Boy Scout Outdoor Program
Outdoor adventure is the promise made to boys when they join
Scouting. Boys yearn for outdoor programs that stir their imagination
In the outdoors, boys have opportunities to acquire skills that make
them more self-reliant. They can explore canoe and hiking trails and
complete challenges they first thought were beyond their ability.
Attributes of good character become part of a boy as he learns to
cooperate to meet outdoor challenges that may include extreme weather,
difficult trails and portages, and dealing with nature's unexpected
Scouts plan and carry out activities with thoughtful guidance from
their Scoutmaster and other adult leaders. Good youth leadership,
communication, and teamwork enable them to achieve goals they have set
for themselves, their patrol or squad, and their troop or team.
Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education. Unit meetings
offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month
throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting
skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to
do it themselves on a troop outing.
Scouting uses the patrol method to teach skills and values. Scouts
elect their own patrol leader and they learn quickly that by working
together and sharing duties, the patrol can accomplish far more than
any of its members could do alone. The patrol succeeds when every
member of the patrol succeeds and Scouts learn that good teamwork is
the key to success.
Exercise and fitness is part of the outdoor experience. As Scouts
hike, paddle, climb, bike, or ride, their muscles become toned and
their aerobic capacity increases. When they work as a patrol to plan
menus for their outings, they learn to purchase cost-effective
ingredients to prepare flavorful and nutritious meals.
Service to others and good citizenship is learned through such
outdoor activities as conservation projects, collecting food, building
trails and shelters, and conducting community service projects that
promote healthy living. Through helping other people, Scouts learn to
appreciate how they can share themselves and their blessings to those
in need. By giving service to benefit others, Scouts gain a sense of
Scouting's Outdoor Program—Ever-Increasing Challenge Out-of-Doors
Types of Outdoor Activities
What are typical Scout outdoor activities? For younger Scouts,
less-rugged activities are more appropriate as they begin to acquire
outdoor knowledge and skills. These may include:
Day hikes—Reasonably short hikes (3 to 10 miles) in terrain without a lot of elevation gain or loss.
Service projects—Daylong projects that may be related to conservation, food collection, building shelter, or healthy living activities.
Patrol activities—A Boy Scout patrol or Varsity Scout squad
may hike or camp with other patrols or squads in the unit or, with the
permission of their Scoutmaster and parents or guardians, may hike or
camp on their own.
Weekend overnights—Troops that plan and carry out outings
once a month attract and retain boys at a much higher level than those
that have fewer outings during the year.
Camporees—Councils and districts plan camporees and other
outings during the year that give Scouts an opportunity to test their
knowledge and skills in competitive events with other troops and
Summer camp—Summer camp is what many Scouts enjoy most. Camp
programs provide numerous opportunities for Scouts to earn merit badges
along their advancement trail. Resident Scout camping includes at least
five nights and six days of fun outdoor activities.
Jamborees—Every four or five years, the Boy Scouts of America
hosts a national Scout jamboree. More than 40,000 Scouts and leaders
from across the country participate in this 10-day event filled with
the most popular and highest quality outdoor activities Scouts enjoy.
To participate, a Scout must be at least 12 years of age by July 1 of
the jamboree year and be a First Class Scout.
Council high adventure—A high-adventure experience includes
at least five nights and six days of trekking in wilderness and other
rugged, remote locations. Trekking may include backpacking, canoeing,
mountain biking, horse packing, mountain climbing, ski touring,
rafting, kayaking, or a host of other outdoor adventures. Participants
must be at least 13 years old by January 1 of the year they participate.
National high adventure—The BSA operates national
high-adventure bases and programs. With two locations in the Florida
Keys, the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base offers a variety of
aquatic and boating programs. The Northern Tier National High Adventure
Program, based in northern Minnesota with two satellite bases in
Canada, provides a variety of canoe treks and programs. Philmont Scout
Ranch and the Double H Ranch in the mountains of New Mexico provide
excellent backpacking treks. Age requirements for these programs vary,
but most programs are rugged and designed for older Scouts.
Unit high adventure—The highest level of challenge for a
troop or team is to plan and carry out its own high-adventure
experience. These activities for more experienced Scouts are planned
and implemented by youth members with coaching from their adult leaders.
