Earning the Backpacking merit badge will be demanding but rewarding. Scouts will learn what equipment to carry on their backs and what knowledge to have in their heads. In addition, Scouts will discover how to protect the environment by traveling and camping without leaving a trace. By mastering the basics of backpacking, Scouts will develop an even deeper respect for the outdoors.


  1. Discuss the prevention of and treatment for the health concerns that could occur while backpacking, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, and blisters.
  2. Do the following:
    1. List 10 items that are essential to be carried on any backpacking trek and explain why each item is necessary.
    2. Describe 10 ways you can limit the weight and bulk to be carried in your pack without jeopardizing your health or safety.
  3. Do the following:
    1. Define limits on the number of backpackers appropriate for a trek crew.
    2. Describe how a trek crew should be organized.
    3. Tell how you would minimize risk on a backpacking trek.
  4. Do the following:
    1. Describe the importance of using Leave No Trace principles while backpacking, and at least five ways you can lessen the crew's impact on the environment.
    2. Describe proper methods of handling human and other wastes while on a backpacking trek. Describe the importance of and means to assure personal cleanliness while on a backpacking trek.
    3. Tell what factors are important in choosing a campsite.
  5. Do the following:
    1. Demonstrate two ways to treat water and tell why water treatment is essential.
    2. Explain to your counselor the importance of staying well-hydrated during a trek.
  6. Do the following:
    1. Demonstrate that you can read topographic maps.
    2. While on a trek, use a map and compass to establish your position on the ground at least three times at three different places, OR use a GPS receiver to establish your position on a topographic map and on the ground at least three times at three different places.
    3. Explain how to stay found, and what to do if you get lost.
  7. Tell how to prepare properly for and deal with inclement weather.
  8. Do the following:
    1. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of three different types of backpacking stoves using at least three different types of fuel.
    2. Demonstrate that you know how to operate a backpacking stove safely and to handle liquid fuel safely.
    3. Prepare at least three meals using a stove and fuel you can carry in a backpack.
    4. Demonstrate that you know how to keep cooking and eating gear clean and sanitary, and that you practice proper methods for food storage while on a backpacking trek.
  9. Do the following:
    1. Write a plan for a patrol backpacking hike that includes a schedule.
    2. Show that you know how to properly pack your personal gear and your share of the crew's gear and food.
    3. Show you can properly shoulder your pack and adjust it for proper wear.
    4. Conduct a prehike inspection of the patrol and its equipment.
    5. While carrying your pack, complete a hike of at least 2 miles.
  10. Using Leave No Trace principles, participate in at least three backpacking treks of at least three days each and at least 15 miles each, and using at least two different campsites on each trek. Carry everything you will need throughout the trek.
  11. Do the following:
    1. Write a plan for a backpacking trek of at least five days using at least three different campsites and covering at least 30 miles. Your plan must include a description of and route to the trek area, a schedule (including a daily schedule), a list of food and equipment needs, a safety and emergency plan, and a budget.
    2. Using Leave No Trace principles, take the trek you have planned and, while on the trek, complete at least one service project approved by your merit badge counselor.
    3. Keep a daily journal during the trek that includes a day-by-day description of your activities, including notes about what worked well and thoughts about improvements that could be made for the next trek.


Scouting Literature

Boy Scout Handbook, Conservation Handbook, and Fieldbook; Bird Study, Camping, Canoeing, Climbing, Cooking, Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, Fish and Wildlife Management, Fishing, Fly-Fishing, Hiking, Mammal Study, Nature, Orienteering, Personal Fitness, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Weather, Whitewater, and Wilderness Survival merit badge pamphlets.


  • Berger, Karen. Hiking and Backpacking. DK Publishing, 2005.
  • ------. Hiking Light Handbook. The Mountaineers Books, 2006.
  • Birkby, Robert. Lightly on the Land: The SCA Trail Building and Maintenance Manual, 2nd ed. The Mountaineers Books, 2006.
  • Conners, Christine. Lipsmackin' Backpackin': Lightweight Trail-Tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips. Falcon, 2000.
  • Drury, Jack, and Eric Holmlund. The Camper's Guide to Outdoor Pursuits: Finding Safe, Nature-Friendly, and Comfortable Passage Through Wild Places. Sagamore Publishing, 2006.
  • Fletcher, Colin, and Chip Rawlins. The Complete Walker IV. Knopf, 2002.
  • Forgey, William. Basic Essentials: Wilderness First Aid, 3rd ed. Falcon Guides, 2006.
  • Foster, Steven, and Roger Caras. A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
  • Grubbs, Bruce. Desert Sense. The Mountaineers Books, 2004.
  • Hall, Adrienne. The Essential Backpacker: A Complete Guide for the Foot Traveler. Ragged Mountain Press, 2001.
  • Hampton, Bruce, and David Cole. NOLS Soft Paths: How to Enjoy the Wilderness Without Harming It. Stackpole Books, 2003.
  • Lanza, Michael. Winter Hiking and Camping. The Mountaineers Books, 2003.
  • Logue, Victoria. Hiking and Backpacking: Essential Skills, Equipment, and Safety. Menasha Ridge Press, 2005.
  • McGivney, Annette. Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette, 2nd rev. ed. The Mountaineers Books, 2003.
  • Miller, Dorcas S. Backcountry Cooking: From Pack to Plate in 10 Minutes. The Mountaineers Books, 1998.
  • "Nessmuk." Woodcraft and Camping. Dover Books, 1963.
  • O'Bannon, Allen. Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backpackin' Book: Traveling and Camping Skills for a Wilderness Environment. Falcon, 2001.
  • Pearson, Claudia, ed. NOLS Cookery, 5th ed. Stackpole Books, 2004.
  • Petzoldt, Paul. The New Wilderness Handbook. Norton, 1984.
  • Robbins, Michael W. The Hiking Companion. Storey Books, 2003.
  • Schimelpfenig, Tod, and Linda Lindsey. NOLS Wilderness First Aid. Stackpole Books, 2000.
  • Tilton, Buck. Outdoor Safety Handbook. Stackpole Books, 2006.
  • Townsend, Chris. The Backpacker's Handbook. Ragged Mountain Press, 2005.