2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

Here’s one owner’s manual that’s actually worth reading.

It isn’t for your car, smartphone or new camp stove. The 2014 Fieldbook is a user’s guide for the entire outdoors, and it’s a must-own for everyone who spends time outside.

The fifth-edition Fieldbook: Scouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure is published by the Boy Scouts of America. It covers hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking and much more.

While Scouts and Scouters will find it indispensable before and during every outing, it’s a great tool for non-Scouts, as well.

“For more than a century, our organization has focused on teaching outdoor skills and leadership and providing opportunities for adventure and life-changing experiences,” said Wayne Brock, chief Scout executive of the BSA. “The Fieldbook isn’t just for our Scouts — we want to share these important lessons with anyone who seeks to explore, experience adventure and appreciate nature.”

Are you new to the outdoors? The Fieldbook has step-by-step guides to get you started. Or maybe you’re more of a seasoned outdoor adventurer? The Fieldbook will enhance your skill-set by helping you get farther, higher and deeper into the backcountry.

You can buy the 2014 Fieldbook today in your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org for $20 for the perfect-bound version or $27 for one that’s coil-bound.

Or, for the first time ever, you can buy it digitally. It’s available via Amazon for $20, and you can download it to read on a Kindle or any device that uses the Kindle app, including Androids, iPads and iPhones.

Find much more Fieldbook coverage, including a look at the contents pages, a bio of the Eagle Scout author and details about the history of the publication, all after the jump. 

fieldbook-birkbyAbout the author

Fieldbook author Robert Birkby writes from a lifetime of backcountry experience.

An Eagle Scout who served as director of conservation at Philmont Scout Ranch, he is a mountaineer, long-distance backpacker, outdoor educator and leading authority on environmental stewardship.

He is author of three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook, the 2004 Fieldbook and much of the 1984 edition, and BSA’s Conservation Handbook. He also wrote the most recent Scoutmaster Handbook and the coffee table books Boy Scouts of America Today, Scout Stuff, and Eagle Scouts: A Centennial History.

Table of Contents

Take a look at what’s inside (click to enlarge):


Fieldbook history

The BSA published the first edition of the Fieldbook in 1944, focusing on advanced outdoor skills and nature appreciation.

The second edition, published in 1967, arrived at the beginning of a great backpacking renaissance in America.

A third-edition Fieldbook came out in 1984, expanded to include mountaineering, snow camping, whitewater rafting and kayaking, wilderness survival, and many other outdoor activities that had gained favor.

The fourth edition (2004) carried those interests into the new century and laid the groundwork for the fifth edition: the 2014 Fieldbook.

What they’re saying about the new Fieldbook

Here are the testimonials found on the book’s back cover:

Jonathan Jarvis, Director, National Park Service:

“Slip this Fieldbook into your pack as a terrific guide to the passion of adventure, skills for the backcountry, and stewardship of the environment —three keys to enjoying America’s national parks and other public lands.”

Gregory A. Miller, Ph.D., President, American Hiking Society:

“As a longtime hiker, outdoorsman, and Scouter, I recommend the Fieldbook as an essential read for any outdoor enthusiast, regardless of age or ability. The time-tested skills and practical approaches are a credible, invaluable resource that will help make your outdoor adventures fun, safe, and memorable in America’s great outdoors.”

Dana Watts, Executive Director, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

“This new Fieldbook provides excellent, detailed guidance on how to put Leave No Trace principles into action. Scouting plays a key role in developing the next generation of outdoor stewards.”

24 thoughts on “2014 Fieldbook: Your must-have user’s guide to the outdoors

  1. I’m very excited about the Kindle option! It makes it much easier for my husband, son, and I to all share the book. I’m hopeful that the graphics are usable (sometimes I have found that Kindle graphics are not resizable and therefore of little value) and that perhaps there are even hotlinks (a la the early rank requirement videos but integrated directly into the book).

  2. It should be acknowledged, in my opinion, that the first Fieldbook was written by William Hillcourt and was for over 20 years “the” outdoor guide that this new edition hoped to become. Even today, there are many who keep the original in some printing in their outdoor library or even in their pack.

