Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Question on National Outdoor Awards

This topic contains 16 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Charles in NJ 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #71221 Reply

    Busy Scoutmaster in LA

    National Outdoor Awards

    Hi, long time listener, first time caller… 😉

    First a comment, then a question. I’ve made a big effort to introduce the National Outdoor Awards in our troop this year. I think it’s a great set of “capstone” awards and help emphasize the “outing” in Scouting — though I do think they are wildly uneven in terms of difficulty, and I’m curious what other people thing about that.

    The National Outdoor Award for Camping, for example, is something nearly every Eagle Scout candidate should get almost by default, the merit badges are all Eagle required (and most get Pioneering in camp) and the first badge requires only 5 more camping nights on top of Camping merit badge. This means just one more summer camp or jamboree experience on top of the one you counted towards Camping merit badge, and bam, you’ve got national outdoor award for camping.

    Two of the Life Scouts in our troop, having completed Camping Merit Badge, were recently awarded NOA for camping at our most recent Court of Honor. Both had been to summer camp multiple times so it was basically automatic. I’ve got another Life scout who will be attending summer camp for the SEVENTH time this summer. He may have already unwittingly earned not only NOA for camping but the first Gold Device! I’ll be sitting down with him after camp for his Eagle conference and we’ll find out.

    [As a side note, to all those people on the other threads who whine about summer camps or jamborees not counting towards Camping Merit Badge, I say: every night counts towards the NOA!)

    In contrast to the NOA for camping – which maybe is meant to be easier in order to be a “gateway” to the other awards? – some of the others are especially difficult. NOA for Hiking, actually, isn’t all that difficult once you overcome the enormity of the Hiking Merit Badge (which is so much more difficult than the Swimming Merit Badge which can be earned in 4 to 5 hours easily!). Hiking Merit Badge encompasses 70 miles in total so you need one more merit badge (Orienteering or Geocaching) and only 30 more miles of foot-travel, basically six five mile hikes or two backpacking trips. Not too bad. We don’t get many Hiking Merit Badges in our troop but we’ve got a group of 6 or so working through the hikes this year and I expect those boys will all pick up NOA for hiking pretty easily after that.

    Then we come to NOA for Aquatics. Not too difficult, but it requires RECORD KEEPING. The scout book has spaces for Camping Nights, Hiking Miles, and Service Hours, but not Aquatics Hours. I’ve really been encouraging the scouts to start logging their aquatics activities.

    Plenty of our scouts earn First Class, Swimming, Lifesaving, and Mile Swim. So that takes care of requirements 1-3. That leaves numbers 4 and 5:

    4. Complete the requirements for at least one of the following: Canoeing, Fishing, Fly-Fishing, Kayaking, Rowing, Scuba Diving, Small-Boat Sailing, Water Sports, or Whitewater merit badges or Ranger Award Fishing, Scuba or Watercraft electives. Complete at least 25 hours of on-the-water time, applying the skills that you learned in the merit badge or Ranger elective.

    5. Complete at least 50 hours of any combination of swimming, canoeing, fishing, fly-fishing, kayaking, rowing, scuba, small-boat sailing, stand up paddleboarding, water sports, or whitewater activity under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including time spent in requirements 2 through 4.

    OK, easy enough, one more merit badge and 50 hours of total activity. But then there’s that pesky last sentence of requirement 4.

    We are having some difficulty parsing the meaning of this sentence. Some of us think that the 25 hours can be spent in any activity listed in requirement 4, which is the same set of activities for the 50 hours in number 5 less swimming and stand up paddleboarding.

    Another group wants to set a stricter standard, that you must pick ONE merit badge from the list in number 4 and apply those skills for 25 total hours of on-the-water-time. Any other merit badge from the list that you might earn can be time counted towards requirement 5 but doesn’t apply to requirement 4.

    That strikes me as harsh, and it doesn’t make sense for requirement 4 to be substantially more difficult than requirement 5. So I’ve been somewhere in the middle, figuring that if they earned multiple merit badges in the list then the time spent on all of those merit badges can count towards requirement number 4. But that still leaves a gray area, for example, if the scout earns Canoeing Merit Badge, but then spends 5 cumulative hours paddling a kayak at summer camp without earning Kayaking Merit Badge, do those 5 hours count towards requirement 4. Or only towards requirement 5? Or if he spends several hours on a troop Whitewater activity but never earns Whitewater Merit Badge?

