Interpreting ‘under the auspices’ in National Outdoor Awards requirements

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Two perfectly reasonable people can read the same phrase and have drastically different interpretations. Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court.

That happened recently in a troop in eastern Washington. The phrase in question relates to the National Outdoor Awards, and a Scouter contacted me looking for guidance.

But before I get to his question and the expert’s response, let me put in a quick plug for the National Outdoor Awards, which I first told you about in 2010. The awards are earned by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who demonstrate knowledge and experience in the outdoors. There are five segments: Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding and Adventure. They’re a ton of fun to earn, and they reward Scouts for doing things they love to do anyway.

Scouts who go above and beyond can earn National Outdoor Award Devices and even the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. See the full list of requirements here.

But back to our eastern Washington Scouter’s question. He noted that each of the five segments’ requirements uses the phrase “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America.”

For example, take this requirement from the Hiking segment:

“Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America … “

We know “auspices” means “endorsement and guidance,” but what exactly qualifies as “under the auspices of the BSA”? Here’s what the Scouter said in his email:

The National Outdoor Awards use the word “auspices” to describe qualifying activities. The question is what “auspices” means? Some people believe that this means that the requirements must be completed as part of organized unit activities and that any activity performed as an individual Scout, even if performed with the intent of earning the award, does not qualify.

Here’s the clarification from Eric Hiser, member of the Camping Task Force who was also the designer and developer for the award. In other words, he knows of what he speaks.

nationaloutdoorawards“Under the auspices of the BSA” was language that was chosen deliberately. It means that the Scout participating in the activities did it as part of one of the following:

  1. Any BSA unit activity (e.g., Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Venturing)
  2. Any BSA-sanctioned individual activity (e.g., provisional summer camp, OA overnight with camping, camp staff, etc.)
  3. Any activity undertaken as part of the referenced merit badge(s) for the badge or medal.

A “BSA unit activity” may include some individual efforts not part of the group: e.g., a pre-conditioning exercise where all unit members commit to and actually ride their bikes X miles a week prior to a big troop bike ride. It is not meant to include activities that the Scout undertakes that are unrelated to Scouting — e.g., family or church group camping, running as part of the school cross-country team, etc.

In some cases, an individual Scout could work toward a Scouting award and that could be counted at the discretion of the Scoutmaster. Such periods of time should be relatively short and focused on the award in question.

That seems pretty clear. If it’s an activity he completes with his troop or team, it obviously qualifies. If it’s part of a BSA individual program, such as Philmont’s OA Trail Crew, that counts. If it’s part of a Scout’s work on merit badges like Hiking, Camping, Swimming, Cycling, Wilderness Survival, etc., it counts.

On the other hand, activities like practice with the school swim team, running during P.E. class or a family camping trip to a nearby state park wouldn’t count.

Thanks to our questioner and to Eric Hiser for the guidance.

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103 thoughts on “Interpreting ‘under the auspices’ in National Outdoor Awards requirements

    • “Qualified Venturers” who earned First Class rank may currently earn the National Outdoor Awards. As part of the revision to the Venturing requirements, BSA is in the process of expanding the National Outdoor Awards to all Venturers. This may take a few months, so be patient.

      • “As part of the revision to the Venturing requirements, BSA is in the process of expanding the National Outdoor Awards to all Venturers. This may take a few months, so be patient.”

        Thank you for adding this statement Mr. Hiser, my daughters are Venturers and now that I am aware of this award, I will make them and the rest of the crew aware too. I assume that any of the activities that they are working on as of now and until the new requirements are released can be applied retroactively.

  1. if it is a individual award, why then couldn’t the scout achieve the requirements in any venue? If he gets the documentation the activity has be accomplished, why wouldn’t the National/Council accept the activity as complete for that part of the award?
    A certification document could be created similar to a merit badge blue card for Scoutmaster approval to proceed. There would be signatures of the accomplishment to be acquired from the officials that sponsored the venue.

      • The article above states that activities taken part of a MB can be counted as well. So if Johnny planned a 25 mile cycling trip to the grocery store this would not count as part of his cycling MB and the requirements for the award?

        • That is incorrect. The miles earned for the Cycling merit badge must be completed before any other miles can be earned for this award. Just was it says that the days camped must be in addition to the ones needed to earn the Camping merit badge.

        • Grondin’s comments are a perfect example of interpreting requirements in the most restrictive manner possible. Nowhere does the NOA requirements state that certain miles/nights need to be accomplished before any other. Obviously the merit badge miles/nights need to be completed as part of completing the merit badge before the segment is earned, but this does not exclude additional miles/nights completed before the merit badge is completed. A great example is Mr Hiser’s inclusion of Cub Scout camping in the camping nights calculation for this award.

  2. Become a Leave No Trace Trainer by completing the 16-hour training course from a recognized Leave No Trace Master Educator.

    Since the BSA is splitting from the LNT group, do you have to go through the Outdoor Retailers to obtain that now?

    • I haven’t heard that the BSA is splitting from LNT. I would presume that any statement like that is unfounded rumor/speculation, unless you have more information to share?

    • BSA is not parting ways from LNT. The verbiage may be shifting to Outdoor Ethics, but LNT is still a big part of that!

  3. The BSA is not splitting from Leave No Trace! Leave No Trace is and will remain a valued partner of the Boy Scouts. We are transitioning from the “Leave No Trace Awareness” and “Achievement” awards to the new “Outdoor Ethics Awareness” and “Outdoor Ethics Action” awards in recognition that there is more to Scouting’s outdoor ethics than just Leave No Trace — think about Scouting’s historic Outdoor Code and our conservation service emphasis.
    Eric Hiser, Chair, BSA National Outdoor Ethics Task Force

    • Glad to hear an authoritative voice speak to that. This rumor has been going around for a bit. A guy in gold epaulettes was talking about a split with LNT while I was at Commissioner College 18 months ago. He said the reason was over trademark of LNT or something.

  4. both of my sons are working toward this award. They have used individual activities to complete requirements since their troop does not participate in these kinds of activities. Both their and I are registered adult members. So any activity we do does not count. If BSA rules and regulations are followed individual activity time should not be disallowed. Their scoutmaster knows every activity they participate in and is even invited to attend but always declines.

    • If your sons are in a crummy* troop, the solution is for them to work with the PLC and Scoutmaster to improve the troop’s outdoor program or to find a troop with the kind of outdoor program they want, -not- to circumvent the rules of the award. Everything your family does outside does not become a BSA activity simply because you’re both registered adults.

      *A troop that does not hike enough, camp enough, or offer enough activities in the other metrics for a dedicated scout to earn the awards with supplemental participation in OA, district, council, and national programs to earn the awards -is- crummy. We’re talking about a capstone award that virtually every scout will have 5-7 years to earn.

