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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

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re:Tents versus tarps w/ bears: where's the research on 04/30/2006 18:46:06 MDT Print View

Hi Shawn:

You stated that:

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.

I have heard simular sorts of statements, but whenever I have asked for more details I get a "well.. I didn't see the research, but John's friend Sam did. I have never been able to find someone who has actually seen this research. Reminded me a bit of a number of myths I have come across at one time or another.

Can you point me to any good, hard for core research papers which have both the data and a description of the research methodology? I have looked for this sort of information before, but couldn't find it in the places I would expect like


Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re:Tents versus tarps w/ bears: where's the research on 04/30/2006 19:46:43 MDT Print View

You could make a request directly to the National Outdoor Leadership School at This is my source of information through which I was then told you WILL camp in tents in the backcountry in the Absarokas. You could also do what the school has done - sit down with information from bear research organizations which have compiled the info for years. Bear attacks get reported - they tend to be very high profile. So there is a great deal of information available in most cases, at least if the victim was part of a group or was a solo hiker who survived to tell what happened. There ARE certain lessons learned: Groups of 4 tend to be attacked much less frequently than smaller groups or solo hikers; campers in tents are much less likely to be attacked than campers in the open; black bears tend to eat those they kill while grizzlies do not. There's not a great deal of "why's" given, but the tendencies are notable. It doesn't stop me from hiking solo in grizzlie country or always using a tent in black bear country (I usually use a tarp in the Smokies), but it's decent info to base institutional risk management decisions on. I DO agree with the earlier poster who said bear attack on sleepers is not a big deal in most areas, but historically MANY of the bear attacks at Philmont HAVE occurred at night, usually with scouts who did something foolish like wear deodorant to bed or brought snacks into their tent. As I said in the original post, all bets are off if you're being a chowderhead.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: bears on 04/30/2006 20:40:58 MDT Print View

Does this remind us of the argument that a tent will keep snakes form crawling into the sleeping bag with you?

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
bears & tents on 04/30/2006 23:53:01 MDT Print View

maybe the tent is for the bear like a convertible jeep is for lions

in africa, as long as people are sitting in the jeep, lions never attack and pretty much ignore you - step on foot on the ground though and they suddenly start looking

maybe being "the man behind the curtain" in a tent is similar for bears?

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: bears & tents on 05/01/2006 06:40:48 MDT Print View

I don't know the "why" of how this phenomenon works. I just know that it is born out by a lot of empirical data. I've only had three encounters with Grizzlie bears, but I've had run-ins with black bears on more like 3 dozen occasions. Only four of those situations were in camp and 3 of those four were in tents (one was at Philmont while I was a ranger by the way) - none of those resulted in any injury except to a pack which a scout had left a koolaid-filled water bottle in a side pocket. I don't think it's likely that bear is going to seek out a person in the open or in a tent if they are careful with their smellables. This is why I'm willing to tarp in bear country. But I don't think it's unreasonable for an institution which is responsible for thousands of young people to make a policy saying "Use a tent instead of a tarp." NOLS does it in many of its branches due to bears. So does Philmont. I agree that ultimately it's a matter of liability more than absolute danger. But that doesn't make it a bad idea when bear attacks have occurred at Philmont in the past.

One side note on a bear attack that happened 3 years ago on a NOLS course. On a river course in Utah, a student who kept his hair in salty dreadlocks was bitten on the head while sleeping out in the open. When the press contacted him and NOLS about the incident, they wanted to have him on the air until they found out this was a small black bear in the Utah desert weighing maybe 100 pounds. I guess a 100-pound bear biting a 200-pound make on the scalp wasn't dramatic enough. Would the bear have been deterred by a tent wall? I don't know. If you bring food smells into your tent, you just never know.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: bears & tents on 05/02/2006 10:47:27 MDT Print View

I took Shawn's suggestion and contacted the NOLS research department. They have never published anything on tents -vs- tarps because their data is "weak". They have 2-3 million successful user days & nights of camping in bear country with a single bear attack (which Shawn described above). So the data represents a "null" set. It shows "correlation", but no causation. Another correlation (and I would argue a much better better canidate for causation) would be proper handling of odors which the bear would find attractive.

The folks from NOLS suggested checking out the research of Tom Smith (see and Stephen Herrero

There is a nice summary of their findings at

Their research (at least that is easily accessable on the web) has no data about tents -vs- tarps, or any indication that tarp use is statistically riskier than using a tent.

What was really clear from their research was:

1) Odor / food management is a huge factor.
2) Avoiding surprising grizzly bears
3) Black bears (in Canada and Alaska) are much more likely to hunt humans as food! This is exactly the opposite of what I expected.
4) Groups are safer than solo. Number of attacks -vs- size of group drops significant with each additional person until the group size is 5 (or larger) where the number of attacks becomes flat.

Reportedly, most of Herrero research result are discussed in a practical form in the 2002 book "Bear attacks: Their causes and avoidance". I haven't taken a look at this book yet. I will update this thread with whatever I find in the book.

Edited by verber on 05/02/2006 11:12:41 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Bears 'n tents on 05/02/2006 11:31:06 MDT Print View

Thanks, Mark, for the research.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Bears 'n tents on 05/03/2006 15:04:14 MDT Print View

The index of "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero has two pages under the words "tent, value of"

The first entry (pg 48) discusses an attack of a couple sleeping under the stars. The grizzly was a habitual feeder due to poor food disposal at a chalet and had learned it is ok to approach people sometimes. The couple has some candy in a pack near the sleeping bags. Stephen belieces the attack was opportunistic feeding. Stephen notes that a tent might have prevent this encourage. He notes that his research identified 4-6 others encounters which might have turned out differently if people had been using tents.

The second section about tents (pg 125) is in a section about avoiding encounters. In this section Stephen says

"My data strongly suggest that people without tents were more likely to be injured, even killed, than were people who slept in tents. He also noted it is best to have a tent which lets you stay 1-2 feet from the walls, so if a curious or garbage adicted bear crawls the tent to see what's inside that you would get hit.

I would note a number of things:

(1) The sample size is tiny... which isn't suprising given the small number of attacks.

(2) Most of the incidences seem to be sleeping under the stars rather than under a tarp. It's not clear to me the relative protection of different shelter types.

(3) Most of the incidents, the issue of the tent providing additional protection seems to be secondary... e.g. being in the wrong locations or poor management of food / odors / etc seem to be a much more significant risk factor.


Tarp poles on 05/16/2006 10:01:47 MDT Print View

How did you velcro the poles together? I tried it this past weekend with velcro straps without much success.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: Tarp poles on 05/16/2006 11:25:48 MDT Print View

You need 3 adjustable straps. 1 to loop between the straps of both poles, and two more to lash around the "joint" to keep it stiff.

Here's a picture...

Obviously, Oware sells the 3 straps.

Edited by tlbj6142 on 05/16/2006 11:26:49 MDT.

was doing ultra-lite at Philmont in 85 on 05/25/2006 20:45:48 MDT Print View

I just saw this string of posts and saw "Philmont" and that immediately caught my eye. Some of the comments in some of the posts did not ring with my own eighties era Philmont experiences, however.

I was a camper at Philmont...I did the old one month long "Trail Crew" program followed within two days by the famous Philmont "Rayado Trek" back in 85' at age 16. Man that was a great experience. Absolutely the best backpacking experience. I know they still have the Rayado Trek program...that is Philmont's flagship or NOLS-like program. The Trail Crew program, I have sort of lost touch with what goes on at Philmont and I'm not sure if that program still exists. I never went to Philmont as a "regular" camper, with a council contingent.

The following summer, in 86' I returned to work in base camp before I had even graduated from high school. I was formally accepted to be a Philmont Ranger for the summer season of 91, but canceled my Phil-contract at the very last moment (I curse myself to this day for cancelling that Ranger contract).

I am no longer in the Boy Scout organisation and havent been to Philmont since 86, so I havent kept up with all the changes that have occurred.

Anyway, I read here that Philmont doesnt allow tarps anymore? When I was on both Trail crew and Rayado Trek, we took nylon tarps to cut the weight down so we could go "lighter and faster" way back in the mid eighties. On my days off during the summer of 86, I mostly went backpacking for three days at a time and NEVER took a tent...only a tarp. Sometimes I would go to Taos on days off, but mostly went backpacking and logged 20-30 mile days.

I remember once, on one of those three days off in 86, this other base camp guy and myself did that "Ranger marathon." Fifty miles in one day...from the north end of Philmont all the way to the South end. We went "ultra-lite" for that and basically jogged or walked super fast for the entire 50 miles, constantly eating and drinking water. We could have gone on for another 10 or 20 miles if we had had to, thats how good of shape I was back then at age 16-18.

Now, if I even attempted that, Id probably have a heart attack. LOL

I remember on my Rayado Trek (dont worry I wont divulge any Rayado secrets), I spent one night all by myself in bear country, under an Army poncho I had strung up as a tarp shelter.

For Rayado Trek, I had to sign a waiver releasing Philmont from any responsibility and the program was openly admitted to be "very strenuous and even potentially dangerous."

We were doing "ultra-light" at Philmont way back in 85!

Maybe regular campers werent allowed to use tarps, but I know on the Rayado Trek and during the ten day backpacking section of the Trail Crew program, we were TOLD we would be carrying nylon tarps, supplemented of course by the now all but defunct simple Army poncho.

As far as bear attacks at Philmont when I was there in 85 and 86, I cant remember if there were any bear attacks in 85. I was in the backcountry almost that entire summer and was out of the Philmont newsloop.

The following summer however, (86), there were several bear attacks at Philmont that were highly publicized in the national media. I know so because my family would call me and tell me "they had heard on TV that some Scouts had been attacked by bears at Philmont!" We were briefed on these bear attacks in base camp and I served one these bear attack survivors in the chow line at the Philmont mess hall.

What we were told was that one of the kids attacked by a bear the summer of 86, had been playing with spray anti-perspirant that night. And of course bears love anything "smellable" and the bear mauled him that night wandering thru camp.

I never wore deodorant of any kind while at Philmont, despite the extremely intense backpacking I did back then. Didnt need anti-perspirant there, due to the extremely low humidity and I have dry skin and hair. I didnt use scented soap, shampoo or any kind of anti-perspirant or deodorant. Neither did any of my Philmont Rayado Trek or Trail Crew buddies.

We never had any major problems with bears.

I do agree with many of the posters in this string about one thing though. The BSA is conservative...and I suspect has become even more liability conscious in the last decade or so. I really dont know what goes on at Philmont anymore...if they have banned tarps for bear reasons or whatever, I think thats a shame.

Enjoyed reading the Philmont posts, even though I hate to hear that Philmont has become so extremely liability paranoid. Insurance companies are screwing up this country.



Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 05/27/2006 17:03:44 MDT Print View

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

In my two summers at Philmont back in the mid-eighties (Rayado Trek, Trail Crew and base camp staff), I dont ever remember mosquitos being a problem. I dont think I ever used insect repellant, not once.

Its so dry there, I dont see how mosquitos could thrive and live.


Re: heavy packs and the John Wayne mentality on 05/27/2006 17:23:37 MDT Print View

>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.


Oh man, this brings back memories. When I was at Philmont in the mid-eighties, I remember thinking it was "cool" to have my pack (Lowe Alpine system internal frame) as heavy as possible. Yet my Rangers and Trail Crew Foreman were always on us to "keep it light as possible." The Rayado Trek Rangers and Trail Crew Foreman were experienced backpackers and even back then, they liked to go "light and fast" although they didnt have cool, catchy slogans like that back then.

I remember when I was in the Trail Crew program, we had to go on these food runs from our campsite near the trail we were working on to Cypher's mine...about two miles away. Every other day we made a "food run" where we would hike with unloaded packs to Cypher's mine, hike back into the cool, dark mineshaft where our fresh food was deposited (safe from bears BTW), load the food into our packs and haul back to camp. The trip back was carrying monstrous loads of up to 70-80 lbs, on a rocky trail. At an altitude of around 8,000 feet. It was tough. I definitely wouldnt have wanted to backpack all over Philmont with a load like that.

But doing that for shorter distances every couple days...2-3 made a man out of ya. <grin> I KNOW that was actually good for that age of course.

Philmont cuts the age off at 21 for the Rayado Trek program for a good reason. Philmont doesnt want "old" Scouters in their thirties and forties having heart attacks while attempting to keep up with young guys doing 25-40 miles a day at altitude for two straight weeks.

I remember getting off the airplane near sea level after having been through six weeks of strenous backpacking at altitude at Philmont. Felt like a physical superman for a few days, all that extra oxygen back on the east coast at a lower altitude.



Re: Boots versus "trail shoes" on 05/27/2006 18:22:07 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.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Philmont is rough terrain. Even if you keep your pack weight truly light, such as 25-30 lbs, boots are IMO still necessary. I definitely do not believe that old fashioned, heavy Vasque -style "wafflestompers" are necessary for Philmont, but for most people I believe it is poor advice to tell them they can go with just trail sneakers or shoes.

I am sure there are a few people who could get by with trail sneakers for backpacking, but generally its poor advice even for ultra-light backpacking. There are plenty of lightweight boots on the dont have to choose a heavy boot that weighs four pounds, but you should wear boots.

