Category Archives: Scout Pioneering

Brazilian Balance Track

Pioneering projects can be built to serve a practical purpose, as in a bridge connecting two banks of a stream providing a shortcut to the dining hall, or simply for recreation as in a swing boat at a Scout Expo. The most desirable project constructed just for fun is the one that can get a lot of use. The more action it sees, the the more it can be considered a success. The Brazilian Balance Track, so dubbed because it came to our attention in a FaceBook post from the 88º GE / RJ Scout Group Atol das Rocas of Brazil as part of a training given by Chief Jorge Kuma Stotuka, is simply irresistible! Most everyone passing by is going to want to give it a go! For that matter, as revealed in the video, a group of Scouts will literally line up with individual Scouts waiting their turn to get on and see how easy or hard it is to make it from one end to the other.

Racking Turns

Basically, the track consists of four quadpods connected by three ingenious, little challenges. Three of the quadpods also provide their own less daunting challenge. Variations in construction will be determined by the length of the spars connecting the quadpods, in other words, the degree each challenge is more or less demanding hinges on the distance between the quadpods and subsequently the amount of stepping, swinging, and negotiating required to traverse each section.

Here is the basic layout:
• Four 12-foot quadpods with four 8-foot crossbars about 6-inches from the butts, spaced about 10 feet apart
 • Inside 2nd quadpod: one 8-foot spar lashed to the center of the front and rear crossbars
Inside 3rd quadpod: one 10-foot diagonal pole connecting the side crossbars
Inside 4th quadpod: three evenly-spaced 8-foot spars lashed to the outside crossbars
Between 1st and 2nd quadpod: seven 3-foot ladder rungs, suspended about 1 foot above the ground from two parallel, 12-foot handrails
Between 2nd and 3rd quadpod: two 8-foot, lengthwise, swinging poles, one for each foot, suspended in two places about 1 foot above the ground from two 12-foot handrails

Between 3rd and 4th quadpod: three, swinging, 3-foot rungs, each suspended in four places from two 12-foot handrails and lined up so they’re parallel to the handrails about 1 foot off the ground


Cover Photo

Scout Pioneering, Good Ol’ Fashioned Outdoor Fun, is filled with all the information, illustrations, and instructions a unit needs to get an effective pioneering program off the ground and flourishing. Along with the author’s first-hand experience as a Scout leader who has run successful pioneering programs in his own troop and at the Philmont Training Center, it draws upon the expertise of Scouting’s most revered pioneering legends. The author wrote the updates and revisions to the next edition of the BSA’s “Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet,” and in addition to enlivening the pamphlet, this book provides a wealth of additional resources, invaluable to a troop wanting to provide its Scouts with rich pioneering opportunities that are memorable and fun.

  • 312 clearly formatted pages
  • Over 250 pioneering-related photos bringing the text to life and capturing real Scouts in action
  • Revealing links to over 40 of the author’s content-relevant,  BSA-recognized how-to and Scout meeting activity videos.

Chapters on:

  • How to get started and keep Scouts coming back for more
  • Skills
  • Scout Meeting Activities
  • Camp Gadgets
  • Project Building
  • Program Development

Scout Stave Floating Flagpole

A crew of Scouts went about erecting a FLOATING FLAGPOLE made entirely of Scout staves. They lashed together five staves for the pole and two staves each for the three supporting uprights. The idea was to rely upon the strain of the guylines to keep the uprights straight, without sinking them into the ground. The problem was the two staves making up each upright were just too rickety to effectively withstand the stress created during the hoisting process.

All in all, it worked, but attention should be directed to the lashings joining the stoves for the uprights. —> Use longer lashing ropes or apply three round lashings, and, make sure they’re really tight!

Camp Gadgets made from Scout Staves & Broomsticks

These camp gadgets were featured in the Pioneering Village at the 2017 National Jamboree. All were fashioned  out of Scout staves and precut lengths from broomsticks.

Left Column, from the Top: Dish Washing Station, Camp Table, Simple Camp Table, Hand Wash Station, Single Fire Bucket Holder, Tripod Straddle Seat / Right Column from the Top: 15′ Flagpole, Clothes Drying Rack, Simple Tool Rack, Garbage Bag Holder

VIEW VIDEO of the above gadgets as they were featured in the Pioneering Village during the 2017 National Jamboree.

