From Boy Scouts of America to Trail Life USA®

Trail Life USA® is a unique and separate youth outdoor activity from the Boy Scouts of America. Many people have asked whether there is a system for receiving credit or recognition of ranks and achievements earned or received as Scouts in BSA when joining Trail Life USA®.  This description is designed to provide an overview of that process.

Note: The Boy Scouts of America and Trail Life USA are separate and distinct entities, and the use of BSA terminology is purely for informational purposes only.

How is this done?

1) A youth or adult accesses a software module where they can enter all of a boy’s BSA achievements including earned rank advancement requirements, ranks, merit badges, Totin’ Chip, Firem’n Chit, service hours, religious awards, nights of camping, etc.

2) The software will generate a printout that will list:

  1. All of his Boy Scout achievements
  2. The corresponding Trail Life USA achievements for which credit will be given
  3. The documentation required to substantiate the BSA achievements

3) The boy can then go to the Trail Life USA Troop leader that handles advancement tracking for the Troop, who will populate the boy’s advancement record under Trail Life USA.

What are some tips for making the process smoother?

Both youth and adults should get a printout of their full advancement and training record from the BSA’s official record as soon as possible and before the end of the BSA troop’s charter year, when those records may no longer be accessible.

It is recommended that Troops that are transferring from BSA to Trail Life USA as an entire Troop should print out all member documentation as soon as possible. Adult leaders should not forget to print out their training record.


How do the ranks actually compare?

The above chart provides a general idea of how ranks compare between Boy Scouts and Trail Life USA.  There is not a simple exchange/transfer of a BSA rank for a corresponding rank in Trail Life USA.

When the program was designed, we set out to build the best outdoor training program we could from scratch. Doing so resulted in a process of training and tracking different from BSA.

For example, in the back of the BSA Handbook, there are rank requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks. In Trail Life USA, similar work is completed in teachable modules that we call Trail Badges. For example, our “Ropework” Trail Badge includes tying knots, whipping and fusing, and lashing skills. It is taught as a training module to boys in middle school.  So a boy that has earned First Class Rank in BSA or has completed all of the trail to First Class requirements for knots and lashings will automatically be credited with completing our Trail Life USA required Trail Badge “Ropework.” And a BSA Scout that has completed parts of these skills as rank requirements will receive a partial Ropework Trail Badge.

To earn our Ready Trailman Rank, a boy has to learn the requisite outdoor skills to be effective in an outdoor program, much as has been seen as reflective of a First Class Scout in Boy Scouts of America. But in addition, the Ready Trailman award has some extra Trail Badge requirements too, like the types of Merit Badges that Boy Scouts often earn first towards their Star Rank. Lastly, there is a faith-building activity required for Ready Trailman that can be met by prior completion of a middle school religious emblem or by a choice of faith-building activities in the Trail Life USA program.

The point is that many accomplishments in BSA will check off similar requirements in Trail Life USA, so the work will not have been in vain. However, depending on exactly which Boy Scout Merit Badges were earned along the way,they may or may not immediately meet the requirements for the next rank at Trail Life USA. In the end, every Trailman will be responsible for completing the same Trail Life USA advancement requirements, whether they complete them at Trail Life USA, or whether they transfer those requirements in from BSA.

What should I complete in BSA before transferring to TLUSA?

  • Complete BSA’s Tenderfoot, if you have not done so. Complete any other rank for which you are close to completion.
  • For those in the primary ranks (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class), it would be advisable to earn your Firem’n Chit and Totin’ Chip Cards.
  • If possible, complete partial merit badges.
  • Complete as many of the following Trail to First Class Requirements as you can – Tenderfoot: 2-6, 9, and 11-12; 2nd Class: 1-4, 7-8; 1st Class: 1-4 and 7-9.
  • Document your participation in 8-16 Troop Activities outside of regular Troop meetings in middle school, or in high school if you’re a high school student.  A good place to track these activities may be in your camping log in your Boy Scout handbook, if you have one.  Even track day events here – just write them down as zero nights overnight.
  • Log your nights camping – any nights camping so long as it was in a tent or under the stars (i.e. all summer camps count). 15 total are required for the Camping Trail Badge and 40 total for the Outdoor Life Trail Badge.
  • Log your service hours in the service log starting in June of this year.
  • The most useful Eagle required merit badges for a Trailman’s advancement are: Swimming, First Aid, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving. Those are worth completing if you’re close.
  • Also, useful for a Trailman’s advancement would be completing one of the following BSA merit badges: Personal Fitness, Cycling, Hiking, or Swimming AND the “Mile Swim BSA” award.
  • Next, consider completing the Camping or Environmental Science merit badges.
  • Cooking and Sustainability will transfer as electives, so are not as highly recommended

