Scouting Urban Legends

Unsupported Claims of Requirements and Other Trivia

Compiled By:  Donald S. Roberts From Contributions To Scouts-L mailing List



Uniforms when traveling. "Uniforms are required by insurance regulations so that all scouts are covered when traveling in vehicles." This one is often taught at Trek Leader sessions and Scoutmaster training. I've never found the "rule."

World Scout Patch is mandatory. Nope, but it sure is a good idea. Similarly, you can't wear any other patch in that location, including the world conservation award that cubs seems to like to wear there.

"Knots are only for adults!" Sorry, but there are several knots that youth (CS, BS, V, etc) can wear: Youth Religious Knot, all the lifesaving knots, OA Distinguished Service Award, Venturing Silver Award, Explorer Achievement Award.

"Its ok to wear the World Conservation Award in place of the World Crest [or beside it]". Sorry, no. It goes on the right pocket. Too many times kids I ask about this say their scoutmaster told them that's where it goes. Some even claim the SM learned that recently (this was back in the 80s) National had changed the rules where it's worn.

"Its ok to wear the [Merit Badge or OA] Sash off my belt so I can wear the other one across my shoulder". Sorry, no. Wear one or the other. Wear the MB Sash at court of honors. Save the OA sash for OA events. Avoid wearing the MB sash at events like the Jamboree, etc. Too much risk of losing it.

"When wearing the O/A sash, you are not allowed to wear your troop neckerchief." I suspect this came from confusing the restriction of not wearing the OA and MB sashes simultaneously.

"I can wear every Quality Unit [Honor Unit, etc] patch I've received. In double rows, too". Sorry, no. You only wear the current one.

"I visited the Jamboree, so I get to wear the Jamboree patch!". Sorry, no. Only Jamboree participants (contingent members and staff) get to wear the patch. This is in part why National made a different patch for visitors at the 2001 and 2005 jamborees, and that visitor patch is worn on the right pocket, not above, where the Jamboree patch is usually worn.

"I went to several Jamborees, so I can wear more than one jamboree patch on my shirt." Only one patch can be placed above the right pocket. An additional patch could be placed on the right pocket in the position of the temporary patch, but that's it. The rules formerly allowed a national jamboree and world jamboree patch side by side, but that was changed some years ago.

"National has set down what "Class A", "Class B", etc uniforms are." Sorry, no. Although Scouting came down to us from British military customs, it does not have classes of uniforms. This is an Army thing. They revel in announcing the Uniform of the Day, so all their puppies look alike. While the Insignia Guide tells us what and how Scouting awards, training, and "I was there" patches should be worn; your local council and district can and will design and issue Council Shoulder Strips, council and district event patches, and other items that they deem necessary.

Everything a Scout (or Scouter) needs is in the Scout handbook . . . except for a few uniform details....

"A scout must wear a neckerchief as part of the field uniform." Not so, the neckerchief is an option that a unit can accept or reject (insignia guide).

"BSA requires all scouts to have uniforms to be scouts." Not true.

"Scouts cannot wear their uniform while selling hotdogs, hamburgers, pancakes, etc. as a money earning project if it is not a Council sponsored fundraiser." Actually, the limitation on uniforms is only related to endorsement of brand names. Here is a quote from a representative at National: "the problem is the perception of the public that we endorse "name-brand" items. Wearing uniforms while selling hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. is not a problem."

"There are severe penalties for improper uniforming." Actually, except for violating the scout law (a scout is obedient), and possibly being criticized in a BOR, the uniform police have no real authority.

"You may only wear the current uniform used by your division of scouting." No, BSA has stated that you may wear any uniform that has ever been official. However, it is supposed to be a uniform of your division (BS, CS, V or LFL).

"You button the top button of the shirt when wearing a neckerchief."  No, take a look at the literature.  The uniform shirt is always worn with an open collar, either with or without a neckerchief.  You should pull that slide down to around the top buttoned button. I don't know if you can wear a tie with the shirt and then button the top button.


Tents must be 10 feet apart. "Tents must be ten feet apart in case one of them catches on fire." This was taught at a Wood badge course. No mention of this in the G2SS. In some areas we camp in, try and find room for this one!

No knives over 6 inches. "No blade of any knife may be over six inches long" "No Buck Knives" and other restrictions. The G2SS states that knives are part of the program, but that long sheath knives should be avoided. (But even then, my interpretation is that they are not *banned*).

