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Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Helps and Documents

The Scouts BSA Wilderness Survival Merit Badge serves as a practical educational tool designed to equip Scouts with essential skills for surviving in various outdoor conditions. This merit badge isn’t just about learning the basics; it dives deep into the nitty-gritty of wilderness survival, from understanding potential hazards to mastering first-aid procedures for backcountry mishaps.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

The merit badge focuses on the seven priorities for survival, which serve as the backbone for making sound decisions when in a backcountry or wilderness setting. It teaches Scouts not just what to do, but why each step is critical, instilling a level of understanding that can be life-saving in real-world scenarios.

Perhaps one of the overlooked aspects of wilderness survival is mental preparedness. The badge covers ways to maintain morale and avoid panic, emphasizing the importance of a positive mental attitude when lost or faced with adversity. This is crucial, as the right mindset often makes the difference in survival situations.

Furthermore, the merit badge encourages hands-on practice, from crafting fires using non-traditional methods to creating shelters with minimal environmental impact. This not only enriches the learning experience but also prepares Scouts for real-life applications of their skills.

Overall, earning the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge offers Scouts an invaluable set of skills and knowledge. It prepares them for safe and responsible outdoor adventures, while also equipping them to handle emergency situations should they arise. Whether you’re a Scout or a Scout leader, this badge provides a structured yet flexible framework for mastering the essentials of wilderness survival.

Answers and Helps for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

Help with Answers for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

Find specific helps for the Wilderness Survival merit badge requirements listed on this page. Some of these resources will just give the answers. Others will provide engaging ways for older Scouts to introduce these concepts to new Scouts.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 1: Hazards and First Aid

Do the following:

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

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 1 Helps and Answers

Wilderness Survival Hazards and Mitigation

Hazards in wilderness survival activities can vary depending on location, weather, and individual circumstances, but some common ones include:

  • Weather Conditions: Sudden weather changes can be dangerous. Always check weather forecasts and prepare accordingly. Carrying extra layers of clothing and emergency blankets can mitigate risks.
  • Dehydration: Lack of access to clean water is common. Always carry a water filter and know how to source water in the wild, like from streams or by collecting rainwater.
  • Wildlife: Encounters with potentially dangerous animals can occur. Learn about local fauna, carry bear spray or noise-making devices, and store food properly to lessen animal attraction.
  • Getting Lost: It’s easy to lose your way in unfamiliar terrain. Always carry a map, compass, and GPS. Learning basic navigation skills is a must to anticipate this risk.
  • Injury: Sprains, fractures, or cuts can happen. Basic first aid skills and a well-stocked first-aid kit can go a long way in mitigating these risks.

By educating yourself and taking the right precautionary measures, you can significantly lower the risks associated with wilderness survival activities.

First Aid and Injury Prevention

  • Hypothermia: First aid includes getting the person to a warmer place, removing wet clothing, and wrapping them in blankets. Prevention involves wearing appropriate layers and staying dry. Learn more about how to recognize and treat hypothermia.
  • Heat Reactions: For heat exhaustion, move to a cool area and hydrate. For heatstroke, cooling methods like cold water immersion are crucial. Prevention involves staying hydrated and taking breaks in the shade.
  • Frostbite: First aid includes rewarming affected areas slowly with warm (not hot) water. To prevent, wear adequate cold-weather gear and keep extremities covered.
  • Dehydration: First aid is rehydration with water or electrolyte drinks. Prevention involves carrying ample water and drinking regularly.
  • Blisters: To treat, clean the area, apply antiseptic, and cover with a bandage. Prevention includes wearing well-fitted shoes and moisture-wicking socks.
  • Insect Stings: First aid usually involves removing the stinger and applying ice to reduce swelling. Carrying antihistamines can help in case of allergic reactions. Use insect repellent for prevention.
  • Tick Bites: Remove the tick with tweezers, wash the area, and monitor for signs of Lyme disease. To prevent, wear long sleeves and use tick repellent. Learn more about first aid for tick bites.
  • Snakebites: Keep the affected limb immobilized at or below heart level and get medical help immediately. Avoid sucking out the venom. Prevent bites by being aware of your surroundings and giving snakes a wide berth.

