Ask the Expert: What is (and what isn’t) a camping night for the Camping MB?

expertlogo1When it comes to finding a place to spend the night, Boy Scouts have seemingly limitless options: tent, hammock, cabin, retired battleship, museum, church gymnasium, baseball stadium, sleeping bag under the stars.

All of these locations offer a great experience for Scouts, but only some count as camping — at least when it comes to the Camping merit badge.

Camping merit badge requirement 9a says:

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.

*All campouts since becoming a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout may count toward this requirement.

So just what is (and what isn’t) a camping night? Let’s ask the expert. 

The question

I have recently become advancement chairperson of a small troop. I am getting pressured to record an overnighter that took place in the meeting place (in a church youth room) and also an indoor aquarium museum sleepover towards the boy’s camping nights.

I don’t believe this fits the requirement for camping: “Under the stars or in a tent you have pitched …”

It’s been a hard sell. Could you please clarify what is and is not considered “camping”?



The expert’s response

This comes from Michael LoVecchio of the BSA’s Member Experience Innovation Team.

“The intent of the requirement is to camp overnight in a tent or under the stars,” LoVecchio says. “This means sleeping overnight in building/structure does not meet the intent of the requirement.”

More explanation

Still unclear? Here’s more:

“Camp a total of 20 nights …”

This means 20 overnights, so a weekend trip from Friday through Sunday is two nights. Complete 10 such trips, and you’ve got the 20 you need.

All campouts since becoming a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout may count toward this requirement. In other words, a Scout doesn’t need a blue card for the Camping MB before he may begin counting these nights. Any nights as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout are eligible.

“… 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.

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

  • A long-term camping experience is at least five consecutive nights. 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.
  • Only one of these experiences is allowed, and up to six nights may count toward the requirement. Example: A trip that lasts Sunday through Saturday counts as six nights.
  • If a Scout goes on a 10-night trek or a 20-night trek or a 100-night trek (!), only six of those nights will count.
  • 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.
  • Example 1: A Scout goes to summer camp for six nights. He can count all of those nights and now needs 14 more nights. These 14 nights must come from short-term camping experiences — probably seven two-night weekend campouts.
  • Example 2: A Scout goes on a 10-night Philmont trek. He can count six of those nights and now needs 14 more nights.These 14 nights must come from short-term camping experiences — probably seven two-night weekend campouts.
  • Example 3: A Scout can’t make it to summer camp or a high-adventure base. Over the course of three years he attends 10 two-night troop campouts, sleeping in a tent each time. After the 20th night he has completed the requirement.

“Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched.”

  • 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.

A final thought

Some parents have Scouts 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.

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.


  1. I’m surprised by this question and that this Scouter is having trouble getting through to the parents. Of all the confusing requirements in BSA, this one seems pretty clear. A campout in a building doesn’t count. Sounds like the parents (or other leaders) aren’t patient enough to allow the process to work properly! Guessing that a scout is getting ready to turn 18, needs the Camping MB, and doesn’t have enough nights camping in a tent.

    • I agree that sleeping inside a building would not count. What about a camp out at the church where scouts pitch tents on the lawn outside and sleep in their tents or hammocks? What if out of 30 Scouts who were invited, only one scout can attend and does so? That is a Troop event. Should the night count?

      I think some things need to be clarified in the requirements. Also, while we are at it, though I agree that 10 nights at Philmont do not count if you have already counted summer camp, I think the requirement ought to be changed. I think the requirement should allow 10 nights at Philmont backpacking in the back-country to count in addition to summer camp.

      • If the boy was the sole scout representing his troop to other campers from the church, I’d count it. But, first I’d ask him to think about if he should count it.

        The intent of the MB requirements is very straightforward: prepare and implement a lot of different camping trips.
        Some fortunate soles have have woodlands in their back yard. Literally, they have their patrol over, grab tarps, walk outside and camp. It counts. They could do this for 10 consecutive weekends to meet the requirement. But, you know what happens? After about weekend number 3, they start *thinking*:
        – How bout somebody else’s park next week?
        – How ’bout renting canoes the week after and camping on an island in the river?
        – How ’bout after that, we go atop that mountain?
        – Then after that, let’s call the game commissioner and see if we can do a service project where we camp?

        The objective is to go out, come home, and evaluate. Lather, rinse, repeat 6 to 12 times.


        • You state “The objective is to go out, come home, and evaluate. Lather, rinse, repeat 6 to 12 times.”. I like that. But it is nowhere in the rules.

          Some would say that the objective is to be outdoors. To cook for yourself. To have planned the menu. To have cleaned up. To have left no trace. To be responsible for yourself.

          That is not stated in the requirement.

          Thus, many situations are left up to the counselor for interpretation.

        • You have to realize that the requirements can’t cover EVERY possible scenario that you can come up with (is a Yurt considered a tent or a cabin for example). I think in the grand scheme of BSA, this is one of the more clear requirements. Especially regarding the original question that was asked about staying overnight inside a church. That shouldn’t even be a debate; requirement NOT met.

          I’m not even sure your question requires a debate. The event you described is a Troop event and the scout is sleeping outside in a tent that they pitched. Requirement met.

        • Dave, I’m glad you agree with me on the Scout sleeping outside the church. In that case (similar situation, not at the church), we consulted both the MB counselor and our Council Scout Exec first.

          And I have posted below that we cannot write a “one-size-fits-all rule”. We are on the same page.

          But there are people who would have said that the Scout in my example could not have counted the night. At the time, I had read this 2012 blog post and comments:

          So I made sure ahead of time it would count.

        • 🙂 not everything is in the rules. Some things are in the vision behind the rules.

          And yes, the counselor has a big part to play in sharing that vision. And for each scout the objective may vary.

          I’ve found we meet a lot of different objectives by encouraging boys to pursue a mix of opportunities from humble to grandiose.

      • I believe as long as they sleep in a tent or under the stars it should not matter where the location is to count. Just my opinion. However our boys if they are semi active will meet majority of the required nights except for the extended overnighter unless they attend bsa summer camp in one year. Just depends on their activity level in the troop.

      • Why wouldn’t it count? If it’s a troop event, then it’s a designated Scouting event. The boy who showed up shouldn’t be penalized because others didn’t.

      • I disagree with you, however you did remind me that our charter church’s “lawn” is actually a 25-acre wooded lot with a pond and some wild animals despite being in the suburbs, and although we haven’t yet taken Pastor up on his offer, we could camp back there and you’d never know we were still in the city.

    • Me personally, I believe the requirement is clear, except for in the wording of “long term camping experiences”. Personally, this year, I went on a trip up to Summit in West Virginia. The camping package that I got was for 4 nights of camping in tents outside. So, should this count? It isn’t 5 nights, so it should be a short term camping experience, but, at the same time, it is kind of like summer camp, just without merit badges, and with more high adventure based activities.

      • Simple answer: add a night under canvas before or after the four days at The Summit for five nights for “long term”.

      • The requirements are clear, “All campouts … may count toward this requirement.” The requirements do not address summer camps. In fact they don’t even address camps at all, only camping experiences. Even then, nothing is excluded, only included – “One long-term camping experience … may be applied.” The BSA has an integrity policy – that the requirements are to be applied as stated – no more, no less. Obviously if something were actually intended to be excluded, it would have clearly been excluded. Any specific exclusion, currently is in the minds of the claimant, and not in the text of the requirements.

        The problem is that people are not so willing to follow the actual written requirements – like the integrity policy – but are quite willing to judge and pre-judge on their own whims, independent of integrity.

  2. This has all been done before as you know:

    You omitted a key point–the definitions of long term and short term camping. From Bill Nelson in the comments to your 2012 article on the topic:

    Here is your definition:
    long-term camping A camping experience consisting of five or more consecutive days and nights in the outdoors.

    short-term camping A camping experience consisting of one to four days and at least one night outdoors.

    When you state the following, you are making a leap that is not in the text of the Merit Badge Requirements and the BSA definitions of terms: “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.”

    It would be very easy for the BSA to clarify this in the Camping merit badge requirements. Until then, there is going to be a different application/interpretation of the requirements.

    • David, I find the definition of short term camping intriguing…one to four days and AT LEAST 1 night outdoors. What about the other 2-3? This could be where the interpretation door is left open.

      • I am perplexed by that definition as well, Bob (who camps for 4 days with one night outdoors). Maybe it is to cover some situation where there is a cabin but the Scouts go off one night to use a tent. But I don;t see that as happening very often (enough to encompass in a definition like that). Perhaps someone from the National Advancement Team will chime in.

        • They could say it as 1-4 days and 1-4 nights, but that could be interpreted in even more possible ways. A good example of a multi day event with only one night would be a scout who is helping as a den chief at a cub day camp with an overnight on the final night.

        • At least 1 night ties into to statement of “one to four days.” A long day trip doesn’t count — there has to be a night tied to it. Clearer wording would be “a camping experience of one to four nights”

        • Rick and Mike–thanks for your replies. I agree that this could be drafted in much clearer terms, such as you have done.

          I am perplexed as to why the definition of “short-term camping” was drafted that way in the first place. All words have meaning. Someone intentionally drafted it this way, and I would love to know what the reasoning behind it is.

        • David – our Troop does a “3 day, 1 night” at least twice a year! International Falls, MN winter camping. We go out to our cabin on Friday night & sleep inside. On Saturday the boys build shelters (quinzees or survival or ??) and sleep in them that night, even at 40-below temperatures. One night of “camping” in three days.

  3. This is a great question. My dilemma is how much time constitutes a camping night ?. We usually arrive at 5pm, cook dinner, eat and pitch our tents. We get up the next morning, make breakfast and strike camp and end around 10-11am. We have a scout who often has his parent bring him around 8pm and he gets picked up around 7-8am. He does not cook, eat or participate in pitching a tent. Only sleeps. He has not food allergies. Does this count ?. Should it count ?. I have an uneasy feeling about this. My gut says you should be there for dinner, pitching, sleeping, breakfast and breaking camp. Thoughts or advice ?

    • The requirement does not clarify. Thus, it is up to the merit badge counselor.

      Clearly the Scout must pitch the tent (or do so with another Scout).

      The definition of short term camping offers no further guidance except to underscore that it is the spending the night outdoors that is the important part. short-term camping A camping experience consisting of one to four days and at least one night outdoors.

      The BSA could very easily amend the requirement/definition of short term camping to clarify what is required. Until then, I think what the Scout in your example is meeting the requirement. Again, it is up to the merit badge counselor to have the final say, and I am positive that there will be others commenting here who think that it is not OK.

      • I see you said the Scout is not pitching a tent; therefore, I was wrong to suggest he is meeting the requirement. He must pitch the tent under the requirement. So he is specifically not meeting the requirement. Otherwise, he is meeting it in all other respects.

    • Heather- Why are you in camp for such a short period of time? We usually go up Friday night and leave Sunday morning.

        • We are actually BSA troop 1 of Hong Kong and due to a variety of time constraints we often only camp 1 night. We camp at a local beach most often.

    • If he does not participate in pitching the tent, he has not met letter of the requirement. I would have the SM discuss this with the parents of the scout.