"Liquid fuels are not allowed per BSA policy" or any of the many variants on this (anything which implies that the BSA treats propane stoves any differently than white gas stoves).

An 11 year old can't backpack, or you must be 14 to backpack. Although for some high adventure treks (such as Philmont) you must be 14, generally even the youngest boy scouts can go on backpacks.

You must use your own council's summer camp. Sorry, haven't found a council yet that has this restriction.

Women can't go backpacking with a troop. No, if the woman can do the hiking (or the man or boy, for that matter), she should be allowed to go. However, the chartered organization can make this restriction.

So, how many adults do you need on an outing? That is an interesting question. The guide to safe scouting says two on all "trips or outings." But there is an exception: for "patrol activities." So where does that leave camping? Can that be an "activity" within the exception? Apparently it is a local council policy decision, so it depends. However, the answer is never one adult.

"Tour permits are needed on all outings." Actually, that is a local council decision. However, a good rule of thumb is for anything away from your regular meeting place.

You need a "national" tour permit when you cross state lines. Again, actually a local council decision. In many council's, however, state lines bear no relation to the national tour permit, you need to be 500 miles from home (but not at a local council camp) or across international borders. Similarly "National tour permits are only needed for international trips" is not accurate, the over 500 mile limitation applies to all councils.

"If you don't fill out a tour permit, your outing won't be covered by BSA insurance." First, there is no "BSA insurance." This is council by council, and units can opt out of the council offered insurance In most councils, the insurance will cover a unit even without a tour permit.


"Little Johnny Scout isn't covered by unit accident insurance until his application is turned in to the council." Actually, a Scout is covered by unit accident insurance even if he is a "guest eligible to join." Of course, having accident insurance is a council by council issue.

"No power tools. Especially for Cub Scouts."

"You must have a Totin Chip card in your possession to use a knife or axe."

"I know how to shoot, I'll teach the shotgun (or rifle) merit badge even though I'm not an NRA certified instructor."

"It's ok, they have lifeguards -- we don't need to worry about Safe Swim Defense."

"It is BSA Policy that all medications be turned over to the SM or another adult at all Scout functions." I think this comes from the policy in effect at most Scout Camps I have visited. But it clearly is not the BSA policy as evidence in the G2SS and in the SM Handbook.

"For swimming to be approved in a pool, it must be heated to 70 degrees. There are no temperature requirements for lakes." Actually, there are no temperature requirements at all. Lots of depth requirements, but not temperature.

No fixed sheath blades. Actually, that is only a recommendation, not a ban.

"The unit's adults are exempt from liability resulting from an injury or property damage on a patrol activity IF the rules have been followed requiring the SM to secure permission from the parents and guardians of the participating members of the patrol." What planet is that person from? "Exempt" from liability? Maybe you could win in a lawsuit, but it will cost.


One hour a week!!

"Training is optional."

Two deep leadership is required at all meetings. The rule is that you have to have two leaders on *trips* or *outings* (except patrol activities) and that there can be no one-on-one between boys and leaders. However, I'll certainly agree that two-deep at meetings is a huge plus.

"Two-deep leadership means you have to have two adults in the car"?

Or, "Two-deep leadership is for youth protection."

Neither is true-- it's the "rule of three" that applies in each situation.

"Fill in all the forms, do all the training, use 2 deep leadership, follow all the procedures - if anything goes wrong and you did nothing wrong, your council will stand behind you." What planet are you from?

"Once trained, always trained".

The scoutmaster of a troop must be male. Not. Similar is the concept that women cannot act as the scoutmaster at summer camp or on an outing. However, a chartered organization can require otherwise.

"The only place that a REAL Scout leader would be is in a Troop."

"Females can't be registered as a (insert position)." Not true. They can and have been registered in every volunteer position BSA offers. The only restrictions are on youth membership or if restricted by the chartered organization.

"Everything you need to know to run a successful Scout program is easily found in the current, official BSA literature." Like picking up a calculus text and expecting to understand it, providing a successful scout program takes more than reading a book. Not to mention the fact BSA has about 50 million different pieces of literature to choose from. Experience and training, particularly from experienced scouters, can go a long way to providing a successful scout program.

