Troop 16 Introduces Survivorman Challenge to USA

Posted by Mark Abell on July 11, 2010

survivorman-challenge-logoIn 2010, Boy Scouts of America is celebrating its 100th Anniversary of preparing America’s youth for leadership through hands-on experiential learning. In Parker, Colorado, Troop 16 has a history of delivering BSA’s mission through monthly high adventure outdoor experiences that include camping in sub-zero temperatures, over-land Adventure Races, climbing 14,000 foot peaks, and river rafting, to name a few. And Les Stroud, Canadian filmmaker and survival expert, best known for his SurvivormanTM TV Series has become known for bringing a new genre of Survival Shows to television.  You can keep up with Les and his newest adventures at

Troop 16 is pleased to announce a new partnership with Les Stroud in establishing the SurvivormanTM Challenge, a Boy Scout Adventure which combines elements of the Orienteering and Wilderness Survival Merit Badges.  The SurvivormanTM Challenge was developed by Troop 16 in 2009 as a fun and high-adventure way to test the boys’ most basic outdoor skills of finding food and water, building shelters, signaling, making fire, and surviving the night.  This year, Les Stroud contacted Troop 16 and offered to endorse the challenge, and a partnership was borne. 

The SurvivormanTM Challenge

The basic idea behind the SurvivormanTM Challenge is to create a safe yet challenging environment in which scouts compete in patrols of 3 to 5 boys to earn points for each survival skill demonstrated.  It is based on the theme of surviving a plane crash.

shelterThe boys start in camp on Friday night, and go through SurvivormanTM School, a basic scouts survival skills school on Saturday morning. Then, after lunch on Saturday, their “plane crashes”, and the boys are dropped into the wilderness from an undisclosed location.   

Each boy is allowed to carry a short list of essential items, like a water bottle, pocketknife, first aid kit, sleeping bag and pad (since we run this at over a mile above sea level in May), and one or more extra items that the find from the “plane wreckage”.

Each team is given a map of the area, and is expected to orient themselves on their map and then begins the process of locating caches hidden throughout a several hundred acre wilderness area. The caches contain common items they might find in any wilderness like bits of rope, plastic bags or sheeting,  water, or items that are required in order to maintain Leave No Trace principles (like industrial food cans to build a fire in).  They must be able to demonstrate mastery of the map and compass in order to gain access to food, shelter and water, and must successfully build a fire without matches to cook their meals.  

The boys get points for each thing they do well, and the team with the most points at the end of the competition wins.  Points are awarded for each cache that they find, for each shelter they build and sleep in, for the knots they use, for properly identifying edible plants in the field, for the various ways they demonstrate to find and purify water, for the various ways they light a fire without matches or other accelerants, for demonstrating a variety of signalling techniques, and for a variety of other scout skills. Radio contact is maintained between the adult advisors and a command post, and the safety of the team is overseen by the adult

There are three levels to the Challenge: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.

Level 1: is an introduction to survival skills and is designed for First Year Scouts – it gives First Year Scouts and scouts that are new to the troop the opportunity to practice their orienteering skills, while completing their 5 mile hike requirements, all under the supervision of their adult mentor team and the watchful eye of their Patrol Leader. They do not spend the night in a shelter they make or make a meal from what they find.

Level 2: is designed for the majority of the scouts in the troop – those that are Trail to Life. The teams competing at Level 2 are competing against other teams with mixed aged scouts ranging from Second Year Scouts to Life Scouts. They compete in the full competition in every respect, and are testing not only their survival and scout skills, but also their Patrol Leader’s ability to motivate and direct his scouts.

bowdrillLevel 3: is designed for the Staff Patrol, which consists of the troop’s most senior scouts: the SPL, ASPLs, Troop Guides and Troop Instructors. For the competition, these boys participate in a competition with themselves to survive a night on their own with little or no supplies or food. The idea is to give them the opportunity to develop confidence and test the skills they developed in prior years, and to be able to survive should they ever find themselves in a real survival situation.

After surviving the night, the teams wake, eat a breakfast of nuts and berries, and must find their way to an extraction point that is identified by radio, where they are “rescued”.

The winning teams at Level 1 and 2 are awarded a SurvivormanTM Cup, which is filled with the candy of choice, for the teams to share.

 Note: SurvivormanTM and the Survivorman logo are Trademarks of Survivorman Productions, Inc. and of Les Stroud, and are used with permission.

Survivorman Challenge Information Packets

Troop 16 - Parker's High Adventure Troop