Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go? on 06/23/2009 16:32:53 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go?

Joseph Jacaruso
(CaptainJac) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
How Light Can You Go? on 06/23/2009 19:34:44 MDT Print View

Another great article Doug! My Troop will be there in August and we will certainly be using a lot of your ideas to keep those ankles in shape.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: How Light Can You Go? on 06/23/2009 20:40:24 MDT Print View

Thank You, Doug!

Now wish me success in getting our troop to lighten up.

Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Wrong measurements on 06/24/2009 02:59:56 MDT Print View

Your kg measurements are wrong in the summary, for example:

Total Weight Worn or Carried 10.9 kg = 384,48 oz or 24.03 pounds.

Michael Danielson
(mcd57) - MLife

Locale: Middle TN
How light can you go? on 06/24/2009 10:48:44 MDT Print View

Loved your article. Taking a crew out to Philmont the first week next year (2010). Will apply a lot of the principles to the crew members because they are new to backpacking and I have a lot of training to do to get them ready for next year.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: How Light Can You Go? on 06/24/2009 11:25:05 MDT Print View

Great article Doug -- I wish every Scout and Scouter would read it (and heed your advice) before going on their next backpacking trip. 77 pounds, not so surprising -- we had adults in our troop that would have 60 pounds for a weekend.

How did the Mountain Hardwear Stimulus work in heavy rain? I'm trying to convince myself that my Mountain Hardwear Quark (same fabric) is really waterproof.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
oz vs kg on 06/24/2009 17:47:44 MDT Print View

HOLY COW. The math error is totally mine. I promise to get more sleep, um, next week.

Thanks for pointing it out, Hendrick!

tkkn c
(tkknc) - MLife

Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go on 06/24/2009 18:00:03 MDT Print View

Any chance you can post the link to the actual excel spread sheet you used for philmont? We are going in 2010.


Edited by tkknc on 06/24/2009 18:02:21 MDT.

Larry Risch
(dayhiker) - F
Day Clothes, where to they go at night? on 06/25/2009 11:47:55 MDT Print View

So if you can't sleep with them what do you do with them? Hang them with your food?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go? on 06/25/2009 17:53:29 MDT Print View

Doug, awesome- Thanks!

I work really hard to get Scouters to lighten up, but they're generally the toughest bunch to get to shed weight. I got my Eagle in the 80s; I vividly remember the pack list including things like towel and washcloth, bowl, plate, knife, fork, spoon, cup, etc, etc... so I know they can come by it honestly. Can be remarkably more resistant to change. I've been working with one group in particular who won't let really, really little guys go on a trip with anything less than 5,500 cubic inches... they actually made one of the Scouts return a pack that was 4,900 cubic inches. It was the only pack he tried on out of about 4 in the 85-95L range that felt good; I could have added a simple accessory pocket. In short, it's great to hear of Scouters getting out there with less. Refreshing! (For all involved.) One group I've worked with is headed out to Philmont soon; they've been following some of my advice and that of BPL, but seem to be working down from more traditional weights and philosophy. I have faith that they'll take to your approach!

Thanks again for a great article!

Edited by 4quietwoods on 06/25/2009 17:55:23 MDT.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Day Clothes, where to they go at night? on 06/25/2009 22:27:22 MDT Print View

Since we can not sleep with our day clothes nor packs I put my day clothes in a 1 gal zip-lock & my pack in a 1 gal zip-lock. I then put them under the dining fly.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Re: How Light Can You Go? on 06/25/2009 22:31:30 MDT Print View

The Mountain Hardware Stimulus worked really great. I was like you looking at this very thin light fabric was it going to work. It did really well. It is not quite as breathable as my Montane wind shirt but it is very good. I also gave up my Tilly Airflow hat & hike in the Stimulus Rain Hat. It worked great during a number of storms. The Rain wrap was funny but worked so good I do not think I'll take anything else in the warmer weather for lower body rain protection.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go? on 06/26/2009 10:10:57 MDT Print View


Great article! I appreciate you writing it. I really enjoyed it.



Edited by socalpacker on 06/26/2009 10:12:35 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Once Again on 06/26/2009 13:12:15 MDT Print View


You are the man when it comes to Philmont! I have used your original article with a lot of crews in order to get them used to the idea of not taking the kitchen sink. My brother in law is going in July and, hopefully, he will be one of the lighter crews there.