Advancement and Service Hours

Note from Editor: The rules for advancement, other than the actual requirements, are mostly found in the publication "Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures" (ACP&P). All troops should have this to avoid running into the below urban legend traps.

"You can't work on second class requirements until you earn tenderfoot!" (Substitute first class after second class if you'd like) I guess those are the old time scouters from back when that was true 40 years ago.

"Scouts can't help Scouts." Dealing with not counting services hours for a lower ranked scout working on an Eagle project for another scout.

Time requirements for Second and First Class ranks (other than the 30 days to become a Tenderfoot - requirement 10a)

"You HAVE to plan and carry out your own service project for star and life rank."

"The service hours for Life must involve some planning, such as helping plan an Eagle Project".

"To become Star and Life you must demonstrate leadership." The rule is you must hold one (or a combination) of the listed positions for the requisite time, there is no requirement for actually leading.

"It's okay (or recommended) that SA's be on boards of review since they know the boys." Actually, that's exactly the reason they're not allowed on BOR's. In ACP&P, 1999 printing on page 27 states in part; " This board of review is made up of at least three and not more than six members of the troop committee. Unit leaders, assistant unit leaders, relatives, or guardians may not serve as members of a Scout's board of review". (bold accent done in the book)

"The unit advancement chair or unit committee should make alternate requirements (or waive requirements) for Scouts who cannot complete the basic rank or merit-badge requirements." ACP&P has in bold several times not to add to or take away from the requirements. How hard is that to understand? This is a misunderstanding of the requirements for disabled scouts exception.


"You can't wear the Eagle badge on your uniform until you have your Eagle Court of Honor." Wrong-o-- you can get out your needle and thread ("advancement application kit") as soon as you get the letter from National. The advancement guide says that advancement is to be presented to the Scout at the first regularly scheduled troop meeting after it is earned, and there's no "…except for Eagle" in it.

"The ultimate goal for a boy scout is to earn the Eagle rank." Sorry, folks, but the goal is to build character, citizenship and fitness. Earning Eagle, or any rank, is just one (alternate) way of reaching those goals.

"An Eagle Project must be at least XX hours."

"An Eagle service project must produce something tangible"

"Your Eagle project must be unique." Actually, on the application it says just the opposite, that the project need not be original.

Eagle projects must follow exactly what was planned, no deviations

You must complete all merit badges before starting your Eagle Project.

A Scout's leadership experience MUST include SPL before he can make Eagle Scout.

"Your Eagle Board of Review must be before your 18th birthday." Nope, complete all the requirements before 18, but EBOR can be after. That ought to put in perspective the fact that a BOR is not a "requirement."

There is a minimum age for Eagle Scouts. Well sort of, since a boy scout must be at least 10 or so.

You must be a member of the Order of the Arrow to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.

One I actually heard in the Scout Office (attributed to the Council Advancement Chairman) - "The Eagle Application can't be accepted for processing after midnight the day before the scout's 18th birthday". To compound it, they didn't even know that the correct answer is in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures.

"The Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook is sent to National." Actually, the Eagle Scout Application itself is usually the only document sent to National.

Only Scouts (in your Troop) can work on Eagle Projects and conversely

Nobody but Scouts can work on Eagle Projects.

"The Scoutmaster must sign the Eagle Application for a Scout to have an Eagle Board of Review." Although it rarely takes place, an Eagle Board of Review may be held without the Scoutmaster's signature on the Application.

"Adult Eagle Scouts cannot wear their medal to Eagle Courts of Honor." - Not true. The Uniform & Insignia Guide explicitly allows this. It's the cloth patch that cannot be worn by adults, they should wear the knot instead

"If the new Eagle does not register in the BSA, he cannot have an official Eagle Court of Honor" Hogwash. Courts of Honor are just optional recognitions. They bear no relation to advancement or registration. There is no such thing as an "official" court of honor.

"The Eagle Court of Honor is under the auspices of National BSA, not your troop or even local council." Alternative: "The Eagle Court of Honor is an official BSA function." Sorry, but the only reference to this recognition is in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures where it states a youth "may" be recognized for his achievement in an appropriate court of honor.

Merit Badges

"You can't earn a Merit Badge until you're First Class/Second Class." That was true 50 years ago, but not since then. It isn't true now. You need only be registered in the BSA as a boy scout to start earning merit badges. There is an interesting twist for Venturers, however, as they can earn merit badges in Venturing, but only if they became first class as a boy scout.

