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Father/son getting started
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 14:59:47 MDT Print View

My 11 year old has now moved from Cub into Boy Scouts. The Troop (and our family) has only done car camping previously and I'd like to do some backpacking with him and hopefully get the others involved as well. I have no experience though - just like to hike when I have the rare opportunity.

Therefore, we have no real backpacking gear so I plan to get the very minimum now and work up to more as his interest continues. I plan to only do 1 or a max of 2 nights at a time until we both get some experience.

I figure we can get buy with renting packs from the Scout shop ($3/day) so I'm figuring the first thing we need is a tent. We have 2 small tents but neither will fit both of us and he doesn't like sleeping alone. Thus, I'm looking for something that will EASILY fit 2 adults. Despite the much heavier weight, I was looking at the Alps Mountaineering Orion 2. However, the Meramac model is nearly half the price though also a bit heavier, fiberglass poles and no vestibule. I assume the same for any big box 2-3 person tent. Or should I just bite the bullet now and get a true lightweight tent such as the Double Rainbow for more than twice the price?

I THINK the only other thing we would need is a stove, but I can put that off for a while as we'll just do 1 nighters to start and can manage with only dry meals. Our first one will be May 29-30 unless the weather sucks.

BTW, he's almost 4'11" and 115 lbs - a bit chunky but not athletic. I plan to keep HIS total pack weight < 20 lbs, preferably < 15 the first few times. That should be easy I'd think for only an overnight trip.

I'd appreciate any advice to make sure I'm not missing anything or if I need to clarify something.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 15:27:23 MDT Print View

I'm assuming that since you're looking at ALPS, you're using the site, right?

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
REI / Campmor on 04/28/2009 15:39:20 MDT Print View

REI Outlet actually is where I saw it. My understanding is REI and Campmor are 2 of the more inexpensive places to buy somewhat decent gear from that Scouts use a lot.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 16:31:03 MDT Print View

ALPS has a web page (, where they give Scout troops a 40% discount on everything they sell, so I'd make sure it wasn't cheaper there first.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 18:01:55 MDT Print View

Hi Michael,

I'd recommend that you start by reading the book Lighten Up. It's a great read that will help direct your thinking as you start on this path.

Next, I'd look hard at spending your money once. By that I mean buying lightweight gear the first time, rather than buying cheaper heavyweight gear that you'll want to replace later on. If you start with an ultralight mindset and gear, I think you'll enjoy the sport much more.

The big three are tent, backpack, and sleeping bag. Starting with a light tent is great. The Double Rainbow is great, as is the Scarp and the Rainshadow. Your Tarptent thinking is very good.

Renting packs is good because you'll likely carry too much gear the first few times as you whittle down your load.Later on, you can do packs (Golite is a good place to start) once you have your loads to a size you're comfortable with.

Any new items you'll be buying, do some research and get the lightest usable items. Often the ultralight stuff is cheaper anyway. For example, I would highly recommend a Trail Designs Caldera Cone stove and pot. Alchohol stove- great choice. You could also do a canister stove such as those by MSR or Primus. Easier but heavier.

So pick carefully- from your rain jackets to your boots (get running shoes instead) to your cooking pots (one needed- titanium). The more you can select carefully and minimally, the easier the walking will be. Sadly, Alps offers few ultralight choices.

The most expensive ultralight items are sleeping bags. High quality fabrics, down and synthetic insulations are expensive. This will likely be your biggest investments. Having a lightweight and warm bag that compresses small is a really important part of a lightweight system.

Lots of great reviews on this site- you'll probably save yourself a lot of money in gear by getting a membership. Sure- I'm staff now, but I was a fan far before that ever happened.

Best of luck- have a good time!


Edited by djohnson on 04/28/2009 18:04:06 MDT.

