Ask the Expert: Interpreting Camping merit badge Requirement 9a

When it comes to life-changing experiences, there’s no substitute for camping.

And when it comes to the Eagle-required Camping merit badge, there’s no substitute for Requirement 9A.

It reads as follows:

9. Show experience in camping by doing the following:

a. 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.

That one paragraph has caused a few Scout leaders some consternation. Bill, a district-level training chairman, sent me this e-mail:

“There seems to be a lot of interpretations of Requirement 9a (number of nights camping) of the Camping Merit Badge and if more than one long-term camp can be counted. Also questions about what exactly a long-term camp is. If you haven’t already, can you put up a blog article on it?”

I can answer that last question: Yes, I will write a blog post about it.

For the rest of the answers, I turned to Chris Hunt of the Advancement Team. He writes:

This requirement was recently updated, and one of the problems we face is that many are probably working with the former language. Find the most recent version of the requirements here.

Here are some key points:

  • The requirement begins with “Camp a total of 20 nights.” That means 20 overnights, so a weekend trip from Friday through Sunday is two nights.
  • Next it says, “at designated Scouting activities or events.” This means the experiences are held under the auspices of some level of the BSA, and that “Scouting” happens on them. For example, an individual family or a couple of Scouts and their parents heading off into the woods doesn’t count.
  • A long-term camping experience is defined as at least five consecutive nights. One of these experiences is allowed, and up to six nights may count toward the requirement. For example, Sunday through Saturday. If a Scout goes on a 10-night trek, only six of those nights counts.
  • If a Scout goes to summer camp twice for a total of 12 nights, only one of the summer camps will count — for up to six nights.
  • The remainder of the camping nights must be accumulated through short-term camping — normally weekend troop campouts. The long-term camping experience must also be a “designated Scouting activity or event.” This could be at a council summer camp or on a troop’s own 50 miler, a Jamboree, high-adventure base, etc.
  • All 20 nights must be spent under the sky or in a tent, so nights in cabins don’t count.
  • If camping is done at a camp that provides tents that are already set up, then all is good. If tents are not already pitched, the Scout must pitch his tent. If he is sleeping in a two-man tent, then it would be reasonable the he and his buddy set the tent up together. Sleeping in a tent that Dad or the Scoutmaster, etc., pitched doesn’t count.
  • I’ve heard feedback from parents with Scout in troops that don’t do very much camping. They can get in the long-term outing, but it takes a long time for their troop to get out on enough campouts to make up the other 14 nights. As a workaround they suggest they will send their son to summer camp, but then take him home after four nights so the experience will not count as a long-term camp. This doesn’t fulfill the requirement. The short-term campouts provide variety in both preparation and experience, and the Scouts are more likely to have to set up their own tent and take more responsibility for outdoor living skills. A long-term summer camp is still a long-term camp even if the Scout is there for only a portion of the time. It’s an entirely different adventure and usually doesn’t call for the same level of self-reliance required for a short term camp.

The biggest issue we face in these kinds of questions is people trying to read more than what is written.

Hope that clears it up, Bill. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to respond. If you have a question you want me to find the answer to, e-mail me and use the words “Ask the Expert” in the subject line.

Camping merit badge, requirement 9B

Q: Requirement 9B states that “On any of these camping experiences, you must do TWO of the following…” Do those need to be done on the same camping trip?

A: Key wording is, “on any.” This means the two activities can be done on any of the experiences you count for 9A — as opposed to on just one experience. If the requirement intended for the two activities to occur on one experience, it would be worded, “On one of these camping experiences, you must do Two of the following…”

Related post

Ask the Expert: Can merit badge progress begin before a Scout gets his blue card?

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134 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Interpreting Camping merit badge Requirement 9a

  1. I think the requirement is extremely clear, and the blog clarifies it very nicely. I must also point out that the camping nights must be completed once the Scout gets his merit badge started and not bvefore then. Therefore, every unit should get the Scout started on this merti badge once he crosses over. Get the blue card started the first meeting he shows up to.

    • Eric is bringing up another advancement policy to discuss. If a scout has already completed a requirement “early” does it count? Can Chris address that issue?

      • They count.

        Only if a given requirement specifically says he needs the counselor’s approval first does he have to wait, such as in Radio Merit Badge: “Visit a radio installation (an amateur radio station, broadcast station, or public communications center, for example) approved in advance by your counselor.”

        If the given requirement doesn’t say something “approved by your counselor”, then he can begin work on the requirement from the moment he is registered as Boy Scout and it will count towards earning the Merit Badge.

      • Early, meaning?
        Before He joined Scouts. No.
        Before he met with a counselor? Oh Yeah!
        Before the badge came out? Yeppers.

    • Why must the blue card be started before you can count the nights? It says show experience in camping. If the scout or troop has records I dont see why the experience has to be all after the card is signed. Also, what about camps with addirondacks? These nights dont count? Im more confused now.

    • What do you mean by “start” a badge?

