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The Trailblazing badge is part of the “It's Your Planet - Love It!” badge set introduced in 2011.

When a Girl Scout Cadette has earned this badge, she will know how to take a safe and fun overnight backpacking trip.

Step 1: Start planning your adventureEdit

When you’re packing in and packing out all your gear, pay special attention to preparation.  Do one of the choices below to help you review the planning checklist on the next page.


Ask an older Girl Scout or Girl Scout Volunteer for tips.  She should have tips on nearby campsites and recommendations for the kinds of gear you’ll need to stay safe and have fun.


Check with a member of a local trekking club.Ask the person to come speak to your group, tell you about trails in the area, and help you plan your adventure.


Do it yourself.Pick up maps and information about places to trek from a library, bookstore, or recreation center.  Look in hiking books or go online to research the supplies you’ll need.

“Cultivate the faculty of remembering time.  Some people can say a certain thing happened on a certain day but do not know the hour even approximately.  When I am in the city and hear the fire alarm I am sure to notice the time. It may sometime be good evidence.”

                                                     -How Girls Can Help Their Country,1913

Step 2: Get your body and your teamwork skills readyEdit

Hiking can be hard work, so make sure you’re ready.  Can you carry all your supplies over the distances and terrain you’ll travel?  Can you work together with your trailblazing companions?  Get your group in mental and physical shape for the trip.  (For at least one of the sessions, do your exercise with your pack fully loaded and in the shoes you plan to wear.)

Before you begin, fill out the quiz in the blue box and discuss your answers with your group.


Participate in a physically challenging team-building course.  These might be offered through your Girl Scout council, Outward Bound, or another organization.  To continue to practice the skills you gained on the course, meet at least twice before you go. 



Build teamwork and endurance.Do three hikes, bike trips, or jogs of at least 30 minutes each with the friends with whom you’ll be hiking.  Try to practice on your own as well.



Try a “boot camp” exercise course.Find a course in your community, or ask a coach or trainer to help you make your own.  Practice the routine at least three times all together before you go.  Try to practice on your own as well.

TIP    Just as important as being able to go, go, go is knowing when to give your body a break.  During this step, practice listening to your body when it wants to slow down and conserve energy.

Cooking over an outdoor fire is a fine art and has to be studied carefully.  It should be called almost a post-graduate course in the camp studies.

QUIZ: What is Your M.Q. (Maturity Quotient)?

There are many characteristics of a person with the maturity to get along with others in a group setting.  If an important one is not listed below, add your own ideas. Which of the following characteristics of a mature person do you possess?

First, check all that apply to you.  Then, discuss with your group how these characteristics help people work together.

  • Being open-minded
  • Being flexible
  • Not picking on small things
  • Sharing hard work
  • Being able to admit when your are wrong
  • Thinking before you speak
  • Knowing you are not perfect
  • Knowing other people are not always right
  • Respecting the rights of others
  • Being responsible
  • Being self-motivated

Step 3: Create your menuEdit


Ranger in summer flat hat speaks to group

You’ll need meals that are not only energy-packed but lightweight.  What’s the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?  Which foods pack best?  Which need to be repackaged?  What do you need to eat to keep your warm, energized, and satisfied?  Find the answers and plan your menu based on what you discover.  Use one of these choices to help you.


Find three recipes for quick meals.  Look for meals that can be cooked quickly in one pot using a cooking stove.  Quick cooking means more time can be spent exploring. It, also, means using less cooking fuel. Ask your companions about their favorite foods and any allergy restrictions, and keep them in mind. 



Get into quick-energy snacks.You’ll need fast fuel on your trek!  Plan a menu to include energy bars and other non-cook lunch items.  Then, try three different recipes for energy bars or quick snacks before you go, and make your favorite to take on your trek.



Take the trash challenge.Since you’ll be packing out what you packed in, plan your menu to create as little trash as possible.  Bringing just enough food for each person and selecting foods with minimal packaging are two ways to reduce trash – find at least three more.

TIP: Under no circumstances should any food EVER be kept in a tent – it WILL attract animals (like bears) and insects.  You, ALSO, need to make sure there is none on your clothing or other equipment when you go to bed.

