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Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer

Philmont Guidebook to Adventure: "Remember, the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly."

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by Doug Prosser | 2006-04-19 03:00:00-06


Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 1
Rock climbing at Cow Camp, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

Whenever you walk around base camp at Philmont Scout Ranch during the summer you will see the "cripples": Boy Scouts, mostly adult leaders, who have broken down on the trail and had to be removed from their crew and evacuated from the backcountry. They are almost always limping but quite often you will find them hobbling around with crutches. For each one you see in the base camp there are many more on the trails that are just barely making it and regretting their decision to come to Philmont. Why is this happening when Philmont is one of the great adventures in Scouting? The two most common errors are insufficient training and carrying too much weight. When these two errors happen simultaneously that person has created a dangerous situation for himself, and his crew.

Philmont publishes a pamphlet, Philmont Guidebook to Adventure, which gives Scouts information on the Philmont experience, the training, and equipment needed to hike its trails. The equipment list is extensive (read "heavy"), with lots of gear and multiple sets of clothing. Most people who read this pamphlet assume that this is the recommended list of equipment to bring to Philmont. It is not! There is one paragraph in this pamphlet that is the key to your success at Philmont that most people miss:

Gathering Your Equipment

Backpacking requires proper equipment just as any outdoor sport. Without suitable equipment you will face unnecessary hardships. Take only what you need. After several overnight camps you should be able to conduct your own shakedown to eliminate items you didn't need. Remember, the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly. Check your equipment against the recommended lists on page 12 and 13. This is the maximum. All backpackers can reduce this list and still be comfortable, clean, and safe.

Philmont Guidebook to Adventure 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006

The above paragraph sounds like something Ray Jardine wrote instead of the Boy Scouts of America. Statements like "take only what you need," "eliminate items you don't need," and "the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly" have been heard for years throughout the lightweight backpacking community.

This article will show you a reasonable list of gear and techniques that will allow you to carry a lighter pack and truly enjoy the wonders Philmont has to offer.

When I asked my 18-year-old son (Philmont trek 2002, Rayado 2003) how others or I could lighten our packs, his immediate response was, "Bring your 18-year-old son and give him all your gear." He was joking, of course, but there's a lot of wisdom in this statement. At Philmont you function as a "crew" or team. You succeed or fail as this team. If you have immensely strong Scouts they can and should carry more of the group gear than the weaker ones, whether boys or leaders. This allows the whole crew to move the most efficiently around Philmont.

Philmont assigns a Ranger to your crew for the intake process and to hike with you for a few days. The Ranger will get your crew through the intake process, ensure that you bring the appropriate gear, and train the crew on Philmont techniques. Your particular Ranger is the one you need to convince concerning the clothing and equipment you bring. Many people who frequent Backpacking Light will know a bit more about backpacking than your average 18-22 year old Ranger, but please do not harass them. Just take the time to explain yourself and your choices and most of the time they will go along with your choices. I recommend that you not challenge them on anything to do with bear protection. In 2002 we wanted to bring lighter ropes and bags, but our Ranger disagreed. We took the Philmont ropes and bags. In 2005 we had a similar event. I cannot see them approving the Bozeman Mountain Works AirCore Pro URSA Dyneema Bear Bag Hanging Rope even though it may be a better and lighter choice.

Philmont does a really good job of having thousands of Scouts camping in close proximity to lots of bears with very few problems and needs to be congratulated for their efforts to keep everyone safe.


The gear on the list below was selected specifically to meet the requirements of Philmont Scout Ranch while being as light as possible. Although the list was compiled for Boy Scouts and Scout Leaders attending Philmont, it will work equally well for others interested in a lighter pack.

  • Seasons: Summer - lows to the 40s F, high 80s to 90s F, short afternoon showers common
  • Length: Four days between resupply
  • Where: Philmont Scout Ranch, Sangre de Christo mountains, New Mexico

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 2
Equipment check on day one, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

Rationale for Selected Gear

The gear you carry is broken into five sections: Personal Equipment: Clothing; Personal Equipment: Gear; Personal Equipment: Sleep Systems; Crew Equipment Issued at Philmont; and Crew Equipment Provided by Your Crew.

1. Personal Equipment: Clothing

Philmont sets some standards that influence your clothing choices. They require completely separate sleep clothing, full rain suits (no ponchos), and long pants for various activities. These requirements dictate some of your choices, but still allow you to go fairly light.

Philmont requires long pants for some of the activities (spar pole climbing, horseback riding, conservation projects). These activities could conceivably be done in your rain pants. I tried this during my 2002 trek, but now my rain pants have numerous pieces of duct tape covering the holes I put in them at Philmont doing these activities. Since most people prefer to hike in shorts, a better solution would be a long pair of pants with zip-off legs. A good choice is the Ex-Officio Amphi Convertible Pant. In addition to zip-off legs, it has a built-in brief so that you do not need to bring underwear. For a shirt, I recommend one with an SPF-30 rating and sleeves you can roll up or down. RailRiders, Ex-Officio, and REI make nice shirts, among others. Another advantage of these shirts over T-shirts is that the fabric weave is much tighter making it hard for mosquitoes to bite through the shirt. Remember to treat your clothing with Permethrin prior to coming to Philmont. All you need to take is the one pair of zip-off pants and one hiking shirt for the whole trek. When you get a chance to shower at one of the staff camps wash your shirt, pants, and socks; put them back on and they will be dry usually in less than an hour. I take two pairs of hiking socks, one to wear and the other to change into part way though the day or when getting into camp.

