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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  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….

    • Please show me where exactly it says in the BSA requirements that camping nights must be started only after the blue cardis signed? I have been a merit badge counselor for years and I am unaware of any such requirement. The role of the counselor is to ensure and assist the boy in meeting the exact requirements; no more, no less. Here say or conjecture does not apply.

  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.

      • On the basis that the BSA’s policy that “You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated — no more and no less.” should be considered, then a second camp would obviously count.

        Consider: “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 …” This clearly requires 20 nights (no more, no less), and affirms that even one long-term camping experiences may be counted, even if one were to argue that it should not. In light of this discussion, such affirmation is very critical.

        What, exactly, was excluded, was intentionally not specified. As such, in the presence of “no more and no less”, nothing was excluded. The policy prohibits us from reading things into it, including what may have been excluded. This needs to settle in many minds. The requirements’ authors chose not to specify exclusions, understanding the no more, no less policy.

        Let us pretend that we are insistent that the intent of specifying that one long-term camp may be applied, is, in fact, to exclude something.

        Is it excluding all but one short long-term camping experience? (Unfortunately, we can only guess because it does not specify – implication is that we could only apply 6 days to the requirement. Outside of it making it impossible to fulfill the requirement, arguing that there is any exclusion seems to imply this – that everything but what was specified to be allowed is excluded – this would be the most clear. Yet its failure to be true puts great doubt on the validity of any other exclusion.)

        Is it excluding the application of short-term camping experiences? (again can only guess – implication is that we would have to do long-term camping, possibly with more than 7 nights, if we presume that the subsequent 6 and under ones are also excluded; possibly the intent is to force the scout into at least one really long-term experience?)

        Or, the application of a long-term camping experience, as a long-term camping experience? (again can only guess – implication is that you must apply long-term experiences as short-term experiences – 4 days)

        Or all long-term camping experiences with 6 or less days? (again can only guess – implication is that short or really long-term experiences should be applied.)

        Or all long-term camping experiences after the first? (again can only guess – implication is that we must “apply” many short-term experiences.)

        Obviously the author of this blog favors the latter. But I wonder, why bother to clarify policy, while defying policy (no more, no less)? Obviously such an approach is irrational/logically inconsistent – in other words, false. Also interesting to me is that there is no support provided for that favor, other than his unquestionable opinion that his friend is right – again indicating that it is false.

        Applying rationality (which may not be warranted) to the requirements, the exclusion would likely be to the application of subsequent long-term experiences as long-term. This causes things to be the most fair, and is based on the idea of logical consistency and justice. Obviously it is not reasonably to count the experience for 4 days as 4 days, but 0 after a little extra effort is added to reach 5 days. Such an approach is irrational.

        I see that there is plenty of bias on this blog for the let’s make this as difficult as possible culture. I think the thinking is that such makes a better person. Unfortunately, I don’t see much critical thinking, which saddens me. I wonder if the make it difficult culture, doesn’t prevent critical thinking in the vicinity of that culture. Hence leading to close-mindedness. What do you think? Do you think being close-minded is a danger, or a benefit to a scout?

        To reiterate, the requirements do not address “summer camps” or even say that you can’t count long-term camps.

        • I have recently seen the updated requirements which now state, “All campouts … may count toward this requirement.” So obviously, an interpretation that prevents counting a campout, ie. don’t count the second summer camp, is a violation of the requirement – as the requirement is to expressly allow all campouts to be counted.

    • 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:

    • 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?

        • Wow, and you walked on water and turned water to wine didn’t you. These people have ont lost the message, you are the one looking down upon everyone else that can’t rise to your “appearent” perfection. How about taking a couple steps down off your soap box and mingling with the little people for awhile?

        • I completely disagree with the above statement. My son is a band member at school and if he does not perform at a concert, that could be held on weekends or on the night of a scout meeting,, it directly affects his grade. The question from me is “What comes first, school or scouts ?” For me it will always be school.

    • 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. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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 !

  22. 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

  23. 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.


  24. 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…

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. In our Troop I try to steer the boys towards having several of the different types of outings each year. For us this normally means
    1. Non-motorized Float Trip (white water or canoe)
    2. Hike gaining 1000 feet
    3. Backpacking of at least 4 miles
    4. Cycling Trip of at least 15 miles

    The Rappelling and snow camping experiences are pretty hard to accomplish. The rappelling will normally be met if they take climbing merit badge or their is an open climbing night at Summer Camp. Snow camping experiences in our part of NC are by pure dumb luck. As a Scout growing up in PA snow camping experiences were somewhat easier to come by.

    I try to have at least 2 of these per year. Also in our Troop Scouts normally earn Camping Merit Badge at Summer Camp their 2nd or 3rd year at base camp. So any Scout that is relatively active in the Troop will meet both 9a and 9b by the time they earn Camping Merit Badge at summer camp. Mixing up the types of outings keeps the program interesting for the older Scouts keeping in mind we’re taking 11 year old first year scouts with us as well. This past year we went mountain biking on an weekend outing at a local county park. We attempted a float trip, but the river was too high to safely canoe, so we moved to a lake only to have to abandon that when the wind picked up too much. We spent the day playing around with the canoes in a protected cove. It won’t count as a float trip of 4 hours but the boys had a good time on the water. We also did a backpacking trip where we also gained 1000 feet, only counted as the backpacking requirement.

    We begin counting the nights of camping from the time they join the troop. I’ve never had a scout be short on nights of camping by the end of their second year in the troop. Any Scout that participates in the multi-day 50 miler backpacking trip ought to have enough nights of camping long before he attempts that trip. That isn’t something for a first year scout.

    I’ve found over the years that too many leaders try to read more into the requirements than the BSA put there. A former scoutmaster wouldn’t count a whitewater trip because “you just kind of sit there”. The requirement says “Take a nonmotorized trip on the water of at least four hours or 5 miles.” There wasn’t a motor on the raft, and having been whitewater rafting I wouldn’t say you just sit there and do nothing.

  28. First and foremost “show experience” this is done by:

    1) Camping at least 20 nights
    (max 1 long term > ~ 3 nights ie Fri to Mon)
    (if it a continuous camp ie NYLT, use common sense it is still a continuation of same ‘event/activity’)
    (under stars – Survival Merit Badge or tent ‘you’ pitch hmm)

    For those legalistic and stuck on the work ‘you pitch’; patrol method is an Aim of Scouting…

    2) Do some minimal adventure on the camping experiences, hike a mountain, backpack for a day, mountain bike or bike to the beach to camp, go on a canoe for an afternoon, try extreme cold weather and understand how to really prepare for risks involved (key word – ‘PLAN’ and ‘carry out’; however, sometimes the risks do become too high or unexpected and you must abort – it counts/common sense again – but try again later) [yes, I was on an experience where a Scout was airlifted], rappel 30 feet it is a short distance go up a little and come down – it is about showing you can prepare for ‘reasonable’ risks (but don’t be stupid and say I am doing this no matter what because, “I have to for the ‘requirement.'”), understand environments and DOING (not just once either)!

    3) Finally, give back by doing conservation project(s). Doing 20 nights you likely had done many of them. If not, start asking where you are camping. And if it is after you camp, it counts. You showed experience in what it means to give back in conservation.

    Do not read between lines. Just do it and do not do the bare minimum, either. The Merit Badge may be a requirement – it is about showing you have experience in planning.