    This has become a very timely question because I have just received my first application for the NOA for Aquatics, from one of the above-mentioned Scouts who was just awarded NOA for Camping. He’s completed requirement 5 beyond question, but there is some disagreement about whether he has completed requirement 4, even though he has several merit badges on this list and plenty of on-the-water time. But 25 hours of any ONE activity? That’s a tall order when the merit badge can be earned in 4 or 5 hours of on-the-water time. Is that really what the NOA badge is asking for? I am inclined to say “no”, and to say that he has earned the badge, but I’d really like an expert opinion on this.

    [Tangent: Another point that has come up in discussions but not in real life yet: would 25 hours of time spent fishing from the shore on scout camping trips count as “on the water” time for requirement 4? I don’t really like the idea of that, seems to me that this award is encouraging Scouts to spend time in boating and paddle sports, which are so integral to Scouting in my mind that basic paddle skills were added to the First Class requirements last year…. but a fly-fisherman at least is standing IN the water most of the time… and both Fishing and Fly Fishing are listed in requirement 4 so I’m not sure how I could deny it either, if it ever came up. Perhaps fishing from a boat is on-the-water time, but fishing from shore is not?]

    Finally, before I go, a couple of quick thoughts on the other NOA badges.

    Adventure – Accumulating 10 of these adventures will be tough! Also, why does 3a require 20-mile backpacking trips when most of the trips in Backpacking Merit Badge are 15 miles? It basically means every trip for Backpacking will be stretched to 20 instead of 15 so they will qualify for both. It also seems unfair to anyone who started to work on Backpacking Merit Badge without looking at the NOAs first.

    Conservation – seems like this one will be a gimme for a lot of our scouts once we institute the necessary record keeping, I have both a parent and a PLC committee working on some new conservation projects for us to do as a troop in the fall, so we’ll see how that goes.

    NOA for Camping with Silver Device – 125 nights? Really? That works out to almost 18 nights of camping a year for 7 years, or one summer camp/jamboree and 6 weekend trips every year without fail. In my humble opinion a Silver Device would be well deserved at 100 total nights instead of 100 nights above the NOA for camping, but the rule is 125, so be it. I’d be amazed if I ever get to award one of these.

    National Medial for Outdoor Achievement – Speaking of “amazed.” This is hard core. How many of these have ever been awarded?

    I’m looking forward to some expert advice on the NOA for Aquatics, and everyone’s thoughts in general on the National Outdoor Awards. Thanks for reading my long and rambling post, as Mark Twain once said, sorry for writing you a long letter, but I didn’t have the time to write a short one!

    Busy Scoutmaster in LA (BSILA)

  • #71230 Reply


    Not an expert. Just an admirer of any boy this focused. But, I’ll opine anyway!
    In general, one man’s “hard” is another one’s “easy”.

    For example, Son #2 just could not bring himself to trudge down to the acquatics area 6 years in a row and knock off his Swimming partial — or talk to any of the guards at our local pool, or look up any MBC near the Great Lake beside gramp’s cottage. So, at age 17.7, he knocked off hiking MB. Go figure.

    Some patrols are smack dab at the nexus of awesome hiking trails. They’ll knock off 20-milers like it’s nobody’s business, using existing shelters to lighten their load. But, as a result not setting up their own shelter, racking up camping nights is hard for these scouts.

    For everything else: it’s the boy’s records to keep. If he outlines how he did stuff, and he thinks the way you are reading the requirements is unfounded, you owe him a sign off. If on the other hand, he realizes that the requirements are actually are asking him to do a little more, it’s on him to do what it takes to be sure he earns it free and clear of his conscience.

    Don’t make it your problem to parse a sentence.

    Will this mean that one boy will write in 25 hours of one activity, while another will write in 5 hours of five activities — simply out of conviction that the reqs mean one thing or the other? Yes. Is it a problem? No.

