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6 Things to Know Before Buying a Boy Scout Handbook

Scouts BSA Blog
IN THE SAME BOAT: a blog for Scouts BSA parents

The 488-page Boy Scout Handbook (“Handbook”) will be your Scout’s go-to book for everything Scouting. It will be yours as well. Here’s what you need to know before you buy one.

1. Find out if your Scout’s troop will be purchasing the Boy Scout HandbookBoy Scouts Handbook for him

Your Scout’s troop may give him his own copy of the Handbook when he joins. This could occur at the ceremony celebrating his crossing over from Webelos to Boy Scouts, when a representative from the troop is present, or at a troop meeting. In that case, you will not have to buy the book yourself.

2. Purchase the correct edition

The Boy Scout Handbook was newly updated as the 13th edition (copyright 2015). Make sure you purchase the correct edition so that you have the most recent rank requirements, which appear at the end of the book starting with page 438.

3. Don’t purchase a used copy

The Boy Scout Handbook includes the following checklists and logs at the end:

  • checklist of rank requirements for Scout – Eagle (pages 439-451)
  • checklist of Eagle palms (page 452)
  • checklist of merit badges (pages 454-456)
  • leadership & training log (pages 457-458)
  • hiking log (pages 459-460)
  • camping log (461-463)
  • service log (pages 464-465).

Each checklist and log has a column for a leader or adult to initial an entry. You do not want a Handbook that already has entries from a different Scout.

4. Know where to buy one

If you do need to purchase the Handbook, you can do so:

5. Buy the coil-bound version

I highly recommend buying the coil-bound version of the Handbook, as the book will lay flat when open, making it easier to read and write in.

6. Buy a book cover

Your Scout will have his Handbook for years. It will accompany him to troop meetings, campouts and other events. It is likely to become tattered and dirty with use. Pages may come loose. A book cover like the one sold by the BSA’s official Scout Shop for $6.99 is a good idea (http://www.scoutstuff.org/cover-bs-handbook-12th.html#.WlFlHzdG3IU). This cover is water-resistant, durable, and has a zippered pocket for holding pens and more. An alternative is to put the book in a plastic, zipper storage bag for campouts, etc.

Now that you have a Boy Scout Handbook

Be sure your Scout writes his full name somewhere on the Handbook. Even though he may be the most responsible kid around, it still happens that books get misplaced and/or lost. One week at my son’s troop meeting, the Scoutmaster arrived with five that needed to be returned to their owners. The edge opposite the spine is a good place to write his name. Your Scout may even want to include his troop number with city name, or a phone number, on the inside cover.

Your Scout should always carry a pen with his Handbook, so he is prepared if a leader or adult needs to sign off on a rank requirement, log entry, etc.

Your assignment is to read the pamphlet “How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide,” which is inserted at the very beginning of the Handbook. Scout rank requirement # 6 requires you and your Scout to complete the exercises in this pamphlet.

I also recommend that you read the Handbook’s opening chapter, “Adventure Ahead” (pages 7-29), when you have some time. This is a good, short overview of Boy Scouts.

Finally, let your Scout know that a digital version of the Handbook is available on the interactive website http://bsahandbook.org and can be used as a supplement. Your Scout may want to look at some of the additional features the website provides when he is working on certain rank requirements. For example, Second Class requirement 3a requires demonstrating how a compass works and how to orient a map. Pages 332-343 of the Handbook have text and illustrations teaching this, while the online version has additional text and a video showing how to use a map and compass to take a bearing.

That's all of the really important things you need to know up front about the Boy Scout Handbook as a parent. You will become even more familiar with the book as time goes on, and no doubt will even pen your initials occasionally in some Scout's Handbook when he fulfills a rank requirement.

Leave me a comment if you have one!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it with a friend!

P.S. Do you wish being a Scouts BSA parent was a breeze? It is with the Smooth Sailing eGuide, Planner and Organizer for new and continuing Scout parents! Updated January 2020.

Smooth Sailing Through Scouts: Guide, Planner & Organizer for Scouts BSA Parents


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