    And about getting an application for merit badge goes back to Aims of Scouting and ‘Adult Association’, not a power control or having to go to a court hearing with a Scout to advance.

    Have fun and enjoy the experience!

  29. My question is about the young man about to turn 18 who has worked hard in the troop but has unfortunately had serious family issues that excluded him from many of the camping events over the last 6 years (I agree that members of an active troop should not have trouble meeting the requirement- this is an exception) . When he was senior patrol leader 2 years ago, he was very active and did a great job and is quite a good leader and it was at this time he was able to participate more. He attended our 6 night 50 mile hike last year. Can we not count any of those nights toward the camping merit badge (he has attended the long term summer camps, so long term camping is already accounted for)? Our 50 miler was a hike through the Desolation Wilderness, and by the spirit of the requirement, I don’t think it’s right to deny him any camping nights for this endeavor. The appropriate number seems like it would be 4 nights for this outing.

    • You have to realize that even the best kids fall short of Eagle Scout from time to time due to circumstances beyound their control. Such is life. I am not being mean or hurtful, but we don’t hand out college degrees to folks who were good kids, but had issues in life? If you can’t pass Camping-101, should you really be an Eagle Scout? You also have to remember it is not mission of the Scouting movement to make the boy an Eagle Scout.

      • I agree, but telling a boy that camping on a 50 mile hike doesn’t count at all, I stress at all, is like telling someone that passing calculus isn’t enough because they needed to take algebra. The rigor involved in a camping trip of this magnitude should at least count for 4 nights. Why should the boy be penalized because we decided to stay in the wilderness for an extra 2 nights. Should we artificially make all of our events no longer than 4 nights to satisfy this requirement?

        • One long-term camping experience does count, Gene. A Scout just cant use more than 6 days of it. I am very surprised any boy has difficulty completing this merit badge within his first 2 years. An active Troop should be tent camping at least 15 to 20 nights a year. I am an Advisor for a Crew in Michigan. Most of our weekend activities are from 20 to 40 dollars, all inclusive, and our big summer activities never cost more than $400, even when traveling to Colorado and Wyoming. If a Scout can’t afford a weekend, we find the money and rides and other ways to help, and we try to schedule our overnight trips around the local high school plays, marching band competitions, proms, etc.

        • I agree Gene, all “long term” camping is not equal. If they are hiking and breaking down and setting up camp each night as well as the cooking equipment, that should absolutely count. It is WAY more work and learning than a reg 2 nighter. How can anyone justify that not counting? I wouldn’t care if it was 5 or 10 nights, if the intention and spirit of the req is to get camping experience, that is fulfilled. I see a forrest AND I see the trees!

        • Perhaps the point of the short-term camping requirement is to have a variety of experiences and to participate in multiple troop outings.

          Also, someone going on a 50 mile trek should already have substantial camping experience and probably already have Camping MB. They should be using that outing to complete Backpacking merit badge. The shakedowns plus the track are just right for that.

          All those nights count for the National Outdoor Badge.

          Finally, advancement is only one of the eight methods of Scouting. All that outdoor time counts toward our goals, and probably matters a lot more than one merit badge.

    • Unfortunately I do agree that even a great scouter must follow the rules of the badge. It could be taken that the 50 mile hike would count but sleeping in the already set up tent at summer camp is the trip that doesn’t count. I take a bunch of kids with mine where the kid is gung-ho but the parents are zippo. There are ways to push through with an active scoutmaster staff.

    • Tim,
      As long as winter camp isn’t cabin camping it would count as a short term camp since it is only 4 days long. Long term is 5 nights per the requirement.

      “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.”

  30. A review of the Journey to Excellence requirements will clarify that troops should be offering a significant number of short-term campouts. In addition, Order of the Arrow events often involve short term camping. The camping merit badge is Eagle Required for a reason … it takes time to earn it. Over the course of earning advancement ranks, a scout who is active in his troop should have no trouble completing this requirement.

  31. I just read most of the comments on this topic… I didn’t see anyone say maybe the 20 nights requirment is a little stiff… any thoughts? Would 15 be more realistic?

    • Honestly, I think it is pretty light. Our Troop averages about 30+ nights a year. Many of the boys in my Troop are 2-3 years in, 100+ nights of camping, mulitiple 50-miler expeditions, Jamborees, Summer Camps in and out of State, and of course, weekend trips of 2 nights or more (depending on long weekends).

      Take them camping! I can’t stress it enough.

      Oh, and for the people who say, “they don’t have time because of sports, band, school, etc.,” I say this: Most of the boys in my Troop play sports, are honor students, go to church, play in band, do the robotics club, etc., Want to know the difference? We have a comprehensive camping program that encompasses 1st year Scouts, experienced Scouts, and High Adventure activities. We have a 30 member committee, a highly active and trained, and empowered PLC, and Scoutmasters who expect the very best at all times. Also, our COR is involved and so is the IH. You want to know what we call it? We call it Scouting.

      How about for 2013 and on we the leaders stop looking at ways to make the program easier and look ourselves in the mirror and realize we are hurting the youth of America by letting them slide on everything and not holding them accountable?

      • I concur wholeheartedly- we have averaged 25 campouts for 60+ nights/year since 2008- we try to have a theme for every campout, (including a night backpack, an archery camp, beach backpack, snow caving, etc.– ) but we do live in a playground (WA state) where we can have boots on snow 12 months/year

    • I think 20 is on the low side also. My son crossed over from Webelos earlier this year. He already has 9 nights of camping(Jan-2, Feb-1, Mar-2, Apr-2, May-2) & will pick up 2 more nights this coming weekend for the June campout. In July, the Troop goes to Camp Bartle which is 11 days (10 nights) long. 6 of those nights will count so he will be up to 16 days before the end of July. August & September will be 2 days each so he will have his 20 nights in before he has 9 months in the troop. By the way, he is going to another short term camping out of council (3 nights) at Camp Jayhawk. He’ll be sleeping in tents where they normally do their long term camping so I will have to see if those nights count towards the 20 or not.

      I know other troops do not camp out 12 months a year, but with 1 long term camp (6 nights), a Scout has to average less than 5 nights a year for 3 years to meet the requirement.

  32. I’ve read every post, looking for a definitive response to this question and have not seen the question. Here goes: What is SHORT and LONG term camping? I’ve seen the response that LONG term is five nights or longer. What about SHORT? Our council designates long term as longer than 72 hours, as mentioned on the old med forms when requiring Part C. Several neighboring councils follow the same crirteria. What is the CORRECT criteria and WHERE is it written?

  33. Rick,
    “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.” Therefore four nights or fewer would be considered a short term camping experience. For the camping merit badge requirement don’t read more into it than the actual requirement. The medical form isn’t the criteria for camping merit badge.