I remember years and years ago when I first started out in Scouts as a boy, we had some Scoutmaster tell us "we could go backpacking in running shoes." I tried this and my feet were wiped out. Trail shoes...running shoes...whatever they provide absolutely no real support of any type and are for primarily trail running, "knocking around" camp and non hardcore backpacking usage such as day hiking.

Philmont is hardcore backpacking. Boots are necessary.


Re: Re: Boots versus "trail shoes" on 05/27/2006 18:58:41 MDT Print View

>Boots are necessary.<

I really don't agree with this statement. It depends on the person. Some people need them and some don't. Conditioning has alot to do with it.

I spent four years as a Marine Infantryman. We regularly did hikes ranging anywhere from 3 to 25 miles. Pack and gear usually added up to 60-80 lbs depending on your weapon (and sometimes well over 100 when carring the gear of someone who had fallen behind.

My footwear of choice was the infamous "jungle boot" which offers no support of any kind, but are light and more breathable than combat boots. The only problem I ever had was a stress fracture from carring too much weight. Never rolled an ankle, got blisters etc.

Now I fractured my foot early on in my enlistment because I was not properly conditioned. Once I got used to it there were no problems whatsoever.

I don't see the boots a nescessary, I see the need for proper planning and preparations as nescessary. Strengthening the body is good for you.


p.s. Sorry if this comes off kinda rude, its not meant to be :-)

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Boots versus "trail shoes" on 05/28/2006 15:13:56 MDT Print View

I led wilderness backpacking trips with young people for nearly 10 years. These were hikes considerably more difficult than the norm at Philmont. During that time, we went from recommending boots to advocating light trail shoes or athletic shoes. We found that boots caused more injuries than lighter footwear. The kids did better in shoes that were more like what they wore every day. In the Big Bend National Park, we recommended ankle-high orange work boots since they were the closest thing to tennis shoes and the cactus and lechuguilla out there made the protection provided by leather necessary.

Stephen Randolph
(steverandolph) - F
tarps and tents on 05/31/2006 15:23:30 MDT Print View

Background: Philmont as a youth (69/71) with cnavas open bottom tents with plastic sheet ground cloths; Philmont '04 and going back in '07.

Philmont currently states the reason for tents vice tarps are due to Hantavirus from rodents; I didn't realize open bottom tents such as the ones noted by Dave were approved; will have to rethink for '07!

As far as crew tarp for cooking; we used a Campmor ultralight silnylon 10x12 tarp... four hiking poles (two front corners and side middle points), then dropped the back half to gground (lean-to) towards the prevailing direction of the everpresent afternoon/evening thunderstorm. Worked great... was able to get entire crew (8 boys/4 adults) under when needed. Usually youth were in their own tents. Only had one dinner cooking/eating during rain.

Philmont is very risk adverse; crews are required to camp in specific spots; usually 2-4 crews in common area (except for 2-3 "trail" camps where you were probably alone). Almost all the bear incidents were from not following the rules established by Philmont (food in tents). In 2004, they dropped the requirement to have sleeping clothes; though was still recommended.

Outstanding review; works well with Cooper Wright's Philmont Leaders Guide. if Philmont would let me take my Hennessy Hammock and Jack-R-Better quilts... ::grin::

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: tarps and tents on 06/01/2006 03:08:24 MDT Print View

Hantavirus and tarps??? Airborne infection is possible - rodents are the vector; their droppings (saliva, also???) are a problem.

So, i'm guessing that they must be thinking that either the increased airflow of a tarp vs. a tent can be a contributing factor, or the relative easy accessiblilty of a tarp vs. a tent might encourage any nocturnal rodents to have a "look-see" for food. The second seems more likely, but neither is a very compelling argument. A tent isn't much of a barrier to a rodent. A small LED flood-light inside of a tent or tarp would be more of a deterrant to nocturnal rodents - generally they don't like to be exposed by light - too easy for nocturnal predators (e.g. owls) to see them.

So, food odor management and proper food storage seems to be in order. Stealth camping away from normal camp sites would be advisable (though not always permitted), and wise (if one really wants to hold down chances of contracting Hantavirus). These steps, IMHO, would be much better than tent vs. tarp. Sealing oneself in a large odor-proof, air-tight poly-bag would work too - to keep both Hantavirus and contaminated air out - by morning you'd never have to worry about contracting Hanta, or any other illness for that matter, again - though in a couple of days the air in the bag would be pretty foul [i trust, my sarcastic point comes across].

I've had friends/co-workers who have had rodents eat through through their tent, pack, food storage bag (NOT O.P.) to get to a food scent - from spilled food.

Rodents 3 (score 1 for biting through a tent, 1 for pack, 1 for food storage bag)

Tents 0

[at least with a tarp, my co-worker's score would only be 2 to zip]

Even an Ursack might not stop a rodent if odor is present, but then y'all already know that.

My two shekels.

Edited by pj on 06/01/2006 03:11:47 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: tarps and tents on 06/01/2006 15:08:50 MDT Print View

I'm wit you, Paul, No tent will stop a determined chipmunk as soon as he realizes that hurling himself against it is less effective than knawing through. I've seen them go through tents and into packs as well.

Philmont is a nice place, but experienced troop leaders might do better to consider the Pecos Wilderness, a few miles farther west. It has real mountains - although they are still walk-ups. You hike all the time at higher altitudes than Philmont achieves. You can get above timberline and out of the green tunnel. You can plan a hike of just about any challenge or duration. The country is spectacular. Kids never fail to be impressed. I know you don't get a Philmont shirt, so I guess patch baggers would be disappointed.

Bob Brown
(zinschlag) - F
boots on 06/09/2006 08:28:35 MDT Print View


Thanks for a great article. I have a concern regarding footwear however. The scout master of my troup went to Philmont last year, and I'm going in 2007 for the first time. My SM wore boots that at a minimum were medium duty, and complained that the rocky trails killed his feet. You advocate trail shoes. No problem with rock bruising etc at the end of your trek?

diane shulman
(jerryspride) - F
rain gear on 06/27/2006 20:03:24 MDT Print View

my son arrived in Philmont Monday w/his boy scout troop; trek beginning wed am. I wish I"d read your article prior to his leaving, as he should have,too. He only brought a poncho--will they make him buy a rainsuit at the camp store?

drew hogg
(drewhogg) - F
Weight Concern on 07/07/2006 11:08:57 MDT Print View

I got off the trail a week from yesterday and I don't understand why you are so concerned with these tiny little things like the weight of bear bags, tarps and tents, and all of these other little things. My Ranger was very knowledgeable, probably more than you, and the bear concerns are real. My crew became extremely lazy and refused to set up camp the proper way. On the last day our bear bags were down and we were eating dinner right beside our tents when a bear came through our camp. And for the guy that said that he didn't see what the big deal was and that only grizzlies and black bears want to have anything to do with you: Philmont only has black bears, and I heard a few grizzlies. With a daily average of 6-7 miles a day what is the big deal with a couple of pounds, my whole crew was fine, even with carrying 4 days of food.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Boots @ Philmont on 07/07/2006 18:23:04 MDT Print View

I started in my Montrail GTX's on 622 this year at Philmont, until one split in the middle. I tossed them, and did the remainder (about 65 out of a total of 75 miles) in low top Merrell Light Hikers, w/ Dr. Scholls inserts.(Backup / extra dry pair of boots paid off) These worked out well for me carring a 24 - 30 lb pack, and I believe the reduction of 2 lbs on my feet made a big difference. Your feet may get a little more abuse, but practice hikes help that. Other than a couple of blisters started by the Montrails, I'd have no problem doing the whole Trek again in the Merrell light hiking boots, and will do so in the future. YMMV


Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Weight Concern on 07/07/2006 18:56:53 MDT Print View

Congratulations on finishing Philmont. I would love to do it some day. I don't want this to sound flip but do you realize where you are posting? Check the quote from the LA Times at the top of the page :) I like to think we are focused on being efficient. A great athlete has an efficiency of motion that makes the difficult look easy. I hope to develop an efficient style of backpacking.

I am sure your Ranger was very knowledgeable. I would be careful making comparisons to others whom you may not know. My guide for Tahosa was also knowledgeable, but was young and strong and unconcerned about weight. I was once that way, but can't afford to be now. As an Assistant Scout Master, I can say that there are scouts that might shy away from Philmont because they feel they can't carry that much weight, or they may go and be miserable. We need to do what we can to make the experience available and a good one.

The bear concerns are definitely real. Bears are not to be taken lightly. Search the forums here and you will find a lot of information about bears. Like other topics on this site we are trying to deal with bears as efficiently as possible. It depends upon your wisdom to determine what you are comfortable with.

I encourage you to stick with scouting. You will learn a lot about yourself. I encourage to to continue backpacking or something similar that connects you to nature. In all you do, do it the best way you can.

I'm sorry, I'm sounding more and more like an Assistant Scout Master all the time :)

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Weight Concern on 07/08/2006 11:51:14 MDT Print View

Eric, well said.

Michael Danielson
(mcd57) - MLife

Locale: Middle TN
Philmont Gear Selection on 07/08/2006 20:42:21 MDT Print View

I appreciate the article. A lot of good information. It is really easy to get caught up with the whole gear list, weights, bears, etc. As a veteran backpacker (started back in 1972), the lower the weight of the backpack, the more enjoyable it will be. Safety is the main concern when it comes to you and your troop or crew. As long as everyone is having a good time and is safe, thats all that matters. Yes you can go else where to hike, but the experience at Philmont is like no other. Please remember that everything is personnal preference and teaching the boys the right way to do things will give them years of joy of backpacking.
40+ years of scouting
Philmont 72, 74, 03

George Taylor
(gmtaylor3) - F
Hiking Boots on 11/08/2006 11:39:01 MST Print View

Over a period of years I have come to believe that athletic shoes are in most circumstances far superior to any kind of hiking boots and am especially fond of Asiics trail runners. Someone told me that Philmont requires conventional hiking boots and that trail runners or other athletic shoes are not permitted. If you want to hike in trail runners you still have to lug a pair of hiking boots around with you. The author of this article seems to use trail runners rather than hiking boots. Does anyone know whether carrying a pair of hiking boots is mandatory at Philmont?

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Hiking Boots on 11/12/2006 23:07:37 MST Print View

Hiking boots are not required. I agree with you that I feel that trail runners are better than boots for most of the hiking scouts will do. The scouts and leaders need to get out and walk a lot on trails, rocks, and roads with something on their backs and you will seldom have any problems with foot bruising from a trail that is "too hard". I currently have plans to repeat another Philmont trek in july 2007 so I really get to reevaluate my gear from what I took in the article. Some of the new Tarp/tents reviewed here recently sound like an interesting start if I can get it past the wife.

One question I received lately was how I taught the scouts about lightweight backpacking. I have tried videos and lectures without great results. (Adults got more out of the lectures) The best way is to take them out for a number of weekend backpacks and review their gear choices with them and teach them to use lighter options. The first time new scouts try to set up a tarp may take up to 2 hours. But after a few weekends they can have it up in minutes. Our last meeting mostly consisted of patrols setting up various tarps and tents. It takes constant work and nudging to get them to change. The best thing is to go out with the lightweight gear and live the life. So often I hear from scouts and other leaders that my pack is a lot lighter than theirs AND I have a lot more "stuff".

Enjoy it.

George Taylor
(gmtaylor3) - F
Backpacks on 01/04/2007 20:51:38 MST Print View

I am gradually committing myself to lightweight backpacking and the first item to go will be my MountainSmith backpack (5 pounds, 4500 cu inches). Do any of you have an opinion about how many cubic inches a pack should have to do Philmont? My top choice is the North Face Scarab 55, which weighs in at 3 pounds but has only 3800 cubic inches.

Peter McDonough
(crazypete) - F

Locale: Above the Divided Line
Re: Backpacks on 01/04/2007 21:01:21 MST Print View

Philmont requires a pack with 3000 cubic inches.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Backpacks on 01/05/2007 13:00:43 MST Print View

>I am gradually committing myself to lightweight backpacking and the first item to go will be my MountainSmith backpack.

Just a suggestion (originally from Karen Berger): you might want to make your pack and your shoes the last two items you replace. By the time you've worked out all of your other equipment, you might find that your pack requirements are different than you anticipated. I was going to replace my 8-pound pack with a 3-pound pack because I was anticipating carrying about 30 pounds and thought I needed an internal frame, but after I dropped another five pounds of base weight I now use a 2-pound frameless pack (GossamerGear Mariposa Plus) to carry 25 pounds in perfect comfort.

Edited by Otter on 01/05/2007 13:01:28 MST.

Alan Foster
(Zekesboots) - F
Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 19:30:49 MST Print View

Wow. A lot has changed since the late 80's. I did not know about all the rules now. I also read a few months ago that there is a waiting list a mile long just to get in Philmont. Any truth to that?
We only saw one brown bear and it was moving the other way fast!
When I went to Philmont they issued us the green Eureka tents. I guess they don't do that anymore!
Oh. Hi too, I just signed on.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Philmont and Changing on 01/05/2007 19:43:22 MST Print View

Alan, yes a few things have changed.
> I also read a few months ago that there is a waiting list a mile long just to get in Philmont. Any truth to that?

We just received notification in December that our troop will be going in 2008. That's the first time our troop has received a lottery slot in 4 years. The system does allow that you get an almost guaranteed chance to go if you haven't been in 5 years. The waiting list each year is over 1,000 units.