      Merit Badge policy states that “Any registered Scout may work on any of them at any time, as long as he has the approval of his unit leader.” So as long as the unit leader allows the early campouts to count (and why wouldn’t they) the Scout should be ok in satisfying the requirement. The requirement does not say “meet with the merit badge councilor first,” or “have a blue card signed and filed first” or even “with the approval of your councilor” or anything like that. So any camping done while a registered Scou should count toward the badge.

      By the logic of having to “get the badge started” first, any Scout working on Emergency Preparedness merit badge would have to either (a) start Emergency Preparedness before earning First Aid merit badge or (b)re-earn First Aid merit badge after starting Emergency Preparedness. As requirement #1 says “earn First Aid Merit Badge.”

      If earning First Aid can be done before opening Emergency Preparedness, Scouting campouts should be able to be done before opening Camping

      You can count previous work done as a Scout for merit badges without having to officially “open” the badge first (unless the requirements specifically stated “ith the approval of your councilor” or “under supervision of your councilor’ or “after meeting with your councilor”) as long as the unit leader and the merit badge councilor approve.

      • John, one way to get Scouts started on the Merit Badge program is to offer to get them started on a badge ASAP! Camping being a major part of the Scouting experience, ticking off all those camp outs (hey! Summer Camp!) toward a merit badge is a good thing. No, don’t file 14 blue cards the week after Crossover!!

      • John,

        The real problem that Advancement Chairs face is reinforcing and correctly implementing National BSA Council Policy when the National Council contradicts itself. You only partially quoted the merit badge policy. If I may, here is the complete text from the 2011 Guide to Advancement, page 36:

        “ Unit Leader Signs Application for Merit Badge (“Blue Card”)

        Though a few merit badges may have certain restrictions; short of them, any registered Scout may work on any of them at any time, as long as he has the approval of his unit leader. This is indicated by his or her signature on the Application for Merit Badge, No. 34124, commonly called the “blue card.””

        The last sentence clearly indicates that, “approval of his unit leader … is indicated by his or her signature on the … blue card.”

        In the highlighted box immediately following this paragraph, the guide states: “All merit badge requirements must be met while a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout, or a qualified Venturer or Sea Scout. Accomplishments before joining, or while a Cub Scout, do not apply.”

        In the opening paragraph of Section 7, the Guide states that “The uncomplicated [merit badge] process—[begins] in a discussion with a Scoutmaster.”

        The Guide to Advancement is unambiguous in its language that merit badge requirements completed prior to obtaining a blue card approved by the unit leader do not apply toward completion of the merit badge.

        However, the National Council Advancement Team contradicted itself with their article in the March 2012 Advancement News, “When Does the Clock Start Running for Credit Toward Merit Badges?”

        “We are occasionally asked when the clock starts running that allows a Scout to earn credit for effort he puts forth in satisfying requirements toward a merit badge. Some might argue that the “line in the sand” begins only after his unit leader has had a discussion with the Scout about the merit badge choice, provided a qualified merit badge counselor, and then signed the “blue card.” In such a scenario, any previous efforts or activities related to the requirements could not be
        counted toward the requirements.

        “However, on the flip side, often it is the interest generated through pre–merit badge efforts that really motivates a Scout to attempt the merit badge and do more. A good example would be the early collecting of
        coins or stamps, which leads to earning the Coin Collecting or Stamp Collecting merit badge. One would not expect a Scout to start from scratch if he already had partial collections. Similarly, it could be the initial camping experiences enjoyed as a young Boy Scout that become the driving force to tackle the more challenging Camping merit badge.
        ***Those early campouts must be allowed to count toward the 20 nights of documented overnight camping required, just as the rudimentary coin or stamp collections were.*** The same would apply to special events or travel, such as attending a world jamboree for either the Scouting Heritage or Citizenship in the World merit badge, or to skills learned on a computer long before beginning the Computers merit badge” (*** emphasis added).

        It would be very helpful if National Council Advancement Team would add this kind of amplifying language in the Guide to Advancement as an authoritative source rather than doing so in a non-policy newsletter.

        I agree with the premise of your post as being consistent with the amplification from the National Advancement Team, and allowing camping nights from the first camping experience to count toward completion of the Camping merit badge is a very common sense approach. However, it is not in alignment with the policy established in the Guide to Advancement. We need clear, unambiguous, CONSISTENT guidance from National Council in order for volunteers in the Councils, Districts and units to effectively implement its policy.

      • Can you use something for a merit badge if it was used as a requirement for rank advancement? Some, like the Hiking, allow parts to be used as long as other requirements have been met. We had a scout who wanted to do so but several of our Eagles as well as the summer camp director expressed doubts as to allowing it. Your thoughts?

        • Rick,
          My take on double counting is usually no. For example community service hours for Citizenship in the Community can’t count as service hours for Star or Life. Going to a town council meeting for Citizenship in the Community can’t count towards Communications merit badge.

          With respect to whether you could count a hike that gained 1000′ for the Second Class hiking requirement and camping merit badge requirement 9b, I’d be inclined to count it for both. However, if you’re running a program with a lot of different types outings a Scout should have the variety he needs in the 20 nights of camping. For requirement 9b you only need two different types of outings.

