Getting Started FAQs

What makes Trail Life different from the Boy Scouts (Scouting America)?

There are many differences between Scouting America and Trail Life. Here are the most notable distinctions that set Trail Life apart:

  • Trail Life provides an unapologetically Christian stance, with the Bible as the foundation for truth and stated Christian Worldview Essentials that permeate the program.
  • Youth membership is limited to only males.
  • Trail Life provides trained, background-checked, and equipped Christian men who lead boys in a male-centric environment.
  • Trail Life provides a Boy-Focused program and activities designed to let boys be boys, accentuating their strengths.
  • Trail Life provides a robust awards program and challenging physical, mental, and spiritual objectives that let boys experience victory.
  • The Charter Organization that has a Trail Life Troop owns and operates that Troop as its own ministry.

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What makes Trail Life different from other Christian youth organizations?

Most other Christian youth organizations are limited to either a specific denomination/faith tradition or a general region of the country.

Trail Life is interdenominational, with Charter Organizations representing Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faith traditions across all 50 states. 

What is the end goal of Trail Life?

Our Vision is to be the premier character development organization for young men which produces Godly husbands, fathers, and citizens. 

Our Mission is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure. 

How often do Troops meet?

Typically, Troops meet once a week for about eight to nine months of the year. 

However, each Troop sets their own meeting schedule based on what works best for their Charter Organization. Click the Find A Troop button to connect with your local Troops to find out their particular meeting schedules.

What does a typical Troop meeting look like?

Typical Troop meetings are designed to be active, fun, and most often outdoors. They will generally follow a similar flow:

An opening ceremony

Troop-wide announcements and devotion

Patrol-specific breakout activities*

Troop-wide game or activity

Biblical connections and a closing ceremony


*Older Trailmen will often teach the younger Trailmen a Badge or skill at meetings and outdoor activities.

How old does a boy need to be to join?

Youth membership is open to all boys at least 5 years old and less than 18 years of age.

Trailmen are expected to advance through the program with other Trailmen their age.


How much does it cost for a boy to join a Troop?

The Trail Life youth membership fee is $37.97 per year.

This fee is paid directly to Trail Life upon joining and annually thereafter. Additional charges could include uniform costs, handbook costs, and/or Troop activity fees.  Troops are encouraged to fundraise to minimize any additional costs to families. 


Adult members pay an annual membership fee of $43.19. The higher amount covers the costs of periodic criminal background checks, supplemental evaluation processes, and youth protection training for adult members.

NOTE - Membership and Troop fees are non-refundable, and all fees must be paid via credit or debit card.

How does a boy become a member?

Youth members are added to an existing Trail Life Troop. Contact your local Troop for instructions.

You can find the closest Troop to you by going to and clicking on "Find a Troop". You can use the "Connect with Troop" link to submit your contact information.

How involved should I be as the parent?

Parents are encouraged to take an active role in their son’s program, whether by attending meetings, completing in-home activities, teaching a specific skill at an outing, or just providing encouragement. We encourage parents to become Registered Adults so they can provide additional support for their son(s) and Troop when needed.

NOTE: Foxes (5-6 year olds) are required to have at least one parent in attendance at all meetings and outings. 

Can a boy still join if his Dad is not in the picture?


Whether dad is permanently or temporarily out of the picture, your son is welcome at any Trail Life Troop. There he will find many Godly men to help him along his journey to manhood.

Is it possible for a boy to go through the program alone if no Troop is close?
Not at this time, as it does not satisfy the patrol method that is part of our character and leadership development philosophy.
Do you have or can you recommend a youth program for girls?

We recommend our sister program, the American Heritage Girls. You can find more about AHG at

What is a Charter Organization?

A Charter Organization is a Christian non-profit organization that has started a Trail Life Troop.  These organizations (typically churches) must align with Trail Life's Statements of Faith and Values.

Each Charter Organization owns and operates its Trail Life Troop as a ministry of that local organization or church.

Youth Protection FAQs

What Child Safety policies does Trail Life have?

Trail Life has extensive Child Safety policies in place. The following list are the most notable.

