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Haliburton Hints
by Glenn Cockwell 

Camping at Haliburton Scout Reserve can be an adventure for both scouts and leaders. Unfortunately this statement can be taken many ways. This booklet is meant to give you the little hints and tips that will help tilt that experience to the positive. It is not meant to be an absolute "you must do this" directive but rather a sample of what I have found to work after 25 years of camping at HSR.

The scout motto was never so true than when applied to your camping experience at HSR. If you come prepared then you will spend less time dealing with the basics of living and a lot more time enjoying all the wonderful opportunities that are offered.

Living outdoors for a week is quite different from surviving a weekend. If the weather turns inclement on Monday there will be no hot showers and home-cooked meals to fix it tomorrow. Plan for all possibilities and if weather stays good and everyone stays healthy then you can say that you planned well.

Saturday, Getting to the Camp

If possible plan to arrive at HSR approximately 12:00PM. The only access to the campsites is by barge and as each group registers they are put into the queue for a barge. Please be patient. Remember that the barge crews have probably been ferrying the previous week’s campers out since 7:00 AM and are trying their best to get you to your site as soon as they can. You cannot check in until all of your party is there, and registration is not open until 12:30 – 1:00PM. Bring a picnic lunch to eat while you wait.


When you register you will need all the paperwork that was sent to you, filled out. At that time the day and time of your participation in the various programs will be confirmed (Note: New for 2004 you can book your program on-line before you go to HSR!). The secret of a good program at Haliburton is to use the facilities that are there to their fullest. Here are some guidelines that I use in planning the timing of events.

  • Schedule archery and rifle range back to back
  • Sailing works better logistically if scheduled in the afternoon
  • 9:00AM events are very hard to get to. If possible select 10AM as your earliest start time
  • Do not schedule wet events (kayak, snorkelling) ahead of sitting events (trapper's cabin, survival)
  • Do not schedule events Thursday morning (Thursday afternoon is regatta day and you will need most of the morning to get organized)
  • Try to schedule most of the events as early in the week as possible. If an event is rained out there is a possibility it will be reschedule later on.
  • Allow a sleep-in morning the day after the star hike.

You will must also schedule when you want your canoes on Sunday. I suggest that you schedule this as soon as possible. Ideally the canoe lesson and the scouter's meeting should overlap so that you can return to your site together. You will be asked your preferred time to leave the following Saturday morning. If parents are coming to meet you at the dock then pick a takeout time that fits with their arrival time. Remember that to reduce congestion, the sooner you can get your gear off the dock the better.

When you load the barge for your trip to the site, make sure items that can survive getting wet are stowed at the front. This is especially true on windy days when there is a bit of a chop on the lake. Personal gear should be put on last. When you unload at the site have everyone take the gear well away from the dock to a single dropping spot. This will speed up unloading and ensure you know where to look for missing articles later on.

What you will find

Each campsite has a supply of picnic tables, several barrels with toilet seats attached (to be used for your kybo), and an in-the-ground cooler. After that, you must bring everything with you. For first timers, there are some items that you might not think of.


  • Grey water cannot be poured on the ground. A wetpit will last longer if you line it with a tall (5 gallon) bucket with its bottom cut out. This prevents erosion each time you dump in dishwater. Put a stick down the centre to allow any stray mouse to climb out.
  • Ensure you have enough boxes (wood, plastic or sheet metal) with fasteners to store your food. The raccoons and skunks are very aggressive and will investigate everything except tins (even jars)
  • If you do any fishing and plan to eat the results, come with a supply of freezer quality zip-lock bags. This will let you store the filleted fish on ice without affecting the other items in your cooler.
  • Drinking water is available from several spots on the lake and must be transported by boat to your site. Bring enough 20 litre (5 gallon) jugs to last at least 1 days (remember that dishwater can be taken from the lake!).
  • Bring a waterproof container (plastic jar) for matches.
  • Cover the picnic tables in the eating area with table clothes. This will allow you to properly wash the tables after each meal. The table clothes can be as simple as garbage bags slit open and taped in place with masking tape.
  • Bring sufficient tarps to cover the cooking area, the eating area and any craft area.