> When I went to Philmont they issued us the green Eureka tents. I guess they don't do that anymore!

Well, you can use their gear. But you don't have to. Doug Prosser's article gives some great guidance on what's acceptable.

Edited by flyfast on 01/05/2007 19:45:11 MST.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 23:08:29 MST Print View

I am a Varsity Team Coach to a group of older boys (>14 years of age) in Scouts. I have yet to get a group that will boy-run themselves to Philmont but I see a lot of parents that fully expect me to have a plan worked out to get their son there. I am consistently disappointed that the parent's don't understand that I am not a babysitter or tour guide and that it's not my team... it's the boys. Anyway, I would love to get a group to go to Philmont, especially since I didn't get to go as a scout myself, but given the nature of the program I am in it won't happen.

Here is a question that might spark some debate. "Bang for your buck" (where buck could = time) is Philmont REALLY worth it or can you have a much better time/experience elsewhere? Sacrilege, I know, but I think it's fair to ask... especially since I never got to go as a Scout.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Re: Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 23:23:27 MST Print View

Fair question James. I think Philmont is an excellent opportunity for the boys and adults(that are interested in backpacking). You end up in many different situations where the boys have to make time critical decisions.

From what you've indicated, it sounds like the real issue is getting the boys motivated to want to go themselves, and getting the support of the parents.

You shouldn't be a babysitter, and you should have parents supporting the program. Further, it sounds like the boys need to be leading the effort with your guidance.
Why not start out with an open ended approach: Sit them all down and ask them what do they need to do to go to Philmont? OK, who can take care of that? What else? Who will volunteer to take care of that...... and so on.

If you're doing all the work, they're missing out on a big part of the experience.

I hope that helps. It is an excellent experience, and as Robert Gates, current DefSec said, "everything I needed to learn about management I learned at Philmont". A sharp crew leader has that chance.


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 10:43:22 MST Print View


Is Philmont worth it? I might know at the end of July when I get back from my first trek but folks I respect (and who are also not died in the wool, everything about scouting is great types) say it is, so I'm Philmont bound after passing up a few opportunities.

On the topic of "youth led troop" ... take the following with lots of salt, especially since I know nothing about your particular BSA unit, but ...

After a couple decades of scouting I still have more than a few struggles with and a few observations about the "youth led troop". I've started to write a summary of my thoughts on the subject but it's no where near draft status even. Here are some bullet points:

* One in every several hundred (few thousand??) scouts arrives out of the box as a highly competent, self assured leader.
* The rest require varying degrees of development, in many (most?) cases a lot of development
* Because of the above, "youth led troop" most definitely does not mean "scouts doing what comes naturally"
* If the above were not true we could use the $$ spent on scouting for any number of better uses.
* as scouts develop, they tend to emulate what they see in older scouts and do the activities they see the other scouts do, success breeds success and less success breeds less success
* building and maintaining success comes from us coaching the scouts
* sometimes, getting that initial level of success can involve adult leaders temporarily acting in youth leadership roles while coaching the youth replacement

Wishing you good luck, success and enjoyment in your scouting endeavors

Edited by jcolten on 01/07/2007 10:46:34 MST.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 10:58:32 MST Print View

Jim, I really appreciate your post. Many of your thoughts echo my own. I like the concept of "boy run" and have tried to adopt some of these themes for my group. However, I have found that the most significant resource that is squandered is... my time. I just get weary of spending my time coaxing the boys to run their troop. What is the point of volunteering if the people you are volunteering for don't really seem to value your efforts? That is actually unfair of me to say this since the boys get me a Christmas gift every year and say things sometimes that almost bring tears to my eyes (those "special moments" that keep you going even though it sometimes seems pointless). I think I made my point, however harsh I was on conveying it.

I have been to numerous leader training events and I like the analogy of the pendulum... boy led at one extreme and adult led at the other. A troop swings from one to the other with different levels of involvement as it moves back and forth over time. The trick, and I have not gotten to where I am good at this, is to know where you are at in the cycle based on the many parameters that make a team go.

I am told, by a Scout Master I greatly respect, that I am young and need more time in the role of Varsity Coach. I guess there is no substitute for experience. :)

Edited by jjpitts on 01/07/2007 10:59:33 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 13:52:13 MST Print View

What is the point of volunteering if the people you are volunteering for don't really seem to value your efforts?

I hear ya on that. I keep reminding myself to appreciate the kids I reach ... it's a St. Francis prayer thing.

Jan Skoropinski
(jskoropinski) - F
Philmont on 01/22/2007 11:15:43 MST Print View

Having been to Philmont in 97 and 99 and having walked for 3 hours in a down pour; I would caution against recommending any gear that might not make it through the trip. If you look at the Philmont website you will see the enterance with the boots and shoes that failed. While keeping your pack as light as possible is a given. I believe that training and conditioning is the reason for adult/scout failure at Philmont. Training should be done with more weight than you expect to pack at Philmont. You should be able to carry a relative heavy pack up 4000 ft in four miles and back down again, and still be ready to go. There is a lot of information like "Training to climb Mt. Rainier or other high peaks". If you have been inactive you will need to start training at least two years prior to going to Philmont, and you will need to dedicate 3 days a week to conditioning. Remember as adults you are taking some one elses boy, you cannot fail. You cannot substitute light gear for conditioning. Just think if you can easly carry that heavy pack; then you will have no problem carring the light one.

Edited by jskoropinski on 01/22/2007 11:20:33 MST.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Tarps on 02/02/2007 08:37:02 MST Print View

It is interesting that Philmont states that you cannot use tarps. In 1994, I think, I did Philmont Trail Crew. In this program we built new trail for 14 days and then hiked for 10. During the 10 hike out group of 10-12 boys and two Philmont leaders used tarps, one boy hiked with Tevas for several days after getting bad blisters. Maybe this was allowed because we were apart of the Trail Crew and had Philmont staff with us the entire trip, I don't know.

We never saw a bear the entire 24 days is the backcountry. We did get mildly hypothermic one day after a cold rain storm, but we were fine.

Philmont is a magical place I have been trying to get back to for years. I hope to have a son so I can go sometime in the future. For those that have not been or know what Philmont is, think of it as backcounty Disneyland.

Johnq Grimes
(jgrimes227) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Footwear and cautions on 02/24/2007 13:26:27 MST Print View

Great comments from everyone, not to mention fond memories. Went twice, 1957 and 1967 and just have two recommendations to elaborate on remarks already made. Trails differ all over Philmont - the rocky ones going down hill are foot killers if you don't have solidly built soles, vibram comes to mind. Our scout professional was enthusiastic for inexpensive work brogans with soft soles. They were OK on nice soil trails but were torture when the trail turned to rock or heavy "gravel". The Merrils mentioned earlier, while lightweight, have good solid soles. On both trips we lost boys because of exuberant play - one broke a toe on a tent peg while running, and another opened his kneee on a discarded tin can in a camp trash pile while playing capture the flag. We hated to see these lads loose their experience - and it is here where the leaders can help by being aware of the threat and attempting to make sure these boys exuberance and energy don't wreck it all for themselves.

Jenna Jacobs
(lynchick) - F
Philmont on 03/01/2007 09:05:58 MST Print View

Thank you Doug!

I am a 20 year old, Girl Scout, that will be working as a program counselor in the back country at Philmont in 2007 and found your article very informational. I am looking forward to this summer and can't wait to get out to Philmont. I have never been to Philmont before but my boyfriend, his brothers, my brothers, and numerous other friends have been ... I have heard nothing but amazing stories.

Thanks again for the information & good luck on your trek in July.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Floorless Tents on 03/02/2007 16:09:57 MST Print View

I am preparing a crew for Philmont. We asked about floors and were told they were required although nothing in the literature defines tent as a shelter with a floor. Can the author offer insight into how to confirm that floors are or are not required.

On tents being more bear safe than tarps, can someone point to the data. It sounds like hearsay.

As far as Philmont is concerned, the only scenario I can build is that if the cooking and eating is done near the dining tarps, and not near the tents, then the tents are safer because of their greater distance from the food smells.

Since much of bear behavior is learned, I supposed you could also make a case that the Philmont bears have been trained that there is never food in the tents, therefore the tents are safer.

Jan Skoropinski
(jskoropinski) - F
tarps vs tents on 04/03/2007 14:47:12 MDT Print View

Philmont runs over 30,000 scouts and adults through the backpacking program every summer. The only reason that makes sense to me about the use of tents and floors is the it can be closed up. BSA always thinks of the saftey of the participants first. Most tents that can be closed up have a inner tent cover by a rainfly. This inner tent keeps the bugs,and "mini-bears" out of your sleeping area. The zoonology of this is to prevent disease from spreading from the mice and other creatures that might just wander on to your sleeping bag and leave some "deposits". Those "deposits" like mouse urine can carry viruses that you really don't want to be breathing.

Philmont always requires a dinning tarp to store your pack and other items that might still have some residual smells. If a bear has investigated and found something under a tarp, then he has been trained to look under a tarp. Even if the tarp has no smells, the bears courious nature might lead it to investigate a tarp.

I feel that keeping the "mini-bears" out of the sleeping areas are probably the most likely.

Edited by jskoropinski on 04/03/2007 14:48:24 MDT.

(onthecouchagain) - MLife

Locale: Sunny SoCal
Bears,sharks, aliens, and ? on 04/03/2007 17:30:13 MDT Print View

All part of the experience...get out there and get into it!


Edited by onthecouchagain on 04/03/2007 21:38:35 MDT.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
ultralight gear on 05/28/2007 21:41:55 MDT Print View

There have been a few comments that Scouts may not be capable of properly handling/protecting ultralight gear such as tents, backpacks and sleeping bags. Before committing our troop to this type of equipment I would like to hear comments. We are planning for June 2008.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: ultralight gear on 05/29/2007 22:18:06 MDT Print View

>...Scouts may not be capable of properly handling/protecting ultralight gear...

Capable, yes; motivated, maybe not. You've got plenty of time, so have them make their own tents, packs, quilts, etc., and then they'll take care of them!

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Question I received on 05/31/2007 22:29:53 MDT Print View

I have had a number of emails concerning Philmont questioning the Keva, Betamid tents. They never had any issues with these tents. In 2007 The Scotmaster & myself will be using a Metamid which may get us a bit more room.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Lightweight Gear; Weather on 06/07/2007 18:04:59 MDT Print View

First, a note on Philmont weather. Philmont experiences a monsoon in late July and early August. If your trek is a late 72x or an 80x or 81x (i.e., starting in late July or early August), plan for more than just the brief afternoon thunderstorm. (We were 803-E in 2005, and had three solid days of rain early in the trek, and a day of cold, driving rain late. Great experience nonetheless!)

Second, david edelstein asked whether "Scouts may not be capable of properly handling/protecting ultralight gear..." If they're trained well and have experience with it, yes. At least, the Scouts in my troop who are old enough and experienced enough for Philmont will, given training and experience.

Besides, there's a great piece of motivation. Load one pack with lightweight gear and another with more conventional gear. Don't just stop there: include all the little single-purpose gadgets and such in a conventional load. Then, add fuel and a four days' supply of food (fake it with ballast). Now, ask each Scout which pack he (or she, if you've a co-ed Venturing crew) would rather carry. Explain what that means regarding care for gear.

("I...want to go baaaack to Philmont!")

Edited by ammpilot on 06/08/2007 19:03:33 MDT.

James Gates
(jamesg) - F
Philmont Gear on 06/17/2007 19:42:24 MDT Print View

There was a comment about floors being required at Philmont. In 2004 we used a home made 2 man Shires Tarptent which has no floor and there were no problems. The Philmont staff accepted it (before we left home I verified we could use it). It, in fact, worked flawlessly. We laid the ground cloth over the netting flaps and had the equivalent of a floor anyway. One camp site had a serious mosquito population and we appreciated the netting walls. If I was going again I would carry this shelter or a similar one without hesitation.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont equipment on 06/17/2007 20:51:51 MDT Print View

I have another equipment question. Philmont supplies the crews with relatively heavy 6-8 qt. and a 4 qt. pots. What are people using these days? Any alternatives? Also, the MSR simmerlite is the lightest white gas stove but is it advisable? What about the Dragonfly, EGX or the Whisperlite? I have some concerns about pot stability and flame adjustability.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: philmont equipment on 06/17/2007 22:34:36 MDT Print View

Philmont gives you a bunch of food. You can cook it as a crew, or you can break the crew up into smaller cook groups.

If you've a relatively small crew (e.g., 7-9), you can get by pretty easily doing as we did on a 50 Miler with a crew of 9: three groups, each rotating among cooking, cleaning, and water duties. We had, if I recall, three MSR stoves, though I think two will do fine at Philmont. We used normal smaller backpacking-size pots (~1.5-2 liters), and they work fine on the Dragonfly, Whisperlite, and Simmerlite.

As I recall from our trek (2005), all the dinners were just add boiling water (or maybe cold water for one of the horrendously bad desserts!), stir, and wait.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: Philmont -- camp chairs on 06/18/2007 12:38:35 MDT Print View

Several option are available:
1: chair converters for most of the self inflatables can be purchased for around $20-$25 from a number of online stores. Campmor is one. These converters turn your mat into a very comfortable chair and weigh about 14oz.
2: a Sling Light chair which weighs about 20oz and can be strapped to the back of a pack very easily. These have become pretty dear to purchase, about $100, but those of us who own one swear by them and have to carry sidearms when out because so many people want to "try" them out. Available here with pictures:

Michael Crosby
(djjmikie) - MLife

Locale: Ky
Camp chairs on 06/18/2007 14:36:15 MDT Print View

Weighing in at 2 lb 4 oz is the trail sling. It is similar to the sling light without the headrest. It is also trickier to setup.

