Hiking Merit Badge Guide

hiking merit badge

Strong hiking abilities are the key to moving from a beginner to a true scout. If you want to step up in your troop and prove yourself, this guide will help you understand wild expeditions, answer the merit badge worksheet, and earn your Hiking merit badge!

For many scouts, hiking, swimming, or cycling might be among the first Eagle-required merit badges earned. I know from experience, as hiking was one of my first badges, and it was completely different from anything else I’d done in Scouting.

Earning the Hiking merit badge isn’t for the faint-hearted and physique. It requires a 20-mile hike, plus four more hikes over 10 miles each – a challenge even for some adults!

But if you commit to this task, you’ll prove you have what it takes to be an Eagle Scout. Making this badge won’t be easy, but it will be one of the most rewarding parts of your Scouting journey. If you’re ready, read on!

Hiking Merit Badge Requirements

hiking merit badge requirements
1. Do the following:
(a) Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while hiking, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate and respond to these hazards.

(b) Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while hiking, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn, hyperventilation, altitude sickness, sprained ankle, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite.
2. Do the following:
(a) Explain and, where possible, show the points of good hiking practices including proper outdoor ethics, hiking safety in the daytime and at night, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.

(b) Read aloud or recite the Leave No Trace guidelines, and discuss why each is important while hiking.

(c) Read aloud or recite the Outdoor Code, and give examples of how to follow it on a hike.
3. Explain how hiking is an aerobic activity. Develop a plan for conditioning yourself for 10-mile hikes, and describe how you will increase your fitness for longer hikes.
4. Take four 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike, each on a different day, and each of continuous miles. Prepare a written hike plan before each hike and share it with your merit badge counselor or a designee for approval before starting the hike. Include map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch. You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, during each hike, but not for an extended period such as overnight.*
(a) 10-mile hike #1
(b) 10-mile hike #2
(c) 10-mile hike #3
(d) 10-mile hike #4
(e) 20-mile hike
5. After each of the hikes (or during each hike if on one continuous “trek”) in requirement 4, write a short report on your hike. For each hike, give the date and description (or map) of the route covered, the weather, any interesting things you saw, and any challenges you had and how you overcame them. It may include something you learned about yourself, about the outdoors, or about others you were hiking with. Share this with your merit badge counselor.*

1.(a) Understanding and Mitigating Hiking Hazards

Hiking is a thrilling activity that puts you in touch with nature, but it also comes with risks and hazards. Below are the most likely dangers you may face, along with ways to anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and respond to them.

HazardsAnticipate & PreventMitigate & Respond
Dangerous TerrainWear appropriate gear like hiking boots; identify risks in the area before the hike.Act cautiously in risky areas; if injured, seek first aid.
Difficulty NavigatingPlan your route; take a map and compass; inform someone about your location.If lost, don’t panic; stay put and create shelter; wait for rescue.
Unexpected ConditionsCheck weather forecasts; carry suitable clothing like a raincoat.Be aware of weather changes; protect yourself from extreme conditions as needed.
Injury from Animals/InsectsKnow about local wildlife; carry bug repellent; keep medications for known allergies like an EpiPen.Avoid interaction with wild animals; apply first aid for stings or bites; use medication if an allergic reaction occurs.

Explanation in Simple Terms:

  1. Dangerous Terrain: Hiking paths might have places where you can slip or fall, be very careful where it looks tricky. Wear good shoes, backpacks, and other hiking tools.
  2. Difficulty Navigating: Sometimes trails are hard to follow, and you might get lost. Always have a map, tell someone where you’re going, and if you get lost, stay where you are and try to make a shelter.
  3. Unexpected Conditions: Weather like rain or wind can surprise you. Always check the weather before you go and have something like a raincoat with you. If bad weather comes, find a safe place to stay.
  4. Injury from Animals/Insects: Bugs might bite or sting, and some animals can hurt you if you get too close. Use bug spray, and don’t touch wild animals. If you know you’re allergic to something, like bee stings, have medicine with you.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your hike safely!

1.(b) First Aid for Common Injuries or Illnesses While Hiking

When you’re hiking, it’s so much fun to explore nature. But sometimes, little accidents or health problems can happen. Don’t worry! If you know some basic first aid, you can help yourself or others feel better quickly. Let’s learn about how to treat some common problems hikers.

