Hints & Tips

Knots & Pioneering

  • Use a Sheet Bend instead of a Reef knot when joining ropes of the same thickness that MUST NOT come accidentally undone.
  • Use a Double Sheetbend when joining ropes of very unequal thickness, or when the rope is slippery.
  • Always use a Sailmakers whipping when whipping ropes - it lasts much longer than a standard whipping, and looks better too!
  • The length of a whipping should be approximately the same as the diameter of the rope.
  • Burn the ends of synthetic ropes instead of whipping them.
  • Used waxed cotton to whip natural material ropes, and nylon whipping twine when you whip a synthetic rope - but see above!
  • Use a Japanese lashing to form a tripod, the lashing is self tightening when the legs spread.
  • Always bind whippings with the lay of the rope (usually anticlockwise). It tightens the rope fibres, and when the rope relaxes, it tightens the whipping further. If you whip in the opposite direction - against the lay of the rope - when the rope relaxes the whipping will loosen.
  • Use man made fibre ropes for water based activities such as raft building - the ropes will not jam so easily. Some man made ropes will float - a boon when a raft comes apart!
  • Use a Figure of Eight knot instead of a Thumb or Overhand know when tying stop knots - it does not jam so readily.
  • Undo a Reef knot by pulling one end sharply back over the knot - the other end will (should?) form a Larks Head around the first end, and slip off.
  • Be wary of using a Clove Hitch when starting or ending lashings. The poles can turn and allow the Clove Hitch to unroll. Use a Round Turn and two Half Hitches instead.
  • Always lock a Clove Hitch with a Half Hitch or two to stop it unrolling.
  • Be wary of lashings made with wet or damp sisal ropes - they loosen when the rope dries out!
  • Sticky tape wrapped around the end of a rope makes an excellent temporary whipping if you are in a hurry. [Del Reynolds]


  • When sleeping in blankets, or using a blanket for additional warmth, have more layers below you than on top of you.
  • Wear shorts and thin canvas shoes with no socks around the campsite on wet and rainy days. Your skin is waterproof, and the canvas shoes will dry quickly when it stops raining.
  • If your tent does not have a sewn in groundsheet, instead of digging a drainage trench around your tent in bad weather, raise the edges of the groundsheet with wood. This forces the rainwater underneath the groundsheet.
  • Use dead wood from a tree when lighting a fire - it will be drier than wood found lying on the ground.
  • Keep your knives and axes sharp - there will be less chance of slipping and accidental cuts.
  • Always use a figure of eight motion when sharpening on an oilstone - this will even the wear on the stone and make it last much longer.
  • Always remove all grass / leaves and debris from a tent as you fold it up - they will rot during storage and ruin your material - especially canvas.
  • Always hank your guy ropes when striking a tent - they will not be tangled when you next pitch it.
  • If your tent is wet, or even just damp, when striking it, dry it out before storing it, especially if it is canvas.
  • Rub the outside of billies and dixies with soap or washing up solution before cooking. It makes the removal of the soot much easier.
  • Here is a contentious tip - check with your Quartermaster first!
    Do not clean the soot off the bottoms of billies and dixies. (However, do clean the sides.) The soot is black, and absorbs heat quicker than shiny metal. The pot will heat up quicker, and require less fuel.
  • Bake eggs in the campfire embers. Just a pin prick hole in one end is all that is required for a perfect hot snack.
  • A Beaver or Cub between two slices of bread makes a tasty snack for a hungry Scout!
  • The best thing to remember is that skills can replace equipment. A flat stone thrown in the fire can replace a frypan if you work your menu around it. (Bacon and eggs work well. Remember that when well heated, the stone is cleaned and sterilized.) [Don Buchan]
  • Hooks are made out of forked branches that are cut to useful lengths so that when lashed to a tree, you have hooks to hang your pots and towels. [Don Buchan]
  • Orange peels are great for making eggs and muffins -- just cut open near the top, scoop out the fruit (but not damaging the peel,) pour in the egg or muffin mix, and cook over the fire. [Don Buchan]
  • Take along several sticks of hot glue on overnights. They can be melted with a campfire stick or ember and will repair a punctured air mattress or leaking tent in short order... [Stephen T. Schaub]
  • When camping, a piece of white paper seems to attract ants to it rather than to food, or your tent. [Andrew Stribblehill]
  • Waxed dental floss works extremely well for whipping the ends of rope. It comes in a small plastic container that is perfect for throwing into your pack. After you whip the ends of the rope, heat the dental floss to melt the wax. Works great. [Jo Ernst]
  • When hiking, wear two pairs of socks. Not only does this cushion you feet, but the outer pair can be turned down over the knot in your shoe laces to stop them getting caught on tree roots, etc. [Daniel Anderson]
  • Building a campfire from scratch first thing in the morning can delay breakfast. Instead, "bank" the fire by burying some embers in a few inches of ashes. Without much oxygen, they'll smolder slowly all night. This little trick also shows the importantance of scattering a fire (and dousing it with water) when you want to make sure it's out! [Randall Black]
  • Winter camping? Brrrr! We used to keep our clothes inside our sleeping bags at night. It makes getting dressed in the morning a lot less chilly. [Randall Black]
  • The perfect kindling on a wet day is "fat wood" or "sheepherder's gasoline." Find a very rotten pine stump. As the wood rots, the pine resin concentrates in a little stick in the center. Good fat wood will just about light under water! [Randall Black]
  • Did you know that you can boil water in a paper cup? Even in the hottest fire, the water keeps the paper cool (although the dry rim can catch fire). Try it and amaze your whole patrol. [Randall Black]
  • It may feel "dry" but your sleeping bag naturally absorbs moisture as you sleep. Open it up and air it out for an hour, preferably in the hot sun, before you roll it up. Take care of it and one sleeping bag will see you through enough camping to earn the Order of the Arrow (mine did!). [Randall Black]
  • Especially in the winter, gather up a thick layer of leaves or pine needles before you put down your tarp or tent bottom. They insulate you from that block of ice called the ground and feel like a dream. [Randall Black]
  • Wearing two pairs of socks will help prevent blisters. As soon as you get a foot blister, sterilize a needle or knife blade and poke a tiny hole in the side of the blister to drain the fluid. If you don't, the blister will rub open on its own and hurt like the beejeebers. After the "operation," put on antiseptic and a band-aid, if you happen to Be Prepared. [Randall Black]
  • Conduct award ceremonies by candlelight. The mood is more solemn; the honors more memorable. [Randall Black]


