Outdoor Ethics Patch and Pictures
Search

The Outdoor Code

The Outdoor Code captures the essence of the Scouting Outdoor Ethic and establishes our aspirations and commitment.

The BSA first publicized the Outdoor Code in the March 1954 edition of Boy's Life magazine.

Outdoor Code

As an American, I will do my best to --
* Be clean in my outdoor manners.
I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will take care of it for myself and others. I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.
* Be careful with fire.
I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fires only when and where they are permitted and appropriate. When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out. I will leave a clean fire ring or remove all evidence of my fire.
* Be considerate in the outdoors.
I will treat the land and other land users with respect. I will follow the principles of outdoor ethics for all outdoor activities.
* Be conservation-minded.
I will learn about and practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife and energy. I will urge others to do the same.
Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, 2016

History of the Outdoor Code

Pledge Contest

Conseration Pledge Contest advertisement
Contest advertisement from Boys's Life magazine, April 1946, p26

Conservation Pledge

The precursor to BSA's Outdoor Code was the "Conservation Pledge":

  • In 1946, Outdoor Life Magazine held a nationwide contest for a thirty-word Conservation Pledge.

    Conservation Pledge

    Conseration Pledge
    Conservation Pledge as it appeared in Boys's Life magazine, August 1947, p46
  • Over 15,000 entries were received, and the winner was announced in December 1946. (more details)
  • The winning Pledge was featured on the January 1947 cover of Outdoor Life magazine.
  • Boy's Life magazine printed the Conservation Pledge (as at the right) in most issues from June of 1947 (pg 41) through January of 1954 (pg 62).
  • The Conservation Pledge was included in early printings (1st-7th, 1948-1954) of the 5th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.

Outdoor Code

The Outdoor Code first appeared in Boy's Life magazine in the March 1954 issue, which featured "An Outdoor Code for Americans" and "B.S.A.'s Conservation Good Turn". The Good Turn was prompted by a request from President Dwight Eisenhower, challenging the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for natural resources.

This full page version of the Outdoor Code was on the first page of the color section (p35) of the magazine.

On page 27 Green Bar Bill announced the National Conservation Good Turn:
"The Kick-Off Activity during the week of March 21-27 will be the publicizing of the OUTDOOR CODE for Americans -- developed by the Boy Scouts of America, and promoted by all of us -- by you and me."

The article also encouraged Scouts to:

  • "Spread the message wherever you can -- in your Troop, your school, your family, among your friends"
  • Sign the Conservation Good Turn Pledge Card and "make your whole gang enthusiastic about doing a worthwhile job in conservation this year."
  • "Place the color page of the Code .. on the wall of your Patrol den."
 

 

The Outdoor Code first appeared in the Boy Scout Handbook in February 1955, in the 8th printing of the 5th Edition. It replaced the Conservation Pledge on page 131.

(Thanks to everyone who checked their 5th Edition Handbook printings to help track this down.)


Other Resources:

Previous Versions of the Outdoor Code

While the four key points have not changed, there have been many revisions of the wording describing each of the points over the years.

Outdoor Code - Boys Life, March, 1954

As an American, I will do my best to --
BE CLEAN IN MY OUTDOOR MANNERS -- I will treat the outdoors as a heritage to be improved for our greater enjoyment. I will keep my trash and garbage out of America's waters, fields, woods, and roadways.
BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE -- I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fire in a safe place and be sure it is out before I leave.
BE CONSIDERATE IN THE OUTDOORS -- I will treat public and private property with respect. I will remember that use of the outdoors is a privilege I can lose by abuse.
BE CONSERVATION-MINDED -- I will learn how to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, and wildlife; and I will urge others to do the same. I will use sportsmanlike methods in all my outdoor activities.
Original 1954 version
5th, 6th, ...? Edition Boy Scout Handbook
1990 printing of The Scoutmaster Handbook

1982? Revision

As an American, I will do my best to --
BE CLEAN IN MY OUTDOOR MANNERS -- I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will try to improve it for myself and others. I will keep my trash and garbage out of America's waters, fields, woods, and roadways.
BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE -- I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fire in a safe place and be sure it is out before I leave.
BE CONSIDERATE IN THE OUTDOORS -- I will treat public and private property with respect. I will remember that use of the outdoors is a right that I can lose by abuse.
BE CONSERVATION-MINDED -- I will learn how to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife and energy. I will urge others to do the same.
1982?-1988?
..?, 9th Edition (8th printing), ..?Boy Scout Handbook

1990? Revision

As an American, I will do my best to --
BE CLEAN IN MY OUTDOOR MANNERS -- I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will take care of it for myself and others. I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.
BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE -- I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fires only where they are appropriate. When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold-out. I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.
BE CONSIDERATE IN THE OUTDOORS -- I will treat public and private property with respect. I will use low-impact methods of hiking and camping.
BE CONSERVATION-MINDED -- I will learn how to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife and energy. I will urge others to do the same.
1990?-?
..?, 10th Edition Boy Scout Handbook
2003 Outdoor Code Poster

? Revision

As an American, I will do my best to --
BE CLEAN IN MY OUTDOOR MANNERS -- I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will take care of it for myself and others. I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.
BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE -- I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fires only when and where they are appropriate. When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out. I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.
BE CONSIDERATE IN THE OUTDOORS -- I will treat public and private property with respect. I will follow the Principles of Leave No Trace for all outdoor activities.
BE CONSERVATION-MINDED -- I will learn about and practice good conservation of soil, waters, forests, minerals, grasslands, wildlife and energy. I will urge others to do the same.
Scoutmaster Handbook, 2008 printing

2012 Proposed Revision

As an American, I will do my best to be:
Clean in my outdoor manners - We will clean up after ourselves using pack it in, pack it out techniques. We avoid leaving graffiti, fire rings, camp gadgets, and other signs of our presence.
Careful with fire - Fire is an important tool, but one that can be devastating if it gets out of hand. We think about the need for fire, how best to use it, and how to minimize its impacts.
Considerate in the outdoors - We will think about others as well as ourselves and how our presence impacts them. We think about not just our impact on other humans, but also on wildlife and the environment.
Conservation minded - We will think about our impacts on the environment. We take steps to correct and redress damage to the environment.
2012 BSA Outdoor Ethics Conference

Newer Editions of the Scout Handbook and Fieldbook

The Outdoor Code was not included in the Third Edition (1984, 1989) of the Fieldbook.

The 1998 11th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook included the key points of the Outdoor Code, but did not include any additional wording.

The 2010 Centennial 12th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook included the key points of the Outdoor Code, but did not include any additional wording.

The Outdoor Code's key points were printed inside the front cover of the 2014 Fifth Edition of the Fieldbook, but it did not include any additional wording.


BSA Logo Boy Scouts of America - Outdoor Ethics - All Rights Reserved