Table of Contents

All Eagle-Required Merit Badges: Difficulty Rankings in 2022

It’s no secret, some Eagle-required merit badges are harder to earn than others. If you’re interested in difficulty rankings and recommendations of when to complete each Eagle-required merit badge, you’re in the right place!

A number of Eagle-required badges are completed during troop activities or classes, which is a fact I took into account when rating their difficulty. The higher the ranking, the more work outside of Scouting you’ll likely need to do to complete the badge. However, just because a badge is difficult, doesn’t mean it won’t also be fun!

Further down in this article, you can also read my descriptions of each badge, the reasoning behind my difficulty rating, as well as find a link to my full guides on completing each Eagle-required merit badge worksheet’s knowledge requirements.

Without further ado, the 13 merit badges needed to reach the rank of Eagle Scout and their difficulty ratings are:

You might also be wondering if there’s an ideal order for scouts to complete their Eagle-required merit badges. There is! As an Eagle Scout who’s earned every badge listed other than Sustainability and Cycling, I’d strongly recommend completing the badges in a specific order.

I’ll be grouping all 13 Eagle-required badges into 3 categories: Badges that should be completed by younger scouts (Under 15), badges that should be completed by scouts around the age of 15, and badges that are best suited for older scouts (Aged 15+).

I’d definitely recommend reading the article but, if you’re more of a visual learner, I’ve also created a helpful video (10:19) giving you more details on each of these badges:

By the way, if you aren’t already subscribed to my channel, you definitely should so that you can get notifications, helpful tips, and detailed recommendations on your journey through Scouting! Now, read through this article, and I guarantee you’ll be prepared to earn each of these Eagle-required merit badges and become an Eagle Scout!

Best Eagle-Required Merit Badges For Younger Scouts (Under 15)

Tip: Click the underlined badge name to check out my ultimate guides, aimed at helping you answer the knowledge requirements to each merit badge worksheet!

First Aid

Overview: The First Aid merit badge teaches scouts the skills necessary to provide assistance, should they witness a medical emergency. First aid is typically one of the first Eagle-required badges most scouts earn, and for good reason. Having a detailed knowledge of first aid will make future activities in Scouting much safer!

Overall Difficulty: 5.
The First Aid badge can usually be completed during troop or Summer camp classes. Although First Aid has a total of 14 requirements, most of these are knowledge-based and require minimal research.

Hardest Requirement: You’ll need to demonstrate proper CPR technique on a training device to complete requirement 7 and earn the First Aid merit badge. This can typically only be done during an official CPR certification course.

Swimming or Hiking or Cycling

Overview: Earning any of these badges will undoubtedly test your physical fitness and endurance. The reason why they’re best for younger scouts though is that they’re typically done as troop activities. Swimming will likely be the easiest badge to earn, as it is often offered as a class during longer summer camps.

Overall Difficulty: 4, 9, and 9, respectively.
Don’t think they’ll be a simple walk in the park just because these badges are done as troop activities. Hiking and Cycling are no joke, and you’ll need decent swimming skills to earn the Swimming merit badge. You can click here to see a full comparison between earning Swimming, Hiking, and Cycling.

Hardest Requirement: Requirement 3 for the Swimming merit badge has you demonstrating various strokes for 150 yards. However, if you’re able to swim this won’t be too difficult. The hardest requirement for Hiking will be to complete a 20-mile hike. For Cycling, you’ll need to complete a 50-mile bike ride. Yikes!

Cooking

Overview: After you’ve gained some experience camping, it’ll be a good idea to earn your Cooking merit badge. Cooking teaches you proper nutrition, food storage, and culinary safety skills — along with how to cook a camp menu, of course. Cooking is often the first Eagle-required merit badge that scouts earn by themselves, without the help of troop classes or events.

Overall Difficulty: 7.
To earn the Cooking merit badge, you’ll need to make a number of meals in a variety of situations. You also must learn and understand the answers to many food-safety knowledge requirements. If you’ve camped often though, the meals for this badge are pretty easy to complete.

Hardest Requirement: The Cooking merit badge’s requirement 5 has you making three camp meals for your patrol or a group of up to 8 people. You’ll need to make the third meal using either a Dutch oven, a foil pack, or skewers. Hope you’re as hungry to earn the Cooking badge as they are for dinner!

Camping

Overview: A good mix of activities and knowledge requirements, the Camping merit badge will teach scouts outdoor ethics, camp safety, and proper trek planning. If you can earn the camping badge, that typically means that you’ve reached an advanced level in Scouting.

Overall Difficulty: 6.
If you’ve been in Scouting for at least a year and a half, you’ve probably attended enough camps to finish the most difficult part of the Camping merit badge. After that, earning this badge will be all about gaining more camping knowledge and experience.

Hardest Requirement: You’re required to camp a total of 20 nights to complete requirement 9 of the camping merit badge. You’ll also need to participate in some camping experiences of your choice, such as rappelling or snowshoeing. This should be pretty easy if you’ve been in Scouting for a while.