    I’ve never had a problem with a Scout not having enough nights, when my son first joined we had a challenge getting enough variety. The Scoutmaster at the time didn’t think a whitewater rafting trip qualified as a “float trip” because “you just kind of sit there” The troop did one backpacking trip a year in February. A great time to introduce an 11 year old to backpacking when he needs an extra 5 pounds of clothing and a heavier or much more expensive sleeping bag (NOT!). When I became Scoutmaster I worked hard to encourage the Scouts to plan 2 or 3 of the different types of outings into the calendar each year. So we’d go biking, hiking at Hanging Rock State Park to gain 1000′, backpacking, and try to have have a float trip. Having the variety also will keep the program more interesting than doing a “flop and drop” 100 feet from the trailer every month. My Scouts can normally take Camping merit badge their second or third summer camp and have fully met the camping requirement for number of nights and variety of experiences. My son aged out last October with 130+ nights of camping including 10 days in Alaska, 7 nights at Sea Base and 10 nights at Philmont, all while doing 2 or 3 high school sports each school year. I’m not far behind him in nights camping having been to all the big destinations and several weeks at summer camp in addition to countless weekenders. I didn’t camp much his first year in the Troop wanting him to experience it without me hovering overhead. Our troop typically camps Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Sep, Oct, and Nov. In December we do Luminaria as our fund raising activity and don’t camp. In January we typically go skiing and stay at a church. The July outing is a week at summer camp. We also try to do a high adventure camp most years if we have enough interest. We’re a mid-sized troop with 24 registered Scouts. I think size makes a difference as well, a rather large nearby troop (120+ boys) does mainly flop and drops at Scout camps because it is difficult to take 50-75 boys on a backpacking trip and to do a float trip requires an armada of canoes, trailers and tow vehicles.

    • Thanks, Jeff. That’s how I see it as well. We, our troop, do quite a bit of camping. As Outdoor Chair, I ask the scouts what they wish to accomplish through out the year and then research everything. They have been fortunate enough to do practically all they ask for, with camping wrapped around everything, doing at least full weekends, and some three and four day ones as well, especially when we went white watering. The only time we don’t camp is during our fund raising period during September and October. It’s easy enough to get twenty nights in a year.
      The main reason for asking was to see if any one agreed that one week of camp was allowed. I think it’s because at summer and winter camps, the scouts aren’t actually participating in the spirit of what camping really is. These camps are nothing more than weeklong class rooms where the scouts spend the nights in tents instead of rooms. No real hikes, no cooking over a fire, no real experiences other than making sure to change their underwear each day before reporting to classes. Instead of “applied”, the word should be “allowed”.
      As a merit badge counselor, I tend to look at the camping itself. If a scout shows up at the campout in time to hit the sack and leaves early the next morning, and does so repeatedly, I have a problem ackmowledging this as camping. I wonder if he thinks camping only means spending the night. I do not. What are your thoughts? One disadvantage we have is that we experienced two years without Webelos crossing up so most of our older scouts have Eagled and several have aged out. We have had two groups cross up the last two years and will recieve a third next month. The younger scouts don’t have the experiencd scouts to look to for advice. I want to make sure we get it right. Any thoughts?

      • I’ve spent a lot of time with advancement policy as I approve Eagle projects through the recent advancement changes and clarifications.

        When you define “what camping really is” with additional restrictions, that violates BSA advancement policy. From page 2 of the 2011 Guide to Advancement, “No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements.”

        Judge the requirement as written, or stop being a merit badge counselor.

        Summer camp is a different kind of camping. Our troop does almost all backpacking, so troops with chuckboxes and dutch ovens don’t look like “real camping” to me. But they meet the requirement.

        If the troop is routinely allowing sleep-and-go campers, then maybe the unit program needs to be changed. But don’t punish the Scout for a weakness in the troop program.

    • Just a thought, but no troop SHOULD be taking 50+ kids on a camp. That’s a jamboree. A troop that size should mainly be patrol camping with 1-2 patrols going out camping so all the boys have a better experience. Maybe once a year have a big camp.

  34. Walter,
    I’m with you, don’t read more into the requirement than the BSA put into it. When I was a Scout growing up in Central PA we could hop on the Appalachian Trail at probably 5 different starting points within a half hour or 45 minutes of our Troop meeting place so my friends and I did a lot of backpacking. It was our outing of choice as a troop. Here in the Raleigh area we need to go 90 minutes away to Uhwarrie National Forest to get in a decent backpacking trip so we don’t go backpacking as often as I would like, but then I’m not running the show. My goal while Scoutmaster was to have variety, not every kid is going to like backpacking or canoeing or mountain biking or road cycling so if all we did was one type of trip we might lose the ones that don’t like that kind of outing and I think the purpose of Scouting is to have the Scouts try new things.

    I think the BSA fully understood what the summer camp experience was about when they made the camping merit badge requirements the way they did. They want Scouts to experience summer camp but they also want them to experience other types of camping as well. For all the discussions about whether Philmont should count having been to Philmont as an adult I’m not sure I’d want to take a Scout to Philmont that needed to count 1 night at Philmont towards camping merit badge. I’d expect any Scout heading to Philmont would have far exceeded 20 nights of camping long before he went to Philmont.

  35. I have a question. Our troop is planning several campouts this spring and summer. On these, the scouts will fulfill their camping requirements as well as those for the Hiking merit badge. Can these hikes also be used to fulfill requirements for the Backpacking merit badge?

    • “Can these hikes also be used to fulfill requirements for the Backpacking merit badge?”

      Assuming the hikes actually DO meet the requirements for both badges, there’s no reason you can’t “double dip” and have one activity count in both places. This is specifically allowed in the 2013 Guide to Advancement (page 30, section “Fulfilling More Than One Requirement With a Single Activity”).

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    • NONE. Only 1 long-term camping of a maximum of 6 nights can count. If the 1st year Scout goes for 6 nights his 1st year, he has to get the other 14 from short-term camping.

  37. The purpose of the requirement is to give a scout experience in camping.

    However, I fail to see how a five-day canoe trek, six-day NYLT camp, or a Philmont adventure is the same as summer camp. All these are new experiences to the scout. I agree that going to summer camp for four years should not count towards the twenty days, but if every long term campout that is different like the ones I listed I will count it.

    It is about the quality of the experience, not how many days.

    Sorry, but I am not punishing the scout.

    • “Sorry, but I am not punishing the scout.”

      Actually, you are.

      By not holding him to the same national standards as other scouts you are cheapening his experience. You’re giving him an Eagle-required merit badge that he didn’t really earn, and diminishing his accomplishment.

      You are, in effect, telling him that the rules don’t matter because you don’t like them. By breaking the clear rule you’re also tarnishing the ideals of Scouting in the process. I’m not sure that’s the example you want to set for your troop.

      • NYLT – $250
        Philmont $1750 low end
        Canoe trek – $250
        Summer camp at $250 a week plus
        Extra council experiences.

        Sorry, but if a scout is paying that kinda money to experience scouting – he’s getting credit for it.

        • I agree with Daniel. I think saying its “punishing the scout” is out of line. If you go by the letter of the law, there are plenty of ways to “punish the scout”- although I don’t believe anyone willing to put time in with our young men is punishing them if they get a positive experience out of it. The issue is living up to the spirit of scouting. You can easily complete the camping merit badge by the letter of the law with only one or two “real” camping experiences. That’s NOT the spirit of scouting. NYLT, Philmont, and other such events give such a great camping experience, I think its wrong to just categorically disallow them. They live up to the spirit of scouting and what we want the boys to get out of camping. If you actually realize what’s important for the boys, you realize how important these events are towards learning and experiencing of camping.
          I also don’t think that anyone in this thread should be accused of “punishing the boys”. That is out of line.

  38. 20 nights is only one summer camp plus seven weekend campouts. If your troop isn’t offering that in a single year, then you need to find a new troop.

