Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Ready for Camp: Camping Merit Badge

We added Camping Merit Badge to our offerings in 2011, and it was quite popular with campers. Naturally, we'll have it available again in 2012.

I don't know how it's done elsewhere, but until recently, in Ventura County Council all Scoutmasters were automatically authorized as Camping Merit Badge Counselors, on the theory that these requirements are best met as part of the normal troop outdoor program. This practice has recently been changed in compliance with BSA national policy, though I expect most troops will continue to register their own Camping counselors. In any case, we found last summer that it was interesting to get scouts from different troops together and let them compare camping experiences: how frequently their troops camp, where they go, what equipment they use, what they cook. It was an eye-opener for some of them.

If you do have boys taking Camping at summer camp, remember that there are some prerequisites, and now would be a good time to start planning to get them done. Requirement 9a is "Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights...at a designated Scouting activity or event." Note that sleeping in a cabin doesn't count, and you can only use one week of summer camp toward the total.

This means that first-year Scouts really can't complete this merit badge. Because of their limited camping experience, most first-year campers also struggle with the requirements relating to outing planning, menus, etc. If you want your New Scouts to get a good introduction to the basics of camping, our Pathfinder program may be a better choice for them. The Pathfinder staff has a combined total of something like 500 nights of camping, multiple Philmont treks, NYLT, Wood Badge, and other training, and they can give your younger boys an excellent introduction to outdoor skills.

Req. 9b calls for the Scout to do two things from a list of campout activities like backpacking, rappelling and snow camping. You can get these done at camp by taking advantage of some of our free-time activities like morning hikes and evening climbing, but doing this ahead of time takes some of the pressure off at camp.

There's also a cooking requirement, 8c and d, that can't be completed summer camp.

In addition, there are a number of paperwork requirements: Planning a campout, making a menu and duty roster, etc. While it is possible to get these done during camp, Scouts can easily complete them ahead of time, and avoid having to spend their free time doing this "homework" at camp. They could even make this a patrol or troop meeting activity if there are a number of them working on this merit badge at the same time.

You can download a set of useful forms by clicking on this link. This includes a campout planning form that will help them make sure they cover all the key planning points, as well as menu and duty roster forms and some other useful items. It's a Microsoft Word file, so feel free to modify it for your own use.

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