Frequently Asked Questions
- The charter and individual registration processes are managed online using our paperless charter and registration system.
- The Home Office (National), Regional, and Area (local) staff and volunteers provide Troop support.
- Program documents that guide registered leaders in implementing an effective Troop program are accessible at the start of the online charter process so Troops can begin planning immediately for their own launch.
There are a number of ways to connect with people who share your desire to start or grow a Trail Life USA Troop:
- Go to our Troop Locator page on traillifeusa.com. You can find Troops that are chartered or forming and register your interest.
- Check out the many Trail Life USA Facebook pages that have started to gather people together from different areas of the country. Perhaps there is one in your area.
- If you are a homeschooler, see if you can connect through your homeschool association, as many homeschoolers support the Trail Life USA program.
- Talk to your own church or another church in your community about starting a Trail Life USA Troop. Perhaps you could even serve as their resource to help them start a troop. There are resources for starting a troop here.
Yes. There are hundreds of Christian Retreat and Adventure Camps all over the country. Trail Life USA Home Office will continue to evaluate and recommend camps, but Troop Leaders can conduct their own research. A good place to start is http://www.ccca.org
Although Trail Life USA is specifically Christian, it is interdenominational, with Charter Organizations representing Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faith traditions. Plus, it has a strong focus on outdoor skills and camping. Our goal is to be the premier adventure, character, and leadership development organization for boys in the USA.
Our Vision is to build men of faith and character who will become godly husbands, fathers, and citizens.
Trail Life USA has 6 Program Emphases: Wisdom, Heritage, Teamwork, Leadership, Character, and Faith. Our program components support youth development, understanding, and practical experiences in these key areas.
As a Christ-centered organization, our faith is woven throughout the program without being necessarily “religious” or “churchy.” From faith-building options in the advancement program, outdoor worship, to more in-depth discipleship opportunities, adult and youth members receive biblical instruction and training in biblical faith. 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.
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 USA Christian Statement 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.
Our Member policy allows for boys of any faith (or no faith at all) to participate in the program of Trail Life USA.
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.
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.
Non-Trinitarian denominations do not participate in our program because our specific Statement of Faith adheres to Trinitarian doctrine.
Initially, the focus of program development is within the United States. Trail Life USA depends on God’s leading to determine the long-term reach of its ministry.
American citizens stationed on military bases and other outposts around the world are able to charter Trail Life USA Troops if they can provide the appropriate Troop structure.
Foreign citizens can contact the Home Office for information regarding the possibility of implementing the program in their countries.
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.
The program itself reflects the Core Values and is approved by Trail Life USA's Executive Board of Directors. In fact, it’s impossible to separate the Core Values from the program. They are intrinsic throughout the program. The Executive Board resolves Core Value issues, and has the ability to revoke a Troop’s Charter if the Troop does not adhere to those values.
The Troop is an active youth 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 Charter Organization Representative serves as the facilitating church or organizational leader in overseeing the ministry, leadership, and activities of the Troop on behalf of the Charter Organization.
A national structure is in place to support the efforts at the Troop level.
The national organization is divided into eight geographical regions to assist with supporting the program on a regional basis.
Regions are further divided into Areas, where a volunteer can assist Troops within driving distance of his/her home.
The Area Team is overseen by a Point Man, who works with his/her committee of volunteers to oversee all facets of the program in that geographical area.
Woodlands Trail, Navigators, and Adventurers programs for ages 5-17 are only for boys. Our Guidon program is for young adult men and women ages 18-25.
We recommend our sister program, the American Heritage Girls. You can find more about AHG at www.ahgonline.org.
Trail Life USA encourages its members to be good citizens and to engage and participate in the political process. However, all Trail Life USA employees and members must ensure that their political activities and contributions are conducted as private individuals and do not appear to represent the opinion of Trail Life USA, being mindful that Trail Life USA does not, through its governing body or through any of its officers, its charter organizations, or members, endorse any particular political party or any specific political candidate.
Under the policies of Trail Life USA, with the permission of their charter organization Trail Life USA Troops, youth and adult members may appear in uniform at a nonpartisan and nonpolitical gathering in a way that gives them the opportunity to render service in harmony with the values and beliefs of Trail Life USA, including flag ceremonies at civic events and political gatherings provided that those events are consistent with TLUSA’s Statement of Faith and Values. However, because Trail Life USA and virtually all of its charter organizations are 501(c)(3) organizations, members are required to avoid involving Trail Life USA or their charter organizations in any activity that has the appearance of endorsing any political candidate or advocating on behalf of a candidate. (This specifically includes not campaigning or passing out campaign literature for any candidate or party while wearing any apparel referencing Trail Life USA.) Trailmen and their leaders may participate in single-issue or social advocacy events or activities in uniform that promote Biblical values, such as the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. Outside of Trail Life USA, each member is free as an individual to express his or her thoughts or take action on political matters or on behalf of specific political candidates, but must not use Trail Life USA’s official uniforms, logos, brand or materials when doing so. The health and safety of all Trail Life USA members should always be considered in discerning involvement in any such activities or events.
Charter Organizations FAQs
- Respect the aims and objectives of the Charter Organization (including the organization’s determination as to which youth and registered adults it desires to have participate in its Troop, within the established Membership Standards) and offer online, printed, and volunteer support resources to help in meeting those objectives.
- Make available training, service, and program materials to the Charter Organization and its Troop.
- Make available proven methods for selecting quality unit leaders, which includes Trail Life USA providing and approving criminal background checks on leaders and certifying that they have successfully completed Trail Life USA’s Child Safety Youth Protection training requirements.
- Provide general liability insurance to cover the Charter Organization, its board, officers, representatives, employees, and volunteers currently registered with Trail Life USA. Coverage is provided with respect to the claims arising out of official Trail Life USA activities.