Careers to Explore Edit

  • Park ranger          
  • Camp counselor              
  • Environmental engineer
  • Astronomer          
  • Outdoor educator          
  • Environmental journalist
  • Geologist              
  • Particle physicist          
  • Landscape architect
  • Sociologist            
  • Soil inspector             
  • Infectious-disease biologist
  • Surveyor              
  • Fabric developer         
  • Water-quality technician
  • Mathematician      
  • Product developer        
  • Emergency-medical technician

Step 4: Gain some trailblazing know-howEdit

You might already have some great trail skills, and if you don’t, one of your trailblazing companions might.  Within your group, assess what would be most useful for each person to learn and divide these choices accordingly.


Learn how to purify water.The farther away from civilization you head, the less likely you are to find a water tap!  Research the common water pollutants in the area where you’ll travel. Find out about methods of purifying water and practice at least one.

FOR MORE FUN: Learn how to construct a solar still in the ground to extract water.



Practice navigating with a map and compass or GPS unit.Trace out a hiking route on a topographical map.  Describe what you would see along the way by visualizing the terrain from the map symbols, and decide where you’ll take rest breaks based on the topography.  Remember, if you’re taking technology on the trail, have a low-tech backup in case you move out of range of GPS satellites.

FOR MORE FUN:  Try orienteering or geocaching on the trip.  



Pitch your tent three times in three different locations.Select a tent that will meet the needs of your group.  Then practice assembling, taking down, and storing the tent in three locations with different conditions.  You’ll always want a well-drained, level tent site, but it’s good to practice in various conditions – who knows where you might go trailblazing next!


Build a shelter. What shelter needs might you have in a survival situation? If it’s environmentally sound and you have permission, construct a shelter using fallen branches, other found materials, or the natural features of a site.  For example, construct a snow cave for winter survival or storm-lash a backpacking tent.

  • Make sure you leave your hike route, destination, and time you’re expected to return with an adult back home.
  • Choose your site well before dark, so you have chance to get everything set up.
  • Set up camp well away from the shore of a stream, lake, or other body of water.
  • Check weather reports before you go to be prepared for possible conditions.
  • Whenever possible, use an established campsite to concentrate your impact on the environment rather than disturb a new area or multiple areas.  If you need to make a new site, try for minimal impact.
  • Find out if primitive toilets will be provided, or if you’ll be digging your own.  If so, check to see what’s allowed in your area and prepare accordingly. Don’t forget your hand sanitizer!

·              Plan ahead and prepare

·              Travel and camp on durable surfaces

·              Dispose of waste properly

·              Leave what you find

·              Minimize campfire impacts

·              Respect wildlife

·              Be considerate of other visitors

There is a peculiar charm about the morning in the open woods that must be felt to be appreciated.

-How Girls Can Help Their Country, 1913

Step 5: Head out on the trailEdit

Enjoy being away from it all and out in the natural world, using your skills and adventuring with friends.  Practice Leave No Trace principles, and take time to bond and reflect on your experience. Try one of these activities once you’ve settled in for the evening.


Play stuff-sack dramatics.  From tents or packs, everyone finds the strangest thing they have.  Then, get into teams.  Make as many stuff sacks as the number of teams, and mix up the objects evenly in the sacks.  Then, give each team 15 minutes to invent a play that uses every object as a prop. Remember, use the objects as things they’re NOT – a banana is nota fruit, but a telephone, a stray sock, or a fancy glove. 



See the stars.  Bring a guide to constellations with you, and identify as many as you can in the night sky. Talk about the stories behind the stars from Greek mythology.  And, what about a game of constellation charades using what you find out from stories?



Tell a progressive story.One girl starts a story and tells it for a minute, and, then, the story is picked up by the next girl until everyone has made up a part.  You could even act out the story as you tell it, or tell your part in song!

TIP: If you have a digital camera, video camera, or smartphone document your trip in video and photos.  When you get home, make a digital album to share with the group.

PAGEto the PAST      Cadette Trailblazing Skills from 1963

How many skills from these historic Girl Scout badges do you have? If any appeal to you, you might learn them before you head out.


  • Learn to handle and care for a tool you never used before.  Make something of wood or tin.


  • Know which plants and flowers in your state may never be picked.  Be able to identify them.


  • Demonstrate skill in the use of tools, knots, lashing, compass, map.  Conservation practices.  Ability to forecast weather.
  • Make plans on how to meet emergencies, such as forest fires, a sudden storm, a lost camper, wilderness first aid, evacuation.

Additional ResourcesEdit

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