    If sports, band, robotics, or whatever means that you don’t have the time for Scout camping, well, you’ve made your priority decision. If you’d rather do those other things, sure, do them… but don’t expect Scouting to cut you slack for it. How would the leaders of those other activities react if you told them “I’m going to miss a bunch of your events so I can go camping”? Make your priority decisions, and live with the results.

  39. Here’s my question… If a boy is participating in his 2nd “long-term” summer camp (5 nights each), can the 2nd summer camp count for any nights of camping? Can it be counted as at least one overnighter, or how many nights credit can be given?
    To me, it seems at least some credit should be given. The technicalities seem to override the spirit of the requirement.

    • Just a quick follow-up question if only one summer camp or 6 nights is allowed: If a boy goes to two 5 night summer camps, can one night from the 2nd summer camp count towards the permitted 6 nights of long-term camping?

      • No. Short-term camping is short-term camping. Long-term camping is not short-term camping.

        If you have a number of Scouts that aren’t getting enough short-term camping nights, take a hard look at the amount of camping the troop is doing. Talk to your SPL about helping Scouts reach the camping requirements.

        We had this problem one year in our troop. All our campouts were one night, and Scouts weren’t getting enough nights out. For the next year, we scheduled more two-night outings.

        • From the article above:
          •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.

        • Thank you for replying. Our church (sponsored organization) doesn’t permit Sunday camping, so it’s challenging to get additional nights in. Still, we do camp every month except December.
          Any thoughts on allowing the 6th night from 2nd long-term camp count?

        • I completely agree with the 12 nights and one summer camp opinion. To me, that feels appropriate.

  40. In the north, we rely on winter cabin camping from November – March. This allows just 5-6 possible weekend tent camping opportunities, to fulfill the extra 14 camping nights beyond summer camp. While I understand and appreciate the “rules”, clearly they are complicated by your climate. Add family weekends, other activities, and it takes most boys in our group 3 years to get this badge. Everyone makes a big deal about getting the “3 month” merit badges — this one is “3 years”! I wish someone had explained this years ago to me – I never would have “wasted” weekends on cabin camping. For what?

  41. As both a Camping MB counselor and a SM, I consider the term “long-term camp” to refer to a residence camp where the Scout sets up or moves into a tent and remains there for the duration of the camp. A trip to Philmont or Northern Tier is not a long-term camp but a series of short-term camps. That said, a Troop which does not offer enough camping for a Scout to earn the 20 nights for the Camping MB within a year simply is not doing its job. Two short-term nights a month and a summer camp offers your Scouts 30 nights a year. Even under the most restrictive definition our Troop has never dropped below 25 nights of eligible camping in the dozen years for which I have complete Troopmaster records. If Scouts are having a hard time meeting the requirements for twenty nights of camping it should be a reflection on them instead of the Troop.

    • “That said, a Troop which does not offer enough camping for a Scout to earn the 20 nights for the Camping MB within a year simply is not doing its job.”

      I’m going to call that bullshit! I’m sorry but most of us have a job, a wife, and kids, Good for you for going on that many trips. I think its judgmental and poor taste to suggest that if a troop isn’t doing 20 camp outs in a single year that they aren’t doing their job.

  42. There must be a bunch of gung ho scout masters that read this blog and who live and breathe scouting. I’ve read the comments on how they feel 20 camp-outs is weak and think it could be increased. Kudos to the guy who goes on 30 camp outs a year. I don’t think there are enough of you guys around to support the number of scouts in the program who are as gung ho as you guys are. I would wager that the majority of the scout masters think it’s bit much but just do it because it’s a LDS ward calling. I’ve been doing this for a while now I personally feel that 20 camp outs is a bit much. Not for the boys but to ask that of the leaders.
    It’s not the easiest to dedicate a weekend once a month, a whole week of paid leave and time for scout camp and then one or two nights a week for a scouting activity of some sort. Don’t get me wrong. I love these boys and enjoy helping them grow into men, but I think it’s a bit much to ask. I like having a healthy marriage and hangout out with my kids. I have full time job and the requirement is a bit much. If I were to change the requirement I would make it 12 overnight campouts and then at least one campout lasting 5+ days. We try as a troop for one a month, but usually end up with about 8 to 9 overnight camp outs plus one week at scout camp. I’m sorry, but I have a job, limited leave time, a wife and kids. I think asking for 20 camp outs is a bit much.

    • I don’t have a problem with 20 days.

      I have a problem with not having multiple long term campouts counting.

      I think it is sad that a scout pays $250 for NYLT and it doesn’t count and it is pathetic that going to Philmont won’t count either even after paying over $500.

      In my troop, anything after summer camp counts as long as the scout tries.

    • Craig, I think your reaction is a little strong. (Didn’t need the BS either). You do understand these troops are doing 20 NIGHTS a year and not 20 campouts, right? We too try to plan one campout a month except in December and usually end up with 8 or 9 as well, plus our week at Summer Camp. Our winter “campouts,” Nov-March, are usually in cabins so they don’t count towards camping MB, and yes we struggle to find adults to go on all of them, even at that “meager” number. Yes it is difficult to maintain the family life and keep the yard work up even with just that much going on. Each leader has to do what works for them and their group.
      After my son aged out of Scouts last year I turned around and discovered I had a 14 year-old daughter too who wanted/needed/deserved to experience some of the same things her brother did over the past 7 years. So we formed a Venture Crew! Now I get to do it all over again!

      One thing that changed and I wish hadn’t is that now those required nights have to be on Scout events. You used to be able to count family camping nights as well.

      So, do what you can, don’t be a drop and run parent, take your daughter(s) camping before they get too old, and Thanks for all you can do!

      • Hey Tim,

        Thanks for your reply. My apologizes. I could have been more tactful. I do understand that its 20 nights, but to assume that if you don’t do 20 nights of camping IN ONE YEAR you’re not doing your job is insulting. That is my point.

        Let’s play the number game. The average person in the USA gets 10 vacation days a year. You can google it. Some say 16 in some reports but that counts holidays. Now, if you take 5 of those 10 days and apply them to scout camp that leaves you with 5 vacation days a year. And that counts for 5 NIGHTS camping. Now, let us assume you go camping once a month. Let add 12 more days. That gives you a total of 17 NIGHTS. Now the largest sponsor of faith based groups are the LDS church and they do not want you camping on Sunday. So that means you will have to take off another 3 days of work to arrive at your 20 nights. So, if I take off another 3 days from work to achieve the 20 nights that leaves me with 2 days of vacation a year. Scoutmasters already give a lot besides what they do on the camp outs. I just think that the expectation of 20 a year is excessive. So, if you agree with taking away almost all average Americans vacation away from his family so he can take scouts camping. That’s fine. We can disagree.

        Right now I’m doing 8 to 9 over night camp outs a year and we attend a scout camp. That puts me at 13 to 14 nights a year. I feel that is more than enough.

        I think this merit badge for camping needs to be lowered eased up on a bit. I don’t think this merit badge has to be earned in one year. It can be earned over the course of several years.

        I agree with you that we need to do the best we can. I just found the comment a bit insulting and high mighty. I agree, the one thing I wish they had not changed is that requiring the camp outs to be with the troop.

