Planning an Overnight 

In addition to the information found in “Planning a Hike,” the following may be helpful in organizing an ICO overnight outing.

Generally speaking, leaders do not offer overnight ICO trips to elementary schools.  If a leader chooses to offer a camping trip to a secondary school, the teacher should have been on at least two, preferably three, day hikes with ICO, and only students who have participated in at least one of those day hikes should be invited to attend the camping trip.  Some leaders or teachers may require a student to have been on more, for example two or three.

The recommended maximum number of students for an overnight is 25; this number should be established in consultation with the teacher.

In addition to the 2 ICO/Sierra Club leaders, the agency needs to provide at least one chaperone for every 10 participants, with preferably one female and one male.  These adults should know the students well.

A leader should reserve the campsite as early as possible, as sites fill up fast on Spring weekends.  Reservations for state parks are made through ReserveCalifornia.com.  At state parks, one usually has the choice between reserving several adjacent sites or a group site.  As one person may only reserve two sites for the same time period, the ICO leader will have to coordinate with a co-leader, the teacher, or a spouse.  Many national forest campgrounds do not accept reservations and are on a first come, first served basis.  Regional campgrounds have various reservation systems.  ICO camping trips may begin on Friday night or on Saturday morning, depending on the school’s schedule and the leader’s availability.  Some leaders plan trips for a three day weekend, so they can get two nights camping in, while leaving on Saturday morning.

If a trip includes swimming, the leader will need to insure that he/she has arranged for a lifeguard.  Angeles ICO policy states that participants will not go in the water, not even wading, without a lifeguard present.

Bus reservations are made in the same way as for a day hike, on the website, through the “Hike Request Form”.  When filling out the form for an overnight, clearly indicate that this is a camping trip while completing “Date of Outing”, “Pick Up Time” and “Estimated Return Time”.  Make sure that your pick up time is at least an hour prior to the required campground check out time, so that you have time to load the bus.

For smaller groups or more remote locations, the leader may want to consider renting vans.

WHAT TO BRING: It may be helpful to communicate directly with parents. Some teachers collect a deposit of $10-25 to insure participation. Students should be provided with a list of what they should bring.  An example may be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UFL0y07Q05EwUmO5F8IO2C9E3qV6ZC7ahs3cJvga0GE/edit

ICO Camping To Bring List

  • CLOTHING ITEMS—(Enough for two days and one extra set)
    • Pajamas-optional
    • Swim suit or PE shorts and light weight T-shirt
    • Sweater or jacket
    • Underwear
    • Hat or visor
    • Socks
    • Pants and/or shorts
    • T-shirts
    • Tennis shoes
    • Flip flops-optional
    • Personal hygiene items (shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, pads or tampons)
    • Flashlight and batteries-optional
    • Canteen/water bottle
    • Day pack
    • Pillow or stuffed animal/comfort blanket-optional
    • Sleeping bag will be provided-Tell your teacher, if you do not need this.

Teachers and leaders are encouraged to plan activities that promote outdoor awareness and skill building. In addition to having fun on the overnight outings, it is also important to teach students how to camp safely and responsibly while developing an appreciation for the outdoors.

Potential topics include: Leave No Trace, 10 essentials, outdoor cooking, advocacy of public lands, local environmental issues, local animal and plant awareness, trash and pollution, stewardship of public lands, and geology.

The teacher and the leaders should discuss activities and set a time for lights-out.  Night time activities should be included in the plan; for example, a night hike, a campfire, scary stories, and/or singing.  There is always some down-time, so card games like Uno are good to have along.  Please review the SF ICO Game Book for more ideas.

  • G – greeting
  • R – reading (of any kind)
  • A – appreciations
  • N – nugget (some type of useful or not useful information)
  • I – introspection (a time for personal reflection)
  • T – tomorrow (go over tomorrow’s plan)
  • E – ending

The teacher and the ICO leader should work together to plan the menu and purchase the food.  The budget is currently $3 per person per meal.

Survey dietary restrictions of all participants and make provisions.

Sample Menu:


  • Dinner
    • Burritos
    • Tortillas
    • Beans
    • Beef or chicken
    • Tomatoes
    • Cheese
    • Sour cream


  • Breakfast
    • Pancakes
    • Syrup
    • Butter
  • Lunch
    • Sandwich bar
    • Chips and granola bars
  • Dinner
    • Hot dogs (veggie and regular)
    • Buns
    • Mustard, Ketchup, Relish
    • Grilled onions
    • Varieties of chips


  • Breakfast
    • Oatmeal
    • Cinnamon
    • Brown sugar
    • Syrup
    • Dried fruit
  • Lunch
    • Sandwich bar

The leaders may want to have students bring their own eating container and utensils and cups so they’re responsible for keeping track of that.  ICO does have plates, bowls, cups, and silverware for at least 30 people.  Either way—students bringing their own or the group providing dishes—there should be a plan for dishwashing.  If students bring their own supplies, then each person would wash their own dishes.  If the group shares, the recommended washing system involves 4 tubs and drying racks.  The tubs are arranged as follows:  #1 messy rinse, #2 soap wash, #3 bleach rinse, #4 clear rinse.  If each person maintains possession of his/her own dishes and utensils, a simple wash and rinse may be all that is needed.

Camping gear and equipment is stored in Elizabeth Neat’s garage.  ICO leaders and teachers need to coordinate pick up and return with Elizabeth or with Ann Majchrzak, who also has a key.  Here is a link to the gear check-out list, which also serves as an inventory of what is available.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bubOi3zJ3cHvJcurYP6VPPkQFKLnVu6eS8_G0z61bd8/edit

The equipment should NOT be brought back wet or dirty.  Keep it at your home if need be until it is cleaned before returning.  It is helpful if leaders mark the tents as “complete” or “OK” with the date and their initials at the end of the trip.  Anything which needs repair should be labeled as such and kept separate.  Sleeping bags are washed once a year.

There are a couple of options to pair overnight trips with service opportunities—open to middle schools and high schools.  This is a great experience for students and saves ICO money, in that the campground fee is waived.

Three in which ICO has participated are:

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