  • #87573 Reply


    This is my view but others will likely disagree. My second oldest son is working toward this award. And is 16 with 120 nights of camping so far. So if you have an active Scout, or one that staffs summer camp for a year or two will easily get 125 nights of camping. He did his without staffing summer camp. As for the aquatic badge I have taken the view that requirement 4 is talking about spending 25 hours of time practicing what you learned in one merit badge, so as to be proficient in said merit badge. Much like we require people learning to drive to have 45 plus hours of behind the wheel before getting a drivers license. I would also point out it does not state under auspices of the Boy Scouts of America. For it to count for requirement 5 you would need it to be under auspices of BSA though. So to get requirement 4 a scout could go canoeing with family over a long weekend and get the time, but it would not count towards requirement 5. A scout could also work a summer camp in aquatics teaching canoeing or kayaking and get more than enough hours for this badge as well.

    I do agree with you that many Scouts have done the requirements to earn these awards. They just don’t know about it or don’t what to be bothered putting in for it. And since it is Boy Scouts I do think the Scouts should put forth the effort to get the award and not have an adult in the Troop looking through records to just hand them out. Not to say we can not suggest it to the Scouts on a Troop level, just that the Scouts should take an active role in their Scouting career. As a case in point many Scouts once they get to Life or Eagle should have almost everything for the World Conservation badge too, but how many have been awarded the badge?

    I recently did a UoS class where this very question was brought up. Many opinions, sounds to me National needs to change the requirement to clarify it and remove the many questions or doubt surrounding it.

  • #101916 Reply


    Here is my question: “IN THE AUSPICES OF SCOUTING”. https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/03/13/interpreting-under-the-auspices-in-national-outdoor-awards-requirements/

    I have been told on several occasions that “IN THE AUSPICES OF SCOUTING” includes adding activities that a Boy Scout did as a Cub Scout. That means camping when a scout was a Cub, Swimming, Conservation Projects etc. Now I know most Cub Scout record keeping isn’t that great, from what I understand Cub Scouting counts for the NOA. :Is this what the “AUSPICES OF SCOUTING” language intended?


    • #191482 Reply


      Yes, under the auspices of the BSA includes Cub Scouts, so camping, hiking, etc, done while a cub scouts would count towards NOAs.

  • #160491 Reply


    As a cubmaster I’m interested also, we send kids every summer to a week of camp and tent camp one or two night a year as a pack. Fishing hours, honestly too many to count. So interested if I should be tracking more in scoutbook.

    • #160721 Reply


      The National Outdoor Awards are for the Scouts BSA and Venturing BSA program levels right now, but there’s probably quite a few different awards at the Cub level for outdoor program and time spent fishing as well as other pursuits.

    • #161806 Reply


      Thats a good question, camping and hikin are under the auspices of scouting so they count but the Auquatic hours need to have a merit badge so you can practice the skills.

    • #191511 Reply


      The aquatics hours as a Cub could count towards NOA-Aquatics requirement #5.

    • #178237 Reply


      Yes… That is exactly what it means. Send me your email and I will send you the backup documentation from the person who wrote it.


  • #163726 Reply

    Charles in NJ

    I share your issue about the consistency of level of difficulty, but for Conservation (and Adventure, as you mentioned): we’re a suburban troop in a borderline urban area, so our troop service projects are more often focused on food drives, soup kitchens, community event volunteering rather than camp or park conservation work, which is usually limited to a couple of hours on a camping trip. Not an insurmountable problem, but it definitely makes that segment a tougher one for our Scouts. (Camping is almost inevitable for our active scouts, as we camp every month, and most of ours are doing the Hiking badge, which as you say knocks off most of that requirement). Aquatics and Riding are also tough for our Scouts because of the badges and hours required. But Adventure? I’ll be surprised if ANY of our Scouts earn that one, even if they get through the Backpacking merit badge — 10 different adventure trips is a LOT, especially when we currently don’t do any of them as a Troop.

  • #165115 Reply

    Jeff Willett

    My son earned all of the National Outdoor Awards and the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement.

    To answer your questions regarding tracking the aquatics hours. The hours were tracked via a spreadsheet for every scout event he attended. We would look at exactly what time he was on the water and the time off based on the event and thus the number of hours. Our troop does a aquatics weekend campout each year (canoeing/swimming/motorboating) and a whitewater raft trip each year – so that helped a lot.

