Don’t Let Fun-in-the-Sun Turn into Beat-by-the-Heat!

As with every other Scouting activity, when it comes to sun safety, preparedness and risk prevention rule the day!

Learn to recognize symptoms of heat stress long before a heat stroke becomes a possibility:


Of course the only way to eliminate risk completely in the out-of-doors is to give up the pleasures, challenges, and satisfaction of taking part in an adventure. Rather than attempting to do away with it, group members and leaders can manage risk by identifying its sources, understanding its boundaries, and tailoring their behavior to minimize exposure to danger.

So on that note, to learn more about managing risk in the field―including how to
recognize and respond to incidents of Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke
visit today!


And when it comes to prevention, you’ll find great sun-protection choices,
including hats and apparel with built-in UPF protection, at!


Shaking Things Up: The Left-handed Scout Handshake

What’s one of the most common forms of nonverbal communication used between two people?  No, it’s not the fist bump, high five, a hug or even a kiss.  It’s the handshake — a simple handshake involves extending one’s hand ─ typically the right hand ─ to another person, clasping hands and then briefly shaking them up and down.

The Multi-purpose Gesture

A customary gesture in business and social situations, the traditional handshake has been used throughout history as both a greeting and parting ritual between friends and strangers, as a means of offering congratulations or expressing gratitude, as a sign of  good sportsmanship (notice how members of sports teams shake hands with one another after a game) and to finalize agreements.

It also plays an important role in Scouting, serving as a formal way of greeting other Scouts.

The World of Handshakes

Most cultures have their own customs for shaking hands. Some find it inappropriate for a man to shake a woman’s hand. Others consider shaking hands unacceptable. Some cultures have a habit of shaking both hands, while others prefer hugs of handshakes.

In some Muslim countries, a grip that is too firm is considered to be rude behavior. Weak handshakes are preferred in China, and the custom is to hold on for an extended time after the initial shake.

Stress to your Scouts the importance of being sensitive to and having respect for cultural customs ─ including handshaking.

The Left-handed Scout Handshake

Scouts have their own variation on the traditional handshake. What makes it unique is that it uses the left hand instead of the right.

The 1935 Boy Scout Handbook says that “By agreement of the Scout Leaders throughout the world, Boy Scouts greet Brother Scouts with a warm left hand clasp.”



While the exact origin of the Scouts’ left-hand handshake is unknown, many attribute it to Ashanti warriors whom Scouting founder Robert Baden Powell met long ago in Africa. It is said that when Baden Powell entered Kumasi, a city in the Ashanti Region of South Ghana, he was met by a great chief. He saluted the chief and then offered his right hand as a sign of friendship.

The chief transferred his shield from his left hand to his right hand, and offered his left hand. He explained by saying ““In our land only the bravest of the brave shake hands with the left hand, because to do so we must drop our shields and our protection.”

Others believe Baden-Powell may have adopted the left handshake from author, illustrator and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, Earnest Thompson Seton.  Yet another explanation is that because the left hand is closest to the heart, extending it in a handshake was a token of friendship.

The current edition of the Scout Handbook offers this two sentence description:

Extend your left hand to another Scout and firmly grasp his left hand.

Made with the hand nearest your heart, the Scout handshake signifies friendship.


The Scout handshake uses no interlocking fingers; it’s just a normal left-handed handshake.Cub Scouts have their own unique handshake too. It’s done by putting the index and middle fingers of the right hand against the other person’s wrist.The Cub Scout handshake signifies that those who use it help others and obey the Laws of the Pack.cub

Get Shaking

Encourage your Scouts to discuss the various scenarios when shaking someone’s hand is the proper thing to do. Discuss cultural differences in handshakes.  Practice shaking hands.  Ask them to demonstrate the official Boy Scout and Cub Scout handshakes. The handshake is so integral to our society that we often take it for granted.  Give it some attention today on National Handshake Day – and reinforce its importance every day.


June is Great Outdoors Month!