David Bizup
(ScouterInAHammock) - F
Re: Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 18:23:15 MDT Print View

Ok here comes some Boy Scout specific advice: Understand how the program works and how troops plan and schedule events. Register as an ASM, take the training, volunteer to be a Patrol Advisor, go on the campouts, read the Scoutmaster Handbook, encourage your son to run for Patrol Leader and go to Patrol Leader Councils. If you want the troop to backpack, then you have to convince the PLC to schedule it. If you want to backpack with your son just borrow/buy/rent some gear and go, but invite other scouts and scouters along to generate some enthusiasm.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 21:49:42 MDT Print View

I understand the BSA system. I was Cubmaster the past 6 years (yes, before this son was a Cub Scout) and am now on the Committee for both Pack and Troop and ALL the current Troop leadership came up through the Pack during my time. I know we'll get at least some backpacking in, just not as soon as I want to do it or as much. None of them (including my son probably) are as hard core as I'd like to be given the chance. ;)

If I'm going to spend the tent money within the next month, what other lightweight 2+ person tents under $260 should I consider? We have LOTS of bugs here so it must be able to be fully enclosed. It will be used at least once in winter but doesn't need to be a 4-season - we'll just use more insulation.

As for the stove eventually, I was leaning toward canister (MSR or equivalent). Seemed like that was preferred over alcohol for youth to deal with. I got the impression canister stoves are nearly foolproof but I haven't done a lot of research on them yet to know all the pros and cons vs alcohol.

James Dubendorf

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Re: Re: Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 22:02:44 MDT Print View


Check out this link for an alcohol stove made from a cat food can:

Very inexpensive, and might make a great project for scouts. There are a number of other alcohol stove designs, but this is by far the simplest. Jim does a nice job of outlining safety issues associated with these stoves.


Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 23:00:02 MDT Print View

I think BSA policy limits, and possibly prohibits liquid fuel stoves, so a canister stove is a good idea.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Father/son getting started on 04/28/2009 23:18:45 MDT Print View

Canister sounds good- it would be easier.

Lots of great tent choices- here is a broad range of reviews and comparisons on 25 ultralight tents (but it's a paid article- sorry)

Brands to look at: Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, Golite (pyramids are great for groups). I'd focus on:
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo
Tarptent Squall or Rainshadow (I love the Rainshadow for family backpacks- it fits 3 adults comfortably)
Tarptent Double Rainbow

Great comparison of all of these in the link above.

Best, Doug

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Father/son getting started on 04/29/2009 01:01:56 MDT Print View

I'm lost here. Are you buying for a troop, or just for yourself?

David Bizup
(ScouterInAHammock) - F
fuels on 04/29/2009 04:19:11 MDT Print View

> I think BSA policy limits, and possibly prohibits liquid fuel stoves, so a canister stove is a good idea.

G2SS: "Knowledgeable adult supervision must be provided when Scouts are involved in the storage of chemical fuels, the handling of chemical fuels in the filling of stoves or lanterns, or the lighting of chemical fuels. The use of liquid fuels for starting any type of fire is prohibited."

Liquid fuel stoves are allowed, but BSA is thinking about white gas type not alcohol. I use alchohol when soloing or hiking with other adults but not with scouts. Canisters are simpler and safer. Keep in mind that the users are probably 11-13 year old scouts and what sounds like inexperienced adults.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Father/son getting started on 04/29/2009 08:17:15 MDT Print View

I'd go canister. But we had some new 11 year olds in the troop last year, and none of them knew how to strike a match. Talk about shocking.

Greg Bohm
(GregInMI) - F

Locale: SE Michigan
Re: Father/son getting started on 04/29/2009 08:53:01 MDT Print View

I'm in a similar situation. I'm transitioning from car camping to backpacking so my 14 year old son and I can go with his troop to Philmont in June of 2010.

If your son's troop has limited backpacking experience, then go talk to other troops in your area. Also, camporees or other campouts will be another opportunity to visit other troops and check out their gear. You will see a lot of variety (especially with the adult's gear) at the different campouts to check out and ask questions. Trying and looking at someone else's equipment now will help you save a lot of money when it is time to buy.

My next recommendation is to balance out what you see and are told with quality backpacking websites like this one. This should help separate fact from personal perspective.

Lastly, shop around for places with the equipment you want to buy and read their return/exchange policies in detail. There are some great websites that will let you try something out and return it for no charge or a reasonable shipping fee. I made my backpack selection after "purchasing" several and taking them for a test hike.

