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Updated: 4 hours 30 min ago

Practicing Wilderness Survival with the ‘Survivormen’ of the Rockies

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 3:09pm

A patrol hikes to a Survivorman Challenge station, where they will be tested on their wilderness survival knowledge.

Your flight home turned into a disaster. The plane crashed in a dense forest during a storm. Fortunately, you survived, but now you’re cold, wet, thirsty and lost.

You scour through the plane wreckage and find a bottle of water. You guzzle down the refreshing drink and then start to move on. But wait — don’t throw away that bottle!

You can place your thumbs over part of the bottle cap’s underside and blow, creating a makeshift emergency whistle.

This is wilderness survival. It’s using your wits to make the most of what’s available to help you get home safely.

It’s what the Scouts in Troop 16 of Parker, Colorado, practice every year in their Survivorman Challenge.


For nearly a decade, Troop 16 has held an annual wilderness survival campout at Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch, south of Denver. Since it’s springtime, the Scouts have a large part of the camp to themselves, including about 1,000 acres of undeveloped land. Each year, leaders plan a new theme — the Hunger Games, a military rescue mission, an ATV trip gone wrong. This time, it’s a plane crash.

Also this time around, survival expert Les Stroud will be there. He created the hit television series Survivorman, a show in which he survives for a week alone in remote places all over the world, sharing survival skills and how important it is to Be Prepared.

Survivorman Les Stroud shares some orienteering tips with Scouts.

“Survival has never been about recreation; survival is about real-life skills,” Stroud says. “There are many skills to learn, and the Boy Scouts of America [is] touching on them all: navigation, how to set up a fire, shelter construction, first aid … ”

This campout, named in honor of Stroud’s show, is a competition; each patrol will earn or lose points based on its members’ skills and decisions. But the bigger prize is Scouts enhancing their knowledge of what to do should this be a real emergency.


While first-year Scouts stayed at base camp, older Scouts ventured into the backcountry, allowed to carry very little for their weekend in the woods. No tent. No sleeping bag. No mess kit. This wasn’t going to be comfortable.

“It was a little cold because we didn’t get a sleeping bag or a sleeping pad,” says Ian Baldwin, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout.

Maybe they could light a fire to stay warm? Sorry; the county was under a fire ban. It’s important to follow local laws. You’ve got to adapt to different situations.

Scouts work on a shelter using sticks and plastic they collected.

So instead of worrying about not having a fire, the Scouts focused on building lean-to shelters out of tree branches and crawled inside for the night.

“You have to make sure your shelter is good,” 14-year-old Life Scout Josh Hilgartner says.

“Otherwise, if it rains, you’re going to get wet, and you don’t want that to happen.”

The next morning, the first-year Scouts set out to navigate a 5-mile orienteering course and practice knot tying, plant identification and first-aid skills as part of their challenge. Meanwhile, the older Scouts hiked to a fake plane crash site, where a couple of “injured” Scouts lie awaiting help. The Scouts quickly assess the area and move in to treat the — whoa! Is that a blood-covered bone sticking out of his arm?

Scouts assess the scene of a “plane crash,” where “injured” Scouts await their help.

It sure looks like it. But it’s a fake bone and blood. Even though it looks gross, you’ve got to be brave; these Scouts need your help.

Calm the victims, stop the bleeding, treat for shock. First aid is a top priority in wilderness survival.


After the victims are bandaged up, the Scouts discover a note with coordinates indicating where the plane was headed. This could be helpful, considering that the plane was flying toward civilization. To get their bearings, the Scouts create a compass by magnetizing a sewing needle and floating it in water.

They head the right way and come across more plane wreckage they can use: a tarp for shelter, CDs for signaling, a few bottles of water and granola bars.

“The teamwork of my group surprised me; I thought we weren’t going to work super well as a team, but we got together and did it,” says Travis Payne, an 11-year-old Tenderfoot Scout.

Adult leaders score Scouts on how well they know their stuff.

As part of the competition, the adult leaders keep score and reward the patrols when Scouts demonstrated proper survival techniques at various checkpoints. Identify edible plants, like dandelions and wild onion, and they’d win some spices to add flavor to their provided rabbit dinner. Tie a strong lashing at the knot-tying station, and they might get paracord to stabilize their shelter for the night. Explain how to start a fire with a 9-volt battery and steel wool, and they’d get a backpacking stove to cook the quail eggs they found.

Patrols also received points for reflecting sunlight with their CDs to signal adult Eagle Scout Trevor See, who piloted a Cessna 172 single-engine plane above the camp.

“We were about 600 feet above the ground; honestly, you could see the signals from 2,000 or 3,000 feet,” See says.


Scout Keaton Milerowski, 12, considers the Survivorman Challenge to be his favorite campout of the year other than summer camp.

“The challenges were fun because it was preparing you,” Keaton says. “It’s going to be useful in the future when you actually need it.”

Les Stroud poses for a portrait with members of Venturing Crew 16.

Part of the challenge involved teamwork and maintaining a positive attitude. Those skills will prove extremely useful, not only in the wilderness, but in life.

“The first time I ever got a fire going just from the bush, my confidence level went through the roof,” Stroud says. “That is the magic of wilderness survival. It lends itself to building confidence within you for all the other things you’ll face in life.”


Inside the March 2019 Issue

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 4:53pm

Here’s what you’ll find inside the March 2019 issue of Boys’ Life magazine. Remember, many articles are only available to subscribers and are not available online.

Please visit to subscribe to the print or digital editions of Boys’ Life magazine.


The ‘Survivormen’ of the Rockies

It might be a made-up contest, but what Scouts learn in the Colorado wilderness could prove vital in a real survival situation.

9 Things to Know About Wilderness First Aid

Here’s how to Be Prepared to treat injuries and ailments in the backcountry.

Learn about wilderness first aid

To Infinity and Beyond

The New Horizons spaceship flew to the edge of our solar system … and then kept going.

BL How To Make It: DIY Survival Kit

This 2-pound kit could save your life for at least three days in the wild.

How to make a DIY survival kit


Scouting Around: Stay on Target

Archery is more than a fun way to pass the time at Scout camp. It’s a popular sport with all kinds of different competition formats.

Visit the Scouting Around blog

Best Week Ever

Summer’s just around the corner. Make plans for fun with our guide to eight amazing Scout camps.

Check out 8 cool summer camps

Don’t Panic!

The key to surviving if you’re lost in the wild? Managing your fear.


Let’s Look at Pyramids

Read it! Color it! Get it all in this special Cub Scout section.

Welcome to Earth!

Alien invasion? Don’t worry. These Cub Scouts learned just what to do.


Look for the regular score of comics, jokes, games, Scouts in Action, Tradin’ Post and more! Only in the March 2019 issue of Boys’ Life!

The Wacky Adventures of Pedro
Pee Wee Harris
Tales From the Campfire
Scouts in Action
More S.I.A.

