Getting Ready to Go Into the Field

Serving on an SCA crew will be an adventure, but it will also be hard work. Prepare yourself to get the most out of the experience.

Make the Commitment

  • Find out more about conservation, volunteerism, and our National Parks.
  • Get excited about discovering a new place, meeting a new group of friends, and living in the great outdoors.
  • Prepare yourself and your gear. Take a hike or walk with 20-30 lbs in your backpack. Start breaking in your new boots; wear them around town, or while you condition yourself to a heavy backpack.

How much will it cost?

What will I have to pay for?
You are responsible for travel costs as well as for providing your personal equipment such as boots, backpacks, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. We suggest that you try to borrow these from a family member or friend rather than buy each item. SCA has a limited amount of gear available for rental for a nominal fee, as well as an online store with gear for purchase.  Crew members will receive links to these resources when they are selected to a position.

How much equipment do I need to buy?
Take a look at our equipment list below. You will most likely have a lot of these items around your house, or you can borrow from friends and family. Utilize thrift stores for things like work pants and wool sweaters.

How much cash will I need?
We recommend that you bring about $50-$100 for souvenirs, ice cream, and other small purchases. SCA will provide all necessary food.

How do I apply for financial aid?
SCA is able to offer a limited number of Financial Aid grants on a first come, first served basis. Financial aid may not be used to purchase gear that is needed to participate. Contact Crews@thesca.org to request a Financial Aid Request form.

How will I get there?

How do I get to my crew site and what if I get lost? I’ve never traveled by myself before. 
We place hundreds of young people in these programs every summer, and we haven’t lost one yet. You and your parents will schedule and pay for your transportation. You should use whatever method is the most feasible. In most cases this will be a flight that is scheduled to arrive by the time specified on your placement email. Your crew leader will meet you at the airport or other designated location and provide transportation to the camp site.

Which airport should I use?
If you are meeting your crew leaders at an airport, it is important that you travel to the airport specified in your placement email. In some cases, particularly for regional crews, the meeting place is not an airport. Read your placement email carefully and communicate with your crew leaders about specific details for your travel day. 

Can I bring my cell phone?
Crew leaders carry radios and/or cell phone for emergency use, but we do not allow cell phones for participants. Members are encouraged to travel with a cell phone but are then required to hand them over to the leader.

What will I need?

Your SCA program will probably expose you to a variety of weather conditions.  The equipment you bring will need to keep you comfortable, warm, and mostly dry for your work day, home life in our base camp, and during our recreation trip. You do not need to spend tons of money on new gear and clothing. You probably already have many of the items listed here. If you need to buy things, there are many good sources for cheap camping gear, including local secondhand stores, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Army/Navy surplus stores. You can also try to find gear online. Sometimes campmor.com and sierratradingpost.com have cheap and closeout prices. For the larger items, you should first see if you can borrow things from friends or family. SCA has a limited amount of gear available for rental for a nominal fee, as well as an online store with gear for purchase.  Crew members will receive links to these resources when they are selected to a position.”

Here is a general list of items that you need to bring with you to your National Crew assignment. Your leaders will be in touch with you if there are more site specific items that you will need. For most SCA programs, the following list will serve you well.

We provide tents, stoves, cooking gear, an SCA logo T-shirt and other group gear for all of our trips.

Camp Gear and Personal Items, essential for all placements 

  • Backpack – External or Internal frame. External frames should have an “H” shape frame. Backpacks should have a 3000 to 5000 cubic inch or 65 to 75 liter capacity. Your pack also needs to have a padded waist belt and padded shoulder straps. Remember, you’re going to need some leftover room for group gear!
  • Sleeping Bag – Synthetic or down-filled bags required. Must be rated to 35 degrees or below. Try to get the smallest and lightest one you can.
  • Sleeping Pad – Closed-cell foam (i.e. Ridge-rest) or self- inflating (i.e. Therma-rest) pads are great. Air mattresses are heavy, bulky, and not durable. Open-cell foam (i.e. foam egg crates) soak up water and are too bulky.
  • Mess Gear – Something to eat out of and with. A plastic bowl or tupperware container works fine. Fork and spoon.
  • Mug – You’ll need some kind of unbreakable mug. Inexpensive insulated plastic ones are fine.
  • Day Pack – A smaller, comfortable pack to take with you each day, with room enough for food and extra clothes. Your school backpack would work fine.
  • Water Bottles – Enough to hold 2 quarts or more. Wide-mouth Nalgene water bottles are nice, and so are CamelBak systems. However, reused bottled water bottles or canteens will work. No glass, please. Screw-tops are much superior to the squirt-tops, since the squirt-tops can leak all over your stuff.
  • Sunglasses – Any pair that deflects UV will do. Gas station sunglasses are fine.
  • Toilet Kit – As small and compact as you can make it. Biodegradable soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s) is required. Toothpaste, toothbrush, brush or comb, razor, tampons or pads, chapstick, shampoo, sunscreen SPF 15 or higher.
  • Flashlight or Headlamp – Headlamps are better, since they free up the hands, but they are more expensive.
  • Work Gloves – 1-2 pairs. These are important. Must be a heavy glove with at the very least leather palms (all-leather recommended). You will be working in these gloves 8 hours a day for the duration of your program… get good gloves!