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As the Welcome message on the site says, it’s all about celebrating the natural wonder and outdoor spirit of America. So with that being the goal, it’s surprising BSA didn’t come up with the idea for “Great Outdoors Month” first!

Most of the time Scouts don’t need an excuse to head out and hit the trail, but if we’re totally honest, we know that every so often the techno trap of being continually ‘plugged-in’ breeds some abandon-the-couch-resistance and creates reluctant Scouting adventurers.

Well, it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation…
Why not take on Great Outdoors Month by getting creative on how you can resolve the Tech vs. Trek dilemma. Design some appointments with nature that don’t even hint at leaving your electronic essentials at home!

In today’s market, there’s a cutting-edge excitement about designing personal electronics made for adventure. These are items made to enhance safety, performance, and fun in the field, never intending to interfere with the purity of your experience.
Here’s just some of the gear that helps put high-tech into high adventure:
● GPS devices ● Digital two-way radios ● Recharging kits and battery packs ● Innovative lighting
● GoPro cameras ● Wireless speakers ● State-of-the-art cooking systems ● Weather radios
● Altimeters ● Compasses ● Generators ● Satellite phones

To check out BSA’s full line of camping electronics and gadgets, visit today!

And be sure to visit the Great Outdoors Month site for great suggestions on events and activities to get involved in, some of which Scouting already promotes, such as National Trails Day® and service projects in the outdoors.

And learn even more at


Flag Day is June 14!

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    Keeping the Tradition Alive…

    On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a teacher not even 20 years old, placed a 10″, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk before assigning essays on the flag and its significance. This simple yet profound observance commemorated Congress’ adoption of the “Stars and Stripes” as the official flag of the United States on June 14, 1777.

    And so began Cigrand’s years of devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day. The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin.

    Flag Day continues as an annual celebration of the United States flag and a commemoration of its adoption. It is an honored time to collectively reflect on the foundations of our nation’s freedom and the enduring symbol of that freedom and our country’s ideals… our flag.

    Through the years, Americans have developed many creative ways to celebrate Flag Day, including:
    ● Displaying the American flag at homes and public buildings
    ● Holding flag-raising ceremonies and services
    ● Creating musical salutes, street parades, and school events and contests

    For over a century, Boy Scouts of America has been at the forefront when it comes to honoring the flag and all it stands for, taking great care to integrate proper flag etiquette into every aspect of Scouting’s ceremonies, activities, and presence. So Flag Day is the perfect day to brush up on the rules and regulations for proper flag display and use.

    A great source for the principles of flag etiquette is From raising and lowering to parading and saluting, this great site covers the Standards of Respect from start to finish.

    And if you want to know more about the origins of Flag Day or how America celebrates, The National Flag Day Foundation site — – is a wealth of information.

    Plus, did you know that the 21 days following Flag Day (through July 4th) are Honor
    America Days
    ?! It’s an extra three weeks in which people hold public gatherings and activities to celebrate and honor the nation.

    How will you personally — or your troop, crew or pack — be celebrating this year? 


Presenting: The Stewardship Edition of the Be Prepared® Newsletter

 June, 2014                                                                                            Vol. 6, No. 6




  • A Conservation Good Turn
  • The Outdoor Code
  • Conservation Caravan Explorers
  • BSA’s Conservation Awards
  • Conservation Handbook
  • Scouting’s Environmental Promise



Sixty years ago, the cover of the March, 1954, Boys’ Life magazine showed a Scout putting up a poster promoting conservation of soil, water, and wildlife. Headlines spoke of “BSA’s Conservation Good Turn” and “An Outdoor Code for Americans.”


President Eisenhower with Scouts

President Eisenhower with Scouts


Boys’ Life cover, March of 1954

Boys’ Life cover, March of 1954

The Good Turn was prompted by a request from President Dwight Eisenhower, challenging the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for natural resources.

“The wise and judicious use of our natural resources is of paramount concern to all Americans,” the president wrote in a letter to Chief Scout Executive Arthur Schuck.

