No glamping allowed — Here’s what does and doesn’t count

In Scouting’s early years, camping was pretty simple. You slept under the stars. Or the roof over your head was an Army surplus pup tent — or maybe a lean-to shelter you built. These days, Scouts spend the night in cabins, yurts and museums — or even on aircraft carriers.

So what kind of camping counts for Boy Scout advancement? Read on to find out.

What do the Boy Scout rank requirements say?

For Tenderfoot requirement 1b, a Scout must spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout in a tent he helped pitch. For Second Class requirement 1a, a Scout must have tallied five separate troop/patrol activities, at least two of which must include overnight camping. First Class requirement 1a calls for 10 separate troop/patrol activities since joining, at least three of which must include overnight camping. In all cases, the Scout must “spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave or teepee.”

What do the camping merit badge requirements say?

For requirement 9a, a Scout must camp in a tent or under the stars at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities and events, which may include one long-term camp experience of up to six consecutive nights.

What about an overnight in the church basement?

For rank advancement, that could count as one of the troop/patrol activities but not as overnight camping. It wouldn’t count for the Camping merit badge.

What about cabin camping at our council camp?

Same answer as above.

What about camping with a family or school group?

That wouldn’t count. Both the rank and merit badge requirements specify that the camping must be part of a patrol or troop activity.

What about participation in a council high-adventure trek?

Both the trek (up to six nights) and any shakedown trips that involve camping would count toward the Camping merit badge. These trips wouldn’t count for rank advancement, which specifies troop and patrol activities.

Our summer camp sets up tents before we arrive. Is that OK?

For the Camping merit badge, yes. For rank advancement, no.

Am I missing any other details?

Be sure to look at the requirements that surround the camping requirements. For example, on one of the Second Class campouts, a Scout must explain how he practiced Leave No Trace (requirement 1b), and on a separate campout, he must choose his campsite (requirement 1c). For requirement 9b of the Camping merit badge, a Scout must do two specific activities on any of his campouts, such as hiking up a mountain or planning and carrying out a snow camping experience.

Can camping nights count for both rank and merit badge advancement?

Yes, since the requirements match up and have the same basic intent.

26 Comments

  1. Q: Our summer camp sets up tents before we arrive. Is that OK?
    A: For the Camping merit badge, yes. For rank advancement, no.

    For rank I believe you are only partially correct:

    Tenderfoot requirement 1b, a Scout must spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout in a tent he helped pitch. (This should not count)

    For Second Class requirement 1a, a Scout must have tallied five separate troop/patrol activities, at least two of which must include overnight camping. First Class requirement 1a calls for 10 separate troop/patrol activities since joining, at least three of which must include overnight camping. In all cases, the Scout must “spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave or teepee.” (This would most definitely count as a Patrol/Troop Activity, but would not count for overnight camping)

  2. Am I missing any other details?

    I am not a hammock camper but for their sake, the BSA ought to spell out that hammock camping does count as “other structure that you help erect”.

  3. But the magazine also had the story about girls in cub scouts, and how many packs seemed to ignore rules and involve these girls (sisters) as well. So now girls are being allowed in. Isn’t this telling us we can interpret the rules any way we want to, and maybe the rules will change to match later?

  4. Our scouts often participate in the set up day at camp, and indeed do set up the tents in several of the overnight areas. Would this count when they come back later in the summer?

  5. If the high adventure activity involves breaking camp, moving, and setting up a new,camp in a different location wvery day I would that this is not one long term camp, but rather that each day is seperate.

  6. The Appalachian Trail and Our local camp Mattatuck in Plymouth, CT has a couple lean to’s that we have used in winter months. The boys aren’t erecting the leanto. If you have ever slept in a leanto in sub freezing temps you would know this is anything but glamping. Do these nights not count?

    • I don’t think so, the requirement is that they erect some sort of shelter. However I think popping a tarp over the existing lean-to would count.

  7. How about Scouts that just joined the troop in November? They all earned their Scout Rank in December. There are no real ways for our 10.5 year old brand new scouts can camp outside in the winter, they need to be 11 to participate in winter trek. Here in VT this will mean they can’t get to Tenderfoot until May, this seems really unfair to my son He could be well on his way to 2nd class by then. The Tenderfoot requirement doesn’t spell out that the tent needs to be outside, so my son thinks we can move the furniture and and his patrol can set up the tent(s) in the livingroom and sleep there, then do the dinner and breakfast cooking outside on the porch. Being the literal guy he is, he’s not wrong. Much of his patrol has camped with the BoyScouts at many of their events in the REAL outdoors the past 2 years. BTW…as I write this it’s -3 degrees F and headed to -20 tonight.

    • Your son can work on tenderfoot, 2nd class and first class all at the same time. He doesn’t need to wait until he earns T to work on 2.

      Also remember, advancement isn’t an aim of scouting. That is to say, it’s not the purpose. The aims are character development, citizenship and personal fitness.

    • At 10.5 your son has plenty of time ahead to earn his ranks. He can work on Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, and 1st Class at the same time. Work on other requirements for now. Then in the nicer weather he will need to get in the camping nights. We always bridge in May or June and very rarely have a boy under 11 bridge (my son was 10 with an August Birtday and was considered a young Scout).

  8. At our council camp there is a sign as you leave the Program Center that says; “Think Like a Boy”. Seems with trying to over-interpret the specifics of the rules we are forgetting that Scouting is about learning to be better citizens utilizing an outdoor classroom. So would a Scout think using a prebuilt lean-to on an managed trail that doesn’t allow setting up tents is “camping”? Or would that Scout pull out the handbook and point to a specific word that discludes it? If you “master” your troop like a rules lawyer to deny advancement you aren’t really abiding by the spirit of Scouting, at least I don’t think so.

  9. We could play “yes, but… “ for days. It boils down to what is the “intent” of the requirement and would the “reasonable Scout” think the activity meets the criteria. Lean to camping out on the trail in general meets the criteria of camping. Sleeping in a bunk on an aircraft carrier does not, although it should count as an “activity.” Apply common sense. A Scout is trustworthy, ‘nuff said.

  10. Our ongoing debate revolves around how many nights extended camp outs (Jamboree, Summer Camp) can count for. I understand the first 6 nights can count, but not six more nights the next summer. But do subsequent summer camps count for any nights at all? 1? 2? 3?

  11. This reawakens a question that arose in my mind a few years ago at summer camp. One of the most excited Scouts in camp was the 13-year-old Eagle Scout who told everyone that “this is my first-ever camping trip.”
    Question: How?

  12. What are some examples of a Council High Adventure Trek? I’m not familiar with that term.

    When I think of Council events, I’m reminded that at the National Boy Scout Jamboree many of the Scouts did, indeed, erect their own tents. Also, they are organized into ad hoc / temporary troops and patrols. So, my common sense says that those nights would count for both advancement and Camping MB (albeit, only one event since they are consecutive nights on the same trip).

    Although, I do still think the best answer is to glean the intent and be less pedantic.

    Anyone familiar with the “allowable” exceptions in the case of Lone Scouts? Since Lone Scouts will likely never have the opportunity to participate in troop or patrol camping events…

  13. I want to go back to the High Adventure trek question. When we go to Philmont next summer we will spend 11 nights on the trail, setting up and breaking camp every day. I think all of these should count towards a scout’s camping night total.

    If the scout did a summer camp for a week previously, would that mean that none of the Philmont nights would count for camping merit badge

  14. Eagerly waiting for an answer to your question, Bob. Very similar to the one I asked above. The multi-night disqualifier rule seems silly to me. I’d like to understand the reasoning behind it.

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