Boots are not necessary since almost all hiking is done on well-worn trails, and your pack weight should be below 30 pounds. Running shoes with good tread will do fine, especially if they are trail runners. Make sure they are broken in before going. A wide brim hat finishes off your hiking clothing.

I have used Frogg Toggs at Philmont for rainwear. I combined them with an umbrella to keep the rain off my face. The umbrella also functions to keep my pack fairly dry. The Gossamer Gear Micropore Rain suit costs $25 versus $70 for Frogg Toggs and weighs less (10.3 oz vs. 16.2 oz). Several people in our crew tried the Micropore Rain Suit on my 2005 trek with mixed results. Some of the suits were really trashed after a 10-day trek. The consensus of our group was that the Frogg Toggs were a better choice, but for Scouts it's hard to overlook the low cost of the Micropore Rain suit.

You will also need to bring a warm sweater and/or jacket/vest. I found that a lightweight fleece or wool sweater works OK but adding a lightweight vest really keeps you toasty socializing with other groups at night. If you find you are getting cold due to wind, just wear your rain suit to act as a wind barrier. Don't use down exclusively for your insulation, in case it gets wet. Mix some wool, fleece, or high loft synthetics into your clothing line. I use a PossumDown (wool) sweater, Patagonia synthetic vest, and a down sleeping bag.

2. Personal Equipment: Gear

When I was in Philmont in 2002 I used a Gossamer Gear G4 pack with a trash compactor bag inside as waterproofing. The G4 worked well at Philmont but it seemed a bit too big even with the bulky food that you get issued. The Ranger was skeptical, but accepted my setup when I showed him I had everything on his list, and then some. In 2005 I used a Gossamer Gear G5 pack (silnylon version). This pack has a smaller volume than the G4, but my gear has also gotten a bit lighter and smaller. The Ranger never questioned me about the pack. Some members of our trek used a GoLite Gust pack (20 oz), and some the Granite Gear Virga (21 oz). The Virga has compression straps to secure the contents better than the Gust, but all the adults and Scouts were happy with their selections. Some of the others took heavier packs that they have owned for a while but are cutting down on other weighty items. Most lightweight packs will work at Philmont if you get total weights to less than 25 pounds with food and water. You need to keep a big enough area in the pack to carry about four days of food, which is usually the most they issue at any one time. Plan on the space for this food to be approximately the size of a bear canister but made up of numerous smaller packages. When the food is issued, go through the food bags and remove items that you and your food group will not use.

Take your water containers of preference. A bladder system, such as Platypus or CamelBak, helps you easily stay hydrated. Bring enough water containers to hold at least 4 liters so that the nights you are in a dry camp you will have water for the morning. If everyone has an extra 2-3 liters of water you do not need to carry the Philmont extra water containers, thus saving a little bit of weight. One other suggestion when going into a dry camp: eat your dinner for lunch near a water source, since dinners require water, whereas lunches and breakfasts are usually dry.

I carry my small pocketknife, whistle, and a couple of photon lights on a necklace so I know where everything is when I need it. The other personal gear you will need are a plastic bowl, cup for hot liquids and a spoon for eating. Some other items are a small propane lighter, personal first aid kit, medicines, sunglasses, and a "stash" of coffee if you are a big coffee drinker. If you really need your caffeine, chocolate-coated coffee beans were really popular on our 2002 and 2005 treks. Remember to bring two cotton bandanas, one for cooking with and one for personal needs.

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 5
Troop 257 group photo after arriving back at base camp at the conclusion of their 2005 trek. Tent City, where everyone spends their first and last night at Philmont, is in the background.
Courtesy of Doug Prosser, ASM, Troop 257, Ventura County Council, CA

3. Personal Equipment: Sleep Systems

Philmont requires separate sleeping clothes from the clothing you wear during the day. This is because your hiking clothes could be contaminated with spilled food, thus leaving odors on your clothing that bears might be attracted to while you sleep. Philmont is very serious about bear avoidance. They spend a lot of time teaching your crew the "Philmont" way to prevent bear attraction. Please do not challenge them on these issues, just go with the flow. They have been very successful in preventing most bear attacks with thousands of Scouts going through the Ranch, always camping in the same fixed locations. Your sleep clothing choices depend on a) whether you sleep warm or cold, and b) the rest of your sleep system. Night temperatures are rarely colder than the low 40s. I sleep cold, so I wear lightweight fleece pants with a long sleeve synthetic shirt and sleep socks that double as shoulder pads on the G5 pack. I add, as needed, a lightweight beanie, wool sweater, and vest.