If you start a merit badge at camp, you must finish it at camp. Not true, any registered merit badge counselor for that badge can elect to accept the work already completed and allow the rest of the work for him or her to sign off.

You can't get your "First Aid" merit badge until you are First Class, because you haven't taken all of the TESTS related to first aid.

"You only have one year after you start a merit badge to complete it." Actually, you usually have until you turn 18.

Similarly, "Merit badge partials expire six months they are issued " Nope, last until the kid is 18.

Merit Badge Counselor applications must be approved by the Troop Committee. Nope, district or council (as defined by local council rules).

"You don't need to be a registered merit badge councilor to sign off a merit badge" Similar, the SM (or designated scouter) in your troop can sign off on a merit badge. No, has to be registered position code 42 and approved by district or council (local option, again, council's can propagate different rules) for a particular badge.

"You have to do a board of review for each merit badge." What a silly idea.

"If merit badge requirements change while you are doing that badge you MUST earn the merit badge in accordance with the new requirements." No, at the scout's option, he can continue the old requirements.

conversely, "A scout MUST earn the merit badge under the requirements as written when he started the badge."

"A Scout can't earn a merit badge after the BSA has eliminated the badge." He sure can, as long as he started working on the badge prior to the badge's elimination and has not yet turned 18. His troop or crew advancement committee may have a bit of difficulty finding a badge to award him, but that is a different problem.

"MB are awarded at the next Court of Honor." Not. It is up to the troop or crew, but instant recognition is encouraged.

"A parent may not be a merit badge counselor for their own son for eagle required merit badges... " No, it's usually not a good idea, but it can be done.


"But we've always done it that way!"

From a former District Executive: "I can bend any rule in the book except the requirements for Eagle."

From our Field Director: "These Division and District totals aren't just a numbers game."

From our Council Exec: "We are implementing a new computer software program called Scout Net and it will revolutionize the way we keep our records"

Only the Boy Scouts and the American Legion have been authorized by Congress to retire flags.

"Your Chartered Organization Rep will handle that" to which I wrote, "or your Unit Commissioner."

Cub Scouts

"You have to be at least 10.5 years old to be Arrow of Light." Actually, it all depends on the age of the boy when he enters fourth grade. If a boy has a December 1 birthday in a state that allows it, he could turn 9 on Dec. 1 of fourth grade. One of the alternatives for AOL is six months after completing fourth grade, so that boy would reach that milestone right around his 10th birthday, at which point he could be AOL. However, as of May 2004 the minimum age to join a troop is 10 and AOL or 10 and completed fifth grade.

"AOL and bridging (crossover, graduation) are one and the same." Although one of the requirements for AOL is to fill out an application for boy scouts, earning the rank has no direct relation to crossing over into boy scouts. In fact, the requirement does not include paying the fee, so the AOL doesn't actually have to join a troop, only fill out the application.


A venturing crew must be coed. Nope, can be all male or all female.

"We're a Venture Patrol, so we're wearing the orange loops!" Sorry, only Varsity Scout Teams wear those.

"We're a Venture Patrol, so we can wear the green shirts/green loops, right?" Sorry, no. Only Venturers wear those. You're Boy Scouts, so they wear tan with red loops (or the Varsity loops, as the case may be). That "Venture" strip is your identification of being a Venture Patrol. They cannot do co-ed activities as scout activities, either.

"We don't have to wear green loops with our green Venturing shirts. Its just redundant". Sorry, no. The Venturing Reference Guide in the Venturing Leader Manual makes it clear you *do* wear the green loops with the green shirt. This is proper uniforming. Plus you will see some wearing silver and gold loops with the green shirts if district, council, national or professional applies to the individual.

Venturing is just Exploring with a new name. Not really, Exploring still exists under Learning for Life. There is some overlap with the old Exploring, but Venturing doesn't have the affiliation/focus with organizations like police or fire fighting that Exploring had.

"Venturing is just older Boy Scouts with girls".  No, Venturing is a unique program.  Crews can do things other then camp, such as being involved in sports, arts & hobbies, and the like.  Camping/Outdoors is just ONE area they can focus on. They have their own recognition program, and cannot earn Boy Scout ranks unless they earned first class as a boy scout. Venturing is not necessarily co-ed, either, as that is a chartered organization choice.