  • Allow a general speed of four kilometers per hour when hiking with a day sack or light rucksack.
  • Always carry a bivvi bag for emergency use.
  • Be careful of metal objects affecting your compass when using it - belt buckles and metal gates can cause havoc!
  • Powder your feet and socks before starting a long trek.
  • Look after your boots and they will give you many years of service. Always clean them after use, and never allow the leather to dry out during storage.
  • Keep your emergency matches in a waterproof container such as a film canister. Tear off the side of the matchbox and put it in the container if the box will not fit.
  • Never forget matches. You can never have enough matches because you'll find that the wind and wet wood will always be working against you.[Don Buchan]
  • An easy alternative to matches is a Zippo cigarette lighter: It won't get wet, lasts a while, and is always handy.[Don Buchan]
  • Dip the heads of your emergency matches in candle wax to make sure they are dry.
  • Wrap your spare torch batteries in food film - it keeps them dry, together and stops them shorting out.
  • Place all your spare clothes inside strong plastic bags inside your rucksack / daysack. In fact, everything that must not get wet should be protected in plastic bags inside your 'sack.
  • Wear many thin layers of clothing to keep warm, rather than one thick garment.
  • Always have a hat with you as most of the heat lost by the body is through the head.
  • Make sure your gloves have long thick wrists. A second major source of heat loss is the wrists where the blood vessels come close to the surface.
  • When walking in groups, choose and walk with a 'buddy'. That way should you or he/she become separated from the group, the alarm can quickly be raised.
  • Always carry a pack of cards with you. If you ever get lost, sit down and play Patience. Within minutes, someone will look over your shoulder and say, "Put the red seven on the black eight"!
  • At night, avoid switching on your torch once your eyes are used to the light, so you do not lose your 'night vision'. When the moon is full, and the sky is clear, there is enough light to read by! Try it.
  • When map reading at night, close one eye before switching on the torch, and keep it closed. That way you will only lose your night vision in one eye.
  • A (UK) mnemonic to help you remember to add or subtract magnetic deviations:
    "Grid to Mag, you Add,
    Mag to Grid, get Rid"
  • When hiking in wet ground, put your first pair of socks on, then a plastic bag, then the second pair of socks. This way your feet stay warm and dryish even when your boots are soaked.

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The 42nd Brighton Scout Group provide these Scouting Hints and Tips as a general resource of ideas. We do not accept responsibility for any loss or damage to person or property by anyone using these tips.