Scout Backpacking on Treadmills?

Somewhere in these United States, there is a Boy Scout who is afraid of insects. He has a really big bug phobia, according to his parents, that makes it impossible for him to earn the backpacking merit badge with the rest of his Patrol. The poor Scout now feels left out and he wants to earn the backpacking merit badge like everyone else, even if it means he cannot join them on the trail.

Scouts Afraid of Bugs?

In the newest backpacking merit badge pamphlet, there is a requirement is that a boy must complete three separate backpacking outings, each consisting of three days of hiking to cover no less than 15 miles total using two different campsites on each trip. So his parents came up with a suggestion.

To keep their son from actually visiting a wilderness area where bugs might be encountered, what if their son found three different gyms in their area that had treadmills. Their Scout would go to a gym, walk the required distance for the day on a treadmill, pitch his tent next to the treadmill, camp overnight, get up in the morning and continue walking, move his tent to the other side of the treadmill on the second night, camp again, and then finish the 15 miles in three days. Then when he completed one “backpacking trip” he would go to another gym and do it all over again.

Is 45 miles on a treadmill the same as 45 miles on the trail?

After visiting three gyms, walking a total of 45 miles on a treadmill, “camping” next to the treadmill, and then moving his tent every night to the other side of the treadmill, the boy would, in theory, have completed this requirement for the backpacking merit badge.

This “backpacking” story was in one of the Scouting chat rooms last week. Some thought it was a joke but most treated it as a serious discussion topic, worthy of their many suggestions for both the parents and the Scout.

What do you think? If you were the Scout leader, how would you have handled it?

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3 thoughts on “Scout Backpacking on Treadmills?”

  1. Utterly ridiculous. I hope it is a joke but would not be surprised. Personally, I would have said that “sign-off” for the miscellaneous requirements is at mile 20 of the upcoming hike. Hiking and backpacking are more than putting one foot in front of the other in sequence as on a treadmill. It involves the total package of planning, dealing with numerous issues, new experiences and – yes- putting one foot in front of the other in sequence.

  2. Learning to understand and deal with our fears is a normal part of growing up. We’re all afraid of something, and we can make a choice, not an easy choice necessarily but a choice nonetheless. We can choose to allow our child to be handicapped by a phobia, or we can help him confront it and be the equal of his pears. We don’t do a young man a favor by supporting his belief that cannot overcome a fear of bugs or a boogyman under the bed, or any one of a number of common phobias. Phobias are normal and they happen. Growing up can happen too. There are constructive and caring ways to approach these things, and redefining a hike as a walk on a treadmill is not one of them.

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