I wish I was Boy Scout – I want to Earn these Merit Badges

Last week I mentioned that I want to learn more skills. A number of coincident events got me to thinking about the Scout’s and how great it is for teaching young people worthwhile skills. Since we are never too old to learn new things, I’ve decided to focus on gaining some new skills this year. Using the Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge system as a guide, I’ve decided on some badges I want to earn this year:

First Aid:

Administering First Aid is something everyone should know how to do. The reasons are obvious, so I won’t go into them other than to say that you never know when you might be first on the scene of a car crash or have someone have an accident while out hiking. As part of my job I used to have to do a refresher First Aid course every couple of years, but I don’t think I’ve done one in the last 5 years. It’s time to refresh those skills.

Because I’ve undertaken first aid course before I can probably just refresh my memory with a couple of books I have at home. One of the best investments I’ve made is the 493 page tome, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

My local Fire Department offers CPR courses every month for $25, which I might consider doing. 

Emergency Preparedness:

While I was looking up information on First Aid courses, I came across another fantastic initiative in my community: The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  I think I’m going to sign up for their Spring training course which covers the following classes and skills.

Module 1 — Disaster Preparedness. Introduction to types of disasters and the role of CERTs in a disaster.

Module 2 — Disaster Fire Suppression. Basic fire suppression strategy, fire fighting resources and fire fighting techniques.

Module 3 — Disaster Medical Operations. Treatment techniques for life-threatening conditions, principles of Triage, establishing treatment areas, and more.

Module 4 — Disaster Light Search. Search and rescue priorities, size-up strategies, and rescuer safety.

Module 5 — Terrorism/Disaster Psychology/Team Organization. Potential threats and how to identify them, CERT activation and Preparedness. The post-disaster emotional environment, the CERT organization and decision making.

Personal Fitness:

Working on my personal fitness is one of my primary goals in 2010. I aim to be in better shape, have more energy and gain confidence in my bodies ability to do whatever it is I put my mind to.

Late last year I had a complete physical including blood tests. Everything was  within normal range so I was happy that my first two years in America had not given me high blood-pressure or anything that might lead to diabetes, despite the pounds I put on.

As part of earning my personal fitness badge I aim to do the following:

  • Get back within my healthy weight range
  • Increase strength and endurance, through a regular weight lifting routine.
  • Eat a nutritious, healthy diet which consists of foods that are as much as possible: minimally processed, local, organic and fair trade. 


Hiking is the activity I love to do to keep my body and mind in shape. Walking packs power into my legs and makes my heart and lungs healthy and strong. Getting out into the outdoors challenges my senses and makes me happy.

To achieve this badge there are a few things I need to learn/work on.

  • Know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while hiking, including hypothermia, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, frostbite, dehydration, sunburn, sprained ankle, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, hyperventilation, and altitude sickness.
  • Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Develop a plan for conditioning myself for 10-mile hikes.
  • Plan and undertake five 10-mile hikes, including map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch.
  • Take a hike of 20 continuous miles in one day.


I used to go camping with my family as a kid and last year Brendan and I went a couple of times. I mostly relied on him to pack everything we needed, so this year I want to work on my own camping skills.

To achieve this badge there are a few things I need to learn/work on.

  • Know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur while camping, including hypothermia, frostbite, heat reactions, dehydration, altitude sickness, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, and hyperventilation.
  • Plan an overnight trek using a topographical map and compass OR a topographical map and a GPS receiver.
  • Prepare a check list of clothing and gear needed for overnight campout in both warm and cold weather.
  • Know the importance of camp sanitation and know a couple of ways to treat water.
  • Know how to use different types of lightweight cooking stoves and be able to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner on the trail.
  • Know how to make a fire using materials in the local environment.


Brendan has been climbing for a couple of years and our friends back in Australia are keen for us to become their climbing partners when we get home. I’ve been indoor climbing, but have yet to learn the skills required for rock climbing. Lucky for me, Brendan is an instructor so I should be able to learn what I need to know from him.

  • Know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur during climbing activities, including heat and cold reactions, dehydration, stopped breathing, sprains, abrasions, fractures, rope burns, blisters, snakebite, and insect bites or stings.
  • Learn how the difficulty of climbs are classified. 
  • Learn the verbal signals required during every climb and rappel, and while bouldering.
  • Learn the kinds of rope acceptable for use in climbing and rappelling and know how to care for rope to prevent damage.
  • Learn the different types of knots required for belaying, climbing, or rappelling.
  • Learn how to belay a climber using a top rope as well as a lead climber.
  • Learn how to climb different types of routes on rock face.
  • Refresh myself on how to rappel down rock face.
  • Learn how to store rope, hardware, and other gear used for climbing, rappelling, and belaying.


After I’ve worked on my hiking and camping skills, the next logical step is the Backpacking merit badge. I’ve always wanted to undertake more backpacking trips. The last one I did was over 10 years ago when I was much younger and fitter and it was tough work. I want to work up to being able to go away on backpacking trips later this year.