      • Boys don’t always have options to Troop shop! I’ve just taken the helm of my two sons troop that was not and is still not fully covering the things you mention.Our troop takes in an area of about 160 sq miles so good luck looking for another troop! yes in a perfect world we would have scouts that are self motivated and go getters but we are made up of the same kids who are on the school team or play or other activities so to be able to solely focus on scouting activities to the exclusion of all the other activities and not being able to count that towards these scouting awards is tantamount to excluding my scouts from being able to earn them. Everyone in scouting has a different experience based on what they do how they interact with and what they put into it so I’m all about rules just make sure they can and are applied fairly and evenly sometimes we need to be able to see the bigger picture and bend or adjust the rules as we grow and change as an organization
        Just another voice from a new Scoutmaster

        • I completely agree that it excludes those boys from earning the award, and it should. Let’s try an experiment: Have the same boys who want to count [whatever] from another organization go to their coach/leader/director from that organization and say “Hey, coach, I can’t go to the swim tournament but I’ll be swimming in Lake Anawana with my Scout troop, so I expect a swim team trophy anyway.” And that coach will tell that boy he’s boy crazy.
          NOA is a BSA award for Scouts who are participating in Scouting. Not everyone will earn it and not everyone should.
          We all make choices in life and if Johnny chooses football that’s -fine- but that means he’s limiting himself somewhere else. That’s how life works.
          If earning the NOA means so much to a boy, then he should choose Scouting. If XYZ means more, then he should do XYZ. If he chooses XYZ, what does he care if you give him a watered-down, cheapened NOA? It doesn’t mean anything.

          As for troop shopping, you’re absolutely correct. And it’s a shame that in the rare instance that a boy can’t improve his own troop and can’t find a better troop he will be very hard pressed or unable to earn the award. Hard cases make bad law. The requirements are the requirements.

        • I don’t agree I have asked the scouts to ask coaches ect to allow them to participate in a scouting event as apposed to a team event and they were allowed to as I would for each of the boys to skip a scouting meeting event for an important team/school event. We draw all our boys from a pool of about 120 in the 160 sq miles that we cover. So when you say choose football no we don’t have that we have 5 sports and maybe 12 youth organizations so again in our area choice is very limited if you want well rounded Boy scouts and young men who become adults then all this needs to be considered if it’s in the best interest of the boys or the organization. I see that perspective is the point we seem to have a difference with so I will agree that we are each entitled to our own perspective on this and that neither of us will be the final word we live in a society and are part of an ever changing environment and with that comes change so I don’t see the Rules are the rules I see changes that occur all the time from debate and the hard work of a lot of people hopefully over time we will see changes that allow both of us to see the best path for our scouts

  5. This means that all the Cub Scout overnight camp/camporees count towards the camping requirement. Does all the walking from base camp to activities that the participants did at jamboree count as well?

      • While it is listed as requirement #1, the requirements do not say that earning the First Class rank must be done first. A Scout could theoretically complete his 100 miles of hiking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America while a Cub Scout and Tenderfoot Scout, then he earns Hiking and Orienteering merit badges as a Second Class Scout, and then finally earns First Class and thus earn the Hiking award. You don’t need to have already earned First Class to get started, you just need to have it by the end.

        • So are we to assume your troop signs off rank requirements for things done as a Cub? Cub Camp for Camping MB? Don’t be silly.

        • I’m not a SM, but based on the guidance for the National Camping Award that Cub Scout camping counts, any Camping nights as a Cub Scout SHOULD count towards the award. Those Cub Scout Camping nights, however, would not count towards the Camping MB because one had to be a Boy Scout to start working on a MB.

          The Scout would also have to provide evidence in some manner that he actually went camping with the Cub Scouts.

        • CG – Per the BSA’s Guide to Advancement: “All merit badge requirements must be met while a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout” so things done as a Cub prior to registering as Boy Scouts can’t count for Camping merit badge). However, the National Outdoor Award requirements do not state that requirements simply state that they must be completed “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America” (which Cub Scouting is) so things done as a.Cub Scout could count.

        • The NOA is a Boy Scout award, not a Cub Scout award, and its language makes that clear: “Do you enjoy camping under the stars, rafting a whitewater river, or hitting the trail afoot, on a bike, or even on a horse? Can you pitch a tent, find your way, and bandage an ankle using only materials in your pack? Are you prepared to do any of these in rain, snow, sleet, or heat? If so, the National Outdoor Awards are for you. There is nothing virtual about these awards—you can earn them only by demonstrating knowledge and experience in the outdoors. So, if you are a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout and think you are tough and disciplined enough to hike or ride the miles, camp the nights, and run the rivers or lakes, then read on and see if the National Outdoor badges or possibly the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement could be for you!”
          Does that sound like anything Cub Scouts do to you?
          If you want to turn it into the kiddy hour in your unit and sign off stuff they did as a Cub, no one is going to come around auditing it, so go nuts. But help us out by putting a scarlet C over your scouts’ NOA patches.

      • I’ve turned 180 degrees on this one. The award criteria says, “The 5 National Outdoor Badges recognize a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout . . . ” Based on that, I now interpret “auspices” covering Cub Scout activities is that if a Boy Scout such as a Den Chief would accompany a Cub Scout Pack or Webelos Den on an overnight, then that night would count towards the National Camping Award.

        I was looking at the clarification in the initial post and did not examine the criteria for the award itself. When I am wrong, I will admit it. When we look at policies, we often cannot look at them in isolation but in relation and context with each other.

        • No. Nights camped, miles hiked, hours in the water, etc., as a Cub Scout or Venturer “under the auspices” DO COUNT for the final requirement of each badge. That’s the purpose of the “under the auspices” language–to recognize the totality of the Scout’s outdoorism in Scouting. The rank and merit badge requirements, on the other hand, must be earned as set forth under the Boy Scout/Varsity Scout program, until such time as BSA releases guidance for Venturers who are not “Qualified Venturers” as that term is used in the Guide to Advancement. Eric Hiser, Camping Task Force

        • Thanks Eric. That means that my interpretation was correct yesterday that nights camped as a Cub Scout count and CG was not.

    • As a “ScoutLeader”it should be fairly easy to encourage the Troop too greater outdoor stuff. . Attend the PLC with the Scoutmaster, volunteer to lead a hike on xxday, and offer to make it the Firstclass hike. Do this every third saturday (frinstance) and take’m to the Park, the Nat Forest, The Canal, wherever. See if the SM doesn;t jump art letting you do the leading and the boys jump at doing the hike. Just get their foot out the door. Hey, they might get a new SM out of it.

    • OMG

      you people are completely ridiculous.

      So your scout walked at the jambo???? Is that equilevent to say 100 miles at philmont, no…….

      So your looking for your scout to do the bare minimum to receive this award.

      • Do you really want to suggest that scouts must do more than the minimum requirements for this award? The “minimum” is the requirements as outlined by BSA. As soon as a scout completes these requirements they earn the award. There’s not much more to it unless you are the type of leader that will withhold awards or advancement based on your own set of additional criteria. Everyone knows that this is not allowed.

        But then again, everyone in this forum also knows that bullying behavior (such as calling people names and calling them ridiculous) goes against BSA policy for both youth and adults.

        • Calling you ridiculous is bullying……

          You should really go to a current High School

        • Bob Basement Dweller – Rather than responding to the point that adding requirements is not allowed you continue in your attempts to belittle? Really? Wow. Assuming you are affiliated with a unit, is this how you act with your boys?

          Sure, you may have a lot of experience and input that may be helpful to a lot of people in all of the forums you participate in, but whatever happened to basic rules of demeanor? Frankly, it’s disappointing to see that you actually revel in it. I’ll offer a few of your quotes:

          “Over on Bryan making all those RAH RAH scouters feel bad.”
          “I am entertained by all of the uneducated folks over there.”
          “You should see some of the rock head stuff that goes on over there.”
          “Bryan on scouting represents the light and fluffy Facebook, millennial feel good everybody gets a trophy generation.”