        • Craig,
          Points taken and I agree with most of them. How each person/family chooses to use their vacation time is up to them and they should not be faulted by others for their (your) choices. (I prefer to think I’m donating my vacation time rather than it being taken away from me though!) Kind of live and let live is my motto.
          Not sure why/if there seems to be a push to get the Camping merit badge done in a year except for those young men who have procrastinated it and need to beat an age imposed Eagle deadline. But that should give them 7 years or so to get the requirement done!
          I am not part of an LDS sponsored unit and don’t know all of the intricacies of the restrictions they place on camping and traveling on Sunday. Something I will have to research just for my own knowledge. I do imagine that can be a frustrating thing to only be able to get one night in on a weekend campout. Most of ours are Friday evening to Sunday noon, so we get credit for 2 nights.
          And I am lucky enough to be able to take a half day of vacation or only an hour or two so I can do that and be ready to go by 6pm which is when we usually leave for a weekend campout. I know most people don’t have that flexibility.
          Healthy, civil discourse on topics helps us understand the world and people around us. Glad to get to know you through the blog!
          Take Care!

  43. I still believe that at least a few nights credit should be given for additional long-term campouts.
    Also, what about overnighters within a long-term campout? Sometimes we go on an overnight canoe excursion, overnight hikes, or the scouts might build a shelter for an overnight Wilderness Survival merit badge requirement.
    To me, there seems to be too many technicalities and not enough of considering what’s in the best interest of the boys.

  44. Who said camping MBC had to be done in a year? Most of our boys take 2 or more years to complete. I have always pointed out to them just get it done before your Eagle B of R. And any work done before your blue card counts. It’s apply the requirements and complete, not play “got ya!”

  45. It’s been my experience that fulfilling the number of camping nights usually takes care of itself over the course of a scout’s general pursuit of ranks. Although some gung ho boys might finish in a couple of years, most take at least three years. One summer camp or high adventure trip and just three weekend tent camping trips each year would accumulate more than enough nights.

    Gene, while I sympathize with your Senior scout who had family issues, it would be wrong to “bend” the rules so he can “make Eagle”. My biggest pet peeve about scouting is the pervasive feeling that if a Scout doesn’t make Eagle, it’s a big failure. Your scout by your description has become a fine leader, and (I assume) a Life ranked scout. That’s an amazing accomplishment given apparently poor home support. Eagle or not, he’s obviously benefited greatly from Scouting, and I hope he is held up at a Court of Honor as a young man to be admired.

  46. I have found this thread very enlightening and very confusing. So I look forward to your comments. Last year we took our troop to a week long Council Camp where our boys each slept out for 5 nights. This year as we again prepared for camp we told the young men, and their parents, that this year’s week long Council Camp would only count as one night towards their 20 total nights of camping.

    As it turned out, it rained all day Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday it began to Snow. All Merit Badge Classes were cancelled, all of the different areas were closed down. It snowed for several hours, big heavy snow flakes. It was beautiful and we loved being at Summer Camp during this unique and unusual week. One of the Scout leaders suggested that since all Camp activities had been cancelled that we load up our scouts and drive them about 20 miles to his family’s cabin. We could use the electric clothes dryer to dry wet clothes, we could all shower, sleep in warm dry beds, cook on an electric range, and could return back to camp on Thursday morning before the Camp’s Flag Ceremony and enjoy all the activities of the day. The rest of the week (3 days and 2 nights) was spent doing the planned events in Camp.

    If we had stayed in camp we could have watched the snow fall, could have eaten dinner huddled around the camp fire and gone to bed. And earned ONE night camping towards the Camping merit badge for the whole week. Instead we chose to enjoy a nearby cabin. We sang songs on the way there, we cooked foil dinners in a gas barbeque grill, everyone had their own hot shower, we flushed toilets to our heart’s content, slept in wonderfully soft beds, woke up with carpet at our feet, cooked breakfast on the stove and drove back to camp and enjoyed three more fun filled days at camp. Oh and did I mention that with the two “short term camping” nights we earned 4 nights instead of the expected one.

    What would you and your troop have done? I look forward to your comments. We have a Court of Honor in two weeks and I want to announce that night whither I’m awarding one night camping or 4 nights camping. When you reply, please also add a reason why you think that way.

    And by the way, I didn’t hear one complaint from youth or adult for moving out of camp for 12 hours.

    • Keith. I love the story and the question faced.

      My son just returned from summer camp, during which some of the boys did an overnight camp trek (a few miles to a lake outside the perimeter of the organized camp). They placed a tarp on the ground and slept in their bags under the stars (which he has never done before! He’s always been in a tent).

      In the camping MB it says this “One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement”. It does not say that none of the nights from the LT camping experience may not count at all; and as others have said, but I don’t think it was pointed out from where – (glossary) defines long-term camping as five or more days.

      I will certainly lobby for my son when he goes to the MB counselor on this one as I think too many leaders can get in the way of advancement. Too many of the statements on this discussion board have been about the experience of Scouting and how the leaders determine it to be. To that I will say this. If Scouting is not about advancement, then what is it about? It’s not about medals, or badges or ranks, but yes, it is absolutely about achievement and advancement and recognition. We are training these boys to become better young men and to learn how to be men. That doesn’t happen when we don’t recognize them properly. Telling a young man that certain experiences were great, but don’t fulfill requirements even if they appear to is a difficult situation and is for all intents a pat on the back saying “thanks for participating, but what you did doesn’t count toward what you thought it might) (please all of you out there don’t flame me about changing requirements; that’s not what I’m proposing). Defining to a young man that he will have to wait YEARS to complete a MB is in my mind a bit outrageous. Also, defining to a young man that attaining Eagle is just something to be done before turning 18 really can put the damper on things. As a side note, my 12 year old son has been advised that he’s too young to attempt the Personal Management MB because in all honesty, he really doesn’t deal with money enough to save it (apparently some have read into the MB that you need a job to save money? I received my Eagle when I was 14, My son is on track to achieve his at between 14-15 and I’m excited about that! What an opportunity! To be an Eagle in a very active troop! To be a leader for 3-4 years showing other young men the positive things that Scouting is! 3-4 years of not worrying about achievement but rather really just SCOUTING!!!)

      For my son I recorded this in his camping log. Summer Camp 2013 – 6 nights toward Camping MB. Summer Camp 2014 – 3 nights toward Camping MB (my logic is that camping is camping is camping (with a Scout event as the focus). If a weekend camp counts as 2 nights, why shouldn’t a 6 nighter or 15 nighter subsequently count the same as far as the merit badge is concerned? I also counted a third night for the excursion they took on Wednesday night. Also, a summer camp fulfills all the other thoughts of camping…. did you sleep under the stars in a tent or out in the air? Was it a Scouting event? Did you do the exact same things as you would on a weekend adventure? My thoughts are if everything is a yes… except that it was just 5 or more nights rather than one or two… we have THE EXACT SAME THING. Let’s not be hard-nosed about it. Count something, just not the whole thing)

      I will say this to you and to everyone else reading. When we talk to a Scout we have to remember what we are training them and remember those things first and foremost. A SCOUT IS TRUSTWORTHY. Ask him if he feels what he did fulfilled the requirement based on the definition written and what you as the MB counselor and he as the Scout understand. Some MB counselors may be hard-As for camping others not so much. I actually am a camping MB counselor as well and would take the whole experience of the scout into regard. Three summer camps and one overnighter isn’t the spirit of this badge. Counting a night or two of subsequent summer camps seems perfectly in line for me. It also encourages the scout to continue camping; whether it be two nighters or summer camp! I want my boy attending until that last breath as a 17 year old young man! Once he’s 18 he has to become a leader like the rest of us!!!!! I warn him daily to not let his youth pass him by. He only gets one chance at it. I’m all for encouraging every positive experience he has in Scouting.