HypothermiaBody temperature below 95°FShivering, confusion, unconsciousness in severe casesWarm slowly with clothing, body heat, or fire; avoid hot showers
FrostbiteFreezing of extremitiesBlue or white skin in affected areasWarm slowly under cool water; avoid wrapping affected areas
DehydrationLack of water consumptionFlushed face, lack of sweat, weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness, faintingRehydrate slowly with water and electrolytes; rest
Heat ExhaustionWater or sodium depletionThirst, headache, weakness, loss of consciousness; vomiting, muscle cramps, dizzinessMove to cool area; drink fluids; take cool shower
HeatstrokeBody temperature above 104°FThrobbing headaches, dizziness, no sweating, weaknessCall 911; move to cool, shady area; lower body temperature
SunburnProlonged sun exposureRed, sensitive, blistered skinApply cool damp towel or aloe vera; hydrate; avoid picking at the burn
HyperventilationBreathing too quicklyLightheadedness, tingling, faintingSlow breathing; rest; use pursed lips or paper bag
Altitude SicknessMoving to higher elevation too quicklyNausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, weaknessDescend to lower elevation immediately
Sprained AnkleTear of tissues around a jointPain, swellingApply cold compress; immobilize injury; stay off it; apply ice wrapped in cloth if available
BlistersFriction from poor-fitting clothing or shoesPainful bubbles under the skinApply moleskin to irritated area; avoid popping; if popped, disinfect and bandage
Insect StingsStings from insectsMinor swelling, itching; severe reaction (anaphylaxis) in allergic individualsRemove stingers; wash and apply cold compress; use antihistamine; EpiPen for anaphylaxis
Tick BitesTicks burrowing into skinPotential rash or fever weeks laterRemove with tweezers; wash with soap and water; apply alcohol; save tick; see doctor if rash or fever develops
SnakebitesBites from venomous snakesBurning pain at wound siteCall 911 or an ambulance; keep bite below heart level; remain calm; try to identify snake’s head shape

Also Read: Communication Merit Badge

2.(a) Good Hiking Practices

Getting into the habit of following good hiking practices is key to having a safe and enjoyable adventure. By understanding these important points, you’ll show yourself as a responsible and thoughtful hiker without even having to think too hard about it. Let’s take a closer look at each of these points one by one.

Proper Outdoor Ethics

Proper outdoor ethics means treating nature with great care and respect, just like you would treat your own home or a special place you hold dear. In America, the Outdoor Code gives us simple rules to follow:

As an American, I will do my best to-
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation-minded.

The code’s essence can be summarized as:

  • Be clean in my outdoor manners: Don’t leave trash or litter, and keep the trails neat.
  • Be careful with fire: Always watch fires closely and make sure they’re completely out before leaving.
  • Be considerate in the outdoors: Think of others and the animals that live there, and don’t damage anything.
  • Be conservation-minded: Try to protect nature by not wasting resources or harming plants and animals.

By following these guidelines, you are doing your part to make sure the outdoors stays beautiful and safe for everyone. This way, you, your friends, and other people who love hiking can all enjoy nature without causing it harm.

Hiking Safety for Day and Night

While hiking at night can be more dangerous than hiking during the day, there are some important guidelines you should follow in either situation. To ensure a safe hike, always keep these points in mind:

  1. Tell Someone About Your Plans: Letting someone know where you’ll be hiking and when you’ll return helps keep you safe.
  2. Prepare Well: Look at maps and learn the route before you start your hike.
  3. Stay Together: Hiking with others and keeping a comfortable pace helps everyone enjoy the trip.
  4. Drink Enough Water: Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
  5. Stay on the Path: Following the trail keeps you safe.
  6. Pack Light: Carry only what you need.
  7. Check the Weather: Knowing what the weather will be like helps you pack the right gear.
  8. Bring a Phone: Having a phone can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong.

Night hiking has some extra rules:

  1. Bring a Headlamp: And other backup lights, just in case.
  2. Wear Warm Clothes: It can get cold at night.
  3. Know the Trail: It’s easier to hike somewhere you’ve been before.
  4. Plan Around the Full Moon: The extra light can help you see.
  5. Know Your Gear: And where it is in your backpack.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and it’s always best to use common sense and consult local regulations or experts when planning your hike.

Courtesy to Others

Being polite and thoughtful on the hiking trail is very important. Remember, you’re not the only one out there enjoying nature, so it’s good to think about other people too. Here’s how you can be courteous while hiking:

1. Be Quiet and Respectful:

  • Keep noise down. Don’t play loud music or talk too loudly. It can spoil the peaceful experience for others.
  • Say hello and smile at others you meet. A friendly greeting can make someone’s day.

2. Know When to Move Over:

  • If you meet other hikers, the group with fewer people usually lets the other pass.
  • If you’re near a cliff, stand on the safer side. The group passing should be careful on the edge side.