15 Funny St. Patrick’s Day Jokes and Comics

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 1:01am

Even if you remember to wear green on March 17, you’ll still get a “pinch” of humor from these funny St. Patrick’s Day jokes submitted by Boys’ Life readers.

Do you know a funny St. Patrick’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

Tom: What do you get when you cross a four-leaf clover with poison ivy?
Pee Wee: I don’t know.
Tom: A rash of good luck on St. Patrick’s Day.

Joke submitted by Tommy F., Aberdeen, Md.
Comic by Daryll Collins

Seth: What do you call a fake Irish stone?
Spencer: What?
Seth: A shamrock!

Joke submitted by Seth F., Frederick, Colo.

Comic by Scott Nickel

David: Mom, I met an Irish boy on St. Patrick’s Day.
Mom: Oh, really?
David: No, O’Reilly!

Joke submitted by David K., Shelby Township, Mich.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Joe: Why shouldn’t you iron a four-leaf clover?
Bob: Tell me.
Joe: You might press your luck!

Joke submitted by Eric H., San Diego, Calif.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Jack: On what musical instrument did the showoff musician play his St. Patrick’s Day tunes?
Ally: I have no idea.
Jack: On his brag-pipes.

Joke submitted by Jacqueline S., Moline, Ill.

Keenan: What do you call leprechauns who collect aluminum cans, used newspapers and plastic bottles?
Liam: What?
Keenan: “Wee-cyclers!”

Joke submitted by Jacqueline S., Moline, Ill.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Ian: Where do leprechauns buy their groceries?
Colin: I don’t know.
Ian: Rainbow Foods!

Joke submitted by Ian C., Minneapolis, Minn.

Comic by Daryll Collins

Peyton: What did the leprechaun say on March 17?
Cody: I dunno.
Peyton: “Irish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

Joke submitted by Andy K., Perkasie, Pa.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Carrot: Knock, knock.
Potato: Who’s there?
Carrot: Irish stew.
Potato: Irish stew, who?
Carrot: Irish stew in the name of the law.

Joke submitted by J.S., Hayward, Calif.

Comic by Daryll Collins

Evan: What’s Irish and stays out all night?
Steffan: What?
Evan: Paddy O’Furniture.

Joke submitted by Evan R., Wylie, Tex.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Do you know a funny St. Patrick’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

9 Things to Know About Wilderness First Aid

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 3:00pm

Here’s how to Be Prepared to treat injuries and ailments in the backcountry.

During a wilderness first-aid course, instructors will present participants with mystery injuries. It’s up to the participants to figure out what to do next.

What Is Wilderness First Aid?

If your unit is planning a remote adventure, you need wilderness first aid.

If you’d like to Be Prepared to help out your community after a major disaster, you need wilderness first aid.

The BSA’s wilderness first aid (WFA) curriculum focuses on prevention, assessment and treatment for an ill or injured person in an environment where professional medical care is an hour or more away.

“You could easily be three hours away from professional medical help,” says Luke Brewster from Troop 325 in Grand Rapids, Ohio. “Now you can do what you need to do to help.”

At Camp Lazarus in Delaware, Ohio, Luke and other members of Troop 325 took a WFA course offered by the Simon Kenton Council that follows the BSA curriculum. The troop had a high-adventure trip coming up on its calendar, and the Scouts wanted to be ready for anything.

Rescuers prepare a plan to help an instructor who’s pretending to have slipped and fallen.

First, Size Up the Scene

If you come across an injured person, take a few moments to stand back, survey the scene and do a safety check. Are there clues suggesting what happened? Is it safe for you to approach the victim?

Try to gather information from the patient. Ask something like, “Can you tell me who you are and what happened?” How was the patient injured?

During the Simon Kenton WFA course, students are presented scenes of “actors” with fake injuries.

“They put us in a scenario with many different ‘victims’ to see how we would handle it,” says Blake Litz, 16, also from Troop 325. “We had to piece together what happened.”

Scouts prepare to perform first aid on an instructor who is pretending to be injured.

Then, Do an Initial Assessment and Than a Hands-on Exam

An initial assessment checks for urgent medical issues, like severe bleeding or breathing problems. Treatment for issues like these requires immediate care.

Don’t forget to protect yourself from infectious diseases by donning personal protective equipment like disposable gloves, goggles, etc.

Once these concerns have been either resolved or are determined not to be a problem, a hands-on exam is the next step in determining what is wrong with the patient. It involves checking the patient from head to toe. Ask where it hurts and if it hurts when touched. Be aware of unusual behavior, such as coughing.

A patient’s vital signs can tell you how they are doing. Changes over time are indicators of changes in the condition of your patient. Check things like heart rate and respiratory rate — and keep checking regularly.

Write down the time and the results so you can track any changes. And while you’re doing all this, remember to stay calm.

“You have to focus on what’s at hand,” says Logan Smith, 14, from Troop 417 in Columbus, Ohio. “Just focus on what you’re performing.”

A Scout assesses the status of his father, who is pretending to be injured.

Treating Chest Injuries

Any significant injury to the chest might lead to difficulty breathing, a potentially serious and life-threatening problem. Pain is usually present, and the patient might complain of pain when taking a deep breath.

Increased difficulty in breathing usually indicates the injury is becoming worse. Any patient who has sustained a chest injury associated with increasing difficulty in breathing must be evacuated quickly.

How to Handle Shock and Heart Attack

Shock is a condition in which the patient’s brain and body aren’t getting enough oxygen. It can occur from a great variety of injuries and illnesses, but the signs and symptoms are similar.

Patients in shock might appear anxious, have a rapid and weak heart rate, take rapid and shallow breaths, and appear pale with cool and clammy skin.

Shock can kill, so it’s important to treat it quickly. Keep the patient warm, calm and lying down. Raise their feet up to 12 inches as long as the patient doesn’t have any spinal, pelvic or leg injuries. Don’t do it if it causes the patient any pain.

Heart attack patients might complain of heaviness; crushing or squeezing pain in the chest; pain radiating to the left arm, shoulder, back or jaw; nausea or vomiting; shortness of breath; severe sweating (without exertion); lightheadedness or dizziness. If any of these symptoms appear and a heart attack is suspected, Be Prepared to perform CPR. Give them an aspirin to chew unless they are allergic or there is any other reason not to.

A Scout treats an “injured” hiker.

Treating Head and Spine Injuries

A period of unconsciousness during which the patient does not respond to aggressive stimulation might indicate serious brain damage.

It’s important to establish and maintain an airway in all unconscious patients.

Moving a spine-injured patient must only be performed when absolutely necessary, and proper planning must be in place to decrease unnecessary movements.

Bone and Joint Injuries

Muscle and joint injuries can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. They are indicated by pain — and sometimes by swelling and bruising — in the area of the injury.

Immobilization may lessen pain. Applying ice or a cold pack can help reduce swelling and ease pain. Elevate the injured area above heart level to reduce swelling, and always make sure there is a thin layer of fabric between the ice pack and the skin.