  • Develop a list of essential items to be carried on any backpacking trek, while limiting the weight and bulk to be carried.
  • Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace while backpacking, including the proper methods of handling human and other wastes.
  • Know what to do if I get lost.
  • Know how to prepare properly for and deal with inclement weather.
  • Plan and undertake a backpacking hike of at least three days.


I currently ride my bike to and from work most days, however Brendan does all my repairs and tune ups. I need to be a little more self-reliant and know how to do these things for myself. As part of Brendan’s new bike business he’ll be offering bike maintenance course, so I guess I can start there.

  • Know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while cycling, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, and hyperventilation.
  • Learn basic bike maintenance.
  • Learn the skills required for mountain biking on cross-country trails.
  • Plan and undertake two rides of 10 miles each, two rides of 15 miles each, and two rides of 25 miles each.
  • Plan and undertake a a 50-mile trip within eight hours.


Saving, producing, and using energy wisely is something we all should be doing and I was pleasantly surprised to see this merit badge on the scout’s list. While I already minimise the amount of energy I use, I suspect there is still so much more to learn.

  • Conduct an energy audit of my home and then record what we did to reduce our energy use.
  • Know the types of energy used in our home (electricity, oil, liquid petroleum, and natural gas) and know how each is delivered and measured, and the current cost.
  •  Know ways to use energy resources more wisely. Consider the energy required for the things you do and use on a daily basis (cooking, showering, using lights, driving, watching TV, using the computer). Know how you can change your energy use through reuse and recycling.
  • Identify and describe examples of energy waste in our community, suggest possible ways to reduce this waste and describe the idea of trade-offs in energy use. Examine how the changes would lower costs, reduce pollution, or otherwise improve the community. Examine what changes to routines, habits, or convenience are necessary to reduce energy waste. Consider why people might resist the changes.
  • Learn which energy resources supply  most energy, the share of energy resources used by different countries, the proportion of energy resources used by homes, businesses, industry, and transportation, the fuels used to generate electricity and the world’s known and estimated primary energy resource reserves.
  • Learn what is being done to make FIVE of the following energy systems produce more usable energy. Understand the technology, cost, environmental impacts, and safety concerns.
    • Biomass digesters or waste-to-energy plants
    • Cogeneration plants
    • Fossil fuel power plants
    • Fuel cells
    • Geothermal power plants
    • Nuclear power plants
    • Solar power systems
    • Tidal energy, wave energy, or ocean thermal energy conversion devices
    • Wind turbines

Rifle Shooting:

I already know how to safely shoot firearms and have experience with rifles, air guns, 9mm and cross-bow. I wouldn’t say I’m always the best shot, but  I do OK and know how to be safe. I’ve already met most of the requirements for this badge, but there are a few things I need to learn first.

  • Understand the main points of the laws for owning and using guns in my community and state.
  • Understand the main points of hunting laws in your state and any special laws on the use of guns and ammunition.

Wilderness Survival:

I’d really like to learn some wilderness survival skills. It’s likely I’ll learn some of these skills while working on my other badges, but if I do get a chance this year, I’d like to add this badge to my list. 

  • Learn the priorities for survival in a backcountry or wilderness location. 
  • Know what steps I would take to survive in the following conditions:
    • Cold and snowy
    • Wet (forest)
    • Hot and dry (desert)
    • Windy (mountains or plains)
    • Water (ocean, lake, or river)
  • Put together a personal survival kit and know how each item in it could be useful.
  • Using three different methods (other than matches), build and light three fires. 
  • Know how to attract attention when lost, use a signal mirror and give ground-to-air signals.
  • Improvise a natural shelter.
  • Know how to protect myself from insects, reptiles, and bears.
  • Know how to treat water found in the outdoors to prepare it for drinking.

LS had some more good ideas for Peak Oil Prep badges. Anyone got more suggestions?


  1. That is one big list you’ve got there.

    On the Survival Merit Badge. Have you ever heard of a guy called Ray Mears? He’s an Englishman who teaches survival skills, he’s also made a heap of tv series. All of which I’ve seen in less than 2 months, talk about overload. They cover different survival situations in different countries, how indigenous people live and how to light a fire. He does that a lot. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his shows. They might be worth checking out.

  2. In hindsite it is a big list. nothing like biting off more than I can chew!

    I tried to find Ray Mears series on Netflix to no avail. Perhaps I’ll be able to get when I get back to Australia. In the meantime, you’ve prompted me to watch the Survivorman series. It’s probably the same type of thing.

  3. It’s not a big list and I will tell you why. In the past year I have become a certified professional level CPR/AED, First aid and Wilderness and remote First aid instructor. I also attended a nine day Search and Rescue school in Yosemite National Park, became a sworn member of the California Office of Emergency Services rescue group, Completed the local CERT course with the fire department-and became a sworn rescuer with the local CERT team as well. To top it off I led a group of five others through this course, and I have gone on to teach dozens of other rescuers in the CPRO and first aid courses. I also lead a scout troop of 45 scouts and a dozen adults, and hold a full time job in a research lab. I am l not some young kid either, I am over 60 and enjoying every new adventure.
    Stick with the great ideas and earn those merit badges in your own way-live life and help other do the same-the best to you all.

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