    • That scout is not helping to pitch the tent.. so NO it should not count as camping… have that boy bring his own gear to eat and sleep with…. that kids simply getting a place to sleep but not earning it…. it should not count toward camping mb at all

  4. The Merit Badge Counselor is the one to certify that each scout has met the requirements, not the advancement chair. If the scout has a merit badge card signed as complete, then it must be recorded.

    • While it is true the MB Counselor is the one who signs off many troops rely on the Advancement Chair to track the camping information and most scouts will ask for a letter or some sort of documentation from a leader, especially at summer camp, to verify they have met that requirement.

      • Agree. But if someone questions whether a night should count (or a particular circumstance or set of circumstances exist where it is questionable), you need to ask the MB counselor.

      • Just my opinion. Scouts shouldn’t need a letter from another adult for this requirement. They should record the dates in their book, or some other dairy. A scout is trustworthy. That should be verification enough.

        The advancement chair is simply a backup in case the boy’s book is lost or in tatters from camping so much.

        • Yes a letter is required. Must be notarized and in triplicate; one copy to national, one to council and one to a secure vault located somewhere in the Philmont back country.

    • If the leadership knows that the requirement was not met, then, no, they do not have to record it as of the last updates to the Guide to Advancement, which was made because too many counselors rubber stamp MBs in situations like this. It is also likely that this debate came up in this troop for the same reason it comes up every few years in mine: a lazy or ignorant summer camp MB counselor gave Scouts the wrong information, or an in-troop counselor doesn’t know what he’s doing, or a perfectly well-meaning counselor relies on troop records and therefore troop records must be correct.

      Page 52, section of the GtA

  5. But yet a young man working on Camping merit badge and is in a Venturing Crew cannot count any Crew camping. Requirement 9 only mentions … as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scouts. So does that mean he has to be dual registered in a Troop or Team in order to count camping nights? And if so if he camps on a Crew outing does that count for the merit badge?

    • Can a Venture Scout otherwise earn any merit badges? I have no idea. But the part of the requirement you quoted is talking about which prior camping nights may be included in the count. That is, all nights spent camping as a boy Scout or Varsity Scout may count toward the nights for the merit badge. This is inclusive and not exclusive.

      Thus, I would think other nights may count as well. Again, it is up to the particular merit badge counselor. Some counselors will permit it, others will not.

      • Yes, Venturers can earn Merit Badges. My mentor (and since confirmed by the paid execs) has said they do not need to be cross-registered with a Troop to advance to Eagle, so long as they are First Class when they join the Crew. That’s why I am thinking this is simply verbage that needs to be updated.

        • Also, I see you said that the Scout must be First Class when he joins Venturing. The verbiage is helpful in this situation because it affirms that nights camping as a Boy Scout before becoming a Venturer count.

        • More verbiage, the requirement that the Venture Scout have earned First Class first in a Troop covers the common_practice to carry over the rank and MBs, and keep on advancing as a Venture member with OR independent of the Troop. –
          Is it the intention to TOTALLY EXCLUDE the teen who first joins at the Venture level from any possible rank advancement or MBs?
          I do not think this is what is intended — to follow the Supreme Court majority in Obamacare-II — where intention is more important that the words of the statue (not to digress … ). –

          Rather it seem that BSA would have the high-school age newbie earn Tenderfoot-Second-First_Class with a Troop and SM, after having joined Venturing. Not exactly what BSA’s word say. {in a few words, Venture leaders are not presumed to know Scoutcraft, especially through 1st Class, and this better left to Troops and SMs

          Otherwise, the workaround would be that newbie would _resign_ from Venture, walk over to a neighborhood Troop and signup as a high-school are new Scout who would have little difficulty with the S-T-2-1st requirements. And sometime in the process, go back and (re)join Venturing with some badges on a tan shirt. Seems somewhat overly complicated, as against, just working with a Troop and SM while a Venture Scout. –

          And, what about the former or s-l-0-w Scout who only made 2nd Class or Tenderfoot, that joins Venture Scouting and suddenly has the desire to become a Eagle Scout rekindled? Excluded because of no First Class before becoming a Venture, or back to _a_ Troop for First Class?

        • Old Scout, great concept. I found it tough to implement.

          I tried to offer a newbie in my crew the chance to multiple with the troop and earn FC, getting him up to speed with his buddies. Although he brought up wishing he could make Eagle, he wouldn’t take me up on my offer.

          These boys who hop on to venturing having never earned 1st class, they really seem to be want something different, like the Ranger award, or nothing at all.

          Maybe folks in other parts of the country have had a different experience.

    • The Requirement is
      9.Show experience in camping by doing the following: a.Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.* (emphasis added) 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.

      Sea Scouts and Venturers ARE part of the Scouting movement, and those activities do qualify for those youth. I would also add DEN CHIEFS camping with their dens on Webelos Den overniters and pack camp outs who camp under the starts or nylon ( anyone still uses canvas?) would also count towards the 20 days and nights.

      The Asterik is a note, and that needs to be updated.

        • 9a contradicts itself when it says 6 nights of camping under the stars or in a rent you pitched yourself but goes on to say that if it is at a camp that provides tents that are already set up. Not only is it contradictory. But also.counter productive. It the purpose of the requirement is to be certain that a scout has become proficient in outdoor skills, then counting 6 nights in a prepitched rent is taking from him 6 opportunities to become proficient in tent-pitching.

    • Please, people, let common sense and straightforward reading prevail.

      First sentence: count any nights under canvas or sky so long as they are part of a designated Scouting activity (be it with a pack, troop, crew, ship, team, lab, lodge, council-sponsored wilderness first aid course, etc …).

      Asterisk: Start counting from the time the boy first joins a troop or team.

  6. My concern is about boys who have situations or conditions that may make it difficult to camp in what is considered the “appropriate BSA way”. I think considerations need to made at times on a case by case basis. Children with severe autism may not be able to campout under the stars due to their issues and concerns about doing so. I see no problem with allowing a different approach or work around for this. I would also hesitate to not count a young man who is attempting to camp and for his needs, needs to have the parent present in the tent to accomplish this task.

    • The requirement certainly does not say a parent cannot be in the tent on every one of those nights.

      I know nothing about what special accommodations can be made for someone who cannot spend the night “under the stars”, but I cannot imagine it would meet the requirement if the Scout does not spend the night. I imagine, again, it is up to the individual merit badge counselor.

    • The parent could absolutely be in the tent with the boy.
      As far as changing the requirements for special needs, you should talk to your Council Advancement Chair about getting a requirement change/waiver for the scout.
      The troop and the counselor should not be making those decisions.

    • If the boy has disabilities (for example a learning disability like severe autism, or a physical disability, there are alternate requirements based on the disability. The MB counselor and the council has the final say.

    • Merit badge requirements are not changed in cases of disabilities; instead an alternate merit badge is provided by the council. In such cases it is best to work with your district or council advancement team.

      No one outside of the National Advancement Team can modify merit badge requirements.

    • Your council, and only your council, advancement committee has the ability to set alternate requirements for people with documented disabilities.

  7. How about sleeping in a cave? Does or should this count? We have a large cave / cavern that does overnights. You sleep in your sleeping bag on the cave floor.

    How about nights camping with a Cub Scout unit as either a Den Chief or as an older Boy Scout sibling of a Cub Scout? Do we count these?

    • I would definately count the DC’s camp out since that is a POR and he will have duties to do.

      As for the older Boy Scout sibling, I have would have some questions on. I know at one council family camp out, the OA runs the trading post and a few activities. The OA usually camps together and I do know of a sibling or two who went with the family to work.

    • Cave is a grey area for the counselor and boy to decide.

      Both scouting activities with the Pack count if he pitches his tent (perhaps with a buddy or even his younger sibling).

      • Suppose this scout came to you ahead of time asking if it could count, then based on your reply he carried a tent to a spot above ground and pitched it, spelunked to the exact spot umpteen feet below, threw is bag down on the cave floor and slept there. Would you let him count it?

  8. What about those summer camps that are now replacing tents with Adirondack buildings? These are not tents but wooden structures. My
    Feeling is that it does not count. I have seen summer camps that have both the adirondack and tents in the same sites. So if the adirondack does not count then some scouts get credit and some do not.

    • The summer camp we went to last year posed this problem for us.
      Our solution was, the boys who needed a long term camp set up tents in the site.
      Boys who already had a long term camp could use the adirondacks.

    • Timely discussion … Our camp director had a brainstorming session with SMs today, and brought up the idea of replacing wall tents with Adirondacks. Thanks to this topic, the requirement issue was fresh on my mind.

  9. Our chartered organization just went on a Pioneer Trex for 3 days. all the young men 14 and older in our troop went ,also the leaders. They hiked 20 miles and slept under the stars without tents. can that be counted as camping nights and miles hiked?

    • No. The requirement reads, “Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events”. Pioneer Trek is not a scouting activity or event but rather a church event.

      • I beg to differ on this. If the chartered org IS the church and the leaders were part of the outing, it can be considered a scouting activity. The scouts obviously put time and effort into the planning on their end (packing, equipment needs, etc..) They camped per the requirements…I would count it.

        • If the Troop members ir PLCmade the decision to join in on this outing and the Troop Leadership approved it and at least 2 adults (as defined by youth protection policy) were present, then it is a scout event.

        • BSA has nothing to do with Trek, you do not participate as a patrol , squad , or crew. You are in a family and do family activities with your “Ma” and “Pa”. You do not participate in any scout activities, no flag ceremonies, nothing remotely close to scouting. The only thing scouting has to do with Trek, is that the young men who regularly participate in Scouts, do a lot better at Trek then those who don’t. You are doing a disservice to your scouts and circumventing the rules.

      • If I were asked to sign off on this, I would do so. Why is it not a “designated Scouting event” if the Troop does something in conjunction with another group, does that not make it a designated Scouting activity or event?

      • I think the question would be ‘was it organized as a church or a Scouting activity.’ Just because the church sponsors a troop doesn’t make every activity they have a Scouting activity.

        • The green handbook for LDS scouting specifically says that stakes are not to organize scout camps any any stake specialty camps such as pioneer treks or camp he lamas are not to be considered scout camp. End of discussion. Although it is the scout age boys that go and do camp, the church made it very specific about not calling it scout camp.

  10. This one always makes me shake my head. How can anyone be in Boy Scouts for 6 years and not camp out for 20 nights and look for ways to cut the corners? Sounds like some have very little real quality scouting going on.

    • You assume (wrongly) that every Scout has been in the program since they were 11. That is not true (almost exclusively not true in my Troop up until this year). In addition, you also have not considered the demands on varsity athletes in high school. These questions do arise, and they do need to be addressed.

      • The only thing I am assuming is that some troops and scouts look for ways to cut corners. My sons were varsity athletes and most in our troop were in band, athletics, drama, choir, had jobs and find time to do at least 20 nights camping and most 70-100. I wouldn’t think a scout with less than 20 nights camping to be able to advance.
        Sounds like a paper journey.