- Each Charter Organization will own and operate their Trail Life USA Troop. Charter Organizations may be churches or Christian organizations with a corporate structure and a Christian mission that does not conflict with ours, and which can subscribe to and abide by our Statement of Faith and Values. The Troop will serve as a specific ministry or outreach of the Charter Organization.
- Conduct the program according to Trail Life USA’s national policies and guidelines.
- Include Trail Life USA as part of its overall program for youth and families.
- Select and appoint appropriate leaders. You may view/download our Troop Level Positions for a detailed explanation.
- Provide adequate and safe facilities for the Troop to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved.
- Oversee the appropriate inclusion of biblical faith components and instruction within the program delivery of the Troop.
No. However, all Charter Organizations must exist (be registered with the state) as a legal entity such as a church, school, Christian camp, or home school association and have a Christian mission as part of their emphasis. Other organizations that have a mission instilling Christian character in young men that aligns with that of the Trail Life USA program and values may submit an application and request for consideration.
Banks typically require an Employee Identification Number (EIN) to open a bank account.
At the discretion of the Charter Organization, a Troop may be allowed to use the Charter Organization’s Federal Tax ID number to open an account.
Alternatively, the IRS has an online process for obtaining an EIN for “church-controlled organizations.”
The Charter Organization (usually a church) will own all assets—NOT Trail Life USA.
The use of membership or participation in Trail Life USA for the purpose of personal or business financial benefit is not permitted. No member of TLUSA may use the logo, insignia, terms of usage or descriptive marks related to Trail Life USA, unless the relationship or contract is authorized by Trail Life USA (home office). The use of Trail Life USA’s logo, insignia, terms, descriptive marks or other intellectual property is not to be used as an endorsement of any commercial product or venture except as specifically authorized by Trail Life USA. As a non-profit organization, any funds or assets raised by or through Trail Life USA, its members, Troops, or Charter Organizations are to be used for the benefit of Trail Life USA and/or the Charter Organization.
However, Charter Organizations, unit leaders, or youth members shall not be restricted from earning money to obtain their own unit equipment or to assist in fulfilling the charitable, non-profit mission or purpose of the Charter Organization, provided that all money-making/fundraising activities are consistent with the Statement of Faith and Values of Trail Life USA, and consistent with the branding and licensing requirements of Trail Life USA.
Consistent with its mission, focus and purpose, the Charter Organization – not Trail Life USA – owns and operates the Troop and is the legal owner of all property, funds, and/or assets of the Troop.
- The Charter Organization must be a legal entity; 501(c)(3) is preferred and carries some advantages. Most are churches, so they meet that requirement, but so would most home school associations or Christian schools.
- It must also have a Christian Mission as part of its Articles/Bylaws.
- The Charter Organization and all appointed/selected leaders must be willing to ascribe to and adhere to our Statement of Faith and Values.
The Institutional Head electronically signs the Charter Organization Agreement in their personal Troop Track account that is set up during registration.
No. All paperwork and payments are processed electronically.
No. The Charter Organization Representative should be a trusted member or associate of the organization and will be expected to effectively represent the organization and appropriately oversee the organization’s Trail Life USA program ministry, but does not need to be a paid staff member.
These types of arrangements require certain criteria regarding such “dual” registration in order to accommodate real life concerns such as insurance coverage, membership requirements, and program separation for purposes of maintaining program integrity. The distinction and separate identities of the Trail Life Troop and the BSA unit(s) and their respective members must be clear and unambiguous publicly, within the Charter Organization, and to the member(s) of the respective Trail Life Troop and BSA unit(s).
Regarding a BSA Scout that joins the Trail Life USA program, there is a limitation on transfer of ranks and achievements for recognition within the Trail Life USA program. Specifically, there would only be ONE OPPORTUNITY provided to transfer into Trail Life USA and to receive recognition for prior work accomplished in BSA. Once a BSA Scout joins and is recognized in his Trail Life Troop for his prior achievements, his joining record is established and that is the record that he must work with from that point forward. Additional work completed in the BSA program cannot be transferred in later and a boy cannot receive “double credit” for work that is completed during his continuous involvement in the separate BSA program after he has created his joining record in Trail Life USA. For example, additional merit badges earned or service hours booked in the BSA program will not also be credited in the Trail Life USA program.
In honoring the legacy of the BSA, we have worked graciously to make such recognition possible in Trail Life USA. However, it would become counterproductive after a Scout joins and becomes a Trailman for him to have continuing considerations of whether it would be easier or quicker to earn an achievement in one program versus the other. It may also be theologically confusing for a boy to be preparing to leave BSA to commit to life as a Trailman at Trail Life USA while continuing to pursue secular recognition in BSA.
A boy pursuing both advancement programs must do so independently after registering in both programs. If a boy is not fully prepared to commit to the Trail Life USA program, it might be more advisable for him to remain in the BSA until such time as he is prepared to commit his focus and attention fully on his life as a Trailman.
While we believe a Church or Charter Organization should contemplate why two organizations with vastly different missions would be appropriate, Trail Life USA does not prevent a Charter Organization from also chartering other types of youth organizations – including a BSA unit. As a guideline, however, we would encourage a Charter Organization to decide which program they are committed to, and provide that program their fullest commitment, making sure it is truly compatible and consistent with the Charter Organization beliefs, and that it best serves the interest of youth.
Trail Life USA does not have a policy prohibiting a Charter Organization from having both a Trail Life Troop and BSA unit(s), there are several factors that complicate such a practice. Including different membership standards, different leadership requirements, different criminal background and child safety youth protection training requirements, different insurance coverages, different health, activity and consent forms, different fundraising policies, and different health and safety policies. Therefore, if a Charter Organization continues to have a BSA unit while being a Trail Life USA Charter Organization, the following criteria must be followed:
- The distinction and separate identities of the Trail Life Troop and the BSA unit and their respective members must be clear and unambiguous – to the public (including any websites or publications), within the Charter Organization, and to the leadership and members of the Trail Life Troop and the BSA unit(s).
