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Backpacking Light @ Philmont
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John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Trek 23 on 05/14/2008 06:59:07 MDT Print View

We're also trek 23!

Still refining my gear list but getting there. Total skin out is about 23 lbs so I'd like to shave some more. Some of that is comfort items (BA pad, slinglight chair, camp shoes) and a 23 oz HD video camera, so I'm not going as light as absolutly possible. They say advisors are 'on vacation' after all.


ed dzierzak
(dzierzak) - F

Locale: SE
Trek 23 on 05/14/2008 07:20:05 MDT Print View

Going lighter is great! Better yet is having the FOM (fat, old men) drop their extra padding.

We've a council contingent this year. Since our time with the entire crew together is limited, we've pushed hard for lighter gear options. Still, we'll have Scouts going on the trail with 25-35 base weight. It's hard to get parents to buy in to lighter options when they think that Johnny will only make ONE backpacking trip (Philmont) rather than making more trips in the future. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy (more weight = less fun = only do it once).

623-J1 Trek 23!

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
FOM on 05/14/2008 07:44:41 MDT Print View

From a FFSOM (formerly fat, still old man) I couldn't agree more. I dropped about 25 in the past year so I figure I'm slack packing this trip.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Trek 23 on 05/14/2008 08:53:28 MDT Print View

John and Ed, isn't it a small world! Y'all will have to let us know how Trek 23 goes. We start 3 weeks after you Ed.

Our Scouts and adults have always thought me a bit zealous about lightweight backpacking. But as we have been training for Philmont it is starting to make sense to them.

I've been wheeling and dealing the last 2 years to find discount sleeping bags and packs plus used gear. We've been able to make some gear available. We charge $50 for a bag or pack. That money goes to the troop. Some of the gear is loaned if finances require it. I've found it works well to politely ask for any deals available to help Scouts. Obviously, some families can handle the cost. But we have made lightweight gear within reach for 2 crews this year.

Something that's developed quite by accident is that our two crews will be using exclusively Tarptents. 5 of our 6 dads bought a TT Squall2. I'm the 6th and already had a Squall. My son will share the Squall with a buddy. I'm going to use a borrowed TT Virga. (Remember that Philmont requires a tent rather than a tarp. Tarptents are a good fit.)

Most of our dads will share the TT with a son. The troop replaced two old and heavy REI two-man tents with two TT Rainshadow2, a 3-man shelter.

We've made many changes from our troop's prior Philmont treks. This will be my first trip to Philmont. I am eagerly looking forward to our time there.

John, my base SO weight is about 14 pounds. It would make an even bigger difference if I could lose 10 pounds in the next 8 weeks. HA HA.

Some of the other changes we've made this year thanks to a lot of good input from Doug Prosser, Mike Barney, and others:
Moved to 2 MSR Windpro canister stoves for each crew.
Using 2 aluminum 2-quart pots for each crew (with lid and handle).
Substituting a 1 foot square of fiberglass screen for the sump frisbee.
Providing our own 10' x 12' Campmor silnylon tarp for the dining fly.
Using our own Triptease cord for dining fly guylines.
Bringing our own stuff sack and light cord for hoisting a smellables bag.
Counting on the bear bags and lines to be the only Philmont provided gear.
Lightening our first aid kits to a reasonable selection.
Encouraging everyone to use either 1L disposable (i.e. Aquafina, Dasani) water bottles or Platypus

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
coincidences on 05/14/2008 11:40:29 MDT Print View

We share philosophies and gear choices. I'm using a GG squall classic, my son is in a TT Rainshadow 2 and we're using the same stoves and a lightweight dining fly, ropes, stakes and water containers. Like your idea of the screen instead of frisbee. Hope the ranger agrees.

I could go lighter, but we don't have many long hiking days so I added some comfort items. I expect our gear will be lighter than most, although it seems like more scouters are getting on the lightweight bandwagon.

