It came to a point in time when our 20 year old trailer was impacting our ability to implement an effective program. It was difficult to find gear, wood shelving couldn’t be moved so we had a lot of dead space, shelving was broken, and was really too heavy for most vehicles to pull. The troop on multiple occasions had to rent trucks on each campout.
Going into this project, I had zero experience in building out a trailer, so this article covers the thought process for planning something that you don’t know much about to creating an implementation plan and tracking progress. Whether this is an Eagle scout project, large home project, big trip, the principles are the same as the scout motto – “Be Prepared”.
Step 1 – Research
Getting smart on what you will need to buildout a trailer is step 1. Some questions we considered included:
- What gear do we need at camping trips?
- How will we organize the trailer?
- How do I buildout a trailer? What tools are needed?
- What are other scout troops doing to buildout trailers?
- How to store propane?
We defined our constraints:
- A standard SUV had to be able to haul the trailer with a 5000 pound GVWR.
- Support up to 8, 8 person patrols.
- Avoid wood shelving because it’s impossible to adjust and added unneeded weight.
- Total build cost had to be less than $10k.
Step 2 – Proposal
The next step was to incorporate the research and recommendations into a proposal. This plan included the costs and timeline. To gain traction, we shared out the proposal to get constructive feedback from youth, adult, committee, and scoutmaster teams with the approach that nobody’s voice is small. Feedback is valuable to help the project be successful. Our finalize proposal can be found here.
Step 3 – Approval
At the monthly committee meeting, a presentation and discussion finalized the decision. To get this to a vote, you must have the proposal out to all stakeholders and in-person discussions and concerns addressed.
The conclusion was, that a trailer is a large purchase and needs to fit within the troop budget and fundraising needs to help cover costs to keep a healthy balance sheet. We found that some companies that the adult teams work for encourage volunteering and pay an hourly rate for volunteer hours and 1:1 donation matching. By logging volunteer hours, the troop was able to raise funds for not just this expense, but for other items such as high adventure camps, new tents, and other activities to enhance the program. Scouts also raised funds thru bake sales at local community events where we not only sold baked goods, but helped where we could with the event staff.
Step 4 – Procurement
When you buy a trailer, you need to make sure that you know exactly who the title will be issued to, register trailer at DMV, security devices, obtain insurance for contents if stolen, taxes, and where it will be parked. The troop committee and COR were able to provide significant contributions here.
Step 6 – Move in.
Moving into the trailer is a lot of work, but the most important step. With abandoning the patrol bin approach, everything had to be taken out and organized. In the initial plan, having a layout of where everything goes and helped prioritize the work by going one shelf at a time. Only items that are in the plan, were allowed on the trailer. With this approach, we actually had extra room!