Sequential Programming: Monkey Bridge

Troop 86 from Sumter, SC wanted to do a pioneering project and they selected the Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge. Great place to start, and a great way to illustrate sequential programming. What skills enter into the picture? A whole bunch! And with each step along the way, there’s an activity wherein each campcraft skill can be put into action, in a fun way, as reinforcement.

B.-P. wrote: “I am inclined to suggest to Scouters that in addition to the technical details of knotting, lashing, and anchorages, there is an educative value in Pioneering since it gives elementary training in stresses, mensuration, etc.” In addition to the “mensuration” skills that come into play when setting out the area for the bridge’s A-frames and anchors, a good deal of measuring takes place to assure the A-frames are as close to identical as possible, the pairs are joined together in similar fashion, an the spanner ropes are spread evenly. (Hand in hand with the building, Scouts do a lot of planning.)

 tape-measure-2  tape-measure-1

—> What is Sequential Programming?


Open-Ended Clove Hitch – How else would you want to secure the hand ropes to the A-frames? — How-to Video / Activity Video

Using Half Hitches to tie a Clove Hitch – A simple process always makes it easy to tie a clove hitch and finish many types of lashings. Several are used to attach the spanner ropes. — How-to Video / Activity Video —

Round Lashing – Three or four can be used to join together the bottoms of the A-frames on each side. Round lashings can also be used to attach a flag pole(s) to an A-frame(s). — How-to Video / Activity Video

Square Lashing – This project can use fourteen of them for both building the A-frames and then joining them together. — How-to Video / Activity Video

3-2-1 Anchor – The skill is to carefully drive in the stakes at the proper angle and applying the tourniquets to join the groupings. — Explanatory Video

Roundturn with Two Half Hitches – You can use this pioneering knot to attach the hand ropes to the anchors. — How-to Video / Activity Video —

Butterfly Knot and Rope Tackle – This configuration can be used to adjust the tension on the foot rope. — How-to Video 1, How-to Video 2 / Activity Video


Pioneering Program Feature: Meeting Plans & Ideas

The following was extracted from the Program Features section of Troop Leader Resources:

Pioneering Information Troop Meetings Main Event
John Thurman, Gilwell Camp Chief for twenty-five years, said, ”There is only one activity in my experience where it pays to start at the top, and that is swimming. It is true that pioneering has often been directly or unexpectedly linked with swimming, but if any patrol, troop, or Scouter tries to start pioneering before establishing a sound background of basic Scout training in regard to knotting and lashing, then pioneering will become unpopular and will go down in the history of the Patrol or Troop as a failure.”

This month’s activities should:

  • Teach basic knot,  lashing and pioneering skills
  • Provide opportunities to put those skills to use
  • Introduce principles of engineering as Scouts build pioneering structures.
  • Offer opportunities to practice planning, problem solving, and teamwork
  • Build self-confidence

As a leadership team, you may want to discuss the following items when choosing pioneering as your program feature during your planning meetings:

Click above for fillable troop meeting planning form.


Preopening Ideas on Troop Program Resources

  • As Scouts arrive, play the 2013 Pioneering Area Jamboree Video
  • Hitching Challenge – Set up vertical hitching posts and enable Scouts to apply underhand loops to the posts forming half hitches. Hold hitching races.
  • Rope Tackle Tug-of-War – Reeve a long length of 1/2-inch manila rope through a metal ring fixed to an anchor point, and pass the end through the fixed loop of a butterfly knot, tied 15 feet up the line. Provide the opportunity for Scouts to experience the mechanical advantage gained by using a rope tackle by having one pull on the end that passes through the fixed loop, towards the anchor point, and one or two others pull on the other end of the long line, away from the anchor point.
  • Using round lashings, early arrivals build a flag pole using three or four Scout staves supported by three guylines, flying the US flag (with or without a halyard) for the troop’s opening ceremony. If indoors, use two Scout staves and construct a self-standing flagpole with or without a halyard.


