With its new National Outdoor Awards, the BSA honors guys who can’t stand still

UPDATE (1/20/2012): Wear this patch in the temporary patch position — on the right pocket.

Guys join Scouting to experience the outdoors. It’s that simple.

To recognize that passion for adventure, the BSA announces its new National Outdoor Awards. As we told you last year, the awards are available to Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who meet specific requirements in one of five subject areas: camping, hiking, aquatics, riding, and adventure.

There are two levels of the award. Boys can start with the National Outdoor Badges, seen at left. These are earned by boys who demonstrate “that they are knowledgeable, safe, and comfortable in the outdoor activity covered by the badge.”

Each segment is earned by completing the First Class rank, earning relevant merit badges, and accumulating experience—nights of camping, miles of hiking, hours of swimming, etc.

Once they earn a segment, boys can go the extra mile (in some cases literally) and shoot for gold or silver devices, available for spending extra time on a particular activity.

The badges and devices are impressive, but the highest honor for outdoor lovers is the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, seen at right.

We originally reported that boys needed all five segments to earn the medal, but the National Camping Task Force has altered those requirements slightly.

The list of requirements is still daunting, though, meaning this medal isn’t for everyone.

Boys must earn the Camping badge with a silver device and two other badges, each with gold devices. They must also earn four outdoor-specific merit badges, plan a unit outing, and take a Wilderness First Aid course and a Leave No Trace course, each 16 hours long.

Ready to introduce these new awards to your guys? You’ll need the full requirements, listed after the jump, and the award applications (link opens PDF).

(Thanks to Brent C. for the tip.)

Follow the jump for the complete requirements.

National Outdoor Badges for Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding, and Adventure


  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Camping merit badge.
  3. Earn two of the following three merit badges: Cooking, First Aid, Pioneering.
  4. Complete 25 days and nights of camping—including six consecutive days (five nights) of resident 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.


  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Hiking and Orienteering merit badges.
  3. Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including miles hiked as part of requirement 2.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 50 miles hiked. A silver device is earned for each additional 200 miles of hiking. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of miles hiking.


  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges.
  3. Earn the Mile Swim BSA Award.
  4. Earn at least one of the following merit badges: Canoeing, Rowing, Small Boat Sailing, Whitewater. Complete at least 25 hours of on-the-water time, applying the skills that you learned in the merit badges.
  5. Complete at least 50 hours of any combination of swimming, canoeing, rowing, small-boat sailing, or whitewater activity under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including time spent in requirements 2 through 4.

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


  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Complete at least one of the following:
    Cycling merit badge and 100 miles of cycling; or Horsemanship merit badge and 50 miles of horseback riding.
  3. Complete 200 miles of riding activities, either on a non-motorized bike or a stock animal, under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including the miles in requirement 2.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 100 miles of riding. A silver device is earned for each additional 400 miles of riding. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of miles of riding.


  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Complete either the Wilderness Survival or the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.
  3. Complete 10 of any combination or repetition of the following adventure activities under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America:

a. A backpacking trip lasting three or more days and covering more than 20 miles without food resupply
b. A canoeing, rowing, or sailing trip lasting three or more days and covering more than 50 miles without food resupply
c. A whitewater trip lasting two or more days and covering more than 20 miles without food resupply
d. A climbing activity on open rock, following Climb On Safely principles, that includes camping overnight
e. Earn the National Historic Trails Award
f. Earn the 50-Miler Award
g. Attend any national high-adventure base or any nationally recognized local high-adventure or specialty-adventure program

Items 3a-g may be repeated as desired. A single activity that satisfies multiple items in 3a-g may be counted as separate activities at the discretion of the unit leader. Similarly, a single activity that doubles an item in 3a-d may be counted as two activities at the discretion of the unit leader.

A gold device may be earned for each additional five activities. A silver device is earned for each additional 20 activities. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of activities.

National Medal for Outdoor Achievement

The National Medal for Outdoor Achievement is the highest recognition that a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout can earn for exemplary achievement, experience, and skill in multiple areas of outdoor endeavor.