Our crew loved to hang around the scale and watch people weigh their packs. Once kid had 32 lbs. and the Scout Master was upset because he was not carrying his "fair share". This kid worked hard to get his pack weight down to a respectable weight and they were now going to punish him for doing so. I am sure the SM probably had a 50 lb. pack and he wanted the kid to carry some of his stuff.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go? on 06/26/2009 13:22:30 MDT Print View

Not to hijack the thread (much), but I wanted to ask Doug if he had ever thought about updating his article on gear for new scouts?

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go? on 06/26/2009 14:03:32 MDT Print View

I have thought of updating the New Scout article as well as putting together a Power Point that people could use to teach the concepts. We'll see. I was also thinking of article on John Muir Trail because 4 of us from the BPL Wilderness Trekking course Dessert Southwest in 2008 will be leaving to start on Aug 12th, southboard.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Going lightweight at Philmont on 06/26/2009 18:19:14 MDT Print View

I liked the "fair share" comment. That clearly shows a lack of understanding on the leader's part. His knees must be much better than mine.

Last year we saw packs up to 84 lbs, where the scout carrying it screamed "I won, I have the heaviest pack". I would have love to have seen him 5 days later. We also saw a 70+ pounder with a 10" cast iron skillet and small ice chest filled with bacon and eggs. (Seriously)

Some of the weight leaving the welcome center is dependent upon your first day's destination and next resupply:
How many days of food are you carrying 2, 3 or 4 days?
How much water do you need to carry to the first refill station? This is where many get heavy: Most of the first day's are about 2 miles, where 1 liter is likely sufficient (YMMV).

Last year we had one trekker with a 20 lb pack with everthing includingwater and food. This year we expect to have a 17 lb packer.

I was interested a year ago how low you could go with a rich uncle. I'll look for my spreadsheet, but if $'s were not an issue and exotic materials were available (ala Cuben everywhere) it looked like you could get to the 12 lb range with everything (including food, water, crew gear) on day 1 for ~$2K.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go on 06/26/2009 22:41:04 MDT Print View

I'm shocked that they have a weight limit, but allow boys to leave carrying such a huge percentage of their body weight. Trapped in the 70s..............

Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Weight on 06/29/2009 13:33:18 MDT Print View

I went with a crew in 2005. Two of the leaders didn't follow advice and ended up with packs in the mid forty pound range. Everyone else was below 35 lbs. By the fourth day they regretted carring all the weight!

Pat Rabun
(prabun) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Philmont List on 06/29/2009 15:04:55 MDT Print View

Great article Doug! However, I have a couple of points. First, .5L of water on a Philmont trek is dangerously low for 99% of the people going. Dehydration is probably the number one problem encountered by the Philmont med staff. I would suggest to those reading the article to carry 2L minimum, based on my experience at Philmont and Double H. Second, you can`t do very many treks and only carry 2 days worth of food between resupplying. Most treks have at least one 3-4 days between resupply segment. Philfood is heavy (even after removing the Gatoraide!). Given the above, I`d add about 9 lbs to your packweight (addition food @96oz and water @ 48oz)to get a realistic average weight for most treks. Also, my crews always split the crew gear evenly (including adults), which adds further weight. I think it sets a poor example to do otherwise.
Again, great article! You got me thinking light about Philmont prior to my first trek and I am forever in your debt!

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Food for 4 days... on 07/02/2009 13:57:12 MDT Print View

While the average water carried might be a bit low (1L might be a "better" average). The food number is an _average_, not a starting number. So, his "2-days" would, I guess, be the average weight for food carried on a 4-day trip. At least, that's how I read the list.

And it looks like the boys decided to not allow the adults to carry any group gear which is why the weight is divided by 10 rather than 12.

Edited by tlbj6142 on 07/02/2009 13:59:21 MDT.

Heather Pisani-Kristl
(P-K) - F

Locale: San Diego
Cleaning glasses on 07/05/2009 22:17:31 MDT Print View

Doug, I enjoyed the article. Wish we had done something like that in Girl Scouts.

To clean my glasses, I use a dribble of water to remove sandy particles, and polish the lenses with a woven microfiber cloth purchased from the optometrist. It doesn't register on my scale, so it's less than 1/8 oz.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
New posts on 07/06/2009 15:01:42 MDT Print View

Updated the article with posts to relevant articles/forums on BPL.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Member privileges on 07/15/2009 15:19:02 MDT Print View

Updated the article to be public, so as many Scouters as possible can read it.

