Chicago-Area Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills (IOLS) for Adults

This page is volunteer maintained and was last updated November 30th, 2023.  All times and distances are relative to Glencoe, Illinois.

IOLS is an overnight training session intended to introduce adult leaders to camping skills and the BSA’s patrol method. It is recommended for all parents attending campouts, and is required for all BSA Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. Adult leaders are encouraged to attend with a partner, to share the commute and lessons learned.

NOTE: While similar to BALOO (Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation), and often offered simultaneously, IOLS and BALOO are not the same. BALOO is designed for Cub Scout leaders, not Scouts BSA leaders, and will not meet the “position trained” requirements for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters.

Three Fires Council
Camp Big Timber
Elgin, IL (37 miles/48 minutes)
Sessions begin Saturday at 2:30pm and conclude on Sunday at 4:00pm.

Blackhawk Council
TBD (maybe Crystal Lake – 34 miles/50 minutes)
The venue is not confirmed but this previously has been held in Crystal Lake (34 miles/50 minutes).

Camp Crown
Wilmot, WI (46 miles/52 minutes)
NEIC’s sessions have a mandatory patrol formation meeting on a weeknight evening (usually a Thursday, a week in advance) at the scout HQ/shop location in Vernon Hills. The overnight session is typically a Friday/Saturday.

Pathway to Adventure Council Camp Oakarro
Wadsworth, IL (31 miles/33 minutes)
PTAC's sessions run from 8am on Saturday to 12:00 noon on Sunday.


Potawatomi Council (Wisconsin) has a session schedule for September 30 to October 1 at Camp Long Lake (126 miles/2:10). Their program is called “Oak Leaf” and says it includes IOLS but you should double-check before registering.

Three Harbors (near Milwaukee) do not currently have dates on their calendar.

Blackhawk Council typically offers multiple sessions, one for each district, so additional dates may still be added.


  • For details, please check the Council websites for dates, timing, location, and expectations.
  • If you have questions about a particular session or to register, please check the links below for contact information or to register online.
  • If you have general questions about the program, those should be directed to one of our scoutmasters.



IOLS is intended to introduce the patrol method and outdoor skills including camping, and as such, requires an overnight. All sessions involve an overnight; NEIC’s also requires an evening session in advance to form patrols. The training is conducted with adults split into patrols and practicing many of the skills we ask our scouts to do in patrols.  Jeff and Ben did this together in 2018 and I believe it was nice to have a troop “buddy” to share the ride or compare notes with.

Because the adult participants need to be functioning as members of their adult patrol, they cannot also be leading a troop campout at the same time, so this typically cannot be completed during week-long summer camps such as Makajawan, though portions of other Scoutmaster training may be offered.

Some councils host combined BALOO/IOLS sessions. BALOO is for Cub Scout leaders. It is IOLS that is part of the required training for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. Scoutmasters/ASMs also need to complete several online webinars to be considered fully “position trained.”  Additional, optional training, is available on cold-weather camping (OKPIK), wilderness first aid, and “Wood Badge” (which allows adult leaders to pursue additional study in an area of personal priority).


COURSE DESCRIPTION (from Three Fires program; some Councils may vary emphasis and presentation slightly but the content should be pretty standard no matter where you attend).

Emphasis will be placed upon learning the following skills:

  • Campsite Selection: Basics; Tent and Bag Specifications
  • Cooking and Sanitation: Prep; Storage; Meal Planning
  • Fires, Stoves, Campfires: Equipment; Safety; Campfire Planning
  • Interfaith Services: Inclusion; Incorporation at Camp-outs
  • Outdoor Ethics: Leave No Trace; Tread Lightly!; Outdoor Code
  • Packing and Hiking: Proper Gear; Packing Techniques
  • Plant and Animal ID: Native and Invasive Species; Tracking
  • Map and Compass: Basics; GPS; Geo cache
  • Ropes and Knots: Whipping; Tying; Lashing
  • Woods Tools: Pocketknife; Camp Saw; Ax; Proper Care and Use; Whittling Chip

IOLS is an introductory course and does not teach survival skills.  It is designed for Leaders to take Troops on basic camping trips. High Adventure and Back Country trips require additional training.