In order for a Scout to earn the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, the Scout must complete the following requirements:

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a silver device.
  3. Earn any two additional National Outdoor Badges, each with two gold devices.
  4. Earn the following merit badges: Backpacking, Emergency Preparedness, Nature, and Wilderness Survival.
  5. Complete a 16-hour course in Wilderness First Aid from the American Red Cross, Wilderness Medical Institute, or other recognized provider.
  6. Become a Leave No Trace Trainer by completing the 16-hour training course from a recognized Leave No Trace Master Educator.
  7. Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an outing for your troop, team, patrol, or squad in two of the following activity areas: hiking and backpacking, aquatic activities, or riding. Include in each outing a service element addressing recreational impacts resulting from that type of activity. With the approval of your unit leader, you may plan and lead the outings for another Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, Varsity Scout team, Sea Scout ship, or Venturing crew.
  8. Complete at least one of the following:

a. Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an adventure activity identified in the National Outdoor Badge for Adventure for your troop, team, patrol, or squad.

b. Successfully complete a season on a council summer camp staff in an outdoor area, such as aquatics, Scoutcraft, nature/environment, climbing, or COPE.


  1. It is a shame that there is not something like this for the Venturing Crews as well, or at least an alternate requirement to replace the First Class requirement. My daughter is going to be rather angry about another fun program for older Scouts that eliminates the young ladies in BSA.

  2. I’m a bit surprised at the difference in what’s involved to earn the various badges. Camping is relatively easy, while the requirements for Aquatics are very involved and fairly rigorous. I’d be interested to see how many Scouts earn the Mile Swim nowadays where the troop is not coordinating the event.

    • My son earned the mile swim at summer camp. Although he has over 40 merit badges he does not qualify for the camping segment! So, for him Aquatics was easy ~ he may never earn camping!

      • So…how did he get his camping MB? Requirement 9a. Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights. takes care of 80% of the camping requirements… leaving 5 more nights…seems odd not to be able to complete this.

    • Well it is certainly a challenge, but it wouldn’t be an award if there weren’t challenge to it. Camping is an essential part of scouting, so it is the most commonly earned with this award, the only part required for the national medal for outdoor achievement. Swimming on the other hand varies in the amount of involvement in programs as according to where you live. I live in Florida, so the Mile Swim is a regular summer camp activity, which I earned as a scout. Hiking is similar. While my troop still partakes in hikes of some length, Hiking here in humid, flat woods isn’t as exciting as a scouting troop near the rockys going for a hike. the badges and awards cover different areas rather well.

  3. Paul and Bryan,
    Venturing already has an expert outdoorsman award called the Ranger Award.. I’m told that the same folks who created it also created the this one.

  4. I think it is fantastic. My son ages out in two weeks. He would have loved to have worked on this award. I agree there needs to be a version for venturing youth.
    Awards crew ……Bravo …..Brova

    • I age out in mid December. I found out about this award about a month ago. Fortunately for me, over my Scouting career I have amassed enough swimming and camping to qualify for a Silver device in each. However, unfortunately I’ll never be able to get the medal because I don’t qualify for any of the other ones, which I am very sad about.

      I do think that there does need to be a Venturing version of this award.

      Also, does anyone know what the rules are in regard to if you can wear this as a Venturer, or as an adult leader? Or once you turn 18 you have to remove it from the uniform?

    • It is a temporary patch that can be worn centered on the right pocket. (same place as World Conservation Award)

  5. Does anyone know if girls are permitted to join the scouts and work for these awards and accomplishments? These are such wonderful activities and more and more women and girls are getting involved in things that used to be considered “for the boys” and are actually experts in these fields just as well as men and boys.
    I would even be satisfied with an all girls outdoor scout group that has similar goals and values as the boyscouts. Thanks!

  6. @brittany- these awards are for Boy Scouts & Varsity Scouts to earn. Only boys can join those programs.
    Girls can join Venturing, which instead has their own awards, including one called Ranger, which is an outdoors expert award.
    Those bemoaning the fact that Venturers can’t earn these need to take a look at the awards that Venturers can ALREADY earn, and in many cases ARE NOT. Have them look at the Outdoor Bronze & Ranger awards, for instance.

  7. As to wearing this on the uniform.
    Am sure the patch can be worn on the right pocket, like any other temporary insignia. I doubt there will be a special place on the uniform for it (and lets be honest, where would such a place be?).
    The medal would be treated like any other medal: worn over the left pocket at formal occasions (courts of honor, award banquets, etc).

    • I’m doubtful that this was intended to be worn as a temporary insignia. I can’t recall seeing a temporary insignia that had segments, although I’ve only been seriously involved in Scouting for about 7 years. In discussion with my Unit Commissioner, we were thinking aloud that it might be worn over the left pocket like a Good Turn patch?

        • OK – more research on my part finds that I was apparently given bad info at the local Scout Shop about how to wear the Good Turn patches. (Although I have seen quite a few Scouters wearing them above the right pocket.) But I guess the correct answer is that the Good Turn patch should have been worn as temporary patch, as will the Outdoor Award. But I’m still stumped about how you wear a temporary patch with segments and devices.