A broken bone might be obvious. If it isn’t, take a look at the site of the injury. Is there discoloration and swelling? Does the patient move the injured area easily or prevent motion? Compare the injured side to the uninjured side. Does it look different?

A splint can restrict movement of the broken bone, which might prevent further injury and help the patient be more comfortable until a medical facility can be reached.

During a WFA training course, you might have to question an “injured” person to determine the best treatment.

“Some people would be lying on the ground, and they would tell us their injuries, and we would treat them with the materials we had on us,” says Toby Dush, 15, from Troop 16 in Columbus.

The injuries might look bad, but it’s really just makeup used at the Simon Kenton Council training course.

Wounds and Wound Infection

The best method for cleaning a wound is irrigation. It involves directing a stream of disinfected water — or at least drinkable water — into the wound to wash it out.

You can use a water bottle or punch a pinhole in a clean plastic bag. Wounds that are large, deep or very dirty, such as an animal bite, will need immediate advanced medical care after initial treatment.

A dressing is the primary covering of a wound.

Allergies and Anaphylaxis

Allergic reactions can come from foods, drugs, pollen, bugs and plant oils. A severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, is a true emergency. Swelling of the face,
lips and tongue is common. Anaphylaxis can lead to extreme difficulty breathing and death if not immediately treated.

Anaphylaxis is reversible only by an immediate injection of epinephrine. Injectable epinephrine is available by prescription only in spring-loaded syringes that are pressed into the thigh.

All of this can be intimidating to the untrained Scout. One of the most important aspects of providing first aid is keeping your cool despite the situation in front of you.

“If something occurs, hopefully I’ll be able to stay calm,” says Will Ray, 14, from Troop 474 in Columbus. “Now that I know what to do, I can go into more depth in helping.”

Where Do I Sign Up?

Adults and youth 14 years and older can become BSA wilderness first-aid certified. Upon completion, the certification is good for two years. By participating in classes, participants will learn how to assess, treat and — when possible — keep emergencies under control within the scope of their training.

Contact your local council for WFA training near you. There are also courses available through the American Red Cross and the Emergency Care & Safety Institute (ECSI) that follow the BSA WFA curriculum.

Learn more at

Have the Best Week Ever at One of These Chill Summer Camps

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:43pm

Summer’s just around the corner. Make plans for fun with our guide to eight amazing Scout camps.

Click here to see more Scout Camps featured in previous years

Camp Morrison

Ore-Ida Council

McCall, Idaho

DIVE IN: There are waterfronts — and then there’s the waterfront at Camp Morrison, located high in the Rocky Mountains. The clear glacial waters of Payette Lake offer the ultimate swimming, sailing and snorkeling experience.

LOOK AROUND: As you walk to merit badge class, keep your eyes open for deer, foxes and eagles. You might spot a black bear, too, which is a good reminder to keep food out of your tent.

CLIMB ON: Here, you don’t get the Climbing merit badge; you earn it. Instead of climbing an artificial wall, challenge yourself on natural rock. Learn advanced techniques and how to stay safe while having fun.

Learn more here!

Camp V-Bar

Southeast Louisiana Council

Perkinston, Mississippi

COOL IT: Wild Water Wednesday offers a break from merit badge instruction and a chance to take advantage of open aquatics areas — especially the 40-foot slip-n-slide by the lake!

STAY LATE: The V-Bar fun doesn’t stop when supper ends. Each evening features something special. We’re told the Watermelon Bash, ice-cream social and Friday night closing campfire are not to be missed.

GO GUMBO: They’re called “gumbo troops,” and they’re made up of individual Scouts who, for whatever reason, couldn’t attend summer camp with their troop. Now everyone can experience summer camp and make new buddies.

Learn more here!

Camp Raven Knob

Old Hickory Council

Mount Airy, North Carolina

JUMP RIGHT IN: The docks at Lake John Sobotta give you multiple jumping-off points into aquatics awesomeness. Earn a merit badge (or three) — or just have fun kayaking, rowing, sailing or getting your lifeguard certification.

SHINE ON: At 9 p.m. each Tuesday, the nature staff invites you to a “frog hunt,” where you’ll search for nighttime wildlife. It’s required for Scouts earning the Reptile and Amphibian Study merit badge but open to all.

GET CRAFTY: Head to the handicrafts area to tie-dye a T-shirt or braid your own paracord survival bracelet. You can also finish up requirements for merit badges like Art, Basketry and Wood Carving.

Learn more here!

Camp Buffalo Bill

Central Wyoming Council

Cody, Wyoming

FIRE IT UP: Bring long pants and sturdy shoes if you want to earn Metalwork, one of the camp’s most popular merit badges. Learn to manipulate red-hot metal that was heated in a handcranked coal forge.

GET OUT THERE: Venture into Yellowstone for an unforgettable experience at the country’s first national park. Choose from a menu of five-day backpacking, kayaking, rafting or climbing adventures.

JOIN THE CAST: The fast-flowing North Fork of the Shoshone River is one of the nation’s best fly-fishing spots. Lucky for you, Camp Buffalo Bill is right on the river, giving you a shot at catching trout all week long.

Learn more here!

Great Lakes Sailing Adventure

Michigan Crossroads Council

Mackinaw City, Michigan

For vessels more than 20 feet in length, like the one pictured, life jackets need not be worn when the qualified supervisor determines that it is prudent to abide by less restrictive regulations concerning the use and storage of life jackets.

SET SAIL: Step aboard the Retriever, a sailboat that’s your home for a week of crisscrossing the northern Great

Lakes. The 52-foot Retriever has room for up to 12 participants — usually 10 youth and two adults.

LEARN ON THE JOB: No sailing experience? No problem. A seasoned sailor will teach you the basics of sailboat handling, navigation and marine safety — plus the right way to cook, sleep and live on a boat.

DROP ANCHOR: Pick which ports you’ll visit on Lake Huron or Lake Michigan. Sample that famous Mackinac Island fudge, hike the trails of Beaver Island or fill your camera roll with photos of lighthouses.

Learn more here!

Fire Mountain Scout Camp

Mount Baker Council

Mount Vernon, Washington

GAIN ELEVATION: Climb, jump, balance and swing at the Fire Mountain COPE course. COPE, or challenging outdoor personal experience, takes teamwork and confidence-building to new heights.

STAY COOL: Want a break from the summer heat? Average summer temperatures at Fire Mountain are in the upper 70s, and the camp’s huge evergreen trees offer plenty of shade. Bonus: The bug population is low.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: Fire Mountain’s lake features a swim beach complete with palm trees and sand. Head to Sea Dog Marina to try sailing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Learn more here!

Camp Chawanakee

Sequoia Council

Shaver Lake, California

PICK A SPOT: Find Chawanakee on the banks of Shaver Lake, a popular recreation destination in the Sierra National Forest. One look and you’ll see why vacationers visit to water-ski, fish for trout and camp among the pines.