Philmont requires a tent; no tarps or bivies are allowed. They do not require that a tent have an integrated floor, so many lightweight options are available. The Scouts in 2002 and 2005 used the Mountain Hardwear Kiva, which holds up to four Scouts. Our Scoutmaster and I used the Betamid in 2002, and this year we purchased a Betamid Light to save even more weight. Some people use bathtub-type ground cloths, because the campgrounds are all very hard and flat, thus allowing water to pool around the tents. A flat ground sheet will work fine, however, if you pay attention when setting up your camp, just like you would on any other camping trip.

As I've aged I have migrated to thicker and thicker sleeping pads, to increase the quality of my sleep on the hard ground at Philmont. I am currently using the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad at 25 ounces. In 2005, three of our crew slept on the Big Agnes pads.

In 2002, I used a three-quarter length thin Therm-a-Rest combined with my Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest closed cell foam pad and a Western Mountaineering MityLite sleeping bag. In a tent, a 30-40 degree bag will work well when combined with some of your insulation layers and a hat. In 2005, I used a Pertex Quantum Arc X down bag, which is both warmer and lighter than the MityLite. I was much warmer sleeping with the Arc X and I may need to lighten my sleep clothing for the next Philmont trek. One other topic that concerns people at night is bugs. We really had no problems with bugs in 2002 and 2005; I never even had to use any Deet or my head net.

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 4
Fish Camp just after Troop 257 has finished setting up camp in the rain. The Scouts under the 8'x10' silnylon dining fly are breaking out the food packets for dinner and getting the cooking started. Note the Micropore Rainsuits, two Mountain Hardwear Kiva shelters, Black Diamond Betamid (purple/white), and Black Diamond Beta Light (blue/gray silnylon). Philmont, 2005.
Courtesy of Doug Prosser, ASM, Troop 257, Ventura County Council, CA

4. Crew Equipment Issued at Philmont

Philmont will issue gear to your crew if you do not bring your own. The Philmont gear is heavy and designed to take the constant abuse that Scouts can deliver. If you plan well you will not have to take much of Philmont's heavy gear. Below is a discussion of the gear listed in "Philmont 2005 Guidebook to Adventure."

The first item is a nylon dining fly (12'x12') weighing about 4 pounds. Its two collapsible poles weigh about 1 pound. Instead, have your crew take a silnylon tarp at least 8'x10' along with extra titanium stakes and lightweight line. In place of the dining fly poles, our crew used two hiking poles velcroed together to give them added height, just single poles if we wanted to keep the tarp low. For whatever reason, our Ranger did not want us to tie our dining fly to trees.

Do not use the Philmont tents, since they weigh about 5.5 pounds for two people. There are many current lightweight options under 2 pounds per Scout (see above). The cook kits Philmont provides range from 4-6 pounds per cook group and cutlery kits weigh 0.5 pound. Each cook group needs a 6-8 liter pot (4 liters is a bit small), and a 2-liter pot for some desserts. Another option for desserts is to mix them in plastic bags. We did this in 2005 with good success; only one dessert bag blew up on a Scout who was too rough with it. Leave the fry pan at home. The whole crew will need one other 6-8 liter pot to boil water for sterilizing eating utensils and for washing. Philmont is really big on regularly sterilizing your eating and cooking gear. The only cutlery item you need is a large spoon and a serving cup with a handle. Leave the spatula at home.

Due to the Philmont logistics, we always use two stoves, when in theory we could get by with only one. Many of the memorable activities at Philmont happen in late afternoon and early evening. The Scouts want to get out there for those activities as fast as possible. One stove for cooking and another stove to boil water means our crew can finish their meals and get out to the activities much faster. In my opinion this is worth the added weight of a second stove.

The next item from the Philmont cook kit is hot-pot tongs (two pairs), weighing about 0.5 pounds. I never saw a use for these since we bring a cooking bandana (our only cotton item) that works great for grabbing hot items.

The next item on the list is a camp shovel, weighing about 1 pound. This is a relic of early days when latrines were dug at each camp. Today every campsite has an outhouse, so we leave this behind.

The next items are plastic trash bags, salt, and pepper. The packets in which you carry your food provide sufficient space to stuff your trash, but trash bags may come in handy as emergency rain wear if a Scout's rain gear gets lost. The salt and pepper are in small individual packets, which generate a lot of small pieces of trash. A better option is to bring a small container of each, along with some additional spices for your trail meals.

Philmont provides scrub pads, toilet paper, and small containers of both dishwashing soap and hand sanitizer. We also bring additional hand sanitizer bottles with us so that we have them readily available when cooking, eating, or returning from the outhouse. We think this is one of the most important aspects of avoiding sickness on the trail.

Philmont also provides Katadyn Micropur water purification tablets, a variety of other cleaning equipment, and bear bags and ropes. Philmont uses a plastic strainer to filter food particles out of wash water and drain it into an underground sump. A spatula is used to scoop the larger food particles from the strainer to be thrown in your trash. I feel a fine mesh screen circle, 6-8 inches in diameter, could accomplish the same function as the plastic strainer, and the spatula could be replaced with a small thin flat piece of plastic like a credit card. I'll be doing this next trip to Philmont.

5. Equipment Provided by Your Crew

This section addresses those miscellaneous gear items that your crew may bring with them that will not be supplied by Philmont.