- Being a BSA leader or member does not automatically qualify someone for membership in Trail Life USA – all such individuals must follow the Trail Life USA registration policies and procedures. For youth this includes age and gender requirements. For adults this includes signing of the Statement of Faith and Values, having specific COR or IH approval, successful completion of the background check and Child Safety Youth Protection Training, and satisfying the specific requirements for specific leadership positions.
- Activities or outings of the Trail Life Troop (including any regional, area or Home Office events) must be restricted to participation only by Trail Life USA members – for legal and insurance reasons. BSA members who are not also registered with TLUSA should not be participating or serve as leaders for such events (this is especially the case in the event that the Charter Organization has a co-ed BSA Venturing Crew);
- Trail Life USA awards may only be earned by TLUSA members;
- Trail Life USA liability insurance does not cover the BSA unit or its members or any of its activities, the Charter Organization must be made aware of that fact;
- Trail Life Troop meetings must be held separately from BSA unit meetings – there can be no “joint meetings.” Preferably, they should be held on separate days to avoid any confusion;
- In deference to the intellectual property rights of both BSA and Trail Life USA, BSA apparel/insignia/materials should not be worn/used at TLUSA activities/meetings, and TLUSA apparel/insignia/materials should not be worn/used at BSA activities/meetings.
Yes. Through one of several possible means, the TLUSA national organization will absolutely ensure that its local Chartering Organizations and/or Troops are provided with a vigorous legal defense if challenged with a lawsuit or other legal complaint regarding our Statement of Faith / Values or membership standards.
Yes. Trail Life USA was recognized on July 9, 2014 as a 501(c)(3) “public charity” non-profit corporation.
Contributions to Trail Life USA are deductible under section 170 of the IRS Code and we are qualified to receive tax-deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.
Because the fundraiser is for the benefit of your Troop and any proceeds from the fundraiser go to your Troop, you must use the non-profit status or 501(c)(3) status (if applicable) of your Charter Organization rather than that of Trail Life USA, as none of the proceeds benefit Trail Life USA.
Troop Fees Year #1:
- Pre-charter Fee ($99): The pre-charter application fee; includes a Welcome Kit with key Trail Life resources.
- Original Charter Fee ($325): The first year charter fee is assessed to each church/Charter Organization (all age-level Unit Programs are included in one charter).
Troop Fees Subsequent Years:
- Subsequent Year Re-charter Fee ($195): The charter fee for subsequent years is assessed to each church/Charter Organization (all age-level Unit Programs are included in one charter).
- Annual Troop Program Fee ($20/youth registered): The Annual Troop Program Fee is assessed at the time of re-charter and is charged at $20 for each Registered Youth Member, with payment due by the Troop within six months. Some Troops may have many registered youth, so this six-month period allows each Troop the opportunity to determine its own plan for covering this program expense, whether that is through assessing their Troop members or conducting a Troop fundraiser.
Annual Membership Fee ($26):
- This fee is paid directly to Trail Life USA by each individual youth and adult member when they submit their initial membership application to Trail Life USA, and annually thereafter on the anniversary of their membership.
No. Each troop pays the initial charter fees for a full year.
Trail Life USA Charter Organizations that currently charter an existing American Heritage Girls (AHG) Troop, or that are beginning the process of chartering new AHG Troop, are eligible for a $50 discount. The discount will be in the form of a $50 rebate from TLUSA once both AHG and TLUSA Troops are chartered.
There is a checkbox during the chartering process to indicate the charter or in-process charter of AHG Troop. We will verify this with AHG and issue the rebate once both Troops are fully chartered. (Updated 2/1/16)
Fees provide Accident & Sickness insurance for all members, liability insurance, Home Office staffing, program development, and administrative support for leaders and Charter Organizations.
- The Annual Troop Program Fee provides for the budgetary needs of the national Trail Life USA organization, thereby making it possible for Troops to retain 100% of the profits from their fundraisers. We believe that the flat and simple Annual Troop Program Fee will allow Troops to be as creative and financially viable as they wish, while still providing for the needs of the Home Office.
- On its re-charter date, the Annual Troop Program Fee of $20 for each Registered Youth Member is charged to the Troop, with payment due within six months. This program fee is waived in the Troop’s first year as they work to get their program established.
- The Annual Troop Program Fee maintains our fee structure parity with our sister organization, the American Heritage Girls, allowing both organizations to develop, maintain, and grow a strong and vibrant program for our youth that is primarily membership-funded and does not depend on major corporate donations to support our standard program offerings.
- As Trail Life USA has the opportunity, we will investigate and negotiate specific fundraising programs that include preferred pricing options for Trail Life USA Troops, and we will make those programs available to our Troops. While Trail Life USA will collect appropriate royalties from such companies for their use of the Trail Life USA name, logo, and website fundraising directory, our Troops will retain 100% of the funds that they earn from these nationally negotiated Troop fundraisers as well as any locally negotiated fundraisers that they participate in.
- Troops can obtain or negotiate preferred pricing on fundraising goods and services, and retain the money earned for the use of their Troop. The resulting effect should be to increase the impact of fundraisers on a local level so Troops can offer more adventure and opportunity for their boys and families. This will allow fundraisers to supplement family-provided funds that would otherwise be required to deliver the same level of program options.