Best Eagle-Required Merit Badges To Earn Around Age 15

Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving

Overview: When given the option to earn either Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, most scouts earn Emergency Preparedness, as EPrep can be completed individually and teaches the skills necessary to prevent and respond to different types of crises.

Most Lifesaving requirements must be completed in a pool with qualified lifeguard supervision. In earning Lifesaving, a scout will learn how to handle different types of aquatic emergencies.

If you’re deciding on which badge to earn, you can check out my article weighing the pros and cons of earning Emergency Preparedness vs Lifesaving, by clicking here!

Overall Difficulty: 5 and 6.
EPrep mainly consists of straightforward knowledge requirements but requires a scout to earn their First Aid merit badge beforehand. For Lifesaving, a scout must demonstrate various swimming and rescue techniques in the water. Be warned, Lifesaving is more difficult to earn than the Swimming merit badge!

Hardest Requirement For Emergency Preparedness: To complete requirement 1 of Emergency Preparedness, you’ll first need to earn the First Aid merit badge. Additionally, you’ll also need to take part in an emergency service project with your Scouting unit or a community agency to complete requirement 7.

Hardest Requirement For Lifesaving: Requirement 1 of the Lifesaving badge requires you to swim continuously for 400 yards while demonstrating various strokes. Outside of this, you’ll also need to show confidence in the water by completing various aquatic rescue exercises.

Citizenship in the Community

Overview: If you’ve reached the middle of your Scouting career, it’s about time you earn the Citizenship merit badges. Citizenship in the Community will help scouts to understand their government on a local level, as well as identify ways to support organizations benefiting their community.

Overall Difficulty: 8.
Often considered the most difficult citizenship merit badge to complete, Citizenship in the Community mainly requires scouts to complete projects, volunteer in their community, and understand various knowledge requirements.

Hardest Requirement: To complete requirement 7, you’ll need to volunteer with an organization helping your community for a total of eight hours. You’ll also have to attend other local events and develop a presentation to showcase unique aspects of your community.

Citizenship In Society

Overview: Citizenship in Society is Scouting’s newest Eagle-required merit badge, and for good reason! In this badge, you’ll learn to act as an ethical leader and upstander. You’ll also learn about the importance of diversity, along with the harmful effects of prejudice in our American society.

Overall Difficulty: 4.
Citizenship in Society consists of mostly knowledge requirements and thought experiments. By going into the badge with an open mind and thinking through the scenarios carefully, you should have no trouble finishing it and learning a ton — while not having to do too much research beforehand!

Hardest Requirement: To complete requirement 7, you’ll need to find and interview an ethical upstander in your community. Or, you could do research on a historical figure that you feel meets the criteria instead!

Citizenship in the Nation

Overview: The Citizenship in the Nation merit badge teaches scouts about the rights and responsibilities of US citizens. In completing this badge, scouts will also learn about the history and present-day function of the American government on a national level.

Overall Difficulty: 6.
Citizenship in the Nation mainly requires you to learn and understand our government’s basic functions, and should not be too difficult to complete. However, you’ll also need to work on a few projects such as touring a national facility and writing a letter to an elected official.

I recommend scouts complete the Citizenship badges around the age of 15 as, at that point, they’ll have likely taken classes in school, such as world history and civics, that would give them a good background to earn these types of badges.

Hardest Requirement: Requirement 8 is probably the most difficult part of the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, as it requires you to write a letter to one of your district’s elected officials. Later, you’ll also need to discuss any response you receive with your counselor.

Citizenship in the World

Overview: Citizenship in the World will teach scouts about the various organizations that help to uphold international law. Scouts will also learn about various cultures and global events, hopefully becoming more open-minded and accepting of all people in our world.

Overall Difficulty: 5.
Citizenship in the World is often considered the most straightforward Citizenship merit badge and will mainly test your ability to answer knowledge requirements. In fact, the entire badge can be researched and completed in one sitting if you’re dedicated enough.

If you still haven’t earned Citizenship in the World and are looking to easily earn an Eagle-required badge, I’d highly recommend you check out my complete guide, here!

Hardest Requirement: To complete Citizenship in the World requirement 3, you’ll need to research a current world issue along with the various countries involved. This will take a decent understanding of geography and politics, which is why I recommend this badge for scouts who have already taken world history and geography classes.

Environmental Science or Sustainability

Overview: Both the Sustainability and Environmental Science merit badges will teach you important skills about how to conserve resources and protect the natural ecosystem. However, while Sustainability deals more with reducing waste in your household, Environmental Science will teach you about the science behind the way that humans interact with nature.

If you’re deciding on which badge to earn, check out my full comparison of the Environmental Science vs Sustainability merit badge by clicking here.

Overall Difficulty: 7 and 8.
Both Environmental Science and Sustainability are tricky badges that are usually worked on individually. For either choice, you’ll have a balanced mix of experiments and knowledge requirements to complete. Through your experiments, you’ll develop a thorough understanding of how your actions impact our environment!

