20 nights of camping: to count or not to count

I saw this post today on Scouting Magazine about what counts as a night of camping for the Camping Merit Badge and what does not.  Funny, this topic comes up in my unit at least once each year…right around the Stake Fathers & Sons campout.  I thought my troop was the only one with parents trying to finagle non-scouting camps to count toward their scout’s Camping MB.  Why… why must parents look for shortcuts or show their kids that it’s OK to lower the bar to accomplish a goal.

Com’on parents,

I’m not going to repeat the detailed dissection of requirement 9a that was already performed by Bryan, clearly an expert on matters of the BS of A.

However, there are 2 points I’d like to further define in support of what Bryan has already explained:

1. My unit likes to debate about what constitutes a “designated scouting activity”. So when Bryan explains that this is where “Scouting” happens, that means specifically:

a. The Patrol Method is being exercised or at least being attempted (boys in charge, following a troop’s chain of command)

b. The boys feel ownership for *ALL* the camp setup, cooking, cleaning and take-down (shared responsibility, following a duty roster)

c. Adult leaders and parents are not running around making sure everything is perfect (no swooping in when little mistakes are made)

d. There is some organization around a campfire (it might not be a fully planned program but at least there are a few thought’s shared by the boys, orchestrated by the SPL, followed by a Scoutmaster’s minute)

This level of “Scouting” isn’t possible on a family campout or Church youth activity such as Trek, Book of Mormon Journey, Youth Conference or Ward/Stake Fathers & Sons outing.

2. If it’s still not clear what counts and what doesn’t, this is the general rule of thumb/final word that should stop any further argument about it:

a. If BSA insurance covers the overnight outing, it can be considered a “designated scout activity”.

b. If BSA insurance does NOT cover the overnight outing, it will NOT be counted as a night towards the Camping MB.

Is there really any more explanation needed to finally put this debate to rest??

Section 8.19 (Page 8) of the LDS Scouting Handbook clearly provides direction on this subject for Stake-organized camps.  It reads, (emphasis added):

Stake or ward Scout camps that involve more than two units and that exceed three consecutive nights for Venturers and five consecutive nights for Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts cannot be advertised as “Scout” camps unless they follow the BSA national camp standards and are authorized by the local council. If long-term camps do not qualify as authorized Scout camps, they will not be covered by BSA liability insurance. For long-term camping, use of BSA facilities is strongly recommended.

If your unit is operating the way it should, your scout should have no problem getting what he needs anyway.  In fact, 20 nights in 6 years should be a piece of cake!

Here, let’s add it up:

First 3 nights: accomplished while age 11 (LDS troops specifically)
+10 nights: by attending all monthly short-term troop camps as a 12 year old (single nights, Friday through Saturday)
+5 nights: after his first week-long summer scout camp while still 12

That’s 18 potential nights before your son is even a teenager!  OK, but let’s keep adding:

+10 more nights: by attending more monthly short-term camps as a 13 year old
+1 night: if your son attends his second week-long summer camp (remember, you can only apply the full number of nights on one of these)

We’re up to 29 possible nights before he becomes a Varsity Scout.

Varsity scouts might not plan 10 months of campouts because most struggle with a properly run Team, but I think these would be reasonable numbers:

+4 nights: by attending a campout once per quarter as a 14 year old (should be the least number of times you have short-term campouts throughout the year)
+3 nights (minimum): by attending your annual High Adventure as a 14 year old
+4 nights as a 15 year old (still shouldn’t have any conflicts with a job, girls or driving)
+3 nights (min): by attending your second High Adventure as a 15 year old (all nights still count since anything less than 5 nights is still considered a short-term camp)

Quick tally: 43 possible nights before he becomes a Venture scout.

Now the Venturing leaders in my unit will tell me “their boys don’t have time to camp” due to jobs and the distraction of fumes from dating and driving.  I say BULL!!  Boys are boys, and if the activity is theirs to plan and to be excited about, you’re going to tell me they won’t make arrangements to be there??  I don’t buy that…and so the count continues:

+14 more nights: following the same Varsity Scout premises above when your scout is 16 and 17 years old

That adds up to A WHOLE LOTTA NIGHTS before any scout turns 18… a total of 57 opportunities, IF your program in running like it should.

So parents, wouldn’t your efforts be better served to focus on encouraging your son’s Troop, Team or Crew leaders to get out camping on a REGULAR basis??  Stop making it a box to check for rank advancement and help your scout learn to love and appreciate the great outdoors.  THAT’s where you should focus your time and energy in my opinion.