- Troops overseeing their own fundraisers will be able to set their own fundraising criteria, maintain their own simplified accounting, and account for the income and expenses associated with their own fundraiser(s). Within the general guidelines that Trail Life USA has set for fundraising, Troops are not required to have their fundraisers approved by the Home Office. Only their Chartering Organization is required to approve and oversee a Troop fundraiser (There are some general Trail Life USA policies regarding fundraising, i.e., regarding games of chance and solicitation of donations during fundraisers).
- The Program Fee billing system accounts for the fact that the number of members fluctuate throughout the year. Our registration system is somewhat unique in that members can join any time of year and the term of membership is for one full year, no matter when members join. Members may leave, and others will join to replace them. The re-charter date of each Troop is the time pinpointed to assess the program fees.
Troops add members throughout the year and especially during the targeted fall recruitment period. This is traditionally when families are seeking new activities and involvement for their boys. Leaders can find resources to help their Troops PLAN, PROMOTE, GROW, and THRIVE at our website www.JoinTheTrail.com.
We have no official policy or regulations regarding Troop dues. Troops are free to assess membership dues as deemed appropriate by the Troop Committee based on the Troop budget.
Fundraisers are coordinated at the Troop level based on state law and Charter Organization rules, and subject to the approval of the Charter Organization.
Currently, there is no fundraising approval form for Troop fundraisers to be approved by the Home Office. Rather, Troops may pursue fundraising opportunities at their discretion. Troops must obtain the approval of their Charter Organization for each fundraiser. Fundraisers shall not conflict with the values of Trail Life USA.
Trail Life USA will continually identify and negotiate with preferred vendors to assure that their mission and products meet our high standards. Vetted and approved fundraising options will be listed online for our member troops.
Questions regarding fundraisers should be sent to [email protected]
We are currently confronted with an IRS determination that it is illegal for Troops to maintain individual fundraising accounts for Troop members to use the direct profits of their fundraising sales specifically for their own individual use in the program.
Each Troop must consider their legal situation and compliance with State and Federal regulations. For some Troops, this will complicate fundraising efforts, as essentially all fundraising proceeds for the group are supposed to go into one “group pot” for the benefit of the entire Troop.
Under this situation, Troops will need to work creatively to motivate members to do their fair share of the fundraising efforts.
No. This is for a number of reasons:
- The Troop is a youth ministry of the church or Charter Organization. Donations to the Charter Organization for the benefit of the Troop (if that is the intent of the donor) are more appropriate than donations to the Troop, which is not a legal entity;
- This ensures that the Charter Organization is fully aware of the activities and efforts of the TLUSA Troop, and minimizes “conflicting” donation solicitations;
- The Charter Organization is much better equipped to answer questions as to whether the donation is tax deductible (e.g., whether the Charter Organization is a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit) and, if so, to provide the appropriate documentation to the donor within the requisite period of time required;
- The Charter Organization is much better equipped to be knowledgeable about state charitable solicitation laws and, if registration/approval is required by the particular state, to ensure compliance with all state requirements;
- We believe it is better to instill in Trailmen the character of earning through fundraising opportunities that also bring benefit to others (beyond the “benefit” that we all feel when we contribute to a good cause). For this reason, Trailmen should raise funds by offering a real product or service of benefit to others, rather than just asking for donations.
The annual overhead cost of the program will be funded primarily through membership fees.
Our economic model relies heavily on servant leadership of dedicated men and women who are motivated by their desire to further God’s kingdom. Paid staff members are present at the national level to fill a limited number of administrative and clerical roles. Someday, as our organization grows, we foresee having some paid staff at the Regional level as well, but we foresee the continuation of the servant leadership model as the primary means of delivery of a godly program to the youth of our nation.
Yes. The TLUSA Home Office provides liability and accident insurance for registered members (youth and adults) participating in Trail Life USA activities.
Alliance Defending Freedom has pledged to defend Trail Life USA and its Charter Organizations in any constitutional or other challenges regarding our membership policies and or staff employment policies.
Yes. Trail Life USA was recognized on July 9, 2014 as a 501(c)(3) “public charity” non-profit corporation. Contributions to Trail Life USA are deductible under section 170 of the IRS Code and we are qualified to receive tax-deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.
If the Charter Organization 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.
Trail Life USA’s group liability insurance provides liability coverage where all members of the organization and participants in Trail Life activities are covered by a single policy.
The coverage extends to all those participating in Trail Life USA – Charter Organizations, Troops, members (youth and adults) and/or volunteers and (during Troop meetings) their family members.
Coverage under the program includes general liability coverage which insures against bodily injury, personal injury or property damage; sexual misconduct coverage; automobile liability for hired vehicles or vehicles not owned by Trail Life USA; professional liability; cyber liability and accidental death and dismemberment; and umbrella liability coverage. International liability (trips outside the US, Canada, Puerto Rico) is not covered.
Family campouts are not recognized or authorized Trail Life USA activities because of the unique health and safety, child protection, and program issues and challenges that they create. Any such events are the personal responsibility of those planning, organizing, or leading such events. TLUSA’s group insurance may not cover any claims resulting from such activities.
There is accident and sickness coverage that includes visitors, parents and non-registered volunteers participating at Trail Life events/activities at the invitation of the Troop and/or Charter Organization – including informational or recruiting activities.
We wanted to minimize concerns and eliminate possible barriers of Charter Organizations, Troops and members in being a part of Trail Life USA (“TLUSA”) and its important focus on developing Godly young men through a Christ-centered youth outdoor adventure and character-building program.
TLUSA’s group insurance policy becomes your primary insurance, except in accidents involving your personal automobile for which your automobile insurance is primary, and TLUSA’s group insurance is secondary. Other personal coverage or that through the Charter Organization would be supplemental.
The cost for the insurance is covered through the charter fee and membership fees for no additional charge.
You know that you have coverage consistent with TLUSA’s requirements and it is very affordable.