          I can understand that Scouting can from time to time be frustrating, but if you are at the end of your rope to the point that this type of behavior is acceptable it might be a reasonable option to take a break for a while.

        • The sad thing is that what “Bob” has said on this forum is true.
          He may state things here and on other forums a bit rough, but the fact of the matter (on this forum) is that we have far too many leaders/parents who look for every loophole/work around they can find to get their kid a badge the easiest way possible with the least amount of work/time.

          This is exactly why they changed the Camping requirements for the Camping MB to make it at a “Designated Scouting Activity”. Too many were counting family trips, ect.
          There are examples on this forum in this topic too!

          Now we have this “Counting Cub camping” towards a Boy Scout/Varsity/Venturing award? Since when do we count anything done as a Cub towards a Boy Scout award? What happened to the only thing you carried forward from Cubs was your Arrow of Light award?

          Are the numbers earned for the NOA so low that the standards have to be lowered to include Cub camping?

          Can you honestly compare a “Backyard Cub Campout” with a “50 miler”?
          How is that fair?

          Whats next, counting when a boy takes out the garbage as a Conservation project for the Hornaday award?

          This is just another example of “Check the box” Scouting, or the Ends justify the means”. Not the example I want to set for our boys.

          When things like this are done it cheapens the award and we fail in our duty to deliver the promise. Plus it robs the scout of a quality experience.
          They deserve better!

        • Ron – I think your gripe on the Cub camping thing should be directed to Mr Hiser and National. I think your illustration between a Cub Camp and a 50 Miler is a bit off base as well. The realistic comparison would be a Cub Camp and some of a scout’s first outings as a Boy Scout which are typically at the level of a state park or other one to two day outings rather than a 50 miler. This comparison for a new Boy Scout isn’t so far stretched as to make Mr Hiser’s inclusion of Cub Camps out of the realm of reasonable. Otherwise it could be argued that only 5+ Night/50 Miler/Philmont Trek miles should be considered as these would be more of an ourdoor experience than even a new Boy Scout’s first outings. So where would the line be drawn? Previously it was simply drawn at camping nights (regardless of when/where/how long) for Boy Scouts and above, so we’ll see if the Cub Scout idea sticks. Personally, I’m with you on the issue with the NOA being a Boy Scout/higher award.

          And by the way, Scouting is largely “check the box” whether you like it or not. I can imagine just how chaotic the program would become if the boxes were left to the discretion of the personality of each leader. Frankly, this is much of what you are arguing against here . . . if leaders had the discretion they would allow taking out the garbage to be counted as a Hornaday project. So maybe you should be a bit more thankful that there are boxes to check. And when leaders seek to understand and comprehend the understanding of the checkboxes maybe the better approach is to help them understand rather than call them “ridiculous” as Bob puts it.

          And my comments to Basement is exactly what this is about. I stated that he has plenty of experience that may be beneficial to the masses, thus giving him credit for at least some of what he says. My issue is with his attitude and delivery. It’s hard to pick anything constructive from what he says when it is mixed with personal rants and irrelevant comparisons. (For example, there are very few things that compare to 100 miles at Philmont–is his comparison to Philmont then suggesting that only activities such as Philmont are eligible to be included in this award? Absolutely not, making this comparison a rant and completely irrelevant.) And how many people get completely turned off feeling like they will be bullied into submission if they post a question? I would guess that there are probably a few people who have avoided posting their questions to rather make their assumptions about what those check boxes mean thus perpetuating your concerns. It can really be a vicious cycle.

  6. So, how about a group of boys, who happen to be from one patrol, shows me their plan for an overnight camp-out, in which only the boys will participate. It’s a good plan, so I tell them, “This is awesome, you should go for it!”

    The meeting after their camp-out one boy says, “That’s night #25 for me!”

    Should I agree or disagree?

    • We’ll see what Mr. Hiser says, but I think the answer is clear: Of course! A patrol overnighter might not be unit-wide, but it is unit level Scouting, and they’re a Boy Scout Patrol camping as Boy Scouts.

        • Yes the Guide to Safe Scouting says “appropriate adult leadership must be present for all overnight Scouting activities.” So having two adult leaders (one of whom must be 21 years of age or older) is the appropriate leadership for most trips and outings.

          However the Guide to Safe Scouting also says “there are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when the presence of adult leaders is not required.” So having zero adults could be considered “appropriate adult leadership” for a patrol outing.

        • Patrols may set out on overnighters free of adult leadership.

          From the 2010 printing of “The Patrol Leader’s Handbook” (page 30):

          “Most patrol activities take place within the framework of the troop.However, patrols may also set out on day hikes, service projects, and overnighters independent of the troop and free of adult leadership as long as they follow two rules: (1) the Scoutmaster approves the patrol activity and (2) the patrol activity does not interfere with any troop function.

          A patrol activity without adult supervision should be allowed only when it has been thoroughly planned and the Scoutmaster is satisfied the activity is well within patrol members’ levels of training and responsibility. If the Scoutmaster has any doubts, he should encourage the patrol to reconsider its plans or should assign adults to accompany the patrol during the activity.”

        • Matt,

          You sound like you want to empower boys to become leaders! That would mean that they would have to take the initiative to plan an event and make it happen. They would also have to think and consider any problems that may arise and make contingent plans. How dare you expose a youth to such adult themes. How dare you to have a boy lead troop! Ha!

          I my old troop, it was EXPECTED that the PL and APL plan such events as part of their POR. We didn’t want any adults around either. They may stop by for a visit to check in on us, but that did not happen all of the time.

          The troop leadership also expected all of the ex-SPL’s to help out running stations at camp outs (learning from another scout leader) and plan service projects for the troop. By the time they had to work on their Eagle project, it was an easy task for them.

          We had one more rule 3) That the scout had to bring up this idea and explain it to the troop committee and have it approved by them. That way it was a troop sanctioned event and thus covered by BSA insurance. It also helped the boy with his public speaking and organizational skills.

          We had a scout that was caught rappelling out of a tree using clothes line and a chain link for a descender. His mom wanted to know if it was safe. We told them to come to the committee meeting and talk about it. The scout thought he was going to get tossed out of the troop. He talked about what he did and was dismissed. I was the SPL at the time and I handed him a book with rappelling gear in it. We came up with a list of gear we needed. We returned to the meeting and I told him to request $500 to purchase the gear for “safety reasons”. He was surprised that it got approved. His clothes line was confiscated though and he was told not rappel until he was trained for it.

          Oh, the boy, Steve, is now a Major in the Air Force. You just don’t know what will happen when you train these boys to lead.

      • I specified “only the boys will participate” no adults — emphasizing that this is a good plan. They’ve secured the appropriate permissions. The location is well within their abilities. Parents approve.

        • Then it is not a good plan to count towards this award no matter who approves. According to GtSS, appropriate adult leadership must be present on all overnighters. No appropriate adult leadership present, no BSA activity, no award credit. Just a bunch of boys having fun.