Only 20.00

Andrew King
(kayak101187) - F
Philmont/ Double H high adventure base on 07/06/2007 15:19:09 MDT Print View

Hi guys i have been a member here for a while now and just noticed this discussion. I am currently working at the Double H high adventure base about 5 hours south of philmont. I know some of you are active in the scouts whether it be through your sons or that you are an adult leader. I highly encourage you all to try and come to the double H high adventure base. Having been to philmont before I can tell you that this place is 10x better. If you have any questions about philmont or the double H i would be more than happy to answer them. e-mail me at

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Re: boots vs. shoes at Philmont on 07/07/2007 10:01:21 MDT Print View

Based on two "superstrenuous" treks as an overweight (just within Philmont limits) adult advisor at Philmont:

If you have OK ankles, you can wear low cut shoes or boots without ankle support. If you watch where you step, you can wear trail runners or lightweight low-cut boots without getting bruises on your feet. The lighter your load, the better, as long as you have enough gear for safety. For most, sock liners under a thicker sock will result in no blisters if shoes are sized properly, and broken in (for boots this is especially important - better to wear old sneakers than new boots anyday)

Crews going to Philmont should try out their foot gear for long hikes on rocky trails to see if it will work for them.

Will McCranie
(Bigwillie) - F
Re: Re: Boots @ Philmont on 07/13/2007 23:19:17 MDT Print View

i just finished the Rayado program at Philmont and wore boots the whole time. several others, including one ranger, wore tennis shoes or trail runners the whole time, and loved it. i wear full size boots because i have bad ankles and need the support, but i came through with no blisters and doing fine despite the weight. sock liners help a lot to prevent foot problems, and a pair of crocs was nice to have at the end of the day.

Will McCranie
(Bigwillie) - F
Re: was doing ultra-lite at Philmont in 85 on 07/13/2007 23:29:24 MDT Print View

There is a difference in the things a normal trek does and what a Rayado crew can do. Because of its nature, a Rayado trak has different rules. Most of these i can't talk about here, but if any of y'all ever have a boy do it he can tell you about it. I've been to philmont two years in a row now, once on a normal trek and once on a Rayado trek, and had two completely different experiences. Both were awesome, but one(Rayado) was a good bit harder than the other(normal trek).
From these experiences, and as a boy who will probably wind up a ranger in the next couple of years, I strongly suggest you take a tent rather than a tarp or some such item. The extra protection is worth the extra weight. Share the tent with someone else and divide the weight. Or at least make sure your boys do. As more experienced backpackers you may know better where and how to set up a tarp in such a manner as to stay warm and dry, but your participants probably don't. 1-2 pounds more will not break the trek, but it may save it for some of your boys.

Just my input on the tents thing.

Thomas Cline
(mudcat57) - F
Re: bears on 07/16/2007 12:00:56 MDT Print View

As a Scout, I had the privelige of treking Philmont in 1972. Let me assure you, bears can and do approach a tent if the tent contains anything which the bear can construe as food. I remember one evening on the Philmont trail, just about dark, a very large brown bear (common at Philmont) walked straight into our camp. He was observed sniffing a water bottle which a scout had left just outside his tent (he was inside sleeping). It was later determined that the scout had filled his water bottle with Kool-aid. At least he was savy enough not to place the bottle inside his tent. We remembered the drill which had been taught us by our ranger, and made enough noise to distract the bear. He became uncomfortable, and moseyed on down the trail.

Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
Re: Tents versus tarps on 07/18/2007 21:26:56 MDT Print View

Shawn says:

"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)"

I've never heard this before. I've had little experience with bear encounters. I nearly ran into one on a trail in the Canadian Rockies, but he disappeared pronto. My only encounter. But I have done the requisite reading and what not. What's the source of this information? If this is true it would probably affect my choice of shelter for Yosemite and other areas with large population of habituated bears. It does make some sense intuitively. Out of sight, out of mind? But my understanding is that bears can't see that well anyway and I think I would smell about the same in either a tarp or a tent.

Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Tents versus tarps on 07/20/2007 18:07:56 MDT Print View

I wish you wouldn't have told me this? I know of one group of people that camp in tarps exclusively and in heavy black bear territory of nothern Ontario, and I don't think they've had any problems.
But, then again, they usually travel in a party with a least 4 or more people as well. This group does mostly off-trail, bush-whack trips for the most part too.
In a way it does make sense being a little safer in a tent. If a bear comes into camp and is just sniffing around, and bumps into your tent, this may be enough to stop their curious advances?
But, if your sound asleep, and your arm is laying outside the front of your tarp, a bear could come into direct contact with you much easier this way, and might be more inclined to advance further?

Edited by mfog1 on 07/20/2007 18:09:48 MDT.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Re: Philmont/ Double H high adventure base on 07/22/2007 23:52:55 MDT Print View

While I have been reading all about Philmont since 1967(when I was a Cub Scout)and have enjoyed my limited travels in New Mexico, I have reasoned that it sounds more like an expensive and perhaps miserable place to take Scouts backpacking.

I have figured that with the Sierra Nevada so close and the weather more benign in the summer, I can take my unit on some great treks without the black bull patch for their jackets.

I have hiked all over the country and world, and yes sometimes with a rifle and a Marine Corps uniform, but I think an adventure in California, or Colorado, or even the Virginina Blue Ridge is more rewarding than waiting in a lottery or dealing with BSA's ideas about the right gear.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
More to Philmont than just hiking on 07/23/2007 08:23:51 MDT Print View

I'd agree with much of what you wrote:
It's not a cheap hike
I've heard the Philmont lottery compared to both the Powerball and Draft lotteries
The weather can be challenging
The altitude (6-9K) appeared to be a challenge for many sea level based troops
BSA is moving toward lighter gear, but they're also mindful that a lot of kids can't afford a $100 backpack or down bag

On the other hand, there is a lot more to Philmont than just hiking:
Great programs tailored to what your crew wants
Structured program with significant safety nets
A subtle classroom in teamwork
Supports treks that don't require highly experienced leaders (not every crew get's an adult who is a Marine)
Ability for the boys (and adults) to deal with changing conditions

Robert Gates, current SecDef, said of his management skills that he "learned everything he needed to know about management at Philmont".

One of the greatest days we had it was pouring down rain, our bear bag had been swiped / borrowed / ??? and our gear ended up in the mud. It was about 45 degrees and raining / hailing at dinner, but our boys figured out how to 'improvise, adapt, overcome', and had a great time.

Yep, you can certainly do it closer and cheaper, but I don't think the experience will be the same.

I appreciate your service to the country.


Edited by eaglemb on 07/23/2007 08:27:31 MDT.

Charles Bilz
(denalijoe) - F

Locale: California
RE: Philmont High Adventure Base on 07/23/2007 10:16:04 MDT Print View

I agree 100% with you that there are far more challenging and intresting hikes in the California's Sierra Nevada's and Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

I have been to Philmont twice with my troop and both times it was a very disappointing experience. The two year wait list, lottery, cost, and Philmont's idea about what the "right gear" is is just not worth the aggravation.

And Mike, your troop meetings should be teaching your boys teamwork and preparing them to deal with changing conditions. Troop meeting and outings are the best free management schools available to young men.

The only up-side to going to Philmont was getting the Black Bull. Big Deal.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
gear question on 07/30/2007 21:13:05 MDT Print View

Just got back from a High Adventure program hiking/biking/flyfishing at Camp Whitsett California/ Sequoia National Forest/Kern River Golden Trout Wilderness. It was a fabulous experience and probably more minimalist than Philmont according to our guide who had led similar treks at Philmont. Lightweight gear saved the trip but that is another thread.

One thing that I haven't found in gear lists or in discussions is hygiene. One part of the forest was open range and the number of cows and the filth from cow pies everywhere made us real nervous about this, especially with the runoff into the river. There was fine sandy dust everywhere. We filtered most of the water here and used a bit of bleach. Later on higher in the mountains away from the cattle used aquamira. We used two lightweight plastic shoe boxes(the covers served as cutting boards for the fish we caught) to wash dishes. We used large zip lock bags to keep food separate from gear and then turned them inside out to wash clothes. In looking at the many gear lists I never see items listed for this purpose. I've noticed the Sea to Summit sinks and wonder what people are using and methods of backcountry cleaning, both dishes (i.e what methods are people using--camp suds, single rinse? double rinse with bleach?) and clothing.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: gear question on 07/31/2007 00:24:53 MDT Print View


Cursory treatment of the subject, but start here, perhaps:

Backcountry Hygiene article @BPL

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Phlmont Trek on 08/15/2007 20:14:14 MDT Print View

Thanks for the excellent article.

My crew of 8 Scouts and 4 parents just completed a 70+ mike trek with some great side hikes. The recommendations on cutting down the weight of the common gear were very helpful. We had two folks on a special menu and took three Simmerlite stoves, but probably could have gotten by with one. During one hail and lightening storm I had to get out the storm matches to light the two Simmerlites under the one pot dinner (and was wishing for an isobutane stove.

Altogther, among the many postings and articles I read to prepare, this article and the wiki article on Philmont were the best. I only wish Philmont had better weather reporting. During our trek we encountered 1 to 2 inches of rain on two of our hiking days.

Wesley Witt

Locale: Northwest
Philmont Trek on 01/17/2008 23:13:39 MST Print View

Great article and very helpful. I'm a scout leader and we finally received a lottery slot for 2009. The information presented here will help us to have more successful trek.

As to the question of whether Philmont is "worth it", I cannot really judge since I have not been yet. However the program looks like it presents a very fun and exciting time for the boys. In looking at the various Philmont treks it really doesn't look nearly as challenging as many other treks I've been on -- in terms of daily mileage and altitude. I lead a group of 11 scouts to the Sierras last summer where we hiked from Onion Valley to the summit of Mt Whitney and then returned over Shepherds pass. We did an average of 10 miles per day all at 10,000 - 14,497 feet in altitude. It was very strenuous, but too much fun! Comparing this to Philmont makes Philmont look like a walk in the park. I think that there are in fact many other treks that you can do that are just as much fun and just as challenging, but I think you get something at Philmont that is unavailable anywhere else. I am curious about the difficulty. Do people claim that it is so difficult simply because they are unprepared and out of shape?


Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Pecos Wilderness as alternative to Philmont on 01/18/2008 09:14:57 MST Print View

Well I was trying to quote part of a previous post and apparently blundered into some html thing with those little arrows and lost my whole post. I will try again.

Quote from a previous post: "Philmont is a nice place, but experienced troop leaders might do better to consider the Pecos Wilderness, a few miles farther west. It has real mountains - although they are still walk-ups. You hike all the time at higher altitudes than Philmont achieves. You can get above timberline and out of the green tunnel. You can plan a hike of just about any challenge or duration. The country is spectacular. Kids never fail to be impressed. I know you don't get a Philmont shirt, so I guess patch baggers would be disappointed."

My comment, reconstructed: When doing research on Pecos Wilderness a few years ago I found this site, by the BSA council out of Las Cruces: From their site it appears to be a well-thought-out program, and includes a nice set of patches, although I suppose not iconic like Philmont.

I have no direct experience with BSA (although my husband went to Philmont as a teen in the early 1970's)--we are doing Camp Fire (because it's inclusive). I coordinate the backpacking for Balcones Council here in Austin, and we have taken groups of teens (boys and girls both) to Pecos Wilderness a number of times. It is spectacular, especially for kids from Texas, with plenty of challenge, scenery, and wildlife.

Edited by elmvine on 01/18/2008 09:47:39 MST.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Philmont Experience - Worth It on 01/18/2008 12:35:39 MST Print View

There are a few questions in this thread about whether a Philmont trek is worth it, and some comments about other places to go backpacking for the summer.

Philmont is worth it!

But, Philmont is not a wilderness backpacking experience. Philmont is Scout camp, with one of the coolest twists imaginable.

Think about normal, ordinary Scout camp, like your local Council probably runs. Lots of Scouting activities--fishing, rifle shooting, archery, hiking, leatherwork, boating, swimming, rock climbing, etc.--all clustered around a central location. At Philmont, you get lots of those activities (well, except those needing a lake), but the activity centers aren't a simple 5 or 10 minute walk away: they're 5 or 10 MILES away, and you backpack between them.

Some of the camps don't have activities: they're just for camping (for example, Mount Phillips). Most do, though.

Anyone going to Philmont expecting a week and a half of backpacking in the wilderness will be sorely disappointed. That's not to say you can't just go backpacking at Philmont, especially on some of the longer treks in the northern part of the reservation. It's just not the typical Philmont experience. I love backpacking in the wilderness. And, I want to go baaack to Philmont!