MAKE A SPLASH: Head to Boy Scout Cove on Shaver Lake to earn your Canoeing, Kayaking, Lifesaving, Rowing, Small Boat Sailing or Swimming merit badge in a setting that belongs on a postcard.

SAY ALOHA: Celebrate Hawaii on the mainland during Aloha Friday. Wear your Hawaiian shirt to the luau-style barbecue in the afternoon. That night, head to the Point Campfire Bowl for an unforgettable closing show where troops show off their best skits and songs.

Learn more here!

Massawepie Scout Camps

Seneca Waterways Council

 Tupper Lake, New York

BREATHE IT IN: The camp’s location in the Adirondacks means cool temperatures at night and the call of loons in the morning. But don’t sleep in! With nine ponds and lakes on property, there’s more climbing, kayaking, biking, swimming and log rolling than you could fit in a week.

SWITCH IT UP: For something different, try the Mountain Fox program for older youth. Leave your troop after breakfast to enjoy daylong outings to climb a mountain, conquer Class IV rapids and more — while still making it back for dinner!

GO FOR IT: Massawepie is the launch point for three- and six-day backpacking, canoeing or fishing treks through the Adirondack Mountains. Choose one of 12 predesigned treks — or customize your own.

Learn more here!

Where are you headed this summer? Whether it’s one of these camps or another, let us know below.

Love getting the scoop on all things fun to do? We’ve got insider tips just for subscribers. Get a year’s worth of the best and funnest and most interesting things you need to know for $12.

How to Make a DIY Wilderness Survival Kit

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 5:34pm

This 2-pound do-it-yourself wilderness survival kit could save your life for at least three days in the wild.


We suggest storing these items in a single zip-close bag.

STAY SHARP: You should have a pocketknife during most outings, anyway, but never go into the wild without a dependable, easy-to-use blade.

TAKE COVER: Even in wilderness survival situations, you need a good shelter. A tube tent is a great lightweight option that’s easy to pack and very affordable.

SLEEP WARM: It’s not a long-term option, but an emergency sleeping bag will keep you warm and takes up only a few square inches of space.

FIRE SOURCE AND TINDER: Store fresh strike anywhere matches in a waterproof case to get a blaze going fast. Throw in a handful of dryer lint or petroleum-jelly-covered cotton balls as tinder.

SIGNALING: Get the attention of rescuers with a signal mirror and high-quality whistle.

INSECT CONTROL: A pack of insect-repellent towelettes takes up far less space than a spray bottle.

SHINE BRIGHTLY: A small LED flashlight will provide plenty of visibility in unknown environments. Don’t forget fresh batteries, too.

WRAP IT UP: We suggest wrapping a length of duct tape (a few feet) around your flashlight handle.

DRINK UP: Safe water is scarce in the wild. Make the water you do find safer to consume with a personal water filter and potable water tablets.

A survival kit does not replace the 10 Scout Outdoor Essentials. Learn more at

How Much Would You Weigh on Other Planets?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 5:27pm

Gravity on the moon is about 17 percent of what it is on Earth. That means you can figure out what you’d weigh there by multiplying your weight by 0.165.

Use this calculator to find out what you’d weigh on the other planets in our solar system.

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Microsoft Just Released the World’s First Adaptive Controller

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:09am

Microsoft recently introduced a first-of-its-kind Xbox controller that adapts for gamers with limited mobility. The standard controller costs $100, and extensions personalized to each gamer’s specific needs can be purchased separately.

Check out the trailer above to see how the controller helps gamers of all abilities have fun and keep gaming.

Kingdom Hearts III Is One Epic Adventure

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:04am

Set in the Disney and Pixar universes, this epic game follows the journey of a young boy with mysterious powers as he attempts to stop an evil force called the Heartless. You’ll meet characters like Jack Sparrow, Donald Duck, Maleficent and many more along the way.

Kingdom Hearts III is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.

If You Were an Alien, Which Planet Would Be Home?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 10:48am

Are you from Jupiter, too? Answer these questions to find out which planet you should call home.

Write a Funny Caption For This Photo

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:05am

What’s going on in this picture? What are those dogs saying, doing or thinking?

If you can think of a funny caption for this photo, just post it in the comment form at the bottom of this page. After we approve it, your funny caption will be on this page for everyone to read.

Click here to write captions for more funny photos.

25 Funny Pinewood Derby Jokes

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 1:01am

Be a humor champion with these winning Pinewood Derby jokes written by Boys’ Life readers. These funny jokes are guaranteed to take the checkered flag at your next race.

Do you know a funny Pinewood Derby joke? Click here to send in your joke.

Tim: In what section of the library are books about Pinewood Derby?
Andy: I don’t know.
Tim: Non-friction.
Joke submitted by Ashland T., Circle Plains, Minn.

Leader: Knock, knock.
Scout: Who’s there?
Leader: Noah.
Scout: Noah, who?
Leader: Noah how to build a fast Pinewood Derby car?
Joke submitted by Jennifer A., Parker, Tex.

Comic by Jon Carter

Wyatt: Why can’t tomatoes win races against lettuce?
Steven: Tell me.
Wyatt: Because the lettuce are always a head, and the tomatoes are always trying to ketchup!
Joke submitted by Wyatt S., Newberry, Mich.

Pedro: What do you get when you cross a racecar with a spud?
Ordep: Beats me.
Pedro: Crashed potatoes.
Joke submitted by Braeden B., Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

A snail goes to buy a car. The salesman is surprised when the snail picks out a fast, expensive sports car. He’s even more surprised when the snail requires that a big red “S” be painted on both sides.

“Why would you want such a thing?” asked the salesman.

The snail replied, “I want people to say, ‘Look at that S car go!’”
Joke submitted by Meghan and Jackson K., Van Buren, Ark.

Comic by Scott Masear

Denver: Knock, knock.
Sam: Who’s there?
Denver: Cargo.
Sam: Cargo, who?
Denver: No, cargo beep-beep!
Joke submitted by Denver S., Newport, Mich.

Pat: What has 10 letters and starts with G-A-S?
Rick: Beats me.
Pat: Automobile.
Joke submitted by Patrick H., Sedalia, Mo.

A guy goes door to door looking for work. One homeowner hands him a brush and a can of paint and offers him $150 to paint his porch.

A few hours later, the guy comes back to the homeowner and says, “I’m finished. But you should know that your car’s a Ferrari, not a Porsche.”
Joke submitted by Dan H., Conshohocken, Pa.

Comic by Thomas Toons

Jim: What’s a car’s favorite meal?
Adam: I don’t know.
Jim: Brake-fast.
Joke submitted by Adam C., Dinuba, Calif.

Daffynition: Smart Car — An automobile with a diploma.
Joke submitted by Christopher H., Winfield, Pa.

