Top 5 merit badge books to get you ready for a winter storm

Big winter storm incoming? Don’t get caught in the cold.

In an effort to help you Be Prepared, I thought I’d share five merit badge books to help you get through this winter storm — and the next one, too.

snow-sports-MB-cover5. Snow Sports

Most Scouts earn Snow Sports merit badge so they can have fun in the snow doing things like snowboarding and downhill and cross-country skiing.

But the Snow Sports book has the most comprehensive winter safety section of any merit badge out there.

Consult pages 10 to 23 to learn about treating injuries and how to dress properly for cold weather: “cotton clothing and blue jeans are not recommended.”

And if you do get a chance to test out those cross-country skis after the blizzard, Snow Sports has you covered there, too.

search-and-rescue-MB-cover4. Search and Rescue

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

If a loved one gets lost during the winter storm, the new Search and Rescue merit badge offers critical skills needed to find and rescue that person.

Check out pages 65 to 71 for search tactics like “confinement, an effort to establish a search perimeter that encompasses the subject and beyond which he or she is unlikely to pass without being detected” and probability of area (POA), used “to decide where the subject is most likely to be and search those areas.”

automotive-maintenance-MB-cover3. Automotive Maintenance

The best winter-weather driving tip: Don’t drive at all.

But if you must brave the icy, snow-covered roads, Automotive Maintenance merit badge keeps you running with some general car-care suggestions.

Pages 72 and 73 teaches how to jump-start a car (start by clamping the red cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery).

Pages 16 and 17 offer suggestions for weekly and monthly car maintenance.

first-aid-MB-cover2. First Aid

Being stranded outside in sub-freezing temperatures could mean hypothermia and frostbite.

That makes the Eagle-required First Aid merit badge — specifically pages 51 to 53 — a must-read.

It shares the steps for warming the hypothermia victim, starting with having the person drink warm liquids (no caffeine or alcohol) and removing the person’s wet clothing.

Frostbite is covered, too: “Rewarm the area only if there is no chance of refreezing.”

wilderness-survival-MB-cover1. Wilderness Survival

The most obvious merit badge pamphlet on the list, Wilderness Survival, could be the most important.

Consult pages 27 and 28 for instructions on how to build four different types of snow shelters: tree pit, snow pit, snow trench and snow cave.

Hopefully you won’t be far from your home’s heater or fireplace during the winter storm, but at least you’ll be ready if you do find yourself in need of emergency shelter. As Scouts who earn Wilderness Survival merit badge learn, snow can be a great insulator if you know what you’re doing.

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by edebell


  1. Having just obtained my Ham Radio Technician License, I have to suggest Radio MB. If the grid goes down, HAM radio operators can be life savers.

  2. Poineering:

    Snow balls are more fun with a catapult. Try to hit a snowman 100 yards downrange!

    Also rope bridges and towers shouldn’t be more than 5′ high, but if you’re crossing a good snow drift …

    • And, if you get your FCC Amateur Radio License, you also get a neat specialty badge to wear on the sleeve of your Scout uniform!

  3. The Wilderness Survival pamphlet contains incorrect information and omits critical information. Just a few examples of many issues:

    1. The pamphlet’s authors confuse an “essential list” with a personal survival kit. One is a list of ltems it is wise to have in you backpack. the other is a collection of items to address basic survival needs that is so compact and light that you will never be tempted to leave it behind. Scouting, among other BSA publications, has illustrated the difference the pamphlet misses.

    2. The pamphlet instructs the candidate that there is an invariable order of priority of survival needs. The candidate is required to list those needs in that order. Fortunately, upon being questioned, most Scouts quickly see that the situation on the ground will dictate the order of priority, not someone at a desk. They see, for example, that if your boat is sinking, starting a fire is not one’s fourth priority and drinking water one’s sixth.

    3. The advice on clothing is essentially at least twenty-five years out-of-date. One cannot adequately address the topic in 2015 without mention of polyester. And wool is not “durable” compared to any man made material.

