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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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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?