  • Every adult leader must initially and periodically pass a nationwide criminal background check and Trail Life's Child Safety and Youth Protection training.
  • Every adult leader must be approved of by the local Charter Organization or Trail Life Area/Regional leadership. 
  • The 1,2,3 Youth Protection Essentials are strictly upheld at all levels
    • No one-on-one. A youth must never be alone one-on-one with any adult that is not their parent or legal guardian.
    • Two-deep leadership. At all times, groups of Trailmen must be within eyeshot or earshot of no less than two registered adult Trail Life members. 
    • Buddy System of three. Trailmen should camp and participate in activities in a buddy group of three Trailmen from the same age patrol. 
  • Trail Life has an extensive Activities Risk Reference Guide that outlines the major and most common risks associated with common Trail Life-approved activities. 
  • Qualified supervision for all Trail Life-approved activities is defined within the Activities Risk Reference Guide. 
  • Trail Life has an easily accessible Health and Safety Guide available on the main dashboard of Trail Life Connect.
Does Trail Life require background checks for leaders?

Yes. As part of the registration process, all leaders receive a comprehensive background check ordered by Trail Life.

Does Trail Life require Child Safety Youth Protection Training?

Yes. This “Child Safety Youth Protection Training” program is required as part of the adult leader application process.

Will American Heritage Girls leader registrations, background checks, or training transfer to Trail Life?

No.  Trail Life and American Heritage Girls are separate organizations with separate records, contracts, insurance, and liability. Trail Life volunteers must complete the membership application, background check, and Child Safety Youth Protection training specific to Trail Life.

My church requires its own background check and youth safety training. Can I use that to fulfill my Trail Life requirements?

No. Trail Life must complete its background check and verify completion of its own Child Safety Youth Protection Training.

Program FAQs

Is your program co-ed?

Our youth programs are not co-ed. They are only for biologically-born males presenting as and living consistent with that sex. (Woodlands Trail, Navigators, and Adventurers programs - ages 5-17). 

Our young adult program is co-ed for both young adult men and women (Guidon - ages 18-25).

What is the emphasis of the Trail Life program?

Trail Life has a strong emphasis on experiencing God outdoors in His creation, providing opportunities for young men to lead others, and helping them grow in their knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ. These are accomplished through our 6 Program Emphases: Wisdom, Heritage, Teamwork, Leadership, Character, and Faith. 

How does faith factor into the program?

As an unapologetically Christ-centered organization, our faith is woven throughout the program without being unnecessarily “religious” or “churchy.”

From faith-building options in the advancement program to more in-depth discipleship opportunities, adult and youth members receive biblical instruction and training.

As iron sharpens iron, so too will boys sharpen the faith of their peers. Adult Christian leaders will guide youth in the development of their faith and moral decision-making, as well as sharpen the faith of their adult peers.

Will the program be different if a Troop is chartered by a Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox church?

From a faith perspective, each Charter Organization oversees its own program and emphasizes its own denomination-specific customs and theology.

All Charter Organizations must accept the basic tenets of Trinitarian Christian doctrine and be in agreement with the Trail Life Christian Statements of Faith and Values.

All adult leaders in a Troop must be Christian leaders selected by the Charter Organization and they must agree with and abide by that same Christian Statement of Faith and Values.

What are Trail Life's Ranks and/or Awards?

Woodlands Trail – The Woodlands Trail program (ages 5-10) is a participation-based program where Trailmen attend and participate in meetings to earn Branch Pins and Sylvan Star Pins from 7 Branches (categories of activities). These pins are affixed to their Branch Patch and Forest Award Patch respectively.

Mountain Lions are eligible to earn the Woodlands Trail capstone award, the Timberline Award.

Navigators & Adventurers – Navigators (ages 11-13) and Adventurers (ages 14-17) both are progressing through six Ranks:

  1. Recruit Trailman Rank
  2. Able Trailman Rank
  3. Ready Trailman Rank
  4. Journey Rank
  5. Ascent Rank
  6. Horizon Rank

These Ranks are earned based on the completion of various Trail Badges, leadership, service, and participation requirements.

Navigator Trailmen who have earned the third rank (Ready Rank) are eligible to earn the Navigators capstone award, the Ridgeline Award.

Adventurers who have earned the sixth rank (Horizon Rank) are eligible to earn the Trail Life capstone award, the Freedom Award*.

Additionally, Trailmen at every level have the ability to earn Trail Life's Worthy Life Award. This is the faith-building award designed to be customizable for various faith traditions.


*The Freedom Award requires a significant amount of time to complete and must be completed by the Trailman's 18th birthday.