    4. The pamphlet suggest that sunny weather clothing should be either shorts, T-short, and no headgear (see text and numerous illustrations) AND long trousers, long-sleeved shit, and brimmed hat. The first is foolishly incorrect. Hopefully the Scout will find the correct side of the blatant inconsistency.

    5. The pamphlet fails to address navigation having resolved the need by advising the Scout to “stay put.” After reading the pamphlet’s excellent section on selecting a survival campsite, one might ask, “What are the odds that the place where the SM breaks his ankle will fit the selection criteria?” It is irrational to advance “stay put” as an iron rule, making navigation and “self-rescue” information critical.

    6. The “flint and steel” directions are pathetic. The picture is of a ferrocerium rod and commercial scraper. The directions are badly incorrect directions for using natural flint and steel, not a ferrocerium rod. Used on the ferrocerium rod, the BSA directions would likely result in a collection of fragments, and they would not work with natural flint and steel. (Let’s see who spots the blunder.)

    7. The information on treating wild water is dangerously incomplete and fails to comply with G2SS.

    8. Fire by friction with oak specifically suggested? Really?

    9. The suggestion that anaphylactic shock IN THE WILDERNESS is dealt with by “immediate treatment” my a physician is dangerously incorrect. The Epipen will wear off in about thirty minutes and IN THE WILDERNESS a physician is many hours – or days – away.
    No mention of oral antihistamines.

    10. According to the statistical studies, about 75% of all wilderness fatalities are caused by drowning, falls, and heart attacks. Might we guess what three topics are ignored in the pamphlet?

    Just a sampling of the many problems with an embarrassingly-poor publication.

    • Tim,

      I don’t seem to remember if it was written on how to make char cloth. That is the first skill taught in Royal Rangers for the Fire Craft Merit Badge. One that is mastered, you can catch an ember and get your fire going in a short time.

      I agree with you that Flint and Steel is actually steel and either flint or quartz. A hot spark kit, touch flint, or ferrocerium rod is something different.

      A summer camp a few years ago, the scouts in my troop asked me to be an adult for Wilderness Survival Outpost. There were 4 camp staff members there as well, all Eagle Scouts mind you. None of the staff could start a fire. They couldn’t start a fire with a propane torch! And one of the staff was the Wilderness Survival merit badge instructor. I watched them fumble around for over an hour.

      One of the boys in my troop started a fire with a glass marble and the other started one with a torch flint.

      Perhaps the merit badge should be proof-read and updated. I wouldn’t mind getting involved with doing it. A person can make a fire with a rubber glove, a mini-maglight lens, and even a ball of ice. There is also something similar to a glove that can be used, but this forum is not the place to mention it.

  4. I guess when all is thought about and suggested, there are many merit badges (and requirements) to choose from to eitger prepare onself (and family) or to kill the hours of being snowbound. Isn’t it great to be in ScOUTING??!!

  5. Speaking of Merit Badges, us statistic geeks will be looking forward to “the most popular merit badges of 2014” we’re sure you’ll post. Don’t leave us hanging too long. 🙂

      • Be nice to update many of my stats records to help with planning another great merit badge day event. Its awesome information that goes a long way. THANKS Bryan for all you do in ScOUTING!!

  6. I’d expand the list to 10 and add:

    6. Weather (snow is weather after all)
    7. Emergency Preparedness (be prepared)
    8. Safety (stay safe)
    9. Family Life (you may be “trapped” in close quarters with them)
    10. Reading (a good way to pass the time stuck indoors)

  7. Anything you can do to get out and live “near survival” is helpful. Winter camping leading to Winter High Adventure outings brings all the necessary items to the forefront for the boys. Problems are covered in a controlled setting and best practices actually practiced so you are more prepared for a real crisis. I wish more scouting leaders embraced survival methodology, but we have few that seem to want to suffer through the learning process and few that have the skills to teach it. Having a badge “introduction” is not living a skill. But it is much better than the complete lack of knowledge of even basic skills in the overall population. Basic skills can save lives so it is something.

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