For the general liability, cyber liability, accidental death and dismemberment, and umbrella policies, coverage is provided within the United States, Canada, and the territories of the United States including Puerto Rico and if temporarily outside of the United States coverage is provided if the suit is brought within the US. For the automobile policy, coverage is provided within the United States only.
TLUSA’s liability coverage is an ongoing policy. The policy expires and renews annually on November 20th. Registering members (youth and adults) for each new program year will automatically renew them for the group insurance.
A certificate is available through your Troop Track account under Leader Pages.
All boys, ages 5 through 17, are welcome irrespective of religion, race, national origin, or socio-economic status. We welcome boys whose parents are seeking a faith-based outdoor adventure program that places an emphasis on character development, leadership, and moral purity, and who aspire to live in accordance with the values expressed in the Motto and Oath.
Foxes: Kindergarten and at least 5 years old by October 31st
Hawks: 2nd Grade and at least 7 years old by October 31st
Mountain Lions: 4th Grade and at least 9 years old by October 31st
Navigators: 6th Grade and at least 11 years old by October 31st
Adventurers: 9th Grade and at least 14 years old by October 31st, till the 18th birthday
Guidon Unit: young adults ages 18-25 years old
Exceptions to the above requirements may be made on a case-by-case basis by consensus of the Troop Committee.
Contact your local Troop for instructions. See our Troop Locator to find a Troop near you.
Christian men and women selected and approved by the Charter Organization, who sign and abide by the membership standards and the Trail Life USA Statement of Faith and Values may become adult leaders.
All leaders must be at least 21 years old with the exception of Trail Guides, who must be at least 18 years old.
All adult leaders can be approved following a criminal background check and successful completion of the Child Safety Youth Protection Training.
Contact your Troop Leader or Charter Organization for instructions.
Trail Life USA 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 USA’s Membership Standards, making them more restrictive provided that such standards are consistent with Trail Life USA’s membership standards; however, it may not loosen Trail Life USA’s membership standards.
Not at this time, as it does not satisfy the patrol method that is part of our character and leadership development philosophy.
As these types of arrangements are further considered, it is possible that BSA or Trail Life USA or both may need to set up certain criteria regarding such “dual” registration in order to accommodate real life concerns such as insurance coverage and program separation for purposes of maintaining program integrity.
Regarding a BSA Scout that joins the Trail Life USA program, there is a limitation on transfer of ranks and achievements for recognition within the Trail Life USA program. Specifically, there would only be ONE OPPORTUNITY provided to transfer into Trail Life USA and to receive recognition for prior work accomplished in BSA.
Once a BSA Scout joins and is recognized in his Trail Life USA Troop for his prior achievements, his joining record is established and that is the record that he must work with from that point forward. Additional work completed in the BSA program cannot be transferred in later and a boy cannot receive “double credit” for work that is completed during his continuous involvement in the separate BSA program after he has created his joining record in Trail Life USA. For example, additional merit badges earned or service hours booked in the BSA program will not also be credited in the Trail Life USA program.
In honoring the legacy of the BSA, we have worked graciously to make such recognition possible in Trail Life USA. However, it would become counterproductive after a Scout joins and becomes a Trailman for him to have continuing considerations of whether it would be easier or quicker to earn an achievement in one program versus the other. It may also be theologically confusing for a boy to be preparing to leave BSA to commit to life as a Trailman at Trail Life USA, while continuing to pursue secular recognition in BSA.
If a boy wants to pursue both advancement programs, he must do so independently after registering in both programs. If a boy is not fully prepared to commit to the Trail Life USA program, it might be more advisable for the boy to remain in the BSA until such time as he is prepared to commit his focus and attention fully on his life as a Trailman.
We expect that most members will be able to complete online membership registration at home. But for some members, Troop leaders may need to provide assistance. Some leaders set aside a Troop meeting night to assist members in using our advanced online member registration by setting up laptops at their meeting and allowing parents to complete online registration at the meeting. A free email account (Gmail or similar) can be established if necessary during this process.
They pay the $26 annual membership fee with a credit card or, for those parents that do not have a credit card, they give the Troopmaster or another leader cash or a check for their registration and the Troop leader pays with his own credit card or the Troop’s credit card (if there is one).
Trail Life USA can’t “authorize” you to represent your Troop because it is your Charter Organization who appoints you and who you represent. Trail Life USA provides membership in Trail Life USA, but is not involved in the selection or appointment of the leadership in individual Troops.
- The Charter Organization selects and appoints a core leadership team:
- The Charter Organization Representative (C.O.R.), oversees the ministry, leadership, and activities of the Troop on behalf of the Charter Organization.
- The Troop Committee Chairman leads the rest of the Troop Committee to govern the Troop’s operation and oversee its program.
- Troop Treasurer maintains the Troop budget and accounting of funds.
- The Troopmaster serves on the Troop Committee to represent all direct contact leaders and Unit programs.
- The Troop Chaplain is responsible for instilling the faith-based program of the Troop. The Troop Chaplain position can also be filled by the C.O.R. provided the C.O.R. is male.
Additional Committee members can be added after the Charter is approved. Committee positions can be created to focus on a variety of committee functions as additional leaders become available and committed to the program.
The direct contact program leaders are also added after the Charter is approved. They are the Ranger (Woodlands Trail leader), Trailmaster (Navigators leader), Advisor (Adventurers leader), and Trail Guides who work with their respective Unit leaders (Ranger, Trailmaster, and Advisor).
See more at, Troop Level Positions.
Absolutely. Most adult leadership positions can be filled by men or women, including the Charter Organization Representative, Committee Chair, Treasurer, and other Committee Member Positions. Trail Guides in the Woodland’s Trail Unit may also be women.
In order to preserve the principle of male mentorship, direct contact positions in the Navigators and Adventurers Units and the position of Troop Chaplain are reserved for men.