3. Stay on the Path:

  • Don’t take shortcuts. It can damage the trail and plants.
  • If you need to rest, step off the path, but don’t walk off the trail for long distances.

4. Keep the Trail Clean:

  • Don’t litter. Take everything with you that you brought in.
  • Follow the Outdoor Code, which means treating nature with respect.

5. Be Friendly and Share the Trail:

  • Smile, wave, and say something friendly like, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”
  • Give others space and don’t take up the whole path.

6. Know How to Act Around Bikers and Horses:

  • Move aside for horses.
  • Bikers usually go around you, often on your left.

Here’s a simple way to remember these rules:

  • Be Quiet: Respect others’ peace.
  • Move Over: Let others pass safely.
  • Stay on Path: Protect the trail and plants.
  • Keep Clean: Don’t litter.
  • Be Friendly: Smile and greet others.
  • Act Right with Bikers/Horses: Know what to do.

By keeping these simple points in mind, you’ll help make hiking enjoyable for everyone. It might take some practice to remember all these rules, but even if you just focus on being friendly and polite, you’ll be a great hiker!

Choice of Footwear

Selecting the right footwear for hiking is vital as it can greatly affect your comfort and safety on the trail. Your shoes are the connection between you and the ground, so they must be suitable for the terrain and your specific needs. Here’s a simple guide to help you make the right choice:

1. Support:

  • Look for cushioning, shock absorption, and ankle protection.
  • Proper support helps prevent injuries like sprained ankles.

2. Sole:

  • Consider the sole’s durability, breathability, and stiffness.
  • Make sure the soles have good traction, as trails can be slippery.

3. Fit:

  • Your hiking shoes should fit well but not be too tight, as your feet might swell during the hike.
  • Incorrect fit can cause rubbing and discomfort.

4. Adjustments:

  • Adjust your laces as needed, especially on downhill sections, to avoid your toes hitting the front of the shoes.

5. Research and Experience:

  • Spend time learning what type of shoes work best for you.
  • Ask experienced hikers or consult guides to find the perfect pair.
ConsiderationWhat to Look For
SupportCushioning, shock absorption, ankle protection
SoleDurability, breathability, traction
FitSnug but not too tight
AdjustmentsProper lacing to avoid discomfort
ResearchLearn from others or guides

Choosing the right hiking shoes is not just about fashion; it’s about finding the perfect balance of comfort, protection, and functionality. The correct pair of shoes can enhance your hiking experience, while the wrong choice can ruin it. Invest the time in finding the right footwear, and your feet will thank you on the trail!

Proper Care of Feet and Footwear

While hiking, taking good care of your feet is essential for comfort and avoiding common problems like blisters. Here are three vital steps you can follow to ensure your feet stay in top condition during a hike:

  1. Keep Your Feet Clean:
    • During Breaks: Take off your shoes and socks to remove any dirt, grit, or small stones that can cause friction and lead to blisters.
    • Washing: If you are hiking for several days, wash your feet thoroughly every evening.
  2. Keep Your Feet Dry:
    • Let Them Breathe: Remove your shoes and socks during breaks to cool down and dry out your feet.
    • Change Socks: Always change into dry socks if they become damp.
    • Use Sandals: If you’re hiking for several days, put on sandals at lunchtime or in the evening to allow your feet to dry.
  3. Act Quickly if You Feel Friction:
    • Inspect and Adjust: If you feel any friction, stop and check your socks, shoes, and laces. Make necessary adjustments and remove any debris.
    • Use Blister Bandages: If you notice red patches or other signs of irritation, use a blister bandage to protect the area. Remove it when you reach the next stage of your trail to allow the skin to breathe and heal.

Taking care of hiking boots is also essential to maintain their functionality and ensure a comfortable hiking experience. Here are some key tips to follow:

  1. Clean Your Boots After Every Hike: Dirt and mud can damage the material, so it’s important to clean them after every hike.
  2. Treat Leather Boots: If your boots are made of leather, use leather treatments like Nikwax occasionally to keep them waterproof and prevent them from drying and cracking.
  3. Avoid Drying by the Campfire: Never dry wet boots near a campfire as the heat can damage the soles and weaken the glue. Instead, remove the insoles and stuff them with newspaper to dry.
  4. Clean the Inside: If you need to clean the inside, fill the boots with water and rinse them out. This helps to get rid of salts from body sweat.
  5. Address Smells: If your boots develop an unpleasant odor, you can use baking soda or deodorant to help freshen them up.
  6. Tying Your Shoes Properly: Ensure that your boots are tied properly to prevent them from becoming loose during the hike.
  7. Avoid Worn-Out Boots: Keep an eye on the condition of your boots, as worn-out boots can lead to a miserable camping or hiking experience.