Knowing the right first aid procedures and preventive measures for these common backcountry injuries and illnesses can make a significant difference in outcomes. Always carry a first-aid kit suited to your environment.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 2: Seven Survival Priorities

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 2 Helps and Answers

7 Survival Priorities

The seven priorities for survival in a wilderness location are generally considered to be:

  • Positive Mental Attitude: Keeping a clear head and staying focused on survival is crucial. Panic can lead to poor decisions. Remember STOP. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan)
  • First Aid: Attend to immediate medical needs, especially if they are life-threatening. A first aid kit and knowledge of basic first aid are essential.
  • Shelter: Find or build a shelter to protect yourself from the elements. Even a rudimentary barrier can help retain body heat and shield you from wind and rain.
  • Fire: Build a fire for warmth, cooking, and signaling. Fire can also boost morale. Always carry multiple methods for fire-starting.
  • Signaling: Make your presence known to rescuers through sound, light, or ground-to-air signals. A whistle, mirror, or flare can be instrumental.
  • Water: Find a water source and purify it before drinking. Dehydration can impair judgment and physical ability, so water is a priority.
  • Food: Although you can survive for a considerable time without it, securing food can give you the energy to tackle other survival tasks and improve morale.

Understanding these priorities and the order in which they should be addressed can significantly increase your chances of surviving a wilderness emergency.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 3: Survival Morale

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 3 Helps and Answers

Keeping a Clear Head When Lost

Avoiding panic and maintaining morale are critical because your mental state directly influences your decision-making and overall survival chances. Panic can lead to rash decisions, while a good morale can help you stay focused and better utilize available resources.

  • Stay Put: If it’s safe and you’re expecting rescue, staying put can reduce anxiety. Moving around aimlessly usually worsens the situation and makes you harder to find.
  • Take Inventory: Assess your available resources like water, food, and tools. Knowing what you have can make the situation seem less dire and help you plan.
  • Establish Routine: A structured routine can give you a sense of normalcy and purpose. Allocate time for signaling, gathering food, or maintaining your shelter.
  • Mental Exercises: Distraction techniques like counting, reciting something, or engaging in simple mental exercises can help you avoid spiraling into panic.
  • Communication: If you’re in a group, keep the lines of communication open. Talking through the situation can provide emotional support and can lead to better problem-solving.

In a survival scenario, your mental state can be as vital as your physical preparedness. Keeping panic at bay and morale high allows you to think clearly, make rational decisions, and better manage the resources and challenges you encounter.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 4: Exposure Conditions

Describe the steps you would take to survive in the following exposure conditions:
(a) Cold and snowy
(b) Wet
(c) Hot and dry
(d) Windy
(e) At or on the water

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 4 Helps and Answers

Surviving in a Cold and Snowy Environment

Surviving in a cold and snowy environment requires specific measures to ensure you stay warm and protected from the elements.

  1. Dress Appropriately: Layer clothing to trap heat and wick moisture away from the skin. Use thermal layers, an insulating layer, and a waterproof outer layer.
  2. Build Shelter: Construct a snow cave or another insulating structure to shield yourself from the wind and cold. Your shelter should be small to trap body heat more effectively.
  3. Fire: Start a fire not only for warmth but also for melting snow for drinking water. Make sure to build it safely away from your shelter to prevent accidents.
  4. Signaling: Place markers or use other signaling techniques to make yourself visible to rescuers. This can include placing colored fabric in visible spots or using a whistle.
  5. Conserve Energy: Physical exertion burns calories and can make you sweat, which could lead to hypothermia. Conserve your energy and ration any available food.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Melt snow for drinking water. Eating snow can lower your body temperature, making you more susceptible to hypothermia.