        • Perhaps some troops do look for ways to “cut corners”. To cheat or lie or do something dishonest goes against all the precepts and principles of Scouting.

          In my case, I am looking to interpret the requirements to fit certain situations that do arise for Scouts trying to get their camping nights in to earn Camping MB to attain Eagle.

          You were very fortunate to have your Scouts able to participate in many other activities and also become Eagle. Perhaps your Troop camps more than mine (if they got 70 – 100, then that is certainly the case). Whatever the case, these issues do arise and must be addressed regardless of whether they do in your troop or not.

    • The active athletes in my troop have a hard time racking up those nights. They know what they need to do, however, so if they choose cabins over tents, no problem, they don’t earn the badge.

      Why is this difficult?

      • Most things in life come down to choices. Not everyone can be a varsity athlete, not everyone can be an Eagle Scout and not everyone can be both.

        • If they don’t meet the requirements, I agree with you 100%. One thing I impress on all my Scouts was that I could have made Eagle and did not. It is a choice I made that I will regret for the rest of my life. Especially as I am so involved in Scouting now with my four boys–this regret comes up at almost every turn! You can never go back and earn Eagle.

      • Actually, we had a spate of Eagles who were championship varsity athletes and scholars. They played their share of video games too. They went on to excel in college, so those high school grades weren’t inflated.

        So, I take no excuses, and simply approve of flawless execution.

        They can come camping after the big game. If they have film study the morning after the big game, so be it. Arrange with other scouts in the same predicament to come camping the next night. Study on the trip up. Discuss the tough homework problems (or next week’s rival) over the campfire.

        Ask any less of your boys and they’ll fall short every time. 🙁

        P.S. – Although this strategy helps a boy rack up camping nights, and boosts troop morale, it demands making sure everyone communicates well so as to rightly fulfill their responsibilities. Scouts understand that, but parents who think it’s only about the numbers will be sorely disappointed.

    • Lynn: I”m with you. My son has been a Boy Scout for 28 months. He now has 75 nights of camping. 20 nights would only be about 7 weekends + 1 summer camp. That is 2 campouts a year. Even the busiest Scout with other activities should be able to find 2 weekends that he could camp with a troop.

  11. I think this requirement isn’t that difficult to understand as is. Although I think we could simplify the requirement further to just say, “Camp a total of 20 nights under the sky or in a tent.” Wouldn’t matter if scout event or not, or long or short term camping nights. Or we could require that the Law merit badge be a pre-requisite for Camping or provide an attorney for each boy as he enters scouting if he cannot afford one himself; so he can have a shot at successfully defend his camping record.

    • Challenge is that there is a big difference between patrol camping, and family camping. One of the hardest transitions for parents is the “letting go” and allowing their Boy Scout to do things on their own. One reason why I like keeping Socuting camp outs and/or events.

  12. This one is a constant question in our Troop, please weight in!

    Do “nights of camping” count if a parent sleeps in the tent with their Scout?

    On backpacking trips this makes a little bit of sense. But honestly, if they can sleep with their parent they can buddy-up with another Scout. BTW, I make my son carry his own tent. But I could see that if money is an issue, some families may find it a challenge to purchase more than one tent.

    This issue comes more into question on car camps. We have parents that just will not allow their Scout to sleep in their own tent. They give lots of reasons why, but I honestly believe it’s just a passive-agressive way to helicopter their kids. Fine. Oh, and they always seem to find a way to “help” their Scout with setting things up. In the name of efficiency, of course.

    Count it or not?

  13. I would not think that a Philmont/AT Trek/50 miler would count as a long term camping experience as you set and strike camp each night.

    As noted in the last paragraph, setting and striking camp provides a different learning experience than a long term set up such as summer camp. Where do you get a better set of experiences setting and striking camp than on a trek where you are at a new camp site every night.

    • I agree with you 100%; however, I do not think an objective reading of the requirement together with the definition of long term camping permits that application. The requirement ought to be changed.

    • Jeff, part of what you are saying is true. Each time the boys set up a new camp, they drive down the learning curve to where they become experts at setting up camp —- at least setting up camp on a Philmont trek. However, they do not go down the learning curve much as far as planning the camp or experiencing different environments, etc. Each time the boys go to a new camp, they must plan and prepare for that camp – location, weather conditions, water, transportation, social setting, etc. Which is more valuable, to have the same experience 20 times or to have 20 different experiences. Both are valuable and play an important role in the development of the boy. What kind of and how many experience or experiences prepare the boys for a Philmont trek? Perhaps 19 other camping experiences? Something to think about. Burt

      • We did a 6 day hike on the AT (Not needed for the camping MB…). Each camping location provided a different conditions (Rain/heat/elevation). Water had to be found etc. Additionally, the boy’s had to plan all their meals, snacks etc. for an entire week. Far more work than planning for a simple weekend camp out.

        Additionally, looking at each camp sites unique conditions, I would think that they learn more because of what can’t be planned for vs. what can be planned for when going on a single location camp out.

        No worries as the camp out was completed for the Back Packing MB. Just my 3 cents…

        • I am very very envious of your experience. There are advantages to everything if you have the right mindset. In my mind, each camp out provides a new and unique experience. Boys come home from one camp and make changes in the way they do things for the next camp. Some changes are better, others are not. They learn. I think that we all agree that our boys need many experiences to grow and learn, not just one. They are different boys from one camp to the next as they mature, learn and develop. I think that one of the purposes of the camping guidelines is to make sure that the boys have many and varied experiences to learn from. I know as a scoutmaster that I could write a book for each year that I do this. Just when I start to think that I know it all, I get a new boy or something happens, or not enough is happening so I need to mix things up a little. Lets change troops for a summer – you take mine and I’ll take yours. Now that would be educational. 🙂

    • Assistance in setting up a tent shiuld cone from another scout, acting as teacher and mentor…not from the parent.We all know that when a parent “helps”often the youth does not learn.

  14. The BSA is a leadership training organization. As such they expect a certain level of common sense when reading and interpreting the guidelines. I teach adults to use reason and logic based on the understanding of the BSA’s goals and intent. Some of the comments and questions are a concern to me. It is hard to tell if they are serious or just trying to be the smartest rules lawyer on the thread. It might be a good time to do an article on Wood Badge.

    • It would be easy, then, to write the rule in the way that allowed no interpretation or deviation. If we have rules, we have to interpret them. We should use the spirit of Scouting in those interpretations.

      • No rule or law has ever be written that is not subject to work arounds by those affected. BSA wisely gives guidelines to allow the Scouters to encourage personal growth by experimental learning. That is the measuring stick that should be used in determination of the completion of a requirement regardless of how large a gray area you can make the requirement appear to have.

  15. iI have often questioned the rationale of why only ONE week of summer camp or long term camping can be counted. Are they not sleeping in tents, under the stars, as the requirement asks for? For those troops that do not do a lot of camping outside of summer camp, this may be the only opportunity that a scout can come close to achieving the requirement. I have yet to see an answer as to why only one week can be counted. Anyone have a reason for this?

    • As a follow up, if the camping trip extends beyond 6 nights…only 6 nights are eligible? In my opinion, if you are going on a 10 day trek, that shows a commitment and level of preparation worthy of consideration for ALL nights of the event to count.

      • Disagree. It shows that you’ve prepared ONCE. My units thrive when boys have prepared multiple times on different occasions for diverse situations. Those boys are worthy of the badge.

      • Bob, thank you , I didn’t know you were the one who is able to rewrite the BSA Guide to Advancement. I will know make sure to confirm all of my Advancement questions to you , Since are more in the know, then National or the actual requirements.

      • Our troop has gone to summer camp and chosen to do “patrol cooking” rather than dining hall for meals. Also, we go on “outpost” camp nights during the week as a unit. These events foster the need to set up tents, cook for themselves, etc.. The principles of Scouting are ALWAYS in play, regardless of the duration of the trip.

        • Check out the 2012 blog on this topic. It quotes Chris Hunt of the Advancement Team who I assume is a national Scout Executive:”

          “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.”

          So your situation is not what the requirement was written for–but it is a one-size-fits-all rule.

        • Here’s what’s missing from the week-long patrol cooking camp (which our troop does and loves):

          The boys don’t plan the meals.
          The tents are pitched for them. (Actually, our older scouts like to come the day before and do this to relieve the staffers of one more site to set up.)
          The “outpost” is in a designated location not selected by the boys.

          Correct me if I’m wrong about any of that. Then put a good word in for that camp, because it would be pretty cool if patrols had to plan their menus from a budget and request those specific supplies from the commissary, and if there were a good hundred acres around camp from which the boys would have to determine where they would set up their outpost.

          Regardless, the point of those 6 days is to train scouts so they can go home and replicate the activity on their own a half dozen times throughout the year. If that doesn’t happen, well … 🙁

      • Q, it shows that you have prepared once, yes….but for a prolonged trip that could present any number of situations. The scout motto is, after all, “Be Prepared”. Using the logic you employ, if you have prepared for a short term campout on a weekend where it rained every day, then the next campout you go on where it supposed to rain WOULD NOT count, because you have already done it. On a trek type situation, the scouts are most likely setting up and breaking down camp each day or two, experiencing different conditions.

        We can agree to disagree here. Judging by the number of responses that this blog subject has generated, it might be time for National to re-evaluate the camping requirement.

    • How it *should* work, by the way:

      Boys: “We want to do a ten day trek in the .”
      Leader: “Welcome to the hike-a-month club. Your mission: plan 18 outings over the next year and one half that will prepare you for .”
      Boys: “Yippee!”
      Leader: “Oh, and by the way, you might want to call , because by the time we’re done, you’ll likely have racked up the nights for the badge.”

  16. So a boy who has been in scouting for 4 Years, attended 4 summer camps, made 2 12-day Philmont Treks and been to 6 Camporees would not earn the Camping merit badge despite sleeping out in tents for 60 nights on 12 occasions and pitched his tent at least 23 times.

    But a boy who sleeps in a hammock in the back lot of the church 10 weekends would qualify?

    • That’s correct. The “adventure boy” has not demonstrated the day-in day-out preparedness of the boy who keeps track of his hammock, contains cost, and hits that back lot with his patrol on the regular basis.

      But not to worry. All “adventure boy” has to do is every weekend this month gear up with his patrol and find some neat places nearby to camp! Requirement done.

      • I can’t tell if you’re serious or not. Clearly the one you call “Adventure Boy” is vastly more prepared and has demonstrated substantially more experience in various forms of camping preparation and readiness than “Hammock Boy”. Personally, I don’t mind that every night from every camp doesn’t count, but it seems that at least 1 night from every camping experience should count.

        • If I was a Camping Merit Badge Counselor, generally speaking, you better believe that 60 night boy would have his Camping MB. Rules were made for men and not men for rules. The question is whether the quality of the young man’s experiences meet the spirit and intent of the rules. Each merit badge counselor will have to answer that for themselves.

          I have a hard time trying to figure out how a young man who made the effort in your example would fail to qualify according to the intent of the Camping merit badge, even if his “daddy” went with him and helped him on every single one. The effort and experience would far exceed that of the comparative weak example of urban camping. The 60 night scout would essentially have had to have done very little but tag along to fail to qualify. Unlikely, but certainly possible with a helicopter dad (and mom).