Opening Ideas on Troop Program Resources


Half Hitches and Round Lashing

Project the following videos:

Square Lashing

Project the following video:

Tripod Lashing

Project the following video:

Anchoring Pioneering Projects

Project the following videos:

Floor Lashing 

Project the following video:


3 Categories

Half Hitches and Round Lashing

  • EssentialOn a Scout stave or a horizontal hitching bar with a 6-foot, 1/4-inch manila lashing rope, learn to tie a series half hitches, proceeding from the right and proceeding  from the left.
  • Learn to join two Scout staves together with two round lashings.

  • ChallengingReview the above skills.

  • Advanced
    • Review the above skills.
    •  Outdoors, build a flag pole using three or four Scout staves supported by three guylines. Before standing it up, attach a patrol or other flag to the top stave.

Square Lashing

  • EssentialUsing a 6 to 7-foot lashing rope, learn to join two Scout staves together with a tight square lashing.
  • Practice the lashing until it is easy to tie both tightly and neatly.

  • ChallengingReview the above skills.
  • Using a 15-foot, 1/4-inch manila lashing rope, join two 3-inch diameter spars with a tight square lashing

  • AdvancedReview the above skills.
  • With the 3-inch diameter spars, practice passing the ends of the lashing rope between yourself and another Scout, both maintaining maximum strain on the wraps and fraps, assuring the lashing will be tight to the greatest extent.

Tripod Lashing

  • EssentialUsing a 10-foot lashing rope, learn to lash three Scout staves together with a tripod lashing, properly spreading the legs and standing it up.

  • ChallengingReview the above skills.
  • Using three additional Scout staves or shorter poles, join each leg of the tripod with another, using six 6 to 7-foot lashing ropes and tight square lashings

  • AdvancedReview the above skills.

Anchoring Pioneering Projects

  • EssentialLearn how to tie a butterfly knot.
  • Learn how to form a rope tackle

  • ChallengingReview the above skills.
  • Learn how to build a 1-1 anchor.

  • AdvancedReview the above skills.
  • Learn how to build a 3-2-1 anchor.

Floor Lashing

  • EssentialLearn how to tie a floor lashing, and practice by using binder twine to lash dowels (as floor spars) onto Scout staves (as platform supports).

  • ChallengingReview the above skills.
  • With two floor lashings, lash Scout staves or other sticks about an inch in diameter to two 1-inch diameter supporting poles, as if you’re making a table top.

  • AdvancedReview the above skills.
  • Using the design for a simple camp table as a point of reference, lash together a table.


Getting Ready for the Main Event

  • Patrols review printed copies of 22 Pioneering Safety Points
  • Patrols select the project(s) they will build during the main event
  • Patrols make a complete list of the materials they will need for  the main event.
  • Menu Planning
  • Duties Roster

Preparation for the meeting’s game or challenge 
Select those challenges requiring the lashing skills already presented during instruction.



Back to top of page

Pioneering Information Troop Meetings Main Event

What Pioneering Merit Badge SHOULD Be!

“Pioneering is practical and character building: the two essential ingredients of any program material for Scouts.” (Lord Baden-Powell)

Mew Top Montage

Pioneering Merit Badge, which as we all know used to be required for Eagle, should give Scouts a taste of pioneering! Of course they should be taught about safety and gain some general knowledge, but much more importantly, they should be introduced to the Scouting traditions and the fun that this activity embodies. They should DO pioneering!

SIngle Trestle Montage

Taking part in building pioneering projects contributes to the development of self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment. It necessitates working hard and working together towards a common goal. Besides being really cool and impressing people in and out of Scouting, building a real pioneering structure requires the mastery of a set of useful Scout skills that can be applied over a lifetime of outdoor activities—activities for both work and recreation.

A-Frame Bridge 5

Pioneering Merit Badge should be presented as a series of planned challenges and opportunities leading up to memorable experiences that are rewarding and unique. The recipients of this merit badge should be inspired to share their acquired skills and the fun they had with other Scouts in their unit.

Bridge Building

As Gilwell Park Camp Chief, John Thurmann  stated, “To me, the over-riding reason for presenting Pioneering is that boys like it. There are few activities which, properly presented, have a greater appeal to the Scout than Pioneering and ever since the introduction of Wood Badge training, Pioneering has been given a full share in the program of Scouters’ training. In the summer months when Scouters at Gilwell are building bridges, towers, and rafts, and boys are in camp, it has been all too common to hear from the boys such remarks as, ‘I wish we did that in our Troop’ or ‘We never do anything like that’.”