Being prepared and taking these steps can significantly increase your chances of survival in cold and snowy conditions. Always remember to prioritize staying warm and dry to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

Survival in a Wet Environment

Surviving in a wet environment poses challenges like hypothermia and infection. Here’s how to navigate those:

  • Find Shelter: The first priority is to find or build a shelter that keeps you dry. Use materials like leaves or bark to create a roof, and elevate the floor if possible.
  • Waterproof Gear: Use waterproof or quick-drying clothing and gear. Water-resistant covers for your backpack and important items are also crucial.
  • Fire: Starting a fire can be tricky in a wet environment. Look for dry wood in the inner parts of fallen trees or under heavy foliage. Fire provides warmth and a way to purify water.
  • Water Collection: Rainwater is generally safe to drink, so use leaves or other natural elements to collect it. Boiling is always a good precaution if you can manage it.
  • Food: Focus on high-energy foods that don’t require cooking, like nuts or energy bars, to minimize the need for fire.
  • Move Carefully: Wet environments are often slippery. Move slowly and deliberately to avoid injury, which could make your situation dramatically worse.

Being resourceful and adapting to the challenges of a wet environment are key. Keep dry, stay warm, and make your visibility known to any potential rescuers.

Surviving in a Hot and Dry Environment

Surviving in a hot and dry environment focuses largely on managing heat and conserving water. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Shade and Timing: The sun is your enemy in these conditions. Seek shade whenever possible and try to limit physical activity to cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening.
  • Hydration: Conserve water by rationing it, but don’t hold off on drinking until you’re extremely thirsty. Sip small amounts regularly. Avoid caffeine or alcohol, as they can lead to faster dehydration.
  • Clothing: Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible to protect against sunburn and to help regulate body temperature.
  • Signal for Help: In addition to traditional methods like fires or flares, consider using mirrors or reflective objects to signal aircraft. In wide-open spaces, large symbols made from rocks or other materials can be visible from the air.
  • Navigation: If you have to move, be sure to mark your direction in some way to avoid walking in circles. A compass is ideal but improvised methods, like following the sun’s movement, can also work in a pinch.
  • Food: Eating requires water for digestion, so in a water-scarce environment, it’s often better to fast. If you do find a reliable water source, then focus on high-energy foods.

Understanding the environment and being strategic about water and energy use can make a significant difference in your survival chances. Always prioritize shade and hydration in hot and dry conditions.

Survival in a Windy Environment

Surviving in a windy environment presents challenges like rapid heat loss and difficulty in building a fire. Here’s how to manage:

  • Find Shelter: The first step is to find a natural barrier against the wind like rocks or dense vegetation. If possible, construct a windbreak using available materials.
  • Layer Up: Wind increases the rate of heat loss from the body. Layer your clothing to trap warm air, and don a windproof outer layer.
  • Secure Items: Wind can scatter your belongings, making it harder to keep track of essential items. Make sure to secure loose gear tightly.
  • Fire: Building a fire in windy conditions is challenging. Use a windbreak and dig a pit to help keep the fire contained. Opt for quick-burning materials like dry grass or twigs to get it started.
  • Communication: Wind noise can hinder communication if you’re in a group. Develop simple hand signals or find a way to communicate in writing if needed.
  • Ground Signals: If you’re trying to signal for help, remember that flags or other visual cues might be hard to see if they’re flapping wildly. Use heavier items to mark your location.

Prioritizing shelter and warmth is crucial in windy conditions. Pay attention to the direction and strength of the wind, as it can also affect your travel plans and overall strategy for survival.

Surviving at or on the Water

Surviving at or on the water poses unique challenges, including the risk of hypothermia and dehydration. Here’s what you should do:

  • Personal Flotation: Always wear a life jacket or improvise a flotation device to stay above water. Keep as much of your body out of the water as possible to reduce heat loss.
  • Signal for Help: Use flares, a whistle, or reflective materials like a mirror to signal your position to potential rescuers. At night, a flashlight can be crucial.
  • Stay Together: If you’re in a group, stay close to increase visibility and improve morale. Use ropes or other tie-offs to keep everyone connected. Conserve heat and energy by assuming the HELP or huddle position (see the Lifesaving merit badge for details).
  • Conserve Energy: Treading water or swimming can exhaust you quickly and lead to faster heat loss. Use a back float position or rest on a flotation device if available.
  • Hydration: Saltwater is not drinkable and will worsen dehydration. If possible, collect rainwater or use a desalination pump, if available.
  • Sun Protection: Sunburn can be a serious issue on the water. Use clothing or improvised shade to protect yourself from sun exposure.

