The Boy Scouts of America has established the following guidelines for a safe and quality camping experience. Fundamental guiding principles for camping:

  • Supervision of camping activities must include qualified, registered, adult leadership.
    • At a minimum, one leader present is current in Hazardous Weather
      Training for all unit types. It is recommended that all leaders complete
      this training every two years.
    • Additionally, at a minimum, Cub Scout Packs and Webelos / Arrow of
      Light Dens who camp overnight must have a BALOO trained leader
      present. It is recommended for all Cub Scout leaders.
  • Local council approval is needed for unit-coordinated overnight camping activities involving other units not chartered by the same organization. Units that wish to host events involving other units that do not share the same charter partner must have approval from their council. This includes events for packs, troops, crews, and ships from the same council; neighboring councils; the same territory; or other territory.
  • Activities must be age- and skill-appropriate for all participants.
  • Youth who are not registered in the unit may not accompany parents or siblings in camping programs of Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scouting.
  • For council coordinated overnight camping, NCAP standards for short- or long-term camps must be met as minimum safety and quality standards.

By design, added program-centric requirements and limitations to camping are also present. Those are introduced in training modules required of unit leaders and specified in other sections of the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Additional Guidelines Specifically for Cub Scout Unit-Coordinated Camping

  • Cub Scout camping is limited to their council’s designated locations with appropriate facilities.
  • Cub Scout camping is a family-centric program.
  • Cub Scout youth may tent with a parent or guardian as outlined in Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse.
  • Cub Scout youth should attend the camping event with their parent(s)/ guardian(s).
    • Lions and Tigers must have their adult partner present to take part.
    • For all other ranks: only in exceptional circumstances, a Cub Scout whose parent or legal guardian cannot attend a unit overnight camping trip may participate under the supervision of another registered adult member of the BSA, a parent of a Cub Scout who is also attending. The unit leader and a parent or legal guardian must agree to the arrangement, and all Youth Protection policies apply. At no time may another adult accept responsibility for more than one additional “non family member” youth.
    • Webelos and Arrow of Light Den Camping: Each Scout should attend with their parent(s) or guardian(s). A Webelos or Arrow of Light Scout whose parent or legal guardian cannot attend a den overnight camping trip may participate under the supervision of at least two registered leaders. The leaders and a parent or legal guardian must agree to the arrangement, and all Youth Protection policies apply.

Hazard Trees

Hazard trees are dead trees, live trees with dead parts, and live trees that are unstable due to defects and are within striking distance of people or property.

Here are some tips to prevent a hazard tree from affecting your event:

  • Assess your site. Look up, look down, and look all around when parking a vehicle, hiking on the trail or selecting a campsite.
  • Avoid campsites with hazard trees. Dead trees and dead limbs may fall at any time. Trees without needles, bark, or limbs may indicate structural defects.
  • If a campsite has hazard trees but must be used, be sure that all tents, chairs, hammocks, and work areas are outside the trees’ failure zone or fall radius. The fall radius on flat ground is 1½ times the height of the tree or tree part that could fail. Sloping ground could increase the danger zone.
  • Don’t use dead trees, hazard trees, or other unstable objects to support tents, canopies, or hammocks.
  • Check the environment constantly for changes, including the weather, as storms can increase the likelihood of trees or parts of trees falling.

Lightning Risk Reduction

In many parts of the country, Scouting activities in the outdoors will be at risk to thunderstorms and lightning strike potential. In a thunderstorm, there is no risk-free location outside.

First, to be prepared for your outdoor adventure, it is important to know the weather patterns of the area. Weather patterns on the Florida coast differ greatly from the mountains of New Mexico and the lakes of Minnesota or the rivers of West Virginia. In addition to patterns, monitor current weather forecasts and conditions of the area you plan to visit to modify your plans if needed.

The National Weather Service recommends that when the “Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! The only completely safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle.” When a safe building or vehicle is nearby, the best risk-reduction technique is to get to it as soon as possible. Move quickly when you:

  • First hear thunder,
  • See lightning, or
  • Observe dark, threatening clouds developing overhead.

Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.

Shelter—two forms:

  • Safe Building—one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls, and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. Examples of safe buildings include a home, school, church, hotel, office building, or shopping center.
  • Safe Vehicle—any fully enclosed, metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do NOT leave the vehicle during a thunderstorm.

Risk Reduction (when no safe building or vehicle is nearby):

  • If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill, or a ridge top.
  • Spread your group out 100 feet from each other if possible.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees; flag poles; totem poles; or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area, but avoid flood-prone areas. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  • Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes), and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity.
  • If boating and you cannot get back to land to a safe building or vehicle:
    On a small boat, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels offer a safer but not risk-free environment. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces.

If lightning strikes, be prepared to administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) so that you can tend to lightning victims quickly (they do not hold an electrical charge). Take anyone who is a victim of a lightning strike or near-strike to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible, even if the person appears to be unharmed.

For additional information on lightning and weather services, visit