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9 Responses to 20 nights of camping: to count or not to count

  1. Arthur Cornell says:

    My comment is simple. Count every night as 1 night. Simple. I truly understand the reason behind all the thought that went into designing the requirement. But, a night camping is a night of camping. If a scout does 2 or 3 or 4 weeks of resident camp in a summer (at an approved BSA camp), then all nights should count. #counteverynight

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Our Troop camps 9 weekends per year plus 1 week of summer camp. Four of those weekends are in cabins and 5 in tents. So a new scout bridging in or joining could get 6 camping nights at summer camp plus 5 weekends (10 tenting nights) in their first year. So in 1 year and 3 months, a scout can have 20 nights in a tent. Our Scoutmaster is also our Camping MB counselor. He is giving all scouts “+2” nights for each additional summer camp week after their first summer camp. Then he continues to count their 1st summer camp as a long term campout and counts Philmont as 10 tent nights because they move every night so it counts a 1 night campout each – not a long term campout. We had a scout receive Eagle who went to Summer Camp 4 times, attended 2 weekend campouts and Philmont. The way Brian is counting this he should have gotten 6 nights for long term campout and 4 nights for weekend campout totaling 10 nights. Our MB counselor had him at 26 nights. Now do I find an official BSA ruling for this to take to our Troop Chair and someone else. All scouts should earn their Eagle on an even playing field. It should not be made harder than National requirements or be given breaks. Our scoutmaster says he has it in writing that it is okay to give +2 for additional summer campouts and Philmont counts for every night. they way I’m reading online now – there are so many opinions that I think he probably has read that.

  3. Kent says:

    The LDS church has dropped scouting for boys 14 years old and older. It has become very burdensome to leaders to get their boys to 20 nights camping between the ages of 11 and 13.

    Today with the intense variety of programs and sports, the average boy has a very difficult time taking off Friday afternoon and returning Saturday. The camping merit badge needs to reduce the number of nights required as it is outdated in this day and age.

    The original camping merit badge was 50 nights so it is a possibility that the BSA could reduce the current 20 nights to say 15 nights. As a leader I go on 15 overnight campouts each year to get my scouts to 20 nights and it is starting to cause burnout which could mean 0 nights for the scouts if burnout occurs. And another thing, the BSA doubled the requirements for the ranks up to First Class last year which is more burdensome to the leader than the scout. The BSA needs to get real.

  4. Zac says:

    I see you added “+1” night for the second week-long scout camp. Actually, no additional nights should be credited towards the camping merit badge at that time. Only one long-term camp counts, for up to six nights (typically LDS units will get 5 nights). It doesn’t say anywhere that you get credit for 1 night on other long-term camps. Unfortunately, I’ve seen leaders incorrectly give the boys credit for anywhere from 1 to 4 nights on additional long-term camps, thus limiting their experiences on what should be 15 nights of short-term camping on the way to their camping merit badge.

    • Kent says:

      The merit badge does not say you can’t get one night credit. If the BSA does not want this left open to interpretation then they need much more verbage defining the 20 nights. You are entitled to your interpretation as I am entitled to my interpretation. Every troop I have been part of, has given one night for the second long term campout.

      This merit badge is outdated and needs to be updated for this day and age. The dynamics of society and constraints on the leaders have changed and it doesn’t make sense to have so many camping nights. We go camping one night every month except December and my scouts can barely can get enough nights for the camping merit badge. There is a lot more going on at home than when I was a kid so I hope you can understand my feelings that dickering over 1 night is over zealous. #ChangeCampingMB

      • Carlisa says:

        If the boys are not getting at least one night for that second week Long – as a parent – my boys will not be going on that second week long.

  5. Kent says:

    Hey, the overnight camping is to get the boys outdoors. A father’s and son’s outing gets the boys outdoors and as long as you have a scouting activity for the scouts at the father’s and son’s outing then you have accomplished the spirit and letter of the camping merit badge. As a scoutmaster we are always trying to get the fathers to go with their sons and this is the perfect venue to make that happen.

  6. Carlisa says:

    Where is YOUR LDS Troop? All the wards in our Stake COMBINED do not camp 10 times in one year. Some wards run a good program – some are horrible.

    • Scoutmaster says:

      If you look around this blog site, you will see my LDS troop has camped 10 times each year for the past 7 years (with only a few exceptions). See our year-end camp summaries for details: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 …and we’re on track to do it again in 2017. It’s not that hard – you just need to make it a priority each month and generate some excitement around the outing. The trick is to *want* to take your troop out camping each month, which is the problem I see with most other leaders.

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