          I very much appreciate many of the questions and answers here. Along with several other sources of guidance, they have helped me better understand the intent of the Camping merit badge. Your question was a more simple and clear juxtaposition of one of the main concerns voiced here. It was the final comment I needed to hear to make up my mind on how I will advise MB counselors as a troop committee chairman.

          Your question was an excellent example of why we need to first have a fundamental understanding of the issue and then have the courage to both follow the rules or break the rules according to the principles and intent of the Boy Scout program.

          Some young men will fail to attain their goals in scouting because of their lack of effort or lack of opportunity. We can’t give them what they didn’t earn, but I’ll be darned if we refuse to give them what they did earn simply because of an unusual instance in which the rule didn’t match the principle upon which it is based.

    • Actually, it looks like all he’d need to do is one weekend (2 nights) of camping somewhere – he could count 6 for a long term (either summer camp or Philmont) and 12 for the 6 Camporees (that is, assuming 2 nights each – which is how ours work, set up Fri PM leave Sun AM).

  17. Does it count as camping if the scout spends the full night under the stars but does not sleep?

    Yes, this did happen. It was at a Council Venturing event where youth and adults were in separate cabins.

    • It really is between the boy and his merit badge counselor.
      But generally, I’d count it if it included a nap under a shelter he pitched in the sun immediately following or preceding the event.

      • Or just nap on the lawn? Just because you can’t see the stars doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Otherwise sleeping outdoors on a cloudy night would also not count.

        Yes, I am not taking this seriously. I jokingly told him it would not count for the Camping merit badge, but he started scouts at 16 and is not going for Eagle (made 1st class at 17).

        • This scout is cutting it close to earn his Eagle. If he was 16 or 17, he should have the maturity to plan patrol campouts on his own or with some adult advising.
          I have a scout in my troop that needs hiking/cooking for his Cooking MB. The troop had 5 hikes the past year to help the older scout fulfill the requirements since we could only have 2-3 cooks per hike depending on the number of scouts on that particular hike.
          The scout asked when the next hike was. My reply was, “When ever you decide to plan and have it.” I further stated that he missed 5 hikes already and even though us adults like scouting and camping, we have a life outside of scouting, with our families, with work, and life in general and have limited time to do such things.
          So he is planning a hike so he can do the cooking. I think he will do fine with it. The kid has been in scouts since he was a youngster. I am not sure if the scout has his Camping MB though. Same difference – if he needs nights camping, he should be able to plan campouts to fulfill the requirement.

      • This discussion is not about a medal. It’s about a little round patch. Who says he needs to be going for Eagle to earn Camping?

        I’d say give the kid a nudge and see what he gets your crew doing!

    • This reminds me of our district Klondike derby this past winter. Our troop was staying in a cabin, but several of the scouts wanted to build and sleep in a quinzee. They were successful, but made it a bit small, and then four of them decided to sleep in it together. My bunk was by a window overlooking the quinzee – they made it until about 3AM before the cramped quarters (and condensation) got the better of them.

      Does this count as an overnight snow camping experience under RQ9b? That will be up to the counselor. In my mind it does because they spent the bulk on the night in it, and learned some important lessons about winter camping, which to me is the whole point of the exercise and not just to be a ‘check the box’ activity. But it does not really matter – the scouts did it because they wanted to and not to fulfill a requirement. If a counselor does not count it, the scouts all have other activities they can point to.

  18. As both a Scoutmaster and a camping MB counselor, I think that some of you are straining a little to much trying to define this requirement. I think that the spirit of the requirement is clear and that some discretion can be applied by the MB counselor or scout leader in each case. For example, in the case previously mentioned where a boy show up late, sleeps and leaves early – does that count. As a leader and MBC I might allow it once given the role the boy played in planning for the camp or his role with other camps. If this is the pattern, then I would say he is not meeting the spirit of the requirement. Turning boys into men requires that we as leaders use some good judgement along the way. Does sleeping in a cave count? Probably for me as there is no artificial structure. Does sleeping under an adirondack vs. tent where both are provided? I think that I would be hard pressed not to count that as a camping night since both are provided by the Counsel for the boys to sleep in. I am assuming that the adirondack is an open structure where at least one side is exposed to the “stars.” This seems to me to be just as valid as setting up a tent in someones back yard. I am sure that someone will next challenge my “exposed to the stars” statement and ask “what if it is a cloudy night and the stars can’t be seen?” Camp “outs” count, sleep overs do not. Remember what it is we are trying to do – turn boys into men, develop skills that will prepare them for life, have an “out” as in out door experience. It is not necessary that everyone come to same conclusion for each boy for each “camping” experience. “Do your best” to follow both the spirit and the letter of the requirement. When in doubt, refer to your MB counselor because when he signs the card, it is done. Burt

    • I agree – great comment. I think this requirement is fairly clear. Plus, getting to Eagle is a marathon, not a sprint. If a scout is struggling to find that 20th outing to count as ‘camping’, there are probably other badges they can work on instead that they can do right now. By next year the odds are probably pretty good they will have more than 20 nights of camping. If a scout is 17, racing to get this merit badge, and have not camped 20 nights by that point, it would seem to me there are other issues at work.

  19. Wow! Are all of you lawyers? I mean come on people, “camp out under the stars or in a tent”. The INTENT is to put the OUTING in SCOUTING. This is supposed to be a fun organization that teaches boys to be outdoorsmen and scouts, not lawyers and politicians. Stop trying to “game the system” and go camping.

    • I am a lawyer, and I am not trying to “game the system” (I am a third-generation attorney and Scoutmaster at my firm, and I am proud of that history and tie to Scouting). But when questions arise, we as Scoutmasters need to be able to arrive a clear, decisive answers. This has been a pretty open and good-spirited discussion in the spirit of the Scout Oath and Law. Obviously, there are a lot of questions surrounding this requirement.

  20. This has been a topic of discussion in our troop. One of the biggest points of contention is what is a tent?

    Does a platform/canvas tent at a summer camp count?
    How about the exact same structure with wooden sides and roof instead of canvas (our local camp has these)?
    Every year we camp at a resort that has permanent tee-pees (concrete floors). Is a tee-pee a tent?

    • Yes, a tee-pee is a tent. The old BSA Camping Merit Badge use to have a tee-pee on it. Even if the tee-pee has a concrete floor & it was erected by the camp, it still counts as a camping night as long as it is the only one counted for the long-term camping experience.

      Yes, a platform/canvas tent at summer camp counts. I don’t know about a structure with 4 wooden sides & a roof as I would call that a cabin. Take away one side of the structure, however, may make it a different matter.

      For most Scouts, counting the number of nights to 20 will occur despite not counting the latter.

  21. Somewhat related but it would be helpful if another option were added to Camping requirement 9(b). We’re in a part of Texas where there is not a 1,000 feet elevation change anywhere close, there is never snow, and some of the other requirements are almost as difficult. I had my son wait until the Jamboree (hike up Garden Ground Mountain) to consider this requirement complete, and he had plenty of camping experience.

    • Agree with you on this one… I have 2 scouts who have met the min. 20 nights but haven’t been able to complete part b (we live in Ga). We are planning a canoe trip in September to give them something in addition to their 4+ mile backpacking trip.

    • If it’s any consolation, I utterly hated the biking trips in the SW PA hills. (Worse: once upon a time the vertical option required a 2000ft. elevation change, and those were really hard to find.)

    • To meet the requirements, see if the Scouts are willing to do a bike hike as part of a camp out. In our area, we have several biking trails that it can be done on. Or a canoe trip to meet the same requirement.

      Some summer camps meet 9b6 by having a period where all Scouts working on their Camping MB rappel down a tower to meet the requirement. This is not part of the Climbing MB, but just for the Camping MB requirement.

  22. I have a question and I’m sorry if it’s already been covered here – there was a lot of reading on this thread! My son has already Eagled so this is more of an informational question. I understand the parameters to get the 20 nights of camping needed for the merit badge, but what about the Nights of Camping patches. Do all nights count for that or only 1 long-term camp and only 6 of 7+ nights campouts.

    • The nights camping patch is not nationally recognized – it can vary by council (most don’t, as far as I know). Specific requirements for this patch would be set by your council. In ours, every night spent on a BSA outing counts.

    • Not sure if that is something different – there is the National Outdoor Awards, which has a camping segment (in addition to hiking, riding, aquatics, adventure and conservation). That one states 25 nights INCLUDING 6 consecutive days (5 nights) of camping.
      It also counts all nights, including those used to earn camping MB and has no in a tent/under the stars rule so once the Scout has camping MB he is most of the way there (and likely over, as it says including 5 consecutive nights but does not prohibit use of a 2nd such camp).

      • Have been waiting for someone to bring up the National OUTDOOR AWARD with 25 to 100 days of “camping” which would seem to have the same issues.

        The practicality of doing 25 to 100 days of overnight camping would seem difficulty to impossible for many Scouts. And expensive, too.
        Adding in some ‘backyard’ overnight camping nights approved by my new-Scout patrol leader (for the “scout activity”) would help with the numbers and give another range of experience. Can my Patrol in highrise Brooklyn get some urban experience camping overnight – under the stars or canvas – on the rooftop with the pigeon cages?

        • The rules don’t seem to be as specific as the camping MB, just that it has to include one long term camp (probably to encourage use of Scout facilities). So as far as I can see, you can count any nights they camp no matter where, how, what type of shelter (or non shelter). And since this one is done through the Troop it is going to be totally up to leader determination, no counselor needed.

  23. An issue concerning this came up in our troop. Scouts attend summer camp and winter camp. The MB counselor would only allow the nights camped from one of the events, not both. Summer camp consists of six nights, while winter camp consists of four nights. By definition, winter camp should be “short term” camping. The counselor said the scout should have a variety of experiences while camping. Counting both camps does not allow for that since they are similar (meals prepared, and other activities that don’t require the patrol method). My opinion is that is altering the requirement. Any thoughts?

    • No, your MB counselor is defining what he feels is the difference between short and long-term camping. According to the text of the MB pamphlet, not more than 6 days may be counted from long-term camping. The exact words are “UP TO 6 days”. To me, that means that a long-term camp could be less than 6 days. NO WHERE does it define what long-term or short-term camping is. As a scoutmaster and as a camping MB counselor I would agree with your MB counselor and consider a 4 night camp as a long-term camp. As a merit badge counselor, I would consider counting 4 nights of camping from one long-term camp and another 2 nights of camping from another long-term camp. The question is: what is the maximum length of a short-term camp? There is NOTHING that I have found that puts any limit on a short term camp. I usually define a short-term camp as a one or two night camp – a weekend if you will. If a scout came to me as a MB counselor and presented a 3-day camp as a short-term camp, I would consider any special circumstances that one might present that would justify accepting this as a short-term camp. I believe that a MB counselor should have discretion to consider the camp and make a determination. I do not know of any thing that defines winter camp as a “short-term” camp as you have stated. There is no rule or policy that states that what one MB counselor does, another must also do. Who ever is the one to sign your MB card is the counselor you want to listen to. There are times that I will make a scout “do it over” or “tell me again” etc. I do not sign the card until I am satisfied that the scout met both the letter and the spirit of the requirement. That does not mean that I am altering the requirement. Working with a MB counselor is part of the process that helps prepare scouts for life.