Patrol Sites

  • Each patrol site (and leader site) should have a container for drinking water, a wash basin, and a cloths line
  • Supply each patrol with a ball of binder twine for camp gadgets (see the discussion on inspection later)
  • Each tent should have a whisk


  • A supply of plastic page protectors and clipboards will allow you to post duty rosters, the daily schedules, and other items without worry of moisture or dirt.
  • You will need a wet/dry board with 3 parts; a wet (swimming), dry, and boats. This will help you keep track of the campers.
  • Come supplied with waterproof tape and pen and put the camper's name on their life jacket and paddle.
  • Your kybo will need some type of enclosure with a roof. The easiest way to do this is to cut the bottom out of a tourist tent. An adult should be able to stand up in the tent. Include with each kybo set-up, a basin, and a large empty coffee tin with lid for the toilet paper.
  • Bring a large walk-in tent for supplies. A prospector tent is ideal.

Menu Notes

Meals can consume a great deal of time if you let them or even want them to. On the other hand there are so many opportunities to participate in other activities that you might want to reduce most meals to the minimum of time and effort so that you can indeed "get on with it".

For items you intend to buy from the country store, give them your anticipated daily order as soon as possible. If they do not have any particular item, they can get it from town. They will also thaw out your meat if you ask. This is critical for the hot dogs if you intend to cook them over a fire. Alternately you can pick up the meat the day before and ensure the thaw yourself (probably the safest).

The chef makes great pies. Order these as soon as possible. Here are some other hints.

  • Give out liquorice as daily "prize" for neatness etc. Black liquorice acts as a laxative and is needed early on to encourage the youth to use the facilities. Change of diet, water, and routines seems to encourage constipation.
  • Keep a large cooler filled with fruit drink. Activity in the sun will dehydrate the campers.
  • Secret for good hot chocolate
    • Add 1/2 cup of powdered skim milk per 1 cup cold water (normal recipe calls for 1/3 cup). Heat and add chocolate to taste.
  • When you cook pasta put oil as well as extra salt in the water. If you do not the noodles will congeal into a solid mass because of the local water.
  • Sandwiches are the easiest lunch. For a cool wet day try canned spaghetti on toast. Roasted hot dogs over an open fire works well if you do a day hike.
  • One day do open fire cooking. Include a cake.
  • Instant pudding and canned fruit can be used anytime for dessert


Although the days seem to roll, one into the next, as the week progresses, there are some special considerations for some of the days.

Saturday, At the Camp

As a group, tour the site and plan where you want to put things. Keep the eating area and central activity area close to the dock.

Reconvene back at the picnic tables and give everyone a can of pop. This will settle them down a bit so that you can now go over the basic safety rules and administration details.

Saturday Meeting


  • Fires only in central fire pit
  • The bush around the lake goes forever. Only enter it with a buddy and try to keep the lake in sight. If you get lost STOP. Do not wander about. Listen for the sound of boats. The standard rescue technique is to run a high-powered boat up and down the shore. When you think a rescue attempt might have begun or that there might be others in the area yell. Do not wander. Ideally everyone should carry a whistle (three blasts means "HELP")
  • Establish the rules concerning the use of the "wet and dry" board.
  • Ensure that all food including personal snack food is stored centrally in one of the closed boxes. No food should be stored in a sleeping tent at any time of the day.
  • Swim only during supervised swim periods in the marked swim area.
  • Life jackets must be worn when in any boat.
  • Do not drink water directly from the lake.
  • All medical problems, even the smallest scratch must be reported to a leader



Establish patrol sites

Establish schedule for rest of day

Put up sleeping tents

Work through "Saturday Job Jar". Post this on a clip board.





  • Set up patrol tents.
  • Set up supply (quartermaster) tents.
  • Stow personal gear in tent.
  • Stow food in supply tent.
  • Dig kybos and set up shelter.