Does Trail Life have a major capstone award similar to the Eagle Scout Rank?

Yes. The Freedom Award is the highest Award in Trail Life and is the culmination of everything that Trailmen have learned and experienced along the Trail. 

Only Adventurer-age Trailmen who have earned the highest Rank (Horizon Rank) are eligible to earn this Award. The award's focus moves towards Christian manhood with the Adventurer Worthy Life Award, four separate Freedom Experiences, and the Servant Leadership Project. 

A Trailman must complete all Freedom Award requirements by his 18th birthday. Once a Trailman earns this prestigious award, he earns the forever title of Freedom Rangeman. 

Are there scholarships for boys who earn the Freedom Award? Or can they start at a higher Rank in the military?

The Freedom Award is gaining notoriety with Christian colleges and universities. Available scholarships are described on the Member Benefits page in Trail Life Connect.

For the US military, it is contingent upon the individual recruiters to recognize, review, and award a higher starting Rank. You will need to check with your local military recruiting office.

Do Trailmen earn badges for advancement?

Yes. In the Navigators and the Adventurers programs, Trailmen learn various skills through Trail Badges. There are 15 specific Trail Badges that are required and are prerequisites for Rank advancement. 

Required Trail Badges include Aquatics, Camping, Fire Ranger, First Aid, Our Flag, Outdoor Cooking, Ropework, Trail Skills, Woods Tools, Citizenship, Emergency Preparedness, Family Man, Outdoor Life, Personal Resources, and one Fitness Trail Badge option (either Swimming, Hiking, Fitness, or Cycling).

Additionally, Trailmen are required to earn a minimum of ten Elective Trail Badges. Trailmen can choose Elective Trail Badges that are currently available, or Trailmen can choose to create their own Elective Trail Badge using Trail Life's Design Your Own Badge guidelines.

Are there handbooks available?

Yes. Trailmen in the Woodlands Trail (ages 5-10) will all use the Woodlands Trail Handbook. This handbook is a flip book with one side being the handbook side and one side containing 25 fictional short stories from our animated characters the "Woodlands Pals."

Trailmen in the Navigators and Adventurers programs (ages 11-17) will all use the Navigators & Adventurers Handbook. This handbook contains the requirements for Trail Badges, Ranks, and Capstone Awards, as well as a First Aid guidebook.  The last part of this handbook is called the Patrol Leader's Guidebook, designed for each Trailman to use as he gets ready to and after he holds a youth leader role in the Troop. 

Parents and Leaders also have a handbook. This is called the Parent and Leader Guide. This is also a flip book with one side being a high-level overview of the foundational information of the Trail Life program. The opposite side is titled, "Tools of the Trail." That side provides more details on specific aspects of leading the various Trail Life programs. 

Does the Trail Life program year follow the typical school year?

Troops are free to plan their own annual calendar starting and ending in whatever month works best for their Charter Organization.

However, most youth graduations to the next program level occur at the end of the regular public school year, typically by June 30th.

This schedule allows boys to enjoy planned summer activities in their new patrol.

Does Trail Life offer a summer camp program?

The Trail Life program is geared around adventure. Troops have the flexibility to plan and design their own summer adventure programs.

Occasionally, the local Trail Life Area or Region will plan a multi-Troop Summer Adventure event. Check the Area and Regional calendars in Trail Life Connect to see if one is scheduled in your Area.

NOTE: Summer Adventures should focus more on fun experiences than Trail Badge or Rank completions.

Does Trail Life allow family camping?
Family camping is not a recognized or authorized Trail Life activity because of the unique health and safety, child protection, and program issues/challenges it creates. 
Do Trail Life and American Heritage Girls operate together?

While American Heritage Girls (AHG) and Trail Life Troops can certainly operate side-by-side sharing a Charter Organization and meeting night, AHG and Trail Life Troop members are still required to abide by the standards set forth in the guidelines and procedures of their respective organizations.

While there is the possibility for occasional joint events to be held, each Program is distinct with AHG being designed for girls and Trail Life for young men. Additionally, any joint camping event must be governed by the Camping with AHG Troops policy found in Trail Life Connect.

Is there a uniform requirement?