    Just to be sure, he was able to cover the aquatic hours in a short time span was 5 different ways.
    1) Canoeing at Northern Tier for a week
    2) Sailing at Florida Sea Base for a week
    3) Going to Claytor Lake Aquatics Base for a week.
    4) Working at summer camp waterfront teaching Canoeing/Sailing merit badges.
    5) Earning the Scuba Merit Badge – involved a lot of time in the water and then followup trips.

    The National Medal for Outdoor Achievement was very tough for my son to earn specifically
    due to Requirement 6: Become a certified Leave No Trace trainer (16-hour course).
    Our council does not offer this training and surrounding councils that do offer it are hard to find. I signed him up for a class three times – which were canceled due to weather (hurricane) and other conflicts. I took three years before finally lucking into a class that fit with his schedule / troop schedule.

    In the end, my son ended earning the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, all of the National Outdoor Awards, and along the way completed the Grand Slam of High Adventure (all four High Adventure Bases).

    The National Outdoor Awards are great – it does involve tracking details. I track many of the details in TroopMaster for troop events and many of our scouts easily earn the Camping and Hiking awards.

    When the PLC plans an outing/campout, I will try to encourage them to have it meet one of the requirements for one of the awards. Many times a scout is unaware that he has earned the Outdoor awards until it is presented at the Court of Honor. Then at the Court of Honor, we reemphasize the Outdoor awards and what a scout had to do to earn it.

  • #166935 Reply


    Are female Venturers able to earn the NOAs for camping and conservation? My question comes from two points. First, all of the other NOA badges have requirements to EITHER complete MB requirements OR Venturing ranger requirements. Camping and Conservation are the only two that only list MBs for completing the award. Point two, boy scouts “earn” MBs just like they “earn” their ranks. But the requirements for each NOA badges simply say “complete the requirements” for XX merit badge. Does this mean a female Venturer who cannot earn a MB can still earn by NOA by “completing the requirements” for the specified MBs?

    • #191512 Reply


      Yes, the wording is such that Venturers (and Sea Scouts) can complete the requirements for a merit badge without earning it like a Scout would. This enables them to earn the NOAs.

  • #194759 Reply


    Will the Nat Outdoor Award be changed now that Leave No Trace Trainer is no longer a Troop position? It seems that this position change will make the almost nonexistent BSA LNTT training sessions really go away for good.
    Fortunately for my son two Councils away from us one is offered. It’s only 105 miles away from us, and entails driving across Los Angeles on a Friday to get there. 😉

  • #198706 Reply


    As for the Aquatics segment requirements #4 & #5. I believe #4 is meant to be hours practicing what was learned in the merit badge. To me, that is why they separated it from #5. It is not meant to be easy, they even state these are the capstone (top) awards regarding outings.

    As for the comments about “Under the auspices of the BSA” – I believe that to mean according to BSA rules. It does not include things done as a Cub Scout. I cannot quote where, but in BSA literature, it is clear that only activities done while a registered Boy Scout count towards Boy Scout requirements (including merit badge requirements). There is a Bryan on Scouting blog addressing what is scout camping (does not include cabins or locks ins, etc). Must be in a tent or sleeping stars – the intent is to be competent in tent camping (yes, at summer camp they do not set up their own tents – but they want to promote going to summer camp). My son snowshoed 26 miles up and over the Continental Divide in CO over 4 days, but they stayed in Cabins with wood burning stoves (no water, they had to melt snow for water) – That was pretty grueling, yet those do not count as camping nights per the BSA.

  • #202590 Reply


    Ok aquatics it states merit badges with an s #4 so think multiple can be used to get to 25 hours but here’s my question. It says on the water applying skills learned in merit badges so is that after the badge is earned or including time spent earning the badge?? I have read Bryan state that say camping w family is not under auspices of BSA so how could fish with family be? Under auspices is the key so as a troop patrol etc we have to get 25 hrs for the kids after completing badge? At the intro to these it does state under auspices is that all must be or just when it says it and includes cub scouts.
    National should clean this up with exact terms.
    Thx to anyone and their thoughts

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