  • Set up dining shelter.
  • Stow equipment in supply tent.
  • Dig wet pit.
  • Set up kitchen shelter.
  • Arrange picnic tables.


  • Collect wood for campfire.
  • Relax!

General Hints

Although most scouters have their own favourite techniques and tricks for making a camp work efficiently the following have a unique advantage when used in a long term camp such as a week at Haliburton:

When the kybos and wet pits are dug make sure the earth is not spread around. It will be needed later to occasionally cover the contents to lower the smell, and at the end of the camp you must completely fill the hole.

Use a flag system at the kybo (an old signalling flag works fine). I instruct everyone to take the flag into the kybo with them and then replace it beside the wash bowl (another item to bring) when they are done.

Keep all fishing gear in one place. This avoids bare hooks, dead frogs, etc from being left around sleeping tents.

Put all your food away in closed containers before nightfall. Before you go to bed secure the lids of your containers and put a big rock on the lid of the cold pit.

Completely clear the kitchen area of soap, Javex, matches, scrubbers, and anything else that the raccoons may chew on. I stuff everything into my lantern box. Also check the craft area for edibles (macaroni letters).

Sunday Schedule

Sunday Morning will be taken up with the process of getting your canoes. At the assigned time a barge will come to your site and take everyone to the hub. There the waterfront people will give you a brief lesson on paddling and canoe safety. You will then be allowed to pick out one canoe for every 3 people. Put your site name on each of the canoes with a big piece of waterproof tape. The good ones tend to wander when they are left unattended at events.

The scouter's meeting is generally scheduled during the morning about 10:00 to 11:00 AM.

On Sunday afternoon schedule a thorough review of safety. Schedule lessons on axe and saw safety, fishing rules and techniques, waterfront procedures and rescue ring toss, and canoe over canoe rescue. A swimming test is also appropriate if you have not actually seen the youth swim. Have them swim about 50 metres or so and then tread water for 5 minute. This will give you a good idea of whom to limit during other water activities.

Sunday can be very hectic, but find some time for a Scout's own. Once you have the camp set up and safety procedures in place take a moment to stop, reflect, and set the tone for the rest of the week. Give thanks for the unique experience that is about to unfold. You will find many more opportunities as the days progress to stop, wonder and appreciate, but there is something special about the beginning of any adventure that helps focuses us.

Every Day Routine

You should establish a certain routine so that the campers know what to expect. If the routine has a point system for the daily patrol competition associated, these activities will be self starting. The following worked for me.

Flag break and Inspection

Hold a uniform (scarf) flag break every morning and run through the day’s schedule. Announce any daily inspection awards and ask for input on program. Follow the flag break with an inspection of each patrol site. Use point system and award daily prizes such as liquorice and a total week prize such as a crest. Bring something unique for the daily winning patrol leader to wear such as a bone that has been lacquered, and strung from a lanyard. The inspection should include the following.

  • Check each camper
    • Washed hands, face
    • Cleaned teeth
    • Unreported cuts and scratches
    • Sleep well
    • Any other discomfort
  • Check each tent
    • Bed rolls folded out of the way
    • Clean tent floor
    • Smell of possible bed wetter
    • Clothing put away
  • Check area around tent for garbage (one step away the first day, two steps away the next, three the next, etc.)
  • Award points for campsite improvements such as gadgets, clotheslines, patio stones.
  • All life jackets and paddles should be accounted for

Special Events

There are several mass (all campers invited) events that happen during the week. 

The first is badge trading night, Tuesday at the hub. Badge trading is a subculture of scouting and it is alive and well at HSR. Even if you are not "into" trading is is worth the trip to the hub to see the "badgers" in action!

The second event is the regatta on Thursday afternoon. This is a "must" event. The excitement and the fun of the event are something you do not want to miss. Make sure as many as possible (if not all) of your scouts participate. The memory of participation lasts a lot longer than the memory of standing on the sidelines, watching someone else win. On cool days I give a cookie to each participant as they returned from the event. It was what I called a "chittery bite" and it took their mind off the fact that they were wet and cold. It also helps if everyone cheers the returning participants even if they come in last.

