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Virtual Campout Brainstorming

Now that the BSA has approved virtual campouts for rank advancement, let’s share ideas we have or things we have done during virtual campouts.

If you have already had a virtual campout, what worked well? What would you differently?


Our district is running a virtual campout this weekend. We’re running a Trail to First Class, some merit badge events, and folks are camping and cooking in their backyards. I understand that there will be No lessons learned to share yet.

Make sure you get a Part A from everyone who might appear on camera in case you’re thinking about “taking pictures” of things that happen at the “campout”. That’s not just the scouts and scouters, but parents, siblings, spouses, and other kids, too. It’ll be my first campout that doesn’t require a Part B. So, naturally, mine is up-to-date. :laughing:

One thing me and SPL discussed last night is the possibility of doing a Wilderness Survival MB one virtually. Gather resources from your house/garage and make a shelter. Then we could cover other requirements during the day and everyone could show what they built in the evening.

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Personally, the SM’s ASM’s in our troop have not done them. Most of our scouts aren’t hurting for camping nights. Our cross-overs (of about one week before our state locked down) weren’t in long enough for us to get them started with anything other than Scout rank.

Part of our issue is that a number of our leadership are essential workers. There is not a lot of slack time.

So, I let scouts know that we are here for them for SM conferences, BoR’s etc … and will coach them in whatever they want to do best for advancement. Then I shared a few links. And I told the 1st years to read their books.

In any case, I’m not interested in a VC for rank advancement. But I do want to hear from folks as to what was fun, not-so-fun, etc … Specifically, what did your PLC think when you floated this by them? What did they bring to the table that made it more unique and rewarding?

Here is what me and SPL came up with

Virtual Campout Plan - Wilderness Survival

We have a virtual meeting at 11 am and do Reqs 1-4 - about 1 hour

1.Do the following:

(a)Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while participating in wilderness survival activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, or lessen these hazards.

(b)Show that you know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses likely to occur in backcountry settings, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, and snakebites.

2.From memory list the seven priorities for survival in a backcountry or wilderness location. Explain the importance of each one with your counselor.

3.Describe ways to avoid panic and maintain a high level of morale when lost, and explain why this is important.

4.Describe the steps you would take to survive in the following exposure conditions:

(a)Cold and snowy


©Hot and dry


(e)At or on the water

Then we tell Scouts the plan that they are to build their own shelter for the night and they have 2 hours to start it and can work on these other requirements - #6 can be videos - #5 they can show in a meeting

5.Put together a personal survival kit and be able to explain how each item in it could be useful.

6.Using three different methods (other than matches), build and light three fires.

8.Improvise a natural shelter. For the purpose of this demonstration, use techniques that have little negative impact on the environment. Spend a night in your shelter.

Then at 2 pm we have another meeting - about an hour again

7.Do the following:

(a)Show five different ways to attract attention when lost.

(b)Demonstrate how to use a signal mirror.

©Describe from memory five ground-to- air signals and tell what they mean.

9.Explain how to protect yourself from insects, reptiles, bears, and other animals of the local region.

10.Demonstrate three ways to treat water found in the outdoors to prepare it for drinking.

11.Show that you know the proper clothing to wear while in the outdoors during extremely hot and cold weather and during wet conditions.

12.Explain why it usually is not wise to eat edible wild plants or wildlife in a wilderness survival situation.

Then at 6 or 7pm we have a third meeting where Scouts can each show the structure they built

Sunday morning we have a last meeting to see who made it through the night and who bailed

I can see almost all of requirements being done by Zoom. But, it is WILDERNESS Survival. The req #8 most certainly needs to be done in the wilderness. Even the requirement says “Improvise a natural shelter”. Using stuff from your house does not meet that requirement. National yells and screams about not changing requirements.
I’d suggest leaving that requirement undone and waiting until you can really do what it says on a real campout.

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That is a tough call (having talked to national committee on this) - if a tornado goes through a town and you have no house but you have some house resources? You need a place to shelter.

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Okay, knowing how many youth actually bed down in a designated wilderness during their scouting careers … we all pass a kid if he/she can slap together a shelter at the average scout-camp.
We do want a natural shelter, but in my community, the garbage collectors aren’t taking yard waste, so if a scout wanted my dead-fall to fashion my shelter I’d holler from my porch “Have at it! Send me and your counselor the pic! Keep the materials.”

Isn’t that under Emer Prep mb? That’s still not wilderness.

First, I should say that I’m in a city. I know of areas where people’s back yards border on wilderness. For that lucky kid, they just need to go 20’ into the woods.
As far as what summer camps do (or don’t), there is the form that no one uses to complain about what the camp left out of the requirements. Marginal summer camp mb classes are a reason we have not gone back to some camps. I wouldn’t hold a summer camp mb as the standard for what a scout should do.
I still think that all but the shelter req can be done with that left for a subsequent campout. Why in the world does the whole mb have to be finished now? We need to have partials be acceptable so that all the req can be done as stated.