Staying afloat and signaling for rescue are your primary objectives. Conserving energy and protecting yourself from the elements come next. Always remember, survival at sea or on a body of water requires specific precautions that differ from those on land.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 5: Personal Survival Kit

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 5 Helps and Answers

Suggestions for a Personal Survival Kit

A personal survival kit aims to cover basic needs like fire, water, shelter, and signaling. Here’s a list of possible items and their utility:

  • Multi-tool: Good for cutting, opening cans, and other tasks.
  • Fire Starter: Crucial for warmth and preparing food.
  • Compact First Aid Kit: For treating minor injuries.
  • Water Purification Tablets: Makes natural water sources safe to drink.
  • Emergency Blanket: Reflects body heat and can act as a makeshift shelter.
  • Paracord: Useful for tying, shelter building, and even fishing.
  • Whistle: Effective for long-distance signaling.
  • Signal Mirror: Great for daytime signaling to distant rescuers.
  • Flashlight: Provides visibility and can also be used for signaling.
  • Compass: Important for directional orientation.
  • Energy Bars: Provide immediate energy needs.
  • Ziplock Bags: Multi-purpose for carrying water or food.
  • Extra Clothing: Spare socks and thermal layers help in changing weather conditions.
  • Water Bottle: Carrying purified water is essential for hydration.
  • Sun Protection: Includes sunblock and a hat to protect against harmful UV rays.
  • Duct Tape (optional): Can be used for quick repairs and even medical emergencies like splinting.
  • Thin Wire (optional): Handy for repairing gear and constructing shelters.
  • Garbage Bag (optional): Keeps gear dry and can be used as an emergency poncho.
  • Fishing Line and Hooks (optional): Useful for catching fish and the line can also be used for repairs.

Each item serves a specific purpose, enhancing your ability to adapt to various challenges you may face in a survival scenario. Make sure you’re familiar with how to use all of these items to maximize their utility.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 6: Starting a Fire Without Matches

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 6 Helps and Answers

Starting a Fire Without Matches

Building and lighting a fire without matches can be a crucial skill in a survival situation. Here are some methods:

  • Ferrocerium Rod: Striking a ferro rod with a hard surface produces sparks that can ignite tinder.
  • Magnifying Glass: On a sunny day, focus sunlight through a magnifying glass onto tinder until it ignites.
  • Flint and Steel: Striking a piece of flint against steel generates sparks that can be caught by char cloth or other fine tinder.
  • Bow Drill: Consists of a bow, spindle, fireboard, and bearing block. Friction from the spindle’s rapid rotation ignites the tinder.
  • Fire Plough: A softer wood base and a harder wood shaft are used. Rubbing the shaft against the base can generate enough heat for ignition.
  • Battery and Steel Wool: Stretching steel wool across a battery’s positive and negative terminals creates a short circuit, which ignites the wool. This can be used to light tinder.

Each method has its own set of challenges and best-use cases. Being familiar with several can significantly improve your ability to start a fire in varying conditions.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 7: Signaling

Do the following:
(a) Show five different ways to attract attention when lost.
(b) Demonstrate how to use a signal mirror.
(c) Describe from memory five ground-to-air signals and tell what they mean.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 7 Helps and Answers

How to Attract Attention When Lost

When you’re lost, attracting attention can be a lifesaver. Here are some methods to signal for help:

  1. Noise: A whistle is ideal for signaling. If you’re in a boat or vehicle, the horn can be used. Three blasts serve as a universal distress signal.
  2. Mirror or Light: Use a signal mirror during the day. At night or in low-light, a flashlight or flare can be effective for signaling.
  3. Color and Motion: Brightly colored clothes increase visibility. A homemade flag can also be used; wave it when you hear rescuers approaching.
  4. Ground Markings: Creating large SOS signs or symbols from rocks or logs can attract attention from the air.
  5. Fire and Smoke: A fire is not only useful for warmth but also for signaling. Adding damp leaves or grass can produce more smoke, making it visible during daytime.