There is not a strict requirement for the full “Troop uniform” as Trailmen begin their journey, but Trailmen should soon have uniforms–and there are three options available on the Trail Life store:

Trail Uniform – The Trail Uniform is an inexpensive t-shirt bearing the Trail Life logo and patrol Level insignia. They are available in Woodlands Trail Green, Navigators Gray, and Adventurers Blue.

Travel Uniform – The Travel Uniform is a nice polo used when traveling or wearing to Troop meetings.  It is embroidered with the Trail Life logo and bears the patrol level insignia on the sleeve. They are available in Woodlands Trail Green, Navigators Gray, Adventurers Blue, and Guidon Orange.

Troop Uniform – The Troop Uniform is the formal uniform for Troop meetings or formal dress occasions. This same uniform is used by all levels of Trailmen including male adults.

Troop Operations FAQs

What is Trail Life's policy regarding "Troop dues?"

In addition to the Trail Life membership fees, Troops are free to assess or not to assess Troop dues as deemed appropriate by each Troop's Committee based on their Troop's budget.

What is the relationship between the Troop and the Charter Organization?

The Troop is an active ministry of the Charter Organization, which owns the Troop and its assets. It is a true partnership that serves the Charter Organization, the Troop, and the community. The Troop Ministry Liaison role serves as the facilitating church or organizational leader in overseeing the ministry, leadership, and activities of the Troop on behalf of the Charter Organization.

Are Charter Organizations required to be Christian?

Yes. Our Charter Organizations are Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian churches and organizations. Messianic Jewish denominations that worship Jesus Christ as the prophesied Messiah of the scriptures may also charter Troops.

How can I have a Troop at my church?

By clicking Start a Troop on the main website, you will be guided through the process of how you can have a Troop at your church.

Experienced volunteers will connect with you and go with you to help your Pastor see the benefits of having a Trail Life Troop at your church. 

How much does it cost to have a Troop at my church?

Starting a Troop is what we call Chartering a Troop. There are a couple of different annual fees required to Charter a Troop.

First-Year Fees:

  • Pre-charter Fee ($99): This application fee includes a New Troop Starter Kit with key Trail Life resources to assist you in the chartering process.
  • Year One Charter Fee ($325)*: The first-year charter fee is assessed to each Charter Organization and is separate from the $99 Pre-charter fee.

Recharter Fees:

  • Subsequent year Recharter Fee ($195)*
  • Program Fee ($20/registered youth annually)**: The Annual Troop Program Fee is assessed at the time of the Troop's Recharter and is charged at $20 for each Registered Youth Member. Payment is due by the Troop within six months. 

*Charter and Recharter fees cover liability insurance, Trail Life staffing, program development, and administrative support for leaders and Charter Organizations.

**The Annual Troop Program Fee provides for the budgetary needs of the Trail Life National Organization, thereby making it possible for Troops to retain 100% of the profits from their fundraisers.

NOTE - Membership and Troop fees are non-refundable, and all fees must be paid via credit or debit card.

What about fundraising?

Fundraisers are coordinated at the Troop level based on state laws and each Charter Organization's rules and are subject to the approval of the Charter Organization.

The Trail Life Home Office does not receive any percentage of funds raised by Troops.

Troops cannot maintain individual fundraising accounts for members. All fundraising proceeds for the group shall go into one "pot" for the benefit of the entirety of Troop members. 

Are non-Christian youth permitted to join a Trail Life Troop?

Our Member policy allows for boys of any faith (or no faith at all) to participate in the program of Trail Life.

Local Charter Organizations satisfy the specific ministry goals of their church or organization. In some cases, that may be as an outreach ministry to boys in the community. In other cases, that may be as an in-reach ministry specifically to minister to the families or members of the local church or organization. Therefore, individual Charter Organizations may have more specific membership requirements that limit Troop membership to boys of a certain faith or membership in a certain organization.

Is a Troop's membership limited to youth of the same denomination or faith tradition?
Trail Life does not restrict youth membership in this manner, but a local Charter Organization determines which youth it desires to have participate in its Troop and therefore may impose requirements in addition to Trail Life’s Membership Standards, making them more restrictive provided that such standards are consistent with Trail Life’s membership standards; however, it may not loosen Trail Life’s membership standards.
Can I become an adult member?