He went on to observe that “it would be particularly fitting if the Boy Scouts would undertake by concerted action to arouse public recognition of the need for adequate protection and wise management of our soil, mineral, forest, grassland, and wildlife resources.”


The BSA responded with a nationwide campaign to prevent forest fires and to conserve soil, water, and wildlife. Scouts distributed 3.6 million copies of the conservation poster, planted more than 6 million trees, installed 55,000 bird-nesting boxes and developed tens of thousands of displays to educate the public in the importance of stewardship.

Boys’ Life of March, 1954, showed Scouts involved with Conservation Good Turns

Boys’ Life of March, 1954, showed Scouts involved with Conservation Good Turns


Paired with the 1954 Conservation Good Turn was the BSA’s introduction of the Outdoor Code as words to live by “for all Americans.”

The code had first appeared six years earlier in the 1948 Boy Scout Handbook:


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.

 “Developed by the Boy Scouts of America, and promoted by all of us – by you and me,” it was highlighted again in the same 1954 Boys’ Life issue as President Eisenhower’s letter: 

Outdoor Code in Boys’ Life Magazine - March 1954

Outdoor Code in Boys’ Life Magazine – March 1954

Those were years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union when there was great concern about security of the nation. That might account for the Outdoor Code’s wording “As an American…” If it were written today, the pledge to care for the environment could be expanded to include the people of every nation.



In 1955, a dozen Explorer Scouts set off for Washington, DC, report to President Eisenhower on the success of the previous year’s BSA Conservation Good Turn. They made the journey aboard an Air Force Convair, the official plane of the commanding general of the Joint Western Air Defense Force.

Conservation Caravan Explorers Board Their Flight in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Conservation Caravan Explorers Board Their Flight in Colorado Springs, Colorado

The plane touched down at sites along a 3,500 mile route so the Explorers could tour parks, farms, a mining operation, and other locations where conservation efforts were in effect.

“We saw how conservation was paying off for land and wildlife, and also how our conservation was paying off for us,” said the Explorers, chosen for their own contributions to conservation.

“It was,” they added, “a unique combination of two bests – getting to see the best government conservation projects first-hand, and enjoying the best hospitality of the West.” And all of that was before arriving at the White House to chat with the president.



Those dozen Explorers who went to Washington, DC, in 1955 were being rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the environment. Scouting has encouraged conservation and stewardship with a variety of programs and awards. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent:

Conservation Good Turn

Conservation Good Turn





Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources)

Project SOAR
(Save Our American Resources)


World Conservation Award

World Conservation Award


Philmont Wilderness Pledge

Philmont Wilderness Pledge

There have also been a host of merit badges promoting conservation themes or skills that could be used to further stewardship and caring for the land:


Conservation Merit Badge

The Conservation merit badge itself dates back to the beginnings of the BSA as one of the original 57 merit badges.

Conservation Merit Badge

Conservation Merit Badge

Scouts were asked to recognize and document trees, game birds and animals in their neighborhoods, understand how farmlands and forests are used, the effects of stream flow, and know about reducing the waste of coal, both in the mines and in its use.

By 1937, requirements had evolved to “Present evidence of having directly assisted conservation by some deed, such as fighting a forest fire; checking erosion; planting trees; helping restock streams with fish; posting or distributing conservation notices; planting wild rice or other duck feed; feeding birds in winter; stopping stream and river pollution.”

1948 Boy Scout Handbook

1948 Boy Scout Handbook

Gradually the requirements for the Conservation merit badge spread to other awards, and in 1952 the badge was discontinued.


William T. Hornaday Awards

the granddaddy of BSA conservation honors is named after William T. Hornaday. The director of the Bronx Zoo and credited with saving the American bison from extinction, Dr. Hornaday infused early Scouting with values of stewardship and environmental responsibility. You can learn about these and other current conservation awards at

William T. Hornaday Awards

William T. Hornaday Awards


Another anniversary fast approaching is the quarter century that the Conservation Handbook has been on the shelves of BSA literature. It’s still a terrific guide for carrying out meaningful projects to protect the environment and a fine manual for helping Scout units and the managers of public and private lands develop ongoing environmental partnerships.