What are you all doing for shoes/boots?

I'll drop you a line when we return.


Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Spreading the LIghweight gospel on 05/14/2008 12:34:19 MDT Print View

I regularly hike in the San Gabriels near LA and run into Scout troops all the time. Ranging in numbers from a half dozen kids and a leader to troops of platoon strength, these kids and their leaders are often in the best frame of mind and body to listen to a lightweight approach, especially when they have been slogging up an 15 degree slope for a while laboring under a 45lb pack for an overnighter. I have often intentionally set up camp near enough to the troop site to garner the occassional interest of a leader or a scout who has watched me set up my entire camp in a few minutes and unlimber myself from a 15 to 20 lb pack. Taking a subtle approach and coating it with honey can get you a lot a focused attention on gear and technique. And when you are almost 60 and have huge amounts of energy left after a 12 mile day, the adults really listen to what you have to say about getting lighter "at our age." I now carry a copy of the Prosser's gear list advice for parent of Philmont bound scouts and hand that out to the adults (found here on the BPL site). I haven't found one yet who was not thankful for the advice and help. Situational learning experiences have a real impact. Scouts can see light gear and see the value of it. It is most effective for the adults who definitely want to lighten their loads. I also carry a printout of all of the gear sites on the web that I have accumulated over the years.
These little things have really helped get the word out about lightweight gear and technique and I have recieved numerous emails after an encounter from leaders thanking me and asking for further advice and occassionally an invitation to make a more formal presentation to a troop.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Spreading the LIghweight gospel on 05/14/2008 15:38:16 MDT Print View

Mitchell, thank you for helping those Scout troops. Scouting works because adults get involved and help. Those adults are all volunteers trying to spend time with their own son and help the troop. Many of them have no background in the outdoor activities that the Scouting employs. I appreciate your enthusiasm and encouragement for those folks.

John, for footwear I will be wearing Brooks Cascadia 3 trail runners. My son will war a pair of NB trail runners. Our guys are wearing a range of shoes from Merrill, Vasque, and even 1 or 2 guys in lightweight boots. I think most everyone is wearing a short or crew height wool sock.

All the best,

Edited by flyfast on 05/14/2008 15:47:04 MDT.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Boots vs any other footwear on 05/14/2008 16:07:52 MDT Print View

I got a question from a friend who is going to Philmont with his son. What to wear for footwear. I see your answer and that of a few others. Would someone address the concern my friend expressed that Philmont is insisting on all leather boots that are durable, etc. What is Philmont's approach to footwear and what are scouts and adults doing to address this issue? How much of an issue is this and how much of a problem is it to go "lightweight" with trailrunners or other solutions?

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Trek 23 on 05/14/2008 17:57:24 MDT Print View


About your Virga ... Philmont tends to discourage solo tenting. Might be worth contacting them b4 you leave.

I shared a RainShadow with our scoutmaster on trek 20 in 2007. It attracted a fair amount of attention ... and I've enticed a couple other leaders to join me in it on shorter trips since.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Boots vs any other footwear on 05/14/2008 18:03:29 MDT Print View

I was at Philmont late the summer of 2005, 803-E. I wore Scarpa ZG 65 GTX boots. I'm very willing to wear the additional weight of boots over trail runners to get the extra foot and ankle support. That said, these are among the lightest mid-height boots available then, and they FIT MY FOOT!

Given the ferocity of the New Mexico monsoon that year, I was glad to have a waterproof boot. We made camp in the rain twice, broke camp in the rain once, had something like 30 hours of solid rain starting the evening of our first day on trail. We had a ball nonetheless, and particularly appreciated the sweat lodges at A Springs!