I do think it’s great that the mb is being done. It’s just that for almost all mb’s there are a few req that are just going to have to wait.

Wilderness Survival is one of the 58 badges Scouts can complete at home so obviously the BSA feels building a shelter in your backyard from materials you find meets the intent of the requirement.

From the COVID-19 FAQ:

Q: Can merit badge requirements be adapted since some elements can’t be completed as stated right now?
The published guidelines for the methodology of the merit badge program and the role of the merit badge counselor is found in the Guide to Advancement, Section It is important to remember that leaders and merit badge counselors must not make additions or deletions to requirements. The Scout is expected to meet the requirements as stated; however, in some cases, virtual “visits” may fulfill the intent of a requirement. When the requirement’s intent cannot be reached virtually, the requirements cannot be completed, and the Scout must wait to complete that badge/requirement. Merit badge counselors signing off on requirements must determine to the best of their ability if the Scout has demonstrated the intended outcome.
All existing youth protection policies and digital safety guidelines must be followed.


@DavidSchilpp, I know it’s a big country. I’m in the 'burbs of Pittsburgh, but even our densest neighborhoods have more greenspace and creeks and streams than many others. Even with a tiny back yard, it’s possible to schlep all the materials from a nearby park. And nothing is more socially isolating then walking around collecting natural debris.
Sure, most MBs don’t need to be finished “right now”. Wilderness Survival doesn’t need to be finished at all since it is an elective badge. But, half the fun is in the creativity in getting something done.
The one advantage of a scout building a shelter on his own (or a buddy’s) property: if he’s not satisfied with its performance one night, he can go back to the house, call or E-mail his counselor about what went wrong, and try to do better the next night.
At weekend camp (and even most summer camps) you have about one night to get it right. For a while, I had a troop with older scouts for whom building a wilderness shelter was their plan A at every camp-out. Their tents were a back-up. In that environment, learning shelter-building with a troop is optimal.

But, if your troop isn’t into that sort of thing, the probability of getting it wrong the first time is high. That discourages scouts from trying again. In that environment, learning in a backyard is optimal.

P.S. - in another forum it was pointed out that tick season is starting. And our city has an overpopulation of deer. So, that should be the real consideration when starting a scout off on a badge like this.

We held a back yard campout this past Friday & it was a HUGE success! Scouts camped out in their back yards & shared pictures in our Troop’s WhatsApp group. PLC came up with several challenges/contests for the night & our committee authorized prizes for the winners ($5 gift cards to area businesses for when our quarantine order is lifted). Categories were:

most creative meal cooked over a campfire or coals
best S’more
best lit up tent after dark (without using electricity)
most scout spirit award (Scouts submitted pics of themselves doing these activities while in Class A’s, names were added to a hat for each qualifying entry, more entries = more chances).
I also presented a patrol challenge (patrols with 100% attendance & participation receive a rootbeer float party when we’re able to meet in person again).

At the end of the night I shared a short video of my dwindling campfire (some families weren’t able to have an actual fire in their back yard) & the words to Scout Vespers for them to sign along.

It was such a positive experience the guys are already brainstorming for our next back yard campout next month since our state just extended our stay at home order through 5/26.


Here is what we presented at our Round Table

Troops can pick a date to schedule scouts to create a campsite on their own property.
Encourage scouts to use scout knots and lashings to set up their sites (tripod, tarp tent, sleeping cot, log hauling, etc.) and complete rank requirements. Scouts can discuss with each other how to do things and share ideas on video chat. And take pictures to document completion of rank requirements. Here is a list of useful websites
–Safe Scouting


–BSA Social Media Guidelines


–First Aid Kit




–Whittlin’ Chip & Totin’ Chip







–Poisonous Plants


–Leave No Trace 7 Principles


–Tread Lightly! Recreation Tips




I have been encouraging my Scouts to make their virtual campout as “real” as possible. Setting up and sleeping in tents, menu planning, cooking on camp stoves, relying only on what they took with them with the “left” on their campout. I instruct them to remain outdoors for the entire “campout,” coming inside only to use the restroom facilities. Theu are encouraged to share time with each other via Facetime or other similar applications, and work on Scout skills while camping. I also suggest virtual (group) campfires, and possibly a “group” service project (while actually apart), like the 1,000,000 Pieces of Trash project. Of course, some of this requires parental support, especially if their camp is in a front yard as opposed to an enclosed backyard. And if Scouts live in apartment or other complexes, it may take additional modification.


That is a great idea!

I can not find Nationals approval. Can each scout do their own camping to have it count or does it need to be part of some virtual Troop event? Normally the camping doesn’t count unless it is with their troop or patrol. I am trying to decide if I credit some scouts that have done some of their own camping or not.

Hi, @AlyssaSchaefbauer,

The information on what BSA is permitting to count is part of the COVID-19 FAQ here:


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