The Guide to Safe Scouting you know, only more portable

GTSS-BookGlove compartment, daypack, purse or troop trailer: It’s easy to find a place to store the new, more-compact Guide to Safe Scouting.

The Guide, which includes policies and guidelines established to help keep you and your Scouts safe, is now available in a form that’s smaller and more durable.

Grab one to ensure you’re never left without the answer to a safety-related question no matter where Scouting takes you.

The online version is still available for free and will continue to be updated quarterly. Find it here. I know of several Scouters who like to download that PDF version to their smartphone or tablet, making the document easily searchable by keyword.

But others I talk to prefer a hard copy, which is where the new, smaller, spiral-bound version really shines. It’s available soon for the same fair price of the previous version: $6. Find it at your local Scout Shops and at

What else is new inside? Phillip Moore, BSA risk management administrator, shared these changes with me:

Other changes

  • Each chapter on the new version is delineated with black edges on the pages for easier navigation.
  • The “Age Appropriate Guidelines” page has moved to the back and retains its distinctive wheat color.
  • Two new checklists have been added to the appendix: the Campout Safety Checklist and the Event Safety Checklist.

Old version


New version



24 thoughts on “The Guide to Safe Scouting you know, only more portable

  1. Bryan, based on the links and site, the online version hasn’t been updated since the May 2013 update.

  2. The link you give take you to a page that says it is the full text of the 2012 version, with another link for the 2013 updates. Your link goes to and it has a link to – page 6 says it is the 2013 printing, but I’m not clear if the updates are in the text or just in the front.

    Is there an online version of current, up-to-date, 2014 standards, without having to check the an old online version for updates….it would also be nice if several versions were put out, such as Kindle and iPad compatible ones.
    If you download a pdf to your kindle, you may have limited ability to make it easily readable.

    Thanks for all the information you get out – I (as a C.O.R. for a Troop and a Pack) am trying to get most of the leaders to follow your blog to have the most up-to-date information.

  3. On a fun side note, if you type in ‘safe scouting’ on, you can order toothbrushes. . . .

  4. But now it’s not the same size as my Guide to Advancement and Guide to Awards & Insignia, nor is it three-hole drilled. My neat little stack of BSA books is ruined!

    Serious question though: Is a Cub Scout, on a pack campout, allowed to sleep in a tent by themselves? Either way, can you provide a reference or citation to a handbook, guide, or other BSA doctrinal document to support your answer?

    • The only rule that comes close to your question is #11 under “Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings.” It says,

      “When staying in tents, no youth will stay in the tent of an adult other than his or her parent or guardian.”

      Since the GtSS doesn’t forbid cub scouts (or any scout) from tenting alone, it’s allowed. In fact, they can tent with other cub scouts (and technically boy scouts, but not recommended), something I encourage our parents to let happen if they know their sons can handle it.

      Other camping guidelines apply, too, like where the tent is, how far away from adults so they are still supervised, two-deep leadership in the area, no co-ed tenting (venturing), etc.

      • Thanks for the source. Too often we get “rules” passed down through the unit that once upon a time were only a certain idiosyncratic leader’s preference, then becomes their successor’s leader’s preference, then it becomes a “pack rule,” then, over time, it becomes (in some leader’s mind) a “BSA rule.”

        These (and others like them) blogs are nice, but other Scouters cite them (and the comments other scouters make) as rules, and they also become a source of those unofficial official “rules.” Researching my question, I’ve learned many packs forbid it based on a common Troop practice that Boy Scouts have to share a tent until they reach first class that evolves into “no cub scouts alone in tents.”

        Some argue that youth protection forbids tenting alone, since it offers nefarious adults the opportunity to get a scout alone, others say tenting alone violates the buddy system. While both perspectives have much merit, there’s a difference between rules and good ideas.

        I would like to see a more clear statement on youth protection, a youth protection manual or guide beyond the G2SS. Youth protection is often cited as a justification for many unit policies, but an authoritative comprehensive source for a bedrock BSA leadership policy is lacking.