Using multiple methods increases your chances of being found. The aim is to be as visible and audible as possible to catch the attention of rescuers.

How to Use a Signal Mirror

Using a signal mirror is a good way to attract attention, especially from a distance. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold the mirror close to your face, aiming it towards the sun. Some mirrors have a small hole in the middle; if yours does, look through it.
  2. Use your other hand to make a “V” shape with your fingers. Look through the “V” and locate your target (e.g., a distant plane or ship).
  3. Align the mirror so that sunlight passes through the hole, or reflects off the mirror, and aims toward your target. You’ll see a bright spot; this is your signal.
  4. Move the bright spot back and forth across your target to increase the chances of being noticed.
  5. Keep signaling intermittently to conserve energy but frequently enough to catch attention.

Timing and aim are critical. You want to direct the bright spot precisely on the target for maximum visibility. Signal mirrors work best in sunny conditions and can signal up to miles away depending on the conditions.

Ground to Air Signals

Ground-to-air signals are symbols made on the ground to communicate with aircraft overhead. These are standardized signals that pilots are trained to recognize. Here’s what some of the common ones mean:

  • SOS: Indicates distress and need for rescue. Create large, easily visible letters.
  • X: Unable to proceed. You’re stuck and need immediate assistance.
  • N: No or negative. Used to answer a question posed by the aircraft, like “Can you move?”
  • Y: Yes or affirmative. The opposite of “N,” used to indicate approval or understanding of a message from the aircraft.
  • Arrow: Indicates direction of travel. This is helpful if you’re trying to show which way you’re headed, potentially leading rescuers to you.
  • F: Need food and water.
  • I: Serious injuries, need medical supplies.
  • LL: All is well; disregard previous signals.
  • U: You are headed in the wrong direction.
  • P: Indicate that you’ll be listening on a specific radio frequency at a particular time, usually given by drawing a clock next to the ‘P’.
  • Numeric Symbols: Numbers can be used to indicate the number of people in your group.
  • Two Parallel Lines: Indicates you’re proceeding in two different directions and rescuers should search both ways.

These signals should be at least 8 feet in length and contrast with the surrounding area for best visibility. Using logs, rocks, or creating furrows in the ground are common ways to make these signals. The clearer and larger you can make them, the easier it will be for pilots to see and understand your message.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 8: Natural Shelter

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 8 Helps and Answers

Natural Shelters

Improvising a shelter with minimal environmental impact requires using available resources wisely and responsibly. Here are some eco-friendly options:

  • Fallen Tree: Find a large fallen tree and use its base as a windbreak. Layer the side facing away from the wind with branches and leaves.
  • Leaf Pile: Gather a large pile of leaves and burrow into it, keeping a layer of leaves over you for insulation. Make sure the leaves are dry to ensure good insulation.
  • Rock Overhang: Utilize a natural rock formation as a makeshift shelter. No construction is necessary, minimizing impact on the surroundings.
  • Snow Cave: If you’re in a snowy area, dig a hole into the side of a snowdrift and hollow it out. The snow acts as an insulator and you’re not damaging flora.
  • Tarp and Branches: If you have a tarp, string it between two trees. Layer leaves and branches over it for added insulation, but don’t break off living branches.
  • Stick Framework: Create a simple frame using sticks and cover it with leaves or bark. Avoid cutting down living trees; use fallen branches instead.

Remember to dismantle your shelter and scatter natural materials back to where you found them, lessening your footprint on the environment. Choose techniques that require minimal alteration of the site and reuse materials when possible.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 9: Protection from Wildlife

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 9 Helps and Answers

Protecting Yourself from Wildlife

Protection from wildlife varies based on the species you might encounter, but some general guidelines apply:

  • Insects: Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Wear long sleeves and pants, and consider using a head net in areas with many flying insects.
  • Reptiles: Stay on designated paths and avoid tall grass where snakes might hide. If you encounter a snake, give it a wide berth.
  • Bears: Store food and scented items in bear-proof containers or hang them from a tree. Make noise while moving through bear territory to avoid surprising one. Carry bear spray.
  • Other Mammals: Know the wildlife in the area and maintain a respectful distance. Many animals perceive eye contact as a threat, so avoid staring.
  • General Precautions: Learn about the local wildlife and their behaviors. Set up camp away from animal paths and water sources where animals might frequent. Use barriers like fences or thorny bushes if available.

