2017 National Outdoor Conference: An insider’s guide to the outdoors

Photo by Evan Winter

Scouting’s programs and values are best delivered outdoors. It’s been that way since the worldwide youth movement was just a twinkle in Baden-Powell’s eye.

But things have changed since Baden-Powell invented the program that became the Boy Scouts of America. Each year brings new outdoor programs, new outdoor gear and new ways of maximizing time spent outside.

How does a BSA volunteer or professional keep up with those latest trends? By attending the 2017 National Outdoor Conference.

The four-day conference, held in late September at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, gives volunteers and professionals the tools they need to maximize Scouting’s impact on young people.

The information you’ll bring home will empower you for years to come. The fact that you’ll acquire that information at one of the BSA’s signature spots? That’s just icing on the pineapple upside-down cake.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2017 National Outdoor Conference. Be sure to register by Aug. 31 to avoid the $50 late registration fee.

What is the National Outdoor Conference?

It’s Scouting’s largest gathering of volunteers and professionals charged with delivering the world’s greatest outdoor program for youth. It’s four days of elective sessions, outstanding keynote speakers, outdoor vendor exhibits, clean mountain air, backcountry excursions, special program opportunities, great music and fellowship with Scouting’s top outdoor leaders. You’ll join fellow Scouters and outdoor enthusiasts from across the country to learn new methods, share ideas, and check out the latest in outdoor gear and programs.

When is it?

Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, 2017.

Onsite registration opens at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27. There’s a barbecue and opening session that evening.

Sessions take place all day Thursday and Friday, as well as Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon is spent enjoying backcountry activities at Philmont.

Everyone leaves after breakfast on Sunday.

Where is it?

Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M.

Who should attend?

Anyone involved in outdoor program delivery at the national, regional, area, council, district and/or unit level.

That means Scout executives, directors of support services, program directors, rangers, camp directors, council presidents, and council program vice-presidents. Anyone who chairs a committee on council and district camping, conservation, aquatics or COPE/climbing should also plan to be there, as should properties chairpersons and other volunteers or professionals responsible for delivery of outdoor programs.

What will participants do?

For a complete look, check out the official conference brochure (PDF). There are separate tracks — or “trails” — on different aspects of outdoor programming:

  • Enterprise risk management
  • Facility management
  • Human resources
  • Management and administration
  • Marketing and promotions
  • National council
  • Program administration

On Saturday afternoon, participants get to kick back and enjoy their choice of Philmont adventures, including:

  • Backcountry tours
  • Climbing
  • Fly-fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking

How much does it cost?

There are three different costs for attendees, and they depend on where you’d like to sleep. You can choose from a roofed dorm/duplex, a large wall tent with a cot or offsite housing in town.

Conference fee plus roofed housing at Philmont: $350

  • Includes four nights lodging in a dormitory or duplex with up to four people per room, meals, conference gift, and supplies. Sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels are provided.

Conference fee plus tent housing at Philmont: $275

  • Includes four nights lodging in a large two-person wall tent with electricity and camp-style bed and mattress plus meals, conference gift, and supplies. Sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels are available. Modern shower houses are located nearby. You may also bring your own sleeping bag.

Conference fee with no housing (meaning you’re staying offsite at your own expense): $250

  • Includes all meals, conference gift, and supplies. Visit this website for lodging options in Cimarron.

Note: A late fee of $50 will be added in each category for those registering after Aug. 31, 2017. A $100 cancellation fee will apply if conference reservations are cancelled after Sept. 15, 2017.


About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.