Read Post  How to Train for High Altitude Hiking at Sea Level

Hardest Requirement For Environmental Science: Requirement 3 of the Environmental Science merit badge will give you the option to either conduct experiments or write reports. Requirement 4 will have you carry out an experiment by observing a plot of land. Both of these tasks are tricky and will take a minimum of one week to complete.

Hardest Requirement For Sustainability: Requirement 2 of the Sustainability merit badge will be tough. You’ll need to make various plans to implement sustainability into your household by reducing your food, water, and energy waste. At a minimum, this one requirement will take at least a month to carry out and complete.

Best Eagle-Required Merit Badges For Older Scouts (Over 15)

A quick note, I’ve saved these badges for older scouts because they’re typically done individually and deal with topics that are more complex and ‘adult’. You earn merit badges to learn life skills, so to get the most out of Scouting, I’d highly recommend you wait until you’re 15 before starting any of the following badges.

Family Life

Overview: The Family Life merit badge teaches scouts the importance of cooperation within a household, as well as some key skills necessary to one day start their own families. This badge is best suited for older scouts who face greater responsibilities in and outside of their households.

Overall Difficulty: 6.
While the requirements for Family Life aren’t too difficult, you’ll still need to be on top of things to successfully complete this badge. In addition to discussing various topics with your parents, you’re also be tracking your home duties, creating a project for your household, and hosting a family meeting.

Hardest Requirement: For most scouts earning the Family Life merit badge, requirement 3 will be the most difficult. Requirement 3 has you track and complete at least five regular chores over the course of at least 90 days. By staying on top of your schedule, you’ll develop organizational skills and ensure your plans succeed.

Personal Fitness

Overview: Personal Fitness is a time-consuming merit badge, but will be much easier if you participate in any school sports. In earning Personal Fitness, you’ll learn the proper way to care for your body, choose nutritious foods, and remain healthy. You’ll also create and follow a regular exercise plan.

Overall Difficulty: 7.
Since most of the personal fitness requirements are about you, this merit badge usually isn’t too difficult for most scouts to earn. The hardest part will be to create and follow a fitness routine for three months. However, if you’re taking a PE class, this requirement becomes much easier to complete.

Hardest Requirement: Requirements 7 and 8 ask you to outline a physical fitness program to follow over the span of 12 weeks. You’ll need to keep a regular log of your activities and results, showing improvement in various fitness categories.

Personal Management

Overview: The Personal Management merit badge will equip scouts with the skills to manage their finances as young adults. To earn this badge, you’ll need to track your budget for three months, as well as identify the answers to various knowledge requirements. Personal Management is one of the most useful merit badges and has many real-world applications.

Overall Difficulty: 9.
It’ll take effort and perseverance to complete the Personal Management merit badge. Requiring a thorough understanding of various financial terms, as well as the completion of a few projects, Personal Management is easily one of the most difficult Eagle-required merit badges.

Hardest Requirement: Requirement 2 asks you to create a budget and track your expenses for a period of 13 consecutive weeks. Outside of that, you’ll need to do hours of research to complete the financial knowledge requirements.

Luckily, I put a ton of work into creating a complete guide to the Personal Management merit badge for you! Check it out by clicking here.

Communication

Overview: The Communication merit badge will teach scouts to structure their thoughts and speak articulately. To complete this badge, scouts must investigate the communications styles of themselves and others, ultimately using these skills to host an event and present on behalf of their troop.

Overall Difficulty: 8.
Communication is often one of the last merit badges that Eagle Scouts earn, and for good reason. It’s tough! Between giving presentations, conducting interviews, and creating written content, Communication is likely one of the most difficult merit badges a scout can earn.

Hardest Requirement: Communication doesn’t have just one hard requirement — they’re all difficult and require hands-on effort. Requirements 2-8 will have you scripting and planning events, attending local meetings, and presenting on multiple occasions. Good luck!

Eagle-Required Merit Badge Difficulty Rank Recap Table

Starter-Tier Merit BadgesMedium-Tier Merit BadgesExpert-Tier Merit Badges
First AidEmergency Preparedness or LifesavingCommunication
CampingCitizenship in the Nation and WorldFamily Life
CookingCitizenship in the CommunityPersonal Fitness
Swimming, Hiking, or CyclingEnvironmental Science or SustainabilityPersonal Management

Conclusion

Do you have your next Eagle-required merit badges in mind now? You should! The difficulty ratings I’ve included come from the experiences I’ve had on my journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, as well as from the input of other scouts online. Hopefully, now it’ll help you out too!

Great work finishing my article! I truly hope this resource helps you on your path to Eagle. For many scouts though, one of the best ways to ensure success in Scouting is through a clear strategy, along with effective planning, continued tracking, and friendly accountability.

That’s why I created an in-depth e-course, Your TrailMap To Eagle! In it, you’ll learn my best methods for staying organized, ranking up insanely fast, and making the most out of Scouting — while still maintaining a healthy school-life balance.

So, if you’re wondering if my program is right for you, check it out today!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you here at ScoutSmarts again soon. As always, I’m wishing you the best of luck on your Scouting journey!

