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.

52 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”.

    • Under the stars, sleep overnight in non-permement structure fit this description.
      for example, bivey tent,
      whether BSA intended require Scout to demostrate using “the tent”, that’s another question. Hammock is alternative tent for camper

  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?

      • Thank you.

        Participation did not break any rules. If they had granted membership and rank to the girls, *that* would have broken rules. Cub Scouting has always been family-oriented.

  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).

    • ScOUTING is mostly outing, sleep in tent indoor really missed the point of “fun”.
      It’s the process and experience Scout would remember(even the cold, wet night experience), not how fast he ranked tenderfoot.

  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?

    • It is separate designate Scouting event–troop event mostly, over 72 hours consider long-term camp, in my opinion, 2 nights can be counted in combined with 1 other long-term summer camp. But Scout should have prenty oppertunities of campouts between ranks. Not just suummer camps — which mostly camp provided activities.

      Again, if the requirement aims to encourage try different campouts instead of resident camp, then it won’t be count.

  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?

    • Who took away his precious “fun” prat of Scouting? parent? adult leader? advancement?
      Hope he was still playful youth to make up the missing experience before age out.

  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…

    • If a scout is at Jamboree, that means they are already at least 1st class (requirement to attend Jambo) and don’t have any more camping advancement requirements – so that’s a moot point. Also, only up to six of those nights can be used for the merit badge unless they are already counting another long term camp.

  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

      • I would think most would acknowledge a big difference between a resident summer camp (or Jamboree) and a 12-day trek at Philmont. As someone mentioned, it’s really 11 different overnights with the scouts setting up and tearing down camp each night. I get the point that a scout would go to summer camp for 6 nights and then gets another 11 at Philmont (a pretty likely scenario for some), it would almost get them to the 20 nights needed for Camping Merit Badge. I think that’s OK. I also think all 11 nights at Philmont should count towards OA eligibility.

        It’s a reasonable debate, especially if district/council folks can comment. These decisions to count or not count nights happens at the unit level – maybe the merit badge counselor, advancement chair or someone keeping the spreadsheet or database of activities. Consistency is important, and rules are rules, but when you look at it and think, “They didn’t mean 12 nights at Philmont don’t count.” that seems like a judgement on what the intent was.

        -Bob

    • Here’s the requirements:
      Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.* One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.

      Only six long term nights count toward the twenty nights total needed. Pretty black and white there.

  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.

      • Exactly. The purpose of the Camping MB is to teach a scout how to camp and be comfortable in the outdoors, not just sleep in a tent away from home for 20 nights. Following a packing list, choosing appropriate equipment, setting up/tearing down camp, cleaning up your site, cleaning and putting away your gear – doing these things repeatedly is what trains a scout to be a better camper. My son has camped a lot, and still might forget a key item on campouts, but the number of items he forgets has gone way down and he can set up camp quickly enough to be able to help out the younger scouts now.

    • I think your question is a little vague. You’ll get some responses if you can identify what the challenge would be for a lone scout. Lone scouts have the same requirements as other scouts.

  15. “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.”

    This is not entirely correct, and isn’t even fair. Or common:

    Most scouts earning T or 2C are too young to be hi-adventuring, so for them, this doesn’t apply. For older boys with lesser rank, it could. And many of them ARE participating in a troop event: the troop collects scouts for HA, signs up, and goes: that’s troop activity, yes? Does it make it NOT a troop activity because council is sponsoring and planning it? Ah, but what about the lone scout who must be in a provisional troop? He’s with a different troop. Does it, or doesn’t it count? Why penalize the boy who wants to do HA but his troop doesn’t have the wherewithall to go? And, while on HA, while the group is called a “trek”, it is no different than being a patrol. There’s a leader, and there are scouts. Maybe there are adults, and maybe there’s more than the max recommended for a patrol, but I see a lot of hair splitting here: if an older boy goes to HA, he would unequivocally earn rank advancement in my troop. Reason: he has satisfied all of the technical requirements, and even the spirit of the requirements.

    On another note: Camping MB has more than just “20 nights”. There must be TWO activities conducted, choose 2: 4 mile hike, 5 mile boat, 15 mile bike, hike 1000 elevation, rappel 30′, and winter activity. Pick two, do them, and THEN your overnights count.

    I’d be interested in the arguments that council HA is not a troop activity, AND that treks couldn’t be patrols, AND how a single scout from a troop wants to go provisionally all cannot count for rank?

    • Actually, on HA trips your group is called a “crew” and the crew goes on a “trek.”

      I agree with everything you’re saying. My son spent his first summer camp as a provisional camper because he bridged over after our troop’s summer camp reservation was full. He was 11 years old and on his own with 20 other kids he’d never met, for a week. We definitely counted those as camping nights. The rest of his nights for the Camping MB were multiple 1, 2 and 3 nighters that got him over the 20 night mark. Any scout that is even moderately active in the troop will have no problem earning the merit badge in due time – it’s not a race.

  16. The point of the camping requirements is the total camping experience. Plan food, shelter, clothing, etc. Stay overnight and take everything you need to have a fun and comfortable stay. Get the scouts out of the modern world, connect with nature, get their heads out of the virtual real and into the real world.
    Would sleeping in a cabin out in the middle of the woods count towards that experience? In my book, as long as all of the other experiences were part of the campout, then I believe the intent of the requirement has been met. Splitting hairs over where the scout sleeps…come on man.

  17. What about the National Outdoor Award?

    We live in interior Alaska where is it often very cold. Our troop schedules camping trips during the winter, where temperatures -20F or colder are common. So they often sleep in cabins. Would these nights count toward the camping portion of the National Outdoor Award? There is no specific language about being in a tent (the exact wording is below)

    Complete 25 days and nights of camping – including six consecutive days (five nights) of camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America – including nights camped as part of requirements 1 through 3 above.

    A gold device may be earned for each additional 25 nights of camping. A silver device is earned for each additional 100 nights of camping. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of nights camping.

  18. Not sure if my son has the new book or an old one. It has listed for First Class requirement 1a. 10 separate troop activities, 6 of which have to be overnight camping. So, which is it 6 campouts or 3?
    As for the hammock question, if it has a rainfly it should be counted as a bivy.

  19. I would count a hammock with a rain fly as a tent for Camping MB. This camping structure would be the same as a military poncho, a double poncho with a buddy, a tarp, a sheet of poly, a cacoon style tarp hammock, or a wilderness survival shelter. Especially if it is used on a hike, canoeing trip, or rafting trip where weight or volume is a consideration with regards to gear choice. The point of the MB is to vary the type of camping that a unit can do through out the year.
    In my troop as a kid, we tent camped almost all year round. We had summer camp and the three district camp out events. In between these were patrol and troop camp outs. We usually had a week troop camp out outside of summer camp just after school got out to kick start the summer activities.
    The alternative role for patrol camp outs was for leadership development. This is the point were the boys can feed themselves so to speak. No set schedule or activities. The scouts could just relax and have fun. If a troop is running properly, there should not be any problem getting all the camping nights in 1 to 2 years depending when the scout joins in the year.

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