  24. There’s a problem with people trying to interpret the spirit of the law instead of just sticking to the letter of the law as we learn before becoming MB counselors. I’m hearing (and have heard) that unless you go away somewhere it doesn’t count as camping. Perhaps it’s not ideal, but that’s not the requirement. Camping on the lawn of the church in a tent you pitched fulfills the requirement There’s no requirement for cooking, or hiking, or being driven somewhere or length of time.

    An aside – it does say one has to sleep, but not for how long. Should the boys stay up all night playing cards and not sleep at all I wouldn’t count it. If a boy has insomnia and only gets 15 minutes of sleep, that would count.

    A cave? Pitch a tent in the cave and sleep there. But sleeping in the open in a cave, that’s undeniably using the cave as a shelter. But more importantly it’s not “in a tent you pitched” or “under the stars” which should be the only standard you use.

    • This is a very thought-provoking post, Mark. I hadn’t focused on the word “sleeping”. Frankly, the boys can outlast me at this point, so the only way I know they slept is waking them up in the morning!!

    • Injustice, sometimes profound, can occur just as easily through “sticking to the letter of the law” as with “trying to interpret the spirit of the law”.

      In this case, the saying “do unto others..” has application.

  25. Just my thoughts, there is a HUGE difference between a 6 night summer camp where the Scout stays in one place for six days when compared to Philmont or any other trek where they travel and camp for up to 10 days. I personally think the days on the trek should count as single nights of camping, since they are normally not in one place for more than 2 nights, like a weekend, and they pitch a tent every time they move.

  26. I’m guessing that most leaders and Scouts and honest and follow the requirements, but it seems that there’s always a parent who wants to shortcut the requirement so his son can get to Eagle faster and bail out of the troop. Why else would there be all of this discussion about what type of camping fulfills the requirement and what doesn’t? Just do it.

  27. What about on the deck of a Sea Scout ship? Don’t they do this at Sea Base? This is clearly “under the stars”.

    • Seabase has several different opportunities, some of which are sailing adventures that may involve sleeping topside. Out-island adventures may involve sleeping in hammocks. A boy may count those nights as part of a long term camp, but most boys will have done that already at summer camp.

      Obviously if the sea scout cruises involve sleeping topside, counselors should count them.

  28. “Adventure Boy” and “Hammock Boy” was the funniest thing I’ve ever read on this blog. Thanks for a great laugh. I’ll wait for the cartoon series and comic books.

  29. I didn’t take the time to read 120+ comments, but I was asked once about Scouts sleeping in the backyard of a parents house… They did this for 5 weekends as a Patrol Camp-out which was open to the other Patrols; which was approved by their Troop Committee, and at which they did have 2 Registered Trained adults.
    They did nothing else outside; used the family’s restrooms, went in where mom cooked for them [4 meals a day], played video games, watched tv, etc.
    How does THAT stack-up????
    Well, I told them that I would take a look at the requirement; which wound-up stating nothing about any daytime activities that had to relate to those overnight stays.
    When I next saw the guy a few weeks later, I showed them the requirements.
    By ALL technicalities, they met the requirements… and I told the guy that, although I didn’t like the boys “playing the system”, they DID meet the requirements for those 10 nights.
    Needless to say, neither of us were very happy about the finding….

    • 🙁 In any game, scouting included, players can put forth the bare minimum. Just ’cause such players get a patch, does not mean they reap a reward.

      But, my problem with this story: did the PL have his tour plan approved by the SM? The boy’s handbook says nothing about patrol activities “approved by their Troop committee”. As SM, I might approve the first bare-minimum-effort night, but would want to see the next one with an additional challenge (maybe my backyard and they cook me breakfast 😉 ) … and so on. If the SM didn’t approve it, it’s not a patrol outing. If he did. then he robbed his boys of their reward for a game well played.

  30. The simplest fix for this entire issue would be to specify “20 nights under the stars or a temporary shelter you helped set up on at least 10 (or whatever number BSA decides) separate camping outings at designated scouting activities or events”. If it’s felt necessary, it could be added that camping outings must begin no less than 2 days after the most recent camping outing ended to count as a separate outing. This would avoid any question of counting each time you set up camp on a long-term outing as a separate outing.

    This way they can count high adventure trips, scout camps, etc. (basically any camping where they set up their own shelter) toward the number of days but they will necessarily get in a sufficient number of separate trips in the process of completing 10 (or ??) separate camping trips, many of which will almost certainly be shorter term. I really feel the intent of this merit badge is for the boy to set up camp enough times that he becomes proficient. Requiring short term campouts was a way of ensuring that 1 or 2 long term trips where they set up a base camp and never relocate are not all that the boys does to earn this badge. This way, four 5-night campouts won’t do it. But I would argue that a boy who does 6 “long term” campouts and only 4 “short term” (as an example) has done enough camping that he has learned what he needs to learn.

    About 1/3 of BSA’s registered units are LDS. To me, this is a large enough share of the “market” that differences are worth considering. LDS units do not do campouts beginning or ending on Sundays (except maybe in exceptional circumstances). This means these units must (typically) do 1 5-night campout plus 15 more individual Friday night campouts to be able to count 20 nights. That is 16 separate campouts. Non-LDS units would typically be able to count 1 6-night campout and 7 2-night campouts. Meaning non-LDS units will typically do 8 campouts to complete the requirement, while LDS units must do 16 (twice the number of campouts). I really think the important facets of developing camping skills have to do with the number of nights AND the number of separate campouts. It would be much simpler to just state it this way.

    • You will not find LDS scouters as your allies in this. First, the ones I’ve met are more than cheerful about scheduling 15 friday-only campouts over a couple of years if they have to. Plus, bishops are flexible on the Sunday rule, on occasion (such as the occasion where my SM once held an interfaith service with an LDS SM). Finally, there are 6 days during the week. and getting a couple of parents to take off mid-week for Wednesday-Saturday patrol outings during the summer is no big deal. Other Christian Muslim and Jewish boys do it all the time to avoid crowds!

      I really don’t understand what the objection is to getting this requirement done in at least five outings, four of which are short term.

    • Thank you Denise for expressing what has been a big concern of mine as a LDS scoutmaster and camping MB counselor. Sunday camping is no longer allowed for LDS troops – not an option. As Denise explained, it basically requires LDS boys to participate in twice as many outings in order to meet the requirement. Many boys are still able to obtain the 20 nights but since they are only allowed 3 nights as an 11 year old, they usually don’t get their 20 nights until they are nearly 14 years old (providing they are able to attend all campouts). For boys who participate in sports, especially multiple sports, this becomes a major obstacle to achieving Eagle.

      Someone mentioned it being no big deal to do extra outings during the middle of the week. When all of your scout leaders have full time jobs and 2 weeks of vacation each year… one of which is used for a week long summer scout camp… those outings are not possible if I want to keep my marriage.

      I would like to see this requirement changed from 20 nights of camping to say 12 camping experiences.

      • A couple thoughts that might work:

        #1 – See if any two adult leaders could take ONE day off (that being a Friday) and then you could do a campout that started Thursday night and ended Saturday afternoon. Would still require some extra time, but perhaps easier than a mid week event that would take at least two days off.

        #2 – You note that the adults are using one week of vacation for summer camp – not knowing how many adults you have, are all the adults needed for that summer camp? If not, perhaps a couple would be willing to give up being there and then could use those days to create a couple short term camp outs over the summertime?
        I know sometimes leaders feel that they have to be at every event, but it might make more sense to “delegate” in this case to some of the others.

        #3 – Is there a location close to your Troop where a campout could be held? I don’t think there is any time requirement for a campout night to count, is there?
        So in the summer season when it stays light until 8pm or after, if you have a fairly close site you could meet (even meet at the site) say Tuesday at 6pm, have the kids set up and make a quick dinner (have them prepackage foil dinners would be an ideal setup here), stay overnight, have the kids make a quick breakfast (something that only requires boiling water) and be cleaned up/packed up by, say 8am Wednesday?
        That might work, allowing the adults needed to come directly after work one day and still be back in time for work the following day?
        Perhaps not the best kind of campout, but still useful should they want to go backpacking in the future (where they might well be limited in time for camping in order to have enough time to complete the hike to/from the campsite).

        • Thanks for the helpful suggestions William. We have to travel 2-3 hours away to escape the scorching Arizona desert heat. Summer break is 2 months so at best we could only get a few extra nights in but that is a strategy we are trying to use.

          My main point is, since the spirit of the requirement is to ensure the boys get many camping experiences, why not base it on a number of experiences instead of nights camping.

        • I think most of us have experienced that it is the diversity of events combined with the real time spent that generates the skills required. Keep in mind that the original requirement was for 50 nights.

          I am in no position to discuss arranging to camp locally in such challenging conditions. But if some folks have made overnights work for their boys under such conditions, it would be good to hear how they did it.

          Also, this is where your district roundtables may come in handy. Maybe there’s a scouter (LDS or otherwise) who works weekends, but is free during the week to assist you on an outing. Those summertime short-term campouts are precious to many boys.

      • Just a silly (not related, well not really, question) – is that Arizona heat any worse than the heat in Colorado or Utah (say, Great Sand Dunes or Arches National Parks)?

        Just funny, as our Troop has a group heading that way tomorrow AM, doing a loop out of Denver which goes from the (usually hot) areas like those to ending up in Rocky Mountain NP where there may still be ice & snow.

        • The heat in AZ may not be any different than some locations in CO or UT, but the difference is living in it and having to travel away from it for at least 2-3 hours during at least half the year, at least for those of us in central AZ.

          So if we want our young men to look forward to camping, travel is a must.

  31. What about a situation where they do one long term camp and then do another. Does the second only count for one night? 6 nights 3 short two nights and then another six nights that only counts as one. Thoughts???

    • The requirement is very clear: one long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights counts … the scout may count anywhere from 0 to 6 if the nights of one of those experiences towards his camping. All other long-term camping experiences are for the fun of it!

      The remainder of his camping nights are to come from several other short-term camping experiences. Do a lot of them, and he can choose which ones count towards the MB!

  32. I have ran into some issues in recent years (Especially with some leaders) I have been in scouting over 40 years and have been in troops all over this country and the requirements have pretty much been interpreted the same, until recent. I argued about a scout who was given his camping MB. He had attended Scout camp 3 years = 18 nights, and did anothe weekend! he did a 5 mile hike which also gained 1000 feet and then came out for the day to take part in a troop climbing event and did his rappel, but did not stay overnight! this scout admitted openly that he “HATED” Camping and would never camp again. I got into several arguments that this was not earned, but was told I was wrong.

    • Nothing in the requirements for any badge says a boy has to like doing them … but it sure helps!