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Off to another trek at Philmont on 08/02/2008 00:26:10 MDT Print View

I'm off tomorrow AM for another Philmont trek. When I canme off trail last year my pack was 16 lbs. My pack this time without food & fuel is 7.5 lbs. Our crew is using extremely light group gear so I hope my pack weight leave basecamp will be less than 15 lbs. The group that I enrolled with (Trekking 1 couse Desert Southwest) have helped me lower my packweight even lower than I thought. I share an update when we return after 8/18.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont on 08/02/2008 19:43:59 MDT Print View

Have a great time--I thought I was doing well at 35# fully loaded with food and 4 L of water, and 2 1/2 # of fly fishing gear. Did you give all the crew gear to the kids? Looking forward to your gear list. We were there June 9-22 and had a wonderful time.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
pack weight vs. $ on 08/04/2008 06:35:21 MDT Print View


You did fine IMO. I was right there, #33 with 4 liters of water and 4 days food starting out from base camp. I had a one pound stool that was my saving grace, and never empty when I wasn't sitting in it. Our boys and parents didn't want to buy all new stuff for Philmont, and weren't planning on being backpackers in the future. So they mostly went with what they had accumulated over the years. Mr. Prosser has a lot of new gear and a lot more money to spend then our group. Or at least that is what he wants to spend money on, lol. Our scouts were right around 35-40# with full start out loads as noted above. Best I could do to encourage light weight was get them to invest in down bags and lighter weight rain gear. That saved space and weight. Everyone was fine with the hike, (we did #29) which had some serious hikes in it. Practicing a few times right before leaving helped. Only boy who had to give up some weight was our smallest guy, #95, whose pack weighed #42 when leaving. He would melt on the big ups the first couple days, and we took about 7-10 pounds off him twice. After that, he was fine, and we only ever had two days of food to carry.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
pack weight on 08/04/2008 21:25:40 MDT Print View

my gear included: Gossamer gear mariposa pack, Big Agnes Horse Thief with Air Core pad, REI Down pillow, Dri Ducks rain suit (used it once for 30 minutes) Big Agnes Cyclone SL (6 oz) chair (used a couple of times but maybe next time a folding chair), one pair zip off pants, Mountain Hardware jacket, smartwool long underwear top and pants (we were there in early June and it got down to 36 many of the mornings and I hate being cold), one pair lined running shorts, one short sleeve underarmor T shirt, one long sleeve underarmor heavy turtleneck, one long sleeve hiking shirt, two pair underarmor boxers, three pairs of socks and liners (I like changing socks and washing them frequently--no blisters the whole time), wool cap, gloves. Used hiking poles but didn't add them as pack weight. Crew gear that I carried: tent and stove repair kit, tarp tent Rainbow (split poles and Tyvek with partner) spice kit, first aid kit (1 1/2 #) with all the meds, plus share of the food.
It did cost $ to get lighter but it was worth every penny. I would sure like to know where you can cut it further.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 17:53:16 MDT Print View

One way is to take your own ropes, tents, stoves, packs, etc. The Philmont issued equip. is real durable but real heavy. I think where we saved our weight was in our base layer, i.e., Packs (GG Mariposa Plus, Go-Lite Jam & Pinnacle, GG G-4, etc.), Sleeping bags (WM Summerlite, MB SS #5, etc.), Tents (GG The One, Tarptent Contrail & Dbl. Rainbow, etc., Groundcloth (GG polycro or Tyvek). Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue), Pots 4 qt not 8 qt. Don't cook in the pot! We used their bear bags and frisbee sump since they wouldn't let us use our paint strainers.

That's all stuff you have to carry no matter what. If you can get that weight down it's a good start. Take as few clothes as possible. It's easy to wash at Philmont. Take just enough canisters since you can buy them in the comisaries. Take smaller pots and cook in turkey bags or just do what we did; cook in you own cups. Very little clean up. Very little to sump.

We all went out fully loaded with water and food from 22.5 lbs to 30 lbs. I know that does not seem lightweight, but at Philmont it really is! It can be done for less but for a group of 12 I was glad that all were in a respectable zone and no one was way over. The norm at Philmont is easily 43 lbs.

I carried a few items I wish I hadn't. Zip off pants not needed. Just use Dry Duck pants. Too many undergarments. Can wash often. I also carried a 4 qt. pot that we only used once and really didn't need. I would take a 4 qt. and 6 qt. pot. All in all, we were an extremely lightweight crew. I went out with 22.5 lbs. with all my food and water on first day. Heavier than normal but I was just fine.


Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 18:16:44 MDT Print View

>>>>Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue)

I thought I read you can't take your own bear rope? Did the rules change? Or is it just hit-or-miss depending on who inspects your gear.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont gear on 08/11/2008 19:17:04 MDT Print View

We ended up using the Philmont bear bags and rope not knowing how much stuff you needed to hang. With all the food plus all the smellables and trash we were regularly hanging six bags initally after food pickups. I'm not sure they would let you use your own with their way of doing things. The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
gear on 08/13/2008 08:05:06 MDT Print View

We got back in mid July. Cleveland OH contingent. Regarding bear ropes, IMO, hit or miss, depending on ranger. The stated policy is use Philmont rope. We had a new ranger, 5th trip out. She wasn't going to bend, and luckily for me, on a pre trip shake down meeting organized by our council, I met the son of our organizer, who is a 2nd year ranger there. He said if you buy good rope, it is OK. And by better luck, he is at base camp, getting ready to go out the day our crew was. I had to get him to intervene with our ranger to get the rope allowed. It is the Amsteel rope, and it was perfect. He did and we used it, but I don't know what would have happened if he wasn't there. If you buy alternative rope, I would suggest printing out the specs of it vs. the philmont rope and bring with you to prove its' strength. This I think, validly, that is what they are worried about. 4 days food with person smellables is a large load to hoist. We used the Philmont way, and it worked fine, as far as getting the bags onto the rope. We had a 150' length on the main rope, and 100' on the oops bag, which was overkill, length wise. We used a pulley on the oops bag, but a biner would be also fine. The rope was very tough and no wear issue.

Alan Moore
(Alan_In_AZ) - F

Locale: Sunny Southwest
More on gear on 09/22/2008 22:30:11 MDT Print View

I agree with others - Philmont is a lot different than a true wilderness experience - its the activities, staffed camps, music, basecamp & traditions that make it special. Many of the treks are not that hard - though the altitude can affect some. We climbed Mt. Baldy which added some challenge.

If you train well for fitness, crew spirit and gear evaluation/familiarity its not such a big deal. We trained hiking mountains (800'-1500') prety much weekly for 6 months and did 3 campouts - an overnight a 2 day and a 4 day. Nobody attended everything but overall it was a good balance. We worked mostly on bringing up the guys who needed the most help - everyone was fit for the trip and we had good team spirit before we even started.

We used 3 jetboil PCS's for a crew of 12 - we used them 2 ways - individually boiling water in the jetboil pots and combining and also with the GCS potstands to heat water in one of the big Philmont pots. It worked really well - however our ranger said he'd never seen it before! Of course the jetboils were fast & great for tea & coffee too. The higher elevation makes them work better - it wasn't ever cold enough to be a problem.

We contemplated a lightwight dining fly but didn't get one - next time I'd do this too - its probably twice as heavy/bulky as it needs to be.

We used one Philmont rope for bear bagging but it was also very bulky - may try different next time. We did also use paracord and a biner/pulley combination just for the Oops bag which was actually mostly individually ditty bags - much more convenient and easier for one to operate.

We did bring mostly ultralight tents - 1 pair had a Philmont tent & the weight was about 2x and bulk maybe heading towards to 2x.

After talking to several crews who had been before I ended up taking 3 different seats... (of sorts). A trail stool <1Lb 7oz, a Thermarest lite seat (3.5oz) which I also use as a sleeping pillow/lumbar support/footrest and a thermarest trekker chair 10.5oz which I use with my thermarest prolite-4 sleeping pad. While it seems like overkill - I always had a taker for any empty chair and was always comfortable for <2.5lbs. No regrets on that one!

In our gear checkout our ranger spent over 50 minutes checking our gear - and asked lots of questions - but ultimately did not object to anything.

My total weight with water, group gear and 4 days food was about 40lbs - quite comfortable for me.


Edited by Alan_In_AZ on 09/23/2008 21:14:02 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Amsteel Rope on 09/25/2008 18:56:45 MDT Print View

Some one said: "The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?"

Amsteel rope is what we used. It worked perfectly. It's a lot lighter and a lot less bulky than the Philmont issue. The Ranger had no problem with it. When I got home I took the knots out of the rope to put away for storage. I did not see any signs of wear whatsoever on the rope. It's quite bullet proof.

The one problem with the rope is that the 7/64 is quite thin so it's a bit hard on the hands with heavy loads. Use a stick wrapped around the rope to help avoid rope burns.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Philmont on 09/26/2008 14:21:38 MDT Print View

Our troop took a vote, and we're going to enjoy Philmont as we drive up Cimarron canyon to Eagle Nest, and on to Red River. I think we'll have just as much fun base camping at my vacation house, and spending a week to ten days in the Wheeler Peak / Latir Wilderness. Or maybe Valle Vidal. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, we spent a ton of time at Philmont in the off season, and I just don't think I could adapt to the authoritarian attitude they have now.

Michael Danielson
(mcd57) - MLife

Locale: Middle TN
Philmont on 01/01/2009 08:54:44 MST Print View

I still enjoy reading this article after a year and a half of rereading it and its comments. I am extremely interested in your most recent gear list since I will be going again in 2010 and I am in the process of drastically lowering my gear weight. One thing that bothers me still is some of the negative attitudes about this camp. If you do not like it don't go again. Also the majority of the scouts do not have the Rockies, Tetons, etc in there back yard to enjoy and hike. This camp gets them an experience that they will never forget. That is why it is always booked up. Also the rules are due to liability issues that have come up due to poor decissions made out in the back country. One prime example was when I was there in 1972 and a youth took a shower and washed his hair before he went to bed. This help attract a bear to the camp site and he was seriously hurt. So leaders, where ever you go, you must have "rules" for safety and liability sake.
By the way I have camped under a tarp at Philmont numerous times without any problems. My son was there for three weeks in 2006 didn't even use a tarp or a tent for quite a few nights during the trip.
Keep up the good comments for I am enjoying them. I like all backpacking, and I still want to go back to Philmont!


robert hogrefe
(rhhrhh) - F
Re: BSA & Philmont rules on 02/15/2009 17:41:33 MST Print View

Hi, just joined, this is a test. I have more to say, if this succeeds, thanks, RHH

robert hogrefe
(rhhrhh) - F
Re: BSA & Philmont rules on 02/15/2009 17:58:17 MST Print View

Dear Mr. Prosser,

I have really enjoyed all you info and expertise, it is indeed the best. If you ever want a real challenge, go and see what the BSA Northern Tier program still uses. Last summer we carted 60-70 lb "kettle" and "elephant" packs on portages, along with 70lb aluminum canoes, sometimes carrying both together. It is, I was told, a tradition thing at NT to do things like the pioneer/voyagers of long ago. Needless to say, many sprains, near misses on bad steps resulting in broken bones and very sore bones and muscles were the norm. As the only adult with our crew (NT provided an 18 yr old guide also), I was shocked at not only the safety issues but what it was teaching the boys. Literally every boy but one got sick to a varying degree with a cold, cough, or sore throat by the end of the 9 day trek. It was just too much exertion on top of many hours of paddling every day. The entire NT program needs an overhaul in terms of today's light and ultra light options for every aspect of the program. We have heard it said that NT is the most demanding of the BSA High Adventure camps, and the present design guarantees it will continue to be, but only to the detriment of the campers, young and old. It would be wonderful to see the advantages of going light and efficient realized at NT, they just might get more people to return and enjoy the wonderful environment up there. YIS, RHH.

Patrick Starich
(pjstarich) - MLife

Locale: N. Rocky Mountains
Philmont Cooking Bags? on 05/16/2009 11:17:17 MDT Print View

In addition to oven bags, has anyone discovered a zip top cooking bag like those used by Backpacker's Pantry and Alpine Aire that could be used to repack and prep the Philmont meals? The Philmont meals include a lot of excess packaging and you can't cook in the meal pouch. Rehydrating meals does not require "cooking" them in a pot. BTW: It helps to stir the meal with a stick right after adding the hot water and before sealing the bag.

Our troop's outdoor program includes a lot of weekend backpacking. We earned to minimize food weight and maximize nutrition and variety by modeling our camp meals on old Philmont menus. Check out the web or see for one. You can easily find good (or better) substitutes for Philmont menu items at most grocery stores. We portion-out and repackage nearly everything in zip-locs, reducing excess packaging by about 4oz/meal for a crew of 10-12. We "cook" only water and use it to rehydrate cocoa, oatmeal, coffee, soup cups, and freeze dried meals (Backpacker's pantry and Alpine Aire most often). This strategy minimizes prep time, waste, and trash. Philmont food fits our model well, except for the dehydrated meals.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Philmont cooking bags on 05/16/2009 12:06:38 MDT Print View

Patrick, we found that there was a mix of packaging for food at Philmont. I'm attaching 2 pictures. The first is a typical dinner. All the freeze dried food is in very thin, light mylar packaging. There isn't a lot of weight savings to be achieved here. We rehydrated all of these meals in other plastic bags, usually a turkey cooking bag.2008 Philmont dinner

The other meal shown here is a typical lunch. You might consider whether you want to carry all of the packaging or not. The benefits of the cardboard, for instance, are that it does protect the crackers going to be carried in packs.2008 Philmont lunch

Since you will usually pick up several meals at a time you can make some choices. You could strip out some packaging. You can also choose to eat any "heavy" meals first. Finally, you could choose not to worry about it. We pared back weight on the gear where where we reasonably could. We only carried a max of 3.5 days of food. The weight savings we might achieve would not be that great. We didn't give a second thought to food weight.

