Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
ULA Ohm for Philmont
Display Avatars Sort By:
paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
Proportional loads on 11/04/2009 09:44:18 MST Print View

Our crew last year had football players, and midgets, lol, especially one 85 pound 5' string bean. We let the boys figure out their loads, and the smaller ones were adamant about taking their fair share. No problem, lets' go. Well, starting off with 4 days food on one of the tougher second day hikes at the ranch, the smaller guys started to melt on the last big uphill stretch. We let the crew sort it out, and they did, moving some weight around. Same thing happened 3 days later, after resupply, then very large up hill section. Lighter boys gave in at stop and weight again redistributed. Worked out by the boys. But at the beginning, our lighest boy was carrying over 40% of proportional load, too much. But he was going to tough it out, take his share, despite adults urging change. It worked out. Philmont does require a larger pack space, just because the darn food is sooooooooooooo big to pack. If you have no room to pack it, that is not fair to the rest of the group.

Scott Pfahler
(ScottPfahler) - F
Lightweight Philmont on 05/19/2010 14:34:40 MDT Print View

This is an old forum and my advice might be too little too late, but I stumbled across this randomly browsing the web and thought I'd weigh in.

Like Nick, I am a veteran of the Ranger Department (5 years total as a Ranger, Rayado Ranger, Ranger Trainer and Mountain Trek Coordinator), in fact, Nick and I worked together (Hey Nick!)

I see you mentioned that you hope to bring a lot of your own crew gear. There is a delicate balance to the art of bringing your own crew gear to Philmont, and most crews get it wrong and make things difficult for themselves. Countless times as a Ranger I had to tell disappointed crews that the expensive gear they brought and were excited about would not work. As a general rule, my advice is not to bring any crew gear with you that you haven't field tested at least a couple of times to make sure it works. But here are some more specifics.

First things first, do not bother trying to bring your own bear ropes or bear bags. If things are still they way they were when I worked there, they won't let you (or you'll have to check them out anyway). While the ropes are somewhat bulky, they are sturdy. While the bearbags are nothing pretty, they work and you are guaranteed to have plenty of space for food and smellables. I'm not saying that the system couldn't be improved, but don't forget that 30,000+ people use these every summer with little or no problems, you can't beat that kind of field testing. And as I said, you probably don't even have a choice. So save your money and space in your travel bags and use the ones Philmont issues.

Pots and pans are also an iffy thing. Certainly Philpots are not the lightest in the world, but they get the job done. The biggest thing you have to keep in mind is that Philmont meals are all one-pot affairs. So if you have more than 8 people in your crew, you are going to need a huge pot to cook all that food. Don't bother bringing anything less than 6 quarts in size, and really 8 quarts is best (especially for bigger crews). If you can find a lightweight pot that size, then ok, but otherwise save yourself the hassle and expense and just rent one of the Philmont pot sets,your ranger will show you what you need to take with you (cookpot, washpot, lid, spoon.)

Dining flies are a little easier to manage, but if you do bring your own, make sure you've had a couple trial runs setting it up and using it on a hike. And again, the Philmont dining flies set up with trekking poles are pretty lightweight and durable.

The only thing I definitely recommend you avoid checking out from Philmont are tents. I fact, if you want shave pounds off your crew gear, that's where you should do it. Save your money on all the other stuff by using Philmont's gear and use what you save there to make sure everybody in the crew has a good lightweight tent. Of course phil-tents do work, but they are so heavy (~15lbs) and require so many stakes (10-12) that they just aren't worth it.

I also want to reiterate what Nick says about pack weight/size. It's really a matter of the size of your pack, not so much the weight. Nobody is saying that finding ways to make your pack lighter is a bad idea. But the point that Nick is trying to make is that if you have too small a pack then you automatically exclude yourself from carrying a fair share of crew gear because it won't fit in your pack. In your practice hikes and preparation for your trek, make sure you plan to have a little extra space in your pack so you are certain to have room for extra gear. You will realize on your trek that there are unexpected things that you will have to carry that may take up a lot of room (extra water containers for dry-camps, larger food pickups, crew gear you forgot about etc.) plus there is really no overestimating how much space food takes up. And Nick's right, Philmont's not the place to show off your ultralight packing abilities if it means your crew has to shoulder more of the crew gear.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Lightweight Philmont on 05/19/2010 17:17:50 MDT Print View

Scott, welcome to the party at BPL. Please read some more about our experiences here with lightweight backpacking at Philmont. Here's a great start --

No one of us has seen it all. But I do want to say from experience that every single member of a crew can get rid of heavy packs, have a safe time, go injury free, and have a blast at Philmont. Our unit's crews and many others have eliminated nearly all Philmont gear. We **ONLY** used the bear bags and ropes. There are many folks on these forums who have even eliminated the Philmont-issued bear bags. Their gear and techniques were approved by backcountry staff.

Finally, Monanta BSA and are offering a great education opportunity for Scouters this week in Montana. Please watch for future developments here. We hope to be the vanguard in encouraging an entirely new mindset about backpacking in BSA.

All the best,

Edited by flyfast on 05/19/2010 17:20:41 MDT.

nick safley

Locale: here/ /there
Sup Scott. on 05/23/2010 12:09:12 MDT Print View

Hi Scott thanks for the shout out.


I think that you are completely right about ditching Philmont crew gear, minus the bear ropes, and working with the crew BEFORE arriving in New Mexico. Scott will probably agree that carrying hurt scouts and adults out of the back-country is one of the worst parts of the ranger department. Many, not all, of the injuries we have seen could have been prevented by putting less stress on the body, by carrying less weight and being prepared physically.

I also appreciate another post I came across that you made, quite some time ago, about the thrifty aspect of encouraging scouts parents to buy light gear from the start.

What is being hit upon is how to tie the core beliefs of scouts, those in the oath and motto, into a sustainable ethos that relates to the self, land and community.

Scouts have a lot of sayings that encourage lightening up

Being Prepared is at its core a mental state, not a material one

Being Thrifty, and Brave are others that support a light approach that doesn't bow the the fear of over built gear or too much gear.

Being helpful, courteous, kind easily relates to the community aspect

but, the ranger motto "scramble be flexible" is one not known to most but probably most appropriate to light hikers. Scouts need flexibility of thinking and a kit that is equally as flexible.

Rooting an environmental ethos based on traveling lightly, and responsibly caring for those around you is much closer to what the founders of the scouts envisioned. It baffles me why the scouts haven't been at the forefront of this evolution.

Group hiking, like that which takes place at Philmont, allows for the greatest safety in which to learn to live simply and to develop a responsible sustainable caring for those around you. Thus building extra capacity into your pack, strength into your body, and flexibility into your thinking places light weight gear and scouting values directly in parallel.

Having a Library of copies of Lighten Up! for scouts and parents to read before they buy gear could really work. Also, including troop camp outs that are tiered, having older boys backpack and younger boys day hike with them but return to a base camp, encourages emulation of the observed style. While Philmont may be slow to change its gear list, a ground up change at the troop level is completely possible which instils the values of scouting in relation to environmental and social responsibility.