    • “Hi, welcome to the Troop. Instead of the Troop Guide working with you as new Scouts to develop a 1st Year Patrol, a Patrol Yell/Cheer, Flag, etc., and have you meet with the Scoutmaster for a conference for your Scout Badge; I would like to spend the next few minutes confusing you about Merit Badges you don’t need to worry about at this moment in time by giving you this blue card thing that will just foster weird looks and parental questions?”

      That’s what I was thinking when I read your post.

      Maybe I’ve done this way too long, but last I checked up to 1st Class doesn’t require any merit badges and the goal of Scouting isn’t every boy makes Eagle, it’s every boy has the opportunity to make it to 1st Class.

      Also, isn’t there a 1st Class in 1st Year program that is highly encouraged? Pretty sure Scouting has you have the boys in a 1st Year Patrol and they provided the Scoutmaster with information on how to work with the SPL, his PLC, and his TG’s to incorporate new Scouts into the unit and have them work toward the goal of 1st Class? Guess I missed the memo about we need to focus on Merit Badges from day 1. Ok, I’ll turn in my beads, powderhorn, and eagle… back to the beginning I go….

  2. Thanks Bryan & Chris. One thing that I still have a hard time with, though, is a case where a Council offers both week-long and weekend NYLT courses. Those that attend the weekend courses can get credit for all camping nights. Those that do a full week course can not apply any of the nights, if they have already used a week of summer camp. I understanding not allowing a second 6-nights, but would think that they satisfy the skills of setting up camp and camping to justify credit for 1 or 2 nights (assuming they set up their own tent). Still enforcing the stricter interpretation that Chris offers, though.

    • CTD,
      There are summer camps that require the Scouts to pitch their own tents too and a second one of these would not count either.

      I am a little concerned that a Scout going to NYLT does not already have the camping nights satisfied simply utilizing the troop program.

    • I can see your point. Knowing that NYLT shouldn’t be a scout’s first long term camping experience, why should a scout be able to count the nights of camping if he does multiple weekend campouts for the weekend NYLT course when another scout can’t count it if he does a week long course? I also wish there was some way the spirit and the letter of the law would match up.

    • Considering that a NYLT course shouldn’t be a scout’s initial long term camping experience, your point is well taken, Why can a scout who attends a multiple weekend NYLT course be able to count the nights of camping when a scout who attends a week long NYLT course cannot count the nights of camping. I also wish the 9a requirement could be worded so the that spirit of the law would more closely match the letter of the law.

      • My understanding of the requirement is to give the Scout a variety of camping experiences. One can be long term, but the rest need to be short term, similar to a regular troop weekend campout The weekend NYLT would fit into the latter category.

    • Thanks Bryan and Chris for great info… There is also Winter Camp, Powwow, Philmont, that isnt mention. Now there is SAR (Search and Rescue) training that is almost 5-6 days. National Jamboree and World Jamboree.

      • We only count one week of Summer camp but if a youth does say a Philmont Trek, Cavalcade, No Tier, Jamboree or NYLT we count those days, as they are different experiences than Summer Camp. Is that wrong?

  3. Actually, all merit badge requirements, unless specifically stated otherwise can begin prior to starting the merit badge. The requirements is that all merit badge requirements must be met while a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout, or a qualified Venturer or Sea Scout. Accomplishments before joining, or while a Cub Scout, do not apply. See the Guide to advancement, section 7.

  4. I’m not sure the comment “I must also point out that the camping nights must be completed once the Scout gets his merit badge started and not bvefore then” is correct.

    I guess you could imply that a Boy Scout automatically starts work on Camping Merit Badge on the first night he camps at a Boy Scout event whether he knows it or not. But I think what is really meant that all of the camping has to be done as a registered Boy Scout, not as a Webelos or Cub to count.

  5. We do a lot of Leen to camping. It’s not an enclosed cabin, does this count as under the stars?
    ASM Troop 398 Lindenhurst,NY
    Christopher Lindenberg

  6. My Boy Scout son will sometimes join our Cub Scout Pack ( I am the Cub Master ) on Pack Family Camping trips. I assume the statement “at designated Scouting Activities” these trips would count since it does not specify “Boy Scout”

    • I would like to know this as well. My Boy Scout camps often with his younger brother’s Cub Scout Pack. BS typically camps by himself. Also, he works as staff at Cub Scout camps, which typically involve him camping in a test. I would assume that all the above quality for the Camping MB. Yes/No/Maybe?

    • I would say yes… but only if:
      1. He has been designated by his SPL and approved by his Scoutmaster to be a Den Chief / Webelos Den Chief.
      2. He has been trained in Youth Protection (Den Chief Req.)
      3. He has been given Den Chief Training by the Scoutmaster and the Cubmaster.
      4. He is acting in his role of responsibility and activily engaged working with his Den / Webelos Patrol Leader to develop and carry out the activities of the campout.