Philmont recommends a sewing kit with heavy thread and needle. During our past treks we brought a "hotel" sewing kit but we never used it for anything other than draining blisters.

Bring enough tent stakes to put up all your tents, plus the dining fly (in windy conditions) instead of the recommended 10 per person.

Two to three collapsible water containers, 2.5 gallons each are recommended so that when you go to dry camps your crew can bring extra water. In 2002, a number of us brought extra Platypus 2.5 liter containers and in 2005 a few of the crew brought 2.5 gallon containers that they could inflate and use as pillows at night. Either way works fine but it is convenient having some larger containers. I also recommend that you have the crew fill all their water containers and purify them prior to going to bed so you can hit the trail immediately in the morning. You usually need to remind the Scouts to make sure this happens.

Two or three backpacking stoves are recommended. We brought two MSR Simmerlight stoves. Since we had two stoves, we did not bring a repair kit, but we did bring two, 33-ounce and one, 12-ounce fuel containers. We ended up with way too much fuel. I think that a 33-ounce fuel container per stove will provide adequate fuel in between food/fuel pick-ups.

One crew first aid kit is required but the list of items in the kit Philmont suggests is a bit much. Our first aid kit was not any different than we take on a weekend trek. Every Ranger staffed camp has extensive first aid supplies, trained first-aid providers, and the ability to transport people out of the backcountry, so you will not need to provide care for multiple days.

Our crew brought along duct tape wrapped around each of our hiking poles. The duct tape was used for a number of things during the trek but the most important was to patch holes and tears in Micropore Rain suits.

One waterproof ground cloth (5'6" x 7'6") per tent is recommended, but we only brought the ground cloth that came with our tents and did not bring this item. Three 50-foot lengths of 1/8 inch nylon cord are recommended but we only brought two 50-foot lengths that we mainly used for tying up the dining fly. We could have saved some weight here by using the AirCore line to tie up our dining fly.

One adult in 2005 brought along a picture guide to plants which some of the boys found interesting. Our crew brought one 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen, one 2.5-ounce tube of 3M Ultrathon insect repellant, and no shampoo. In three treks to Philmont I have never felt a need to use insect repellant so this may be another area to save a little weight. We do bring a small bar of soap for showers and/or use a little Camp Suds.


Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 3
Untangling bear bagging ropes, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

I have shown you a way to solve one of the two reasons for failure at Philmont: carrying too much weight. The other reason for failure is lack of training before going to Philmont. The people who walk regularly had no real problems hiking around Philmont while those who did no real training were hard pressed at times to complete the day's hike. All adults and any Scouts who are not playing sports in high school need to get out and walk five to seven days per week. Everyone who has not done this has slowed down our crew whether adult or Scout. When walking, carry a daypack or the backpack that you will be taking to Philmont. Each week you are walking, increase the weight in your pack by 3-5 pounds until it is a little above what you will carry at Philmont. In 2002, my training route took me past a supermarket where I would stop every other day and buy a bag of dried beans or peas and throw them in my pack until I had 30 pounds to carry. Each week, increase the distance that you are walking until you are doing 3-5+ miles daily. Try to plan your route such that you include some hills. Have your crew plan weekend treks twice a month for a few months before going to Philmont so that you all can learn to work as a team. Refine your gear list until you have it optimized.

With the steps described above you and your Scouts will enjoy the trip of a lifetime, and just maybe get to come back one day with you children and even possibly your grandchildren.

My gear list for Philmont follows. It includes specific brands and models/styles of gear for reference only. This list neither represents an endorsement of any particular product nor suggests that any product listed is the best choice in the context of any particular situation. The list is easily adaptable for Scouts and Leaders and each person's specific needs.