Adults can become members of local Troops, Trail Life Area Teams, and/or Regional Teams. To become a Registered Adult at any level, you will need to go through the following process:

  1. You must be invited by a Troop, Area, or Regional leader.
  2. You must submit a membership application in Trail Life Connect.
  3. The application will be reviewed by the Trail Life Home Office first. 
  4.  The application and references will be reviewed by either the Troop Ministry Liaison, Area Point Man, or Regional Team Leader respectively.
  5. The application will be sent for a national criminal background check as well as other state-specific checks.
  6. The criminal background check report and application are reviewed by the Home Office again for certification. 
  7. The applicant must successfully complete Trail Life's Child Safety & Youth.
Can women serve as leaders in Trail Life?

Women can serve in almost every leadership role across the organization from the Troop to the National level. 

However, to preserve the core value of Male-Centered Leadership in Troops, "direct contact" positions in the Navigators and Adventurers program levels as well as the positions of Troopmaster and Troop Chaplain are reserved for men. 

Mountain Lion Trail Guides in the Woodlands Trail program are highly recommended to be males. However, a female can serve in this role only if there is not a male to do so.

What are the adult leadership positions needed to Charter a Troop?

The Senior Ministry Leader of each Charter Organization (typically the Senior Pastor) will initiate the Troop chartering by appointing or serving as the Troop Ministry Liaison (TML).

  1. The Troop Ministry Liaison oversees the ministry, leadership, and activities of the Troop on behalf of the Charter Organization's SML. He then selects:
  2. The Troop Committee Chair who leads the rest of the Troop Committee to govern the Troop's operation.
  3. The Troop Treasurer maintains the Troop budget and accounting of funds.
  4. The Troopmaster oversees the Troop programming and serves on the Troop Committee to represent the direct contact leaders for each program. 
  5. The Troop Chaplain is responsible for incorporating the Charter Organization's faith tradition elements into the Trail Life program. The Troop Chaplain can be filled by the TML if the TML is male.
Do leaders have to be members of the Charter Organization?
Each Charter Organization owns and operates its Troop ministry. This restriction is determined by the Charter Organization's Senior Ministry Leader (typically the Senior Pastor).
Will the Charter Organization own the assets of the Trail Life Troop?
The Charter Organization (the church) will own all Troop assets that are donated to or bought by the Troop. 

General FAQs

Is Trail Life a 501(c)(3)?
Yes. Trail Life is a 501(c)(3) “public charity” non-profit corporation.
If I donate to an individual Troop, is it deductible as a charitable contribution?
If the Charter Organization that owns that Troop ministry is recognized by the IRS as a non-profit organization and the donations are processed through the Charter Organization on behalf of the Troop, it should be a deductible contribution.
What is the basic Trail Life organizational structure?

A national structure (Board, staff, and National Advisory Council committees) is in place to support the efforts at the Troop level.

To provide optimal customer service, Trail Life has eight geographical Regions to assist with supporting the program wherever you live.

Regions are further divided into Areas, which provide support to Troops - often in person. Area Teams are overseen by a Point Man, who works through his experienced volunteers to provide vital support in all facets of the program in that geographical area. 

Could a non-Trinitarian church such as Latter Day Saints or Jehovah's Witnesses charter a Trail Life Troop?

Non-Trinitarian denominations do not participate in our program because our specific Statement of Faith adheres to Trinitarian doctrine.

Can a Charter Organization have a Trail Life Troop and a Scouting America Troop, Pack, Team, and/or Crew?
While we believe a Church or Charter Organization should contemplate why two organizations with vastly different missions would be appropriate, Trail Life does not prevent a Charter Organization from also chartering other types of youth organizations - including a Scouting America unit. However, Charter Organizations must understand that nothing from any other organization would be accepted in Trail Life, including but not limited to membership, background checks, training, or youth achievements.
What is the position of Trail Life regarding homosexuality?

We believe that homosexuality is sinful and immoral, as is any sexual activity outside of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Consistent with this belief, we have specific policies that address membership and sin in both youth and adult members.

What is Trail Life's political affiliation?

Trail Life does not endorse any particular political party or any specific political candidate.

Does Trail Life supply liability and accident insurance?
Yes, Trail Life provides liability and accident insurance as secondary insurance for registered members (youth and adults) participating in Trail Life activities.
What is Trail Life's policy on privacy?

Trail Life is committed to respecting and protecting the personal privacy of its members, donors, supporters, and those who visit our website. Please CLICK HERE to read our Privacy Policy.