• Young men around a campfire


Gain self-reliance, resourcefulness, and survival skills by learning the skills used by mountain men, trappers, and frontiersmen.


During the early 19th century, much of the western United States was mapped and explored by the frontiersmen and traders who traveled through the North American wilderness. Unable to carry many supplies with them, these men learned skills from the Native Americans that allowed them to use the resources in their environment to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities for themselves and for their families. Plan a series of activities to help you learn some of the skills of the frontiersmen. These activities should be planned by various team members and chosen from the following five fields of emphasis. You should also choose and plan a culminating activity—such as a trading activity where your team trades goods they have made—from one of the fields of emphasis.

Fields of emphasis

Personal development

  • Learn to cook a complete meal using Dutch ovens, a campfire, or another primitive cooking method.
  • Make throwing knives and tomahawks, and learn how to use them safely.
  • Learn how to make a capote, moccasins, or another article of clothing.
  • With proper supervision from a licensed professional, learn about and practice using a muzzle-loading rifle.
  • Learn how to build and start a fire using flint and steel, or use a bow drill.
  • Plan a fireside where your team can learn some stories about the early LDS pioneers.


  • Learn how to leave no trace when camping, and teach these principles to a younger Scout troop.
  • Plan a project to help the elderly or disabled members of your community care for their home or yard.
  • Volunteer at the local bishops’ storehouse.

High adventure

  • Plan an activity with another Varsity team where you can trade or display goods you have made and compete in events such as shooting muzzle-loading rifles, throwing knives and tomahawks, building fires, running races, and caber tossing.

Special programs and events

  • Participate in a district or council rendezvous event.
  • Learn the hand signals used in silent trading, and hold a trading event with other Varsity teams.
  • Visit a museum related to Native American or frontiersman history.
  • Invite an expert or a historian to teach the team about the history of the fur-trapping trade and share stories of famous trappers or traders.
  • Attend a storytelling festival, or invite a storyteller to teach your team some American tall tales. Learn how to tell stories, and plan a storytelling night where your team members share stories with one another.


  • Leatherwork merit badge
  • Indian lore merit badge
  • Rifle shooting merit badge
  • Environmental science merit badge

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