      My reasoning is simple. The Scout is assigned this role of responsibility and is acting in the capcity of the job he is assigned for the 1 year as Den Chief. If not going as a Den Chief, he is a sibling attending a Pack event who just happens to be registered as a Boy Scout in a Troop. Remember Troop camping is about the Patrol Method, leadership of oneself and over others, working as a team, and working toward a common goal. Being a big brother on a Cub Campout isn’t those things. If it is, have him be a Den Chief. They can hold more then one position of responsibility? Den Chiefing is a great opportunity for Boy Scouts to have leadership of younger boys, learn, and grow.

  7. Regarding ” a case where a Council offers both week-long and weekend NYLT courses. Those that attend the weekend courses can get credit for all camping nights” I’m not sure as it should be an issue very often.

    In most cases, a Scout will easily meet the camping requirements in a year or two of normal troop activities plus one summer camp. After the six night credit for summer camp, it’s only 7 weekend camping trips to get him the remaining 14 days. That’s long before most Scouts qualify for NYLT.

    • I thought the qualifications to attend NYLT was First Class Scout. All the young men attending NYLT from our Troop have not yet reached the 20 night camping benchmark. It’s a valid question

      • In order to attend a NYLT course, a Scout must have the following qualifications
        by the beginning of the course:
        􀂄 Be 13 years of age and have completed the seventh grade.
        􀂄 Be a First Class Scout

    • This mainly comes up with Scouts who play sports or are in the band, and often have to miss campouts for a season. They fit in campouts when they can in the offseason, and have enough experiences to go to NYLT. I struggle to explain why, if they skip their sports to take NYLT over two weekends in the fall, they get credit, but if they are able to take a week in the summer offseason to go to NYLT, they get nothing, not even 2 nights for having gone through the same camp setup as one of the weekends. They will get there eventually, but it is just one of those quirky situations.

      • CTD –
        In the case of a Scout who is attending any NYLT or NAYLE course, one would think that a Scout at this level of leadership and involvement would not be focused on the “credit” toward a merit badge, but rather more focused on the reason for participating in a Scouting experience such as NYLT, and the leadership skills developed and practiced during the course.

      • I struggle to comprehend why you want to fight for folks who do stuff outside of Scouting? They are making their choice. I successfully made through high school, undergraduate and graduate school, through a military career up to and including retirement, and not once, not once did it make me play a sport or requirement to complete band to do it. I was however Captain of the Basketball team for 3 years, Captain of Football 1, Student Council President, and yes… an Eagle Scout. I had to learn balance. I had to learn to make choices. Why should Scouting keep playing second fiddle or ride the bench to band, sports, etc.? Let them make their choice. They miss a campout for whatever reason, ok. They are accountable for their actions and responsible for their choices. Shouldn’t that be the thread, not how do we keep lawyering a way to give them a couple extra nights and what is “fair” so they can get Eagle, quit, use it as a resume builder or a college application enhancer? Have we really lost the true message in Scouting?

    • Disagree with “Will easily meet in a year or two” Our campouts are usually only 1 night b/c boys have other commitments and other than summer camp they will only get 4-5 nights in a year. Not all troops camp 2 nights at a time or every month.

      • If a boy joins scouting when he is eleven, or ten and a half with the AoL, four campouts a year of one night, with a week or summer camp, will earn the badge in four years. He started with seven to work with. We need to be careful trying to “get” the award for the scouts as they might not realize the intent of scouting and miss the “experience” of it as well.

  8. Don’t forget Patrol campouts. Just because you don’t take the trailer and the entire troop with you doesn’t mean it won’t count towards this merit badge.
    I’ve seen patrols do a 10 mile hike, camp overnight at a campsite or farm (with permission), and hike home the next day: that’s an overnight for Camping merit badge and 2 hikes for Hiking merit badge right there (just write the hike plan for the return trip backwards!).

  9. A Scout MAY (notice the use of the word MAY) start working on a merit badge before doing the initial meeting with his counselor. However, the counselor has no obligation to accept work done prior to the initial meeting. So, I would strongly suggest that if a Scout wants to start working on Camping MB, he gets the blue card signed by the unit leader and then immediately contacts the counselor and explains to the counselor how he is planning on meeting the overnight camping requirement. That would erase any concerns for both the Scout and the Counselor.

    Paul Y
    District Advancement & Recognition Chair
    Thunderbird District
    Inland Northwest Council
    Spokane WA

    • In the rare case that happens, he and his Scoutmaster can then find him another counselor who understands the true meaning of the requirement. In most cases they accept a log of the camping signed by the SM or in the Scouts handbook, not actually go on all 20 nights of camping with the Scout!

      I think you’re confusing this with the fact that a counselor has no obligation to accept any requirement previously approved as completed by another counselor, not that the Scout needs an official blue card before beginning work on a badge, unless the individual requirement specifically says so.

      The reason a Scout needs a signed blue card before meeting with a counselor was originally to let the counselor know that the Scout met the minimum requirements to meet with a counselor, which used to be First Class. But even way back then, all camping since joining as a Scout counted for camping merit badge.

  10. I’m confused by this statement:
    “If camping is done at a camp that provides tents that are already set up, then all is good. If tents are not already pitched, the Scout must pitch his tent. If he is sleeping in a two-man tent, then it would be reasonable the he and his buddy set the tent up together. Sleeping in a tent that Dad or the Scoutmaster, etc., pitched doesn’t count.”