I’m constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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Hiking Merit Badge Requirements Change Jan. 1

Hiking merit badge patch over hiking trail

Several requirement changes have been approved to the Hiking merit badge These will become effective on January 1, 2023. The hiking merit badge is one of the optional Eagle Required merit badges, sharing an option between itself, swimming, and cycling.

What is changing:

Requirement 2

Requirement 2 has been expanded into three parts, to allow Scouts to thoroughly demonstrate an under- standing of the importance of good hiking practices and etiquette. It now includes more emphasis on Leave No Trace and the Outdoor Code, which are core principles of Scouting and should be introduced and re-viewed when beginning to work on this merit badge:

2. Do the following:
a. Explain and, where possible, show the points of good hiking practices including proper outdoor ethics, hiking safety in the daytime and at night, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.
b. Read aloud or recite the Leave No Trace guidelines, and discuss why each is important while hiking.
c. Read aloud or recite the Outdoor Code, and give examples of how to follow it on a hike.

Requirement 4

After reviewing feedback from the field and discussions from both merit badge counselors and professional organization representatives, requirements 4 and 5 were merged and updated. The new requirement has Scouts complete four 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike, as opposed to the previous one 5-mile, three 10- mile, and one 15-mile hike. It has also been written for clarity.

4. Take four 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike, each on a different day, and each of continuous miles. Prepare a written hike plan before each hike and share it with your merit badge counselor or a designee for approval before starting the hike. Include map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch. You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, during each hike, but not for an extended period such as overnight.

Requirement 5

Requirement 6 became requirement 5 and replaced the word “reflection” with “report” as some Scouts may be unclear about what is meant by a “reflection”, but are more likely to know what is expected in a report. Additionally, it clarifies what should be included for each hike, not just a final report of all.

5. After each of the hikes (or during each hike if on one continuous “trek”) in requirement 4, write a short report on your hike. For each hike, give the date and description (or map) of the route covered, the weather, any interesting things you saw, and any challenges you had and how you overcame them. It may include something you learned about yourself, about the outdoors, or about others you were hiking with. Share this with your merit badge counselor.

The Hiking Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2022

Hiking is a challenging but fun-filled activity that’s very near to the heart of Scouting. That’s why it’s Eagle-required! If you’re hoping to become an expert hiker, this guide will teach you everything needed to hike safely, physically prepare for any trek, and earn your Hiking merit badge.

If you’re like most scouts, hiking, swimming, or cycling will probably be one of the first Eagle-required merit badges you earn. Personally, hiking was one of my first badges and proved to be a completely different challenge from any other Scouting activity I’d done before. (In a good way!)

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

The Hiking merit badge is not for the faint of heart but, if you can commit to it, you’ll show that you truly have the determination needed to become an Eagle Scout! To earn your Hiking merit badge, you’ll need to complete the dreaded 20-miler, plus 5 other difficult hikes. Even for most adults, that’s insane!

While the Hiking merit badge won’t be easy, once you’re finished I can promise you that it’ll be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life! If you’re ready to take the leap, read on. Hiking will take at least a month to complete, so take your time now to thoroughly review its requirements so you can be prepared.

What Are The Hiking Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Do the following:
    –1a) Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while hiking, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
    –1b) Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while hiking, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburn, hyperventilation, altitude sickness, sprained ankle, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, and snakebite.
  2. Explain and, where possible, show the points of good hiking practices including proper outdoor ethics, hiking safety in the daytime and at night, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.
  3. Explain how hiking is an aerobic activity. Develop a plan for conditioning yourself for 10-mile hikes, and describe how you will increase your fitness for longer hikes.
  4. Take the five following hikes, each on a different day, and each of continuous miles. These hikes MUST be taken in the following order:
    1. One 5-mile hike
    2. Three 10-mile hikes
    3. One 15-mile hike
      You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, during each hike, but not for an extended period (example: overnight). Prepare a written hike plan before each hike and share it with your Scoutmaster or a designee. Include map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch. *

    * The required hikes for this badge may be used in fulfilling hiking requirements for rank advancement. However, these hikes cannot be used to fulfill requirements of other merit badges.

    To summarize, requirements 1-3 test your knowledge of hiking and trail safety, while requirements 4-6 are based on the actual hikes you’ll need to complete! In this article, I’ll be providing you with detailed answers to each of the knowledge requirements so that you can complete your Hiking merit badge worksheet and trek safely.

    Keep in mind, you’ll also need to write a pre-hike plan and post-hike report for each of the 6 hikes you complete. Now that you understand how best to use this guide, let’s jump into answering the knowledge requirements so you can begin earning your Hiking merit badge!

    1a) Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while hiking, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.

    There are many different types of hazards that can occur while hiking. Luckily, as a scout, you’re trained to be resourceful and think on your feet. You’ll find that you should be able to handle most unexpected hazards on the fly!