Philmont Gear List
hat with brimwide-brimmed hatDorfman Pacific4.3120
hiking shirtshort sleeve wicking shirtTroop Cool-max shirt5.0140
hiking pantslong zip-off pants with built-in briefsEx Offficio Amphi Convertible 12.8364
hiking sockslightweight merino wool or Coolmax trail running socksThorlo Lite Walking Level 2 Mini-crew Socks2.982
hiking shoesbreathable, lightweight trail shoesLowa Vento II, size 1346.41316
bandanacottonSurvival Bandana x 2 (one for cooking; one for everything else)3.288
watchmultifunction: compass, altimeter and timeSuunto Vector1.954
neck cordnylon line - holds light, whistle, knife, can-openerKelty Triptease line - reflects light at night, easier to find2.570
lightersmall butane lighter, without child lockscheapest on the market0.514
eye glasses casecombination glasses case and retainerBackpacking Light Hides TechnoSkin Sunglass Case/Retainers0.615
eye glassesprescription-0.720
sun glassesclip-on sun glasses and case-1.438
hiking polesadjustable poles with duct tape wrapped on Komperdell Pro Series AS 21.2600
insulation layerwool shirtPossumDown Sweater, XL10.3390
insulation vestsynthetic vestPatagonia Micro Puff6.0170
rain/wind suitjacket and pantsGossamer Gear Micropore Rainsuit (pants XL 4.2 oz, jacket XL 5.5 oz)9.7460
warm hatwool or fleece beanie/watch capgeneric lightweight beanie1.234
sleep pantsfleece pantsREI Polartec 100 Teton Pants, large10.3290
sleep shirtnylon short or long sleeve t-shirtLL Bean synthetic shirt8.0226
sleep sockwarm socks/used as pads on pack's shoulder strapsunknown brand3.7106
extra hiking socklightweight merino wool or Coolmax trail running socksThorlo Lite Walking Level 2 Mini-crew Socks2.982
overhead shelterlightweight tentBlack Diamond Beta Light ($140)22.0622
overhead shelterlightweight flooring for tentBlack Diamond Betamid Floor ($55, 20 oz, partner carries)0.00
tent stakesstandard, shaped like shepherd's crooktitanium stakes (6) (2 oz, partner carries)0.00
sleeping baglightweight downPertex Quantum Arc X Variable Girth Down Sleeping Bag16.4466
sleeping padthick inflatable pad (my one comfort!)Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad Mummy, extra-long25.0710
backpacklightweightGossamer Gear G5 Ultralight Backpack, silnylon version, size small7.7216
waterproof linertrash bag to protect clothing from water and for emergenciestrash compactor bag with two extras6.9198
sleeping padclosed cell foam cut down to use as frame for packTherm-a-Rest Ridge Rest 3/4 length closed cell pad-cut down 7.0196
utensilspoonLexan soup spoon0.38
dishplastic margarine container, smallany brand1.850
spicespersonal usehot pepper0.926
cupplastic 8-12 oz cup able to take boiling waterfree plastic cup from Family Fun Cuts that fits in cook kit0.824
water bottles3 liter sipper w/ tubeCamelBak insulated 100 oz Unbottle9.5272
extra water bottle2.5 liter, empty except for dry campsPlatypus 3 liter1.028
mapswax coatedPhilmont official map and plastic bag5.3150
first aid/medicationsminor wound care assorted wound and blister care items, antimicrobial ointment2.057
hand sanitizer2 oz bottle for pre-cooking/eating and post-bathroomleast expensive available3.085
toilet papernon-scented toilet papersmall amount in plastic zip-lock bag6.0168
personal hygieneteeth and body cleaning kit small toothbrush, small toothpaste, small soap in zip-lock bags2.057
lip balmSPF 15 or higher-0.38
bug barrierhead netCampmor Backpacker No-See-Um Head net0.822
umbrellalightweight umbrella folds smallMontBell umbrella5.7160
foodPhilmont provided 3lbs/day/personAverage 2 days carried (Best Guess!!!)96.0454
wateraverage carried - 2 liters2 L64.01814
water treatmentchlorine dioxide based treatmentKatadyn Micropur Purification tablets 0.38
TREK SHARED GEAR (split between 10 people on trek)
stove and windscreenlightweight White GasMSR SimmerLite stove and windscreen x 2 (13.8 oz each)27.6773
fuel bottles and fuelwhite gasMSR 33 oz bottle x 2 (estimate 2 lbs each)64.01792
cookpotlightweight aluminum or titanium, 4-6 quart4 liter aluminum pots x 3 (10.8 oz each)32.4907
guylines100 feet nylon rope 1/8 inch or lessREI Braided Nylon Cord, 1/8 inch, 100 ft5.6160
dining fly10' x10' lightweight tarpsilnylon 10' x 8' + 4 titanium stakes16.0454
first aid kitexpedition size kit with common medicationsAdventure Medical Kit Weekender with some additions23.0650
spices-salt and pepper4.0113
cooking utensilsspoon and spatulaMSR folding large spoons x 2 and 1 spatula2.776
bear bags and ropePhilmont provided3 bags (0.5 lb each) and 1-150 ft, 1/4 inch rope (2.5 lbs)64.01811
sunscreenSPF 30 or higher4 oz bottle5.4152
insect repellantDeet based3M UltraThon insect repellant2.572
sewing kitsmallhotel kit0.12
repair kitminimalnylon ties, pins, clevis pins (if needed), stick of hot glue2.056
plastic strainerFrisbee styleprovided by Philmont8.0224
dish soapbiodegradable3 oz Camp Suds3.496
scrub padssmall2 cut down scrub pads0.612
hand sanitizeralcohol based4 oz Purell x210.0283
camera digital camera and extra batteriesPentax Optio S 509.0255


(1) Total Weight Worn or Carried6.52.9
(2) Total Base Weight in Pack11.05.0
(3) Total Weight of Consumables10.04.5
(4) Total weight of Trek Shared Gear1.80.8
(5) Total Initial Pack Weight (2) + (3) + (4)22.810.4
(6) Full Skin Out Weight (1) + (2) + (3) + (4)29.313.3

New Boy Scouts Gear List for Three-Season Mild Conditions - 3

About the Author

Doug Prosser is an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 257 in the Ventura County Council, California with 11 years experience. He lives in Camarillo, which is located on the coast in southern California between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. He has participated in numerous hikes in the local mountains and has planned many treks into the High Sierras for his Troop. He attended Philmont Scout Ranch as a Scout and as a leader, most recently in 2005. He started out with 50+ pound packs and continues to lighten his load, always looking for a better way of backpacking. His friends have dubbed his garage "Doug's Camping World." Doug has a strong interest in teaching both kids and adults how to enjoy backpacking. He continues to train and gear up for an extended trek on the Pacific Crest Trail within the next few years. Doug can be contacted at


"Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer," by Doug Prosser. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-04-19 03:00:00-06.