  47. I have a scout that is finishing his camping MB. Requirement 9b. says “On any of these camping experiences, you must do TWO of the following, only with proper preparation and under qualified supervision:” and go on to list the activities. My question si if the scout satisfied one of these camping experiences during another merit badge does that count? We example, experience #3, ” Take a bike trip of at least 15 miles or at least four hours.”, was completed where he earned the Cycling MB. Would this count?


  48. I have a scout that is finishing his camping MB. Requirement 9b. says “On any of these camping experiences, you must do TWO of the following, only with proper preparation and under qualified supervision:” and go on to list the activities. My question si if the scout satisfied one of these camping experiences during another merit badge does that count? We example, experience #3, ” Take a bike trip of at least 15 miles or at least four hours.”, was completed where he earned the Cycling MB. Would this count?


  49. OK–

    I think this is a new one. A bunch of my Scouts went to Seabase where they spent a week on a boat. Long term event, obviously. No argument there. But when our Advancement team called it cabin camping, they got testy. They said that they had slept under the stars every night and even got rained on a couple of nights. So is this cabin camping or were they camping under the stars?

    • Requirement 9a. 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.

      Was it a designated Scouting Activity or Event? -YES
      Did they sleep under the sky or in a tent they pitched? -YES

      Is Seabase an organized Scout Camp? YES! Bonus points!!!

      I would count it if it were me.

      • Yeah–I agreed even before I read your posting. To be honest, I disagree with the exclusion because it is designated as long-term camping. I can see the exclusion in the camp context, but when you or your campsite move, that is a bit different. Of course, I can’t think of an Eagle from my troop who has had any trouble with the camping nights requirement. But, in fact, I also have trouble with the lean-to exclusion. I know–there are degrees of lean-tos, but when a group of my Scouts is hiking in the White Mountains in October and happens to luck into a trail shelter that is not full, there really isn’t any difference between sleeping in a tent or the shelter although the shelter is probably a few degrees colder.

  50. I am the Scout Master of a troop that recently completed a 50 mile backpacking trek along the Appalachian Trail. The scouts camped in tents they helped pitch in four different camp sites along the way. For scouts who already have 5 nights from a previous scout camp, do the 4 nights of camping along the Appalachian Trail count for Camping merit badge requirement 9a or don’t they?? I would argue that they do since they set up and took down camp four times, but I’m a new Scout Master and want to do it right. Thanks

  51. There’s a lot of discussion on long term camping, but what about short term?
    Our troop mostly does a bunch of 1-nighters. Many of these are at local campgrounds that have a limit of 8 occupants per site (2 adults & 6 scouts). Many have a check-in time of 2pm and a check-out time of noon. These tend to be quick trips. I don’t mind this at all because the boys plan them. Yes, we have 17.5 year old’s that need 3 more camping nights. If he wants to plan an outing, get others excited, ask an ASM and his dad to go, then great. Camping is more than questioning if a lean-to is a tent – it’s also about the other stuff. Planning, preparation, execution, responsibility.

    ASM’s are there for health, safety, logistics. If you have a bunch of gung-ho ASM’s with shirts full of knots planning all aspects of the campout and the boys are just pitching a tent, then you have forgotten that the program is about the boys.

    Enough of my rant… now my question…minimum number of people.
    I say: 1 ASM, + responsible adult + 4 scouts.

    Thoughs? Comments? Flames?

    • Where I live there are countless opportunities to participate in conservation projects and I suspect there may be the same opportunities elsewhere. The number and complexity of available projects has grown quite a bit because the local Scout troops have invested so much time in developing those opportunities via the town Conservation department and the several volunteer groups which support local efforts. My troop probably participates in at least one major project a month on town conservation land. We build and maintain boardwalks. We build and maintain trails. A couple of years ago we planted 2,000+ seedlings of various sorts on a capped landfill. We have built and installed information kiosks. We have cleaned up land. We have installed bike racks. We have cleared invasive species. We have installed bat boxes. We have volunteered to pick up trash along a stretch of beach. Projects are everywhere we look. Most town conservation and DPW departments are understaffed and underfunded so having a crew of Boy Scouts ready and able to tackle a project can be very exciting to local government. Meet with your local conservation administrator or DPW head and ask if there is anything s/he would like to have done. I bet there are plenty of things. At first there may be reluctance to use Boy Scout labor so start with a small project and allow local authorities to see that you can do the job. Right now the three troops in our town are overwhelmed with the number of things we could be doing …

  52. My son has been in his troop for almost 6 years. When he approached the scoutmaster, who is the camping MB counselor, about starting this MB years ago he was told it would be “handed” to him after camping 21 days. He was surprised by this but asked several boys and assistant scoutmasters and they verified.

    He has been very active in scouts. Without knowing this MB had changed in Jan 2014 he officially started asking for guidance in April 2014. He signed up for it at summer camp for the 3rd time but the class was full. He has approached his scoutmaster many times about what he’d like done. The scoutmaster does not seem to have a plan and for the most part refuses to discuss with my son. After months of this I asked what was going on and was told by the scoutmaster all my son had left to do was lite a lightweight stove and he’d be done with this MB. We were told he could do this at one of the meetings. (My son has done a biking trip and a 25 mile hiking trip and so on.)

    We purchased food to be cooked and he showed up prepared to cook every week for 6 months but was told no. Assistant scoutmasters offered to help but were told no by the scoutmaster. Finally an assistant scoutmaster brought up to the head of advancements who brought up at a committee mtg. The decision was to cook at Spring Camporee. Many of the assistant scoutmasters and committee members are saying the lightweight stove use in requirement #8 is new. During this time I was notified by 2 assistant scoutmasters that the scoutmaster covered this at summer camp with anyone who did not get into the camping MB class–except my son. I wrote several angry emails that I know did not help matters and was told my son doesn’t take the initiative. I found it interesting that the committee chairman, the head of advancements and the scoutmaster’s words were exactly the same. I also found this hard to believe. Every boy in our troop is accompanied by their father for meetings and camping trips. There is an enormous amount of male involvement. When my son started (6 yrs ago) I was told several times that their meetings were not a place for me and asked if there was any male role model who could attend with my son. There is not so my son must do everything entirely on his own.

    Since my son does most of the cooking on most of the camporees (he truly enjoys cooking)he was discouraged and confused by committee and scoutmaster. He looked up the old and new camping requirements and was again surprised to see that this lightwt stove cooking is not a new requirement. He then felt that he should get his blue card validated so he’d know exactly where he stands with this MB. He had turned in 2 blue cards with his completed papers approx. 2 months and then 4 months after starting this MB but never heard back. He has now turned in 2 more sets and has specifically asked for validation. The scoutmaster has told him, “He is working on it.” That makes 4 sets in 10 months.

    My son feels that after the May Camporee he will be given this MB. I know he has earned it but am concerned because we have no proof without the blue card. Several assistant scoutmasters have said this is not right but when I asked if they’d put in writing what my son has completed they literally ran away saying no. I know they have sons in the troop who may be hurt by their fathers doing what is right so I do not blame them.

    He has completed his Eagle Project and all MBs except this one. We are all discouraged by scouting. My son is refusing to go to the meetings at this point and I cannot blame him. We are considering transferring and are very sad about it. My son would like validation for what he has done. Does anyone know how to get it without the scoutmaster/MB counselor? Maybe, I am “jumping the gun” and expect too much with all the new camping MB requirement changes?