Two-Deep Leadership Required
It is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America that trips and outings
may never be led by only one adult. At a minimum, two registered adult
leaders or one registered adult leader and a parent of a participant,
one of whom must be at least 21 years of age, are required for all
trips and outings. Sufficient adult leadership must be provided on all
trips and outings based on the total number of youth attending.
Standards for Privacy on Trips or Outings
All volunteers and adults attending Scout outings are expected to
conform to behavior that reflects Scouting's high standards and
traditional values. Male and female leaders require separate sleeping
facilities unless they are married and appropriate facilities are
Male and female youth participants must not share the same sleeping
facilities. When tents are used, no youth will stay in the tent of an
adult other than his or her parent or guardian. When housing other than
tents is used, separate housing must be provided for male and female
participants. Adult male leaders must be responsible for the male
participants, and the female leaders are responsible for the female
Adult leaders need to respect the privacy of the youth members in
situations where the youth are changing clothes or taking showers, and
intrude only to the extent that health and safety require. Adults need
to protect their own privacy in similar situations.
Although it is not mandatory, councils are strongly encouraged to
have separate shower and latrine facilities for females. In camps where
separate facilities are not available, separate shower schedules for
males and females should be posted. Use the buddy system for latrine
use by having one person wait outside the entrance, or use signs on
doors to signify "occupied" or "unoccupied."
Outdoor Activity Tips
The Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009C
Guide to Safe Scouting, No. 34416D
- Obtain permission from parents or guardians for activities that are held away from the regular unit meeting places.
the local council's policies regarding filing tour permits for unit
outings. File a local tour permit application, No. 34426E, when
necessary, or if the trip is longer than 500 miles, file a national
tour permit application, No. 34419. For more information on tour
permits, see Tours and Expeditions, No. 33737D.
- Be sure to have enough adult leaders for the activity.
If feasible, check out the site before the activity. Check on
reservation procedures, restrooms, availability of adequate drinking
water, and any potential hazards.
- Use the buddy system. Coach the boys in advance on what to do if they get lost.
- Carry a first-aid kit and make sure someone is qualified to use it. Be prepared with emergency procedures.
- Arrange adequate and safe transportation.
- Always leave a site in its natural condition.
Accident and Sickness Protection
For questions about current camper accident and sickness insurance, please contact your local council.
Leave No Trace
Every Scouting activity should be planned with Leave No Trace
principles in mind. Leave No Trace is a method that prepares Scouts to
make ethical choices in the outdoor environment and to respect the
rights of other outdoor users, as well as future generations. It's an
awareness and an attitude rather than a set of rules. It applies in
your backyard or local park as much as in wilderness or backcountry
areas. The principles of Leave No Trace are:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly (pack it in, pack it out).
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
For more information refer to the Principles of Leave No Trace, No.
21-105. Also see Teaching Leave No Trace on the BSA Web site at http://old.scouting.org.
To assure safer outings, the BSA has developed four leader training
opportunities. The foundation for safety in any Scouting outdoor
program is qualified supervision and discipline, and these two elements
are the first and last points for each safety training opportunity.
Because fitness is critical to all outdoor activities, it is also
included in each safety emphasis.
Safe Swim Defense
- Qualified supervision
- Physical fitness
- Safe area
- Lifeguards on duty
- Ability groups
- Buddy system
- Qualified supervision
- Physical fitness
- Swimming ability
- Personal flotation equipment
- Buddy system
- Skill proficiency
- Qualified supervision
- Physical fitness
- Plan ahead
- Gear up
- Communicate clearly and completely
- Monitor conditions
Climb on Safely
- Qualified supervision
- Qualified instructors
- Physical fitness
- Safe area
- Environmental conditions
For more detailed information on these training opportunities visit
the BSA Web site or refer to Safe Swim Defense, No. 34370A; Safety
Afloat Training Outline, No. 34159C; Trek Safely, No. 20-125; or Climb
On Safely, No. 20-099B.
Boy Scout Outdoor Awards
Totin' Chip—This card, No. 34234B, indicates that a Scout has demonstrated proper handling, care, and use of the pocketknife, ax, and saw.
Paul Bunyan Woodsman—This card, No. 34235A, and corresponding
patch recognize that a Scout has used woods tools skills to accomplish
one of several beneficial projects.