    However, there are four main types of hazards that are dangerous, common, and should be prepared for on any hiking trek. These hazards are:

    Dangerous Terrain

    You risk encountering dangerous terrain on any hiking trail. In these hazardous parts of your trek, you’ll have a higher risk of injury from slips, scrapes, and long falls. To prevent accidents, make sure you can identify potential dangers, and be sure to act cautiously in those areas.

    To safely navigate dangerous terrain, balance and stability are key. To ensure a safer trek, you may want to invest in tools like specialized hiking boots and poles. You should also choose a hiking backpack that is lightweight, reliable, and easy to handle.

    The right gear can mean the difference between a safe, enjoyable hike, and a wilderness emergency. Put some time and thought into choosing the right equipment! To see my top picks for hiking equipment, check out my recommended gear page.

    I’d recommend you pick out your gear ASAP, especially before going on any of your hikes. Remember, shoes, backpacks and other hiking tools take time to break in and could be pricy, but should last you through your entire Scouting career.

    Difficulty Navigating

    Sometimes, trails might be poorly maintained and difficult to follow. In these cases, you might have difficulty navigating and could even get lost. If you ever find yourself off-trail in the wilderness, these are the three things you’ll need to keep in mind:

    • Don’t Panic: While your first instinct may be to freak out if you ever find yourself lost in the wilderness, try to remain calm. Keep track of all of your possessions and take a moment to collect yourself.
    • Stay Put: Your initial urge will probably be to look for a way out. However, many hikers have found themselves disoriented, lost even further in the wilderness, by blindly looking for the trail. Your best chance of being found is staying put.
    • Create Shelter: Staying warm and protecting yourself from the environment will be your best way to survive and be found. While staying put, create a shelter for yourself and calmly assess the situation.

    To prevent getting lost on a hike, always prepare a trek plan beforehand. Bring a trail map and compass so that you can confidently find your bearings. Be sure to tell your family where you’ll be hiking. Taking these precautions will help you hike safely and greatly reduce your risk of having difficulty navigating in the wilderness.

    Unexpected Conditions

    Unexpected conditions include heavy winds, rain, snow, or any other types of dangerous weather that you may be unprepared for. These situations are especially hazardous if you have not prepared the right clothing beforehand.

    To handle unexpected environmental conditions, you should always carry a raincoat and check the local weather forecasts ahead of time. Limit sun exposure as well. To mitigate the dangers of unexpected conditions, continually remain aware of changes in the weather during any hike.

    Injury From Wild Animals/Insects

    Insects and wild animals are a common reality in hiking. In rare cases, certain types of stings can lead to allergic reactions (for example, bees). If you or any hikers in your group have known allergies, make sure you have an EpiPen and some antihistamine medication available.

    While insect stings or bites are not life-threatening for most individuals, they can still cause swelling and irritation. To prevent possible injury, always apply bug repellent beforehand, and refrain from interacting with any wild animals you may come across. By respecting the wildlife, you’ll not only avoid danger but also have a more enjoyable hike as well.

    For more information on treating common stings/bites, continue on to requirement 1b.

    1b) Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while hiking, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburn, hyperventilation, altitude sickness, sprained ankle, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, and snakebite.

    Hypothermia

    Hypothermia is caused by one’s core body temperature falling below 95°F. While symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering and confusion, in more dangerous cases the victim will not have enough energy to continue shivering and may fall unconscious.

    If you notice someone is experiencing hypothermia, immediately warm them using extra clothing, fire, or through body heat. Do not suddenly re-warm the victim by placing them in a hot shower, as this could lead to rewarming shock.

    Frostbite

    Frostbite occurs when extremities, such as fingers and toes, begin to freeze. Skin in the affected areas will turn blue, then white. If you notice frostbite setting in, evacuate to a warm area. Try not to wrap the affected area in anything, as this could cause some of the tissue to be killed off. A better way to warm the frostbitten area is by running it under cool water, then slowly increase the temperature as the injury defrosts.

    Dehydration

    Dehydration occurs when the body does not consume enough water. Some symptoms of dehydration include a flushed face, lack of sweat, or feeling of weakness. This is a potentially fatal condition that can result in lowered blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. To treat dehydration, encourage the victim to rest and replenish their body with water and electrolytes. Hydrate the victim slowly, avoiding drastic rehydration.

    When hiking, you will likely lose water through perspiration and more frequent breathing. Experts recommend you drink at least 1 liter of water every 2 hours to avoid dehydration. That means constant, easy hydration is key!

    Heat Exhaustion

    There are two main types of heat exhaustion

    • Water depletion: Characterized by thirst, headache, a feeling of weakness, and loss of consciousness.
    • Sodium depletion: characterized by vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

    Heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke, and should not be taken lightly. If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, immediately get them into a cool area to rest. Have them drink plenty of fluids and take a cool shower. They may be sensitive to high temperatures for a few days afterward.

    Heatstroke

    Heatstroke is caused when one’s body temperature exceeds 104°F. If untreated, heatstroke can lead to seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, and even a coma. Common symptoms of a heat stroke are throbbing headaches, dizziness, a lack of sweating despite warm weather, or a feeling of weakness.

