If you’re preparing to earn the Eagle-required Hiking merit badge, you’re in the right place! In this guide, I’ll be providing you with all of the answers needed to complete your merit badge worksheet and master hiking!
You’ve reached part 2 of my ultimate guide to the Hiking merit badge! If you’re new to ScoutSmarts, you should first check out Part 1 of my Guide to the Hiking Merit Badge for answers to requirements 1 and 2.
If you’ve just come over from part one, congratulations! You’re halfway done with the knowledge requirements and just have the actual hiking ahead. Now, we’ll be covering how to prepare for your actual hikes — and then you’re off! Good going so far, give yourself a big pat on the back. 🙂
It’s time to get back into it! Take a minute to closely review and think through requirements 2-6 of the Hiking merit badge:
What Are The Hiking Merit Badge Answers?
- Do the following:
–2a) 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.
–2b) Read aloud or recite the Leave No Trace guidelines, and discuss why each is important while hiking.
–2c) Read aloud or recite the Outdoor Code, and give examples of how to follow it on a hike
- 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.
- 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.*
- 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.
* The required hikes for this badge may be used in fulfilling hiking requirements for rank advancement. However, these hikes cannot be used to fulfill requirements of other merit badges.
In part 1 of my guide to the Hiking merit badge, we covered basic hiking first aid, safety techniques for the trail, and proper outdoor ethics. If you’d like to review those sections, you should check out Part 1 of My Guide To The Hiking Merit Badge.
2a) 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.
In this section, you’ll be learning courtesy rules for the hiking trail, how to choose the right footwear for any trek, as well as how to properly care for your footwear (and feet) so that they last. Enough said – let’s start learning! 😀
Courtesy to Others
A Scout is courteous and kind in all places. The hiking trail is no exception! While hiking, it is important to remember that you’re sharing the space with other people. As you’ll frequently encounter other hikers, you should be aware of proper hiking etiquette in order to trek safely and respectfully.
Below are the main points to remember for perfect hiking etiquette:
- Hike quietly: If there might be other hikers in your area, avoid blasting music or talking too loudly. Unwanted noise pollution can ruin the hikes of those around you.
- Yield correctly: When encountering other hikers, the group with the fewest people normally has the right of way.
- The group yielding should stand opposite any cliffside, as far to the side as possible. The group passing should take extra care, as they’ll be passing on the side with the edge. This group will typically pass on the left side.
- Stay on the trail: Taking shortcuts will damage the grooming of the trail and cause erosion. Avoid hiking off-trail.
- If you decide to rest, you can move off the trail so that others are free to pass. However, avoid walking off-trail for long stretches, as this damages plants and causes erosion.
- Leave no trace: Avoid littering and leaving markers on the trail. A good rule of thumb is to pack out everything that you pack in. Basically, just follow the Outdoor Code.
- Be friendly: Greet any hikers you encounter and give them space when passing. Be sure to take up no more than half the trail.
- It’s also common to give a little wave and greeting as you approach. Saying, “Hey, beautiful day out today!” and smiling at the other group is a great way to show your friendliness as a Scout. 🙂
During a hike, you might also encounter people on bikes and horses. The general rule of thumb is to move to the side and let people on horses pass. On the other hand, bikers will generally move around you, passing you by on your left.
By following proper hiking etiquette, you’ll reduce misunderstandings and help to keep the trails safe. While you may not remember every one of these points during your first hike, at a minimum, just try to be courteous and friendly. Over time, you’ll learn each of these points by heart and become a great hiker!
Choice of Footwear
When hiking, your footwear is the only thing that separates your feet from miles and miles of solid ground. That’s why it’s essential to take the time to choose the best shoes for your Scouting activities (link is my guide to choosing the right hiking shoes, based on your activity).
When choosing the right footwear for a long outdoor trek, you should consider the following points:
- Support: Having proper support means choosing a shoe that provides cushion, shock absorption, and ankle protection.
- Having good support is critical, as it will prevent you from getting ankle and leg injuries during long, challenging hikes.
- Sole: There are three different parts of the sole, but basically your shoe’s sole will impact the durability, breathability, and stiffness of your footwear.
- Be sure to also choose a boot whose soles have solid traction, as hiking trails can often be slippery.
- Fit: Having the right size of shoes will prevent rubbing and make for a much more comfortable hike.
- The right-fitting hiking footwear will be snug but not too tight, as your feet will expand during the trek.
Obviously, there are many other things to consider when choosing the right shoe for your outdoor Scouting activities. When I was a Scout, I spent years paying attention to what sort of shoes worked best for hikes so that I knew what to recommend to younger Scouts.
Also, adjusting your shoe’s lacing throughout the hike, as needed, is so important! If your toes are smashing against the front of your shoes on a downhill section, you can stop this from happening by cinching your laces up.