Conservation Handbook

Conservation Handbook


The official website of the BSA has this to say about the emphasis the organization puts on conservation:

Since 1910, conservation has been an integral part of the program of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has been a positive force in conservation and environmental efforts. Scouts have rendered distinguished public service by helping to conserve wildlife, energy, forests, soil, and water. Past generations of Scouts have been widely recognized for undertaking conservation Good Turn action projects in their local communities.

With the 60th anniversary of the Outdoor Code as a reminder, Scouts everywhere can recommit to rolling up their sleeves and giving back to places where they camp and hike. They can do environmental good turns around their homes, communities, and everywhere on planet Earth.

Order copies of the Conservation Handbook at For more on the role of stewardship, check out the official website of the BSA –

Monica Thatch

Monica Thatch

(This edition of the Be Prepared Newsletter was developed and written by Robert Birkby, author of the current editions of the Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Scout Stuff, The Conservation Handbook, and Eagle Scouts: A Centennial History.)













Want to Amp Up Your Summer Fun? Just Turn the Page…

Facing a rainy Monday in June? Well, turn off the TV and embark on a heart-pounding adventure with brother-and-sister sleuths encountering wildlife and wild circumstances in America’s National Parks.

Have a summer campout on the horizon? Whether it’s backyard or backcountry, make it a breeze… and a blast! Turn summer reading into outdoor mastery as you learn skills and tricks sure to impress in camp and ′round the campfire .

Faced with required summer reading and not exactly thrilled about it? Well fear the “boring” no more. Just use your Scout-sense and tag the titles that intrigue your BSA brain! You can find pages full of outdoor adventure and know-how presented in fun formats that get you – and keep you – reading all summer… no joke!

Click here to see some new choices for summer reading, just made for Scouts! 


This month we’re pleased to present:


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 May, 2014                                                                                                        Vol. 6, No. 5




  • Scout’s Pace
  • Ranger Marathon
  • Speed Knots
  • BSA Racing

From dusty backcountry trails to the Indianapolis 500, there’s speed out there, and Scouts are enjoying it all. How fast are you? It depends on how you achieve maximum velocity, starting with the Scout’s Pace, one of Scouting’s oldest ways of covering ground.


 “Go a mile in twelve minutes at Scout’s Pace –

fifty steps running and fifty walking, alternately.”

 In the BSA’s early years, Scout’s Pace was a requirement for earning the Second Class badge. Scouts could cover long distances without becoming too tired by alternately jogging 50 paces and then walking 50 steps. It was also a means for measuring miles simply by striding along. All it took was a lot of counting.


Setting Off at Scout’s Pace

 You can try the Scout’s Pace today, both for fun and as a practical means to travel. Alternate 50 steps walking with 50 running strides and you might be pleasantly surprised how quickly the miles roll beneath your feet.


For going the distance, the 300 miles of trails on Philmont Scout Ranch offer opportunities like no other. Most trekkers are content to hike at a reasonable rate so they can appreciate everything there is to enjoy along the way.


Robert Birkby photo

Philmont Trekkers Take In the View from Atop the Tooth of Time

To kick in the afterburners, some Philmont staffers challenge themselves with the Ranger Marathon – hiking the 40+ miles from Dan Beard Camp at the far north of the ranch to Carson Meadows, Philmont’s southernmost camp, in 24 hours or less.



Route of the Philmont Ranger Marathon

 Marathoners can choose any route so long as they make the trip on foot. Philmont encourages them to travel in groups of three for safety, and to carry the water, food, clothing, and raingear they will need along the way.


                                                                                                              Robert Birkby photo

A 1970s Philmont Ranger Going Places in a Hurry

 Today’s Ranger Marathon finds its roots in the Philmont Intermountain Relays of the 1970s. Teams comprised of four runners raced from Baldy Town in the north to Rayado in the south, each runner covering a quarter of the route. A 1975 team running at more than 8 miles an hour through rugged terrain set the record by completing 42-mile route in 5 hours, 17 minutes. That’s fast!



