13th Edition cover variants: The 2016 cover art shows Scouts climbing, cycling, canoeing, raising the flag, and zip-lining, along with a bald eagle. Back cover continues the picture with Scouts cooking, fishing, and releasing a weather balloon. The 2017 release changed the front cover to delete the bald eagle and the cyclist, and added three Scouts watching a model rocket take off (I think they had to remove the bald eagle when they added the model rocket lest it appear the rocketeers were trying to shoot down the eagle). For the first time since 1990, the Handbook cover shows some Scouts in full uniform.
14th Edition cover variants: BSA is changing the covers of all its handbooks to a plain background color with an appropriate program- or position-specific emblem below the title. This is only the second Scout Handbook not to have a full-cover picture (the 8th Edition had a small cartoon in the corner). Both 14th Edition covers have a large First Class badge below the title. The girls' version has a green emblem & lettering on a tan background; the boys' version has a gold emblem & lettering on a green background.
The 13th Edition is a mild update to the 12th Edition, with much of the content lifted verbatim from the previous book, including many of the same photos and drawings. Chapters 2 through 12 cover the same subjects as before, with some new content or reorganization of previous content. The outside edges of pages contain a colored line and chapter name for handy reference (as did the 12th Edition). The most noticeable change is a brighter, cleaner 'look'. The distracting stylistic dots/smudges that cluttered the background of the 12th Edition's pages are gone. The reason for the new edition is the usual one: changes to the advancement requirements. Overall author is Mark Ray, who also is the primary author of the new Troop Leader Guidebook for adult leaders.
Key advancement changes in the book include:
First-time topics in the new handbook include mentioning the multitool in addition to a pocket knife. And the book promotes STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) activities throughout. There is a special STEM index contained within the book's index, and there are dozens of blue boxes throughout the book that address STEM-related topics. The 24-page Parent's Guide inserted at the front of the handbook has been revised with an expanded title emphasizing youth protection.
The full-sized sewing templates formerly on the inside covers have been shrunk and hidden on pages 22-23. That's just as well, since the drawings contain many errors, including wrong dimension measurements, wrong patch placement, incorrect Council Journey to Excellence badge on a Scout's uniform, and still show the incorrect patrol leader badge that's been in the handbook since 2009! Later printings finally correct the patrol leader badge to show two bars. The inside front cover now has detailed instructions on how to recruit a friend into Scouting, and the inside back cover contains an ad for the BSA Scout Shops and the ScoutStuff.org website.
Most of the BSA history references scattered throughout the 12th Edition (for the BSA's 100th anniversary) are gone, except for a reference to earning the Scouting Heritage merit badge.
The troop organization chart on page 24, copied from the correct chart in the 12th Edition, is missing the line that should connect the SPL to the patrol leaders, though this is corrected in later printings.
The term "Venture Scout" is now gone, replaced by references to "older Scouts" and the "Older-Scout patrol". Ever since the Exploring program was renamed Venturing in 1998, the similarity between the terms 'Venture Scout' and 'Venturer' just caused too much confusion. Also, the job called Leave No Trace Trainer has been renamed Outdoor Ethics Guide, and the handbook mostly uses the term "outdoor ethics" where the 12th Edition used Leave No Trace, although there are still multiple uses of the LNT term.
While most countries have a "Scout Promise", BSA from the start called its promise the "Scout Oath". Starting in the 1950's, every handbook except the 10th Edition called it the "Scout Oath or Promise" (although the term "Scout Oath" was almost universally used by Scouts and leaders). The 13th Edition has returned to using only "Scout Oath", despite the objection of some (many Quakers [Society of Friends], for example) whose religious beliefs forbid the taking of oaths.
The fitness chapter has a reminder for those of us living in states where recreational marijuana is now legal: "The use of marijuana, regardless of local law, is not allowed for Scouts or adults on any Scouting activity."
An expanded "Awards and Advancement" chapter consolidates and slightly expands the previous sections on these topics. A new "Personal Safety Awareness" chapter consolidates and expands information on child abuse, as well as peer pressure, bullying, and online safety (the Cyber Chip award). The Rank Requirements section adds a three-page listing of all current merit badges so a Scout can check off what he has earned and see what additional options there are. And there are no references to the www.bsahandbook.org website, which was frequently referenced in the 12th Edition. It appears that BSA has given up (for now) on the idea of having a Scout Handbook website.
The BSA has released a Spanish version of the complete handbook. As of 2018, BSA eliminated the perfect-bound version of the Handbook, and only produced the coil-bound version (costs $3 more, but lays flat and is less likely to have pages fall out).
With the BSA's sudden decision to admit girls as Scouts, the 13th handbook edition has become the shortest-lived edition (less than three years) except for the temporary Original Edition. However, since the 14th Edition is almost identical to the 13th, the combined 13th/14th Editions should last for a more normal period of time. The reason for creating a "new" Edition is the unusual one of wanting to have gender-specific versions for boys and for girls (BSA had originally considered releasing a single Handbook with gender-neutral terminology and photos of boys and girls—as they have done for the Cub Scout program—but then decided to have separate gender-specific Handbooks). The only differences between the 13th and 14th Editions are gender-specific photos and terminology, the program name (changed from 'Boy Scouting' to 'Scouts BSA'), an expanded and rewritten Personal Safety Awareness chapter, and a few minor corrections/updates.
Here are all the differences I spotted with a page-by-page comparison of the 13th Edition and the girls & boys 14th Editions:
Note that while the girls' version of the 14th Edition was released in late January 2019, the boys' version wasn't released until early January 2020 (so BSA could use up existing stock of the 13th Edition, especially since the 13th Edition and the 14th Edition for Boys are nearly identical except for the few minor updates listed above).
13th & 14th Editions Summary
Actual Table of Contents
1. Character and Leadership
4. First Aid
7. Outdoor Ethics
13. Personal Safety Awareness
14. Awards and Advancement
Your Adventure Continues
Boy Scout Rank Requirements [changed to "Scouts BSA Rank Requirements" in 14th Edition]
Leadership and Training Log
Last Revision to This Page: 1 December 2020
Text copyright © 1980, 1990, 1999, 2009, 2016, 2019 by Jeff Snowden
Web format © 1996-2020 by Troop 97 BSA
Handbook pictures copyright © by Boy Scouts of America