Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Tenting with a parent

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  • #209309 Reply

    Kevin Y

    By way of introduction, I am the Scoutmaster for a large troop. I have held this position for 5 years and an ASM for 3 years before that. The new 2019 Guide to Safe Scouting has made a significant change to the Tenting rules with respect to Scouts BSA (“Boy Scouts”). The Guide now states: “In Cub Scouting, parents and guardians may share a tent with their family. In all other programs, youth and adults tent separately.” (see page 2 of Guide to Safe Scouting 2019 version) Previous versions of the Guide to Safe Scouting provided: “When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his or her own parent or guardian.” (see 2015 version, page 3) So the impact of this appears to be that once a scout crosses into boy scouts/Scouts BSA, he/she can no longer tent with his/her parent or guardian.

    Our troop is currently scheduled to send a Crew of 12 to Philmont this summer – 3 adult males and 9 boy scouts. The 3 adult males are fathers to 3 of the scouts. It was our intent to have the each father and son tent together (3 tents) which then leaves an even number of scouts (6) to tent in 2 man tents. However, when I called Philmont, I was informed that the new guideline prohibits such an arrangement. Philmont will not permit 3 man tents though. So Philmont’s solution is to have 1 scout tent on his own. But a scout sleeping in a tent by himself in the backcountry creates obvious safety problems (Buddy System) and Youth Protection violation. Moreover, we now have a rule that creates a situation that violates another rule. This is unacceptable to me as the Scoutmaster and parent.

    Not only does this rule impact crews headed to Philmont and similar high adventure trips, it negatively impacts new scouts. As a SM, I have personally observed hundreds of new scouts attending their first campout with a troop. Often there is trepidation about tenting and the troop permits the scout to tent with his father/mother. However under this new rule, it would violate the Guide to Safe Scouting. This could negatively impact recruiting and retention.

    So what is the solution here? Surely BSA does not assume ALL parents are abusers of their child. Why is there a distinction between a cub scout tenting with a parent and a boy scout tenting with a parent? Will Philmont require crews with odd number of scouts to have a scout tent on their own and thus creating a significant safety issue? It seems that BSA issued a new guideline without considering the impacts it would have with other pre-existing rules, procedures, and safety of our youth.

  • #210047 Reply


    I do not see how this is a youth protection issue nor a safety issue for a scout to tent alone. Even in the back country. They do not state how far the tents must be from each other if that is your safety concern. A single scout does not violate the one on one between scouts and adults as there is no adult present.

    If this were a true concern, then BSA would ban hammocks as, a scout camps solo in a hammock and they are heavily used in the back country. (even if not a Philmont)

  • #211097 Reply

    OG Scouter

    In the 2019 Guide to Safe Scouting (The Guide), or any prior version, there is no prohibition against a scout tenting alone. I could be wrong, but I suspect it is common practice in troops to discourage single tenting for social, team building and safety reasons. When backpacking there is also weight savings to consider. When our scouts Hammock, we typically ask/ensure that they hang their hammocks close together — thus they remain compliant with the Buddy System (one of the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety)

    The Guide states that the The Sweet 16 of BSA safety, “which embody good judgment and common sense, are applicable to all activities.” Item 3 of the Sweet 16 is the Buddy System. “The buddy system has a dual purpose: You ensure your buddy’s safety during activities, and your buddy ensures your safety. You are never alone and vulnerable.” (P. 43). Unless we determine that sleeping in a tent is not a scout activity, it seems reasonable to require scouts to share a tent to help ensure their safety.

    To me the real issue is the prohibition of Scouts tenting with their parent, while Cub Scouts may tent with their parents. That policy seems to somewhat arbitrary. I am not a expert in the area of child abuse prevention, but is seems that Cub Scouts would be more vulnerable than Scouts. The studies I was able to find indicate that children were most vulnerable between 7-13 (Finkelhor, 1994) and the median age for reported abuse was 9 (Putnam, 2003). Why the half-measure? Why the change in policy? Does BSA have substantive research or anecdotal evidence to back-up this change in their guidance?

    Other questions arise.

    Does this guidance apply to sharing a hotel room with a family member (e.g., Scouter and Scout) if the troop is on the way to a scouting event? Does this guidance apply when a troop schedules a family based outing with Scouts, such as skiing, when the family may book accommodations? I assume the guidance is not applicable because the guidance is provided under the heading of “Tenting.”

    How is the guidance that Scout and Parent may not tent together consistent with prior understandings that the only Scout a parent may be alone with is the parent’s child?

    In summary, the new policy prohibiting parent/Scout tenting is inconsistent with societal norms and laws and I have difficulty understanding the underlying logic.

  • #212640 Reply


    There’s no restriction to a Scout tenting alone, but with all things “Scouting” we are expected to apply a healthy dose of common sense. A patrol tenting together in a relatively close area poses no risk in allowing solo tenting, but we obviously realize that is not the same thing as allowing 1 youth in a tent to be 100 yards away from everyone else or over a ridge where he’s not in plain sight to the Scouters or the rest of his patrol.