    If you suspect someone of having heatstroke, immediately call 911. Sit them down in a cool, shady area, and try to lower their body temperature. To prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke, stay hydrated, wear sun protection and refrain from strenuous activity during the warmest time of day.

    Sunburn

    Sunburns are caused by prolonged sun exposure. The affected areas will become sensitive to touch, appear red, and may blister. To avoid sunburns, always apply sunscreen SPF 30 or higher when outdoors, and try to avoid being in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. When swimming, make sure that your sunblock is water-resistant, and try to reapply it every hour.

    To treat a sunburn, you can cool the skin with a damp towel or apply a soothing aloe vera lotion. Remember to keep the victim hydrated, and have them refrain from picking at the burn, should it begin peeling later on. Sunburns should take no longer than 2 weeks to heal.

    Hyperventilation

    Hyperventilation is caused by breathing too quickly which depletes one’s body of carbon dioxide. Also called over-breathing, hyperventilation can lead to feelings of lightheadedness, a tingling sensation in one’s extremities, and may even cause the victim to faint.

    If you notice someone is hyperventilating while hiking, have them slow down and take deep breaths. Have your entire group take a snack break and drink some water. The best thing to do is to wait until the person hyperventilating has recovered before proceeding.

    Hyperventilation can result from a variety of situations such as anxiety, severe pain, heavy physical exertion, panic attacks, or infections in the lungs. To treat hyperventilation, have the victim breathe slowly, either through pursed lips or into a paper bag. Bouts of hyperventilation should last no longer than 30 minutes, so seek medical attention if the victim still hasn’t recovered by this time.

    Altitude Sickness

    Altitude sickness occurs when a person moves to a higher elevation too quickly. At heights exceeding 8000 feet above sea level, the air will contain significantly less oxygen, putting you at risk for altitude sickness. To treat altitude sickness, descend to a lower elevation immediately (ideally below 4000 feet).

    Common symptoms of altitude sickness include nausea, headaches, dizziness, a loss of appetite, and feelings of weakness. To avoid getting altitude sickness, climb to higher altitudes slowly (this is called acclimatization). Sleeping at the lowest elevation possible also reduces your risk of altitude sickness.

    Sprained Ankle

    A sprain is caused by motion which tears the tissues around a joint. When treating a sprain or tear, a cold compress should be applied as soon as possible to reduce swelling. However, never apply ice directly to the skin, and instead, wrap it in a cloth. If you cannot immediately apply ice, you should not apply it later on as well. Immobilize the injury and stay off of it until the area can painlessly bear your weight.

    When hiking, it is not always possible to receive immediate medical attention. If you’re injured on the trail, you first should assess the severity of the injury. Minor sprains can usually bear some body weight, so by having your buddies carry your gear and by using a brace, you should be able to safely return to the trailhead.

    Check out the video below to see the basic technique used to wrap a sprain. In the case of severe injuries, the victim should remain in place and elevate the wound. Meanwhile, a group of Scouts and a Scoutmaster should be sent to the trailhead to contact emergency services.

    Blisters

    While hiking, blisters typically come from the friction of material rubbing against the skin, which can be caused by poor-fitting shoes or other clothing. Hiking with wet socks can also cause blisters. Blisters appear as bubbles under the top layer of skin. They can be filled with pus, water, or even blood, and could be quite painful.

    If you find you’re developing a blister, or notice an area that is rubbing uncomfortably, apply a moleskin to the irritated patch of skin. Blisters are naturally reabsorbed by the body, so by preventing rubbing the blister will heal and go away on its own.

    Avoid popping blisters unless they’re so large that you can’t get around otherwise. You can puncture a blister with a sterile needle. Popped blisters risk infection, so thoroughly disinfect and bandage the area immediately afterward. Remove the bandage at night to let the popped blister dry.

    Insect Stings

    In most cases, insect stings are not dangerous and only result in minor swelling and itching. If stung, remove any stingers left in the area. To treat a sting, wash with soap and water, then apply a cold compress. Taking an antihistamine may also reduce later itching.

    In individuals with allergies, certain insect stings can result in a fatal reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions cause immediate and severe swelling in the neck and face, as well as difficulty breathing, and can prove fatal if left untreated.

    Most people with severe allergies carry an EpiPen. When used by removing the safety cap and pressing the needle into the victim’s thigh, an EpiPen can counteract an anaphylactic reaction. However, the effect of an EpiPen is temporary and the person must still quickly receive medical attention.

    Tick Bites

    Ticks are small parasites that burrow into your skin. If you find a tick on your body, immediately remove it. Using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible. Then, gently pull the tick straight out. Be sure not to twist the tweezers to avoid having parts of the tick break off under your skin.

    Gently wash the affected area with warm water and soap, applying alcohol to the wound to prevent infection. Save the tick in a container of rubbing alcohol. Several weeks following removal, if you develop a rash or fever, immediately visit a doctor and show them the tick that you saved.