There is an opportunity Friday for a youth member of your group to participate in a rifle competition and another in an archery competition. Check with the program skippers for the time.

There is a mass campfire Friday night over at the hub. You will be expected to bring a song or skit to contribute. Please avoid "Victim Skits". If you have never attended a campfire with 500 people then this will be quite an experience. You are also expected to return the canoes Friday night on your way to the mass campfire. You will be barged back to your site.


One of the unfortunate truths is that unless there is an incentive, the wood for the evening campfire will not "just happen". Assign campfire responsibility daily by some method you see as fair. The responsibility for campfire should include gathering wood, setting the fire, lighting it when it is time, and providing and conducting a simple program. I've found that if the leaders conduct the campfire the first night it establishes the expectations for the rest of the week. Put some formality into the process, it gives the day a visible ending and it also gives the leaders an opportunity to get a feeling of how the day went for the campers.

I strongly recommend that the leaders bring lawn chairs.

Canoeing to events

You must canoe to the various events around the lake. One leader should have the responsibility to assign people to canoes and ensuring the combinations will work. Put a strong paddler in the stern of each canoe. There is plenty of time and opportunity for friends to paddle together in the free time periods. If it takes too long to paddle down the lake to an event you will simply loose that time at the event.


In general meals should be as fast and efficient as possible. Except when you plan a special meal as part of your program you do not want preparation and cleanup to interfere with other activities. Here are some thoughts.

Cook at the group level. Patrol level cooking simply means you have to supervise 2 and 3 times as many people, plus prepare your own food.

  • A leader should work closely with the cooking crew to ensure proper and efficient preparation.
  • Establish a rigorous code for eating manners
    • No food is served until everyone is sitting at the table
    • Everyone remains sitting unless given permission to leave (to fetch something, get another helping, wash dishes)
    • All conversation will be polite and not design to gross each other out
    • Post duty rosters the evening before so everyone knows what they are doing the next day. Keep patrols together
  • If possible use a communal set of dishes and cutlery. This avoids individuals looking for lost items
  • Plan the menu ahead but put enough flexibility into the menu to allow changes needed for program.
  • Each individual should wash their personal dishes and the cleanup crew should wash the cooking utensils and clean off the table and stoves
  • In addition to the three-station washing include a prewash (A large bucket with soapy water to get solids off the plates.)
  • The wash-up crew should put water on to heat before they sit down to eat
  • When pouring the used dishwater into the wet pit start with the dirtiest, then pour the next dirtiest into the previously emptied basins. This progressively rinses the basins ending with the Chlorine water rinsing all the basins.
  • Rinse scrubbers and dishcloths in the Chlorine water then hang them to dry
  • Put soap and water on griddles as soon as possible (while they are still hot) and boil soapy water in pots that are badly crusted.

Closing Down Camp

Although it is always sad to close down a camp the smoother it goes the more likely you will have pleasant memories of the week's experience. Schedule takedown. It will take most of Friday afternoon to get ready to leave. Here is a checklist and some hints.

  • Take down all pioneer projects, gadgets, clothes lines and burn all scraps of binder twine
  • Close down all but one of the kybos
  • Take down supply and quartermaster tents
  • Take down all but one fly
  • Organize your food boxes so that the food needed for the next meals is separated and the rest is packed as compactly as possible
  • Close down the wet pit after supper
  • Dismantle all fishing gear and get it ready for travel
  • Put all the packed gear close to the dock with a tarp over it, ready to load on the barge

Saturday morning plan a cold breakfast. Make a bunch of sandwiches Saturday morning and pack them in a cooler for a quick lunch before you head home

Kybos and wet pits must be filled in to the point you can stand on them. Make a cross from sticks and mark where the holes were.

The site will be inspected for garbage, properly filled pits, and general neatness.