Ahh, and the weather the rest of the trek was just lovely.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Bag Cooking on 05/14/2008 20:26:51 MDT Print View

You wrote: Now all we need to do is convince the Ranger that we don’t need to carry the yum-yum Frisbee

Guess what you do not have to use the Yum-Yum frisbee & spactula. Last year we changed over to 1 gal Paint Strainer bags. Go to home Depot for a 2 pack. Use one for 5 days trash-it, then use the other. The two bags weigh in at 0.4 ounces.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Trek 23 on 05/14/2008 20:33:12 MDT Print View

Jim, I've heard that about using a solo shelter at Philmont. But we have an odd number in our crew. Our adults have been able to do the same in the past. We probably won't know 100% til we get there.

Mitchell, the written guidance is that a "quality pair of broken-in hiking boots are a necessity at Philmont." The only specs provided are that boots "should be 6 to 8 inches high with a sturdy sole." But many folks that I've talked to have worn a low shoe or trail runner. Philmont's planning DVD also shows hikers in shoes.

I've not been to Philmont before but have hiked in northern NM, Colorado, and AZ. I'm comfortable wearing trail runners and carrying a light pack. But obviously preference matters a lot. Alan had a great experience with Scarpa boots. How can you argue with that?

Edited by flyfast on 05/14/2008 20:34:40 MDT.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Short update on my Philmont Article on 05/14/2008 21:17:32 MDT Print View

I have been meaning to write an update of my Philmont article but I have never finished it so I'll include some of the main points here plus answer some questions I have heard. I was at Philmont last year and I am on 804-M2 trek this year. I was seeing a number of people go "somewhat" light but no one was carrying as small of packs as our trek. We were really moving down the trails passing a lot of crews. When I came of trail my pack weighed in at 16lbs. I have a lot of crew gear but 2 or 3 of the boys were lighter than me. The comment above this talked about the Paint strainer bag to replace the Philmont frisbee. Worked great, very light weight 0.4 oz for 2 bags.

Shoes: There is no requirement for boots at Philmont. Trail runners worked great. I used Solomon XA Pro 3D's last year & plan on this year. worked great. Do not get gore tex. The plain 3D's dry quickly & really keep you cool on the hot days.

Tents: In the past we used the Black Diamond tents Betalight & Mega-light tents. Both really good & recently could find them for 20% off. I was fortunate to get in orders for two new tents that are similiar to the Black Diamonds but from The Spinntex MID (18oz)4 person & Superfly (11.5oz)2 person. I'll be using both on this years Trek. Ron Bell has also designed & marketed a number of items that will save a lot of weight. He has a great section on fabrics (Fabric Mojo).

Sleeping Pads: Big Agnes has come out with some lighter weight thick pads call Clear Air Pads. Take a look at this. Yes they are thin but if you are careful you save a lot of weight & get a good nights sleep.

Bear Ropes: Now to something I recommended not touching. I met Paul Mergens on last years trek. He recognized me from my article & he shared what he is doing & had confirmed by Doug Palmer the Head Ranger. He used ropes similiar to the AirCore Pro URSA Dyneema Bear Bag Hanging Ropes on this web site. He ordered Amsteel Blue Ropes 2.5mm w/ tensile strength of 1400 pounds and weigh less than 0.5lbs/150ft. He stated costs were approx. 14 cents/ft. He stated that the ropes performed well with no wear. Because of small diameter he stated the scouts did need to use a small stick with the rope wrapped around to haul the heavy bear bags up. Our scout master has already purchased a 600 ft spool of this rope from a local Marine Hardware store. This is what we will use at Philmont this year.

Bear Bags: We were going to bring some new lighter weight bear bags since the ones we had at the end of the season were pretty trashed.

Stoves: One option I've been kicking around is to take one Simmerlite & large fuel bottle but not to take second stove and instead to take a Bushbuddy Ultra wood stove as a backup.

All of our ideas but you I again saw scouts with 50, 60, 70+ pound packs. I talked with a number of adults being evacuated because their joints could not handle the trek. And I sat around Staff coffee's talking with other leaders that did nothing but complain about their trek & all the weight they're carrying. I think the biggest eye opener for them was when our crew blew by them going down the trail singing while they could not even catch their breath enough to say hi!