Philmont is a great experience but it's not altogether a wilderness trip. We had opportunities to discard trash every day on last year's trek. Even if we weren't staying near a staffed camp we would always pass through one along the way. Since our guys chose a trek with a lot of program options we usually only walked 3-5 hours a day.

Hope you have a great time at Philmont. We are crew 624-E2 this year. See you in the Sangre de Cristo.

Edited by flyfast on 05/16/2009 12:08:11 MDT.

Patrick Starich
(pjstarich) - MLife

Locale: N. Rocky Mountains
Philmont "Cooking" on 05/16/2009 13:56:51 MDT Print View

I like the way commercially produced dehydrated meal packs are semi-rigid and stand up on their own. Turkey (oven) bags are thin and flimsy. Do you put the bag in an empty pot for support??? I guess you could use a small nylon stuff sack to support the turkey bag and avoid carrying an extra pot.

We also travel with crackers in box, but find rice crackers and mini pretzels more durable. The scouts inhale Pop Tarts (yeech!) but they crumble if carried out outside the box.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Philmont cooking on 05/17/2009 06:26:47 MDT Print View

Patrick, yes, the turkey roasting bags have to be supported once you've added food. I have to say that your mileage will vary. We have had good luck with this method. Others find it easier (fewer accidents) to just cook in the pot.

We dump our dried food in the turkey bag and add a little less water than the recipe requires. The boys stir mostly by squeezing the bag. A spoon helps too. More water can be added if needed.

Once the food is hydrated we place the turkey bag in a homemade cozy. The insulated cozy allows for the 10 minute rehydration and protects the turkey bag. The cozy is made of Reflectix material (shaped like a low-cut paper bag from the grocery store) and weighs about 2 oz. We've used a fleece jacket in the past. But someone ends up smelling like dinner.

We serve by cutting a corner off the turkey bag and squeezing as in a pastry bag.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Re: Philmont cooking on 05/18/2009 13:49:55 MDT Print View

We basically did the same thing when we went last year, but instead of turkey bags we just used the plastic bags that the Philmont food came it, and we didn't use cozies. They would usually find a couple decent sized logs to put close together to hold the bags up and keep them from tipping over.

If you try this, make sure you check the bag, one side has air holes (I seem to remember it as the bottom) and you want that to be the side you open for the top.

Our boys really liked not having to KP the pots, plus using that method meant that we were able to use 13 oz Open Country 4 quart pots rather than the 2 pound 8 quart Philmont pots. A 4 quart pot is fine for boiling water but is really pushing the size limit if you cook in it.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
Philmont cooking on 05/19/2009 08:53:47 MDT Print View

I brought turkey bags last year. We tried to use them first two dinners, and boys being boys, they always put a hole in them "carefully" mixing the food with a spoon, lol. So we quit because the pot got dirty anyway. We just brought one of the big pots and cooked in it. The scraper they supplied was used by the hungriest one, and there was never very much to clean up at all. I brought a lite GSI 3 quart non stick as well that worked well for the meals that had two courses, and general water boiling. IMO, concentrate on your boys big 4 for weight savings, if they don't have good stuff. Get the parents to invest in equipment. The weight savings can be large, as well as the space, if they have big synthetic bags.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Cook in a cup on 05/20/2009 12:16:17 MDT Print View

I still like the method we used at Philmont. We heated 2 pots of water using canister stoves. When the water got to a boil we first sanitized our utensils and cups, then each kid transferred their meal into a cup for rehydrating/cooking.

No food was ever cooked in a pot and therefore we never cleaned a pot. The only item that got cleaned was the cup the boys cooked in and ate out of which they had to clean anyway. After the meal we just swished a bit of water around in the cup and drank it. No bits or pieces left. We would then pour a bit of hot water in the cup and clean. The "dirty" water can then be poured in the sump pit since there are no food bits.

We did not have to use the frisbee ever, except when the Ranger was showing us how to use it. It was funny because the Ranger was demonstrating the sump method and basically had nothing to strain or to put in the sump.

We thought of using Turkey bags but to us they seemed more messy. I know a lot of people use them and I think it's a better way of cooking than using the pot to cook in. I just don't like to haul around trash bags with cooked food in them.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Philmont gear selection on 05/20/2009 17:20:50 MDT Print View

Briefly I have used various types of "freezer" bags to re-hydrate my meals, they all leaked after 1 to 3 uses except for the type used for vacuum food storage , but those are more expensive. (however they seemed to retain heat better)
Recently I have started to experiment with the Decor branded microwave containers. The lid stays in place very firmly (liquids won't spill if turned over) and they do seal the heat in. There is a steam valve. With the valve closed the lid will puff up but returns to the original shape once it cools down. Very easy to clean.
I do detect a bit of a plastic taste but not more than with most bags.
The 20 oz mug is 2 and 3/4 oz, the 27 oz bowl is 3oz.
Decor containers

Fareez Chowdhury
(Fareez) - F
Philmont cooking on 05/20/2009 20:33:10 MDT Print View

My crew's heading to Philmont at the end of June. We bought a large amount of Philmont dinner packets for our shakedowns. The easiest and least messy way we got our dinners cooked was to put the boiling water in the packet directly, and that hand shaking the pouch. No mess, no pot cleaning.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Plastic Cookware on 05/22/2009 14:41:11 MDT Print View


Those are nice cups. We had a few of the boys at Philmont use Glad containers. They come round, square or rectangular and in many sizes. We just heat water and each kid rehydrates in his own bowl with a lid. No bags, no pot to clean. Each kid just "sumps" his own.

Remember, this is for Philmont.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Decor on 05/22/2009 19:55:09 MDT Print View

I'm not sure this will help members in the US, since Decor is an Australian brand, but I also use them, although I like their more generic models. They're also polypropylene, like the GSI Cascadian line. Fine for temps up to about 150 celcius (Boiling water is 100 celcius)

Decore bowl and cup

Nesting bowl cup

The 800ml bowl and lid weigh 63g and the cozy is 17g for both pieces.

The 350ml cup and modified, drink thru lid are 37g and the bottom cozy is 12g. The extra lid is also 12g

{Now in Americanese :^)
The 27oz bowl and lid weigh 2.22oz and the cozy is 0.60oz for both pieces.

The 12oz cup and modified, drink thru lid are 1.30oz and the bottom cozy is 0.42oz. The extra lid is also 0.42oz}

The extra lid allows me to shake a drink mix or mix milk powder or store something without spills.

Bruce Prickett
(brucepr) - F
Weight of consumables = 10 lbs? on 10/04/2009 10:26:21 MDT Print View

Doug: your table shows the weight of "consumables" at 10 lbs per person. Does this include water? 3 liters is 6.6 lbs (not including the bottle or bladder), leaves about 3 lbs for four days of food.

My son is going in 2010, and he's quite small for his age, though an experienced packer. Bottom line is he will be counting the ounces.

Our Scoutmaster worked at Philmont for a summer, and the other leader has organized or helped lead all our recent backpacking trips, so I'm focussing on getting my kid ready to keep up.

Jack Kaufman
(Bsatroop85) - F
Hiking Poles/ Tents on 11/11/2009 21:00:59 MST Print View

A. My Troop takes tarps to put on the ground
b. the Hiking poles with Duct Tape isn't a great idea. the Duct Tape is a smellable and personally i dont like to put my whole pack in a tree at night or wake up to a bear...

Larry Huff
(profsparrow) - F
Backpacking Chair on 06/17/2010 16:20:45 MDT Print View

There was a comment earlier about backpacking chairs. I am successfully using a chair I found on "" The chair weighs about a pound. It's kind of hard to describe but there is a heavy duty nylon seat with a pocket in each of the four corners for the titanium rods. It sits on two legs when put together, which only takes a few moments. You balance with your legs. I can fall asleep in it, but don't when there are scouts around with cameras (they like to push a person over and then take their picture for laughs later). Anyway, it's VERY comfortable, almost like sitting in an easy chair. The seat when disassembled fits in a small sack that fits easily in my backpack.

Joshua Gray
(coastalhiker) - MLife
Re: Backpacking Chair on 06/21/2010 20:20:08 MDT Print View

Just stumbled across this thread. I was actually a ranger at Philmont a couple of years ago, so if anyone wants any specific questions answered, I will answer them as soon as I can (still have many contacts that are Ranger Trainers, ACRs and the chief ranger is a good friend of mine).

Anyways, 2 ideas for camp chairs. 1. You will pretty much see every ranger with a crazy creek. Very comfortable and I just used mine as my sleeping pad (maybe better for the young kids and then the adults). 2. My bunkmate my last year out there used his therm-a-rest and some climbing webbing; sat on the edge of the thermarest, bent it up his back, then wrapped the webbing around his shoulders and his knees. Thought that was pretty genious and only "cost" him around 2 oz worth of webbing.

Good luck to all those going to Philmont and enjoy it.


Larry Huff
(profsparrow) - F
Re: Backpacking Chair on 06/23/2010 15:24:43 MDT Print View

By the way, I should have posted a link to the chair I was talking about...It's 19 oz. Here's the address...

Joshua Gray
(coastalhiker) - MLife
Re: Re: Backpacking Chair on 06/23/2010 15:48:47 MDT Print View

Larry, looks like a good chair if you want to be off the ground. I'm just not a fan of anything with tubes or the like...seen way too many break out in the backcountry.

I should have been more specific in my post as well. The hexalite chair from crazy creek is 14.8oz, but you have to sit on the ground (there are plenty of logs and whatnot to sit on at philmont).

Alan Richbourg
(arichbourg) - F
Rocky Trails at Philmont! on 07/25/2010 16:03:50 MDT Print View

Having just completed my 3rd trek, I feel compelled to point out that the statement in the original article that "almost all hiking is done on well-worn trails" is HIGHLY misleading and quite dangerous advice to present to people new to Philmont. At least a third of our last trek, for instance, was entirely along incredibly rocky terrain, requiring hours of careful and intense concentration to avoid bruised feet and/or sprained ankles. Bruised feet would have been impossible to avoid without thick-soled & broken-in boots. Not to mention the slippery effects of rain, which occurs nearly every day in the back country. Has the author hiked Tooth Ridge? Sturdy, ankle & sole protecting foot gear are a MUST for Philmont except perhaps the very most experienced backpackers. Most of our crew would have been walking wounded without good boots. While I'm a proponent of packing very light, people need to understand that Philmont has many extremely rocky trails, and prepare accordingly.

Edited by arichbourg on 07/25/2010 16:05:39 MDT.

tkkn c
(tkknc) - MLife

Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Philmont gear selection on 07/25/2010 16:40:29 MDT Print View

We returned from Philmont in June 2010 (trek 32). We hiked in via the Tooth of Time. Only 2 of our 11 had boots. 9 of our crew had running shoes or trail runners. We did not have any feet issues.

I agree that some of the treks are very rocky and some even include some scree walking.

Edited by tkknc on 07/25/2010 16:42:28 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Rocky Trails at Philmont! on 07/25/2010 21:07:20 MDT Print View

Hi Alan

> requiring hours of careful and intense concentration to avoid bruised feet
> and/or sprained ankles. Bruised feet would have been impossible to avoid
> without thick-soled & broken-in boots.

It is to counter boot myths like these that BPL exists. MANY of our members cover terrain which is more rugged than that, and do so all the time in light joggers.

Wearing big heavy clumsy boots will not save you from spraining an ankle (or breaking it) if you are clumsy. It is much easier to place your feet delicately and correctly when they are not encumbered by huge weights. And that applies wet or dry.

That is not what they tell you in the gear shops - but they do have a vested interest in selling you expensive boots.


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Rocky Trails at Philmont! on 07/25/2010 22:16:43 MDT Print View

Ditto what Roger said ... mostly

I returned from Philmont a few days ago and used Inov-8 Roclite 285's for the entire trek ... complete with wimpy soft soles, stock insoles and soft low top uppers that provide no protection from bashing your feet into bruised blobs nor did they provide any support of my ankles.

The hike over Baldy included tons of scree, hiking a rocky ridge that torqued my ankles in all directions followed by a stretch walking on a path "paved" by loose 2-3 inch pyramids seemingly designed to torture the bottoms of feet.

The hike along Ponil Creek from Copper Park to French Henry was a nasty rock strewn descent.

On the hike up and then down Wilson Mesa it was impossible to not step on baseball to rugby ball sized stones that wanted to roll whenever you landed on them.

I experienced no sole soreness that did not recover overnight and never once came close to rolling an ankle in spite of working at spending more time watching my surroundings rather than where I placed my feet (except on descents steep enough to roll if I fell). Oh ... and no blisters or even hot spots.

I attribute this "good luck" to toughening my feet and strengthening my ankles via walking several hundred miles before the trip and doing so on uneven ground as much as possible. Also doing the same each of the past 4 years, wearing out more than a few pairs of shoes.

Now had I followed my previous preparation of walking several dozens of miles mostly on pavement it would likely have been a different story.

I'll differ from Roger in that I have in the past owned boots which I am certain would not allow a twisted or sprained ankle ... stiff and strong well above the ankle and heavier than the down hill ski boots I owned 4 decades ago. But "breaking in" said boot was really a matter of breaking in my feet to the boots and no combo of socks seemed to prevent blisters and 10 mile days felt like death marches. That's no longer a trade off I'm willing to make.