This approach may not get you cutting edge gear, but it will get you set up with stuff that works.



PS We just hiked 13.2 miles last weekend and had a great time. I'm loving the backpacking lifestyle.

Edited by GregInMI on 04/29/2009 08:54:03 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Father/son getting started on 04/29/2009 08:58:49 MDT Print View

Doug, Thanks for the tent options to look at.

Joe, I'm buying for myself (and son), but want to stay within BSA rules since we'll be using the stuff on Scout trips also so I should only be using what they are allowed to use. Hopefully, I can encourage them to purchase similar items in the future.

I may make a SuperCat for just the 2 of us to use on our own trips until I can afford a canister stove.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Father/Son Gear on 04/29/2009 09:53:43 MDT Print View

If I can offer my perspective, I have 2 sons in scouts now, one 15 and nearing his eagle rank and the other 11 and just joined. I have learned the hard way that it is better to go ahead and get good quality, lightweight gear initially.

I wish that I had found this site before we got my older son's gear. We don't use it anymore and have sold or donated most of it.

Keep looking through these threads for ideas. I also recommend Doug Prosser's Philmont gear list article which contains some good thoughts on lightweight gear that can be used for scouting.

Worst case, if you purchase good gear that you end up not using long term, you will find willing buyers on this and other sites so much of your investment can be returned. The market for poor, heavy gear is almost zero.

Have fun! Hiking with my boys is one of the most enjoyable things in my life.

Andrew Dolman
Re: Re: Father/son getting started on 04/29/2009 10:28:27 MDT Print View

I would suggest aluminium cooking pots over titanium if cost is an issue. The weight penalty is really not all that much. You can get some really light alu pots very cheap from Antigravitygear

e.g. non-stick AGG 3 cup (107g) and 2 quart (165g) pots can be had for $10 and $13.

The cheapest Titanium pot of about 3 cup size is nearly $40, and that's with the current discount, and it is non-non-stick, and it's 119g (but has handles).

Adding a handle for the Alu pot is only 34g so you only save 22g (0.77 ounces) by going Titanium - and that's if you only carry 1 pot (you don't need a handle for each).

After writing all that I've reconvinced myself that titanium pots are a bit pointless.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Father/Son Gear on 04/29/2009 10:31:28 MDT Print View

We just had a camporee this past weekend. While I was not specifically looking for it, I really didn't see any lightweight gear in use. I'll be more in tune with what to look for in the future so maybe I'll find some.

It will be a challenge to get the troop to Philmont eventually, but I have hope since a few of them are going to the Jamboree next year, which should be more expensive and some are even considering the international one as well. My son will be too young for both, but I don't really care for big events like that anyway. I'll keep pressing to make Philmont a long-term goal though and we'll see what happens. I'd just as soon plan our own trip out west, but it would be hard to plan all the extra stuff that it sounds like Philmont has to offer.

Thanks for your comments. One of Doug's articles is how I happened upon this site a couple days ago. It appears it still hasn't been updated for the humid, buggy areas of the country though.

Looks like I'll be getting a tent for us and a sleeping pad for him soon. I had just bought a POE (Campmor) X-Lite Thermo for the recent camporee. As a side sleeper, I had grown to not enjoy camping much anymore as my hips and shoulders got quite sore at night - this made it MUCH more bearable again. I just need to find a pillow option I like. I actually forgot my pillow this time, so I used the pad's stuff sack with extra clothes. Worked better than I thought it would but normally I won't have all those extra clothes. I think an inflatable would be best for me - perhaps even the Exped, which could also inflate my pad in winter albeit much slower.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Cheap Light Sleeping Bag on 04/29/2009 10:35:57 MDT Print View

It's hard to beat the Campmor Down Mummy when it comes to bang for the buck.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Tent ordered / bear bag needed on 04/30/2009 07:18:15 MDT Print View

Lunar Duo on the way. I really liked the freestanding ability of the Double Rainbow since we're used to that, but I really wanted the extra space of the LD. Now I'm off to find some poles and a few other smaller items.

Also need to get a "bear" bag to keep those inquiring coons at bay - any recommendations?