Each region will have specific recommendations based on the local fauna, but these general guidelines are a good starting point for most environments. Always follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 10: Water Treatment

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 10 Helps and Answers

Treating Drinking Water

Making sure you have clean water is critical in outdoor survival. Here are some methods to treat water:

  • Boiling: Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. At higher altitudes, boil for three minutes. This kills most pathogens but won’t remove chemical contaminants.
  • Filtration: Use a portable water filter to remove protozoa, bacteria, and sometimes viruses. Make sure it meets at least the EPA’s purification guidelines.
  • Chemical Treatment: Iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets can disinfect water, but they require a waiting period and may leave a taste.
  • UV Sterilization: Portable UV sterilizers can kill bacteria and viruses but require batteries.
  • Solar Disinfection: Fill a clear plastic bottle with water and leave it in direct sunlight for several hours. This method is less reliable and takes longer.

Each method has its pros and cons, so use the best option available to you. When in doubt, using a combination of methods increases the safety of your drinking water.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 11: Clothing for Survival

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 11 Helps and Answers

Appropriate Clothing for the Weather

Choosing the right clothing for outdoor conditions is crucial for safety and comfort. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Hot Weather: Go for lightweight, light-colored, and moisture-wicking fabrics. Long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat can provide protection from the sun. UV-blocking sunglasses are also recommended.
  • Cold Weather: Layering is key. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating middle layer like fleece, and finish with a windproof and waterproof outer layer. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and insulated boots.
  • Wet Conditions: A waterproof, yet breathable, outer layer is essential. Make sure seams are sealed. Also, consider water-resistant footwear and gaiters to protect the lower legs.
  • General Tips: Always opt for synthetic or wool fabrics over cotton, as cotton loses its insulating properties when wet. For both hot and cold conditions, moisture-wicking socks are crucial.
  • Special Gear: In extreme conditions, specialized gear like microspikes, crampons, or sun-reflective clothing might be necessary.

Some suggestions:

Warm Weather Clothes

  • T-shirt or lightweight short-sleeved shirt
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Long-sleeved lightweight shirt
  • Long lightweight pants
  • Sweater or warm jacket
  • Wide brimmed hat
  • Bandannas
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes

Cold Weather Clothes

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants
  • Sweater
  • Long underwear
  • Socks (not cotton)
  • Warm hooded parka or jacket
  • Stocking hat
  • Water resistant mittens or gloves
  • Scarf
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes

Adapting your clothing to the specific conditions you’ll face is crucial for safety and will make your outdoor experience more enjoyable.

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 12: Edible Plants and Wildlife

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

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirement 12 Helps and Answers

The Risks of Foraging

Eating wild plants or wildlife in a survival situation carries several risks:

  • Identification: It’s easy to mistake poisonous plants or fungi for edible ones. Knowing how to correctly identify edible plants or animals is crucial. A wrong identification can lead to poisoning or illness.
  • Insect Hazards: Edible insects may bite or sting, leading to allergic reactions or infections.
  • Energy Expenditure: Hunting or foraging consumes energy and may yield little return, which can worsen your situation. Searching for food consumes valuable energy that could be better spent on other survival tasks, like signaling for help.
  • Staying Put: Venturing too far in search of food risks moving away from a location where rescuers might be looking for you.
  • Legal: Hunting without a license or out of season is generally illegal. Killing an animal for survival when rescue is imminent might be considered unnecessary.
  • Digestive Risk: Your digestive system may not be accustomed to certain wild foods, causing gastrointestinal distress that could worsen dehydration.
  • Attraction of Predators: The smell of freshly killed game or even some plant material could attract unwanted attention from predators like bears or wolves.
  • Food vs. Time: The human body can go weeks without food, so your energy is better spent on finding water and staying safe.