  8. I would expect a knot to be developed for those “non-formal” occassions. Of course there would be the badges and devices still on the uniform I guess.

  9. I am wondering if an ice climbing trip would count for the “open rock” portion of the Adventure segment for 3d. Is there a place to get official guidance on this?

  10. Great program except for the 20 mile requirement for the 3-day backpacking trips. I’m sure mine aren’t the only ones who would’ve made their 17 and 18 miles trips a wee bit longer to have them qualify…

  11. I’d love to see a version of this for the adult scouters! It would be a nice way to recognize the leaders who spend their nights on the ground and days on the trails along side the boys. Most leader knots are for planning , training etc… How about an award for actually getting out there and doing?

    • Great idea! Even though the BSA has a Physical Fitness award for everyone, there should be a square knot for it or something more difficult. There are too many Scouters like me who are overweight. It would also be an incentive to cut the calories for Philmont, et al, since the high adventure bases and National Jamboree folks have instituted weight and body fat requirements.

  12. Does anyone know where or how this badge is worn? Is it a temporary patch? Does is trump summer camp patch??? I can’t find anything online about the insignia guide for this badge

    • Seems there is a lot of confusion over where to wear this award.

      Bryan, could you or someone else at Scouting magazine shed some light on this for us?

      “MMcKee”, in a previous post on this forum, suggested that it be worn as a temporary patch. I agree that seems to be the most logical place for it, provided it fits.

        • One of my sons earned the this badge with the Camping segment. I purchased some khaki colored Velcro and cut out an amount of the “fuzzy” side to cover the entire front of his right pocket and used Badge Magic to attach it. Now my son can use Badge Magic to attach the “hook” side of the Velcro to whatever temporary patch he wants to wear, even if it has segments like the National Outdoor Award. It looks really nice.

  13. With these awards, the BSA has done a stellar job in re-emphasizing the idea that the outdoors is a major part of Scouting. Here’s an unpublished article I wrote for the last Jamboree Today.