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Philmont gear selection..
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Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 07:41:20 MDT Print View

After reading the new Philmont article, I have just one question...

"Philmont requires a tent; no tarps or bivies are allowed. They do not require that a tent have an integrated floor, so many lightweight options are available."

Does that make any sense to you at all? Or is that just one of those "just go with the flow" kind of things.

Seriously, how is a Betamid not considered a Tarp?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 07:58:44 MDT Print View

My guess is because it can be entirely enclosed nearly to the ground. A flat tarp will have an open end somewhere. Maybe the better term is no flat tarps.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Flat Tarps CAN be staked to the ground on all sides... on 04/19/2006 10:36:05 MDT Print View

Website / Diagrams (Warning site is VERY thorough)

However, most of the 'tarp-tents' (aka betamids) are obviously designed to be staked all the way to the ground, whereas a straight tarp it is hard to show that it is.

I suspect that John is right in his guess of how Philmont distinguishes between a tent and a tarp.

A GG Spinshelter would likely easily make the cut as well...

Edited by jdmitch on 04/19/2006 10:36:38 MDT.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 10:48:13 MDT Print View

I wonder why they don't want "open" tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?

Couldn't someone just leave the "door" open on their tent, or betamid, and be just as "un-safe"?

Switching gears a bit, I didn't netting mentioned. Are bugs not much of an issue at Philmont?

Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 13:03:44 MDT Print View

[quote="Tony Burnett"]I wonder why they don't want "open" tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?[/quote]

I would suspect that the reason is due more to weather. Since a flat tarp cannot be completely enclosed it is more vulnerable to weather (barely imo).

Edited by erichlf on 04/19/2006 13:04:18 MDT.

E. H. Clemmons
(sclemmons) - MLife
Other People's Kids on 04/19/2006 20:00:18 MDT Print View

If you ever wonder why the BSA does things the way it does, it is because of the liability associated with other people's kids and because a departure from the middle of the road can jeopardize the welfare of the group. Is is just hyper-conservative, and the other end of the spectrum from the BPL approach.

There is a guide to safe scouting that is a safe harbor for leaders and any substantial departure is open to criticism in court if a kid gets wet or hypothermic or otherwise unwell. I believe that "safety first" bias is behind everything in scouts that does not make sense to the non-scout: the no-*BEEP*-scoutmaster thing, the boots required thing, the no tarps thing, the no Chacos thing, the no hammocks thing, etc. All are designed for liability avoidance and the safety of a group with a comparatively low skill level compared to the BPL audience. Remember, unlike the BPL mission, we are "growing boys", not necessarily seeing how light we can go. ( Please no sermons on this, it is just my observation.)

I am going to Philmont in two months. I will let you know how we do.

Edited by sclemmons on 04/19/2006 20:03:04 MDT.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
BSA & Philmont rules on 04/20/2006 19:39:57 MDT Print View

I think I have to agree with the earlier comment that the BSA is very conservative & most likely feel that tarp camping has more risks in bad weather and to do it safely requires a more advanced backpacker. Another perhaps side issue they were negative on attaching ropes to trees to tie up the dining flys (i.e. tarps). This maybe related to the continuous use of each camp site each & every summer & the potential to damage tree bark with all the ropes. Someone better educated would have to tell me if this is a valid concern. On some warm nights I was tempted to go sleep under the dining fly (tarp) since the is really no issue with bugs.

What I found amazing is that no one else we saw were using light weight tents. People were always amazed at our tents. Let alone light packs.

The other strange thing is to watch people lining up to leave and they weigh their packs and they are so proud when they weigh 50 or 60 or even 70+ pounds. These things are monsters to look at. I would never put one on my back otherwise I would be one of the "cripples" in my article. Our group passed about every other group on the trail because we were so light & could hike so fast (efficiently as a team). Some people on the trail with those big packs looked like they were going to have a heart attack in any minute.

I hope the article helps stimulate thinking on hiking Philmont with a light pack. Perhaps next time I'll won't be the only one with a G5. Enjoy.

Doug Prosser

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/21/2006 12:32:00 MDT Print View

When it comes to being a “bear thing” I do not believe there is any difference in security between a nylon tent and a nylon tarp. The bear will get in there regardless.

The “Safe Harbor” part of the “Guide to Safe Scouting” also includes allowing individual privacy. A tent without an integrated floor can still be closed and provide that level of privacy needed whereas a tarp may not. As sclemmons mentions in the post above “liability avoidance” is a big issue.

As far as tying ropes to trees, I do not know of ANY scout property that allows tying ropes to trees, roots or bushes as this is part of the Leave-No-Trace concept.