    If a dad or a Scoutmaster or whomever sets-up the tent for the Scout then isn’t the Scout then camping at a camp that provides tents that are already set up for him?

    Why is it “all good” to camp in a tent that is set-up by the camp staff of a summer camp, but it’s not “all good” to camp in a tent set-up by someone you know?

    • Matt: The requirement was first designed that the Scout needs to erect the tent all the time by himself. Then a simple exception was added for long term summer camps where the staff didn’t want the previously erected wall tents mounted on platforms taken down and reset by the incoming Scouts each week!

      • We have many gungho Dads who want to set up tent, especially when the scout is new. We tell them that it won’t count for their son’s camping night if they set up the tent. Junior has to do it and if it’s difficult more than one scout, but not Dad or Mom.

  11. Does the BSA Catholic Scout retreat weekend (tent camping , Fri-Sat) – a requirement of the AAD and Pope Pius emblems – count towards the 20 night requirement? Our Scoutmaster said no since it wasn’t a troop activity.

    • Ray, According to the requriement, as long as it is a designated Scouting activity it would count. “Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.”

      • That’s what I thought. My son’s Scoutmaster is refusing to count those 2 nights. Not sure if it’s worth pushing the issue as I’m sure Scoutmasters have a certain way they like to run their troops.

        • No one can add or subtract from the requirements. But if your son is active and your troop is active, this really shouldn’t be an issue because he already has plenty of nights camping.

        • The Scoutmaster cannot decide on the requirements, only the merit badge counselor. And the counselor must stick to the requirements, not make stuff up and add to them. Scout camping is Scout camping, period.

          Adults are not here to make additional obstacles. The requirements are a series of “surmountable obstacles” as the official description of advancement says.

          If your Scoutmaster is an obstacle, find a different troop.

        • First, it isn’t the SM’s troop, it is the youth members. Second, the requirement doesn’t say troop camping, it says BSA camping. Unless there is some sort of simplified camping being held just to satisfy the # of nights requirement, the SM should have no reason to refuse to count the BSA Catholic Scout retreat weekend. I would have to assume from the name that it is being held according to BSA standards, policies, etc.?

  12. And since we are talking very specific, let me throw out another question. What about snow caves. It’s neither a tent nor under stars so is it “Camping?” As for me and my Troop, we’re counting it.

  13. Do Weblo campouts count in the total as long as the Scout pitched his own tent, or with a tenting partner?

  14. Either this blog or Scouting Magazine has addressed the before/after blue card issue rather recently, but I can’t find a link just offhand. It’s simple and logical: For merit badges with requirements like Camping MB’s, past experience is fine as long as it meets the requirement.
    You aren’t a gatekeeper, you’re a mentor.

  15. What about summer camps with 3 sided, multi bunk bed addirondacks? Count – yes or no? Opinions??

  16. Wow, there is a lot of lawery-ing going on here! So let me jump in with my question. How do you define short term camping verse long term camping. If a scout attends a 50-miler (a-foot) with his troop that is 9 nights and 1 summer camp 6 nights, he gets to count the summer camp and how many nights of the 50-miler? What if the 50 miler a-float and it only takes 4 days, does he get to count those? how about just 3 days to do the 50-miler afloat?

    Since we are going all lawery on this, where is Short-term camping defined? Is that a Scout Master decision? or can we find a reference that defines short term is 48 hrs or less and Long term is 48 hours or more? What about long weekend campouts (memorial day, 4th july, labor day, fall/spring breaks?

    Camping with/during/for/ scouting is camping. 20 nights is 20 nights regardless if you go 10 2-day campouts one 6 night summer camp and 7 2-day campouts. if anything limit it to 1 6-night event per year. … sorry just let my ranting pass and help me understand why it is so limited, why can’t a scout attend 3 6-night camps in 1 summer and count them all?

    • Because just like every other merit badge, part of the purpose of the requirements is for the Scout to gain experience doing something. If you stop to think about it, there are many things that come up on one campout that won’t come up in others, and things that happen on a two or three night trip that won’t happen in a six night camp. When’s the last time you went on an overnighter, discovered you left part of your food at home or in the car, and were able to have someone else prepare it for you in a nice, airconditioned dining hall? The guys need to learn to be resourceful, and practice doing it.

  17. Why is everyone so worried about how soon a scout can get his nights counted. If you are running a good program then it should not be that hard. 6 Nights at summer camp, 2 nights per month for 11 month is another 22 nights. That is everything. all in one year. OK you can take 3 months off from weekend camping and that still gives you 16 nights of camping through the year. Run the program, quit worrying about how much bling you can get on a uniform, or how soon your scout can get eagle so he can quit and do something else. Enjoy the program for what it provides.

      • Even camping every three months, one night at a time, with a summer camp, will take four years. The last scout I questioned, during a BOR for rank advancement, about his being well behind the other scouts in his patrol, asked in return that he had till he turned 18, didn’t he? Some scouts are in a hurry to advance in scouting that they miss the experience of scouting. Moreso with their parents.