        • This is a big change in how we view things in today’s society. I have copies of the 1940, 1950, & 1967 Patrol Leader’s Handbook. In the two earlier ones (not sure about 1967), the PL Handbook encourage Scout Patrols to go hiking, camping, and other activities on their own. No adults around. We probably don’t do that now because every 10th adult seems to have a law degree and needs to drum up business.

        • RoryW – According to GtSS, appropriate adult leadership must be present on all overnighters. Zero adults is “appropriate” for a Scoutmaster-approved patrol activity (including an overnighter). See the Guide to Safe Scouting section on patrol outings and overnights,The Boy Scout Handbook, The Scoutmaster Handbook, and The Patrol Leader Handbook for black-and-white language direct from the BSA that says patrol overnights that are free of adults are allowed.

        • This is one that deserves its own Ask the Expert so that someone has to come right out and say that BSA killed no-adult patrol overnighters.

        • So, let’s say a boy was in a patrol who did this same activity 5 years ago, when G2SS allowed for such things (and independent activities — as opposed to big-ticket resource drains — were to be the pinnacle of every boys’ scouting experience).

          Would his nights count, while the boy who implemented the same or better plan last weekend not count?

        • Q: The awards recognize their Scouting activity across their Boy Scouting career, so most definitely their nights from a pre-GtSS update count.

        • So an excellent overnight in 2008 means more than an excellent overnight in 2013?

          Sounds like this award has lost its value.

        • Q, you’re asking the wrong guy. I completely agree that no-adult patrol overnighters should still be allowed. If you still allow them, that’s your business and if you still allow them I would count them for NOA.

  7. Mr. Hiser, one that wasn’t so clear cut for me:
    I had a parent who was incredulous that swimming on the swim team doesn’t count for the swimming NOA. After a couple weeks, he remembered that the boy had swam for his Personal Fitness MB and brought in a log with the hours. I reckoned that if hiking for Hiking MB or Backpacking MB makes the miles “under the auspices” then swimming for Personal Fitness MB makes the swimming “under the auspices” (this is what Muslims call qiyas 😉 analogical reasoning) so I agreed.
    But I didn’t really like it.

    So, for future reference, if a boy’s physical activity for Personal Fitness MB happens to be one of the things NOA recognizes, can that count for the NOA?

    • My knee-jerk would be not to count the Personal Fitness chart because that’s, well, personal. And, there is an explicit list of MBs where working toward them may be counted. It’s like counting the hours working on Home Repairs if a boy lived on a house boat.

      Now if it was the boy talking to me and not the parent, and he was willing to bring a little Islamic philosophy into the mix, I might reconsider. 😉

      • I don’t get it. Home repairs doesn’t have any requirement in hours. Now if the Scout tried to get credit for the National Aquatics Award’s Rqt #5 for living on the Houseboat, I would understand that . . . and no, that would not count towards the award.

        I would count the Personal Fitness chart because in the example provided, it said that any preconditioning work leading up to earning the MB should count as in the cycling example cited. Most of the Scouts are only tracking their personal fitness activities because of the Merit Badge so if preconditioning work for the bike rides counts for the Cycling Merit Badge, then fitness activities for the Personal Fitness Merit Badge should also count.

        • Q was having a little fun: The aquatics badge metric is “hours” on the water in craft, or in the water swimming. So, he’s saying/joking that if we take my analogical reasoning on Personal Fitness MB to its extreme a boy doing home repairs on a house boat would have X hours on the water.
          Putting aside that Q was having a little fun, what I would say is that if someone seriously brought that to me, the difference is clear: when you’re in a canoe/kayak/rowboat/what-have-you, you’re boating, hours fixing up a house boat are not boating.

      • I feel you on the list, Q, but there’s a separation in the Aquatics badge between which MBs are on the menu for the award (req 5), and which activities count (req 6). So, for instance, Scuba MB is in the list for Requirement 4. But the activity of scuba is in the list for Requirement 5. So, for Req 4 a boy may or may not earn Scuba MB (he can choose from 6), but he might scuba dive “under the auspices” if he earns the BSA Scuba award–so those are aquatics hours in scuba diving without earning the MB. 5 and 6 are separate.
        But, swimming for Personal Fitness MB is a little more removed from that, which is why I’d like a more authoritative answer from Hiser.

  8. How about a scout at national jamboree who did a lot of walking every day and did a conservation project at jamboree, Does he earn the 50 Miler?

  9. The cycling Merit Badge requirements #8 & #9 DO NOT state that the bike rides have to be done with a Troop or with other Boy Scouts. It just says to make so many trips of so many miles & report on each trip. Based on this, let me go with a hypothetical example:

    The Bike Ride Across Kansas (BRAK) takes place each year in June. Johnny Scout decides he wants to ride this with his Aunt who rides in it every year. He works his riding up to 10 miles by doing routes in the local area and thus completing his two rides of 10 miles each. He then starts the BRAK with his Aunt completing a minimum of 15 miles on Day 1 and Day 2, 25 miles on Day 3 & Day 4, & 50 miles on Day 5.

    Based on the guidance above, Johnny Scout could count 130 of the miles from BRAK for the Cycling MB and for the National Riding Award. He could also count the two 10-mile rides, plus any rides that he took to reach the 10-mile mark, plus any troop related rides for the National Riding Award.

    If Johnny Scout somehow completes the entire ride each day of the BRAK so at the end of the week he biked the over 400 miles across Kansas, do all these miles count towards the National Riding Award? Or does Johnny Scout only get to count the 130?


    • My opinion: The miles biked toward Cycling MB are “under the auspices” by virtue of their being biked toward the MB (just like miles for Hiking or Backpacking MB, or hours in the water for Swimming MB).
      The miles in excess of the MB don’t have anything to do with Scouting (unless the troop or patrol are doing BRAK) so I wouldn’t count them.

      • CG: Wouldn’t all the cycling miles count for the National Riding Award if a Scout biked 2 miles a day for a week, 3 miles a day for a week, etc. until they got up to make their first 10 mile trip? Same thing for the other distances. Nothing says the Scout has to jump from 10 to 15 to 25 to 50 miles. In these cases, a Scout “working” his way up could count all his miles. On the BRAK, if the Scout did 15 miles on Day 1 & 20 miles on Day 2, why wouldn’t we count the extra 5 miles working up to the next milestone of 25 miles?

        What if the Scout on the BRAK did the following?
        Day 1: 15 Miles (Counts as a 15-miler)
        Day 2: 24 Miles (Counts as a 15-miler)
        Day 3: 25 Miles (Counts as a 25-miler)
        Day 4: 49 Miles (Counts as a 25-miler)
        Day 5: 50 Miles (Counts as a 50-miler)

        Do you give the Scout credit for 130 miles for the National Riding Award or does he get 163 miles because he was working his way up to the next level? If the latter, why doesn’t he get credit for all the miles he rode on Day 1 to Day 4 since those were in preparation for his 50-miler?

        And does the counting for the National Riding Award immediately cease upon completing the 50th mile on Day 5? What if the route was 76 miles that day & the Scout finished it? Do we tell the Scout, “no more miles allowed after 50 miles on the road in one day because you were no longer doing it for the Merit Badge”? Does that really make sense?

        Now, I will throw in the haymaker. Would your opinion change if the Aunt was also a Cycling Merit Badge Counselor?