I thought your article was very well presented and can apply to all scouts (and others) doing any backpacking event. I have sent the link for it to all of the ASM’s and SM in our troop (

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: BSA & Philmont rules on 04/21/2006 13:55:45 MDT Print View

A few weeks ago I had an email with Philmont staff about tarps .... which was lost to some aggressive archive clean out :-(

What I was told was along the lines of
* crews cook under tarps
* bears are accustomed to finding odors under tarps
* we don't want to people sleeping under tarps because some bears might be conditioned to look under tarps

Personally, I'm with Doug Prosser concerning not fighting the system when it comes to bear issues.

Mark Zoller
(ArapahoeDC) - F
Boots on 04/24/2006 07:52:13 MDT Print View

After 4 Treks our unit recommends boots with a substantial sole. We have had numerous trekkers with rock bruises from some of the trails. Makes for a very uncomfortable trip. The usual OTC pain relievers don't do much for this condition.

Steven Hardy
(hardyhiker1) - F
Philmont -- camp chairs on 04/24/2006 11:01:48 MDT Print View

Excellent article. I went to Philmont last year and one recommendation I would make is to try to get your whole crew to buy into the lightweight philosophy. I ended up carrying more than my fair share of food because I had a lighter pack than others. In the future, I will not go unless the whole troop is willing to go lightweight. However, one luxury that many of the people on my crew carried were camp chairs. Philmont offers a great opportunity to sit around a campfire and talk with your son(s) and their friends. That is much more comfortable on a camp chair than on the ground, even if you can sit on your sleeping pad. I am still debating how to deal with this if I ever go again.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Boots on 04/24/2006 11:52:28 MDT Print View

Mark, I would like to hear more about your experience. I am most curious about the weight factor, both body and pack weight. Was debris inside the footwear an issue? What footwear seemed to be problematic? Finally, do you think age or experience might be an issue?

I am a new Assistant Scout Master and am trying to get a general sense of footwear issues beyond my personal experience. Everyones feet are different. My experience may be atypical.

EDIT: Any one else who wants to reply, feel free. I directed this to Mark because he started the topic for me.

Edited by ericnoble on 04/24/2006 12:00:21 MDT.

William Stoddard
(mstoddard) - F
camp chairs on 04/24/2006 11:56:05 MDT Print View

I survived two "trek 25" trips to Philmont, and agree on the usefulness of camp chairs. If you haven't looked at the luxurylite backpack, try The backpack frame doubles as a camp chair, and Bruce Warren has a less expensive line called neotrek. He has done a great job with customer satisfaction, at least in my case.

I. Michael Snyder
(imsnyder) - F
Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/24/2006 14:58:38 MDT Print View


Thank you for the best advice I've gotten on preparation for Philmont. We're hiking in July and I'm about to completely re-think my gear situation. Our first full pack prep hike was last month and I felt like Katz from “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Another great read for Philmont preparations. I carried a 25 lb pack for 12 miles and wished it was lighter. I also, planed to loose 13 lb of excess body weight, but have decided to go for another 5 lbs just because I can.

In 2004, we went on the Cavalcade (Horseback) and we were limited to what we can take in a single stuff sac; because of limits on whet the horses could carry. That didn’t include the tents, food and other Philmont provided gear. I got by just fine, but we had to ware jeans and cowboy boots, so we had some extra weight that didn’t count. By the way, I lost 50 lb for that adventure (over a 1 year plan) and luckily only gained back 13 lbs since.

On the tent situation, during our Cavalcade in August, we experienced two flash floods, hail, and sub-freezing temperatures. Sleeping in a tent with a dry sleeping bag is very different from being in a tarp situation with heavy rain, flooding, and wind. The reason, I’d avoid a tarp is that you need to be able to get completely out of the elements, and I don’t think a tarp will do it. The most miserable night in Philmont was following a flash flood and we lost the ability to be out of the elements. I was wet, cold, and uncomfortable. My excuse was the adults sacrificed our dry gear to be used by the scouts. Don’t underestimate the ability of Philmont to through nasty weather at you. For this reason, “Be Prepared.” Have a sleep system that protects you from the elements, make sure all your gear (sleeping bag, sleeping cloths) is protected from getting wet at all times. My gear and the gear of others was dry because they were still in plastic when the flash floods came. Most of our boys were not so lucky.

I’m still inclined to have a second set of hiking pants and shirt, because once you’re wet and it’s raining you’re going to stay wet. I also think that a third set of hiking socks makes sense; 1 to ware, 1 for a change into the hike, and 1 that’s been rinsed and is drying. I also find sock liners keep blisters down. What about extra shoes, light-weight tennis shoes? After a long morning hike, isn’t it nice to change to something else? I was also grateful we had gloves or glove liners on the cold mornings. They were also better than using a bandana to move hot pots.

On the dining fly, make sure everyone in your unit can fit underneath while it’s raining. I don’t think I’d skimp on a few feet for the weight. At our Cavalcade we spent a long time under a tarp with only half the unit there and it seemed very cramped. It might be worthwhile bringing a couple decks of cards for the unit, because there are only so many songs, skits, and stories you can share in a raging rain storm.

On the white gas bottles, I thought I’d opt for the smaller 22 oz bottles with a spare Nalgene bottle as was provided by Philmont last time. I can spread the weight around more, and a mishap (spill) will only deplete a third of my fuel supply. Thought?

