Cover artwork is a glossy cover with three color action photographs (rappelling, camping/hiking, white-water rafting) superimposed on a photograph of a pine branch, compass, Eagle medal, First Class badge, merit badge sash, baseball & bat, and carabiner, spread across the front and back cover.
The 10th Edition differs most obviously from other recent editions by the use of color photographs (over 900 of them) in addition to numerous color drawings. Even the cover consists of photos (another first). This edition is about a hundred pages longer than the last edition. This is definitely the heaviest Handbook; at a full inch thick (25 mm), it ties the 8th Edition in bulk, but it has nearly 40% more pages.
The 10th Edition represents a Scouting program very similar to the program in use before 1972. The BSA even changed the background colors of most of its badges to be more similar to the pre-1972 badges, including the return to green bars for troop offices instead of the silver and gold bars used from 1972-89. The Handbook drops the skill awards, but still groups skills by subject rather than by rank (information for the lower ranks is flagged with a 'T', '2', or '1' for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class).
This Handbook is packed with information about camping, cooking, fire building, and other traditional Scout skills. But the 10th Edition also is filled with detailed information on low-impact camping, with much emphasis on the need for careful use of the environment. This is the first Handbook to include a section on the use of backpacking stoves (stoves were widely used in the fragile wilderness for 20 years before they were mentioned in the Handbook—indeed, for years, the BSA's Philmont Scout Ranch wilderness base trucked wood in to heavily-used campsites rather than require the use of backpacking stoves).
The Handbook contains chapters on bicycling, canoeing, rowing, the new Venture Scouting and Varsity Scouting options for older Scouts, and the separate Varsity Scouting program (which began in 1984).
The 10th Edition has a lengthy chapter on prevention of child abuse and molesting, as well as drug abuse. Along with later 9th Edition printings, it also contains a tear-out insert for parents discussing prevention of drug/alcohol abuse and child abuse/molesting. The 10th Edition has a good discussion on sexual responsibility, but no discussion at all about puberty.
This edition slightly modifies the explanatory wording for the Scout Law.
The artwork and photos in this Handbook are interesting also because the full Scout uniform ("field uniform") is rarely seen. Instead, the BSA tried to promote its new (and expensive) "activities uniform" option by showing it in almost every photo and drawing, including all the cover photos. This optional uniform didn't replace the standard uniform, it was in addition to it. It required not only a separate polo-style shirt, but also different shorts from the standard Scout shorts. Most troops continued to do what troops have done for decades—they designed their own troop T-shirt (or used one of the standard ones in the Scout catalog), which could be worn with the regular Scout shorts.
The 10th Edition contains only the requirements for the 14 Eagle merit badges and color pictures of all the other merit badges. It uses the "perfect" binding. Like the 9th Edition, this is as much a Fieldbook as an advancement manual.
10th Edition Summary and Printing History
Actual 10th Edition Table of Contents