When it comes to blinding speed, how fast can you tie the six basic Scout knots? Tying them correctly is more important than tying them fast, but working to form them quickly can help you make the knots your own.

 Square Knot

Double Half Hitch

Tautline Hitch


Sheet Bend

Clove Hitch

Check out for guides that can help you master Scouting’s knots and many more.



A great way to practice is with a knot rack – a couple of poles set up with the ropes and space for tying knots. In competitions, Scouts have tied all six knots on a knot rack in under 20 seconds.



                                                                                                     Robert Birkby photo

Scouts Practice at a Knot-Tying Rack

 You can also carry a two-foot piece of cord in your pocket. When you have free moments during the day, pull out the cord and run through the six Scout knots. Soon they’ll become second-nature to you, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.



When it comes to pure speed, seeing a Scout emblem flash by at 200 miles an hour is not out of the question, especially if it is painted on the side of one of America’s fastest race cars. That’s what you’ll see as Scouting again partners with Coyne Racing to promote the BSA brand on IndyCar and SprintCar courses across America.


 This year the Coyne Racing car #19, covered with Scouting insignia, is driven by Justin Wilson.


Justin Wilson

BSA Motorsports helps raise awareness of Scouting in new and exciting ways, and supports councils by encouraging membership, recruitment, marketing, and fund-raising. It’s also a platform to promote science, technology, and math to those involved in Scouting.



A Scout Tries Out the Cockpit of #19

 Watch for the Dale Coyne-BSA car in the Indianapolis 500 and other competitions throughout the racing season.


Check out this website to learn more about BSA Motorsports:

race logo


 (This edition of the Be Prepared Newsletter was developed and written by Robert Birkby, author of the current editions of the Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Scout Stuff, and Eagle Scouts: A Centennial History.)


When it comes to preserving Scouting memories… the possibilities go way beyond the page.

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Are you already an avid scrapbooker? Or maybe just beginning to think of ways to document and celebrate your Scouting experience, or someone else’s?

Well, while we agree that a scrapbook is essential for capturing the meaning and feeling of highpoints on the Scouting path, there’s a whole world of fun Scouting ways to make scrapbook materials work for you.

It’s easy and fun, so don’t be intimidated. Remember how Woody from Disney®’s Toy Story identified Buzz Lightyear’s flying as “falling with style”? Well, just think of this as “cutting-and-pasting… with style!

With such an exciting—and varied—selection of new and classic Scout-themed scrapbooking supplies available now, there’s no end to what you can create. Using flat and 3D stickers, Scout-patterned papers, borders, letters, and more, you can invent your own Scout gifts, decorations, invitations… or anything you can imagine.

Here are some fun ideas to get you started:

Simple and Fun Ideas for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: Make your own greeting cards; create a set of personalized notecards or notepads; make a personalized Scouting calendar; cover a picture frame; or create a Scouting-themed page (with photos, too) to put in a frame.

More Gift Ideas Using Decoupage: Decorate a plain plate, an ornament, a birdhouse, a mug, placemats, and more. Then, as recommended by, cover them in lots of Mod Podge to seal and preserve your designs.

BSA Celebration Decorations: Cover cans or jars in patterned, Scouting-themed paper to create great flower or candle holders; decorate paper placemats and tablecloths to make them more spirited and fun; cut triangles out of patterned paper and adhere them to string to create your own Scouting pennant banner.

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For Scouts’ Rooms: Decorate a shelf, bulletin board, or frame; get a really large bulletin board and cover it with assorted, whole pages of patterned scrapbook paper—makes a great background for photos, awards, and pinnable mementos.

And for wildly imaginative ways to use scrapbook paper and supplies for home and party decorations, check out the ideas at

Are you already way ahead of us? Care to share the ways you’re using scrapbook supplies now?

A full selection of exclusive BSA® Scrapbooking Supplies is available at and in your local Scout Shop.



Because You Gave… of Your Heart, Your Wisdom, Your Time

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Here’s a bright-spot occasion to cheer up tax time in April. 