It took me 7 years of working on going light before I was willing to discard my boots but having done so I am convinced that that for the distances and terrain like encountered at Philmont there is nothing that can be done to help your feet other than choosing proper fitting footwear, decent socks and acquiring adequate foot physical fitness. Andrew Skurka level treks almost certainly require also being constantly conscious of foot wear and tear but few people do that kind of mileage day in and day out, certainly none a Philmont do.

Edited by jcolten on 07/25/2010 22:20:20 MDT.

Alan Richbourg
(arichbourg) - F
rocky trails and boots on 07/26/2010 09:33:12 MDT Print View

I had both light shoes and sturdy boots on the trek I described above. I tried a little walking on some rocks in the light shoes, and felt every painful rock edge. My point is and was that while light shoes might be good for experienced hikers, most of the general population will much prefer a better barrier between their feet (not to mention ankles) and the rocks. This is my experience, not a myth.

Edited by arichbourg on 07/26/2010 09:36:23 MDT.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
re: rocky trails and boots on 07/26/2010 10:00:49 MDT Print View

Well, I have to add that light trail running shoes can be an extremely comfortable and effective solution for Philmont even with the sometimes rocky trails and rough scree (like at the Tooth of Time).

My experience it's not just Philmont either. Lightweight shoes are a great solution for hiking on a wide range of terrain. We just finished a UL hike with Montana BSA in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Everyone in our patrol - Scouts and adults - wore light shoes. We crossed streams, walked trails, climbed scree slopes, hiked off trail on rocky surfaces. All worked extremely well with trail runners for all.

Boots might be comfortable for some. But I do encourage you to give lightweight trail running shoes a try with carrying a lightweight pack.

Mathias Gillum
(MattyG) - F

Locale: Midwest
Shoes Vs Boots on 07/31/2010 06:32:20 MDT Print View

We just finished 75 miles incuding Baldy and lots of time in the Valle Vidal.

My son and I had the lightest packs at under 20 lbs including crew gear but w/o food and water. The rest were 30-40 lbs (not by my choice and not reccomended).

You can see in the pic not a pair of heavy duty boots among us. Merrells were very popular. Must have been on sale at DSW.
Philmont shoes/Boots

No ankle, sole, bruise issues what so ever. Maybe a few minor blisters but thats it.

IMHO if you keep your pack weight down you'll only need those heavy sturdy boots to .........well ........ support those heavy sturdy boots.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
style and salesmanship on 07/31/2010 08:58:46 MDT Print View

I think the question of boots vs. running shoes is similar to the question of trekking poles vs. no trekking poles. There are rational arguments to be made on each side, and there are specific cases where one is clearly better than the other, but I suspect that for 90% of people it's a choice that's made based on factors that are objectively unjustifiable, e.g., skillful salesmanship for the more expensive option, or a perception that one looks more "pro" than the other.

The claim that you need boots for rocky terrain is pure bunk. Many of us here hike on rocky terrain using running shoes, with no problems.

IMO some of the valid arguments are as follows:

In favor of running shoes:
-They're much lighter than boots, and weight on your feet causes much more exertion than weight anywhere else on your body. The figure I've heard (dunno if it's scientifically supported) is that a pound on your feet is equivalent to 3 lb on your back. If this 3:1 ratio is correct, then replacing a 48-oz pair of boots with a 25-oz pair of running shoes is equivalent to dropping 4 lb of pack weight. What's a huge amount of weight!
-A ton of people get out on the trail in boots and find that they haven't quite broken them in well enough. This is less likely to happen with running shoes, because you can wear running shoes while running, shopping, at work, etc.
-Boots have more surface area in contact with your skin. That's more opportunities for blisters.

In favor of boots:
-Running shoes have a relatively short period of time during which they're sufficiently broken in to be comfortable, but have not yet seriously deteriorated. This window is probably only about 100 mi. The window for boots is much, much longer. On a long through-hike, this is a significant win for boots.
-Let's consider a person who's not doing an UL style in general. He's carrying a 50-lb pack, and he wants to make a long leap from one rock to another. With boots, he probably does significantly reduce the chances of getting a twisted ankle. Of course the solution to this is not to carry a 50-lb pack.
-For a certain type of hike, where you're basically tromping through muck and ankle-deep water all day, I can definitely see the advantages of a waterproof boot. On the other hand, if you're also passing through a significant amount of deeper water every day, then you're just going to have wet feet no matter what, and the boots lose their advantage.


Edited by bcrowell on 07/31/2010 09:05:30 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: style and salesmanship on 07/31/2010 17:29:50 MDT Print View

Hi Benjamin

Sorry, I can't resist...

> skillful salesmanship for the more expensive option,
You got it. More profit.

> a pound on your feet is equivalent to 3 lb on your back.
Believed to come from a military study, and the figure is higher than that. At least 5x, possibly up to 7x.

> Running shoes have a relatively short period of time during which they're
> sufficiently broken in to be comfortable, but have not yet seriously deteriorated.
> This window is probably only about 100 mi.
Several comments. *Good* joggers do not need breaking in at all IF you have got the fit right. They are soft enough out of the box. Deterioration and life depends on the shoe, but I would suggest that *good* joggers should last many hundreds of miles. The joggers I took to Europe a year ago lasted for two months continuous hard walking.

> he wants to make a long leap from one rock to another. With boots, he probably
> does significantly reduce the chances of getting a twisted ankle.
We do that hopping through scree fields. I am willing to do it with light joggers, but I would not be willing to risk it with heavy boots, Far too clumsy: sprain an ankle for sure imho.

> tromping through muck and ankle-deep water all day, I can definitely see
> the advantages of a waterproof boot
Ahhh ... what advantage? You are going to end up with a boot full of water. Don't even bother pretending otherwise. It's OK by me if someone wants to carry around a heavy boot full of water, but I do wonder why.

My 2c

Steve Rogers
(srogers) - F
Philmont and Blue steel Rope => No Go on 08/05/2010 22:52:36 MDT Print View

Got back from my 2nd trip to philmont in the last four years. This time was an 85 mile trek #21 that we added a few extra miles by sidehiking up to Cyphers mine during our layover day at Cito. Our crew packweights were 33-40lbs. Our sister crew was 50-65lbs, unfortunatly they said that as "Rich Californians" we had the money to spend on expensive light weight gear. We politly diagreed that it was lots of searching for and learning to use less and lighter gear. An easy example was the numerous nalgenes that they all carried while I carried a 2L platapus for water and a 1L plastic gatorade bottle for my water and powdered gatorate solution.

A few items that people may want to know.

The Frog Togs are warn by quite a few people in the backcountry, they work ok but you have to be gentle with them or they rip out (especially the pants in the crotch area). We encounter a full day of rain one of the days from Santa Clause to Deer Lake Mesa that was 11 miles. Everyones rain gear failed at this amount of rain, even the Frog Togs.

I was turned down by our ranger and her-boss'-boss for using Blue Steel rope in the backcountry. We could take it but not use it as "it's small size creates too much damage to the trees that it is tied to". I asked why we couldn't put sticks between the bark and the blue steel as that was an acceptable practice in 2007 and was still told "NO". I was told that Philmont was only allowing their ropes in the backcounty, no ifs, ands or buts.

The backcounty stores carry fuel at 10cents/oz. We took a couple of 22oz MSR fuel bottles and re-filled at our second food pick-up and got $2.00 more. When we got back to base camp we had a few oz extra and gave it to a trail bound crew.

Our goals were pretty simple. Keep your personal gear and pack weight to less than 20lbs. 2L of water is 4.4lbs, crew gear divided up with the 10 of us was 5.0 lbs (tents, cooking, repair kit, spices, first aid...) this leaves you with Philmont food of 6-9.0 lbs and you are on your way to a backpack that is less than 40lbs and a very manageble value.

I have to highly disagree on one aspect of your article and that is the drinking of a liter of water in the morning and only carry 500mL is a safety issue. If you want to do this on treks in the Sierra's or California coast go ahead. But this sets a poor and unsafe example to the scouts on the trip. Except for this we enjoyed the article and used (and tried to use)several of its ideas.

Dan Stelluto
(dstelluto) - F

Locale: NE Ohio
MSR ZING / TWING on 03/27/2011 17:42:40 MDT Print View

My first post! My first Philmont trek will be August 2012. I am the equipment coordinator for out troop and for the high adventure troop contingents. That said, so far we plan on buying 12 Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2's and 4-6 MSR Whisperlite stoves. The one thing I am stuck on is the dining flys. I have been researching on the internet for a few days and have learned many insightful things, but still need insight from ppl that have been there. I hear that early August is the rainy season in northern NM. I've been looking at smaller tarps (6x8 or so) to primarily store our pack under while we sleep. What I have not considered is the need to "chill out" under the tarp during a hiking break, or while at one of the camps when it's raining. The best thing I've found is the MSR Zing for a grup of 12 to rest under. They're heavy though, and although you can have someone else carry the poles and stakes, I am wondering if this awesome tarp is overkill. And while I have your attention, what do you think about gravity water filters for Philmont? Thanks in advance!!!

Larry M
(Maethros) - MLife

Locale: Mid South
Dining Fly on 03/27/2011 21:19:58 MDT Print View

This is what you want:

CJ Taylor
(kitkos) - F
ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 06/09/2011 09:18:14 MDT Print View

ATTENTION Scouters and Scouts that are going to Philmont and found this thread because you Googled “Philmont Tips” need to understand that this website is for extremist that focus on the lightest possible backpacks.
While Mr. Prosser, and some of the responders, do have some valid points they are a professionals, please don’t try this yourself. ;-)

I do not mean this as an attack on Mr. Prosser but rather an explanation to Scouters and Scouts that this article was written on and that they need to understand that his description is one that is EXTREME at the very least and should not be practiced by everyone.

I have been a Scoutmaster for 20+ years and have been backpacking for 40+ years. I practice lightweight backpacking and use this website on a regular basis, but Mr. Prosser’s list, to me, is more appropriate for a 3-5 day trip not one that lasts 12 days.

I will only focus on the clothing that Mr. Prosser says he takes….

If you look closely at his list the ONLY clothing that he takes are the clothes he wears on his back and one pair of backup hiking socks.
Hiking Shirt, Hiking pants, hiking socks, extra hiking sock.

He also carries one wool shirt, a vest and a rain suit (top and bottom) and his sleeping outfit which consist of a top, bottom and socks. Keep in mind that sleeping gear is ONLY to be used for sleeping, you should not wear this while eating dinner or during any other activity because you might get smells on it.

I wonder what his explanation is when asked what happens when he gets caught in one of Philmont’s torrential downpours and his clothes get completely soaked before he has a chance to put on his rain suit?
Does he risk hypothermia because he did not bring anything dry?
And what if one of these items became destroyed beyond repair? What then? Does he now need to wear his rain suit the rest of the trip?
To me the more important aspect of his lack of clothing is his underwear. For his hiking pants he describes them as “long zip-off pants with built-in briefs”
So he is going 12 days with the same underwear on the whole time? I don’t care how careful you are and how clean you think you keep yourself after using the restroom, but there is NO POSSIBLE way to stay clean enough with one pair of underwear for 12 days without causing chaffing, a terrible rash or worse.
OK, we all know you can wash your clothes (in zip-lock baggies) from time to time but what does he wear when his pants and underwear are drying?

And what about that pair of sleep socks he is bringing? One of the reasons we bring sleep clothes is so we have a completely dry outfit to sleep in. Mr. Prosser states that his “sleep socks that double as shoulder pads on the G5 pack”. Using a pair of socks as shoulder strap pads equals one pair of sweaty, smelly socks to wear to bed each night. What if he accidently, unknowingly, gets food from lunch on this pair of socks? He now has a bear issue.

Once again, my comments are not to provoke an argument but rather to make people that were looking for Philmont Tips to understand that they landed in a website that is known for its extreme methods of packing light and that Philmont Rangers are not going to let you get on trail with this lack of gear.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 06/09/2011 10:50:09 MDT Print View

CJ's comments feel like a troll and I usually work hard at avoiding the feeding of trolls but since he's claiming to not be a troll ... I'll bite.

But first let me start that I also work hard at not telling anyone to make wholesale packing changes on longer outings unless they've actually tested the ideas on shorter trips to see how they work for them.

Also, I'm a former scoutmaster and have been involved with the same troop for 25 years (and till counting) so I hope I have some sense of what boys do and don't do.

One last caveat (promise!), I have done two Philmont treks (itinerary numbers in the low-mid 20's). We did experience icewater rain and hail on each trip and camped above 10,000ft and I've been to the top of Phillips (on a warm day) and Baldy on a beastly cold and windy day. OH, and I regularly backpack where we have cold weather (unlike Philmont) without backup clothing, occasionally I get uncomfortable but not (yet, anyway) hypotheric. I don't go as light as Doug P but that is more due to not spending the $$ needed for the lightest possible options than from carrying more things that he carries.

Point by point response follows ...

If you look closely at his list the ONLY clothing that he takes are the clothes he wears on his back and one pair of backup hiking socks.
Hiking Shirt, Hiking pants, hiking socks, extra hiking sock.