Tom Swiftie: “Fix that tire,” Tom said flatly.
Joke submitted by Adam T., Emmett, Idaho

Tom Swiftie: “A Pinewood Derby car just ran over my foot,” Tom said tiredly.
Joke submitted by Nicholas G., South Range, Wis.

Sam: One night I dreamed I was a muffler.
Jeremy: Really? What happened?
Sam: I woke up exhausted.
Joke submitted by Samuel E., Kemp, Tex.

A police officer stops a car going 75 when the speed limit is 65. The officer asks the man driving if he realizes he was speeding.

The man replies, “I wasn’t speeding. Look right there — that sign says the speed limit is 75.”

The officer explains that that’s the highway number, not the speed limit. As he says this, he looks in the back of the car and sees an elderly woman breathing very heavily.

The officer asks her if she’s O.K., and she says, “Yes, we just got off of Highway 155.”
Joke submitted by Samuel E., Coweta, Okla.

Braden: What kind of car does a snake drive?
Hayden: What?
Braden: An Ana-Honda!
Joke submitted by Braden W., Prior Lake, Minn.

Hayden: What kind of car does a Jedi drive?
Jake: I don’t know.
Hayden: A Toy Yoda.
Joke submitted by Hayden S., Eugene, Oregon

Anna: What sort of car does a rancher’s dog drive?
Albert: I haven’t a clue.
Anna: A Range Rover!
Joke submitted by Annalise T., Jupiter, Fla.

Ilse: What kind of cars do cooks drive?
Roy: Beats me.
Ilse: Chef-rolets!
Joke submitted by Brian S., Brunswick, Ohio

David: Why are pigs bad drivers?
Maia: Uhh — why?
David: They hog the road!
Joke submitted by Joel M., West Bloomfield, Mich.

John: Why do geese make such lousy drivers?
Justin: I have no idea.
John: Because all they do is honk!
Joke submitted by John G., Tallahassee, Fla.

Son: What is an autobiography?
Dad: I don’t know.
Son: A Pinewood Derby car’s story.
Joke submitted by Quentin H., Dayton, Va.

Bob: Why was the Scout such a good racecar driver?
Joe: I don’t know. Why?
Bob: Because he did a good turn daily!
Joke submitted by Rahul J., Antioch, Calif.

Daffynition: Carpool — Where automobiles go for a dip.
Joke submitted by Ricky G., Hanover Park, Ill.

Adam: What races take place on an African island?
Mark: What?
Adam: MadaNASCAR.
Joke submitted by Adam G., Sioux Falls, S.D.

A racecar driver gets lost on his way to his son’s Pinewood Derby race. When he stops at a gas station to ask for directions, the clerk asks, “Are you from around here?”

The racecar driver replies, “Yes, but I usually end up driving in circles.”
Joke submitted by Sebastian B., Beekmantown, N.Y.

Do you know a funny Pinewood Derby joke? Click here to send us your jokes.

Watch How a Pinewood Derby Car Kit Gets Made

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 1:01am

Even before you open the box, your Pinewood Derby car has traveled thousands of miles. The journey begins in a forest in Idaho. The wood blocks travel to Indiana, where they are packaged and shipped. Finally, they arrive at your local Scout shop. The rest is up to you and your parents or guardians. Cutting, sanding, painting and racing is the best part.

A Pinewood Derby Car’s Journey From the Forest to the Finish Line

Step 1: Each car block begins its life as a ponderosa pine. The trees come from a sustainable forest (where cut-down trees are replaced by seedlings) in Idaho.

Step 2: At Woodgrain Millwork in Fruitland, Idaho, the logs are split into planks. Those planks are fed through a machine that uses lasers to measure the wood and determine where cuts should be made. The goal is to get as many perfect 7-inch blocks as possible from each plank.

Step 3: The blocks are transported nearly 2,000 miles to South Bend, Indiana, home to Kahoot Products Inc. Each piece of wood goes into a box alongside four wheels, four axles, instructions and decals.

Step 4: The Pinewood Derby kit boxes are sealed and placed in large shipping boxes, each containing 48 car kits. These boxes are sent to local Scout shops across the country.

Step 5: The final step is the best one: it’s when you open the Pinewood Derby kit and begin making your very own Pinewood Derby car.

Amazing Pinewood Derby Car Designs of 2019

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 4:39pm

Take a look at these photos of awesome Pinewood Derby car designs sent to us by Boys’ Life readers, and then send us a photo of your 2019 Pinewood Derby car.

Do you have a photo of your Pinewood Derby car? Send us a photo!

Pinewood Derby Car Design Photo Gallery

Click on images to see cars in a photo gallery.

Name of your car
Describe your car

Important Note: Please only upload photos of your car. Because of privacy rules, we can’t post any photos that show people’s faces. Always ask for your parent’s permission before uploading anything to a website.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Pinewood Derby

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 12:51pm

The Pinewood Derby is one of the most popular events in Cub Scouting. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the Pinewood Derby, as well as links to helpful resources and additional information.

What is a Pinewood Derby race?

The Pinewood Derby is a fun Cub Scout racing event held in many packs. During the event, Cub Scouts race small, driverless wooden cars down a sloped track. The cars are powered only by gravity.

With an adult’s help, each Pinewood Derby car is built by a Cub Scout using a kit that includes a wooden block, plastic wheels and metal axles. Trophies or medals are often awarded for the fastest car and the best designs.

Who invented the Pinewood Derby?

The first Pinewood Derby race was organized by Cubmaster Don Murphy on May 15, 1953, at Pack 280C’s Scout House in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Other packs in the Los Angeles area held races that year, too.

By 1954, officials at the Boy Scouts of America heard about the event and began to spread the word, and Boys’ Life magazine published Pinewood Derby plans in its October 1954 issue. That was the first reference to the Pinewood Derby in any BSA publication.

It wasn’t long before packs across the country made the Pinewood Derby a part of their annual calendar.

Read more about the fascinating history of the Pinewood Derby.

How do you make a fast Pinewood Derby car?

Since a Pinewood Derby car is accelerated by gravity, the best way to speed up a car is by maximizing its weight. A heavier car will go faster, so you should always make your car as heavy as your pack’s rules allow.

It’s also important to reduce friction and air drag. Make sure your car’s wheels spin smoothly and don’t rub against the side of the car. You may also want to polish the axles to remove any burrs or imperfections. Use plenty of dry graphite to provide lubrication.

Get more tips for building a fast Pinewood Derby car and learn about scientifically proven ways to make your car go faster.

How do you weigh a Pinewood Derby car?

Most packs will have an official weigh-in before a Pinewood Derby race to make sure that cars aren’t too heavy.

You can use a kitchen scale or a postal scale to weigh your car while building it, but remember that scales can vary. So make sure you have an easy way to add or subtract weight during your pack’s weigh-in.

How much does a Pinewood Derby car weigh out of the box?

The official Pinewood Derby car weighs about 3.5 ounces without any modifications. The wooden block is about 3.3 ounces, and the wheels and axles add about 0.2 ounces.