These tips help extend the life of your hiking boots and enhance your comfort while on the trail. Good footwear care practices will not only keep you comfortable but also ensure that your boots are ready for many more adventures.

2.(b) Practicing the Leave No Trace Principles

The “Leave No Trace” principles are vital guidelines that every Scout should follow to maintain the integrity of the outdoors. They teach Scouts how to interact with nature in a respectful and sustainable way. Below is a summary of these principles, along with why each one is important:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare:
    • Importance: Proper planning helps to ensure safety and reduces waste.
    • Action: Check the weather, coordinate with the team, and pack only necessary items.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:
    • Importance: Camping and hiking on established paths protect vegetation and minimize ecological damage.
    • Action: Camp on solid ground, and hike on existing trails.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly:
    • Importance: Proper waste disposal prevents pollution and protects both people and wildlife.
    • Action: Pack out trash and dispose of human waste in appropriate facilities or bury it.
  4. Leave What You Find:
    • Importance: Leaving nature undisturbed preserves its beauty and ecological balance.
    • Action: Enjoy the beauty of nature, but do not take or disturb any part of it.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts:
    • Importance: Responsible fire management prevents wildfires and minimizes environmental harm.
    • Action: Monitor fires carefully, use established fire pits, and have extinguishing methods ready.
  6. Respect Wildlife:
    • Importance: Respecting wildlife maintains the balance of nature and ensures human safety.
    • Action: Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid interaction.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors:
    • Importance: Being considerate ensures a peaceful experience for all visitors.
    • Action: Avoid disruptive behavior and encourage fellow Scouts to follow the Leave No Trace rules.

The Leave No Trace principles provide essential guidance for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. By adhering to these principles, Scouts ensure that natural environments remain undamaged and accessible for everyone to enjoy in the future.

2.(c) Practicing the Outdoor Code

The Outdoor Code is a guiding principle that reflects a Scout’s commitment to responsible and sustainable outdoor behavior. As an American, every Scout pledges to be mindful of cleanliness, fire safety, consideration for others, and conservation during their outdoor activities. Here’s how one can adhere to the Outdoor Code during a hike:

  • Be Clean in Outdoor Manners:
    • Example: Stay on designated trails to prevent erosion and damage to nature. Respect signs and follow the established path to keep the environment intact.
  • Be Careful with Fire:
    • Example: Only use campfires in designated fire pits and keep them under constant supervision. Have water or extinguishers nearby and ensure the fire is completely out before leaving.
  • Be Considerate in the Outdoors:
    • Example: Keep noise levels down to avoid disturbing wildlife and other hikers. Also, leave gates as you find them to respect local practices and protect livestock.
  • Be Conservation-Minded:
    • Example: Practice the “Pack it in, pack it out” principle by taking all your trash with you, or even collecting any litter you find on the trail. You can bring a garbage bag and make a fun competition with your patrol.

By embracing the Outdoor Code, Scouts not only enjoy nature responsibly but also contribute to preserving the beauty and health of the environment for future generations. This code helps instill a sense of stewardship and encourages environmentally friendly practices that can be applied both on hikes and in everyday life.

3. Understanding Aerobic Activity and Creating a Training Plan

Hiking is an aerobic activity, meaning it involves the continuous use of oxygen to fuel the muscles. When you hike, your heart pumps blood filled with oxygen to the muscles, allowing you to keep moving for extended periods. This activity builds endurance, making it a valuable exercise for personal fitness.

Training Plan for 10-Mile Hikes and Increasing Fitness for Longer Distances:

  1. Start Small: Begin with hikes that are 50% to 80% of the desired 10-mile distance. Carry a backpack to mimic actual hiking conditions.
  2. Increase Gradually: Slowly increase the distance of your hikes, preparing your body for the 10-mile goal and longer distances.
  3. Include Other Aerobic Activities: Engage in other aerobic exercises, such as jogging or cycling, to build overall endurance.
  4. Rest and Recovery: Allocate days for rest to allow your muscles to heal and become stronger.
  5. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels and adjust your plan accordingly to prevent injuries.

By following this plan, you can condition yourself for 10-mile hikes and develop the necessary endurance for even longer treks. Understanding that hiking is an aerobic activity helps you recognize the importance of gradual training and rest, ensuring a healthy and enjoyable hiking experience.