He also carries one wool shirt, a vest and a rain suit (top and bottom) and his sleeping outfit which consist of a top, bottom and socks. Keep in mind that sleeping gear is ONLY to be used for sleeping, you should not wear this while eating dinner or during any other activity because you might get smells on it.

I was just fine on both treks with about the same amount of clothing. A micro-fleece pullover instead of wool shirt but no vest. I do use underwear and bring one spare (might not bring the spare if I go again).

I wonder what his explanation is when asked what happens when he gets caught in one of Philmont’s torrential downpours and his clothes get completely soaked before he has a chance to put on his rain suit?
Does he risk hypothermia because he did not bring anything dry?

My raingear is carried in an exterior pack pocket and I don't wander more than a moment's walk from the pack without taking the raingear with me. I have gotten damp but not soaked. If I get chilled I increase my exertion, ordinary synthetic fabrics dry quickly that way.

And what if one of these items became destroyed beyond repair? What then? Does he now need to wear his rain suit the rest of the trip?

While "destroyed beyond repair" is not impossible, I've known some pretty mindless scouts who have yet to accomplish that. I carry a small sewing kit and we've repaired clothing and packs on trail (they were not lightweight packs either).

To me the more important aspect of his lack of clothing is his underwear. ... there is NO POSSIBLE way to stay clean enough with one pair of underwear for 12 days without causing chaffing, a terrible rash or worse.
OK, we all know you can wash your clothes (in zip-lock baggies) from time to time but what does he wear when his pants and underwear are drying?

I agree that I (for one) would be miserable (and hurting) with one pair of undies for 12 days. I do laundry every couple days and wear my raingear while washing my pants. I've also tried putting on newly washed shirt/undies/pants while wet when we have downtime in a campsite and there's no hint of rain coming ... they dry very very fast.

And what about that pair of sleep socks he is bringing? One of the reasons we bring sleep clothes is so we have a completely dry outfit to sleep in. Mr. Prosser states that his “sleep socks that double as shoulder pads on the G5 pack”. Using a pair of socks as shoulder strap pads equals one pair of sweaty, smelly socks to wear to bed each night. What if he accidently, unknowingly, gets food from lunch on this pair of socks? He now has a bear issue.

I don't use a G5 pack, my pack has it's own padding in the shoulder straps (nowhere else). But the G5's straps are made of waterproof fabric so I don't know that the socks would get sweaty. If they stay inside the straps until bedtime the packstraps fabric will keep food off them.

Once again, my comments are not to provoke an argument but rather to make people that were looking for Philmont Tips to understand that they landed in a website that is known for its extreme methods of packing light and that Philmont Rangers are not going to let you get on trail with this lack of gear.

There IS variability in Philmont rangers and I know scouters who have had hardnosed rangers, but Doug P has been allowed on trail with the gear described in each of his Philmont light articles. I've been allowed on trail twice and I've had many many more positive ranger reactions to my kit than negative.

One more comment. There are very few scouts I'd allow to take a silnylon pack on a long trek (much less a spinnaker G5!) Just too fragile. But I'll use a carefully and smartly made silnylon pack if I return to Philmont again and save a pound compared to my dearly beloved GraniteGear Virga (but that's beyond the scope of CJ's comments).

Edited by jcolten on 06/09/2011 11:00:48 MDT.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Re: ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 06/09/2011 11:59:31 MDT Print View

I too am a scouter with decades of traditional backpacking experience. After a couple back surgeries, I found this site while looking for ways to lighten my load so I could survive Philmont and keep up with my boys.

I agree with many of your points... Some of the techniques on these forums do not work well for large groups (like alcohol stoves), inexperienced scouts (lots of down bags/clothing), or within the confines of BSA/Philmont rules (tarps). On the other hand, the overall goal of this forum is to lighten your load as much as you can while still being safe about it. When I arrived at this forum, I thought many of these ideas were extreme, but after letting them sink in, then actually trying some of them, I'm starting to see that maybe they're not as extreme as I had originally thought.

Regarding some of your assertions about Mr. Prosers gear... Would one set of briefs work if they were washed and dried every day or every other day? How about socks? If you have two pair PLUS a sleeping pair, could you get by? If it came right down to it, could he wear the sleeping gear as an extra layer if it got unseasonably cold or his primary clothes got damaged? If he's careful about keeping his rain gear handy, how likely is it that he'll get completely soaked before getting it on? If it's wool, won't it keep him reasonably warm anyway? And so what if an item did get destroyed? Should he carry an extra of everything just in case? At Philmont are you ever more than a day from a staffed camp?

For Mr. Prosser, his setup works because he knows his gear, knows it's limits, knows how to care for it, and is careful with it. Even if you're not willing to go to these extremes (and I'm not), many of Mr. Prossers (and others) suggestions can be incorporated into a Philmont trek (or any Scout trek) to a lesser extent.

Case in point: I went backpacking last weekend with a few boys last weekend... A 1-night 10-mile trek with no rain in sight and temps ranging from 98 in the afternoon to 72 at night. One boy brought two pairs of shorts AND two pairs of jeans. That boy NEEDS some of the advice of this forum lest he hurt himself!

Someone on this forum wrote that you pack your insecurities. I couldn't agree more. I used to pack a lot of stuff in order to "be prepared", but this forum has reminded me what scouting taught me int eh first place... That the best tools in my gear kit are knowledge, courage, and a can-do attitude. I'll probably never get to Mr. Prossers level of sacrifice (I do like clean drawers, fresh socks, and overly thick sleeping bags), but a lot of these ideas will go with me on every scouting trek I take.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 06/09/2011 14:35:56 MDT Print View

Someone on this forum wrote that you pack your insecurities.

That someone would be Roman Dial and that saying is a guiding light for me. Challenging my insecurities and testing them has done more to lighten my pack than any other single factor.

CJ Taylor
(kitkos) - F
No Troll Here on 06/10/2011 05:56:41 MDT Print View

For the record, I do not live under a bridge. ;-)

The point I am trying to make is simple.

Thousands of men, young and old alike, visit Philmont each year. 90% of them have done minimal backpacking in the past and don’t have the experience needed to make qualified decisions about the gear they take. They talk to others and hear horror stories about the weight they carry so they go on the internet and search Google for suggestions on how to pack lighter.

Because this is a popular post it comes to the top of Google’s list and these same individuals could end up taking Mr. Prossers packing list as the Holy Grail of backpacking lists.

Where it is informative I feel it needs to be stated for these people that this is an EXTREME list and there are holes in it that they should consider BEFORE they leave for Philmont, not after they are 2 days and 15 miles into their trek and realize they should have brought some more underwear.

BTW - We begin our latest trek next week. My crew is taking Trek 21. Pack weight is 24lb including 3 liters of water. This is an excellent weight considering the fact that I am taking a change of clothes and 2 extra pairs of underwear.

philmont on 06/16/2011 19:16:35 MDT Print View

It is my understanding that most people come off the trail at Philmont because they are in poor shape and carrying too much, rather than get into trouble because they carried too little.

You are right. People with no training or abilities need idiot-proof gear. They need a tent that will keep them dry that they can pitch easily, not one that they must get up twice in the night and re-tension. They need bags that keep them warm even if damp, not one that becomes useless. They need a pack that can carry all the heavy, idiot-proof gear they need, not an uberlight rucksack.

However, the smarter and more prepared you are, the lighter you can go. It doesnt take experience (which is only learned thru failure), it takes knowledge. But at the same time, there is A LOT of crap most people can leave behind.

I think Mr. Prosser did a pretty good job of getting that point across. What he espoused was normal ultralight backpacking philosophy. Take only what you need, nothing you dont, and you will move faster, and be more comfortable, and have a more enjoyable time.

THe point was impart knowledge to people to change their way of thinking about what they needed to take with them. Not to say "take only this".

A 24 lb pack with 3L water =6.6 lbs, and 4 days food = 8 lbs , means you have a 10 lb baseweight. Admirable, but definitely hard to achieve if you bring a bunch of xs gear. Unless your 24 lbs did not include any food?

Joshua Gray
(coastalhiker) - MLife
Re: Re: ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 06/16/2011 23:40:59 MDT Print View

"Philmont Rangers are not going to let you get on trail with this lack of gear."

...This comment is a broad generalization that I dislike and find completely untrue during my summers as a ranger. There were times I was skeptical of some crews' gear during shake down and would voice my opinions and sometimes gave the party line; BUT if they could explain their methodology and prove to me they knew their gear (I would usually ask some questions about gear failure or adaptation), I would almost always allow them on the trail. To the underwear comment: I knew rangers that didn't wear underwear on the trail for the entire 3 months we were out there. I always took an extra pair, but HYOH.

That "there IS variability in Philmont rangers" and the fact that many have made it on the trail with light weight is key. The vast majority of the time I took about 4-6 pounds, if not more, of gear off of scouters packs during shakedown. Most (not all) rangers are pretty well educated. And if you can really get them to think about your gear and can prove you have the cerebral knowledge to utilize the gear you bring, they usually will let you go. Although the crew's safety is the responsibility of the ranger and when you have that on your shoulders as an 18 year old, the first couple crews you are a little more strict with.

I never had any trouble letting people on the trail if they could talk to me about it. Rangers are gear heads after all. And no one ever took too little. (well there was one, but that's a whole different story involving an army ranger...) I always did issue a challenge that if any crew member with a lighter pack than I had when we left basecamp got a special treat during their hike. Never happened, but one day an scout came within a pound or so and so I hiked them out a watermelon as a treat. They were a great crew from Colorado that was in good enough shape they even gave me a run for my money in hiking speed.

There's always trouble that happens during the trek and its not always extra gear that helps out. One small example is I had a crew member's tent fly get ripped off in a pretty bad storm (wind clocked about 70mph at the staff cabin) and I demonstrated the old tried and true put a rock into the edge of the fly, tie a line around it and re-anchor the fly, it worked just like new. And the adults laughed and said they couldn't believe the scouts didn't remember that from the scout handbook. The ideas on this site are not extreme, but they make you think, test your gear, and know your boundaries. Knowledge is power in everything, especially backpacking!

Bryce Abbott
(Icthawk) - F
Re: Re: Re: ATTENTION Scouter and Scouts on 08/07/2011 10:00:13 MDT Print View

We just returned from Philmont Trek 24 on August 5, 2011. Five peaks including Mt. Baldy. We reviewed this thread quite a bit during the planning stages. We had a lot of discussion on going light weight. There was some compromise because of cost so let me make some suggestions based upon our experience. We relied a bunch on the opinions of those who went before us. Read all you want but the experience of others is invaluable. First, if you want to go ultralight you need the commitment of everyone in the crew to the effort. When you decide to go ultralight there are sacrifices to pay when you shed the weight. The primary sacrifice is weight to volume. Backpacks will give you a volume figure but remember that there are things that will not get lighter on your trek: primarily food and water. Then there is personal gear and crew gear. They only thing you have any degree of control over is personal gear and crew gear. We did not get a commitment from the entire crew but we did have tent mates that went ultralight. They carried ULA backs and a Tarptent Rainbow II. Both performed well. Two years ago when a single Scout showed up with a ULA it was not a good experience. The pack could not handle the weight of a load equal to the other boys. Halfway through the trek they were sewing it together with dental floss. My son and his tent mate carried Lowe Alpine TFX Appalachian 65:85 backpacks ( Check for fall sales. They are slightly over 4 pounds. These packs are the middle of the road for cost and performed flawlessly. They shared a Big Agnes Slide Mountain SL 2. This was a close out tent that we got for less than half price. It was very light weight and performed flawlessly. Where everybody saved weight was crew gear and personal gear. On the crew gear side we took a Fly from Cooke Custom Sewing. This company was great to work with and they are on the internet ( The fly was never used for anything except a garage to cover packs and gear at night. We used their bear ropes but had plans to use lighter ropes. We used Rubbermaid food storage tubs for each hiker to re-hydrate food. We had to demonstrate this to our Ranger before they let us use it but it works really well. No bags, No pots to clean. Each hike sumps their own tub and they get stored until the following day as crew gear. Before they are used again they get dipped into boiling water to sanitize. All of the boys had rain pants. They were the heaviest and most expensive piece of clothing in the pack. No one ever used them. They took two pair of Northface zip off pants but only one set of legs. Everyone used their gaiters. Finally boots. Several boys purchased Lowa Renegade Boots. Not a single problem. One boy wore a borrowed pair of Renegades that had done Philmont twice before. One other thing. All of the boys got a Frog Tog Chillypad for the trail. Take bandanas instead. After three days the Chillypad smelled so bad that they were by far the grossest thing to come out of the pack.

John Sloan
(jsloan256) - F
More on boots on 02/15/2012 14:13:47 MST Print View

I went to Philmont in 2009 with my son and we both wore lightweight boots and we both had some minor blistering. Since then I've started hiking in five-fingers including a five day backcountry trip in Yellowstone; I'll never go back to heavy boots.

I'm going back to Philmont this summer with my daughter (2012). We are planning on hiking in Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves. I've contacted my old ranger from 2009 and it was his opinion that we'd be 'Philmont legal' for hiking as long as we wear socks with the trail gloves (or with five-fingers for that matter). My question for the group is: Are there any other non-hiking shoe requirements that we should consider. I'm specifically concerned about sparpole climbing and conservation work. I'm considering adding some Merrell Moab Ventilators in our packs for conservation work if we have to (I'd rather have that weight in my pack than on my feet).

Any thoughts?