        As many Scouters here and LinkedIn have said, Merit Badges are suppose to be an individually earned award and many have opined that Merit Badge work during meetings should not be done. If Merit Badges are individual awards, why do we then turn around and then say that if you are not doing it with your Patrol or Troop, it does not count?

        Just trying to not speak out of both sides of my mouth when dealing with Scouts.

        • Sorry, training to be able to bike 10 miles so you can meet a Cycling MB requirement is not part of the Cycling MB. So, no, biking 2 miles every day for 2 weeks until you can bike 10 does not magically get you 28 miles for the NOA.
          The NOA Riding Badge requirement 2A is “earn Cycling MB and 100 miles of riding.” There are two ways to earn Cycling: Road and mountain. Road cycling miles for the Cycling MB are a minimum of 150 (10×2, 15×2, 25×2, 50×1). If the scout pursues the Mountain Biking option, he only has 52 miles (2×2, 5×2, 8×2, 22×1), thus the addition of “and 100 miles” to NOA Riding req 2 this year: If the boy earns Cycling with the road option, he has 150 miles and meets NOA req 2, if he did the mountain biking option, he needs 100 more miles so that 2 boys pursuing Cycling MB have the same standard for NOA Riding req 2.
          NOA Req 3 (mislabeled 5 on the website due to bad list formatting on 2a and 2b) is “200 miles including miles from Req 2” So boys who earned cycling with the road option need 50 more miles “under the auspices” of scouting and boys who earned cycling with mountain biking need 48 more miles “under the auspices.”

          The way to get those miles is via a patrol, troop, district, council, OA, or national program. If the guy in your unit who signs the NOA applications and the person in your council who checks the log and hands you the award wants to count “training” miles you did building up to your Cycling MB fitness level, that’s between you guys and God. But they’re not (in my opinion) cycling MB miles.

          The excess miles of BRAK after meeting Cycling MB’s 150 miles are not Scouting miles unless the troop has made BRAK part of its program.

        • CG: I disagree. Go back up to the top of this and see what the “expert” said. I have and pasted the relevant portion here

          “A ‘BSA unit activity’ may include some individual efforts not part of the group: e.g., a pre-conditioning exercise where all unit members commit to and actually ride their bikes X miles a week prior to a big troop bike ride. It is not meant to include activities that the Scout undertakes that are unrelated to Scouting — e.g., family or church group camping, running as part of the school cross-country team, etc.”

          What if the Troop or Patrol says that in preparation for the big troop bike ride, the Scouts decide that every Scout should ride between 10 & 25 miles per week. These miles would count according to the expert’s input above. Thus, riding 2 miles a day for 7 days WOULD count.

          If those low mileage numbers count, what if the Troop decides on a range of 50 to 200 miles of personal riding per week? What is the limitation the Scouts could put on themselves? My answer is none. If it is not disallowed, it is allowed.

          I know that the Scout SHOULD NOT count riding down to the grocery store as part of his mileage, but then again how many kids do that today (sorry for the digression).

          There is nothing that says a Scout must do the Cycling MB in conjunction with a Patrol/Troop. Johnny Scout can do all the Merit Badge requirements on his own as long as he provides the documenation to the Merit Badge Counselor. How’s this for another possibility. Johnny Scout is working on his Cycling MB and does all his bike rides except for the 50-miler for the road option. All these miles would count towards the National Riding Award. Johnny Scout then decides he wants to do the Mountain Biking option instead and starts doing them. These miles would also count for the National Riding Award. Johnny Scout now must decide which ride to do (road or mountain) to complete the Merit Badge. Do all these miles count towards the National Riding Award? Yes, of course. But as soon as Johnny Scout completes all the Road or Mountain ride requirements, the mileage counting stops for the National Riding Award? That just doesn’t make sense to me.

      • Are you really saying that a scout who rides 60 miles to complete his 50 mile bicycle ride to complete the Cycle merit badge cannot count 60 but must count 50? Or a scout who hikes 24 miles to complete his 20 mile hike for the Hiking merit badge can only count 20? “Because those miles have nothing to do with scouting??”

        How many scouts pound trails in their boots or roads on their bikes because it is part of their “Fitness Plan” that is repeated in several sets of requirements throughout Boy Scouts and Venturing? But because this is part of a merit badge not on the list or some other requirement list it doesn’t have anything to do with scouting?

        I think the idea of excluding the scout riding his bike to the corner store for ice cream has caused the pendulum to swing too far to the side of excluding all personal activities.

        Taking this to the next step, how would a scout realistically qualify for the the National Outdoor Medal? If all requirements aside from the minimal merit badge requirements must be earned while participating in troop activities it would require the troop to dedicate their entire program to the award. At that point it no longer is a personal award but a troop award. Sure, there may be a few troops that could qualify, but the number would be so small that it wouldn’t make any sense to even have the award.

        • Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m just a guy like you, David P. My thoughts on BRAK so far are abstract because they’re not questions I’ve faced in real life and I’m not an expert. My troop bikes 50 miles every year, so the odds are close to 0 that I’ll ever have a boy asking me to count miles outside of Cycling MB or our troop program.
          So, I change my mind (I’m not the expert). Because if I had a real boy standing in front of me who started the BRAK as a scout working on his Cycling MB, I guess no, he does not become not-a-Scout for the last 250 miles of the trip.

          Training as part of a troop thing, yes. But I see training to get to the ability to do the Cycling MB rides as an individual thing.

          Gold devices are the easiest part of the NOA Medal. When I decided to start promoting NOA in our troop 3 years ago, 4 boys already met the requirements in Camping and/or hiking. 2 of them already qualified for 2 gold devices in Camping, 1 already qualified for a gold device in Hiking. Counting nothing but Boy Scout nights, and miles from troop hikes and merit badges. The troop was not “dedicating” -any- portion of the program toward the NOA because it did not exist until the year before–we just run a quality program with lots of opportunities to camp and hike, an annual bike trip with 50 miles available because of Cycling MB, a troop-level high adventure every other year at least (annually lately). Heck, after the limit of 1 week of longterm camping for the initial Camping badge, 4 years of summer camp is enough for one gold device on its own.
          So, no, a troop does not need to “dedicate their entire program to the award.” It just needs to run a quality program, and encourage participation in non-troop Scouting events (like adventure bases and OA events).

  10. My only issue with awards, particularly merit badges, is allowing “two-fers”, which is a problem I had with an adult one time. His thinking was that if a Scout could hoist and carry a backpack 15 miles for a Backpacking merit badge requirement, that backpacking “hike” should also count as one for Hiking merit badge. To me, that violates the spirt of “nothing more, nothing less” because a Scout in such a case only walked 15 miles total — not 15 for a backpacking trek and 15 for a hike. I hope the National Outdoor Awards aren’t further blurring the lines between “no more, no less” and “two-fers”. The bottom line is that I don’t like adults teaching Scouts how to cut corners to get what they want. All that said, I’m 100 percent behind the National Outdoor Awards. It’s the best outdoor award program the BSA has ever cooked up.

    • I agree with you about having the same hike count for two merit badges. Although, if a boy was clever enough to think of that on his own — I might give it to him because so few boys read the requirements at all! 😉

      NOA stands apart from the advancement track. It’s a resume of outdoor experience. (And a way for BSA to sell it’s brand — thus the “under the auspices of scouting.”) So if a boy earned Hiking and Backpacking in the process of his career miles, I’d still count those miles.