If you’d like advice on buying any of these items, ask our SCA Equipment Staff at uniforms@thesca.org.

Clothing, essential for all placements 

  • Boots - 1 pair of ALL-leather (or Kevlar) boots. Sturdy all-leather high top hiking or work boots are required for the program. Leather hiking boots are ideal but leather work boots that come up above the ankle are OK if they are comfortable enough to hike in. Get a good quality leather boot that is fairly heavy. They must have a lugged rubber sole, such as Vibram. DO NOT bring any sort of lightweight hiking shoe or any shoe or boot with Gortex or canvas uppers as your work boots.  Brands like Hi-Tech, Asolo, Merrell, and Red Wing frequently have good all-leather boots.  Select your boots with care: you will be wearing them all day, every day for four or five weeks! And whether old or new, start wearing your boots regularly now to break them in and toughen your feet before the program begins.
  • Tennis Shoes or Sandals – Great to slip on after a day of hiking or working, especially if your boots are wet. Remember, you have to have some sort of footwear on if you want to go swimming!
  • Rain Gear – Top and Bottom. Regardless of your location, it’s likely to rain. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Make sure it is durable enough to work in. No ponchos please.
  • Wool or Fleece Socks – They may be a little itchy, but better than frozen feet. We discourage cotton because cotton socks are useless when wet. Bring enough socks for a week – 4 to 7 pairs.
  • Shorts – Not for the worksite, but nice in the afternoons or on the recreation trip. 1 or 2 pairs.
  • Swim Suit – Very nice to have if it is the right season and you have the opportunity to go swimming.
  • Underwear – Pack enough for about a week. You can wash laundry as necessary.

Clothing, for hotter or more humid climates

  • Work Pants – Lightweight but durable. Khakis or Dickies work great. If you have zip off style pants, keep in mind that they tend to be less durable. Jeans will also work, but will be less comfortable in hot climates. You will need about 3 pairs.
  • T-shirts – You will need about 4 or 5, including your SCA logo shirt. This will be what you work in. You can also replace one or two of the shirts with a lightweight button-up shirt for sun protection.
  • Long Underwear – Lightweight but preferably not cotton. For the chilly evenings, or bug protection.
  • Jacket / Sweater – A mid-weight windproof fleece or sweater is enough for chilly evenings or rainy days.

A note for the hotter climates: You will most likely have less fluctuation of temperatures during the day, so you won’t need to worry about layering as much as in colder climates. You will find that your warmer clothes may be used more for bug protection. You will still want to layer, but they will be lighter layers. Don’t forget to pack light!

Clothing, for colder, higher-elevation, or more rainy climates

  • Work Pants – Heavy weight pants like carharts are great. Jeans will also work.  You will need about 3 pairs.
  • T-shirts – You will need about 4 or 5, including your SCA logo shirt. This will be what you work in.
  • Long-Sleeved T-shirts – Good for working in if it‘s cold. Bring fewer t-shirts if you go with long-sleeved shirts.
  • Long Underwear – Mid to heavy weight.  Good for sleeping in, or wearing under shorts for camp clothes. No cotton, as it doesn’t hold heat as well, and is useless when wet. Wool, poly-propylene, or capaline are great materials.
  • Jacket – Warm mid to heavy weight fleece jacket or wool sweater, windproof. Make sure you can layer with it.
  • Wool Hat – Keeping your head warm is essential to keeping the rest of your body warm.
  • Wool Gloves – Could be really nice in the colder climates.

A note on layering: It’s possible that your climate will be changing a lot through out the day, and you want to have enough items that you can layer. It could go from 35 degrees at night to upper 80s to 90s during the day. You may be comfortable in pants and a t-shirt during work time, but while lounging around camp in the evening you can get pretty chilly. Keep this in mind while packing. Pack light, but wisely. A lot of items can have multiple uses.

Optional, but nice to have around

  • Bandanas – Useful for all sorts of reasons, so bring a few!
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap – Could be nice if you normally wear them, but not necessary unless you are in a desert climate. Keep in mind that while working you will be wearing a hard hat.
  • Sleeping Clothes – Something dry and clean to wear at night.
  • Journal or Book – Write or read the next Great American Novel!
  • Towel – Try to get a camp towel, or failing that, a small towel.
  • Pack Straps – Can be very helpful for tying gear to your pack, or making an impromptu belt.
  • Rope – Not essential, but can be useful around camp.
  • Nylon Stuff Sacks – Great for organizing small items, or keeping your dirty clothes separate from clean clothes.
  • Sewing Kit – Nice for impromptu repairs of equipment/clothes.
  • Camera – Capture those priceless SCA moments.
  • Camp Chair – Compact model, such as “Therma-lounger” or “Crazy Creek.” Very unnecessary but nice. Even a small foam pad will work.
  • Musical Instruments – You will want to check with your crew leaders before bringing larger instruments on your program.
  • Small Games, Deck of Cards, or a Frisbee – Can be really fun to share with the group.
  • Fishing Tackle – Check with your leaders first to see if there will be an opportunity to fish.
  • Hammock
  • Money – We’ll feed you, but you may want to bring money to buy personal items on those rare occasions when you will be near a store. $50 to $100.
  • Extra Set of Clean Clothes for Traveling Home – You may not have an opportunity to do laundry before heading home, and it’s nice to have something clean to wear on the plane.