    Snakebites

    Luckily, only about 20% of snakes are venomous. However, if you’re bitten by a snake, you should immediately call 911 and describe the situation and snake. If there is burning pain at the site of the wound, call an ambulance ASAP. Most emergency rooms and ambulances have anti-venom drugs which could prove life-saving.

    Keep the bite below the level of your heart and try to remain calm. If possible, try to identify the shape of the snake’s head. Venomous snakes typically have triangular heads and slit-like eyes. To avoid being bitten by a snake in the first place, watch your step in tall brush and never provoke the wildlife.

    2) Explain and, where possible, show the points of good hiking practices including proper outdoor ethics, hiking safety in the daytime and at night, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.

    Making a habit of using good hiking practices is the best way to ensure a safe and fun trek. By learning these points now, you’ll be able to prove yourself as a leader and upstanding outdoor citizen in your troop without even needing to think about it! Let’s break down each of the points individually:

    Proper Outdoor Ethics

    Proper outdoor ethics go hand-in-hand with leaving no trace and following the Outdoor Code. As a refresher, the Outdoor Code simply states:

    As an American, I will do my best to—

    Be clean in my outdoor manners.

    Be careful with fire.

    Be considerate in the outdoors.

    Be conservation-minded.

    Basically, you should treat the outdoors the same way you would treat your church or home. By keeping the outdoors free of litter and doing your best to cause as little damage to the trails as possible, you’re acting ethically in nature. This helps you do your part to create a great experience for your fellow scouts and the other hikers who use the trail.

    Hiking Safety in The Daytime and at Night

    While hiking during the night is often more dangerous than daytime hiking, there are some key guidelines that you should follow in either case. To ensure a safe hike, always keep the following points in mind:

    • When hiking, always let someone know of your plans.
    • Prepare thoroughly, obtain trail maps, and know your route beforehand.
    • Never hike alone and always keep a pace that’s comfortable for the slowest member.
    • Make sure to stay hydrated and bring more than enough water and equipment.
    • Stay on the trail.
    • Pack as lightly as possible.
    • Always check the weather forecast before leaving.
    • You should always bring a cell phone in case of emergencies.

    Additionally, when hiking at night, there are other key safety points that you should keep in mind:

    • Bring a headlamp as well as other backup lights.
    • Pack warmer clothing than you normally would.
    • Hike a trail that you’re familiar with so that you don’t get lost.
    • Try to plan your hike around a full moon, the time of month when the natural light is brightest.
    • Know your gear, as well as its location in your backpack.

    Night hiking helps you avoid the heat and allows you to see some beautiful constellations that you’d otherwise miss when hiking during the day. By following all of the above points, you’ll be able to safely enjoy the thrills of hiking, day or night!

    Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of the Hiking Merit Badge!

    Wow, requirements 1 and 2 sure taught you a lot of helpful hiking info! Great work :). You definitely deserve a long break at this point. Give yourself a huge pat on the back and make sure to drink a glass of water!

    Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Hiking merit badge (Requirements 2-6) click here!

    Also, If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, the ScoutSmarts Scribe. Each Sunday, I’ll fill you in on everything you missed from ScoutSmarts in the last week. I’ll never spam you and you’re free to unsubscribe at any time, so what are you waiting for?

    Courtesy to Others

    A scout is courteous and kind in all places, with the hiking trail being no exception. While hiking, it is important to remember that you’re sharing the space with other people. As you’ll frequently encounter other hikers, you should be aware of proper hiking etiquette in order to trek safely and respectfully.

    Here are the main points to remember for perfect hiking etiquette:

    • Hike quietly: If there might be other hikers in your area, avoid blasting music or talking too loudly. Unwanted noise pollution can ruin the hikes of those around you.
    • Yield correctly: When encountering other hikers, the group with the fewest people normally has the right of way. This group will typically pass on the left side.
    • Stay on the trail: Taking shortcuts will damage the grooming of the trail and cause erosion. Avoid hiking off-trail. If you decide to rest, move off the trail so that others are free to pass.
    • Leave no trace: Avoid littering and leaving markers on the trail. A good rule of thumb is to pack out everything that you pack in. Basically, just follow the Outdoor Code.
    • Be friendly:Greet any hikers you encounter and give them space when passing. Be sure to take up no more than half the trail.

    During a hike, you might also encounter people on bikes and horses. The general rule of thumb is to move to the side and let people on horses pass. On the other hand, bikers will generally move around you, passing you by on your left.

    By following proper hiking etiquette, you’ll reduce misunderstandings and ensure that you’re doing your part to keep the trails safe. While you may not remember every one of these points during your first hike, at a minimum just try to be courteous and friendly. Over time, you’ll learn each of these points and become a great hiker, yourself.

    Choice of Footwear

    When hiking, your footwear is the only thing that separates your feet from miles and miles of solid ground. That’s why it’s essential to take the time to choose the best shoes for your Scouting activities.