Richard Perlman
(montclair) - MLife

Locale: Metro NY
Re: Member privileges on 08/03/2009 12:18:41 MDT Print View

Addie wrote: Updated the article to be public, so as many Scouters as possible can read it.

Thank you, Addie, for that info! (I could have sworn that it was Members Only when it was first posted and I was wondering the best way to get it to the other scouters in my troop. Now I know I'm not losing my mind. ;-) )

I'm planning on Philmont for 2011 and I'm the lightweight mavin in the troop. This article will help greatly with the skeptics!

Edited by montclair on 08/03/2009 12:19:56 MDT.

Conrad Stoll
(cnstoll) - F
Hydration on 01/30/2010 22:10:15 MST Print View

I couldn't agree more with the poster who mentioned that 0.5L isn't enough for most people to be carrying at a given time at Philmont. I think 2L is probably appropriate. It's still extremely valuable to gauge the itinerary for the day, because it is quite likely that one can get by with less than capacity water for trips between camps. But hydration is still the most important part of beginning your trek, so if you're going to cut weight, don't do it at the expense of water.

Everything in the article looks great. A recommendation that I do have is that the more shakedowns a crew does prior to going to Philmont, the more successful they usually are. Use the shakedowns to help scouts and adults whittle down the unnecessary items in their pack. There are lots of easy ways to do this, without even buying more gear. Plan ahead and prepare. Shakedowns have the additional benefit of aiding as a tool for conditioning.

As a general note, I would like to add my opinion that the focus of your trips should be the experience you have with the wilderness around you, not necessarily your interaction with the gear you brought with you. It is disappointing when I see crews carrying huge packs weighing 50 lbs, because that will detract from their experience by making them too tired to do side hikes and participate in programs. Just don't go to the opposite extreme either. If a scout really likes that pocket knife, let him take it. If an advisor wants that coffee mug, DEFINITELY let him take it. As long as everyone's pack weighs a reasonable amount, then your trip will be a success. Use your stronger and fitter members to help distribute the load better. That's part of what being a crew is all about.

And remember to be humble. The range of experience levels of the crews that arrive at Philmont is huge. Many of the participants have never been backpacking before their shakedown hikes. Most have zero experience with ultralight backpacking. Hopefully, going to Philmont will help them learn more about it. You're all there for the same purpose; to have the same wilderness experience. Remember that principle when interacting with crews that may not have prepared in the same way that you did.

I also have a minor correction to make to the article above. Doug Palmer is actually the Associate Director of Program for the Backcountry Camps. He is not the Head Philmont Ranger.

Brent Browning
(brentb) - F
6L pots? on 01/31/2010 16:46:14 MST Print View

Hi Doug,

Great article, thanks for sharing your experiences. I am an experienced backpacker, Eagle Scout, and Scoutmaster and have recently shifted away from my old-school approach to a lightweight approach. I am not sub-20lbs yet but sub-30 for sure.

I am taking a crew to Philmont for my first time this summer and doing a ton of research. I know a lot of folks use the one-pot approach for group cooking.

You said you took one 6L pot and one 2L pot. What brand were they and where did you get them? REI has a 4L titanium pot but nothing larger.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
6 Liter pot on 01/31/2010 17:06:55 MST Print View

The pot I used was from a car camp cook set I had from years ago. Unfortunately my son ran over the pot with his old Land Cruiser in our garage. :-(((

I cam across some replacement MSR Flex 4 Pot set (~$99):

This Flex 4 also comes as a whole bunch of stuff but you really only need the pots.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
How much water to carry on 01/31/2010 17:28:13 MST Print View

There has been a number of comments on how much water to carry, Minimal amounts, etc.

Realize that what we carry is related to our fears. If you have fears about being cold you tend to carry more layers & heavier bag. If you have fears about being hungry then you carry more food. If your fearful about having water you tend to carry a lot of water.