In summary, the risks often outweigh the benefits when it comes to eating wild plants and animals in a survival situation. Focus on signaling for help and finding safe water instead.

Related Resources for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

national outdoor awards adventure

National Outdoor Awards – Adventure Segment Requirements

For Scouts pursuing the Wilderness Survival merit badge, earning the National Outdoor Award Adventure Segment can be a natural next step. Both accolades promote outdoor preparedness and adventure but the National Outdoor Award takes it up a notch, challenging Scouts to venture into more demanding high-adventure activities like multi-day backpacking or sailing. Completing the Wilderness Survival merit badge even fulfills one of the requirements for the Adventure Segment. If you’re an older Scout finding your regular activities a bit too routine, this could be a great way to up the ante. Consider integrating the National Outdoor Awards into your troop’s activities to enrich everyone’s outdoor experience.

Spending a Night in the Woods Alone

A reader asks about a Scout spending the night in the woods alone. He was wondering if this was done as part of the Wilderness Survival merit badge. It might be part of the Wilderness Survival merit badge, which does include an overnight stay in an improvised shelter. Alternatively, it could relate to an Order of the Arrow induction, where Scouts “sleep apart from other campers.” Importantly, “alone” in a Scouting context doesn’t mean complete isolation. Whether for a merit badge or OA event, safety measures are in place, and adults are nearby to ensure well-being. So, “alone” is a bit of a nuanced term in these scenarios.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge

What is the purpose of the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge?

The Wilderness Survival Merit Badge aims to equip Scouts with the skills and knowledge to survive and stay safe in outdoor settings, teaching basic survival techniques, first aid, and emergency preparedness.

Who can earn the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge?

Any registered Scout BSA member can earn the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge. It’s recommended for those who have an interest in outdoor activities, but no prerequisite skills are required.

What are the main components of the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge requirements?

The requirements for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge cover topics like identifying hazards, first aid, priorities in survival situations, and improvising natural shelters. Scouts will also learn to build fires without matches and assemble a personal survival kit.

Do I actually have to spend a night in a shelter I build for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge?

Yes, one of the requirements for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge is to build a natural shelter and spend a night in it to demonstrate your understanding of the techniques involved.

Can I use the skills learned for other merit badges for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge?

Absolutely. Skills like first aid and outdoor preparedness are useful for badges like Hiking, Camping, and First Aid.

Are there any risks involved in the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge?

As with any outdoor activity, there are inherent risks, but following the guidelines and taking precautions will minimize them. Your Wilderness Survival Merit Badge will help you earn the badge using appropriate safety measures.


5 responses to “Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Helps and Documents”

  1. J Williams Avatar
    J Williams

    Just yesterday on national news, 14-year-old Amanda Bales was featured as the first girl to attain Eagle Scout status. Among other things, she mentioned that she “spent a night in the woods alone.” Would this have been achieved under the Wilderness Survival merit badge requirement or something else? How much latitude or discretion does a merit badge counselor have to custom tailor an activity to fit a requirement? Wondering. Thank you.

    1. James (First Class Scout) Avatar
      James (First Class Scout)

      If you are a merit badge counselor, I would suggest you check with the Scoutmaster of the troop you are working with, and get their consent to do whatever activity you are doing to pass the merit badge. (Personally, I earned this merit badge at Wolfeboro).

    2. A Boudreau Avatar
      A Boudreau

      Absolutely impossible for any 14 year old to complete the trail to eagle. Cannot be done in that amount of time. If it is, there is no validity to the achievement.

  2. Tylene Byrd Avatar
    Tylene Byrd

    Is there a printable checkoff sheet for this merit badge? They are amazing!

    1. James (First Class Scout) Avatar
      James (First Class Scout)

      If you are in BSA, then you should have a book that says “The Boy Scout Handbook”, or something similar. At the end of the book, you will find a checklist of all of the merit badges that BSA provides to Scouts.

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