Firem'n Chit—This card, No. 34236B, signifies that a Scout has read the fire use and safety section in the Boy Scout Handbook and accepts responsibility for fire safety.
Historic Trails Award—This embroidered patch, No. 00188, or
leather patch, No. 00244, is earned when a Scout studies about a
historic trail, hikes and camps along it, performs a public service
project, and completes the Historic Trails Award application, No.
Fifty-Miler Award—This embroidered patch, No. 00187, or
leather patch, No. 00243, is earned when a Scout hikes, paddles, bikes,
or rides horseback for at least 50 miles over five consecutive days,
performs 10 hours of service, and completes the Fifty-Miler Award
application, No. 34408A.
Leave No Trace—A Leave No Trace awareness patch, No. 8630,
may be awarded to Scouts who learn about the principles of Leave No
Trace, demonstrate them on three different overnight outings, assist
others in learning about Leave No Trace, and complete the Leave No
Trace Award application, No. 21-105. There is also an adult version of
Keep America Beautiful—A Scout who earns three merit badges
from a list of 12 choices, completes a minimum of eight hours of
community service, and completes the Keep America Beautiful Award
application, No. 21-377, is eligible to wear the Hometown USA award
patch, No. 00356.
World Conservation Award—This distinctive panda patch, No.
00140, is earned by Scouts who complete the Environmental Science,
Citizenship in the World, and either Soil and Water Conservation or
Fish and Wildlife Management merit badges, and complete the World
Conservation Award application, No. 21-156.
Conservation Good Turn—Scout units that perform a meaningful
conservation project and complete the Conservation Good Turn Award
application, No. 21-386, may be awarded a Conservation Good Turn
certificate, No. 21-389A.
Hornaday Awards—There are seven different William T. Hornaday
Awards that may be earned by Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and adult
Scouters. The Silver and Bronze medals are the highest, most
distinguished youth conservation awards. Each medal requires earning a
number of merit badges and performing three (Bronze) or four (Silver)
conservation projects that demonstrate research, planning, leadership,
involvement of others, and a positive impact on the local community.
For more information, visit http://old.scouting.org, click on Boy Scouting and then click on Awards to view the entire Hornaday Award information and download applications.
Outdoor knowledge and skills are highlighted throughout Scouting
literature. Publications that are most pertinent to Boy Scout outdoor
The Boy Scout Handbook, No. 33105—Organized by the levels of
rank advancement, the Boy Scout Handbook guides a Scout through levels
of outdoor skills development leading to the highest rank of Eagle
Fieldbook, No. 33104—The Fieldbook is a comprehensive
resource providing knowledge about nature and the elements, outdoor
activities, and skills. It includes sections on Leadership and Trek
Preparation, Leaving No Trace, Trek Adventures, and Appreciating Our
Passport to High Adventure, No. 4310—Designed to empower a
unit to prepare for a council, national, or unit high-adventure
experience, this guidebook contains information about trip planning,
travel and budget, equipment, skills, trail procedures, and trek
safety. A list of current council high-adventure programs can be found
on the Internet at http://old.scouting.org/boyscouts/directory.
Nationally Approved Historic Trails— The Boy Scouts of
America publishes a compendium of historic trails operated by Scout
councils throughout the United States. See Nationally Approved Historic
Trails, No. 20-135, or visit http://old.scouting.org and click on Boy Scouting and then Activities.
Okpik: Cold-Weather Camping, No. 34040—This book provides
information on camping comfortably in cold weather by wearing proper
clothing, eating nutritious food, and staying hydrated. Techniques for
constructing a variety of snow shelters and traveling across the snow
are also featured.
Knots and How To Tie Them, No. 33170—This booklet describes how to tie various knots, hitches, and lashings commonly used in outdoor activities.
Topping Out, No. 32007—Designed primarily for BSA climbing
directors and instructors, this manual describes and illustrates
recommended techniques for top-rope climbing, belaying, and rappelling,
including anchoring and climbing movements.
Project COPE manual, No. 34371C—This manual describes
facilities and equipment for council low and high course Project COPE
activities that help develop communications, planning, teamwork, trust,
leadership, decision making, problem solving, and self-esteem in the