What are some examples of qualifying to transfer in at a Trail Life USA Rank?

Example: The following is an example of a combination that would qualify a Boy Scout to transfer into Navigators with the rank of Able Trailman:

  • Tenderfoot Rank
  • Completed towards 2nd Class: 2, 3cdefg
  • Completed towards 1st Class: 3, 4, 7, 8a
  • Completed Cards: Firem’n Chit; Totin’ Chip
  • Completed any 3 BSA merit badges

Example: The following is an example of a combination that would qualify a Boy Scout to transfer into Navigators with the rank of Ready Trailman:

  • Star Rank
  • Completed the following Eagle required merit badges: Swimming, First Aid, Communication, Camping
  • Completed any 5 additional BSA merit badges
  • 16 Troop activities other than regular meetings
  • Middle School Religious Recognition (e.g. God and Church)
  • 6 months leadership since earning 1st Class

What about Transferring into Trail Life USA as an Eagle Scout?

In the Trail Life USA program, our Horizon Award (see the chart above) includes having completed all the Merit Badge work that is required to earn the rank of BSA Eagle Scout except for the Family Man, Citizenship, and Personal Resources Trail Badges. As of July 1, 2018, the only thing that a Horizon Award recipient would not have completed that an Eagle Scout would have completed is a special service project, which we call our Freedom Servant Leadership Project and the Family Man, Citizenship, and Personal Resources Trail Badges.

To earn the Trail Life USA Freedom Award (our top award), a Trailman in the program is required to complete his Horizon Award and then complete his Freedom Servant Leadership Project, a high school faith requirement, and four real-life hands-on “Freedom Experiences” in our Majors and Minors Program. These are experiences in active citizenry that help prepare a boy for the real majors and minors program at college or life in the world as an active Christian man.

Youth Eagle Scouts are grandfathered into the Trail Life program with credit for 3 of these 4 required “Freedom Experiences,” so here is what a transferring Eagle Scout would need to do in order to then earn our top award, the Freedom Award:

  1. Maintain active participation in the Troop to the satisfaction of the Adventurers Advisor.
  2. Complete a High School Faith Building Activity Option (unless an activity deemed by the Advisor to be equivalent  was already completed in the BSA)
  3. Complete the Trail Life USA Family Man, Citizenship, and Personal Resources Trail Badges.
  4. Demonstrate a working knowledge of all transferred BSA Merit Badges.
  5. Complete a single Freedom Experience, which will determine the major that the Trailman will have associated with his Freedom Award.

Adult Eagle Scouts earned before January 1, 2019 can also earn the Freedom Award by completing the following requirements:

1) Enroll as an adult leader and adhere to and abide by our Statement of Faith and Values.

2) Complete training required for your adult position

3) Complete an adult Mentoring Freedom Experience while a registered leader in Trail Life USA. An adult Mentoring Freedom Experience is a significant project carried out to benefit the program of Trail Life USA or American Heritage Girls — like starting a Troop, serving as an effective Area Point Man or Commissioner, or some other meaningful service.

4) Present your Christian walk or testimony at a Troop, multi-Troop, Area, Regional, or National event.

5) Personally recruit at least one registered youth or adult member to the TLUSA program.

Additional procedures for Eagle Scouts wishing to complete the Freedom Award can be found in the document titled Freedom Award Procedure Guide Supplement for Youth and Adults on TroopTrack

Where do I find the software module to see how it works?

The Achievement Transfer Module is available here.