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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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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.