  5. For the online version (and maybe even the print version), I would like to see an “update” page of changes. Although a good reading of the guide every once in awhile is a good refresher, knowing what has changed from on edition to the next would be helpful for our learning instead of having to scour the book from cover to cover and possibly missing something.

    • When updates are published, eiter on line or print, they could be indicated by bold for addition, and strikethrough for deletion. That would be a compact way of indicating changes fronm the previous edition. Perhaps a vertical line at the side to draw your eye to the change.

      I am going to suggest to those who put together our University of Scouting each year here in Sam Houston Area Council that a 2-hour course be included covering changes. Each unit should have, as one of the positions (maybe change the key-3 to key-4, where the 4th position is a safety officer. If not feasible for small units, at least require it where there are 20+ boys in the unit

      • Either your suggestion or an end-of-book option which lists changes would be nice. The only drawback to a “bolding” change is someone not knowing that refered to a change and they think it’s there for emphasis.

        I suspect most changes will be small unless there is a complete revamp of the guide, ex: wording change, phrase addition, etc. Or if there’s either a new technology or sport that needs to be addressed.

        If this is done each year, then each addition will have previous changes and we can see how the Guide evolves over the years.

        • Good point – perhaps, however, the addition of the vertical line to the side could, along with the bolding indicate an addition, or the use of color, or some other artifice could do it. The summary at the end of the book is great – if anybody will look at it.

  6. Perhaps also a total revamping is a good idea. Looking at the links on-line on the web pages is way too fragmented.

    In addition, in a world where we let scouts do rifle, pistol, and shotgun shooting, archery, rock climbing, zip-lining, white water rafting, kayaking, scuba, sailing, snorkeling, etc., all, of course with the requirements of qualified supervision and discipline, not allowing Eagle candidates to use power saws [with qualified supervision and discipline] and such is a little out of date.

    Thanks, Bryan, for starting these discussions. I hope some of the people who make decisions up there in Irving actually read and consider the comments.

  7. Does the BSA permit the use of stoves fueled by denatured alcohol or not? The Guide to Safe Scouting says no. However, alcohol-fueled stoves are described on page 79 of the new Fieldbook, which implies that the BSA sanctions their use.

        • If I’m reading this right, what is prohibited is the _home-built stove_ that uses alcohol.

          “Prohibited chemical-fueled equipment—Equipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use. Examples include alcohol-burning “can” stoves, smudge pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners with their regulators removed.”

          Two paragraphs down is the “not recommended” fuel:
          “Chemical fuels not recommended—Unleaded gasoline; liquid alcohol fuels, including isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and ethanol; and other flammable chemicals that are not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for chemical-fueled equipment.”

          So from this reading I’d say that you “can” use denatured ethyl alcohol but only on a stove that’s been specifically manufactured for it … but the BSA would rather you not.

      • The GTSS should be clear – if it is “not recommended” then specific cases where it is permissable should be detailed…otherwise change to “prohibited”. That’s like considering a STOP sign in a mall parking lot as a “suggestion”. This is like saying if you are on a trip, come to a 4-way stop at a crossroads, no one is around, and applying the “No Cop, No Stop” – if it not a good idea, then don’t do it.

        • Well, I think they are clear. In saying “not recommended” they are leaving it up to the Scouter/Scout to use their best judgement. If you have the right equipment and take the proper storage and use precautions, alcohol stoves will boil your water just like any other fuel. But with so many other ‘safer’ options, BSA would prefer you stick with propane, etc.

          IMHO, I think the “stop sign” comparison isn’t correct. The “stop sign” would be analogous to the “prohibited fuels and equipment.”
          “Not recommended” is better compared to a “yield” sign, ex: BSA would prefer you always “stop” at an intersection that has a “yield” sign, look both ways and then proceed. But, it allows for you to coast through the turn without stopping if you think it’s safe enough, i.e. no cars coming.

          It’s gotta be tough writing a “Guide” that affects millions of people. Some things are prohibited, some things are allowed and some things are left up to the leaders….as it should be.

  8. What activity are the boys doing on the cover of the new version? And what age are they? Does BSA now require helmets and vests for swimming?

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s