Tower Montage

But there are reasons for Pioneering other than the fact that Scouts like doing it. B.-P. wrote: “I am inclined to suggest to Scouters that in addition to the technical details of knotting, lashing, and anchorages, there is an educative value in Pioneering since it gives elementary training in stresses, mensuration, etc., and it also develops initiative and resourcefulness to use local material. Additionally, it gives practice in team work and discipline.” In other words, (“Pioneering is practical and character building: the two essential ingredients of any program material for Scouts.”)

CHippewa Montage

Using Half Hitches to Finish Many Lashings

Though the clove hitch is most always taught by laying two turns around the pole to form an ‘X’ and then passing the running end underneath, the approach presented in this video is an essential one that should come into play anytime a lashing is finished with a clove hitch. This video, extracted from the Clove Hitch and Half Hitches video, communicates this basic process in an understandable and straightforward manner.

Whenever I observe a Scout or Scouter trying to finish a lashing by tying a clove hitch, and they’re not first tying one half hitch up against the wraps, and then another snugged up tight against the first, well…I first feel sorry for them, and then I either need to demonstrate how to do it much easier, quicker, and better, or shake my head, tolerate my frustration, and say nothing.

Anyone who is into lashing poles together, for whatever reason, is already using this super-simple technique—or should be.

As we often quote, John Thurman said, “The first and everlasting thing to remember about the clove hitch is that it is composed of two half hitches. What a very obvious thing to say, but there is hardly one Scout in a hundred who learns what it means. If only we can get Scouts to learn that if you make one half hitch and another half hitch and bring them together they make a clove hitch, what a lot of time the Movement would save in the amount of fiddling and fumbling that goes on when a clove hitch is the order of the day. We would be able to start in the sure knowledge that we can make clove hitches and pass quickly on to better and brighter things.”

Enough said!

The Misunderstood Clove Hitch

A Monkey Bridge Made Out of Lumber?

Double A-Frame Monkey Bride Made from "Sandwiched" 2x4s
Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge Constructed using “Sandwiched” 2x4s 

Yes. That’s how Venture Crew 140 out of Houston, Texas put some newly-learned lashing skills into action. They also experienced, first hand how rope tackles can put the necessary strain on thick lines used for hand and foot ropes. Though they didn’t follow the instructions for making laminated spars as provided by Scout Pioneering legend, Adolph Peschke, the 6 and 8-foot lengths of doubled 2×4 boards did the trick. Here’s the email received from Crew Advisor Russ Jamerson:

“Just wanted to show you that my Crew has already put up the double a-frame monkey bridge per your instructions at Philmont Training Center! We had trouble finding natural timber spars so we made them from 2×4’s – learned a few things in that process — I did not follow the instructions you pointed out about laminated spars exactly – for example I used 2x4s sandwiched together with edges smoothed via a router for both 8’ and 6’ spars. This creates the need for longer lashing rope in some cases such as at the top of the a-frame and the round lashings at the bottom that circle essentially 4 2×4’s. The only issue is that they are a little too smooth to properly hold lashings. We plan to roughen up the surface where lashings will go by running a sawzall lightly across the surface to scar it up.

“This has been and continues to be a great teambuilding exercise while introducing some of the Crew without a Boy Scout background to various knots and lashings.”

3-2-1 Anchor with Rope Tackles

Pioneering Program Feature: Main Event Ideas

These are some ideas for a Main Event from the revised Pioneering Module of Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews.

Click above for an enlarged view.

The following three sample outing outlines can serve troop leaders as a point of reference, or as an actual framework, for the monthly main event relating to the pioneering program feature. Click on the small images to bring up a full-size view.

Sample of an Essential Pioneering Main Event

Sample Challenging Pioneering Main Event
Sample of a Challenging Pioneering Main Event

Sample of an Advanced Pioneering Main Event

Pioneering Program Feature: Information

This post is a component of the revised pioneering module in Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews.

Related Advancement

What is Pioneering? – Pioneering is the knowledge and skill of using simple materials to build structures that are used in a wide range of Scouting activities. These skills are sometimes referred to as “backwoods engineering.”

Down through the ages, people have used ropes, spars, and simple hardware to build bridges, towers, and even their own shelters. In the early development of our country, pioneering methods were used in mining and transportation, to clear the wilderness, and to build roads and bridges. So it is understandable that the term “backwoods engineering” was applied.