  18. Yeah!! They finally defined the camping had to be a “Scout” camp out.

    In the quest to “help” the boy, parents would try to get every kind of overnight spent away from home to count.
    Grandmas RV, the State Park Lodge, a sleepover next door, Disneyland, Bible camp, you name it.
    It’s sad when leaders and parents loose sight of the spirit and intentions of the requirements and look for “the loop hole” to sign off a merit badge.
    They are doing the scout no favors, rather they are cheating him out of a learning experience and setting a poor example of following the Scout Law.

    • Those count if he’s a Lone Scout.

      As a Camping MBC, I also count their nights spent working on the Backpacking badge; that’s 10 right there.

      It’s not necessarily looking for loopholes — it might be that the boy doesn’t like to camp, his troop does not regularly camp overnight (or camps only 1 night at a time), his weekend time is filled with a job or school activity, or his parents celebrate Saturday Sabbaths. There are tons of reasons. We should be finding ways to HELP the boys achieve their goals rather than “lawyering them to death”.

      • There is a huge difference in “helping the scout” by altering/watering down a requirement and following the spirit and intent of the requirements in making adjustments to the Lone Scouts environment.
        A Lone Scout should not be given a pass on this requirement. That is not HELPING the boy. While he may not have a troop or patrol to camp with, counting a sleep over with the neighbor, nor a resort, or an RV, ect. is IMO wrong.
        A Scout is Trustworthy, and he will soon realize that he is being given something, instead of earning it.
        As a Lone Scout Counselor you should not cheat the scout, by looking for ways to get around the requirements, instead look for ways to complete them in the spirit and intent that they were designed to do so.
        If “the boy does not like to camp”, well he has a problem to overcome if he is to earn the Camping MB. That is not a reason to alter the requirements, Lone Scout or not.
        This is not “Lawyering the to death” is is following the requirements, no more and NO LESS.

  19. At our summer camp, the boys sleep in tents all week except one night in the middle of the week is a “wilderness” outing where they either canoe or hike away from camp and spend the night. If the scout is not using summer camp for the long term camp, May we allow this one night “wilderness” outing count towards one overnight camping trip?

    • I always counted it that way. An overnight away from the main summer camp counts as a short term camp.

  20. OK I get the summer camp only counts once BUT if they go to NYLT, NAYLE or a Trek shouldn’t they be allowed to count those also. Our weekend campouts unfortunately are only 1/mo and only 1 night and due to The Holidays no Nov, Dec, campouts and if we go in Jan or Feb its cabin camping so it does not count. If we do not allow the treks, training nights we can have a scout ready for Eagle and not have enough night. As stated above Scouts do have other things and do not make every overnight outing.

        • Neither Parents or kids will do. They have school, sports, music. It’s a very competitive environment and we are trying to keep them in scouts. If we did more we wouldn’t have a troop b/c there would be no boys.

  21. For me, camping is part of the culture of scouting. Simply It’s what a scout does. Camping helps scouts become physically and emotionally self-reliant.

    I’m grateful that the Camping merit badge is required for the Eagle Rank. The 20 nights of camping requirement makes this merit badge a major hurdle on the trail to the Eagle rank. The 3 month merit badges of Personal Fitness, Family Life, and Personal Management, look like speed bumps on that trail in comparison.

    I also love the new Boy Scout Handbook because it gives the scouts a place to record their nights of camping.

    With my many years as an adult leadership in a troop, I’ve had a number of interesting experiences with the 9a requirement:
    1) A scout attends summer camp with out troop. This is his second long term camping experience but because of a family vacation he leaves two days early. He can count the 4 night of summer camp but his 2nd year camping peers can only count 1 night. The spirit of the law doesn’t match the letter of the law.
    2) One of my scouts tells me, “I don’t have to go to summer camp this year.” I’m puzzled because I’m use to hearing, “I can’t go” or “I don’t want to go.” So, I call the mom and she confirms that yes, he won’t be going because he all ready has the nights needed for his camping merit badge. She apparently thinks we camp only to complete the Camping merit badge.
    3) A 17.5-year-old scouts realizes that he needs to buckle down and get busy finishing up requirements for the Eagle rank. He cranks out the leadership project, begins work on the last few merit badges and then realizes that there are not enough scout camping opportunities for him to finish the Camping merit badge. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins, 5 with oil in their lamps and 5 without. I guess this scout was one of the 5 without oil.

    • Sound like # 3 needs to work with his patrol to do some camping, or even work with the Webelos. Perhaps they would see him working for something rather than expecting the rules to be altered because he failed to do the work?

  22. Another thought on 9.a. “A Scout has ‘experienced’ the pre-planning prep. / traveling / finding the proper location for pitching his tent…..and actually ‘pitched his tent’ at least eight times, to provide cover for him and his gear, for a minimum of twenty nights.” …..Amen

    I wish I could do it all again. The absolute joy of my youth, and Scouting!
    It’s such a Great Day for Scouting !

