Scoutmaster Musings - BSA Bans Alcohol

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Scoutmaster Musings

BSA Bans Alcohol

These and many more restrictions can be found in the BSA Policy on Use of Chemical Fuels

Also, that way cool cross-over ceremony for Webelos where you burn a neckerchief is against the rules - see this alert on

I suppose the troops that still ignore the policy that paintball is prohibited in Scouting will probably ignore these policies as well.

There are some policies in place that may seem silly, but as long as they are there and we're aware of them, we should follow them. Working towards changing those policies is a better course of action than simply ignoring them.

"If I know it's not right, it must be wrong."

Scout On
Posted: 20:52 05-28-2010 502
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 May 28, 2010 - Kevin
I kind of guessed using liquid fuels to ignite fires wouldn't be allowed and it makes sense that the OA can't use hand-made smudge pots, but I had no idea the bsa prohibits alcohol stoves. Nice to know, thanks for the information.

A Boy Scout's Blog
May 31, 2010 - Neil
I guess I was ignorant about this policy, too. I wonder how long has this policy been in effect? We're in Hawaii and we did one High Adventure using only home-made alcohol stoves and wood-burning Sierra Zip stoves because we didn't want to deal with the logistics of transporting stoves that used camp gas on a separate waterborne cargo carrier, since it's illegal to carry such stoves on an airliner once they've been used.
Jun 01, 2010 - scotty
Technically, you can use denatured alcohol but it's not recommended and must be done under supervision using a commercially made alcohol stove.
Jun 01, 2010 - Brad
The policy goes back to at least the late 80 or very early 90's. I was on the camp staff then, and I remember the ban on liquid fire starters taking effect. We used to use a chemical reaction using brake fluid to "magically" start the big fires (I won't go into it because of the ban). When the ban started, we had to devise a new way. We ended up using road flares with model rocket igniters attached to the business end. When we "launched", the flare would light even wet wood. We just buried it under a huge pile of tinder and small fuel to make sure the big stuff got going.

It looks to me that technically, you can use ANY fuel that a commercially made stove or lantern can use according to the manufacturer's specs. It doesn't say they are "banned," just "not recommended."
Jun 02, 2010 - Matt Kemp
Paintball guns used for target practice are okay according to the guide to safe scouting online I was reading two nights ago. Is that right?
Feb 26, 2011 - Michael
So, if you can buy a small can alcohol stove, thus commercially available, the boys can still use under supervision. BTW, the only injuries I've seen were with propane and white gas stoves, never denatured alcohol.
Apr 11, 2011 - Steve
Not sure I understand how a fuel that burns cooler, does not damage pack material if it leaks, is less volatile and evaporates without residue is less safe than white gasoline (Coleman Fuel) or pressureized fuels. I would be interested in learning the rational. Please say its not commercial stove industry money.
Jan 20, 2012 - Chris
This is foolish, but not unexpexted.
Dec 05, 2012 - Al
I can understand that improperly constructed or modified stovves can be dangerous, as are all flame producing devices, but the recommendation to not use commerically made alcohol stoves, which are lighter, simpler to use, and safer to the environment, seems counter to common sense.  Handmade stoves are used all over the world every day wihtout incident.  The ability to construct a can stove in an emergency situation seems to be a valuable survival skill scouts should know in being prepared should the situation call for it.  I thought part of scouting was to teach skills and increase understanding about outdoor survival techniques, including environmentally safer cooking and survival skills, tools, equipment and methods.
Oct 31, 2013 - Rich
I am aware of the BSA rules on Alcohol stoves, and have built many of these stoves that are far safer than the white gas type stoves (coleman).  I used a white gas stove a few years back and it was faulty and caused a grass fire along with some minor burns. This is one of the reasons why I ditched the gas stove and have been experimenting with Alcohol Stoves and Wood burning stoves, I have shown our boys the benefits of a wood burning stoves and how it adheres to the leave no trace guidelines (Solo Stove).

When I'm backpacking I use the Solo Stove and and alcohol stove that nests inside the solo stove, this gives me the option of using Bio Mass or use the Solo stove as a holder and windbreak.
Alcohol stoves can be fashioned from a can and made in a few minutes, and fuel can be found right in the house such as, everclear and rubbing alcohol. Fuels can be found at Drug Stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, gas stations, try to find propane at theses stores!

I will continue to show my son what I do for backpacking but wil honor the BSA rules on Scout trips, because I feel that this is something everyone should learn in case of extreme situations, such as Steve makes clear in his post.

I totally agree with Steve and Al

Is there a way to appeal this rule as I think its counterproductive? Theres more chance of injury with gas stoves!

If I get a reply I will post back here.

Oct 31, 2013 - Edge
Unfortunately, this sounds too much like an insurance liability thing rather than being driven over concern for the safety of the boys.  I can imagine what an insurer might say regarding the thought of a homemade stove or liquid fuel.  As other posters have mentioned, many of these homemade stoves are available commercially, so it may be possible to have that alcohol stove on that scout campout and comply with the rules.  I guess if something bad happened, there is a stove manufacturer that would be held liable instead of BSA.

Too bad, but just a part of the litigious world we live in today.
Jan 02, 2014 - Jason Reedy
You know, I was searching about some "safety issues" and came accross "Brian Green's Backpacking Blog" and the following statement, "Did you know that the use of alcohol stoves is against BSA policy?  Me neither.  Apparently, earlier this year Boy Scouts of America (BSA) published a document that effectively bans the use of commercial and home made alcohol stoves that use denatured alcohol or HEAT as fuel."  He was wrong.  The only thing the policy bans, "Equipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use."  I am glad, as I just got a Solo Alcohol Burner for Christmas, and it's cool, and I want to use it.  It's commercially produced, so it IS allowed.  Can't wait to get my Solo Stove next... Anyway, I had been told for the past couple years that using denatured alcohol was banned.  Trick to scouting rules - read them carefully...there is always a lot of confusion.  Am I right?  Keep on Scouting!!
Jan 02, 2014 - Scouter Paul
@Jason - You are correct that the current BSA policy does not prohibit alcohol as a fuel.  But, the policy does list liquid alcohol fuels, including isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and ethanol under the "Chemical Fuels not Recommended" category.
I use an alcohol stove all the time on my long hikes, but we won't be using them in the troop since the BSA has listed them as not recommended.  

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