Can you add weight to a Pinewood Derby car?

Yes, you will probably want to add additional weight to your Pinewood Derby car to make it go faster. Most packs allow cars to weigh a maximum of 5 ounces.

How do you add weight to a Pinewood Derby car?

There are various ways to add weight to your Pinewood Derby car. To preserve your car’s design, you may want to hollow out the wood and place extra weight inside the car’s body. You can also glue the weight to the top or bottom of the car.

If you place the weight under your car, make sure to leave enough clearance so your car doesn’t rub on the track. Many tracks have a raised guide rail in the center of each lane.

The Scout Shop and many craft stores sell Pinewood Derby weights, but you can also use fishing weights or coins to add additional weight to your car.

Where should you put weight on Pinewood Derby car?

Opinions vary, but most experts suggest adding as much weight to the back of your car as you can without popping a wheelie. About one inch in front of the rear axle is usually a good spot.

Learn more about where to add weight on a Pinewood Derby car.

Where can I buy Pinewood Derby weights?

The Scout Shop and many craft stores (like Hobby Lobby or Michaels) sell Pinewood Derby weights. The weights come in various shapes, sizes and materials. Tungsten cubes, strips or putty are popular because tungsten is denser than many other metals.

For a cheaper option, you can also use lead-free fishing weights, ball bearings or coins. Many packs don’t allow lead weights for safety reasons.

How do you bend Pinewood Derby axles by hand without a tool?

Bending your Pinewood Derby axles will make the wheels ride up against the nailhead, which creates less friction than if the wheel is bouncing around and rubbing against the wooden Pinewood Derby car body. It also makes alignment easier.

An axle bending tool is the simplest way to do this, and these tools can be purchased at the Scout Shop and many craft stores. But you can also make a slight bend in the the axle using a clamp and a pair of pliers.

How do you deburr a Pinewood Derby axle?

Axles right out of the box often have burrs and imperfections that cause unwanted friction on your car’s wheels. You can use a file or fine-grit sandpaper to remove the burrs and polish the axle. One easy way to do this is to clamp the axles back in the drill and let the drill spin the axle while you polish it.

Learn more about how to polish your car’s axles and wheels.

What is the best graphite for Pinewood Derby?

For a fast car, you need to lubricate your car’s axles to reduce friction. Any dry graphite will work well, and you can purchase it at the Scout Shop, craft stores or hardware stores.

Other options for dry lubricants include molybdenum (moly) or tungsten disulfide (WS2) powder. These lubricants are available on their own or mixed with graphite. They generally cost more, but some people think they are more effective than graphite.

Most packs don’t allow liquid lubricants because they can cause a mess on the track.

What are the official Pinewood Derby rules?

Every pack sets their own rules and guidelines for their Pinewood Derby race. There are no official nationwide rules. Check with your local pack, district or council to find the rules in your area. You can also click here for some common Pinewood rules and guidelines.

What month is Pinewood Derby?

The Pinewood Derby is frequently held in January or February, but there is no official date. Local Cub Scout packs can schedule their race for any time throughout the year.

Many packs distribute Pinewood Derby kits in December so that Cub Scouts can work on their cars over the holiday break.

What kind of paint do you use on a Pinewood Derby car?

Enamel paint will give your Pinewood Derby car the glossiest finish, but any paint works great for your Pinewood Derby car. You can even use markers or stickers. The point is to be creative and have fun.

Be careful that your paint and decorations don’t rub or stick to your car’s wheels. Many people find it best to finish decorating their car before they install the axles and wheels.

If you need design inspiration, check out these Pinewood Derby car photo galleries.

Which side is the front of a Pinewood Derby car?

In the official Pinewood Derby kit, the axle grooves closest to the edge are usually put at the rear of the car. However, you are allowed to orient your car in whichever direction works best for your design.

Most Cub Scouts find it easiest to sketch their Pinewood Derby car designs before they start cutting. You can download a printable Pinewood Derby car template PDF here.

Can a Pinewood Derby car be shorter than 7 inches?

Usually it doesn’t matter how short you make your car, but be sure to check your pack’s rules before you get started. Each pack’s official rules are different.

Inside the February 2019 Issue

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 12:51pm

Here’s what you’ll find inside the February 2019 issue of Boys’ Life magazine. Remember, many articles are only available to subscribers and are not available online.

Please visit to subscribe to the print or digital editions of Boys’ Life magazine.


Rise Above

At the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Venturers learn you don’t have to face your fears alone.

Photos from Venturing Fest

Revving up the Ranks

Eagle Scout drives from videogames to NASCAR’s biggest stage.

Taking It to the House

It takes just a few hours to learn curling, a cool game with a funny name.

BL How To: Make Invisible Ink

Create your own top-secret notes with this simple technique.

Learn how to make invisible ink


Scouting Around: High-Tech Problem Solvers

An engineer’s work can leave a lasting impact on society.

Visit the Scouting Around blog

Fun on Ice

Ice Camp is a test of Scout skills and leadership … all on a frozen lake.

Nine Things to Know About Merit Badges

Here’s how to get the most out of your merit badge experience.

How to have a better merit badge experience


Let’s Look at Snow

Read it! Color it! Get it all in this special Cub Scout section.


Look for the regular score of comics, jokes, games, Scouts in Action, Tradin’ Post and more! Only in the February 2019 issue of Boys’ Life!

The Wacky Adventures of Pedro
Pee Wee Harris
Tales From the Campfire
Scouts in Action
More S.I.A.

25 Funny Valentine’s Day Jokes and Comics

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 1:10am

Everyone loves a joke. Even if you’re not into love, romance and all that kissy stuff, you’ll still love to laugh at these funny Valentine’s Day jokes and comics.

Do you know a funny Valentine’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

A book never written: “Guide to Love” by Val N. Tines.

Joke by Grant W., Pittsburgh, Pa.

A prince was put under a spell so that he could speak only one word each year. If he didn’t speak for two years, the following year he could speak two words and so on.

One day, he fell in love with a beautiful lady. He refrained from speaking for two whole years so he could call her “my darling.” But then he wanted to tell her he loved her, so he waited three more years.  At the end of these five years, he wanted to ask her to marry him, so he waited another four years.  Finally, as the ninth year of silence ended, he led the lady to the most romantic place in the kingdom and said, “My darling, I love you! Will you marry me?”  And the lady said, “Pardon?”

Joke by Vincent F., Manchester, Mo.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Zach: What did one flame say to the other on Valentine’s Day?
Scott: Tell me.
Zach: “We’re a perfect match.”

Joke by Zachery S., Washington, Ill.

Two antennae met on a roof, fell in love and got married. Their wedding ceremony wasn’t fancy. The reception, however, was excellent.

Joke by Travis R. G.

Comic by Scott Nickel

“If you step on a purple mushroom, you’ll be forced to marry the ugliest person in the world,” warned the old gnome, so the man continued carefully through the woods. He didn’t step on any purple mushrooms.