Seriously, a good pair of shoes can make or break your hiking experience! If you haven’t yet looked for the perfect hiking shoe, I’d really recommend you check out my Complete Guide to Hiking Merit Badge Footwear. You can click here to see the full guide!
Proper Care of Feet and Footwear
If you buy the right shoes, they should be able to last for years of your Scouting journey— if properly cared for. By taking a few minutes after every hike to clean and dry your shoes, they’ll be as good as new the next time you’re ready to use them!
If you’d like to learn how to correctly clean and dry your hiking shoes, you should watch this quick video (1:22):
Keep in mind, if you wash the inside of your boots, allow them to fully dry before using them to hike. Hiking in wet boots can distort their shape, damaging the soles and worsening their fit.
Taking care of your feet during a hike is just as important as maintaining your boots. Athlete’s foot is not just a myth! Always keep your feet dry and protected to avoid any sort of skin irritations or infections. Nothing makes a hike more miserable than having issues with your feet.
Watch this short video (1:57) for a brief overview of how you can easily take care of your feet while on a hike:
2b) Read aloud or recite the Leave No Trace guidelines, and discuss why each is important while hiking.
Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethic that all Scouts are charged with following. By being mindful of these principles, Scouts learn to reduce their environmental impact and behave properly in the outdoors. Take a minute to read through and understand the seven principles of Leave No Trace:
The 7 Leave No Trace Principles
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- As a Scout, this one should be pretty easy! Be prepared with the supplies you need, and have a plan of action upon arriving at your campsite. A good exercise is trying to think of potential challenges and how to mitigate them.
- Action: This means checking the weather reports beforehand, coordinating with your patrol, and bringing only what you need to minimize waste. (See my Scout hike packing list for more info!)
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- When you go on an outing, you should always minimize your impact on the environment. If this isn’t possible, at the very least, do your best to leave no trace!
- Action: This means camping on solid ground (not on plants) where vegetation will be disrupted the least, and hiking on paths that have already been made.
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Proper waste disposal is a basic rule, even if you’re not camping. You should always dispose of your trash and “human waste” in a way that people or animals won’t come across it.
- Action: This means ‘packing out’ any trash you might create and disposing of it in a dumpster. “Human waste” should be taken care of in marked outhouses, or buried if that’s not possible.
- Leave What You Find
- While you may have found a cool leaf, flower, or plant, you should always leave it where you found it. Enjoy nature where it is, but don’t disturb it.
- Action: This is a bit random, but growing up in Hawaii, we had a legend that if you took lava rocks on an outing you’d be cursed! Moral of the story: leave what you find. 😉
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- You’ll learn how to do this by earning your Firem’n Chit (link is to my guide if you’d like a hand!), but just remember to always be extra careful around fires.
- Action: This means never leaving your campfires unattended, or without filled water buckets nearby (or other extinguishers). You should also only use already-made fire pits, whenever possible.
- Respect Wildlife
- This goes without saying, but you should always leave the wildlife undisturbed. They’re not pets that want to be interacted with. Plantlife should be left alone to the best of your ability as well.
- Action: This means only taking pictures from far away — if that. Wild animals can be dangerous and unpredictable, so stay on the safe side by respecting their distance.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Finally, be mindful of other campers. The outdoors is meant to be enjoyed, peacefully, by everyone. Make a good name for yourself and your troop when you’re out.
- Action: This means not being disruptive or destructive on outings. If another Scout is being inconsiderate or breaking any of the Leave No Trace rules, encourage them to cut it out. Luckily, there are plenty of helpful ways to Lead Difficult Scouts!
While the Leave No Trace principles might seem simple, they’re a vital part of ethical outdoor use and should be something you always keep in mind while enjoying nature. By leaving no trace, you’ll set a great example for your troop and keep our wilderness beautiful for future visitors! 🙂
Now that you know the Leave No Trace principles, it should be easy to discuss with your counseler their importance while hiking. Just remember that it’s all about keeping our outdoor spaces untarnished and enjoyable for all!
2c) Read aloud or recite the Outdoor Code, and give examples of how to follow it on a hike
As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manners, be careful with fire, be considerate in the outdoors, and be conservation-minded.The Outdoor Code
As you most likely already know, the Outdoor Code represents a Scout’s promise to protect and preserve our natural environment. By practicing the Outdoor Code during hikes, outings, and throughout your everyday life, you’re doing your part to make sure the earth stays healthy and sustainable for future generations!
There are so many ways we can practice the Outdoor Code while hiking. Here are a few examples of environmentally friendly practices your troop is probably already doing during hikes:
- Stay on designated trails: This helps to prevent erosion and protect the natural environment.