    Is this what everyone has been going through with this MB?

    • Wow! There is a lot more going on here than interpretation of requirements. Many of my ASMs are women for one thing as are many of the merit badge counselors for the troop so the idea of Scouting being a big males-only club got a bit of a chuckle around here. And advancement is by the book and well documented. We do expect Scouts to ask for blue cards and to otherwise signal their intent to pursue advancement, but once the signal is raised, there is somebody to answer that signal.

      But it is true that if troop outdoor events are well planned and if Scouts are prepared for them and if the leaders make sure that the Scouts and adults know what they are doing (can anyone say “training”?) and if Scouts actually do the work (like cooking) during those outdoor events then after 20+ nights of camping the badge could be pretty much a gimme.

      In my troop, once a Scout passes 14 nights, we pretty much insist he pull a blue card and then as he completes each requirement, it is signed off. Given that we have at least one outdoor overnight event each month with at least three of them being two-night events plus two weeks at summer camp (I know only 6 nights total can count) plus at least two summer bike or rafting or canoe trips longer than a couple of nights, getting camping merit badge is pretty easy.

      I agree with some other writers who have questioned just what “in a tent he has pitched himself” should mean. In two weeks my troop is off to Maine to build quinzees (snow caves) in which they will sleep for two nights while laughing at the wimpy adults who will mostly sleep in a cabin with a wood stove. I will sign off on camping nights in those quinzees with no reservations, knowing that Baden Powell would surely agree. He wrote about quinzees in Boys Life in 1913, by the way.

      • Your troop sounds awesome! My son would LOVE the snow caving.

        I feel there is something else going on here also. I just do not know what or how to guide him. My son is only 17 and still trusts everyone. As always, I am letting him take the lead but feel he may be more than disappointed.

  53. I have found this thread and post to be helpful with some questions regarding the camping merit badge however the one question I have yet to be answered is this…

    If they go to more than one long term campout, can they count any nights camped and if so how many?

    For example, if the go and count a long term camp one summer (5-6 nights). Then the next summer they go again and spend 5-6 nights. Do none of those nights camped count for the 2nd summer? If they do, it would make sense to me that they could count 4 of them but I just see no where in here that states whether they can count any of them or not.

    • Here’s my comment on this whole thread and it will answer your question.
      The purpose of the requirement is to stop kids from being away at a summer camp for 8 weeks and being able to claim they camped for 56 nights. Other reasons too, but separating “long-term or Resident camping” where someone else probably set up the tent for you and someone else may well be feeding you and you’re up off the ground in a well used section of country from short term camping where all those things are less likely true and where the rubber hits the road in Scouting.
      I do not count 14 days at Philmont as “long-term camping.” You camp each night in a different place. You are camping then hiking then camping some more. Each overnight counts. I consider it crazy not to. It’s what we want the kids to be doing! Why would we short change their mountaintop experience? If they camp in a field for a week and don’t go anywhere but spend the night at this base camp- every night that’s little different from summer camp and it is a long-term camping experience.
      For the purpose of the Camping merit badge the requirements don’t want Resident camping to be the only or even majority of camping a Scout does. Reading the requirements tells me that you can’t get the merit badge just resident camping and that a second bout of resident camping doesn’t count toward that requirement.
      National Outdoor Award has a Camping requirement that now demands that every 25 nights of camping include 5 nights of BSA approved resident camping. Sigh.

    • Amen to what John has said. I think one night of the subsequent summer camp should count. Based on a reading of the these comments and what the Camping Merit Badge requirements state, many folks are interpreting the requirement to state that no nights of any subsequent summer camp can count (and no night of any other long term camping):

      One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement.

      “long-term camping” – A camping experience consisting of five or more consecutive days and nights in the outdoors.

      Accordingly (pursuant to the interpretation above), no other night on any other trip of five days or more–Philmont, a 50 miler canoe trip, summer camp, an adventure base, a bike trip, a troop high adventure trek–can count toward the 20 nights after the first six.

      I do not believe that this was the intent. I agree with John Arnold’s post.

      If you encounter resistance or friction to this, then it is because of the interpretation of the Troop or the Council as to the requirements. I think to ensure more uniformity, that this requirements should be more fully defined.

      Do Troops merely need to plan 4 night trips to avoid this outcome? That is inconvenient since many like to go on trips that take 5 nights. A week is a logical amount of time to take for a 50 mile backpacking trek, 100 mile canoe trip, or bike trip. The long-term requirement was put in place to not allow summer camps (where shelter and cooking, etc.) is all done for you.

  54. Can planned and prepared meals for the cooking merit badge also be used for the camping merit badge, specifically requirement 8d. of the camping merit badge?

  55. I’ve heard conflicting statements concerning overnight excursions using summer camp as base. For instance, War Canoe at Emerald Bay or the Meadow overnight at Whitsett.

    Could a scout who did Emerald Bay in 2014 count one night without a tent under the stars at Whitsett from 2015?

    Also, I’ve heard that the night spent away from camp while earning the Wilderness MB is counted separately than Summer Camp.

    Please advise.

  56. I read nearly EVERY entry on this thread today (took a few hours), and I think it is time for Official BSA to help us out. We need clarity. We don’t need anyone else to evaluate the quality of our troops or our camping plans. That’s the beauty of having autonomy over our troops’ activities, and it’s great to be different (I may want more nights of camping, someone else not so many), but neither of us is wrong.

    I would love it if Official BSA could:
    – tell us why exactly that only a single long-term camping experience is counted.
    – tell us, if a short-term camping experience (1-4 nights) counts, why a subsequent long-term camping experience doesn’t itself count for a maximum of 4 nights.
    – tell us why NYLT done in 6 straight days does NOT count, but NYLT done in two 3-day weekends counts. (Don’t assume we have lazy boys and lazy adult leaders who can’t put enough camping nights on the calendar here…it’s valid to put forth all use cases).
    – tell us why they wouldn’t just increase the total required nights of camping to 40 nights and let everything count (all short-term, all long-term, all NYLT, all Philmont, all 50 milers, etc.). I believe we would have better clarity this way.
    – tell us they will better clarify the requirements now that they have seen the various ways that MB counselors are interpreting the requirements.

    Due to the fact that this thread STILL prompts so many different use cases that come directly from our scouts’ experiences which remain unanswered, it means that the MB requirements are unclear, and if they remain ambiguous, then MB counselors feel it is up to them to interpret how to count (and some even indicated they feel it necessary to assess the scout’s “experience”, which is not a requirement). Although the author of this article believes he managed to set the record straight, he did not. Nobody is trying to cheat their scouts nor are they trying to cheat the system. BSA owes us these answers so that our MB counselors are able to do the right thing and our scouts are able to come away with the experience BSA is expecting.

    I’m sure that some of you want to explain to me how awesomely wonderful your troops and scouts are with hundreds of days of camping and so on, so much that you don’t require answers to these petty questions, and I think that’s great for you. I’d love it if ALL scouts were so ambitious, but they aren’t. So for some of us leaders, we detected ambiguity and we just want it clarified by BSA officials.

    I also plan to communicate this to BSA directly as high up as I can go, and if I get a response, I will post it here.