  23. I agree the wording is very simple. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be done in any time frame. A scout has 7 years to camp 20 nights. (Age 11 to 18) In an active troop most will camp somewhere between 50 to 100 nights. There is nothing more enjoyable than presenting the 100 nights camping award! Keep in mind 9b also. There are some specifics that can be planned each year to help all scouts meet these requirements. Have fun out there and it will happen!

    Glenn Witt
    SHAC Brazos District Advancement

  24. Hi Bryan,

    I completely understand the comments in the blog about the way things should be and usually are. They are great comments, but unfortunately, there are always exceptions from time to time that are at or near the lower limits of a requirement. Also, there are scouts that are very excited and interested in getting credit for what they do. This is why there is the need to sometimes get a bit lawyerly, as leaders are attempting to do their due diligence in both making sure scouts are meeting the requirements, and also making sure that they are not creating obstacles that are not in the requirements. Our troop is well over 100 scouts so we run into just about every possible situation, from busy scouts, sports, regular summer vacations to countries of origin, disabled scouts, those who join late, to those who get extremely more active when they are old enough for high adventure activities, etc. Here are my questions that are not answered specifically by you in the blog, and some of my own:

    Main question:
    What exactly signifies a “camping experience”? What is the correlation between a campout and a “camping experience”, if any? I do not see this defined anywhere together as a statement.
    Does moving camp sites mean that it is a separate camping experience? Does it matter if it is on or leaves scout camp or base property during a long term campout?

    Here are some situations we have run into that I am needed your feedback on:

    1) Nights away from the main area of summer camp, but still on summer camp property. For example, a wilderness survival or horse trek night, still on the summer camp property. Does it count as a single night camping if the scout already has a long term camp? If you count this, like in the blog reply, then does the summer camp then become three campouts, each under the 5 night limit, is the scout just taking a temporary “leave” from the summer camp, so it is one long term and one single night, or is it just a part of the program offered by the summer camp, so these excursions are just part of the one long-term camp?

    2) If a scout has to, or decides to leave a long term camp after camping for four or fewer nights, does that then count as single nights, or should it be counted only in the long term category? So, does a scout who is less active get more credit?

    3) Our troop does some high adventure campouts that are longer than 5 days where they are hiking and camping in a new location each night. Will this type of campout qualify for general nights camping as each day is a new camping experience in a new place? This is similar to the question above since the scout has a new camp site, is on a “campout” that is long term, but has seperate “camping experiences” during that campout.

    4) What happens at a high adventure “base”: The troop is canoeing or kayaking, is not on base property and is camping in a new place each night as they travel.

    5) Official answer on snow caving, if the scout helped dig the cave, as it is neither a tent, nor under the stars as there is a man-made roof made out of organic materials. If you count this, then can a scout build another structure out of organic materials that has a “roof” of some type, sleep in it and count it? Is really about the scout building or setting it up, more than the type of structure slept under/in?

    6) Hammock: Type of hanging tent, or under the stars?

    7) Silly question, but I sometimes get asked: By the wording, do we have to accept a pitched tent wherever it is pitched, even under a shelter, so a tent inside or under another structure would count, but without the tent it would not?

    It would be great if the wording of this badge were updated to be more clear. As you can see by the posts, the multiple interpretations, and issues offered there, the letter and spirit of the wording do not always agree. Any time the wording of a requirement creates a situation where it is not fair between scouts doing a similar requirement, then the problem needs to be addressed. The NYLT discussion is a good example of such a situation created by the wording in this badge.

    Thank you for your time.


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  26. I think you’ve really got people thinking. Usually a good thing, but here is an example of over thinking, over interpreting and reading between lines that ain’t even there. We should all remember, Scouting IS fun and over complicating or cheating the rules doesn’t make a fun program.

    The question about setting up a tent under a roof, does that count. Come on, really. Who would count that? I’m sorry if that’s some peoples idea of camping but it’s not what I think of when I see the word camping. For Cub Scouts i’d say count it but Boy Scouts…

    The question about a snow cave/organic materials. Here is where the wording should change from ‘tent’ to ‘a temporary shelter built or set up by the scout’. Yes, that means if a scout builds a 2 story house with a hot tub and pool in the woods, sleeps in it for 4 nights then tears it down, it should count. Use the word ‘temporary’ to show how they should “Leave No Trace” after camping.

    Next, breaking up the long term camp out by going home one night or changing camp sites, etc… I personally wouldn’t count it as 2 or 3 short camp outs. I think that would be cheating the spirit of the Merit Badge. I think the idea is to get the boys outdoors as often as possible so they can experience the variety of camping experiences there are out there. If you’re on a 10 day hike, I’d assume your Troop is VERY active and getting the requirements shouldn’t be a problem. If your Troop isn’t real active campers they need to change. Camping is a cheap easy way to spend a weekend and builds friendships and strengthens skills that you can’t get by simply going to a weekly meeting. And counting NYLT time falls under how active your Troop is in camping. If you need those nights to count then you really need to refocus to get the boys outside.

    Remember, You don’t have a time limit for completing the Merit Badge, other than turning 18. DON’T RUSH IT!!! My son hasn’t even thought about the camping badge and he has all the nights he needs in just 16 months. Again, scouting IS fun, keep it that way.