"Exploring was abolished when Venturing was created." No, Exploring was spun off to a new division called Learning for Life. The outdoors emphasis posts were switched to the newer Venturing division and Sea scouts were rolled into the new Venturing Division.

"Sea Scouts were abolished in 1965." - Not true. Still very active, though today they are part of Venturing.

"Sea Scout Ships must be located on the ocean." - Not true. There are very active ships in Kansas and Oklahoma for example.

"Venturers cannot earn merit badges/boy scout ranks." This is tricky. If the Venturer earned First Class as a boy scout, they can earn merit badges and can advance in rant through Eagle and Palms (until they are 18), and even have their BOR's in their Crew. However, if the Venturer did not earn First Class as a boy scout, even the Venturers who were boy scouts cannot earn either merit badges or boy scout ranks.


US Scouts can attend Moots (officially) - Afraid not, too much sex, drugs and rock 'n roll for our national organization.

"Jamboree on the Internet (JOTI) is not an approved scout activity." This changed in 2005. It is now approved.

"JOTA (Jamboree on the air) is a Jamboree, so I wear the patch above the right pocket." Sorry, no. JOTA is worn on the right pocket, like other temporary insignia.

A US Scout can attend World Jamboree with a contingent from another country (to save money). Sorry, BSA will come down pretty hard on a youth attempting that if they catch them. The contingent fee helps support a lot of things, and bypassing the US contingent just to save money is not very trustworthy or obedient.

"You have to be {14/First Class/Venturer} to participate in an international activity." No such restriction exists. It is up to the even organizers and the adult leadership as to restrictions. Even cub scouts could go on international outings if the adults will allow it.

"You must have a notarized permission form from both parents (if still alive) to go on an international outing as a youth." This may be a good idea, but it is not a requirement to be notarized or be from both parents.

"Scouts from other countries follow the same rules as USA scouts." You would have to be quite naïve to believe this one.

"It is not possible for an individual unit, especially a troop, to organize their own international outing." What nonsense. I've done it.

"You cannot be in BSA if you live in a foreign country unless your parent is working for the U.S. government." - False. Direct Service BSA and the two overseas councils cover the world outside the U.S. and its territories. Aloha Council includes the former trust territories in the Pacific. No specific employment criteria exists.


The left-handed scout handshake was banned as a sign of a secret society. Not! The pinkie thing that used to be part of the standard handshake was eliminated about 30 years ago to conform with scouting in the rest of the world.

"All prayers at Scouting events have to be ecumenical." A "scout's own" is just that, what the scout wants to do. If the scout wants to pray in his/her own tradition, there is nothing wrong with that. Reverence includes tolerance of other ideas.

"I don't want my scouts going to the OA, because all they do is take away my best scouts with nothing in return". Similar arguments about Venturing. Actually, the OA and Venturing broaden the youth's experience and give him more opportunities for growth. It is rather selfish of a Troop to want to deny that to its youth.

Patrol leaders, once elected, are in the job for some fixed amt of time (4 mos, 6 mos, whatever). Not. You can look it up. The patrol can reelect a new one as needed/indicated/desired, and no one has the authority to stop them.

"That transfer isn't any good without your handbook and merit badge cards." Not true. A completed transfer summarizes the status of the scout in the same way a transcript summarizes report cards. The transfer form is all that is needed to verify the scout's status.

"BSA has abolished Lone Scouts." Not true. Still available and growing.

"Female leaders can't be in OA." - Not true. OA is co-ed at all levels except where the youth membership requires the individual have achieved first class rank.

Glossary of Acronyms

ACP&P - Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures

AOL - Arrow of Light

BOR and EBOR - Board of Review, Eagle Board of Review

BS - Boy Scouts (usually used to refer to the Boy Scout Division)

BSA - You're kidding, right? You know this one.

CS - Cub Scouts (usually used to refer to the Cub Scout Division)

G2SS - Guide to Safe Scouting

LFL - Learning for Life, the new division that includes career oriented Exploring.

MB - Merit Badge

OA - Order of the Arrow

V - Venturing (Usually used to refer to the Venturing division)

I would like to thank my many contributors to this list. Their name is legion, so I don't individually thank them herein to avoid offending anyone I've left out.

Last Updated: January 4, 2006

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