    What you experienced with Philmont is very disturbing. Years ago we ventured halfway across the country to spend 10 days in South Dakota, during which I tented with my son as we canoed for 5 days down the Missouri River, as did 1 other father/son duo on our trip. To this day it remains one of the best bonding/sharing moments of all our lives. To think someone at National has decided this would be some type of “violation” or even a situation that needs to be avoided is deeply troubling. Perhaps its a poorly written section of Youth Protection that is being read/taken too literally, otherwise I would encourage the powers that be to make a modification for the 2020 Y-P.

    Obviously we want boys to mature so they don’t need mommy or daddy to sleep with them, and we want to promote the Patrol Method, but there are times (and special events, like a high adventure base) where a father & son can share in a special moment/experience. To think that other families would be kept from having the moments my son and I had just makes me scratch my head and wonder what the heck “someone” was thinking when they made this rule change.

  • #219703 Reply


    I’ll weigh in as well behind the belief that the Buddy System (as expanded from waterfront to main program) wasn’t intended to cover every minute of every day.

    Sweet 16 #3: The long history of the buddy system in Scouting has shown that it is always best to have at least one other person with you and aware at all times as to your circumstances and what you are doing in any outdoor or strenuous activity.

    If this was actually intended to apply to EVERY minute of the day while outside 4 walls, the level of supplemental detail required would be unreasonable. You’d need to define what constitutes “inside” (is being in a tent “inside”?) You’d need to decide how far away someone can be for them to still be considered “with you”. Does that mean within arms reach? Does it mean within 10 feet? Do they have to be facing you the whole time? If they don’t have to be facing you the whole time, do they need to be within direct line of sight?

    And if you think I’m being silly with this, I promise I’m not. My troop actually had a scouter mom insist that in order to use the bathroom, your buddy had to literally walk with you to the porta-potty and stand close enough outside to be able to hear a weak distress call. Standing across the parking lot was NOT considered by her to be “with” your buddy.

    But if we interpret this “buddy system” requirement to mean that you must have a buddy when venturing outside the main body of the group, or when doing something strenuous, it becomes a much more reasonable standard to meet. In that case it simply means, “You can’t do anything alone where there isn’t someone within a distance to call out to.” If you are venturing away from the main body of the group, you need to go with at least one other person.

  • #248358 Reply


    I just returned from Philmont the evening of (8/12/19). Although I pride myself with trying to stay up to date on Scouting BSA policy changes to include YPT, this one caught me and the rest of my crew leaders by surprise! When we arrived at Philmont we were blown away to hear the Philmont Ranger tell us that Dad’s and Sons could no longer share tents.

    When we asked for details we were told this new policy went into effect in May of 2019; this was well after all the the attending adult leaders had completed their YPT. Additionally this rule went into just a few short weeks before start of summer camp season and after most Troops had already taken a hiatus for the summer.

    As the Lead Advisor for one of our two Philmont crews and Contingent Leader for both Crews I received countless amounts of communication from Philmont, however nowhere in that communications there was any mention, nor was there mention in the 2019 Philmont literature we receive informing us of this significant Scouts BSA change.

    I find it rather ironic that Scouts BSA can somehow pepper my inbox with Popcorn Sales and Friends of Scouting e-mails, but yet when a significant policy change like this occurs they lines of communication go radio silent.

    Upon being told this information I called my wife, and she immediately reached out to our Council and District (who currently is without a District Executive) and was told this information SHOULD have been covered in a Scoutmaster Roundtable – I’ll call BUNK on that!!! Two points, first a change of this magnitude deserves an email to each and every adult member in Scouts BSA; this is a Youth Protection issue we are dealing with and as such everyone should be duly informed. Secondly, the Scoutmaster Roundtable answer my wife was given is just lip service, namely because we haven’t had a Roundatable since this rule went into effect – (Yes, DEL-MAR-VA Council, Choptank District – I’m calling you out you’ve FAILED your Adult Leaders and Youth Participants!)

    So maybe we can add to the myriad of items Scoutmasters have on their plates, adding that Scoutmaster should now periodically scour the web in search of changes to the rules for Scouts BSA. Maybe someone at National should read the Communications Merit Badge book again. *To the National Leaders of Scouts BSA if you think this rule is widely known – you’re sadly mistaken!*

    Just some food for thought. I’m not going to argue the merits of Sons and Dads tenting together, although others in this blog have made great points about the lifelong bonds that came out of high adventure experiences with Dads and Sons who tented together. What I will say is that our crews planned rather exhaustively to ensure that backpack weights were as light as possible, only to be given a 6 lbs. tent at Philmont Base Camp because a Dad and Son couldn’t share a tent.

    Its rather hard to justify the expenses why you may have spent a couple $100 dollars on lighter gear to shave off a few ounces – only for a father and a son to both be given a 6 lbs. tents to strap to their backpacks because of odd numbers and not being informed of this new and widely un-publicized rule.

    In closing this lack of communications has surly effected countless Fathers and Sons at Philmont this summer – If you changing the rules its incumbent upon Scouts BSA to let their all of their membership know of these changes!

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