      If scouters want to disregard the specifics of the requirements, things like this will happen. And as we can see from the posts above, well-meaning scouters would like the requirements to be different in a way that would ensure that this behavior is commonplace.

      As it stands, there’s not much a scouter can do when faced with blatant disregard for the requirements. He/she could refuse to sign an eagle application. Or, write a note to the institutional head that the troop/crew is not implementing a non-BSA advancement program. Possibly, council could threaten to revoke a charter, but such an event is so rare that such a request from an aggrieved scouter would not likely have teeth. Might feel good to try, though.

  33. I believe the requirements for Camping Merit Badge are spelled out or specified clearly. Yes, there might be limitations and these can be addressed specifically via the Local Council’s Advancement Committee.

    However, I have noticed a trend these days or recent decade(s) where more & more, folks are attempting to find ways to Skirt the written requirements rather than adhere, IMMHO.

    the key part I find in this specific requirement is: in the tent he, the Scout, has pitched himself. Sleeping under the stars at the local minor league ball park, hockey game, etc. does not met the requirement as written and executed.

    Moreover, any Troop whose Outdoor program does not afford the Scouts the opportunity within one-year’s or even a two-year’s time period to meet Camping MB 20 nights requirement IS NOT DOING THE SCOUTS any assistance or justice. This is clearly a leadership issue, PERIOD….

  34. To consolidate several thoughts about why the existing requirements should stand as-is, I opened a forum topic (
    In it, I discussed some examples of flawed thinking about scouting in general that motivate folks to foreshorten this requirement, namely:

    – Wanting to award “big ticket” scouting with advancement.
    – Desiring to “level the bumps” out of the advancement progression.
    – Thinking that every scout has to earn Camping (or any other merit badge).
    – Failing to identify the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.
    – Confounding success with awards.

    I encourage you to read my detailed opinion and reply there.

    • And “Q,” I’m not looking at this as a “tit-for-tat,” but reading your blog comment, I believe you’re confusing “Troop Led” activities to mean the SPL, or PL has the final say of all Troop activities. Of course the SMs and ASMs want to make activities interesting and be enjoyed by the Scouts, but if a majority of the activities don’t follow the requirements of BSA, that lead to the ability of the Scout to earn their ranks, and the required merit badges, then just become a member of the Boys Club, or your church’s youth groups.

      • Jack, not “tit-for-tat”, just fleshing out different ways of thinking about the problem …

        I have yet to meet a boy’s club or church’s youth group where the youth set the tone as much as they do in the most dysfunctional scout troop or venturing crew. So, yes, ideally, the PLs set the calendar, the SM reviews for soundness and guides the boys in preparations. Thus there is no distinction between “Troop Led” and “PL approved.”
        Each PL has one prime directive: “Take care of your boys.” It’s on them, not our SM, to choose activities that meet the aspirations of their patrol.
        So, how should this play out?
        Lil’ Johnny says “Guys, can you do me a solid and help me rack up 20 nights under canvas?”
        PL says, “Well, you know, we really love our cabins, but for just for you, let’s go for it! Where to first? I’ll run the plan by our next PLC!”

        The SM never says, “Guys, we gotta camp under canvas 6 weekends a year, or everyone’s gonna think we’re bogus.” But he could say, “Guys, we could have half of you earn camping next year if we commit to 6 weekends under canvas. So, how about it?”

  35. Does camping overnight on the fields of a baseball field count? The Scouts put up a tent, it a Scout night, and they sleep under the stars.

    • Amid protests of purists, I say yes. It would be very discouraging to a counselor, however, to see mostly outings like these as part of the 20 night repertoire.

  36. I always find the rules have to be written, re-written, expanded, and explained to keep up with the adults who want to bend them. The boys themselves are much more likely to read them and accept them as is.

  37. It seems that if the requirement for a required Eagle merit badge is that the overnights be Troop activities, the BSA really needs to oversee the schedule of activities for all Troops to insure they offer an adequate number of camping trips. I’ve heard of and witnessed too many Scouts transferring to other Troops after a couple of years because they were falling behind in necessary requirements that weren’t being offered. The BSA needs to be more proactive!

    • The flawed thinking here, is
      – that overnights need to be “Troop activities”, they may be scouting activities outside of the troop.
      – that the Eagle award opportunities should be guaranteed by every troop. That would be nice. But if boys insist on cabin camping exclusively and only advance to First Class, we are at an impasse.

      Enabling boys to transfer is sometimes the best we volunteers can do with the opportunities we have.

      • Sorry, I don’t believe this is flawed thinking at all!

        Yes, it would be nice if various Troops that promised similar opportunities for advancement that other Troops provide, however that’s not always the case. I know of Troops who have changed Scoutmasters and the entire culture changed.

        My position is that the BSA needs to become more actively involved. As you say, volunteers are the core of any Troop, Pack, Crew, or Post, however, they are just volunteers. They have gone through training, but even then, they lack the experience that may be required to effectively provide those required opportunities to the Scout.

        And yes… I believe all Troops should be required to provide the opportunities for all Scouts the ability to progress through the ranks to achieve Eagle. That doesn’t mean that ever Scout in the Troop should, just that they be given that opportunity. The Eagle rank isn’t just handed over like a High School diploma, just because you attended!

        I do believe in the Patrol Method and providing a culture of Scout led activities, but the purpose of adult leadership is to guide the scout through the program. And it’s unfortunate that in some Troops, that volunteer guidance isn’t adequate enough. In those cases, the BSA needs to become more proactive in insuring the volunteers are adequately trained and that those Troops, etc. are providing similar opportunities to all Scouts.

      • I guess I’m biased since our troop has routinely received transfers who wanted to camp more. They don’t say it’s explicitly for advancement, although that may be in the back of their minds. In any case, if it weren’t for those troops who didn’t camp regularly, our numbers would be halved. 🙂

        But, seriously, I don’t see us ever finding a stick for that sort of thing. The commissioner corps can and should promote “get trained and get under canvas” as positively as possible. But, if there’s a bunch of boys who do tremendous service projects in their community, songs and skits at every meeting, go to cabins and ski lodges with the biggest smiles, and eventually master all those first class skills … what would you propose the BSA do to them? Even if the good folks who wrote Journey to Excellence insisted on tent camping, these troops would gladly take the hit.

        The advancing scout in that scenario who doesn’t want to transfer just has to bide his time and rack up nights over a period of 5-7 years, or find other scouting activities outside of his troop, or change the culture of his patrol. Either strategy is a hallmark of an Eagle.

        • Q, the problem is that in many small communities, there are only one or two Troops that are convenient for families to attend. They bring their boys (now I’m speaking BSA Troops here) with the expectation that if it’s their son’s desire to achieve the rank of Eagle, they’re able to get it. I’m aware of this happening now to one young boy in a small community. He was well on his way with the intent to receive his rank advancements, but there was a change in SM. It went from camping once a month to escentially summer camp and a smattering of outdoor camping throughout the rest of the year. Maybe it was just that the SM didn’t understand! In this case, I believe the District, or Council if necessary needs to step in and guide the Troop. They’re the paid professionals in this case, and need to do more than just show up for Roundtables.

        • Having talked to boys in similar situations, I feel your pain.

          I suspect it’s a critical mass thing. If there’s only one sub-par unit in a district, a pro can devote some time to it (as long as he/she is chartering enough other units easily). But, if there are many … even if there a pro was out there bolstering one unit … his/her work will go unnoticed. The troop being fixed won’t be scout’s whose problem you’re hearing about. Worse: nobody’s gonna double their dues to have a pro- dedicated to filling those voids. 🙁

          Really and truly, this is what the commissioner’s corps is for. If volunteers from successful troops move into those district positions, and SMs are willing to see their unit commissioners (UC) as fair-minded coaches … troops with minimal vision will slowly diminish.

          Lacking a healthy UC-SM relationship, we’re back to helping an ambitious boy endure hardship and effect change over the long haul. Some see that as unfair. Eagles see that as a unique leadership opportunity.

  38. We have a Scout who has developed severe allergies and asthma and is no longer physically able to camp outdoors. He has been confined indoors by his doctors. He has 27 camping nights but is still 5 nights short using the long term / short term rules.

    How should we handle this case?

    Can we make exceptions given a note from a doctor?

    • Sadly, he won’t be able to earn the MB, but he can still advance in rank under alternative requirements!

      Talk to your district advancement chairperson for the paperwork you need for a waiver. And when you all should file it.

      By the way, it’s not just a note from a doctor. The plan must be approved by leader, the parents, and the scout (that last signature can be your hardest to get, because the boy’s pride might be an issue).

      So this takes some thinking and planning.

      In the mean time, make sure the scout has earned all of the other MBs he’d need to advance to Eagle. He might need alternatives for more than just camping and you only want to jump through this paperwork maze once.

    • It does not say the scout must be outdoors. Only “under the sky OR in a tent you have pitched.” As a camping MB counselor, recognizing his limitations, I’d pass him if he were able to attend 5 more scout activities at which he pitched a tent indoors and slept in it. I’m sure the troop would be more than willing to set up actual camp near your chartered unit building and let the boy pitch a tent indoors for five more nights to help him out.

      If you have a MB counselor not willing to stick to the letter of the law, you could probably approach your council and seek respite under the “Scouts with Disabilities” provisions. It states: “Many Scouts with disabilities can accomplish the basic skills of Scouting
      but may require extra … support or accommodations.” Extra accommodations could easily be found for this boy.

      Frankly, I’d pass off the same camping experience for a regular boy who had the gumption to set up a tent inside the museum or submarine or cave to make sure he met the requirement for camping if his troop was spending a night in a place that made it unusual to bring a tent. If the requirement says: “in a tent”, I as a counselor can’t add to that requirement. BSA won’t allow it.

      Or, as a much easier alternative. Get your boy a good VOC mask and send him out with the troop into the outdoors. He’ll not have any allergy issues and probably breathe cleaner air than in most buildings that don’t have high quality filters.

    • Can he sleep topside on a Sea Scout vessel? Our troop has counted these nights under the stars toward the camping MB.

  39. Given the definition of short-term camping and long-term camping:

    short-term camping A camping experience consisting of one to four days and at least one night outdoors.

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

    Shouldn’t a 4-night summer camp (designed as 4, not 5) count as short-term, and a 6-night camp would be the long-term camping, for 10 total nights?

    If not, is there another definition I’m missing?

  40. Pertaining to the Wilderness Survival badge; does requirement #8, which is: Improvise a natural shelter and spend and a night in your shelter count towards the Camping MB?

    • You can use a campout for both the camping MB and wilderness survival as long as it satisfies what is written in the camping MB requirement and the wilderness survival MB requirement doesn’t say you can’t.

      • “Double Dipping” can be complex because the individual Requirements are sometimes a little (or a lot) different.

        But, from other discussions here, that there is NO BLANKET rule against so-called “DOUBLE DIPPING” by counting the same activity for more than one Requirement — period.

  41. My son is the Den Chief for his Troop and does a lot of camping with 3 different packs and a whole lot of dens. Does this count towards his 20 nights since it is a “scouting event” and he pitches his own tent?