Suddenly a beautiful woman walked up and said: “We have to marry.”

“Why?” asked the man, smiling.

“I just stepped on one of those pesky purple mushrooms!” she replied.

Joke by Matthew D., Andover, Mass.

A book never written: “Avoiding Valentine’s Day” by I.M.N. Love.

Joke by Josh G., Portland, Ore.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Tom Swiftie: “Let’s make our own Valentines,” Tom said craftily.

Joke by Kevin A., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Tom Swiftie: “She tore my valentine in half!” said Tom half-heartedly.

Joke by Alexander V., Hamden, Conn.

Comic by Scott Nickel

A woman was taking a nap on Valentine’s Day afternoon. After she awoke, she told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a gorgeous and expensive diamond necklace for Valentine’s Day! What do you think it means?”

“You’ll know tonight,” he said.

That evening, her husband came home with a small package for her. Thrilled, she opened it and found a book titled “The Meaning of Dreams.”

Joke by Michael J., West Simsbury, Conn.

Will: Why do oars fall in love?
Eric: Why?
Will: Because they’re row-mantic.

Joke by Will A., Nashville, Tenn.

Comic by Scott Nickel

A Cub Scout found a frog that said, “Kiss me and I will become a beautiful princess.”

The boy studied the frog, then put it in his pocket.

“Hey,” the frog croaked, “how come you didn’t kiss me?”

“I’d rather have a talking frog than a princess any day!”

Joke by Brad S., San Antonio, Tex.

I just got a text from my girlfriend that said, “I bought you an awesome Valentine’s Day gift! xox”

I really hope she spelled “Xbox” wrong.

Joke by Kyle W., Farmington, N.M.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Craig: Why do melons have to get married in churches?
Joe: Why?
Craig: Because they cantaloupe!

Joke by August R., Bridgeville, Pa.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Justin: What did the boy candy say to the girl candy?
John: I haven’t a clue.
Justin: “It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re mint for each other.”

Joke by Justin R., Hampton Falls, N.H.

Dawson: What do pigs give on Feb. 14?
Brad: I don’t know.
Dawson: Valen-swines!

Joke by Dawson M., Detroit, Mich.
Comic by Daryll Collins

Comic by Thomas Toons

Tobin: What happened to your leg?
Matt: I went to a seafood dance on Valentine’s Day.
Tobin: And?
Matt: I pulled a mussel!

Joke by Matt K., Omaha, Neb.

Comic by Scott Nickel

Ben: What did one magnet say to the other magnet on Valentine’s Day?
Finn: I have no idea. What?
Ben: “I find you very attractive!”

Joke by Ben M., Doylestown, Pa.

Do you know a funny Valentine’s Day joke? Click here to send your joke to us.

Venturing’s Epic 20th Birthday Party at the Summit Bechtel Reserve

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 5:33pm

They tell you to trust your harness. To remember your safety lessons. That you’re not going to fall.

Solid advice, but it goes fluttering away when you’re 40 feet in the air standing on a metal wire as thin as your pinkie.

“I’m so terrified of heights,” says Larissa Johnson, a 16-year-old Venturer from Crew 514 of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Larissa is making her way through the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s high ropes course. She must walk from treetop to treetop, conquering a series of obstacles along the way. In one direction, she’ll step across a row of vertical logs suspended in midair.

In another, she’ll cross a rope net like a spider.

Brenna Emery watches the whole thing. The staff member, whose yellow helmet makes her easy to spot, reminds Larissa that she’s protected by two strong straps attached to her harness. It’s scary, but it’s safe.

“You’ve just got to trust the system and know that it works,” Brenna tells Larissa. “You’re not going to fall.”

Larissa completes the course. Her confidence buoyed, she’s ready to go again the instant she’s back on solid ground.

“I was thinking, ‘Physically, I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough,’ ” Larissa says. “But I did. I did it.”

Moments like these are why guys and girls join Venturing. Not to impress others but to prove something to themselves.

It’s why Larissa and 1,800 other Venturers gathered for Venturing-Fest, last summer’s weeklong celebration of the program’s 20th birthday. They were there to share ideas, meet new friends and conquer this giant Scouting playground in West Virginia.

Something for Everyone

Name an outdoor activity you enjoy, and it’s likely SBR offers the best possible version of that activity.

“You can do almost anything you can do at a regular camp, but it’s better,” says Lucas Cornelius, a 19-year-old from Crew 55 of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Are you into mountain biking? Try 40 miles of trails that twist and turn like a roller coaster. Rock climbing? Enjoy one of the largest manmade outdoor facilities in the nation. Zip lining? Soar down a zip line more than half a mile long. And don’t forget the world-class venues for whitewater rafting, shooting sports, skateboarding and BMX biking.

“Do not take it for granted,” says Mason Jones, 18, of Crew 62 from Spring, Texas. “Do something that thrills you. Do something that makes your life exciting.”

‘You’ve Got This’

A climbing wall can be a lonely place. That’s why it helps to have friends on the ground cheering you on.

Lauren Gogal is attempting a climbing route called “The Butterfly Patch.” Do not be deceived by the name, which might make you think of frolicking in a field of flowers.

The 14-year-old from Crew 91 of Gainesville, Virginia, has tried this route about a dozen times already. Each time, at around the same spot, she loses her grip and falls.

A few of Lauren’s crewmates have gathered to watch her latest attempt.

“You’ve got this, Lauren!” one of them yells.

Lauren doesn’t respond — at least, not with words. She just exhales deeply and reaches for the next handhold. Then the next. Her legs propel her upward. Moments later, she triumphantly slaps the top of the wall.

“It does help,” Lauren says of the encouragement. “They were saying, ‘You got it,’ ‘Come on.’ I feel accomplished.”

A Second Home

For Crew 300 of Wasilla, Alaska, just being at VenturingFest is an accomplishment.

Most other crews drove to SBR, but the Alaskans took a 3,200-mile journey that required two flights and eight hours in the air.

But in this new place, four time zones from Alaska, Crew 300 feels right at home.

“The people are really nice,” says Maddie Barlow, 15. “We’ll walk around, and they’ll just say ‘hi’ to you.”

That’s what it’s like in Venturing. Your green shirt creates an instant connection.

Soon you realize all Venturing crews deal with the same basic challenges. They want to improve crew meetings, recruit other Venturers and plan better trips.

You learn that everyone comes to SBR for the same basic reasons, too: They want to stretch their limits, try new things and meet people they’d never otherwise meet.

“Just being surrounded by all these other Scouts who are in the same shoes as you — looking for an adventure that they can’t grab back home,” says William Burns, a 20-year-old from Crew 503 of Dacula, Ga.

“Everyone’s on the same level.”