  57. What’s needed:

    1- define “camping experience”
    2- add a requirement for “total number of camping experiences”
    3- define “long-term”, “short term”; and clearly specify how many (if any) days of subsequent “long term” camping may count after the first – particularly if the experience is totally different from a standard resident BSA summer camp.
    4- expand the definition of “tent you have pitched”

    1. I suggest that a single “camping experience” is leaving home to returning home (or to parent/guardian custody). Changing campsites, changing from tent to teepee, land to water, foot to horseback, or lean-to to stars, or taking a rest stop at a cabin or house, doesn’t break up a single long-term experience into multiple short term experiences.

    2. Big difference between five 4-night outings and 20 overnighters, particularly if we want to emphasize planning & preparation. I suggest a minimum of 10 of “camping experiences” (as defined in #1, above: “home to home”)

    3. I understand only counting 6 nights of (the first) standard BSA summer camp (where most food is prepared by others & served in a dining hall). But the first 3 or 4 days of subsequent “long-term” camping experiences that are significantly different from a standard summer camp (and where the boys are doing the cooking) should count (50 milers, river trips, Philmont, Jamboree, etc.). We shouldn’t have a reason to cut a 5-day experience down to 4 days just to satisfy an arbitrary rule – particularly if #2 (above) ensures an adequate total number of “camping experiences”.

    4. “tent you have pitched” should include other improvised shelters such as snow cave, temporary lean-to (complying with principles of leave-no-trace), tarp stretched between trees, hammock suspended from trees, etc., as long as the boy(s) set them up. (For the benefits of the lawyers, specify that the tent/shelter must be outdoors…)

    that’s my 2-cents

    John “Oldman” Cloward

  58. For clarification if your scout goes on 5 4 night campouts under the stars in a tent, he can count that has 20 nights of camping.
    If your scout goes on 5 5 night campouts under the stars in a tent, he can count that has 6 nights of camping.

    Am I missing something?

  59. @Greg – Unfortunately, 5×5 nights would count as 5 nights, because only one long-term camping experience is counted. Your example is a perfect illustration of the apparent flawed logic in this merit badge. However, as a counterpoint, 4-night camping trips are relatively rare in Boy Scouts.

  60. I hadn’t really even looked into the camping merit badge until this year when my son said he was going to do it during summer camp. When I started looking over the pre req’s I realized that he didn’t have time to complete them before camp. We went the week after school let out. So I suggested he pick another badge so he could complete the badges by the week’s end.

    After that initial overview, I started to look more closely at what he had and what he was going to need to complete that badge. It does appear to me that the confusion and apparent unfairness of the requirements of the badge are a self inflicted wound. The idea that 20 overnight campouts somehow provide more of a campout experience than 4 5 day campouts seems unrealistic. As an example our troop – consisting of 7 boys – did an overnight campout and a canoe trip this summer. Now the purpose of the outing was the canoe trip more so than the overnight but if you were working on your camping merit badge it would count towards it. There was no where near the level of preparation or effort needed to do one overnight than to do the 5 nights at summer camp. Now my son has gone to 3 summer camps in his boy scout career. He will probably attend 3 more by the time he is done. He is 13 years old. He has 8 of the 11 Eagle required merit badges and at least 12 others. He doesn’t want to Eagle early has he said he enjoys boy scouts and doesn’t want it to be over too soon. He does scouting because he has fun.
    I don’t worry about him getting his required nights camping as he has a least 3 more years to achieve them. I just look at it from the aspect that he will have presumably 30 nights of camping just in summer camp and that most of that will not count. But an overnight where you don’t have pack anything more than the clothes on your back does count. I read some of those posts where people said it wasn’t fair and people responded with life’s not fair they need to learn that. I think that’s a load. There’s a big difference between why did the tornado miss that house and that house but hit mine and unfairness because of an arbitrary decision by people.

    The only thing that I’m thankful for is that I became aware of this requirements specifics sooner rather than later. I would have probably not even worried about getting 20 nights because I would have assumed that 6 years of summer camps would have been more than enough.

    If I was to suggest a fix I would say change the rule to be 20 nights over the course of a minimum of 8 events or something to that effect. Recognize the need for multiple campouts but allow the scouts to count any campouts they wish to count.

  61. So… I may have missed this in all the above so I’m asking first the issue I am having.

    I have a Parent who is running her own program with in our Troop Program. She likes to show up when it good for them and leave when its good for them… The old requirements say DAYS AND NIGHTS of camping.. .now the new ones say just nights of camping… so this leads many award chairs they only need the nights of camping… So lets say a Scout comes late on Friday night for a weekend campout… Kinda sets up a tent with his mom… stays in the tent with his mom leaves the next morning… and then comes back that night.. stays the 2nd night in the tent with him mom… Kinda takes the tent down with him mom and then leaves before the Troop leaves… does that really count as days and nights of camping? This Scout has not had a full campout in almost 14 mths… As the Scoutmaster I am not willing to sign off the Scout Sprit for Life rank due to him not being a fully active helping his Patrol and Troop during Setup and Clean up of a Campout.

    I feel the parent and Scout is taking advantage of the new wording of the Camping Requirement.

    What is everyone’s thoughts?

  62. What if the Troop goes on a 5 night camping trip that is not associated with a BSA summer camp or high adventure camp? Is this considered a long-term camp?

    • Hey “Scouter” I believe this was answered a few years earlier; but here it is again.

      If the TROOP is doing a camping trip which has been planned and coordinated with the leadership of the Troop, then it may be considered a long-term camp for those who did not attend a long term camp earlier. The key is whatever they do it has to be as part of the BSA program (not the camp itself, but the participants).

      Two families whose sons are in Scouts and whose parents are Scouters cannot just take off and go camping somewhere and call it a “Scouting event” or activity. It has to be PLANNED AS PART OF THE UNIT’S PROGRAM.

      For instance, Tom has a camping facility across the lake from where my Troop meets. We go there for summer camp. It counts as a long term camp for six of those 20 days toward the merit badge.

      If three families of my Scouts choose to go later to the Council’s summer camp facility, taking their Scout sons, NONE of those days count toward the merit badge — short term or long term. They used up their “long term days” by going to Tom’s Outdoor Campground with all of us in the Troop.

      With regard to the parent and the Scout, someone needs to counsel this parent that Scouting isn’t a “drop off and pick up” kind of thing. If they are participating in the Scouting event, unless they are both ill, they need to be there from the start to the conclusion of the event. That “someone” needs to be someone from the local Council or its District and not someone from the unit….otherwise, she’ll think that those in the unit are “picking on her”.

      Hope these help.

  63. Do you think it counts if a scout goes on a campout with a friend and the friend’s troop? That is a BSA activity, but it is not his own patrol. How do others handle this?

  64. I’m part of the special needs scouting committee for my council.

    We’ve received a request from a scout for an alternative to the 20 nights requirement – apparently he has an injury that makes it impossible for him to complete it.

    Has anyone else ever dealt with a similar situation and if so, how did you handle?

    • Let me see we have a diabetic, downs syndrome youth……..

      I cannot imagine what medical condition, short of a ventilator, that would prevent a young man from camping. I even know of a troop that has a young man on peritoneal dialysis that goes camping.

  65. How sad for the boys, or more to the point over bearing parents, who need to spend more time lawyering than camping. It aint rocket science, if the troop doesnt camp have a couple of patrol campouts.

    In a program that is reasonably close to what national is looking for, the quality unit award, these sort of requirement should never be an issue.

    No wonder scouting is fading into irrelevancy

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