Trek Safely is the Boy Scouts of America’s recommended procedure for organizing and carrying out outdoor treks that involve Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers. Trek Safely applies to all types of outdoor experiences that involve trekking, including hiking, backpacking, canoeing, horseback riding, caving, rafting, kayaking, sailing, ski touring, mountain climbing, and mountain biking.
Trek Safely is designed to help youth and adult leaders plan and carry out a safe trekking experience for the members of their unit. Similar to Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb On Safely, it is not designed to teach the skills of trekking. Units that choose to engage in activities requiring specialized outdoor skills should seek qualified instructors to help members learn and acquire these skills prior to the outing.
The Seven Points of Trek Safely
Out of the seven points of Trek Safely, the two most important points are the first and last points, Qualified Supervision and Discipline (respectively). These two points are crucial and all other points rely on them.
- Qualified Supervision
- All treks must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult at least 21 years old who accepts responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone in the group. At least one additional adult must accompany the group to meet the BSA requirement for two-deep leadership. Co-ed overnight activities require male and female adult leaders, both of whom must be 21 years of age or older. Male and female leaders must have separate sleeping facilities. Married couples may share the same quarters if appropriate facilities are available. The lead adult is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is currently trained in first aid. The BSA recommends American Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic, a 16 hour course that includes CPR (or an equivalent training course). A higher level of certification such as first responder, emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner (NP), physician assistant (PA), or licensed health care practitioner is also acceptable.
- Keep Fit
- Participants need to have a Personal Health and Medical Record -- Class 2 or Class 3 -- for any trek lasting longer than 72 hours. Incidents are frequently related to unknown physical conditions or are the unexpected result of known physical problems. The lead adult should review the medical record of each participant and adjust the trek and activities conditions to reduce potential risks associated with individual health and medical conditions. Good safety requires an understanding of the risk of individual health conditions. The BSA recommends a regular physical regimen. People should start slowly, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of exercise.
- Plan Ahead
- The trek should match the maturity, skill levels, and fitness of unit members. Permits must be obtained to use public or private land. Training in the principles of Leave No Trace is essential for both safety and consideration of other visitors to the area.
- Gear Up
- A qualified leader ensures that the group has the appropriate equipment and clothing for the trek. Every crew must have a first-aid kit as well as the means to carry and treat water. The leader should remind everyone to bring and take prescribed medications. Crew members should be trained to use specialized equipment such as bridles, climbing gear, watercraft, and skiing gear.
- Communicate clearly and completely
- All participants should know what to expect and what is expected of them. Youth and adult leaders should communicate with each other to avoid unpleasant surprises. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, do not communicate to be understood, communicate so that you can not possibly be misunderstood. Itinerary details should be shared with parents and a designated contact person. If the itinerary changes, one of the leaders should communicate the changes with the contact person who then shares it with parents. The group should also provide the land manager with a detailed itinerary. One of the trek leaders should bring a means of electronic communication, like a cell phone, in case of emergency.
- Monitor Conditions
- Leaders are responsible for making good decisions and monitoring conditions on the trek. They continually assess conditions, including weather, terrain, group morale, food and water supplies and group physical conditions. If adverse conditions develop, the group should stop and turn back.
- Everyone should know, understand and follow the rules and procedures for safe trekking and should be oriented has been oriented in Trek Safely. The reason for rules and procedures should be shared to encourage compliance. Youth and adult leaders should be strict and firm, showing no favoritism.
Training Aids and Resources
- Passport to High Adventure, No. 4310
- Passport to High Adventure Training Outline, No. 18-075
- Backpacking merit badge pamphlet, No. 33232
- Camping merit badge pamphlet, No. 33256
- Canoeing merit badge pamphlet, No. 33305
- Cycling merit badge pamphlet, No. 33226
- Hiking merit badge pamphlet, No. 33407
- Horsemanship merit badge pamphlet, No. 33298
- Small-Boat Sailing merit badge pamphlet, No. 33356
- Swimming merit badge pamphlet, No. 33352
- Whitewater merit badge pamphlet, No. 33405
- Fieldbook, No. 33200
- Personal Health and Medical Record Forms—Class 1 and Class 2, No. 34414; and Class 3, No. 34412