Advancement and Intentions


For an upcoming Scouting magazine column, I’ve been delving into the various Boy Scout advancement requirements having to do with camping–and specifically what does and doesn’t qualify as camping when it comes to counting nights. One thing I’ve realized is that there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the rank and merit badge requirements.

The Second Class and First Class requirements specify spending the night “in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave, or tepee,” while Camping merit badge only mentions sleeping “in a tent or under the stars.”

A legalistic leader–and we have plenty of those in Scouting–might get hung up on this discrepancy, saying that sleeping in a lean-to shouldn’t count for Camping merit badge or arguing that there’s no difference between a tent and a tepee. A lenient leader–and we have plenty of those, too–might ignore the details and let Scouts count nights spent in a cabin or church basement toward Camping merit badge.

Both approaches, however, miss the point of the requirements, which is to put Scouts in situations where they must practice the patrol method and Scoutcraft skills like tent-pitching and camp cooking. Sleeping in a church basement makes that less likely; sleeping in a lean-to doesn’t. If I were making the call, I’d probably allow a night spent in a lean-to but definitely wouldn’t allow a night spent in a church basement.

There’s one more point to consider: 20 nights of camping (including up to six nights of long-term camping) is not a lot to ask of a Scout before he reaches Eagle. If you feel the need to make exceptions to the rules, it’s probably a good idea to look at your troop’s camping program. If your Scouts don’t have enough chances to camp, the problem lies with the calendar your patrol leaders’ council has planned, not with the advancement requirements.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


3 thoughts on “Advancement and Intentions

  1. Dean Whinery

    Agree with you assessment. Overnighting in a church basement is not camping. I continue to question how Scouts can accrue 20 nights of camping AND “earn” an Eagle badge at age 12 without ever setting foot in camp. BTW, I earned my Camping MB when 50 nights were required–yes, I was allowed to count those 10 nights at the 1953 Jamboree, too.

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