Kodiak Challenge offers hands-on leadership training for Scouts and Venturers

Looking to add a dose of leadership training to your next big Scouting adventure?

Integrate Kodiak Challenge into the plan, and you’ll double the impact the trip has on Scouts and Venturers.

Kodiak Challenge invites young people to step outside their comfort zones to experience hands-on leadership training. Previously a Venturing-only course, it is now open to Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Venturers.

The six-day course can be a separate training experience, but many troops and crews have success weaving Kodiak into an expedition, road trip, adventure, visit to another country, whitewater rafting trip, cross-state bicycle trek or anything else that helps push participants their limits.

Think of it as a chance to test the leadership skills learned in Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops or Crews, National Youth Leader Training (NYLT), and/or the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE).

The course is special in Scouting because it can be run at the unit, district or council level — provided you get the OK from your council training chair (or his or her designee) first.

Peter Self, who served as national staff advisor when the Kodiak syllabus was created, remembers a Kodiak course held on the San Juan Islands in Washington.

“Kodiak Challenge is a weeklong course, and you cover what are called commissions. There are seven different commissions, and each commission is a leadership opportunity or a leadership skill that you develop in the course,” he says.

On the San Juan Islands, the group spent two days sailing, two days sea kayaking and two days biking around the island. That sounds like the greatest leadership course ever.

“Isn’t that great?” Self said. “The fun part about that is, almost in every case, the training that you experience on this course is used on the course.”

Learn more about Kodiak Challenge

For an in-depth discussion about Kodiak Challenge, listen to the August 2016 episode of ScoutCast. Peter Self was our guest for an engaging discussion about this untapped resource in Scouting.

Photo via Crew 91.


  1. Kodiak Challenge is an excellent addition (if the team is ready for it) during a Philmont or other high adventure trek. Our Venturing Crew 2020 has participated in and been a part of the (old) Kodiak, Kodiak X and now the Kodiak Challenge. It is worth the effort and time you put into the course!

    • But note the following paragraph in the Kodiak Challenge guide (http://www.scouting.org/filestore/training/pdf/Kodiak%20Challenge%20FINAL%202011%20-%20Item%20Number%20511-014.pdf):

      “Note: You must use care if choosing a Kodiak trek that incorporates a national base
      or any event that has much of its program designed by others. This can work, but
      you must be sure the trek participants have the opportunity to plan, experience, and
      perhaps even fail at some point (and learn from this!) on their own. Pre-programmed
      events are often very full, with little time to incorporate Kodiak into the program.
      Control of the Kodiak program needs to remain with the trek participants for it to
      have value. Any national or professionally run trips must include all the pre-trek
      planning, the ability to discuss all the skills within the trek timeframe, and the debrief
      portions of the Kodiak Challenge.”

  2. If you’re going to run Kodiak at a National High Adventure Camp, you really need to know what you’re doing (like Crew 2020). The first time we ran Kodiak, our Troop planned its own in-state 5 night canoe trip so we could maintain control of the schedule and planning processes. It’s just a wonderful, if under-promoted, program. Thanks for writing the article.

  3. Kodiak should not be viewed as an addition to a trek. The training is the primary consideration. I urge units to think of Kodiak as leadership training that happens to take place on a trek, not a trek with some training thrown in. This mindset makes it much easier to ensure the skills and activities are fully integrated into the journey.

    It does take a lot of effort to do well, but leadership training is too important to be treated more casually. Thanks for the article. This course is excellent, and should be a more prominent part of the youth training continuum.

  4. This sounds great, but needs to be promoted better, and maybe be run by experienced, paid camp staff. Our council tried to set it up for a special Venturing week at our long term camp but it did not get enough participants due to lack of promotion and information. And then the volunteer adult planning/leading it had to back out at the last minute anyway. By the time it was decided it was cancelled, it was too late for our Venturers to get into the “older Scout” activities that are on a first-come/pre-sign-up basis and were filled by then. Kind of left us hanging around at camp each morning with nothing planned…

  5. I took the Kodiak course director’s course, but never made it to implementation. The main challenge: getting a number of youth to plan their own track and set aside he same 5 consecutive days to make it happen. This is never trivial.

    If he youth in your crew/troop manage to pull this off, they are truly exceptional, and should be told as much.

  6. Kodiak Challenge overall has a better structure than the original Kodiak but the drawback the the new course is that it does not lend itself to others joining at the beginning of a week. Of course, if pre-planning is done well, then it may work fine.
    I maintained the Kodiak website for BSA for 6 years and the advantage of the original Kodiak was that Crews and Councils would send me details of their courses for posting on the website so that others could join as is done on the Powder Horn website. I know this worked well because my friend and I ran whitewater Kodiak treks for 6 years and we always had Venturers join us from all over the US. Over that time, our young adults became great instructors for both Kodiak and as river guides.
    In any case, Kodiak is a great way to introduce leadership skills to our young adults and they never seem to mind giving up ‘an hour a day’ to enjoy a great adventure!

    • Looking through all the postings, I notice that often problems arise the first time a course is run. That was the beauty of the Kodiak website and the old course. Yes, the first year was a bit difficult but as the years rolled on, my friend and I developed such good infrastructure, and the Venturers matured so well as staff, it made the course easier to run each year. And remember, Venturers could join without and pretraining. I feel a bit sad that we lost original website and course because of the power in continuity they brought. The skeleton of the old site is here – https://www.sageventure.com/kodiak-bsa/

  7. There are currently no Kodiak emblems that can be purchased to be awarded. Any idea when these will be available? I have some sad Venturers!

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