Thank you for the best advice I've gotten on preparation for Philmont. We're hiking in July and I'm about to completely re-think my gear situation. Our first full pack prep hike was last month and I felt like Katz from “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Another great read for Philmont preparations. I carried a 25 lb pack for 12 miles and wished it was lighter. I also, planed to loose 13 lb of excess body weight, but have decided to go for another 5 lbs just because I can.
In 2004, we went on the Cavalcade (Horseback) and we were limited to what we can take in a single stuff sac; because of limits on whet the horses could carry. That didn’t include the tents, food and other Philmont provided gear. I got by just fine, but we had to ware jeans and cowboy boots, so we had some extra weight that didn’t count. By the way, I lost 50 lb for that adventure (over a 1 year plan) and luckily only gained back 13 lbs since.
On the tent situation, during our Cavalcade in August, we experienced two flash floods, hail, and sub-freezing temperatures. Sleeping in a tent with a dry sleeping bag is very different from being in a tarp situation with heavy rain, flooding, and wind. The reason, I’d avoid a tarp is that you need to be able to get completely out of the elements, and I don’t think a tarp will do it. The most miserable night in Philmont was following a flash flood and we lost the ability to be out of the elements. I was wet, cold, and uncomfortable. My excuse was the adults sacrificed our dry gear to be used by the scouts. Don’t underestimate the ability of Philmont to through nasty weather at you. For this reason, “Be Prepared.” Have a sleep system that protects you from the elements, make sure all your gear (sleeping bag, sleeping cloths) is protected from getting wet at all times. My gear and the gear of others was dry because they were still in plastic when the flash floods came. Most of our boys were not so lucky.
I’m still inclined to have a second set of hiking pants and shirt, because once you’re wet and it’s raining you’re going to stay wet. I also think that a third set of hiking socks makes sense; 1 to ware, 1 for a change into the hike, and 1 that’s been rinsed and is drying. I also find sock liners keep blisters down. What about extra shoes, light-weight tennis shoes? After a long morning hike, isn’t it nice to change to something else? I was also grateful we had gloves or glove liners on the cold mornings. They were also better than using a bandana to move hot pots.
On the dining fly, make sure everyone in your unit can fit underneath while it’s raining. I don’t think I’d skimp on a few feet for the weight. At our Cavalcade we spent a long time under a tarp with only half the unit there and it seemed very cramped. It might be worthwhile bringing a couple decks of cards for the unit, because there are only so many songs, skits, and stories you can share in a raging rain storm.
On the white gas bottles, I thought I’d opt for the smaller 22 oz bottles with a spare Nalgene bottle as was provided by Philmont last time. I can spread the weight around more, and a mishap (spill) will only deplete a third of my fuel supply. Thought?
You didn’t mention a Ditty bag for going into the bear bag. We found that the boys that kept all their smellables in a ditty bag where always ready when we went to raise the bear bag. It was always a pain to have to raise and lower it one or two more times after the fact.
I’m still going to find a way to keep my pack weight down, but I’m not going to sacrifice comfort and preparedness. I guess, there may be some luck of the draw on the weather you get.