You didn’t mention a Ditty bag for going into the bear bag. We found that the boys that kept all their smellables in a ditty bag where always ready when we went to raise the bear bag. It was always a pain to have to raise and lower it one or two more times after the fact.

I’m still going to find a way to keep my pack weight down, but I’m not going to sacrifice comfort and preparedness. I guess, there may be some luck of the draw on the weather you get.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/24/2006 16:25:48 MDT Print View

Can any tent survive a real flash flood situation?

When I was young and impecunious (back in the late Carter and early Reagan years) I depended on tarps for outdoor adventures. I would borrow a tent from older friends or relatives for expeditions to really heinous places or for winter trips, but mostly depended on luck, skill, and cheap plastic tarps.

The first "real" tent I bought was purchased largely for my then-girlfriend, who wasn't at all cool about skinning out in front of a crowd and wouldn't hear about getting freaky under a tarp.

One consequence of that relationship stayed with me for well-on twenty years, since I pretty exclusively stuck with tents even though she certainly didn't stick around past that one summer. So when I rediscovered tarps I spent most of a season re-acquiring the "eye" for a good tarp spot.

I. Michael Snyder
(imsnyder) - F
Re: Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/26/2006 08:54:45 MDT Print View

Our tents didn't survive the flash flood. I don’t thing even a brick house would have survived.

My point on the tents vs. tarps is that in heavy rain a tent is going to keep you and your sleeping bag drier than a tarp, as long as its above the flood plain. In cold weather, and very chilly nights (experienced at Philmont), a tent is going to keep body heat inside and work much better at heat retention than a tarp.

My other points in being prepared are directed towards having the boys ready for any weather situation they might encounter. As a Scoutmaster my first obligation is to have the boys safe and healthy. I understand that with light-weight back packing you could get away with less cloths changes. But, boys will be boys, and as a scout leader, I’m going to recommend the extra set of dry cloths for both the boys and the leaders. We as leaders must set an example. Additionally, I’ve run into situations (discussed above) where I’ve had to sacrifice my gear to keep a boy from being wet and cold. So, if I’m not prepared with extra cloths that I can loan out, then where am I going to get the aid I need to uphold my first obligation.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/26/2006 15:04:37 MDT Print View

Obviously, you can keep safe and dry under a trap. Folks do it all the time. But to do so requires proper site selection.

I suspect that at Philmont (and other regions which require assigned campsites) this becomes quite difficult. As the overuse causes depressions and otherwise hard areas. Regarding warm, your tent is not suppose to keep you warm, just protect from the elements. Your bag is suppose to keep your warm. Now you can probably bring less of a bag if you are sleeping in a tent. Again, proper tarp site selection is the key.

Regarding "extra" clothes. It sounds like the boys already required to bring extra clothes (one for sleeping and one for eating). Why bring extra extra clothes?

Safety can be accomplished with "extra" gear as well as "extra" training. The later weighs far less. But requires effort and diligence, which, I suspect, is difficult to obtain from some folks.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Tents versus tarps on 04/30/2006 17:17:18 MDT Print View

I hope I can offer a bit of insight on Philmont's gear reasoning. I was scout at Philmont in 1985 and 1987 and a Ranger in 1990. I have since worked as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) from 2001 to 2003. The institutional requirements of the school setting heavily depend on liability and risk management. NOLS is one of the heaviest research organizations for outdoor practices and they have assembled a tremendous amount of information, both from their own courses and other sources, and two issues pop up that have shaped the course requirements in these areas.

1. Bears - Nearly 50 years of research has shown that campers out in the open or under a simple tarp are more than 3 times as likely to be attacked be grizzlies and more than twice as likely by black bears than campers in enclosed tents. Why? There's not one standard reason, but the data clearly indicates that staying tucked away inside a tent reduces your chance of attack. (If you bring smellables into your tent, all bets are off of course)

2. Bugs. NOLS requires Mesh enclosed tents in areas where West Nile Virus has been confirmed.

Grizzlies and Bugs aren't an issue at Philmont, but there were maulings in both 1985 and 87 that we heard about.

Personally, I like tarps and I think the Philmont gear requirements make packs much heavier than they need to be. My personal pack weight for an environment like Philmont would weigh no more than about 18 pounds minus food and water. BUT, I understand many of the reasons listed, particularly in terms of bear camping. Add to it the tendency for a 14-year-old boy to shred lutralight equipment, and some of the heavier gear requirement make more sense.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bears on 04/30/2006 18:11:42 MDT Print View

PEOPLE am I missing something? Bears vs. tarps and tents is gotta be one of the most ridiculous conversations that I have ever read. Common folks, when does a bear go poking his head in your tent or tarp to sniff out food. In all of my years backpacking in the Sierra's I have yet to hear of a bear doing that or have it happen to me. Get over it. Bears (not including a Grizzly but a Black Bear) want nothing to do with us. And this is coming from someone who has camped in VERY HIGH bear activity areas. Geeeesh!!!!!!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bears on 04/30/2006 18:12:43 MDT Print View

and by the way, how is a tarp or a tent going to protect you anyways? Lol