PS: With these additions we will not use ANY Philmont gear. Just food & their Micropure tabs.

One other thing I would like to encourage. Please look into the trekking 1 classes on this web site. If we can get a core group of scouting leaders with this knowledge we really can effect change. I myself signed up for the Desert Southwest couse in Utah during October.

Hope this helps. Enoy Philmont it is a great experience.

Doug Prosser

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Solo Tents on 05/14/2008 21:23:58 MDT Print View

Almost all of the rangrs are using solo tents. As long as they are located around the other tents there should not be a problem.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Short update... on 05/14/2008 21:47:33 MDT Print View

Doug, thanks for the insights.

The Amsteel Blue Ropes 2.5mm is an interesting idea.

What do you use for bear bag stuff sacks?

Thanks also for the Trekking 1 course idea. You're right that Scouting is a slow community to change. Leading by example, knowledge, and experience is the way to go.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Re: Short update... on 05/14/2008 22:11:36 MDT Print View

The Bear stuff sacks: Philmont used a weaved nylon sandbag. We may either purchase our own or look for options. Mountain Laurel Designs had a really nice one but a bit pricey for everyone in the crew.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Clarification on Bear Ropes on 05/15/2008 06:45:12 MDT Print View

"Bear Ropes: Now to something I recommended not touching. I met Paul Mergens on last years trek. He recognized me from my article & he shared what he is doing & had confirmed by Doug Palmer the Head Ranger. He used ropes similiar to the AirCore Pro URSA Dyneema Bear Bag Hanging Ropes on this web site. He ordered Amsteel Blue Ropes 2.5mm w/ tensile strength of 1400 pounds and weigh less than 0.5lbs/150ft."

Does that mean Philmont is now using those ropes for the bear bags, or that we should bring our own? If we bring our own, how many and what length? (2 @ 150' each?)

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Clarification on Bear Ropes on 05/15/2008 09:22:58 MDT Print View

I sent Paul Mergens an email to see if he can post all the specifics on the ropes. Philmont is not going to these lighter ropes but it appears they will allow there use. From what I can recall from Paul they used two (2) 75ft lengths of rope for their crew without any problems.

My Scoutmaster (Lance Kistler) & I talked and were thinking 75 ft seemed a bit short for some of the places where we had to hang bags so we were thinking of using two(2) 100ft lengths for each of our crews this year.

Hopefully Paul can get on-line to provide specifics.

Joe Johnstone
(entropy) - F
Solo Tents/pots on 05/15/2008 10:53:08 MDT Print View

No problem with advisor in solo tents. Kids have to be paired unless odd number. I used an MSR Zoid 2 last year, and it had plenty of room solo, but comes in at over 4 lbs.

I'm getting a Tarptent Contrail today! 23 Ozs.

Also, I would be a bit concerned about 2 - 2 qt pots for a vrew of 12. We had 2 - 4 Qt pots, and came a little close on some meals.

Getting out of base camp with 35 lbs including food, water and crew gear is pretty hard to do. Not impossible, but you really have to work at it. That's my goal next year. I have the Contrail, Golite odyssey, and a Big Agnes Zirkel bag which saves over 7 lbs from last years hike.

Last year was my first trip, and I now know what can be left behind, like a camp stool, too many batteries, less socks and shirts.

2007 710-O2 Trek 14.

Paul Mergens
(mergens) - F

Locale: New England
Light Bear Ropes on 05/15/2008 13:33:57 MDT Print View


Thanks for posting the information on the Amsteel bear rope. The specifications for this rope are correctly listed in your previous post. Our crew had great success using the two (75') lengths for hanging Philmont issued bear bags. Our Ranger thought it was a great idea and we shaved 2 lbs off this essential backcountry crew gear item.
Everyone have a great time at Philmont this summer. I will be going again in 2009!

"The more you know, the less you carry"