrol Cooking is a great way for a troop to become closer and it instills valuable life lessons into each scout. If you are interested in signing up for one of our Patrol Cooking sessions you can sign up for either session 1 or 5 here:

Does your troop have any patrol cooking tips or recipes you would like to try? Leave them in the comments below!

Published by heatherdiviness

Media Specialist for McNeil Scout Ranch at Peaceful Valley

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