    That’s my 2 cents. It’s not worth much but maybe one or two leaders will think about it and maybe I’ll see you in the woods some night, I’ll bring the steak…

  27. Hi,

    The points made here are very good in general, and I agree with them in the spirit of scouting in the outdoors that the requirement should not be an issue for most scouts in an active troop. I have no issue with the principal. I do not believe that this is the reason this blog needed to exist. I think one reason is that a scout doing a similar activity, even a longer or “better” activity can get less credit toward completing a requirement. This should not be as it is an unjust rule. Take for instance a week long high adventure hike through the mountains (something our troop did the summer before last) vs a four night trip doing the same thing. It is simply not an equitable rule to count one as the equivalent of two weekend campouts, and the other as nothing. OK, now here is my opinion, which I cannot implement because it is not the requirement. If the one long term slot has already filled, the 4 night campout should just get a max credit of two nights, and the week long should get the same two days max. A second camping experience of a different type should not count less than a standard weekend campout. I definitely see the need for scouts to have the different experiences. Why not even count a max of two days of any campout, summer camp or otherwise and simplify everything?

    Eric, your comment about cheating the rules, was not the point of my question above. The issue is that we cannot read anything into the rules other than what is stated, and in this case the rules are not written to cover a scout putting a tent not under the sky. My point was that the requirement should not say a tent or under the sky, but under the sky for both a tent and any other camping device used. I was pointing out a flaw in the current definition using a real life example I have run into. I find it best to always analyze situations assuming the best intentions of the other party. I try to remove words like cheating from my vocabulary unless it is beyond crystal clear that that was the intent as they quickly lead to a non-productive discussion. Take this case, under the current wording, it would have to be counted, there is no room for interpretation or personal opinion, even if it is against the “spirit” of the requirement. The road of personal opinion on what should count often leads to not following the requirements as written as in the case of the BSA Catholic Scout retreat weekend campout not being properly counted. This is why this situation would not be allowed as a troop policy, not as a part of this merit badge’s requirements. If you let it happen, then you would have to count it under the current wording as our opinions do not count when it comes to requirements.

  28. Okay, I think we are overcomplicating things here.. Actually, we are desperatly grasping at straws .

    A scout is at a summer camp and at some point, packs up (or leaves) his tent and moves to another spot for one night before moving back to the original spot ?

    It still a long term camping. The leaving and coming back are part of a program being held at the camp…as a part of the camp…which is a long term camp.

    A scout building a log cabin – although an awesome accomplishment by the scout – is still not under the stars. Neither is a tent under a shelter. If the tent is under the shelter, then the tent is no longer a tent – just a glorified bug screen. The shelter becomes just that……..a shelter. You are no longer in a tent or under the stars.

    Sure, if you make a shelter out of palm tree leaves…well, that would be no better than a tent. But a camp shelter? Nah, you are talking about posts, plywood, nails, etc. It is a permanantly constructed structure.

    And you know, I’d love for packing up each morning and heading to a new campsite to be considered a bunch of short term camping trips, but I feel like that is not what the SPIRIT of the requirement means. You know what I mean? If I go to town to go Christmas shopping and go to 4 different stores – that isn’t 4 shopping trips. It’s 4 locations during one shopping trip.

    That make sense to anybody? The camping trip is the duration of camping out.
    Not the individual daily sites.

    The article above even states :
    ” The long-term camping experience must also be a “designated Scouting activity or event.” This could be at a council summer camp or on a troop’s own 50 miler, a Jamboree, high-adventure base, etc.”

    You know that a 50 miler has to be broken down into a MINIMUM of 5 consecutive days. That means you are picking up and moving each day. And it is counted as

    1 long term event.

    Again, think of the SPIRIT of the requirement : Camp as much as you can.

    Not try to amass as much credit as you can in as short a time as you can.

    Lets don’t teach the scouts how to get around the system.

      • I would say you are right that the camping must be done as a registered Boy Scout. I would also add that if my Registered, YP Trained, Den Chief Trained Scouts, say 1st Class Scout is on a Cub Scout campout in his position of responsibility as Den Chief with a Cub Scout Pack / Webelos Patrol Campout then those nights of camping count. He would be doing the position that he is assigned, trained in, and authorized by his Scoutmaster and in this role of responsibility assisting in the leadership of others (Cub Scouts or Webelos/AOLs).

        • The requirement says “must be at a designated Scouting activity or event.”

          The Langauge of Scouting glossary does not define “Scouting”, but it has this for “Scout”: “Scout May be synonymous with the term “Boy Scout” or may be used to include Varsity Scouts and Boy Scouts (not Cub Scouts).”

          As a counselor for the Camping MB, I think that Cub Scout camping is sufficiently different from Boy Scout camping, that it is not appropriate experience for this MB.

        • The only thought I have on this is that the nights camping might not count for the Camping Merit Badge as they are being collected during Cub camping, not the equivalent of Boy Scout camping. They will, however, count towards another award, the Den Cheif Award.

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