  42. Late to join this dialogue – i have a different but related questions – can a sea scout count nights spent on a boat on a sailing weekend towards the 20 nights for camping? Does not seem to meet the requirement if one considers the boat similar to a cabin… So if he sleeps on a hammock on the deck, would that count?

    • That’s the Scoutmaster or MB counselor’s call, however….

      I’m an OA Chapter Adviser. A similar question came up regarding Sea Scout ship “topside camping” being creditable toward OA’s camping requirement.

      I have advised our Troops, that – yes – topside sleeping on the deck (or in a hammock above topside) counts as a camping night under the stars.

  43. I have yet one more story to add to the camping saga…our troop dilemma ( I am adv chair) is that a sibling, young lady of 13, was allowed to camp with all the boys. She was brought on three or four campouts, all of which other parents argued that she not attend. There are many reasons, all fall into the category of inappropriate. Short story- I was told by someone at Council that those are considered ‘family’ camping, and should not count towards Camping MB. As council told me this, I have followed the rules, with a great deal of push back from my SCM (who did nothing to alleviate the issues on either side). Advice?

    • This would be the camping merit badge counselor’s call, but as long as they were troop-designated camping events and that “Scouting” happens at the events, then it should count (because the camping occurred under the auspices of some level of the BSA). Having parents or other family members along on the camping trip does not, by itself, disqualify it as a night of camping for camping merit badge purposes.

      The issue with the 13-year-old girl might bring up some Youth Protection issues, but those would be separate from whether or not the nights of camping should count as nights of camping for the camping merit badge or not.

    • Sorry I missed this. Next time use the forums, because this is a really interesting question.

      Say a patrol of boys make for a wilderness area. As luck would have it, some girls… one of whom happens to be a cousin of one of the boys… make for the adjacent site. To minimize impact they share a campfire circle. It’s a great night, so everyone sleeps under the stars. Is it now a “family night?” Is it that for the one boy who is related to one of the girls, or is it for the entire patrol.

      What would my rule #1 be? Don’t ask anyone for a rule!

      But since you did, ask yourself a follow-up question:

      Say a den-chief spends a weekend on a cub-scout family night. There’s nothing in the requirements that says it shouldn’t count for camping MB.

      Your “someone at Council” should sit on his/her hands. It is between the boy and his counselor to determine if those nights count. Frankly, the boy doesn’t need you for anything if he logged the nights in his handbook somewhere. But, you’re doing a nice service, so provide the data. Let them hash it out.

      Also, if the SM is standing by his boys … and the boys are decent enough chaps as a result … he’s probably the one person who deserves a little respect.

    • I’m sorry, did the young lady befoul the place like a harpy of Greek myth? Seems like nonsense to me. Her going doesn’t befoul the experience for anyone else concerned. There’s YPT stuff to consider. You said 13 so it’s a non starter. It happened though and it’s unkind to pull the camping back from the boys.

  44. I originally posted this question about camping at an aquarium. I’d like to clear things up a bit. No MB counselor was involved and there wasn’t a last minute Eagle rank on the line. This was about an activity report. There was no report for the aquarium or church events. The committee chair took it upon himself to make one with another committee member (old Scoutmaster) The Advancement Chair enters these details in tracking SW. So those two claimed that this event where the boys had a fast-food dinner, slept in an aquarium viewing tunnel, ate a breakfast prepared for them by the museum, and took a tour was camping. That it should be entered as camping. It could be counted toward the camping MB if records were pulled. I was flabbergasted. I was told by the current scoutmaster at the time that anytime the boys slept away from home they entered it as camping. This troop was not a fit for our family’s scouting goals in the end, and we have moved on to a better troop.

  45. Ok, here is another one. My SCM’s son worked over the summer at long term camp, 20 nights total. He has already had a long term camp as a scouter…do I count the additional 20 nights as well? I would say no, my SCM says yes. OH, probably doesn’t matter, but he was paid for them, and slept in tent.

    • Staff, guest of honor, or otherwise, long term camp is what it is … only 6 of those nights can be used for the MB.

      Again, the goal: variety.

      Now, during that stay … if he planned and executed different overnight activities pitching tents, wilderness shelters, or sleeping under the stars at different locations for a couple nights … I can see where a counselor might count a few of those towards the total.

  46. I disagree with the explanation regarding a scout staying 4 of 5 nights at summer camp, that those nights don’t count. Your scenario does mean they’re playing the system, and that doesn’t seem right. But what about the boy that couldn’t show up that first night. Could have been sports, family vacation, or even a funeral. Doesn’t seem right not to have any of them count.

    And the other aspect, is the rule that MB councilors can’t make up their own rules. the rules don’t say anything about not staying the same number of nights as the rest. Which if it did, would mean disallowing the 1 night a scout spent, if most of the scouts spent 2 nights.

  47. guys, why all the splitting hairs? If a scout camps out in his tent with the troop it’s counted… Nothing indoors is ever counted in my troop by our Camping counselors and myself (scoutmaster) for summer camp partials…. but any and all overnight tent camping sessions spent with the troop are counted…… period, said and done, why make life difficult by trying to interpret what we think they meant…. one long term camping of up to 6 nights can be applied… so that tells me 6 nights of summer camp can be applied toward this MB once during the boy’s scouting tenure… that basically leaves 14 days that the boy must camp with the troop outside…. pretty friggin easy to accomplish if you ask me.

  48. We too have been wrestling with this. Many of our Scouts are involved in Church, Sports and High School activities on weekends. That makes the “Scouting Season” for them pretty much Summer.
    Example is one of our Star Scouts who has attended (2) Summer Camps and (4) 50-75 Mile treks. He has exhibited far greater camping knowledge and ability than many of the weekend Scout warriors, but he is many days short of the requirement because he is on travel sports teams during school.
    We have had ASMs and MB counselors suggest that One Summer Camp and One Trek would count — up to six days each. That gives credit to those Scouts who have gone to camp, AND aspired to do a week-long trek. The Trek is not something that we all seem to value as a paramount experience in the Scout’s tenure. Something they have to work up to. Why not give them credit for one at least.

    Thoughts for the rule definers.

    • that young man earned each night, of each summer camp and each of those 4 treks towards the camping merit badge in my book. I would happily sign off on that requirement for him. Without even flinching, or further thinking needed.
      however, if this young man’s first interest is sports, it will be difficult for him to earn Eagle by just participating in Scouting during the Summer….

    • For this overly long discussion, the simple answer is that as much outdoor activity (and advancement) should be done EARLY in the middle school years for Scouts, to avoid the 17-1/2 year old problems.

      The graduating WeBeLoS should be met at the far end of the Arrow of Light bridge by the SM ready to present the “Scout” badge/now rank _that_night_ and make the first entry on the 30 Tenderfoot physical fitness chart. BSA’s “First Class in a Year” should be a minimal goal every Scout in the Troop, plus starting on the accumulation of merit badges. Rank work should be done before high school, with girls (we hope), cars, school activities, employment, etc. — so that the now proficient Scout can give back to the troop and, if wished, go on with Palms and older scout programs.

      As for Camping Nights, besides summer and weekends, think about the lulls in the school schedule.
      Christmas break,
      between semesters,
      spring/Easter break,
      eachers convention,
      any three day week-end for extra scouting activities.
      Yes some people will have plans for visiting relatives, trips, vacations, …; but the remaining handful (or more) of boys will be appreciative for the added activity.

  49. I have no problem for most of this. But not counting any nights for additional long term treks is wrong. I believe a scout should be credited for 2 nights for any additional long term treks. So
    First 50 miler (8 nights) = 6
    Second 50 Miler (8 nights) = 2

  50. 2 questions:
    Does the night of sleeping out for the wilderness survival mb on a 2nd(or 3rd) llong term campout count as its own camping night?
    Many summer camps have a one night sleepout away from the camp. Is this it’s own camping night when done after fulfilling the one long term camping limit?

    • I bet different counselors would respond differently.

      However, it seems to defeat the purpose of the requirement: in a variety of settings, start from home, camp one or two nights, come home, repeat.

      There is a big difference between jogging from your camping site to an overnight outdoor classroom and packing your zip-lock at home and going off with your patrol for a weekend survival challenge.

  51. National Outdoor Awards

    For this badge it talks about Camping nights. I believe this needs a little different definition than the camping Merit Badge. I believe under the stars and pitch your own tent apply for camping merit badge and that an indoor overnighter would not.

    So for the camping segment, I still do not believe an overnighter in the church gym would count but what about Cabin Camping in the winter, or staying at an Army Base on the way to some other adventure. I believe the goal is to get the scouts outside and doing. Just because the place we sleep is indoors doesn’t take away from the fact that you are cooking your own meals and packing your own gear and getting out and “doing.”

    What are your thoughts?

    • The NOA award is accepts nights that camping MB would not. (For example that 2nd or 3rd week of summer camp would count toward the 25.
      In all these things, however, I suggest this: have the scout read the requirements. Then ask them to decide what would be fair to count.

  52. I have a question about camping nights.
    Here is the scenario:
    At our long term camp (Camp Wolfeboro in the High Sierras of CA), Scouts are there for 6 nights, no problem on first time scouts.6 nights long term camp, period.
    Older scouts (that have already gotten credit for the long term camp earlier in scouting) have the opportunity to go on a trek for 3 nights away from camp, a 15 to 25 mile hike and campout. Can they get 1 night for the long term camp and 3 nights for the trek?

    Additionally several of the programs have campout opportunities away from the campsite (where the scout pitched his tent), one called Sourdough is a 2.5 mile hike, dinner and camping under the stars, one is and astronomy campout away from the campsite, etc. Would these count as nights camping in addition to the 1 night credit for the long term camp for a scout that has his 6 nights of long term camping? I see both ways, Earlier comments on 10 day treks at Philmont only counting as 1 night of camping (for scouts that already had a long term campout), but the reasoning of preparing for a new short term campout stated in the beginning of this article.
    “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.”

    Seems to be covered in the described events. Setting up own tent, preparing food, respondsible for there own well being, etc.

    Going on a 8 or 10 day high adventure to Philmont, Northern Tier, the John Muir Trail, The Appalachian trail,etc seems to me to be very much in the spirit of the requirement.

    • Depends on the counselor, but I’d only count it if the 3-night trek was planned by the boys (E.g., they submitted the specific menus for their patrol, submitted their own hike-plan, ordered their gear, etc…). If it was part of the camp’s routine (set menu and hike-plan for all trekkers gear provided by camp), I wouldn’t count it. Regardless, I wouldn’t count the one night as part of the long term camp. It just doesn’t sound fair to the boy who makes the effort to do two or three separate weekends with his patrol over the summer.

      The clear intent is to have a boy come home after a day or two of camping, evaluate how things went, go out for another weekend in the (hopefully) not too distant future, repeat about 10 times.

      How is counting 3 week-long big-ticket items requiring constant adult supervision in any way in the spirit of those requirements?
      Now, all those shake-down weekends that should be spent in the run-up to those adventures — they should count. 🙂

  53. This is an interesting question for another reason – OA membership. I’ve been given guidance that contradicts the above definition for long term camp that high adventure. Specifically, High Adventure camping counts for single nights, not long term camping, because the campsite is moved every day, rather than being fixed, at a resident camp.

