The Boy Scouts of America has established the following guidelines for its members’ participation in camping activities:
- Overnight camping by Lion, Tiger, Wolf, or Bear Cub Scouts as dens is prohibited. Webelos dens may participate in overnight camping.
- Lions, with their adult partner, may participate in child-parent excursions, pack overnighters, and council-organized family camping.
- Tigers, with their adult partner, may participate in child-parent excursions, day camps, pack overnighters, council-organized family camping, or resident camping.
- Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts may participate in a resident overnight camping program operating under BSA National Camping School–trained leadership and managed by the council.
- Den leaders, pack leaders, and parents are expected to accompany the youth on approved trips.
- All youth registered in troops are eligible to participate in troop or patrol overnight campouts, camporees, and resident camps.
- Youth ages 12 through 17 are eligible to participate in national jamborees. Youth ages 13 through 17 may be eligible to participate in world jamborees and high-adventure programs. (See below.)
- All youth registered in Venturing are eligible to participate in crew, district, council, and national Venturing activities as well as national high-adventure programs and national and world jamborees.
- All youth registered in Sea Scouts are eligible to participate in ship, district, council, area/flotilla, region, and national Sea Scouting activities as well as national high-adventure programs and national and world jamborees.
If a well-meaning leader brings along a child who does not meet these age guidelines, disservice is done to the unit because of distractions often caused by younger children. A disservice is also done to the child, who is not trained to participate in such an activity and who, as a nonmember of the group, may be ignored by the older campers or be at risk from activities that are not age appropriate.
Family camping is an outdoor experience, other than resident camping, that involves Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Sea Scouting, or Venturing program elements in overnight settings with two or more family members, including at least one BSA member of that family. Parents are responsible for the supervision of their children, and Youth Protection policies apply.
Recreational Family Camping
Recreational family camping occurs when Scouting families camp as a family unit outside of an organized program. It is a nonstructured camping experience, but is conducted within a Scouting framework on local council-owned or -managed property. Local councils may have family camping grounds available for rent. Other resources may include equipment, information, and training.
Reference: Cub Scout Outdoor Program Guidelines, No. 510-631
Cub Scouts may experience overnight activities in venues other than accredited resident camping. There are two categories of Cub Scout overnighters.
Council-Organized Family Camp
Council-organized family camps are overnight events involving more than one pack. The local council provides all of the elements of the outdoor experience, such as staffing, food service, housing, and program. These are often referred to as parent/pal or adventure weekends. Council-organized family camps should be conducted by trained leaders at sites approved by the local council. Each youth member will be under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian.
In special circumstances, a Cub Scout whose parent or legal guardian is not able to attend an overnight camping trip may participate under the supervision of another registered adult member of the BSA who is 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.
Overnight activities involving more than one pack must be approved by the council. Council-organized family camps must be conducted in accordance with established standards.
These are pack-organized overnight events involving more than one family from a single pack, focused on age-appropriate Cub Scout activities and conducted at council-approved locations (councils use Pack Overnight Campout Site Appraisal Form, No. 430-902). If nonmembers (siblings) participate, the event must be structured accordingly to accommodate them. BSA Health and Safety and Youth Protection policies apply. In most cases, each youth member will be under the supervision of a parent or guardian. In all cases, each youth participant is responsible to a specific adult.
At least one adult on a pack overnighter must have completed Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO, No. 34162) to properly understand the importance of program intent, Youth Protection policies, health and safety, site selection, age-appropriate activities, and sufficient adult participation.
Reference: Cub Scout Outdoor Program Guidelines, No. 510-631
What are typical Scouts BSA outdoor activities? For younger members, less-rugged activities are more appropriate as they begin to acquire outdoor knowledge and skills. These may include:
Day Camps—Council-run programs without an overnight component that follow NCAP standards for staffing, training, and program equipment.
Day Hikes—Reasonably short hikes (three to 10 miles) in terrain without a lot of elevation gain or loss.
Patrol Activities—A Scouts BSA patrol may participate in patrol activities. Two-deep adult leadership is required.
Weekend Overnights—Troops that plan and carry out outings once a month attract and retain youth at a much higher level than those that have fewer outings during the year.