The last two main fears I have been trying to deal with is the fear of not enought water & food. Philmont is a great place to work on your fear of not having enough water. So you have to think through what you are going to do. Is some respects this is same as hiking in Sierras or along rivers, etc. There is water at KNOWN locations guarenteed. So you have to formulate plans so you carry very little water. You know the distance from your current camp to the new camp. You know how fast your crew is hiking. You know the new camp has water. So it is easy to drink a bunch of water before leaving your camp & carry the minimum that you think you will need. Is there ways to deal with thirst or dry month on trail. Our scoutmaster puts a very little stone in mouth & that generates your salivary glands to produce saliva so your mouth stays moist. I tend to bring some hard sugar free candy.

Please understand this is aimed at people that have advanced knowledge on the enviornment & how their bodies perform in it. Philmont is great to work on carrying extra water. So try drinking a bunch (1-2 liters) of water in AM then carry a 500ml water bottle to see how much you really need. For the first few days go ahead & carry an extra liter or two but try not to use it. Once you prove to yourself you really don't need it then don't carry the extra water & see how it goes.

Again it is all about getting over your fears.

Enjoy the hike.

Conrad Stoll
(cnstoll) - F
Heat Exhaustion on 01/31/2010 18:23:14 MST Print View

Agreed, one fear that can be overcome at Philmont is worry about there not being enough. It is true that water locations are extremely predictable. You'll generally know ahead of time which intermittent streams are flowing, which springs are not, and so on. You also know that every staffed camp will have water. So you're quite right, over carrying water because you're not sure if there will be any along the trail can easily be overcome.

I cannot stress enough however that, regardless of experience level, Philmont is not the place to push one's self to Make Do with less water. I agree with planning effectively. But it is a fine line to tread between effective planning and over exertion and under hydration.

Heat Exhaustion can happen to anyone, and indeed Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration are the most common forms of injury at Philmont. If you're hiking in certain areas, such as Abreu to Urraca Mesa, Harlan to Deer Lake, Indian Writings to Ponil, or especially if you're hiking any of the peaks, I would advise your crews to be very conscious of the water they carry with them.

If you ever say to yourself "no, I don't need to take a drink of water, because I need to make do with half a liter", then next time just double your estimate and take a full liter.

Hydration is too important. Other conditions can be more easily over come by knowledge and preparation. If you leave out that extra jacket, it's easy to not get hypothermia by wearing your rain gear, or change out of wet clothes so you warm up. You can avoid taking spare stoves by understanding stove maintenance. Just don't try to out think your body and do more with less water.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
6.0 liter pot on 01/31/2010 18:57:55 MST Print View

Here is another 6 liter pot.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: 6.0 liter pot on 02/01/2010 00:54:53 MST Print View


Please be aware that a 6 L pot may be too heavy for many stoves and may also be too large in diameter. The large diameter may mean the canister or fuel tank could get overheated by reflection and ...


Larry Huff
(profsparrow) - F
Backpacking Chair on 06/28/2010 14:08:07 MDT Print View

Just thought I'd share. This summer will be my third trip to Philmont. The last time was 20 years ago and I carried a heavy pack with nary a problem, and took one of the "super strenuous" treks... But being over 50 now, I have two changes, one is to carry a much lighter pack, the other is to be comfortable. So I sacrifice some of my weight for two comfort items, but try to get the best and lightest I can find. My pack weighs 40 lbs with 2 liters of water and troop gear. One comfort item is my sleeping pad, the other is a "backpacking" chair. I love this thing, it's like sitting in an easy chair, and it's off the ground. NO, I DON'T work for the manufacturer. I just think this is a pretty neat item to have. If you're interested here's the link:

david richardson
(drichi) - MLife

Locale: midwest
6 QT POT on 07/24/2010 09:34:27 MDT Print View

here is another source for a 6 qt aluminum pot. I have one that has been to philmont 2 times now. Light, but seems to hold up.

Ralph Lemon
(aviationr) - F
sleeping pad on 11/23/2010 09:42:43 MST Print View

It looks like your sleeping pad is carried between your pack and your back, if that is the case how is it secured? Thanks Ralph
ASM Troop 840 and Crew Advisor

Liked your article hope you do an update on your 2010 trip. First time going for me and trying to get unti to work on ultra light mantra.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Gossamer Gear Pad Attachment on 11/23/2010 23:12:49 MST Print View

Take a look at the video on their web site for the Mariposa Plus and you'll see how the pad is attached.