Mountain Lion Trail Guides in the Woodlands Trail Unit are highly recommended to be males. However, if there is a shortage of male leaders, a female may serve in this role.
All Area, Regional, and National leadership positions may be filled by women.
There are no restrictions regarding spouses serving in any positions.
A person can only be registered in one official position, with the exception of the COR/Chaplain, and with the clarification that a Ranger can assist in a Woodlands Trail Patrol for 2-deep leadership. So, to build your Troop’s leadership, first fill the 4-5 required positions for chartering. Then fill the program positions as needed. Finally, build out your committee if you have additional capacity. However, any registered leader or Registered Adult in the program can step in and serve as needed when it is necessary to provide 2-deep leadership at a particular meeting or event.
Yes. That would be your 2-deep leadership for the combined group. But you are not required to have Trail Guides provided you have 2-deep leadership.
This restriction is determined by the Charter Organization’s Institutional Head (in the case of a church, the Senior Pastor) who has the authority and responsibility to select and appoint adult leaders consistent with Trail Life USA standards and policies.
The program is designed for ease of administration by leaders, particularly at the Woodlands Trail level, where meeting plans are provided. It is estimated that meeting preparation will require approximately 30 minutes of study, exclusive of gathering necessary materials. Of course, this estimate would not apply to “Hit the Trail!” and other special outings.
Older levels are designed for youth leadership and, therefore, less direct preparation by leaders.
Youth leadership skills are discussed in Chapter 1 of The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers. Additional topics that are important for youth leadership are also included in Chapters 2-5, as well as throughout the Handbook.
Much of the practical Christian leadership training, Trail Badge training, and outdoor skills training for the boys comes through adult association and mentorship provided by Christian adults with leadership experience and skills, as well as through older boys mentoring younger boys. Note that in addition to serving as an elected Troop leader, Trailmen can satisfy leadership requirements for the Ready Trailman Rank and Horizon Award by instructing younger Trailmen in significant skills.
Leadership is one of the core emphases of the program and age-appropriate opportunities exist at all levels. Programs for older youth interested in furthering these skills are in continuing development.
As of this time, there is no adult advancement option under consideration.
However, adults who hold BSA’s Eagle Scout Rank may earn Trail Life USA’s highest achievement, the Freedom Award, through meeting special standards including providing special service to develop the Trail Life USA program.
Volunteer area leaders also conduct training regionally and locally.
Yes. Trailmen should have uniforms.
Available in Woodlands Trail Forest Green, Navigators Charcoal Gray, and Adventurers Royal Blue:
Trail Uniform – An inexpensive t-shirt bearing the Trail Life USA logo and Troop Level insignia.
Travel Uniform – A nice polo for use in traveling or for wearing to Troop meetings. Embroidered with the Trail Life USA logo and bearing the Troop level insignia on the sleeve.
Troop Uniform – A formal uniform for Troop meetings or formal dress occasions. This same uniform is used by all levels of Trailmen including male adults.
Uniform options listed above can be viewed here.
No. The standard acceptable dress is the official Trail Life USA uniform.
Meetings & Activities FAQs
Boys (and potentially AHG girls) will jointly participate in a common opening ceremony for all ages before separating into their respective age groups for the remainder of the meeting. Older boys will often teach the younger boys a badge or skill at meetings or outdoor activities. Other common events like service projects, family camping trips, and awards ceremonies will bring all ages together.
On the other hand, there is also the opportunity for age-appropriate social interaction and activities at certain times when the boys in the different age Units participate in their own events and adventures.
This program is designed to be active and fun. Leaders should encourage the boys to have less sitting time and more active time overall. There should also be a general emphasis on outdoor program as that is a core value of Trail Life USA. The level of excitement, fun, and outdoor activity and adventure is largely dependent on how the program is implemented at the local level by Troop adult and youth leadership.
Please advocate for fun and adventure in addition to learning and badge work!
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. Foxes (youngest members of the Woodlands Trail Unit) are required to have at least one parent in attendance at all meetings. We encourage parents to become Registered Adults so they can provide additional support for their sons and Troop when needed.
Troops or Units are free to plan their own annual calendar starting and ending in whatever month they see fit.
Most importantly, youth promotion to the next age level of the program occurs 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 age level Unit.
For child-protection purposes, there will never be less than two registered leaders present with a Unit of boys. There will also be a targeted ratio of Registered Adult volunteers to boys at all levels. The ratio of registered leaders/adults to boys shall be:
- 1 to 4 for boys in grades K-1
- 1 to 8 for boys in grades 2-3
- 1 to 10 for boys in grades 4 and beyond
You are only required to have leaders in place for Units that you are operating. So if you have no Woodlands Trail, or more specifically no Fox Patrol, then you don’t need leaders for those Units or Levels. If you have a small group, you can combine Levels and Units as needed within the adult to youth ratios above. So for example, if you only have 6 boys from K-3, you could combine the Fox and Hawk Patrols with just one Ranger and one Trail Guide serving as two-deep leadership. In this case, the Ranger is also doubling as the 2nd leader for the two-deep leadership for this patrol in his Unit.
For a small group, you could combine the Navigators and Adventurers together with the Trailmaster and Advisor serving as two-deep leadership with no Trail Guides.
A small Troop could run with 4 people in required charter positions (with the COR serving also as Chaplain), 1 Trailmaster and 1 Advisor overseeing a joint Navigators and Adventurers Group, and 1 Ranger with 1 or 2 Trail Guides serving a joint Fox, Hawk, Mountain Lion group. In this way, a small group could serve a K-12 program with 8 total leaders.
Yes. That would be your 2-deep leadership for the combined group. But you are not required to have Trail Guides provided you have 2-deep leadership.
The TrailL Life USA program is geared around adventure.