    It often seems as if there is an attempt by some in BSA to distance themselves from the huge heritage of skills and knowledge that “Green Bar Bill” gave to Scouting, both here and abroad. Current scouts are often amazed at the skills Bill detailed in his numerous aids published by Boys’ Life in the 30’s through 60’s. He also was the go to guy for the first efforts to reemphasize outdoor elements in the Scout Handbook. I personally hope that a revision in the Scouting Heritage merit badge will recommend him as one of the subjects for scouts to learn about, as he is not listed currently.

    • Wes,

      Agree with you 110%. IMHO, if Green Bar Bill had not come out of retirement to write the 1979 ed. of the BSHB that reemphasized the “OUTING in ScOUTING,” we would not have a BSA today.

  3. I picked up my copy at the Las Vegas Scouting Resource Center last week and I’m impressed. This Fieldbook is filled with great information that every Scout and Scouter should read. Being a Scout and outdoorsman for over 35 years, I’m surprised at how much I’m learning from this guide.

  4. I have high hopes, but I see a lot of external frame packs in the first couple of chapters, and I’m mystified why you would need a knife with a screwdriver and a can opener in the backcountry. Why are we loading our youth down with all this dangerous weight?

    At least the trail runners are listed before heavy boots. That is a nice improvement.

    • +1 for Walter. I can’t fathom why anyone would want to bring a can of anything into the backcountry it would be too much of pain to pack it in, and to much of hassle having to deal with the resulting trash. Also, none of my equipment requires a screwdriver for repair.

  5. I *was* (past tense) excited about the Kindle version. Now I’m very disappointed. I refuse to buy it. $20? Absolutely no way I will pay the same for a virtual book as the print version. Period. I read electronically because the price of printed books has gotten way out of hand. Ebooks are normally less expensive. Amazon years ago found the magic price point was $9.99 on an ebook. I would even put it slightly lower.

    I can honestly say I have never paid more than that for an ebook.

    And, I can honestly say I will never pay the same price I can get the printed version for. Publishers, the BSA included, obviously didn’t learn a thing from the music industry’s fight with pricing and pirating. Charge a fair price for something, and people will happily pay it. Charge enough that people feel ripped off, and they will obtain it other ways. Yes, even Scouts.

    • The 2014 print version of Scouting Magazine page 6 lists the e-book version for $9.99 in the second to last paragraph.

        • So print version and e-book prices are identical? That is a deal breaker for many including myself.

  6. Just noticed that page 79 of the Fieldbook describes the use of stoves fueled by denatured alcohol; does this mean the BSA sanctions their use? The Guide to Safe Scouting says no; which is it?

      • Thanks for the info. Still, the section in the Fieldbook implies acceptance rather than a negative recommendation. In fact, the last sentence in the section says, “… if your goal is simply boiling water to make beverages or to add to dehydrated meal packets, an ultralight stove could be ideal for you.” Which is it: “ideal” or “not recommended”? The BSA needs to clarify this seeming paradox.

        • Alcohol-burning “can” stoves are prohibited because they are homemade. The most common example would be the Super Cat Stove. (http://jwbasecamp.com/Articles/SuperCat/).

          “Equipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use. Examples include alcohol-burning “can” stoves, …”

          If you read further, to “Chemical fuels not recommended”, you will find liquid alcohol listed.

          I have a commercial alcohol stove and I demonstrate it to Scouters when I teach Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills. I talk about the safety issues (cannot turn it off, flames are not visible). As the Fieldbook says, it is a good solution for a specific cooking need. I use the White Box Stove.


  7. 1. I haven’t made it all the way through the new Fieldbook, but I noticed that the info on cycling in the previous version didn’t survive this one. With all of the rail-trails nationwide — and now separate bike lanes in Washington, DC to promote city biking — I thought cycling was mushrooming in popularity. Perhaps not in Washington state.
    2. It’s good to see an often-avoided subject — personal hygiene — addressed in the Fieldbook, but it’s still missing something. What if you don’t have time to wash your private parts with water, or what if water isn’t available? My solution is to find a private place and use baby wipes. They’re quick, convenient, lightweight, and do the job. And they can be easily packed out in a ziploc bag.
    3. With this Fieldbook, Baby Boomers may need to grab their reading glasses as the font is mighty tiny.

  8. Why on Earth (or off it, come to that) would you ever price an ebook the same as an actual, physical book? That’s like pricing a week old fast food cheeseburger the same as a fresh gourmet meal…

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