12 merit badges every cottager should earn

Merit badges

Participating in Scouts or Guides sets kids up with practical skills and a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors—not unlike those needed to truly appreciate and maintain a cottage. Here are 12 merit badges that every cottage should have to earn.

1. Camping

If your in-laws have called dibs on the family cottage, but you still want to spend the long weekend lakeside, it’s time to learn to pitch a tent.

How to earn it: Put up a shelter, cook a meal, purify water, and leave no trace behind.

2. Astronomy

As great as stargazing apps are, you’re less likely to spot a shooting star if you’re looking at the sky through your phone. Learning to identify key constellations without help means that you won’t miss out on clear skies.

How to earn it: Be able to find the North Star, the Big Dipper, and five other constellations of your choice.

3. Fishing

The only thing better than eating freshly-caught fish? Actually catching one.

How to earn it: Catch three species of local fish and know how to put together an angling outfit. Don’t worry, vegetarians—even non-carnivores can participate, provided that they are able to discuss water pollution and its effects on fish.

4. Hiking

While it may be tempting to lounge on the dock all weekend, a regular stroll in the woodlands surrounding your cottage is probably in everyone’s best interest.

How to earn it: Go on at least four hikes and understand hiking safety. (Also, you need to know how to clip your toenails regularly. You’ve got this one—we hope.)

5. Reader

Reading is the perfect all-season cottage activity, so you may as well be awarded for your dedication.

How to earn it: Own a library card? You’re almost there. Read three books and choose a story to share with your fellow cottager-goers.

6. Collector

Chances are, if you’ve got a jar of pebbles that you collected on the beach and you’ve held on to it for at least three months, you’ve already earned this badge.

How to earn it: See above. Heck, even those out-dated magazines sitting on the coffee table could be considered a collection.

7. Swimmer

Life beside a lake demands basic water safety skills.

How to earn it: Inspect your waterfront area for danger areas, including deep water, rocks, or slippery surfaces. Then dive in, trend some water, do a front and back crawl and swim to an island or the next dock.

8. Boat safety

Like earning your swimming badge, understanding boat safety is a serious consideration for those who spend their time beside the water.

How to earn it: Launch a boat and row it for 50 metres. Know how to enter safely, how to identify dangerous weather and how to behave in a boat—which includes wearing your lifejacket.

9. Entertainer 

When it comes to rainy days at the cottage, sometime charades are not enough.

How to earn it: If you can learn a recitation, perform a skit, sing three songs, learn a simple instrument, or perform a solo dance, then you’ll not only get your badge—you’ll be the life of the party.

10. Naturalist

Give yourself a legitimate excuse to keep track of all the wildlife that you spot from your cottage window.

How to earn it: Observe the wild animals that you see and report on their behaviour over dinner. Learn how animals survive during the winter, and take a hike to find nature nearby.

11. Home Repair

Earning this badge is the perfect opportunity to stop procrastinating and cross all those things off your “honey-do” list.

How to earn it: Replace burnt-out light bulbs, lubricate those squeaky door hinges, re-seed your lawns, and unblock a toilet. The hardest part might be keeping “work areas, such as garage or basement, clean and tidy for one month.” We wish you luck.

12. Backyard cook
Backyard cook
Even if you’re a guest at someone’s cottage, you’ll be expected to prepare a meal.

How to earn it: Although Scouts Canada recommends learning to prepare a hot dog or an egg, you’re not 12. Instead, learn how to cook a steak perfectly on the barbecue. If cooking isn’t your forte, amend the challenge to become the campfire expert on perfectly toasted s’mores.