Troops have the flexibility to plan and design their own summer adventure programs, whether hiking the Appalachian Trail, camping in Yellowstone Park, using outfitters to canoe the boundary waters, or tour the national capitol.
With planning, a Troop could even do an international trip (although you would need to investigate insurance coverage).
Rather than summer camp experience that focuses on earning Trail Badges, we want the boys to have a FUN SUMMER ADVENTURE! See the Event’s page on this site for more information on national opportunities for Troops.
Area teams are setting up opportunities like these on the Area level. These opportunities are being shared between Point Men, and on forums such as Area Facebook pages. Find your Point Man’s contact information here.
Activity Plans that have been approved by the Charter Organization are to be filed with the Home Office for those trips in excess of 400 miles or that involve defined high adventure activities.
The official policy of both AHG and TLUSA is: While AHG and Trail Life Troops can certainly operate side-by-side sharing a Charter Organization and meeting night which encourages family involvement. AHG Troops and Trail Life Troops and members are still required to abide by the standards set forth in the policies and procedures of their respective organizations – including the AHG Health and Safety Guidelines, for AHG and the Trail Life USA Health and Safety Guide, for TLUSA.
While there is the possibility for occasional joint events to be held, each Program is distinct and designed to be focused on Girls (AHG) and Boys (TLUSA). This is one of the strengths of the respective Programs. AHG and TLUSA would expect that the focus of involvement in AHG and/or TLUSA would be activities and events that promote and utilize the respective program emphases and missions.
Additionally, while there may be occasions for family events – where family non-members are invited – “family camping” is not a recognized or authorized Trail Life USA or AHG activity because of the unique health and safety, child protection, and program issues and challenges which it creates. Any such events are the personal responsibility of those planning, organizing, or leading such events. The AHG and TLUSA Child Safety Youth Protection policies are a potential resource, however, it should be understood that those policies are based upon assumptions and factors that may not be accurately reflected at “family events,” including such things as: background checks, experience, common focus, program-oriented, child safety youth protection training and awareness, and shared faith and values.
Background Checks & Training FAQs
Yes. As part of the registration process, all leaders receive a comprehensive background check ordered by Trail Life USA.
Yes. This “Child Safety Youth Protection Training” program is required as part of the adult leader application process.
Upon submitting an adult leadership application, a leader is directed to the electronic Child Safety Youth Protection Training Program.
Registered leaders can access the Leader Guides online. Troop leaders should read and study the appropriate Leaders Guide(s) for the Unit(s) that they are involved in. While we do not have a form that signifies completion of this training, each leader should consider the study of the appropriate Leaders Guide(s) to be mandatory training for his position.
Also available are many other electronic documents, as well as job descriptions for certain adult Troop positions. Adult leaders should familiarize themselves with all documents available.
The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers is available at the Trail Life USA online store. While this is the manual for the youth in the Navigators/Adventurers Units, it is also instructive for adult Troop leaders.
Additionally, these FAQ’s are an important resource for Troop leaders to keep up to date on issues of importance.
The Trail Life USA Training Team is currently developing additional training modules and there are many more training resources at www.TrailLifeConnect.com, accessible to members.
Initial training includes online Child Safety Youth Protection training, as well as the other videos, leaders’ guides, and online documents referenced above.
Other training modules will roll out as developed. As possible, training modules will be developed for online delivery. However, there will also be in-person training modules developed moving forward that can be delivered in Area and Regional settings.
No. Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls are separate organizations with separate records, contracts, insurance, and liability. Trail Life USA volunteers must complete membership application, background check, and Child Safety Youth Protection training that are specific to Trail Life USA.
No. Trail Life USA must complete its own background check and verify completion of its own Child Safety Youth Protection Training.
Leadership is one of the core values of the program and age-appropriate opportunities exist at all levels. Programs for older youth interested in furthering these skills are in development and include advanced courses.
Currently, there is youth leadership instruction in The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers. There is also a lot of information packed into the adult leaders’ guides and other Trail Life USA documents that is important information to share with youth leadership as part of their leadership development process.
We also conduct EQUIPYouth training at Camp Aiken and through volunteer Area Teams.
Much of the practical Christian leadership training, Trail Badge training, and outdoor skills training for the boys comes through adult association and mentorship provided by Christian men with leadership experience and skills, as well as through older boys mentoring younger boys. Make sure that your Troop makes the most of the leadership resources that are available within your membership!
Advancement & Awards FAQs
Woodlands Trail – The Forest award for each level (Foxes, Hawks, and Mountain Lions) based on completion of activities in 7 branches (program areas). Mountain Lions are eligible to earn the Timberline award as they finish out their Woodlands Trail program and prepare to move to the Navigators Unit.
Navigators – Able Trailman and Ready Trailman ranks are earned based on completion of Trail Badges, leadership, service, and participation.
Adventurers – Horizon and Freedom awards based completion of badges, leadership, service and participation. The Freedom Award is the highest award and requires the completion of the Majors & Minors Program and a Servant Leadership Project.
Other awards – Religious recognitions and other awards are also available.
Trail Life USA uses “Trail Badges” as learning modules in Navigators and Adventurers Units. The Required Trail Badges (15) are already defined and published in The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers and are available for sale in our store found here.
Elective Trail Badges developed by the home office program department and volunteers are also published and available to members.
A Trailman can earn an unlimited number of Trail Badges in any topic under our “C.L.E.A.R.” badge creation program outlined in Chapter 19 of The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers.
Trail Badges are classified into seven Frontiers: Heritage, Hobbies, Life Skills, Outdoor Skills, Science and Technology, Sports, and Values.
We would call them Trail Badge Guides or Mentors. A boy can work with any registered leader that will take on the responsibility.