    When choosing the right footwear for a long outdoor trek, you should consider the following points:

    • Support: Having proper support means choosing a shoe that provides cushion, shock absorption, and ankle protection. Having good support is critical, as it will prevent you from getting ankle and leg injuries during long and challenging hikes.
    • Sole: There are three different parts of the sole, but basically your shoe’s sole will impact the durability, breathability, and stiffness of your footwear. Be sure to choose a boot whose soles have solid traction, as hiking trails can often be slippery.
    • Fit: Having the right size of shoes will prevent rubbing and make for a much more comfortable hike. The right fitting hiking footwear will be snug but not too tight, as your feet will expand during the trek.

    Obviously, there are many other things to consider when choosing the right shoe for your outdoor Scouting activities. When I was a scout, I spent years trying to figure out what footwear would offer the most protection and stability for new members just joining the troop. During that time, I learned a lot about proper footwear.

    Today, I’ve condensed everything I’ve learned into one complete guide on how to choose the best shoes based on your own Scouting activities. I’d really recommend you check out my complete guide to hiking footwear if you’re seriously thinking about earning your Hiking merit badge. You can click here to see the full guide.

    Proper Care of Feet and Footwear

    If you buy the right shoes, they should be able to last for years of your Scouting journey— if properly cared for. By taking a few minutes after every hike to clean and dry your shoes, they’ll be as good as new the next time you’re ready to use them!

    Watch this quick video on how to correctly care for your hiking shoes:

    Note: If you wash the inside of your boots, allow them to fully dry before using them to hike.

    Taking care of your feet during a hike is just as important as maintaining your boots. Athletes foot is not just a myth! Always keep your feet dry and protected to avoid any sort of skin irritations or infections. Nothing makes a hike more miserable than having issues with your feet.

    Watch this short video for a brief overview of how you can easily take care of your feet while on a hike:

    3) Explain how hiking is an aerobic activity. Develop a plan for conditioning yourself for 10-mile hikes, and describe how you will increase your fitness for longer hikes.

    Hiking is an aerobic activity. Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’, and refers to any activity where you’re able to breathe, but endurance is required. When hiking, oxygenated blood is pumped by your heart to deliver oxygen to your muscles. Frequent aerobic activity like hiking will improve your cardiorespiratory fitness and heart health.

    To be able to hike for 10+ miles, you’ll need to be in great shape. By conditioning yourself with other types of aerobic activity, you’ll increase your fitness and complete longer hikes.

    The best way to condition yourself for long treks is to go on multiple hikes while carrying your backpack. These should be between 50%-80% of your goal hike’s length. You’ll likely be sore afterward, so make sure to give yourself a few days to recover.

    Watch this quick video for more information on how you can build endurance and improve your conditioning for upcoming hikes:

    4) Take the five following hikes, each on a different day, and each of continuous miles. These hikes MUST be taken in the following order:

    —1. One 5-mile hike
    —2. Three 10-mile hikes
    —3. One 15-mile hike

    You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, during each hike, but not for an extended period (example: overnight). Prepare a written hike plan before each hike and share it with your Scoutmaster or a designee. Include map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch. *

    Now that you’ve learned the possible hazards you could encounter on a hiking trail, first aid methods to use, proper outdoor ethics, and how to condition yourself for a challenging trek, you’re ready to begin actually hiking! This requirement will be challenging, so be prepared.

    Once you complete these 5 hikes, you’re in the final stretch of earning the Hiking merit badge!

    For your written hike plan, you should be able to find a trail map online. You can locate most maps and further information about your trail at the website, hikingproject.com.

    Aside from the trail map, the rest of your plan should remain more or less the same from hike to hike. Just make an effort to understand the overall difficulty of the hike, then pack your water and supplies accordingly.

    5) Take a hike of 20 continuous miles in one day following a hike plan you have prepared. You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, but not for an extended period (example: overnight). *

    This is the big one. However, if you’ve already completed requirement 5 and done your 5 other hikes, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to crush your 20-miler as well!

    Make sure you’re well-hydrated the night before you embark on this long hike. Not only will drinking water beforehand give you have more energy, you’ll also have less soreness during the hike. You’ve got this.

    6) After each of the hikes (or during each hike if on one continuous “trek”) in requirements 4 and 5, write a short reflection of your experience. Give dates and descriptions of routes covered, the weather, and any interesting things you saw. It may include something you learned about yourself, about the outdoors, or about others you were hiking with. Share this with your merit badge counselor.

    My reflections were short passages that were anywhere from 200-250 words. I typically included pictures from the hike, as well as some of the other highlights from the trail. Basically, just journal for 10 minutes on your thoughts of the trek.

    Conclusion

    Hiking is a challenging but rewarding lifelong pursuit. By understanding each of the requirements for the Hiking merit badge, you’ll have all of the tools you necessary to safely complete any wilderness trek.

    If you’re still interested in hiking after earning your merit badge, there are useful tools and accessories that’ll give you more safety and stability on the trail.

    Now that you’re ready to earn your Hiking merit badge, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

    Congratulations, you’ve made it. The Hiking merit badge isn’t easy, but neither is Scouting. By taking on difficult challenges, you prove yourself as a scout who’s able to overcome anything. Keep up the great work, and until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey.

    I’m constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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