SIngleTrestleThe same skills can be used by Scouts to build pioneering projects ranging in complexity from a simple camp gadget to a sturdy bridge.

Whatever the project, the same applied principles of physics, geometry, and math are used to build pioneering projects and structures. But, keep in mind that all the information on these pages is eventually used for a practical, hands-on application—that is, to build something.

Pioneering is a good foundation for many Scouting activities. You must learn, and then use, such disciplines as planning ahead and teamwork. You can also put to use the basic skills learned in rank advancement, such as knot tying.

But most of all, pioneering provides a practical way to experience the joy of accomplishment when you’ve built something that is needed for yourself or others; it can be something that makes living in camp easier and more comfortable. Pioneering can be both fun and challenging when you use your skill and knowledge to choose the right materials (ropes and spars) and build a usable structure.

Dish Washing RackIdeas for Main Event Camp Gadgets

Ideas for Main Event Pioneering Projects

jamboree-monkey-bridge-1View: Ropes and Spars

Refer to: “Pioneering Stumbling Blocks for those Who haven’t gotten Started Yet”

Relevant Pioneering Skill Videos with Further Information

Page06 Safe.jpg

In all Scouting activities, safety must come first. In and through the challenges, fun, and rewards that go hand in hand with Pioneering, there can be no substitute for prudent behavior and common sense. As you begin your pioneering activities, safety must be your first consideration. The following safety points are some that you and your group should keep in mind:

Pioneering Safety Points

1) Before and after each use, check all equipment, ropes, poles, tools, and hardware to ensure they are in good working condition.

2) All equipment should be treated with respect and used appropriately for its intended purpose.

3) Appoint a safety officer who, along with the rest of the group, should constantly check the work site to keep it clean of debris. Equipment should be kept in an organized fashion before, during, and after its use.

4) During the construction of a project, only one person should give instructions and signals.

5) There should always be plenty of room between the person carrying spars and people around them.

6) Do not work during rainy or wet conditions. Rope and spars become slippery, as does your footing. Knots can slip when wet and become unsafe.

7) Wear clothing to fit the season and wear gloves when necessary to protect your hands.Work smart and do not lift more than you can handle.

8) Spars resting on the ground are not for standing upon. They can unexpectedly roll causing injuries.

9) When lifting a spar to facilitate the frapping of a Tripod or Shear Lashing, care should always be taken to ensure the person working the rope doesn’t injure his fingers.

Page07 Safe
Like with this Single A-Frame Bridge they built at the national jamboree, Scouts should only climb on a structure they make after it’s been completely inspected.

10) Take regular breaks to discuss the work in progress and ensure that everyone understands what is required of them.

11) Use extra care when using heavy mallets to pound in pioneering stakes.

12) For added safety, heel in the legs of a structure from 4 to 6 inches.

13) If the design calls for a certain size and type of rope or spar, do not substitute something of lesser strength.

14) Before allowing general use, run a complete test to see everything is working correctly.

15) Keep checking all anchors on the pioneering project as strain is applied during use.

16) The number of people using a platform should be strictly limited to the maximum number established beforehand and announced by the safety officer.

17) There should only be one person on a monkey bridge at a time.

18) Jumping or playing around while on a structure unacceptable. Like with this Single A-Frame Bridge they built at the national jamboree, Scouts should only climb on board their project after all lashings are tight, and the structure has been completely inspected.

19) While crossing a monkey bridge, people shouldn’t bounce or purposely swing or sway on the ropes, nor should anyone race to see how quickly they can get across.

20) Those waiting their turn to cross a monkey bridge should stay off the ropes between the anchors and the bridge framework.

21) Everyone should stay completely off a monkey bridge whenever the foot and hand ropes are being tightened, or the spanner ropes are being adjusted.

22) When the day’s work is complete, untie all knots, coil all ropes, check all hardware, and store everything in its proper place.

Page08 Hoist
Raising any tall structure requires all hands on deck—some lifting, some hoisting, and some with lines to assure the project isn’t over-pulled. The appointed safety officer needs to be alert to call out the signals and oversee the operation.

Resources and References

Back to top of page

Pioneering Information Troop Meetings Main Event