4. Planning and Accomplishing Five Hikes

Taking four 10-mile hikes and a 20-mile hike is an exciting and challenging part of earning the Hiking merit badge. Here’s a guide to help you meet this requirement:

  1. Create a Hike Plan: Before each hike, you must prepare a plan that includes:
    • Map Routes: Look up the trail you’re going to hike and make a map of the route.
    • Clothing and Equipment List: Write down everything you’ll need to wear and bring with you, such as hiking boots, weather-appropriate clothing, and a backpack.
    • Trail Lunch: Plan what you’ll eat during the hike. Pack a meal that will give you energy.
  2. Get Approval: Share your plan with your merit badge counselor or someone they choose. They’ll make sure it’s safe and fits the requirements.
  3. The Hikes: You’ll go on four different 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike. You can take short breaks and eat a meal on these hikes, but you can’t stop overnight.

Here’s a simple table to help you organize each hike:

HikeDistanceMap RouteClothing and EquipmentTrail Lunch
10-mile hike #110 miles[Trail Map Link]List of clothing and equipmentYour planned lunch
10-mile hike #210 miles[Trail Map Link]List of clothing and equipmentYour planned lunch
10-mile hike #310 miles[Trail Map Link]List of clothing and equipmentYour planned lunch
10-mile hike #410 miles[Trail Map Link]List of clothing and equipmentYour planned lunch
20-mile hike20 miles[Trail Map Link]List of clothing and equipmentYour planned lunch

For the trail map needed in your written hike plan, you can find it online. Most maps and additional details about the trail you plan to hike are available at the website, hikingproject.com.

Make sure to take your time and enjoy the experience. These hikes will teach you a lot about hiking, nature, and yourself. Have fun, be safe, and remember to follow your plan!

Also Read: Family Life Merit Badge

5. Hike Reflections and Reports

After completing each hike from the earlier requirement, it’s time to sit down and reflect on your experience. Write a short report for each hike, detailing key information.

Here’s what you should include:

  • Date of the hike: When did it take place?
  • Description or map of the route: Outline the path you followed. If you can, include a map.
  • Weather: What was the weather like? Was it hot, cold, rainy, or perfect hiking weather?
  • Interesting sightings: Did you see any unique animals, plants, or scenic views?
  • Challenges and Solutions: Did you face any difficulties during the hike? How did you overcome them? This might include things like dealing with rough terrain or handling unexpected weather changes.
  • Personal Reflection: Include something you learned about yourself, about nature, or about your hiking companions.

These reflections are more than a simple summary. They help you think about what went well, what you might do differently next time, and what you learned from the experience. Share these reports with your merit badge counselor, and they will provide insights into your growth and development as a hiker.

You can use this format to guide you in creating your own reports:

DateRoute DescriptionWeatherInteresting SightingsChallengesWhat I Learned
05/01/2023Mountain Trail, 10 milesSunnyBald eagles, waterfallSteep climb, rocky pathTeamwork makes tough climbs easier
05/08/2023Forest Path, 10 milesRainyDeer, ancient oak treeMud, slippery terrainProper gear is crucial for wet weather
05/15/2023Desert Trek, 10 milesHotCacti, desert foxDehydration, heatImportance of hydration and sun protection
05/22/2023Lakeside Walk, 10 milesWindySwans, beautiful lake viewStrong windsHow to handle wind resistance
06/01/2023Grand Hike, 20 milesMixedMountain view, wildflowersLong distance, fatigueMental strength and pacing strategies

Remember, the details in this table are fictional and serve as an example. You would replace these with the specific details from your actual hikes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the hiking merit badge?

The hiking merit badge is an award given to Scouts who have learned and demonstrated key skills and knowledge related to hiking, including planning, safety, navigation, and outdoor ethics.

How do I earn the hiking merit badge?

To earn the hiking merit badge, you must complete specific requirements, such as taking part in planned hikes, understanding hiking safety, and writing reports about your hiking experiences. Guidance from a merit badge counselor is usually needed to ensure you meet all requirements.

What should be included in my hike plan?

Your hike plan should include the map route, clothing and equipment list, items for a trail lunch, and any other specific requirements as per the hiking merit badge guidelines.

What should I do if the weather is bad during a planned hike?

Safety comes first. If the weather conditions are unsafe, it’s best to postpone the hike. Discuss alternative plans with your merit badge counselor.

Do I need to write a report for each hike?

Yes, for the hiking merit badge, you are typically required to write a short report on each hike. This report should cover details such as the date, route, weather, interesting things you saw, and any challenges you faced.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!