    Maybe the rules for OA are or can be different but the matter should be consistent to avoid confusion.

    How do you treat High Adventure – many overnighers or long term camping?

  54. Larry, if your question is about the Camping merit badge, then “Example 2” above is most likely your answer:

    “Example 2: A Scout goes on a 10-night Philmont trek. He can count six of those nights and now needs 14 more nights.These 14 nights must come from short-term camping experiences — probably seven two-night weekend campouts.”

    If it’s for OA eligibility, the answer is here:

    “…the National Order of the Arrow Committee leaves the interpretation of the camping requirement to the unit leader.”

  55. Here’s a question: Why do all Boy Scout summer camps have to be 6 nights? What if a scoutmaster schedules 4-night summer camps? Attend 5 years in a row; no other camping needed! Simple.

  56. If my son went to two summer camps for five nights each, First camp counts as five nights. Does the second camp count as anything?

    • If it’s a short-term camp (e.g. a family or Webelos weekend) it would count.
      If he’s already been to summer camp and the pack is on a long-term camp than it would not count towards camping merit-badge.

  57. In my mind, so many of these questions about requirements can be answered by the counsellor asking themselves “what is the spirit or intent of the requirement?” There will always have to be adjustments made to meet special circumstances. I recall once where a special needs scout confin in a wheel chair met the “select a campsite and pitch a tent” requirement by directing his partner in exactly what to do. Physically he could not perform the action, but in our mind he met the requirement for the rank.
    By the way, notice I said the “counsellor.” Ultimately it his up to him or her. On several occasions I have my own “back seat driver” thoughts on whether a scout truly met the requirements stated. But, if I have an issue I need to either express that with the counsellor or the District staff who annually appoint that individual as a Merit Badge Counsellor. As Advancement Chair, my role is to otherwise accept the card and trust the scout and counsellor met the requirements.

  58. As one who earned the Camping MB when 50 nights were required, I’ve found this give-and-take interesting. Some of the camps my troops have attended had open-front Adirondacks or yurts. What now, Mr. MBC? And those shelters built by Wilderness Survival MB candidates? And, as a former Lone Scout Counselor, camping with my Lone Scout across the US en route to and from major Scout events–in uniform–, as well as attending local council camping events??? Finally, I have yet to understand how a brand-new Eagle Scout we met in a council summer camp was on his, in his own words, “very first camping trip”, attained the Eagle-required Camping MB.

  59. I had this argument with someone and now I look forward to them using this article to back up their claim.

    Long-term camping means sitting in one spot. Yeah, you shouldn’t get to count being a counselor at a summer camp as 48 nights of camping in 8 weeks as a CIT. If you go for 14 days at Philmont, or do a 100 miler and camp 9 nights at 9 different locations, or your Troop camps along the Pacific Trail during the month of July as you backpack from San Diego to San Francisco, or you have any sort of Camping with a Capital C experience where you break camp, set up camp, live and breathe the principles of a unique outdoor experience for more than 6 nights in a row EVERY NIGHT COUNTS. I’m not inclined to think otherwise and need a justification that makes sense to believe otherwise.

  60. we have some scouts who want to camp in their own back yard and want to count this as “camping” for the merit badge….what do others think about this??

    • Lock the doors — especially to the fridge in the garage, if you have one, and cut the power to any outside outlets! 😉

      Seriously, if they set up their own campsite and the plan is satisfactory to the scoutmaster, then when they leave it doesn’t look like they’ve every been there, there is no reason why it shouldn’t count.

      Now if these were the only nights the scout ever did outdoors, a counselor might advise him to mix it up a little bit.

    • Well, maybe if you fly home every third day, plan your trek for the next three days, then fly out again. 😛

      Please return to the top of the page. Or if you hate scrolling, I’ll paste the precise response here:

      “Example 2: A Scout goes on a 10-night Philmont trek. He can count six of those nights and now needs 14 more nights.These 14 nights must come from short-term camping experiences — probably seven two-night weekend campouts.”

      This is not complicated: Philmot Treks = Jambo = any other extended camp for the purposes of counting nights for the merit badge. For counting other things (e.g., national outdoor award, Hiking MB, cool patches and other swag) they are each truly unique.

  61. My son’s troop did a summer camp that consisted of 5 nights of camping last year. Then he has done 12 one-night troop camp outs. This summer he did another 5 night scout camp. So am I right in thinking that the second 5 night scout camp only counts as 1 night toward the Merit Badge?

    • Only one long-term camping experience applies to the MB. So, one of those summer camps cannot be counted. So, maybe next year, he can ask to camp someplace for six nights? It sounds like, however, at the frequency his troop’s gone camping so far, he’ll have accumulated the additional four nights in short order.

  62. Regarding: Plan and carry out an overnight snow camping experience. This is the one req that is a little unclear in how to measure it. In our area, we haven’t had a lot of “snowfall” but the temperatures on some of our campouts have been below freezing. Does it actually have to be “in the snow?” If so, how much OR just show they can camp in below freezing temperatures?

    • This one should be between the scout and the counselor. Every region is a little bit different. In some regions, there is zero chance of snowfall, so even planning stretches the limits of credulity.
      Your area sounds like there may be a slim chance. Or, there may be a possibility of “snow chasing”. So it may be worth the boy’s effort to try. However, if it doesn’t snow, then the boy and the counselor should discuss if it should count. Most boys would rather it not count and give a different requirement a shot.

  63. What if during the indoor outing at the church they pitch a tent and sleep in it but it is still inside. Does that count?

  64. Dwane and Kevin, these kinds of challenges are really for boys to work out with their counselors. It’s on the boy to explain how a given action meets the intent of a given requirement. This is how boys grow … by thinking for themselves if what they do measures up to requirements as written.
    Sometimes, they face the harsh reality that they haven’t really done the requirements … that their corner-cutting led to them coming up short. In most all of those cases, boys have risen to the challenge and executed the requirements as written according to the guidance of their scoutmaster and counselor. When this happens, boys grow.

    • In this scenario I’ve suggested pitching a tent above ground before spelunking.
      Honestly, let the boy and his counselor sort this out.

  65. So, I didn’t read all these comments… but I am confused why you can’t use the second summer camp type experience as at least one overnight. then the next year’s (third) summer camp as an additional night? Why does a 6 night camp not require at least as much packing/planning/set up and tear down/unpacking at least once time on each end as a 3 day 2 night weekend camp?

    • Good question. Several reasons. I can think of five:

      1. After two years, most boys will have racked up those nights without waiting for those two summer camps to roll around. So, the number of boys who would actually benefit from this are small.
      2. If a boy did need two nights, he just calls his patrol to camp at the earliest possible weekend (mid-week if the boys are on break or there’s a sweet spot to camp not far from school), they make a plan, SM approves, time acquired.
      3. Or, he could just wait until the next troop overnights. The difference between earning the badge in 2.4 and 2 years is quite small considering that there are other time-intensive badges to work on as well.
      4. Summer camp (including Jambo and most HA bases) usually does not require planning your own food, acquiring your own provisions, bringing your own cookware, etc … it often does not require building your own shelter. All those things are the focus of the badge. Counting those multiple long-term activities often denies the boy an opportunity to hone his skills later in life.
      5. Personally, my kids and I have cherished our weekend outings as much as those week long expeditions. There’s something to be said for being able to raid the freezer, grab a tarp and some rope, and find someplace wild to settle yourself down for a night or two. I’m glad the trail to eagle emphasizes such a well-rounded experience.

      Keep in mind that no scout has to earn Eagle. It’s optional. So, movements towards “streamlining” really do not appeal to the boys who actually earn the badge.

    • This is frustrating for me as my son has been the one National Jamboree, Sea Base, the Boundary waters, Glacier National Park, and 4 summer camps but still needs 10 nights because he does not do the weekend camps his troop goes on due to other activities and obligations. Though he nearly has everything required to become an Eagle Scout this is the one item that may keep from becoming an Eagle Scout.

      • So, he chose to have a lot of travel and high adventure instead of short-term camping with his troop, crew, or patrol. What an awesome experience!

        Not every first class scout has to earn Eagle. If other things are a priority, that’s perfectly fine. He should peruse those to the max. That still makes him a first class scout. A noble recognition indeed.

      • This is a perfect example of a question I have. I understand the limitation of knocking out all the requirement 9a in a few campouts; however, could someone justify why the other campouts don’t count for at least two nights each as well. If the intent of the MB is to learn to select a site, pitch/take down a tent, set up/tear down camp, the longer campouts fulfil this purpose as well; they just have more days in between. By omitting the “in between” nights, the Scout achieves an IDENTICAL experience to the short-term two night campout and therefore shouldn’t be penalized for attending longer campout events.

        Under this logic, Scott’s son would have achieved 20 nights
        National Jamboree (6)
        Sea Base (2)
        Boundary waters (2)
        Glacier National Park (2)
        Scout camp (2) x 4

        Can anyone offer any reasonable justification of how my logic is flawed, especially if the intent is as I’ve stated above?

        Alternatively, how is not counting at least two nights per campout (regardless of the total length) fair to the boys? They’ve done the work; the effort should count.

        Thanks much.

  66. What are your thoughts on nights of camping towards the National Outdoor Award…specifically, should PAID summer camp staffers be allowed to count staff nights towards nights of camping?

    • Since 20 of those nights will have been done in the process of earning camping MB, 15 will have already been on short-term camps — which are unlikely to be nights working as staff. So, we are only talking about 5 extra nights. The NOA puts no restriction on how one’s wallet may grow or shrink while under canvas or stars.

  67. This is wild that this generates so much controversy. In my humble opinion, times have changed and 20 camping nights is too many. So what if one of those 20 nights is not exactly perfect in pitching the tent or sleeping under the stars. I believe as a Scoutmaster the goal is to get the scouts out in nature and being with each other building camaraderie. Yes, the second, third, etc. long term campout should count for at least one night because you are doing all the things done for a one day overnighter. Don’t go cra-cra but relax. Campouts are good and if one or two don’t meet the exact definition at least the intent to get the boys outdoors and building camaraderie with their patrol has been met.

    • It’s a big country. Folks think differently. This is one of those sticking points that brings out those various lines of thought …

      Really? Twenty nights in a tenure of 7 years? Too many?

      Again, no scout has to earn Eagle, so if they don’t want to do requirements, don’t earn the badge (or, as it seems in most cases, don’t earn it this year), no problem. Sure, we unit leaders are supposed to get scouts outdoors and building camaraderie. But we should only recognize those scouts who follow the requirements as written. Why? Because some day the scout who cuts corners will meet up with a scout who doesn’t, and that ill-gotten award will be an embarrassment to him and his lackadaisical counselor.

      Better to not have a badge and be proud of what one actually does as a scout than to have a badge and be ashamed of what one didn’t do.

  68. This year, 3 separate NYLT sessions were held in summer that were spread over 3 weekends each. Would these nights be counted towards a scout’s camping merit badge, even if a scout has already attended another long term camping experience.

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