    BSA launches bold outdoor program
    By Axel Anderson
    Jamboree Today Staff
    To Scout go-getters and self-starters: Eat your Wheaties because you’ll need power and motivation to earn the BSA’s brand-new set of tough outdoor awards.
    This bold program of physically challenging outdoor awards requires Scouts to complete requirements ranging from earning merit badges to camping 25 days and nights. One of these awards is being touted as “the highest recognition that a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout can earn for exemplary achievement . . .”
    The first program, known as the National Outdoor Badges, encompasses five areas of outdoor expertise that include Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding and Adventure. Riding can be on a bike or horse.
    As one example, to earn the Camping Outdoor Badge, Scouts would have to:
    • Earn First Class,
    • Earn Camping merit badge and two of three merit badges that include Cooking, First Aid and Pioneering, and
    • Camp for 25 days and nights.
    After earning the badge, a Scout could add a gold “device” or pin for another 25 nights of camping or backpacking and eventually a silver device once that Scout reaches 100 nights of camping or backpacking.
    “Yeah, this is fabulous,” said Doug Breckenridge, after briefly reading some of the requirements for the National Outdoor Badges. “This is great.”
    Breckenridge, who served as an outdoor merit badge counselor at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, is committee chairman of Troop 60 in New Delhi, India, where he has lived for 19 years.
    When contacted by Jamboree Today, Breckenridge and everyone else interviewed for this article was unaware the awards even existed. Scouting magazine said in late 2009 that the awards were coming, but details only began emerging in late July 2010. As of August 2010, the program had not been formally unveiled.
    Many of those who Jamboree Today interviewed welcomed a “back-to-basics” strategy on the BSA’s part.
    “Cooking (merit badge) to me should go back to being a required merit badge. (Cooking is) more than macaroni and cheese,” Breckenridge said.
    As mentioned above, Cooking merit badge is one that can be chosen toward earning the Camping Outdoor Badge, and Breckenridge seems glad that it has been included as an option.
    “I couldn’t be happier with something like this,” he said.
    Another aspect to the Outdoor Badges is that they’re difficult to achieve.
    “You can’t walk home with these badges,” said Breckenridge, who, along with his co-counselors, required Scouts to complete at least one activity from Camping, Hiking, Backpacking and Cooking merit badges at the jamboree’s Merit Badge Midway before they would give Scouts one of the station’s Backcountry patches. The patch was designed and produced especially for the jamboree.
    “(These awards) get back to the fundamentals,” Breckenridge said. “I love camping, backpacking and hiking. I had a blast teaching these kids (at the jamboree).”
    Mike Webb, a Cooking merit badge counselor for the Ozark Trails Council, of Rolla., Mo., said, “No, I had not seen this” when showed a copy of the National Outdoor Badges requirements.
    However, he said the program “allows (Scouts) to show interest in a zone that they like.”
    Webb appeared somewhat leery of the Outdoor Badges because of the possibility that they could distract Scouts from earning traditional ranks from Tenderfoot to Eagle.
    “The ultimate goal is for them to obtain their Eagle,” he said. But he added, “I’d love to see (this program operated) in conjunction with (Scouts) earning traditional ranks.”
    If the Outdoor Badges are a way to motivate Scouts to earn Eagle, then “I like it,” Webb said.
    Taking it a step further, he suggested that Scouts who earn the Outdoor Badges be able to highlight them on their merit badge sashes with an underline or a rectangle if a Scout earned a set of merit badges for one of the Outdoor Badges.
    Like Breckenridge, Webb, too, believes that cooking is a standard camping – even “life” – skill Scouts should learn.
    “(Cooking) makes your life better,” Webb said. “It doesn’t just make it easy.”
    Finally, Arthur Dehnz, an Eagle Scout and registered Swimming merit badge counselor at the jamboree, said the Outdoor Badge program “looks like a great experience for the Scouts. (With the awards as an incentive), Scouts would “push themselves a little harder,” and the program would expose youths to “other aspects of Scouting.
    “It sounds like a great idea,” said Dehnz, a member of the US Coast Guard from Warwick, R.I.
    A second program the BSA has launched, the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, is even more challenging that the National Outdoor Badges.
    To receive the medal, a Scout must:
    • Earn First Class,
    • Earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a silver device,
    • Earn two additional National Outdoor Badges, each with two gold devices,
    • Earn the Backpacking, Emergency Preparedness, Nature and Wilderness Survival merit badges;
    • Complete a 16-hour wilderness first aid course,
    • Become a Leave No Trace trainer,
    • Plan and lead a troop outing and an adventure activity from the National Outdoor Badge for Adventure; and
    • Work on a council summer camp staff in aquatics, Scoutcraft, nature or environment, climbing or COPE.
    After learning about the medal, Breckenridge grew even more excited.
    “This is serious – wow!” he said. “I’d love to have these kids do this because they could do my job here,” he joked. “This is tough.”
    Breckenridge said that once he returns to India, he may suggest the BSA’s new outdoor awards program be adopted as goals for his troop.
    “Besides community service, this is what Scouting is all about,” he said.
    Lastly, the BSA replaced the unit National Camping Award with the National Outdoor Challenge. This new award requires a troop to:
    • Attend summer camp or go on a high adventure,
    • Conduct “at least” one outing with a Webelos den,
    • Earn “at least” one “outdoors-related merit badge per Scout,” and
    • Conduct “at least” one Leave No Trace program before at least half of a troop’s membership.
    Details and applications for the awards can be found at http://www.scouting.org.

  14. Hi Axel – It looks as if you have two websites already linked (by clicking on the two names you’ve used here). You could post the file on one of those websites, and provide a download link here. I would be happy to otherwise review your slides and post them on http://foxriverbsa.org if you like. Another idea might be to place them on a site like http://www.slideshare.net where they could be viewed without everyone having to contact you each time. I’m sure MANY people would love to use the slides you’ve put together to help explain this program to their local units!

  15. My son earned the Riding segment and is working on earning the devices. We have a question about the mileage. DS has biked 580 miles thus far. How many gold devices can he earn at this time? He has the 150 miles from the Cycling merit badge(NOBR req 2), the 100 for the riding badge (NOBR req. 2), 200 miles for NOBR req 3 plus 130 more miles. I think he should receive the Riding segment and two gold devices. Someone else believes he should receive the Riding segment + 1 gold device. The confusion is in the wording for NOBR Req. — 3.Complete 200 miles of riding activities including the miles in requirement 2. — if the 100 miles for req 2 are included in the 200 then my son should have two gold devices. Ift hose miles are above and beyond the 200 then he should one device. What do you think?

  16. The way I interpret the mileage is that you get the segment after completing 200 miles (which includes the merit badge requirements). That would leave your son with an additional 380 miles that would qualify for devices. I would say he has earned three gold devices and is only 20 miles from the silver device. My two cents…

  17. Question on the aquatics “on the water time”. Does the time a scout spends in the pool on his own practicing to pass his swimming and lifesaving merit badges count as “on the water time” or only the time he spends in the water with the merit badge counselor? Hiking and Riding time are pretty easy to calculate, but what about the boy who doesn’t know how to swim that has to put a lot of time in the water on his own before he actually passes the swimming and lifesaving merit badges?