Ralph Lemon
(aviationr) - F
Re: Gossamer Gear Pad Attachment on 11/29/2010 05:57:40 MST Print View

Thanks, video was good but unfortunately will not work with my golite. Question, did you all bring your own bear bags and if so what kind, noted they were 8 oz each Thanks Ralph in Miami

Chad Harston
(magicsampo) - F
Very helpful articles. Thanks. Any notes from 2010? on 12/13/2010 10:46:42 MST Print View

Doug, thanks so much for your articles about Philmont. I'm planning to go this summer and I've found your advice very helpful as I look for equipment for myself, my son and our crew. I would love to read your notes about your 2010 trek. thanks, Chad

Edited by magicsampo on 12/14/2010 10:56:36 MST.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
How did the canister stoves trn out? on 12/18/2010 20:44:06 MST Print View

I'd also like to know how the 2010 trek went, particularly with regard to using canister stoves. I've been using canister stoves the last couple years, and have absolutely no desire to go back to the classic Whisperlite.

We have three top-mount canister stoves (weighing 4 to 7 ounces each), but I'm thinking we need to pick up a remote-mount stove to handle heavier/wider pots (my Techno Trail struggles with two liters up top). I think in an ideal situation, we'd be cooking in 4-liter pots over two remote-mount stoves (12-man crew), and take the tiniest top-mount stove for a backup.

Your thoughts?

Fat Boy

terrance guidetti
(Baloo) - F

Locale: calif
sleep clothes on 03/26/2011 20:10:32 MDT Print View

Thanks Doug for your great articles on this topic. I am going to Philmont this summer with 2 crews. None of the leaders, parents or scouts in our group have any experience with Philmont.

I am a little confused about the sleep clothes requirement, as you are incorporating clothing that you show being worn before dinner ( I assume you do not remove those items when you eat) in your sleep system. I was under the impression that sleep clothes were only to be worn while sleeping. This interests me, because like you, I use a light bag and incorporate my insulating layers as part of my sleep system.

Also, I have read some posts that suggest you may or may not be allowed to use the Amsteel blue for bear rope,depending on your ranger. Thanks in advance for any enlightenment that you can provide

Ross Williams
(rwms15) - F
Is a frameless pack right for me? on 05/14/2011 08:18:17 MDT Print View

I plan on going to Philmont in the next few years, and I realize that the lighter my packweight, the more enjoyable the trip will be. I don't claim to be UL, however I have the correct mindset: if it isn't absolutely nessessary, it's staying home! I know that a frameless pack (I am currently considering the Golite Jam) is the lightest option when it comes to packs, and the load-carrying limitations of these ultralite packs will give me extra motivation to comb through my gear list and eliminate extra items. However, even with only lunch and a liter or so of water in a daypack, I cannot hike with the weight on my shoulders, as this causes back pain and sore shoulders. I used the daypack's hipbelt, and that transfered the weight to my hips and solved the problem.

Edited by rwms15 on 05/14/2011 08:21:32 MDT.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Seeking New Resources on 10/14/2011 10:40:05 MDT Print View

Doug, I will be doing lightweight Philmont presentations to 5 different crews (in 2 sittings). You suggested that you were working on a Power Point presentation. Have you put this together, and are there any other resources I can use?

FWIW, I am working closely with 4 scouts from our troop. They will be assisting me with the presentations, and they will also be using this experience to present lightweight backpacking to our troop.

Thanks for all the great info. I am spreading the word as fast as I can.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Is a frameless pack right for me? on 10/14/2011 11:49:37 MDT Print View


I can't speak to the Jam but I do use the Jam's larger family member (Pinnacle) for high volume loads (like winter) ... otherwise I use a truly frameless pack (Granite Gear Virga).

If your goal is to transfer almost all weight to your hips, the Pinnacle does NOT do that for me and I'd not expect the Jam to do any better. But when packed "right" (full or the load well compressed by the pack) I find the Pinnacle's hip belt probably takes about half the weight. It carries 30 lbs nicely ... I loaded it up to 40 lbs once and quickly decided that was beyond the pack's comfort range (for me).

Bill Rose
(BRnPA) - F

Locale: Philly suburbs
Re: Seeking New Resources on 02/16/2012 12:47:04 MST Print View

I second the request to have a PowerPoint presentation that we can show our scouts and crew leaders at the beginning of planning a trip. We're going to Philmont in the summer of 2013 and I'm already planning and compiling the packing list to minimize weight. Having a .ppt presentation to show at a meeting would really go a long way to get everyone on-board with packing light.