Camporees—Councils and districts plan camporees and other outings during the year that give youth an opportunity to test their knowledge and skills in competitive events with other troops and patrols.
Summer Camp—Summer camp is what many Scouts BSA members enjoy most. Camp programs provide numerous opportunities for youth to earn merit badges along their advancement trail. Resident camping includes at least five nights and six days of fun outdoor activities.
Jamborees—Every four years, the Boy Scouts of America hosts a national Scout jamboree. More than 30,000 youth and leaders from across the country participate in this 10-day event filled with the most popular and highest-quality outdoor activities youth enjoy. To participate, youth must be at least 12 years of age by July 1 of the jamboree year and be a First Class Scout.
Council High Adventure—A high-adventure experience includes at least three consecutive nights of trekking in wilderness and other rugged, remote locations. Trekking may include backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, horse packing, mountain climbing, ski touring, rafting, kayaking, or a host of other outdoor adventures. Participants must be at least 13 years old by September 1 of the year of participation.
National High Adventure—The BSA operates unique and exciting national high-adventure bases and programs. With locations in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base offers a variety of aquatics and boating programs. The Northern Tier National High Adventure Program, based in northern Minnesota with two satellite bases in Canada, provides a variety of canoe treks and programs. Philmont Scout Ranch, located in the mountains of New Mexico, provides excellent backpacking treks and backcountry programs. The newest national high-adventure base, the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, provides activities such as whitewater rafting, BMX, skateboarding, mountain biking, zip lines, canopy tours, challenge courses, climbing, and shooting sports. Age requirements for these programs vary, but most programs are rugged and designed for older youth.
Unit High Adventure—The highest level of challenge for a troop is to plan and carry out its own high-adventure experience. These activities for more experienced youth are planned and implemented by youth members with coaching from their adult leaders.
Venturing camping can include high-adventure activities, such as scuba diving, water skiing, rock climbing/rappelling, caving, horseback riding, and more, but can also include many avocation/hobby interests. Venturing members can participate in national and world jamborees.
Venturing camping should not be just an extension of a Scouts BSA resident camp. Venturers need a more teenage-oriented experience. Having Venturers involved in this planning process is a must. Council-run day camps without an overnight component should follow NCAP standards for staffing, training, and program equipment.
Important differences in outdoor programs for Venturers include:
- Venturing outdoor activities must include experiences beyond those available to younger youth.
- Consideration of coed involvement.
- Venturers should have a voice in choosing and planning activities.
- Venturing outdoor programs should be patterned after types of activities that appeal to adults and teenagers.
- The camp experience should not be overly structured, and should allow Venturers the opportunity to choose their own activities.
Sea Scout camping can include high-adventure activities, such as sailing, motor boating, paddle sports, scuba diving, and water skiing, as well as rock climbing/rappelling, caving, horseback riding, shooting sports, and other adventures. These events can also include avocation/hobby interests, especially related to the maritime industry and military career opportunities. Sea Scouts can participate in national and world jamborees.
Sea Scout camping may be unique, since they may camp on land or on a boat in the water. Having Sea Scouts involved in the planning process is a must. Council-run day camps without an overnight component should follow NCAP standards for staffing, training, and program equipment.
Important differences in outdoor programs for Sea Scouts include:
- Sea Scout outdoor activities must include experiences beyond those available to younger youth.
- Consideration of coed involvement.
- Sea Scouts should have a voice in choosing and planning activities.
- Sea Scout outdoor programs should be patterned after types of activities that appeal to adults and teenagers.
- The camp experience should not be overly structured and should allow Sea Scouts the opportunity to choose their own activities.
- Special attention should be paid to including activities centered in, on, around, and under the water, but land activities can be included as well.
Trek Safely is designed to help Scouting groups be fully prepared for a backcountry trek. It will help each youth member and adult leader recognize situations that could develop in which the group will have to adjust its schedule or route, or even make camp for the night because of weather circumstances or an injured or ill crew member. Crews that address possible scenarios in advance are less likely to be surprised on the trail. Contingency planning is critical to the success of every trip.
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 last 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 hardtopped 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 www.noaa.gov.