Outdoor Programs

Outdoor adventure is the promise made to young people when they join Scouting. Boys and girls yearn for outdoor programs that stir their imagination and interest.

In the outdoors, they have opportunities to acquire skills that make them more self-reliant. They can explore canoe and hiking trails and complete challenges they first thought were beyond their ability. Attributes of good character become part of them as they learn to cooperate to meet outdoor challenges that may include extreme weather, difficult trails and portages, and dealing with nature’s unexpected circumstances. Scouts plan and carry out activities with thoughtful guidance from their Scoutmaster and other adult leaders. Good youth leadership, communication, and teamwork enable them to achieve goals they have set for themselves, their patrol or squad, and their troop or team.

Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education. Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do it themselves on a troop outing.

WHAT IS IT? The National Outdoor Conference is Scouting’s largest gathering of volunteers and professionals charged with delivering the world’s greatest outdoor program for youth! It’s four days of networking, elective sessions, outstanding keynote speakers, outdoor vendor exhibits, clean mountain air, backcountry  excursions, special program opportunities, great music and entertainment, and fellowship with Scouting’s top outdoor leaders. 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. This is the place to be if you are involved in any way with outdoor programs.

WHERE IS IT? Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico—the world’s largest camp

WHEN IS IT? September 25 – 29, 2019.

REGISTRATION: Register here. Daybreaker deal ends July 1, 2019.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND? Anyone and everyone involved in national, region, area, council, district, and unit outdoor program delivery. 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, COPE/climbing, or shooting sports should also plan to be there, as should properties chairpersons and other volunteers or professionals responsible for delivery of outdoor programs.

High Water Hazard Advisory

Please read the High Water Advisory and urge all BSA program leaders operating on moving water to view the video “Reading The Rhythms of Rivers and Rapids” available on the Aquatics Program page.

Latest Edition of Trail To Adventure newsletter

Here is the Spring 2019 edition of the Outdoor Programs Support Committee’s  Trail To Adventure newsletter

To subscribe to the Trail To Adventure newsletter click here

Local Council Participation Grant Program

Many councils realize great savings by participating in nationally negotiated contracts. The BSA would like to encourage more participation and pass along even more savings to local councils. The BSA has developed a grant program based on the savings that have accrued on our total purchases as of the anniversary of these contracts. 

Download the application here.

Program Quality Evaluation Tool (PQET)

Councils can evaluate and improve their outdoor and camp programs using this self evaluation tool.  Your Scouts deserve the best! LEARN MORE


The Adventure Plan

The Adventure Plan (TAP) is a tool to guide unit leaders—Cubs, Scouts and Venturers/SeaScouts— through all stages of adventure planning. Outdoor adventure is a key element of youth development in the Boy Scouts of America programs. Just as young people grow, learn and mature in a continuing progression of experience so, too, do the camping and outdoor programs of the BSA. The BSA offers a continuum of experiences based on the age, interest and ability level of youth, and also offers recognition awards for all levels of Scouting outdoor Adventures.

Aquatics: Safety Afloat

Safety Afloat has been developed to promote boating and boating safety and to set standards for safe unit activity afloat. Before a BSA group may engage in an excursion, expedition, or trip on the water (canoe, raft, sailboat, motorboat, rowboat, floating in an inner tube, or other craft), adult leaders for such activity must complete Safety Afloat Training, have a commitment card, No. 34242, with them, and be dedicated to full compliance with all nine points of Safety Afloat.


There are many awards, as a Scout, that you can earn, training you can attend, and opportunities for advancement. Check out this section to learn more about moving forward with your Scout training and see some of the many programs BSA has put together for the experience of a lifetime!


Bicycling is a great way to combine exercise, travel and recreation in one activity.


Organized camping is a creative, educational experience in cooperative group living in the outdoors. It uses the natural surroundings to contribute significantly to physical, mental, spiritual, and social growth. Cub Scouting offers camping opportunities for Cub Scouts through day camps, resident camps, Webelos den overnight campouts, council-organized family camps, and pack overnighters.

Conservation and Environment

Since 1910, conservation has been an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has been a positive force in conservation and environmental efforts. Scouts have rendered distinguished public service by helping to conserve wildlife, energy, forests, soil, and water. Past generations of Scouts have been widely recognized for undertaking conservation Good Turn action projects in their local communities.

COPE and Climbing

Young people today seek greater challenges, and climbing and rappelling offer a worthy challenge. The satisfaction of safely climbing a rock face is hard to top. While introduction of the Climbing merit badge in spring 1997 spurred interest in these activities through the BSA, the proliferation of climbing gyms and facilities has also made climbing and rappelling readily available throughout the United States.


The BSA’s fishing program continues to grow. Counselors can find information here on helping Scouts achieve the Fish and Wildlife Management, Fishing, and Fly-Fishing merit badges. There are also resources for Cub Scout leaders that assist in planning a fishing outing.

National Scout Jamborees
Scouting’s flagship event is a gathering of Scouts, leaders, and volunteer staff. Once every four years, over the course of 10 summer days, Scouts from all over the country gather to experience everything that is great about the Boy Scouts of America.

Outdoor Ethics/Leave No Trace

Scouting’s outdoor ethics guide us to be responsible outdoor citizens protecting our natural world for generations to come and being considerate of other users.

National Camping Schools

National Camping School is first and foremost designed to train key seasonal camp leadership, however, we also encourage you to send your year round program staff and volunteer leadership to help improve your council’s outdoor program.

Schools are designed for Day Camps, Family Camps and Resident Camps.



The Boy Scouts of America places the greatest importance on creating the most secure environment possible for our youth members. To maintain such an environment, the BSA developed numerous procedural and leadership selection policies and provides parents and leaders with resources for all our programs.

Shooting Sports

The following guidelines relate to use of firearms within the Scouting program. Safety should ALWAYS be the primary concern when using firearms.

Standards and Forms

This section is dedicated to providing the BSA Standards and Forms needed for Adults and Children to attend events and gain leadership skills.

Outdoor Literature

Outdoor knowledge and skills are highlighted throughout Scouting literature:

The Scouts BSA Handbook 
Nationally Approved Historic Trails 
Okpik: Cold Weather Camping 
Knots and How to Tie Them 
Merit Bage Series: Climbing 
Project COPE Manual

Outdoor Skill Videos

To help adult and junior Scout leaders teach campcraft with more confidence, this library contains a collection of How-to videos.

The goal of these videos is to furnish clear explanations and useful techniques pertaining to each individual skill.