    • I wouldn’t allow the double dipping for hiking/backpacking for the same 15 miles. A hike implies that the Scout does not have to spend the night so can get by with a day pack with the 10 hiking/outdoor essentials. A Backpacking Trip requires the Scout to carry everything he needs to camp out over night since the requirements state that the treks must cover at least 3 days & 15 miles.

      Now if a Scout had already earned his Backpacking Merit Badge, but not his hiking Merit Badge, I would allow a Scout to count a Backpacking trip with his troop with a few caveats to count towards hiking. For any day of over 20 miles on the trail, the Scout could only count it as a 10-mile or 20-mile hike. In other words, the Scout could not count it as two 10-milers because requirment #5 says “on a different day.” The daily trek would also have to cover at least 10-miles. The Scout would also must make sure that he met the other requirements, written plan, complete a short report, and share the report with the MBC.

    • The Guide to Advancement addresses when similar requirements can be used to fulfill multiple requirements and there’s a blog here about it (#9 at
      In the specific example, Hiking MB specifically prohibits the use of the milage in other MBs “* The hikes in requirements 5 and 6 can be used in fulfilling Second Class (2a) and First Class (3) rank requirements, but only if Hiking merit badge requirements 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been completed to the satisfaction of your counselor. The hikes of requirements 5 and 6 cannot be used to fulfill requirements of other merit badges.”
      Backpacking MB, on the other hand, does not carry any such prohibition.
      In the case of NOA, it is designed to award scouts for doing those things, so the point is to count the stuff they’ve done as Scouts, but -also- to encourage them to do more and be more active since the NOA badges can’t be earned by “tow-fer”ing alone.

  11. Bryan,

    Great article, and one that is much needed.

    This has brought out another topic, that seems to come up a lot too. “Double-dipping”, or counting things done twice for two separate requirements/badges.

    Can you please address this subject in the “near” future?

    And do it with some detail, as it seems there are too many people out there that always want to cut corners, or find the “loop hole” to get around doing the actual requirements, no matter how ridiculous is my look. A great example in the current article (reply) is that a scout could use “Cub Scout camping” to fulfill some of the camping requirements, simply because is didn’t say you could not!

    When adults do this it only robs the boy of a quality scouting experience and teaches the wrong things.

    Thanks for your time!


    Ron Murphy


    • Ron: I have relooked over the entire thread and I have not seen anyone advocating to count Cub Scout Camping nights for the Camping Merit Badge. Some, including myself, have stated that Cub Scout Camping nights could be used for the National Camping Award if the nights are verifiable because the award states under the auspices of BSA. The Expert, Eric Hiser, in Point #1 stated that Cub Scouting counts as a BSA activity and therefore is fair game for the award. That is not “double dipping” for the National Camping Award, but is just awarding nights camped based under the guidance of the award itself.

      Nothing done as a Cub Scout could count for a Merit Badge because one has to be a Boy Scout to work on a Merit Badge. If the National Camping Award was only for Boy Scout Camping nights, it would have stated so. It does not.

      Our Council has a 12-month Camping Award. Each Scout has to camp out for each of the months and has a 24-month period to complete the requirement once began. In other words, a Scout starts his camping streak in January and misses the June campout, he would have to make the next June campout to qualify. Nothing in the award criteria states that the award is only for Boy Scouts or higher. A Webelos Den Leader offered his den the option to camp every month from the time they became Webelos Is in May until they crossed over to Boy Scouts in February 20 months later. Over 1/2 the Den received the award at their Blue & Gold Banquet/Crossover Ceremony. Probably the first time, the council award was ever given to Cub Scouts. Unless the rules prohibit something, it is allowed.

      if “double dipping” is not allowed, it is clearly stated in the requirements. This can be seen in the Hiking MB, the new Cooking MB requirements, and in Pet Care. My son is working on 4 MBs (Safety, Fire Safety, Electriicty, and Emergency Preparedness) and all require a home safety inspection (the same checklist is in 3 of the worksheets). Does he need to make 4 different home inspections to meet the requirements for each Merit Badge? If he had worked on each of these MBs 18 months apart from each other, I would agree that another home inspection was due. Since he working on them at the same time, only one inspection is required. Some “double dipping” makes sense.

      • Careful there, someone might read this right before going into your boy’s board of review! 😦

        Although, the best way to deal with all of these is have the boys read the requirements and tell you if THEY think it fits. Most times the boy will be more strict on himself than you would be.

        I’d also advise handling one award at a time. If you’re counseling on hiking, and a boy says he covered 15 miles one day on a backpacking trip, you’re reaction should be “Ouch” … Not “Did you already count that for Backpacking?”

      • As stated in a previous post, the NOA is for Boy Scouts. Even though “auspices” covers Cub Scouts, I now read that as a Den Chief camping with his Webelos Den or Pack as nights counting for the NOA. Nights done as a Cub Scout SHOULD NOT count. We have to read not only what the expert wrote in the initial post, but the entire NOA Award requirements that begins out that the Award is for Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts only. The NOA IS NOT for Venturers unless they are dual enrolled as Boy Scouts (if we read the criteria as written).

        • Eric hiser has weighed in and said that Nights camped as a Cub Scout do count towards the National Camping Award. Scroll up above to see where it is and therefore my interpretation of yesterday was correct.

          Still not sure about cycling mileage though.

      • What I was referring to was the “camping requirements for the NOA”.
        Allowing camping done while a Cub to count for a Boy Scout award is ridiculous! Regardless of what the “Expert” says.

        All that does is lower the value of this award and teaches the wrong lessons to our youth.

        Using the “Expert’s” opinion, A former Tiger Cub (or even a Lion Cub), who camps with a parent, even in their backyard, can count these nights towards the NOA!

        Or, how about counting nights at a family BSA camp (or Pack camp) when the youth (he or she) is 3 or 4 years old, count for the NOA? It would be “Under the auspices of the BSA”, so why not?

        How does that compare to an actual Boy Scout camping with his troop or patrol, or going to Philmont?

        What is the “spirit” or intention or the requirement?

        Is it to find the easiest, fastest, least amount of work, “ends justify the means”, way to get this award (NOA)?

        I would hope not!

        National had to amend the requirements for the Camping MB not long ago to specifically require the Camping requirement be scout camping. Prior to that, there were all sorts of crazy camping experiences being submitted, like “sleeping under the awning at Grandma’s house”, etc.

        This goes back to my point that, far too many leaders/parents/scouts seem to be looking for that “get around” or loophole, the easy way to get the award.

        This, IMO, is precisely the situation with the “Expert” saying that it’s OK to count Cub camping for a Boy Scout/Varsity/Venturing award.

        When things like this are done it robs the scout/venturer of a quality experience and teaches the wrong things to our youth.

  12. Okay, so here’s my take on this. The intent of the award was to encourage boys to really get into outdoor activity. So, say none of the boys in your unit camp enough to your liking. Maybe they are older scouts who all feel like they’ve done their time. Maybe they are younger scouts whose parents just want to visit museums and go on day trips. Whatever. You’re kinda tired of herding cats.