Troops will determine at each level which Trail Badge work will be presented at Troop meetings (more common in the Navigators Unit, grades 6-8) and which ones will be done outside of meetings with registered leaders (more common in the Adventurers Unit, grades 9-12). Certainly, a leader could offer to serve as a Trail Badge Guide for other troops.
These options for connection will be arranged at the Area Level. All Child Safety Youth Protection Policies and requirements must be followed in all such Trail Badge work.
Yes. Please see The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers for specific rank advancement and award requirements.
Woodlands Trail (elementary aged) boys work on Skill Branches that encompass activities and skills in a variety of areas to develop the whole boy. The Woodlands Trail program is an experiential participatory program focused on the intellectual (or cognitive) developmental stages of the Woodlands Trail boys and the way that they learn. Instead of earning Trail Badges, which are used in the Navigators and Adventurers programs, Woodlands Trail boys complete and collect Branch Cards, with constant recognition for participation.
The outcome of the Woodlands Trail program is to accumulate general knowledge through participation, which is more age-appropriately assessed through the Trail Badge program as Trailmen build understanding in the Navigators program and wisdom in the Adventurers program. This pathway has been developed using the cognitive learning stages of each age group to best prepare them for life as Christian husbands, fathers, and citizens.
Yes. The Trailman’s Handbook for Navigators and Adventurers is available in the Trail Life USA store.
A Trailman must complete his requirements for the Freedom Award by his 18th birthday. If a Trailman meets the certain conditions he may have until midnight June 30th following his 18th birthday to earn the Freedom Award as an adult participant. Details about Freedom Award requirements are available online to members.
Yes. Eagle Scouts of any age can earn the Freedom Award by completing a defined set of additional requirements and documentation. Details are available online to members. Proper documentation and reporting is required and guidelines will be provided to local Troop and Area Team leaders.
Yes. The Freedom Award is already gaining notoriety with Christian colleges. However, we don’t have any way of knowing to what extent the secular world will hold our top award in high esteem. We do expect that it will continue to be held in very high esteem by Christian organizations.
The Freedom Award is an Adventurers Unit Award and can only be earned by Adventurers, which means that they must be in grades 9-12. As an Eagle Scout transfers to the Trail Life USA program, once he is in 9th grade he will automatically be awarded the Horizon Award. He will then need to have acceptable Troop participation, an Adventurers Unit religious requirement, and a Freedom Experience that he completes while serving as an Adventurer. If he completes that while he is 14 years old, then it is possible that he could become a 14-year-old Freedom Rangeman.
While that would be technically possible, it is largely an anomaly of the BSA to Trail Life USA achievement transfer process. The program model is to have high school aged Trailmen participating in Freedom Experiences of active citizenry continuously throughout the 9th to 12th grade period in the program.
In Trail Life USA, we are not advocating rapid, check-box type advancement to get to the top award as quickly as possible. For example, our Summer Adventure experiences typically do not focus on advancement, but rather on fun and using the skills we’ve learned.
Area Teams & Point Men FAQs
A Trail Life USA (“TLUSA”) “Area” is loosely defined as a geographical region in which Area volunteers provide needed support for local troops, generally within driving distance. An Area is larger in rural regions and states with less TLUSA participation.
The “Point Man” serves as the volunteer administrator overseeing the “Area Team” of volunteers, some of who serve on Area Committees, while others provide Commissioner-type direct service to the local troops. Point Men work under the guidance of the National Director of Field Operations.
TLUSA Area Teams are permitted, but not required, to organize legally as they see fit – given their specific concerns, objectives, geography, and unique circumstances. Area Teams must follow these parameters, guidelines, and requirements:
- Where it makes sense, an Area Team can extend beyond a State boundary (particularly in situations where there are a “smaller” number of TLUSA Troops in a state). TLUSA Home Office shall have the sole discretion to approve the number and location of Area Teams.
- Area Teams shall have Bylaws and Policies that are approved by the Home Office as being consistent with TLUSA’s mission, vision and policies, but Area Teams shall be unique and distinct volunteer entities, and are not authorized to act as agents or legal representatives of Trail Life USA, but exist solely to assist TLUSA Troops and Charter Organizations with respect to the TLUSA program.
- All members of Area Teams must be registered TLUSA adult members (at least 21 years of age) in good standing and must be in compliance with all TLUSA policies. Area Team members may not receive compensation for their TLUSA volunteer services.
- Members of TLUSA, Pointmen and/or Area Teams may not engage in fundraising activities on behalf of or in the name of Trail Life USA except with prior written authorization by Trail Life USA.
- Because of the legally required oversight, monitoring, accounting and potential fiduciary responsibilities that would be required of (National) TLUSA, Area Teams may not use Trail Life USA’s EIN. Although not recommended, if an Area Team wishes to set up a bank account, it should establish its own EIN as a separate and distinct legal entity from Trail Life USA, and adhere to all state and federal registration, reporting, and filing requirements applicable to the nature of the legal structure of the Area Team.
- When running an Area event, fees may be collected from troops to pay for the associated expenses. As an alternative to creating a separate legal Area entity with a checking account, a local Troop could be asked to “host” such an Area event, and the funds could be run through their troop bank account. This is simpler and preferable to establishing a legal Area entity.
- Any monies raised are to be utilized solely for the purposes of assisting Charter Organizations, Trail Life USA Troops, members and prospective members, Troops and Charter Organizations in starting and supporting new Trail Life USA Troops and conducting activities for them consistent with Trail Life USA values, standards and policies. This may include the reimbursement of volunteer out-of-pocket expenses to conduct such activities.
- Area Teams shall not compete with Charter Organizations or Troops in fundraising for the Trail Life USA activities or operations of those Troops or Charter Organizations.
- Area volunteers are covered by TLUSA insurance; however, Area Teams that are established as legal entities are not covered under TLUSA insurance.