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION DAY on April 20 is when we get to say “Thank You” to the life-blood of BSA… the hard-working, endlessly dedicated volunteers who make Scouting happen for our youth.

In BSA, we try to recognize and honor our volunteers year ‘round, but it’s especially nice to take advantage of a focused period of appreciation. In every council across the country, we celebrate and affirm your service as the reason Boy Scouts of America remains the foremost youth
program of character development and values-based leadership training in America.

So to every tireless leader, every board or committee member, every merit badge counselor, every parent who lends a hand…

…to every one of you who’s discovered “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” (Poet Rabindranath Tagore)… we say a heartfelt and truly grateful “Thank You.” You inspire us daily. For special ways to express your appreciation with a gift or heartfelt card, check out Of course, moms and dads are two of the first on a Scout’s list of
people to thank. Here are two of our newest cards:

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Let us know what’s happening in your council. How are you saying “Thank You”?


New Fieldbook is Coming Soon. It Just Keeps Getting Better.

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A rite of spring… as the camp gear gets aired and repaired anticipating the season’s first campout, one of a Scout’s most reliable tools might just get a bit of Scotch tape. Tattered as it may be, the BSA® Fieldbook remains a constant and trusted companion wherever the trail leads.

Since its first edition in 1944, the Fieldbook has been sparking readers’ imaginations, sharpening skills, and opening a world of possibilities. If they’re just starting to learn about the outdoors, the Fieldbook is a step-by-step guide. For seasoned trekkers, it can carry them farther, higher, and deeper into the backcountry, helping them make the most of small adventures and preparing them for bigger ones to come.

For example, here are some popular sentiments from reviewers on (where the 4th edition is rated 4.4 stars out of 5!):

From Kevin Brett (Former Cubmaster; Troop 907 Committee Chair — Stafford, VA):
This book has everything you need to know to head in to camp or out on the trail. It is inspiring; filled with quotes from famous outdoorsmen, leaders, presidents… A fantastic and thorough reference on the many skills, techniques and strategies you need for any type of outdoor adventure.

Or, as Emily J. Morris, another satisfied reader, puts it: I recently read the Fieldbook as a challenge from my boss. I have always heard the importance of keeping a copy of this around the house, and I can now officially vouch for that. It is not only an excellent source for all those connected with the Scouting program but everyone even remotely interested in the outdoors… It addresses all skill levels and is written with surprising eloquence.

That was the 4th Edition these readers were praising… but it only gets BETTER!
This spring, the BSA will publish the 5th edition of the FieldbookScouting’s Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure!

And to give you a hint of what’s coming, here are some highlights of the best all-around guide to outdoor adventure on the market today:

● The new Fieldbook is built on the know-how of world-class mountaineers, naturalists, adventurers, and wilderness educators. All have tested and refined their expertise with years of firsthand experience.

● It is the go-to manual for everyone interested in backcountry challenges—from hiking, camping, and canoeing to mountain travel, ultralight backpacking, wilderness navigation, whitewater kayaking, and much more.

● At 435 pages, the Fieldbook is big enough to contain a tremendous amount of outdoor knowledge, but small enough to slip into a backpack and carry in the field.

● Pages are loaded with full-color photographs, maps, and images

Fieldbook author Robert Birkby writes from a lifetime of backcountry experience. An Eagle Scout who served as director of conservation at Philmont Scout Ranch, he is a mountaineer, long-distance backpacker, outdoor educator, and leading authority on environmental stewardship. He is author of three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook, the 2004 Fieldbook and much of the 1984 edition, and BSA’s Conservation Handbook. He also wrote the most recent Scoutmaster Handbook and the coffee table books Boy Scouts of America Today, Scout Stuff, and Eagle Scouts: A Centennial History.

New edition will be available soon online at and in Scout Shops, along with select bookstores and outdoor equipment retailers.

Got a Fieldbook-related story to share? Tell us how it’s enhanced your adventures or got you out of a tight spot!