    Along comes this crossover who has been to resident camp since tiger, over-nighted with his pack every year in the fall, spent 6 weekends with as many different troops over the past two years. He wants to try backpacking with his dad in two months and would like to invite his patrol (and you, for G2SS purposes) to come along. Why wouldn’t you say “Boy you’ve already racked up 15 camping nights, how ’bout you earn First Class and these three MBs (the one means 20 more nights of camping among other things), and I’ll start the paperwork for this other award? You’ll be the first boy in our troop to earn it.”

    If in the process, a couple of other boys say, “I want that patch too.” And maybe the first boy says, “that was fun, but can we do more hiking so I can earn a different segment?” You’ve just amped up your program. (And, maybe found your replacement leaders in that boy’s parents.)

    If you don’t count those cub nights, you might be missing your opportunity to inspire.

    • q: You have my son there in your example. He camped 21 nights as a Cub Scout: Spring 2010 Family Campout (2); Bear Resident Camp (1); Fall 2010 Family Campout (2); Webelos Resident Camp (2); Fall 2011 Family Campout (2); Philmont Training Center (6); Webelos Resident Camp (2); Webeloree 2010 (1); Troop 428 Visit Campout (1); Troop 402 Visit Campout (2).

      From January 2012 when he joined his Troop until now, he has added 32 nights for a total of 53. He has his 1st Class Rank & First Aid MB. He will be doing Camping & Pioneering this summer at his 2nd Bartle Summer Camp. He is currently working on the Cooking MB. By the end of summer camp, if he successfully earns the 2 MBs, he will have earned his National Outdoor Badge for Camping and one Gold Device. If he attends all the campouts, he should have 76 nights camping by the end of October for his 2nd Gold Device.

    • So the ends justify the means?
      By your reasoning a first year Scout would come into your troop and be awarded the NOA and qualify on Cub camping alone, just to promote the award in the troop (AKA “the opportunity to inspire”).
      Most scouts are going to see through that and see it for what it is, a cheap give away award.

      • Ron: No Cub Scout could join a Troop and receive the Camping award immediately. The Scout has to meet the other requirements: First Class Rank, Camping MB, and 2 of the other 3 MB options (First Aid, Pioneering, or Cooking). Even the most dedicated Scout is going to take a year or more to complete all those requirements.

  13. I introduce the program sometime after the boy’s first year by giving him his TroopMaster report with nights, miles, aquatics, etc and a copy of the NOA requirements, and a talking-up of the award (it’s more rare by magnitudes than Eagle and a lot harder in my opinion). At that point, he’s within striking distance of the number of nights needed for the Camping Badge, will be going to MB camp the next year rather than a first-year program (thus he can start using the NOA as a road map for MBs), and has a great reason to keep humming along for First Class (we don’t ram them through).
    I don’t do it that way with Cubs in mind, but that way there’s no reason for anyone to start scratching back to their Cub days for nights when they’ve already got 16 if they went on just half the trips plus summer camp of their first year. There’s just not any reason to go back to Cubbing for a Boy Scout award. If Mr. Hiser turns up and says “count Cub nights” I’ll do it, but I don’t see in in the requirements or any reason.

    • While Mr. Hiser will probably not shown up at anyTroop, his response above did say “count Cub Nights” . . . but I add, if the Scout can verify that he attended the event.

      There is a reason to count the Cub Nights and that is to earn the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. Requirement 2 requires that the Scout earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a Silver Device. That means the Scout must have completed 125 nights of camping as 25 nights are required for the National Camping Award and 100 nights of camping for the Silver Device.

      Our Troop camps every month and our summer camp is 9 nights long. At that rate, a Scout would take over 4 years to earn his Silver Device for camping even if he attended every camping opportunity offered by the Troop (something that probably doesn’t occur). Most Cub Scouts are probably not going to add 21 nights like my son, but 10-15 nights may be the difference between earning the award and not.

      And Mr. Hiser has spoken. Will we all listen to the guidance put out by national and observe the Scout oath by being obedient? Or will we do our own thing, just because that is how our troop has always done it?

      • There is still plenty to be sorted out here so I wouldn’t lay down the “will we do our own thing just because that is how out troop has always do it” too quickly. For example, do cycling miles for a “Qualified Venturer” who is working on the Cycling/Mountain Biking Ranger Award count? I would certainly think so. Or how about a scout who already has the Cycling merit badge who rides along with another scout who is working on the Cycling merit badge so he has a buddy? I would certainly think so.

        There are plenty of other situations, especially when a scout accepts the challenge in any of numerous scout awards/programs to put together their own fitness program and follow it that is “under the auspices” of scouting. If there is any concern about the quality of the activity (such as the scout riding his bike to school versus taking the bus . . . hmmm I have found myself pondering the wisdom of taking the stairs over the elevator) the Scoutmaster can simply provide the guidance and approval of the activities.

        Many times I have seen some scouters take the most difficult interpretations of requirements and put down anyone who appears to “short-cut” the requirements with a potentially more simple interpretation. And maybe sometimes it is all in the wording. Personally, I think Mr Hiser’s comments are far too limiting in that it would be a challenge for scouts to earn segments, but that there would be very little possibility for any scout to earn the National Outdoor Award Medal. At that point it has no use and certainly wouldn’t motivate anyone. And certainly, if the medal is put up so high, any scout who earns will undoubtedly be criticized for shortcutting something to get there. We can’t say that wouldn’t happen because it happens all the time.

        Even in my troop as a youth which was very active, there is no way we would have been able to drag the entire troop 200 miles of hiking (segment plus two gold devices) AND 400 miles of riding (segment plus two gold devices). Even accumulating 125 nights of camping for a scout in a troop that camps every month and attends summer camp each year would take almost 8 years to accomplish–this would undoubtedly require the scout to go outside of the troop for other camping opportunities such as Philmont, camping with other troops, National Jamboree on top of scout camp, etc. These activities immediately take the scout out of the troop setting. And if the troop simply amps up their own activities to help one scout who is motivated to earn the Medal, imagine how mad other parents may become when they realize that all the additional expense and time for these activities was done for one extreme award.

        In your troop you outlined 20 nights of camping each year (11 plus 9 for summer camp assuming you do not have an individual camping night the same month as summer camp) which would take 6.25 years to get to the Silver Device, not “over 4 years”. (125/20=6.25)

        If the scout has the individual motivation to accomplish the award, give him the ability to do things reasonably on his own knowing that he is doing it with a scouting purpose and motivation. Have him coordinate his activities with his Scoutmaster, just as he has done in his merit badges rather than put up road blocks.

        • If I was a SM, I would count miles earned by a Qualified Venturer working on his Cycling/Mountian Biking Ranger Award AND a Scout with the Cycling MB who was riding along with his buddy who is earning his cycling MB. I try to be more inclusive in my interpretation of policies and anything not stated is ok.

          I was thinking about the Scout who goes to a Whitewater Rafting company to earn his Whitewater MB (there are some out there with MBCs on staff). Those hours on the water would count to earning the National Outdoor Badge for Aquatics. If the same Scout returned to the same outfitter the following year and brought along a buddy (or two) earning their Whitewater MBs, that time on the water would count for his buddies but not for himself? I can see how the same event would count for one Scout and not the other.

