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Camping Merit Badge Confusion and Fairness

We have several scouts who have good counts on their nights out Camping and have satisfied all of the requirements for the Camping Merit Badge. OR NOT. Because we don’t know what to do with a Philmont 12 day trek.

Both of these guys have done 18 nights of Scout Camp and we are only counting one of those experiences as the “6 -nights Long Term”

So they had counts of 16 and 18 nights before they went to Philmont.

Philmont is a long and serious adventure where the scouts are achieving everything a Camping Merit Badge could possibly want.

HOWEVER, if I read the requirements correctly and I note that we have already counted 6-nights of long term. it seems that all that work at Philmont actually counts for ZERO!!!

Fly to New Mexico and Spend two weeks going very far and backpacking 100% and we have to tell these guys that it counted for NOTHING!!

Do we have that right?

@JeffreyWyborny - I would also note this for additional camping or other outdoor activities:


Yes. I think the point is that setting up and taking down and planning multiple weekend campouts is a different skill from a long trek and summer camp.

Most things in Scouts end up not counting for advancement. It doesn’t mean it counts for nothing.


I would count them as a single short term 3 night campout - in how I understand the requirements

Based on the guidance in the following article, summer camp and Philmont treks are both considered long-term camping experiences:

Bryan on Scouting: Ask the Expert: What is (and what isn’t) a camping night for the Camping MB?

The remaining nights of camping are supposed to come from short-term camping experiences.

The extra nights of camping can count towards other things, such as the National Outdoor Awards or OA eligibility.


Thanks Jennifer, I did read that Blog and it was super helpful. (if not frustrating)

Frankly I find it ridiculous that Philmont is held up to the same experience as a District Camp. Ridiculous! The boys have to do it all at Philmont and are literally responsible for each others lives.

I’ve been an advisor at Philmont and Spent serval weeks at District Scout Camp.
There is no comparison between:

Walking to a mess hall and maybe drawing the duty to clean the table
Carrying 3-4 days of food on your back with no resupply and only yourselves and your crew to cook and clean in a bear heavy environment.

@JeffreyWyborny agreed - the other aspect of this is most scouts Easily have the needed nights before they get to Philmont age - so that is a little confusing too. Might be part of the reason it is written that way.

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Keep in mind that OA eligibility is normally at least 5 nights from one camp of 5 or more nights plus at least 10 nights from camps of 4 or fewer nights, all within the two years preceding the OA election.

Currently, there are modified requirements in place for the 2021 program year that permit counting effectively all BSA camping nights within the preceding two years, due to the restrictions that have been in place limiting group activities (like unit camping) in many parts of the country. More details on the temporary requirements are here:
OA Temporary Camping Requirement Changes | Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America

I recommend reading them carefully and thoroughly, as there have been multiple incremental temporary changes over the last couple of years due to COVID, some of which supercede one another.

On a separate note, I would offer my personal view that no trip is ever “for nothing”, Philmont and other High Adventure trips least of all. It may or may not count towards advancement, but advancement is not the reason to go on outings, nor is it the purpose of Scouting.

High Adventure, in my opinion, is the opportunity to put into practice all of the lessons we learn as scouts: teamwork, planning, performance under pressure, leadership, technical skills…These are the bread and butter of what a High Adventure trip requires for fun and successful execution.


I think there are two different things going on that compete in the requirements. One is the desire to set a “reasonable” number of camping nights for Camping MB. The other is the desire to avoid most or all of those nights coming from summer camp experiences. As a result, “long term” camps get lumped together, whether they are long-term “stationary” camps or long-term “mobile” camps. Could it be done differently? Most likely, but the only way to lobby for that change is with the Advancement Team.


50-Miler Award

I’d opine that “Long-term Camping” is setting up in one place for an extended period of time.
At Philmont and treks, should be classed separately, and given a different name.
I’d certainly count those nights.

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The BSA has an official definition for long-term camping (based strictly on the number of nights), which is likely the thing that needs “correction” in order to address this issue.


If someone already said this sorry, but use this trip for hiking or backpacking MB possible.


Jennifer: Under the normal OA eligibility rules, if a Scout has two long term camping events (i.e., summer camp and Philmont)during the two years immediately proceeding the date of the OA unit election, only one of them can be counted towards the 15 nights of camping required to be eligible for election as a candidate for membership in the OA. You cannot break up the second long term camping trip into a series of short term events.

For 2021 only, the camping nights rule has been “relaxed” somewhat, as Charlie Hamilton explains in his response, but, unless National extends the 2021 rule beyond December 31 of this year, the traditional rule will apply in 2022.

Chuck Olson
Unit Relations Adviser
Egwa Tawa Dee Lodge


That’s not strictly what the 2021 OA requirements say:

From the very bottom of https://oa-bsa.org/article/oa-temporary-camping-requirement-changes:

The requirement for a long-term camp of five (5) consecutive nights is relaxed. While council long-term camps should be utilized if available, any combination of short-term and/or long-term nights, in camp or virtual, that are part of a BSA unit-organized unit camping event held within the two years prior to election may be counted toward the 15 night requirement.

[Emphasis added]

So, in principle, based on that guidance, a scout who has 12 nights from Philmont and 6 nights from summer camp could use the combined 18 nights to qualify. While that might not have been what they meant to say, it is what they said, so I can’t justify excluding a scout who has at least 15 nights of BSA camping, in “any combination of short-term and/or long-term nights”.

Here’s the whole bottom section from the link for ease of reference. The quoted portion above is the second bullet point.



I concur with your analysis of the 2021 camping rule. In fact, in our Lodge, we had several youth and adults qualify this year solely because of the relaxed rule.

However, that rule is only in effect though December of this year. Unless national extends the 2021 rule, we revert to the normal rule.

The way Jennifer worded her response implied that one could always apply an extra long term camp towards OA eligibility.



We have all been following the same rules with no issue for years. These rules are created to encourage camping, we have Scouts with well over 60 nights camping, it’s part of being an active Scout.

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I’d wholeheartedly agree. And add that most camps I see not only set up the tents for the Scouts, but do almost all the cooking. Really more of a dude ranch set-up than a camp. Not what I went to back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (or so my son says).

While there is a point that Counselors can’t change requirements, they can interpret them. However, if kid only had a dude ranch summer camp and a Philmont Trek, I’d be inclined to say they needed a bit more camping experience.

As another person pointed out, that by the time they get to Philmont you’d expect them to have a good number of nights, and miles.
My son just did OATC and loved it. But that’s another story. I did mention three Eagles on OATC who didn’t know how to camp. Like set up tents, along with other skills missing. That didn’t go over too well.

While Philmont is an awesome adventure and will provide a wealth of experience, memories and anecdotes, it is definitely another long term camping experience and therefore wouldn’t count towards Camping MB nights. I assume that the reason for only allowing one long term camping experience is that long term camping usually doesn’t require Scouts to plan in quite the same way.
At Philmont, food, camping locations, activities are planned for you, and I think that’s the benefit of requiring that 14 nights come from short term camping trips - the opportunity to plan and prepare for somewhere between 5 and 14 camping trips, each time learning from the last.


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