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The Outdoor Code

Every Scout who is spending time outdoors should be familiar with the Outdoor Code. It is especially important for Webelos, Scouts BSA, and Venturers who are out camping regularly.

The Outdoor Code

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

The Scouts will read the Outdoor Code and probably understand most of it. But adding in some discussion points will help reinforce it. So below (and in the printable copy) I have not put some discussion points after the code itself. Use these as a starting point for having a conversation about what we can really do to minimize our impact when camping.

The Outdoor Code Expanded

(This breakdown of the Outdoor Code is the one from the Webelos Handbook)

As an American I will do my best to

Be clean in my outdoor manners

  • I will treat the outdoors as a heritage.
  • I will take care of it for myself and others.
  • I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.

Be careful with fire

  • I will prevent wildfires.
  • I will build my fires only where they are appropriate.
  • When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out.
  • I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.

Be considerate in the outdoors

  • I will treat public and private property with respect.
  • I will use low-impact methods of hiking and camping.

Be conservation minded

  • I will learn how to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife, and energy.
  • I will urge others to do the same.

Discussion Points for the Outdoor Code

These are some discussion points I like to use. Add your own.

What does treat the outdoors as a heritage mean?

Our outdoor resources are meant for everyone. The people who used them before us preserved them so we could also enjoy them. We have a responsibility to keep them nice for the people who come after us. This is what the Outdoor Code encourages us to do.

What are some things I can do to take care of the outdoors next time I go camping?

Before setting up a campsite, consider where to place tents and camp gear so it does the least possible amount of damage. Try not to move or disturb anything natural. Think about if it will be possible to put it back the way it was when you leave.

What should I do with my trash when there is nowhere to dispose of it nearby?

You should plan ahead to pack out that trash. That means planning ahead to carry your trash with you until you come to a container where you can dispose of it properly. It is a good idea to bring a bag or container of the appropriate size to do this.

What are the differences between a cooking fire, a campfire, and a bonfire?

Don’t build a fire which is bigger than you require. For cooking, you can often get by with a very small fire. You might like a slightly larger campfire for warmth and fellowship. A large bonfire is almost never needed and it will have a larger impact on the land.

How can I decide if an area is appropriate for a fire?

First, see if there is an existing fire ring or fire pit. If so, use that. Do not burn another area of grass if you can use the same space as the people before you. Ensure that the area around your fire is clear of debris and have a way to put out the fire nearby.

When putting out a fire, how can I tell if it is cold out?

Dousing a fire with water does not ensure that it is out. “Cold out” means that you should be able to touch everything, including the ashes, extinguished coals, and the rock fire ring, and not feel any heat. Do this carefully and slowly so you don’t burn your hand. As you slowly move your hand, if you feel any warmth at all, put more water on the fire and try again.

What does a clean fire ring mean?

A clean fire ring is completely clear of trash. Remove as much evidence of your fire as possible.

What are some things I can do to reduce the impact of hiking and camping on the outdoors?

Stay on the trails. Leave natural items where you find them so others can enjoy them also. Do your best not to disturb plants and animals. Dispose of your trash properly. Do not leave food for animals.

What are some things I can do to be conservation minded in the next week?

Practice the concept of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Try to use fewer disposable items. Pick up some trash you find. Make an extra effort to recycle more.

Is it ever difficult to remind my friends to be conservation minded?

It can be difficult to encourage peers to think about conservation. Do it gently and be a good example. For example, say “I am going to recycle this plastic bottle. Would you like me to recycle yours also?”


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