          As for camping nights in our Troop, we camp out Friday and Saturday almost monthly. Our exceptions are for the “winter months” of Dec, Jan, & Feb. This past year, the only month we did a single night of camping was December 2013. In January, we went to Trappers Rendezvous which was 2 nights & February was our District Klondike Derby, another 2 nights. Thus a Scout in our Troop would have the opportunity to do a minimum of 30 nights of camping each year (9 months a year X 2 nights & 3 months X 2 nights & summer camp of 9 nights or 18+3+9=30). At that rate, it would take just over 4 years to obtain 125 nights from Boy Scout events alone if no other camping was done (high adventure, Jambo, etc.).

        • Dave very clearly earning a merit badge falls under the auspice as it requires prior approval form the unit leader.

        • give me thumbs down all ya want.

          Doesn’t change the facts your interpreting the rules to make it much easier on the boys.

          As written no more and no less.

          Instead of short cutting a weak program…..why don’t you improve them.

      • By Cub Scouts as part of “under the auspices” I feel like he means if a Boy Scout goes camping with a Cub pack (maybe he’s a Den Chief, maybe his little brother is still a Cub, maybe he’s volunteering at sleep-away camp), and there’s no question those nights would count.

        • CG: No, it is not how you “feel” but what the Camping Task Force has stated.

          Mr. Hiser clarified his position at 9:35 AM, 14 March 2014, when he wrote the following when I changed my position to Cub Scout nights not counting (you can scroll up to see that I copied & pasted the entire response and the capital letters are his not mine):

          “No. Nights camped, miles hiked, hours in the water, etc., as a Cub Scout or Venturer “under the auspices” DO COUNT for the final requirement of each badge. That’s the purpose of the “under the auspices” language–to recognize the totality of the Scout’s outdoorism in Scouting. The rank and merit badge requirements, on the other hand, must be earned as set forth under the Boy Scout/Varsity Scout program, until such time as BSA releases guidance for Venturers who are not “Qualified Venturers” as that term is used in the Guide to Advancement.

          Eric Hiser, Camping Task Force”

          Based on this posting, there is no ambiguity no matter how you “feel” what Mr. Hiser means on camping nights as a Cub Scout or Venturer. All nights done as part of BSA, even Cub Scout nights, count towards the National Outdoor Badge for Camping.

        • I missed Eric’s reply until just now. So, that’s no problem for me and I’m happy to have the clarification. If boy’s have records of their Cub camping, I’ll tell them to include it.

        • CG: I’m glad we are now in agreement. I doubt if many will have records of their campouts, yet alone any hikes. It will be a moot point for about 95% or more of the Scouts. I just got to get our Advancement Chair to even do the awards because currently he doesn’t.

        • If your troop uses TroopMaster, it’s pretty simple to track the metrics (nights, miles, aquatics hours, etc). The Adv Chair simply needs to define the activity types. If he doesn’t want to get involved in it, ask him to let you do it. If he won’t budge, then sit down with the boys, explain the award, and give them the worksheet from to track their own metrics (

          Here’s how to set up TroopMaster from my inquiry to TroopMaster support last year:
          “TroopMaster comes pre-defined with Camping and Hiking as activity types but you can also choose to add your own activity types as well (Activity>Define Types on the main menu). Each type allows you to specify an ‘amount’ field specific to that type (e.g., Camping Nights, Hiking Miles, Service Project Hours, Riding Miles, etc.). There are occasions where a particular outing might encompass more than one type of activity. For example, you may be on a Campout where there was also a Hike. Or a Campout that also included a Service Project. There could also be a Campout that includes both a Hike and a Service Project. When adding these types of combined activities, we have a Combined button on the Activity dialog. Once you have entered all of the details from the first portion of the activity, clicking Combined will allow you to quickly enter the next portion maintaining all of the data that is common between the two (i.e., Date, Location, Participants, etc.). You would then change the Type, Amount or any other fields that are different and then either save the activity or click Combined again if a third portion should be included. This approach allows for any combination of activities while helping minimize your data entry to get these into the system.

          “Once all of these have been entered into the system, the standard activity
          reports would then automatically generate all of these totals for you. The
          Individual Participation report will print a complete listing for each scout
          including their activities and the totals from these. This sounds like what
          you’re managing through your spreadsheet now except the report would only
          include activities that each scout attended so they wouldn’t be sorting
          through any other entries where they were not present. If this is not what
          you are looking for, please give us a call and we can discuss it in more
          detail but I think this would track all of the data you are keeping and give
          you quick access to this through the regular reports in the system.”

        • David,
          When Mr Eric Hiser, Camping Task Force, AKA “The Expert” has this published in the requirements, that clarifies that ALL CUB CAMPING CAN BE COUNTED, then I will take notice. Until then, it is just an opinion, like everyone of us has.

        • Ron: It appears that Mr. Hiser will have to publish the requirements in a document to satisfy some Scouters. That is the reason the GTA keeps growing and growing as some Scouters see a need to be told exactly what counts and what doesn’t count instead of going by the old adage that if something isn’t prohibited, it is ok.

          The national BSA will never be able to come up with every scenario to put in the GTA & other policy documents. That is why that if someone has a question, they are to contact their troop advancement chair. If that person cannot answer the question, they contact the district rep, then the council rep, and finally the national rep. In this case, the national rep has weighed in with his position and YES, the opinion of his committee counts more than anyone else’s because not everyone is equal in life . . . even though schools today are trying to change that.

        • pkujayhawk and Ron – The reason questions like this come up is because scouters make reasonable judgements on less-than-clear verbiage from national and others freak out saying that they are “cutting corners” as compared to the most difficult possible interpretation. It is clear that in this situation there is still quite a bit of ambiguity that I’m not sure this forum will be able to clarify. I’m guessing that to some degree the reason Mr Hiser hasn’t chimed in further may be because he’s working on some clarification himself . . . even though he is supposedly the person at the top.

  14. No wonder the BSA is circling the bowl.

    We are now counting Cub nights of camping for a boy scout awards………

    We have mom’s counting nights of family activities toward this award and dad’s counting bike ride miles to and from school

    A truly sad state of affairs.

    This award, if earned with all the segments, is more awesome than Eagle. To me it means the boy has full participated in the BSA program and not some parlor Troop. He has gotten down and dirty.

    I suppose you would like a High Speed and low drag Eagle program too.

    • Our troop had a scout who had almost all of his advancements signed off by his Dad, our former scoutmaster.

      1. His compass work consisted of bringing in a state road map and an iPhone with a compass app on it.
      2. He earned his hiking merit badge by hiking 20 miles in the following way 10 miles Friday night and the remainder on Saturday afternoon. His reasoning – it was within 24 hours.
      3. He earned his camping merit badge his second year as a scout. Mind you, our troop only went to summer camps and an occasional district camporee.

      I could go on and on, but the point I am making is, when you accept “kinda sorta’s” as acceptable towards advancement abuse occurs.

      BTW, our former scoutmaster’s other son, a second class, quit the sameday his dad resigned only to sign up in another troop as a Star scout a year later. Hmmmm, can you say fishy!

      • The Hiking MB specifically states that there can be no overnight for the 20-miler. There can be a rest break, but not overnight.

        As for the SM signing off on requirements for his son, our Troop & many other Troops makes sure that someone else (ASM) signs off on any requirement for their son. Many Troops often do the same for Scoutmaster conferences as a Scout will talk different to a leader than they would their own Father/Mother.

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