    • I looked closely at the requirements, and it seems that the hours the Scout spent learning to swim would count toward the 50 hours only if that time was spent “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America”. A merit badge counselor, then, would not have to be present, but the time spent swimming would have to be done at a BSA summer camp, a Patrol activity, or a Troop swim. Philosophically, I’d say that the Scout’s “reward” for learning to swim is the Swimming Merit Badge, while his reward for using those skills acquired during the Merit Badge instruction would be the National Outdoor Award.

  18. For the camping segment, is it the same as the camping badge in that you can use only one long term camp for it?

    • I’m pretty sure there is not a limit on the number of long term camping nights. Unlike the Camping MB, this award is to recognize the CUMULATIVE TOTAL of nights camped. I think the idea behind limiting the Camping MB to one long term camp is to ensure the Scout gets the varied and diverse experiences of monthly campouts with his troop.

      • Bryan,
        Would you care to chime in on this subject? I too have the same question regarding long term camping, both summer camps and treks. It is clear they can only utilize one long term camp to earn the first 25 night benchmark for the camping segment. My question is whether they can then use their total camping nights (not cabin nights) to earn the gold and specifically the silver devices, so to be eligible for the medal. 100 additional nights could take 5-6 years if only utilizing weekenders.

  19. Dear Bryan and fellow Scouters, it appears that the requirements for the National Outdoor Award’s Aquatics segment need to be updated in light of the introduction of the Kayaking Merit Badge. Should not Kayaking be listed as one of the options for the Aquatics segment?

  20. Does anyone know if climbing a climbing tower at camp counts for the Climbing activity aspect? Even at Jambo next year, the climbing area will not be an actual rock wall, it will be man made, do will that count as open rock? Does any rock wall count if it is used during a scout event?

    • Hi there. I asked the same thing of the chief climbing instructor at a BSA summer camp this past summer, and he told me no, man-made climbing walls are not considered “open rock” for purposes of this award. Open rock, he said, means precisely that–a natural cliff. So the National Outdoor Award’s Climbing Segment would involve a more rigorous applications in nature than those required by the Climbing Merit Badge.

  21. @Myra – I don’t know if this is the proper procedure but it’s what my son did for his Riding segment. He filled in the application and submitted it, along with his riding log and a copy of his blue cards for Horsemanship and Cycling, to his scoutmaster. His scoutmaster signed it and submitted it to Council. After it was approved the Advancement Chair purchased the main patch and the Riding segment from the scout store.

    DS will be applying for the Camping segment this summer and plans on doing the same thing.

    Hope that helps

  22. Question regarding the requirement, “Successfully complete a season on a council summer camp staff in an outdoor area, such as aquatics, Scoutcraft, nature/environment, climbing, or COPE.” What is a “season” i.e, how many weeks and is a CIT considered to be staff?

    • I’d like to know how many Scouts have earned this too. I just submitted my son’s application and hope to get it approved by council soon. Does National keep records of this count? My son also completed 1000 miles of backpacking as a scout and National didn’t seem to have any interest in knowing. Perhaps I didn’t speak to the right people.

  23. Does anyone know if Kayaking Merit Badge can be counted toward the Aquatics segment as the other merit badge (in addition to the Swimming and Lifesaving)? Sure seems like it would meet the same intent as Canoeing / Rowing / Sailing / Rafting badges.

  24. Is “On the Water Time” restricted just to the things listed? If a scout goes sailing at Sea Base for multiple days, would the time spent sailing count towards the Aquatics hours? I would love a reply 😀

  25. How is the badge actually worn as a temporary badge when the scout has earned a gold or silver portion of the badge? Does the gold or silver part of the badge get attached to the main badge? I wish the badge was a knot instead of being worn as a temporary badge. The scouts have to do a lot to earn this and it’s a shame that it can’t be worn permanently.

  26. Does anyone know where or how to wear the “devices” earned for extra effort on each strip segment of the NOA? I assume the designers wanted us to just attach them to each strip somehow, but this does not seem right since they are so small and, once attached to the right pocket it seems awkward to punch through the pocket. Thanks!

  27. Does anyone know how I can find out how many of these have been awarded to scouts? I’m guessing it’s rare, but would like to see the statistics.

  28. I would like clarification on the Camping Badge. Are the 25 nights camping on top of the camping nights required for the Camping MB? I know there is only 1 long-term camping trip eligible for the Camping MB but can you include them for the Badge?

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