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Spending a Night in the Woods Alone

J Williams asked this question

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.

Thanks for the question. Without more information, it is difficult to say. It could have been part of the overnight requirement for the Wilderness Survival merit badge, which reads “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.”

But it could have also been a part of another Scouting campout or event, such as the Order of the Arrow induction, during which Scouts “sleep apart from other campers”. (Please don’t write and tell me I shouldn’t put this on my blog. This is public information which can be found on the OA website.)

It is important that it doesn’t really specify what “spent a night in the woods alone” really meant. She would not have been left in the woods entirely alone as part of a Scouting program. When we talk about “sleeping apart” in OA, that means that Scouts are not right next to each other, but they are in the same area with adults nearby (closer than they think) to keep everyone safe.


One response to “Spending a Night in the Woods Alone”

  1. J Williams Avatar
    J Williams

    Thank you for your response, Scouter Mom. I was perplexed by the media coverage of Amanda Bales wherein the narrator says that “she even spent a night in the woods alone” after which Amanda herself states, “and you get next to no food which was a big challenge for me because I love to eat.”

    I tried Googling more info but came up empty. From the media report you get the impression that she backpacked into the woods on her own and made her own sleeping arrangements, with no one supervising or monitoring even from a distance at any time, and then hiked out again solo.

    There must have been some kind of supervision, however, as the liability implications for the BSA are enormous.

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