- Leave gates as you found them: If a gate is closed, leave it closed. If it’s open, leave it open. This helps to protect livestock and the environment.
- Pack it in, pack it out: This means bringing all of your gear and supplies with you on the hike and not leaving anything behind.
- Keep noise levels down: Loud noises can disturb both wildlife and other hikers.
- Bring a garbage bag: This is my bonus tip! Each patrol can be in charge of a garbage bag, and use it to collect any trash they find along the trail. The patrol that collects the most trash wins!
These tips are just the beginning. As you progress in Scouting, you’ll learn even more about the importance of protecting our environment. For more than 20 other awesome ideas to be more sustainable within your troop, check out my complete list of ways to practice the Outdoor Code! 🙂
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.
Hiking is an aerobic activity. Aerobic means ‘with oxygen,’ and refers to any activity where you’re able to breathe, but endurance is required. When hiking, oxygenated blood is pumped by your heart to deliver oxygen to your muscles. Frequent aerobic activity will improve your Personal Fitness!
To be able to hike for 10+ miles, you’ll need to be in great shape. By conditioning yourself with other types of aerobic activity, you’ll increase your fitness so that you’re prepared to complete longer hikes!
The best way to condition yourself for long treks is to go on multiple shorter hikes while carrying your backpack. These should be between 50%-80% of your goal hike’s length. This will train you to trek while carrying weight, which is key to successful hiking. 🙂
While conditioning for your 10 and 20-milers, you’ll likely find yourself sore afterward. Make sure to give yourself a few days to recover after hikes so that your muscles can repair. Knowing when to rest is a crucial part of hiking, even for expert hikers!
For more information on how you can build endurance and improve your conditioning for upcoming hikes watch this informative video (3:38):
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.)
Now that you’ve learned the possible hazards you could encounter on a hiking trail, first aid methods to use, proper outdoor ethics, and how to condition yourself for a challenging trek, you’re ready to begin actually hiking! This requirement will be challenging, so be prepared.
Once you complete these 5 hikes, you’re in the final stretch of earning the Hiking merit badge!
For your written hike plan, you should be able to find a trail map online. You can locate most maps and further information about your trail at the website, hikingproject.com.
Aside from the trail map, the rest of your plan should remain more or less the same from hike to hike. Just make an effort to understand the overall difficulty of the hike, then pack your water and supplies accordingly. When in doubt, ask your hike leader or Scoutmaster!
Your 20-mile Hike
This is the big one! However, if you’ve made it past your 10-milers, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to crush your 20-miler as well. Just make sure to take things slow and steady. You have a looooong day ahead. 😛
Here’s a tip that I learned from running track and used for my own 20-miler: Make sure you’re well-hydrated at least 2 days before you embark on this long hike. Being extra-hydrated before the hike will give you more energy. Plus, you’ll also feel less soreness during and after the hike!
Before you get going, I want to make sure you know everything necessary to have an enjoyable hike. The video (7:37) below does a great job of explaining some awesome hacks for having fun, safe hikes. You should watch it now!
On a final note, always be prepared to learn new tips for better hiking. Also, be sure to check out my Hiking Equipment Recommendations for poles, water bladders, and backpacks if you don’t already have some super-reliable gear. Now get out there and start hiking. You got this! 😀
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.*
This is actually the fun part! After you get back home and wash up, take a few minutes to sit down and bask in the glory of another successful hike. Then, simply start jotting down your thoughts! Here are some things to note:
- Where did your hike take place and how long was it?
- What did you think of the hike? What happened? Were you prepared?
- If not, how could you be better prepared for next time?
- Did you see anything cool or unexpected? How did that make you feel?
- What Scouts did you hang out with during the hike? What did you all talk about?
- What will be your #1 favorite memory from the hike? Why?
My reflections were short passages that were anywhere from 200-400 words. I typically included pictures from the hike, as well as some of the other highlights from the trail. These hike reflections will be great memories to look back on once you’re an Eagle Scout! 😉
Hiking is a challenging but rewarding lifelong pursuit. By understanding each of the answers for the Hiking merit badge, you’ll have all of the tools you necessary to confidently complete any wilderness trek!
To be 100% prepared for any Scouting activity though, you’ll need to have a strong grasp of First Aid. If you’re earning your Hiking merit badge, that means you should be about ready to earn your First Aid merit badge as well! You can click the link to get started researching!
Also, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d definitely recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!
Congratulations, you’ve made it! The Hiking merit badge isn’t easy, but neither is Scouting. By taking on difficult challenges, you prove yourself as a Scout who’s able to overcome anything! Keep up the great work and, until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey. 🙂
(Click here to return to part 1 of my guide to the Hiking merit badge!)