Finding the Right High Adventure Base for Your Trek

The Summit Bechtel Reserve is just one of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases. Exciting outdoor adventures await at each one. Here are the other three:

  • Florida National High Adventure Sea Base features aquatics programs, including deep-sea fishing, sailing, scuba diving and trips to the Florida Keys, Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands. 
  • Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico offers legendary backpacking treks to themed backcountry camps, horseback riding excursions, a winter experience and a variety of training programs. 
  • Northern Tier National High Adventure Program serves up epic lake-hopping canoe treks and winter camping experiences from its bases in northern Minnesota and Canada. 

Love stories like this? We’ve got exclusive stories just for subscribers. Get a year’s worth of the best and funniest and most interesting things you need to know for $12.

9 Things to Know About Merit Badges

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 3:34pm

There are more than 135 merit badges. By earning them, you can learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Here’s how to get the most out of your merit badge experience.

#1: Pick a Good Subject

There are two ways to think about choosing a merit badge to pursue.

The first is to choose something with which you’re already familiar. Do you like sports? There are merit badges in Athletics, Golf and Personal Fitness. STEM? Try Digital Technology, Electronics and Robotics. Do you enjoy art? Think about Art, Graphic Arts and Sculpture. Chances are, whatever you like, there’s a merit badge for that.

Another option is to choose something you aren’t familiar with in an effort to broaden your horizons. Never fished with a fly rod? Try Fly-Fishing. Never experienced Whitewater? There’s a badge for that, too.

#2: Feeling Blue?

The Application for Merit Badge (more commonly known as the “blue card”) is the nationally recognized merit badge record. Your unit leader should sign first on the front and then give you the entire card. From there, it’s up to you to arrange a meeting with your counselor.

Although you can begin work on a merit badge at any time, it’s the counselor’s decision whether to accept that work, so it makes sense to review the requirements with your counselor before pursuing them.

Your counselor will sign your blue card when they’re satisfied that you’ve met all the requirements. Then you must take your card to your unit leader and discuss your experience.

#3: A Reminder About Prerequisites

Some merit badges appear to have requirements that must be satisfied before beginning work on the badge. The Emergency Preparedness merit badge, for example, requires the earning of the First Aid merit badge. But since the requirement does not state that First Aid must be earned before beginning work on the other Emergency Preparedness requirements, it is not, by definition, a prerequisite. It is just another requirement.

Make sense?

One exception is with Scuba Diving and Swimming. Requirement 2 for Scuba Diving clearly states the Scout must earn the Swimming merit badge before completing the remaining requirements.

#4: There Are 17 Eagle-Required Merit Badges Available

Thirteen merit badges from this list are required to earn Eagle. Not surprisingly, these are the most common merit badges earned. Based on the latest data available at the time of this magazine’s publication, the most popular merit badges are First Aid, Swimming, Citizenship in the World, Environmental Science, Citizenship in the Nation, Cooking, Camping, Communication, Personal Fitness and Personal Management.

The BSA has installed “checkpoints” on your trail to Eagle to make sure you are headed in the right direction. For example, the rank of Star requires you to earn six merit badges (including four from the Eagle-required list). Life requires five more (including three more from the Eagle-required list). And Eagle requires an additional 10 (including six more from the Eagle-required list) to complete a total of 21 merit badges.

#5: Read the Pamphlet

Seriously, people. Read. The. Pamphlet. They’re available at Scout shops, through and maybe in your troop library. There’s all kinds of good stuff in there that your counselor might not have time to cover, especially if you’re attending a one-time class on that merit badge. And speaking of merit badge classes, most counselors will come up with a list of requirements that must be done in advance and maybe a second list of requirements that should be done after the class.

Have questions about those requirements? Read. The. Pamphlet.

#6: Some of Your Requirements Might Already Be Done

It’s OK if you started work earlier on a subject you were interested in. Just be sure and review your work with your counselor. Some requirements can be satisfied by schoolwork or by participating in non-Scout extracurricular activities as long as you were a registered Scout at the time.

The most obvious one is Scholarship, which requires you to show an improvement in grades and demonstrate good leadership skills at school. If you have found and read six books from a variety of genres, you’ve completed a requirement for Reading.

Are you active in your school theater? You’ve probably completed some requirements for the Theater merit badge. Do you play on a sports team? You’re on your way to earning Sports. Just remember: Don’t assume anything. Talk with your counselor to make sure you’re doing what you need to do to get credit for these activities.

#7: Let’s Call the Others “Rare”

Calling them “unpopular” just seems rude.

The rarest merit badges to earn are Bugling, American Business, Surveying, American Labor, Stamp Collecting, Drafting, Journalism, Composite Materials, Gardening and Landscape Architecture. Dare to be different and earn one (or more!) of these.

#8: Beware of Unofficial Merit Badge Worksheets

Printable documents available from non-BSA websites aren’t necessarily against the rules — as long as you’re still fulfilling the requirements of the badge.

The problem comes with requirements like “discuss,” “show,” “explain” and “identify.” By filling out a worksheet, you aren’t “discussing” anything with anyone. Worksheets are good for organizing your thoughts and fulfilling requirements that must be done in writing. That’s it.

#9: Working With Your Counselor

Many troops have their own list of counselors. Set up a meeting with your unit leader to talk about which badge you’re interested in. After your discussion, your Scoutmaster should provide you with contact information for a counselor.

When working with a counselor, always use the buddy system. If you email a counselor, copy a parent or trusted adult on the email. When meeting in person with a counselor, always have someone with you. Why not grab another Scout so you can work on the badge together? These actions ensure the current youth protection policies are being followed.


Below is the official BSA-recommended process of earning a merit badge. Your personal experience may vary.

1. The Scout develops an interest in a merit badge and may begin working on the requirements.

2. The Scout discusses interest in the merit badge with the unit leader.

3. The unit leader signs a blue card and provides the Scout with at least one counselor contact.

4. The Scout — with a buddy — contacts the counselor.

5. The counselor considers any work toward requirements completed before the initial discussion with the unit leader.

6. The Scout, their buddy and the counselor meet (often several times).

7. The Scout finishes the requirements.

8. The counselor approves completion.

9. The Scout returns the signed blue card to the unit leader, who signs the applicant record section of the blue card.

10. The unit leader gives the Scout the applicant record.

11. The unit reports the merit badge to the council.

12. The Scout receives the merit badge.

How to Make Invisible Ink for Writing Top-Secret Messages

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:49pm

Create your own top-secret notes with this simple technique using grape juice and baking soda.

For the chance to win a cool spy prize, click here read the rest of our invisible ink message.

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of water
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • Paintbrush or cotton swab
  • Paper
  • Two small bowls

1. Mix the baking soda and water in a small bowl. This is your invisible ink.

2. Dip a finger, cotton swab or paintbrush into the “ink.”

3. Write your message on a piece of light-colored paper.

4. Let it dry completely.


1. Lightly paint grape juice concentrate across the paper with a brush.

2. Your message will slowly appear as the juice saturates the paper.


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