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Philmont gear selection..
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Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 07:41:20 MDT Print View

After reading the new Philmont article, I have just one question...

"Philmont requires a tent; no tarps or bivies are allowed. They do not require that a tent have an integrated floor, so many lightweight options are available."

Does that make any sense to you at all? Or is that just one of those "just go with the flow" kind of things.

Seriously, how is a Betamid not considered a Tarp?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 07:58:44 MDT Print View

My guess is because it can be entirely enclosed nearly to the ground. A flat tarp will have an open end somewhere. Maybe the better term is no flat tarps.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Flat Tarps CAN be staked to the ground on all sides... on 04/19/2006 10:36:05 MDT Print View

Website / Diagrams (Warning site is VERY thorough)

However, most of the 'tarp-tents' (aka betamids) are obviously designed to be staked all the way to the ground, whereas a straight tarp it is hard to show that it is.

I suspect that John is right in his guess of how Philmont distinguishes between a tent and a tarp.

A GG Spinshelter would likely easily make the cut as well...

Edited by jdmitch on 04/19/2006 10:36:38 MDT.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 10:48:13 MDT Print View

I wonder why they don't want "open" tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?

Couldn't someone just leave the "door" open on their tent, or betamid, and be just as "un-safe"?

Switching gears a bit, I didn't netting mentioned. Are bugs not much of an issue at Philmont?

Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/19/2006 13:03:44 MDT Print View

[quote="Tony Burnett"]I wonder why they don't want "open" tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?[/quote]

I would suspect that the reason is due more to weather. Since a flat tarp cannot be completely enclosed it is more vulnerable to weather (barely imo).

Edited by erichlf on 04/19/2006 13:04:18 MDT.

E. H. Clemmons
(sclemmons) - MLife
Other People's Kids on 04/19/2006 20:00:18 MDT Print View

If you ever wonder why the BSA does things the way it does, it is because of the liability associated with other people's kids and because a departure from the middle of the road can jeopardize the welfare of the group. Is is just hyper-conservative, and the other end of the spectrum from the BPL approach.

There is a guide to safe scouting that is a safe harbor for leaders and any substantial departure is open to criticism in court if a kid gets wet or hypothermic or otherwise unwell. I believe that "safety first" bias is behind everything in scouts that does not make sense to the non-scout: the no-*BEEP*-scoutmaster thing, the boots required thing, the no tarps thing, the no Chacos thing, the no hammocks thing, etc. All are designed for liability avoidance and the safety of a group with a comparatively low skill level compared to the BPL audience. Remember, unlike the BPL mission, we are "growing boys", not necessarily seeing how light we can go. ( Please no sermons on this, it is just my observation.)

I am going to Philmont in two months. I will let you know how we do.

Edited by sclemmons on 04/19/2006 20:03:04 MDT.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
BSA & Philmont rules on 04/20/2006 19:39:57 MDT Print View

I think I have to agree with the earlier comment that the BSA is very conservative & most likely feel that tarp camping has more risks in bad weather and to do it safely requires a more advanced backpacker. Another perhaps side issue they were negative on attaching ropes to trees to tie up the dining flys (i.e. tarps). This maybe related to the continuous use of each camp site each & every summer & the potential to damage tree bark with all the ropes. Someone better educated would have to tell me if this is a valid concern. On some warm nights I was tempted to go sleep under the dining fly (tarp) since the is really no issue with bugs.

What I found amazing is that no one else we saw were using light weight tents. People were always amazed at our tents. Let alone light packs.

The other strange thing is to watch people lining up to leave and they weigh their packs and they are so proud when they weigh 50 or 60 or even 70+ pounds. These things are monsters to look at. I would never put one on my back otherwise I would be one of the "cripples" in my article. Our group passed about every other group on the trail because we were so light & could hike so fast (efficiently as a team). Some people on the trail with those big packs looked like they were going to have a heart attack in any minute.

I hope the article helps stimulate thinking on hiking Philmont with a light pack. Perhaps next time I'll won't be the only one with a G5. Enjoy.

Doug Prosser

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Re: Philmont gear selection.. on 04/21/2006 12:32:00 MDT Print View

When it comes to being a “bear thing” I do not believe there is any difference in security between a nylon tent and a nylon tarp. The bear will get in there regardless.

The “Safe Harbor” part of the “Guide to Safe Scouting” also includes allowing individual privacy. A tent without an integrated floor can still be closed and provide that level of privacy needed whereas a tarp may not. As sclemmons mentions in the post above “liability avoidance” is a big issue.

As far as tying ropes to trees, I do not know of ANY scout property that allows tying ropes to trees, roots or bushes as this is part of the Leave-No-Trace concept.

I thought your article was very well presented and can apply to all scouts (and others) doing any backpacking event. I have sent the link for it to all of the ASM’s and SM in our troop (

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: BSA & Philmont rules on 04/21/2006 13:55:45 MDT Print View

A few weeks ago I had an email with Philmont staff about tarps .... which was lost to some aggressive archive clean out :-(

What I was told was along the lines of
* crews cook under tarps
* bears are accustomed to finding odors under tarps
* we don't want to people sleeping under tarps because some bears might be conditioned to look under tarps

Personally, I'm with Doug Prosser concerning not fighting the system when it comes to bear issues.

Mark Zoller
(ArapahoeDC) - F
Boots on 04/24/2006 07:52:13 MDT Print View

After 4 Treks our unit recommends boots with a substantial sole. We have had numerous trekkers with rock bruises from some of the trails. Makes for a very uncomfortable trip. The usual OTC pain relievers don't do much for this condition.

Steven Hardy
(hardyhiker1) - F
Philmont -- camp chairs on 04/24/2006 11:01:48 MDT Print View

Excellent article. I went to Philmont last year and one recommendation I would make is to try to get your whole crew to buy into the lightweight philosophy. I ended up carrying more than my fair share of food because I had a lighter pack than others. In the future, I will not go unless the whole troop is willing to go lightweight. However, one luxury that many of the people on my crew carried were camp chairs. Philmont offers a great opportunity to sit around a campfire and talk with your son(s) and their friends. That is much more comfortable on a camp chair than on the ground, even if you can sit on your sleeping pad. I am still debating how to deal with this if I ever go again.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Boots on 04/24/2006 11:52:28 MDT Print View

Mark, I would like to hear more about your experience. I am most curious about the weight factor, both body and pack weight. Was debris inside the footwear an issue? What footwear seemed to be problematic? Finally, do you think age or experience might be an issue?

I am a new Assistant Scout Master and am trying to get a general sense of footwear issues beyond my personal experience. Everyones feet are different. My experience may be atypical.

EDIT: Any one else who wants to reply, feel free. I directed this to Mark because he started the topic for me.

Edited by ericnoble on 04/24/2006 12:00:21 MDT.

William Stoddard
(mstoddard) - F
camp chairs on 04/24/2006 11:56:05 MDT Print View

I survived two "trek 25" trips to Philmont, and agree on the usefulness of camp chairs. If you haven't looked at the luxurylite backpack, try The backpack frame doubles as a camp chair, and Bruce Warren has a less expensive line called neotrek. He has done a great job with customer satisfaction, at least in my case.

I. Michael Snyder
(imsnyder) - F
Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/24/2006 14:58:38 MDT Print View


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.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/24/2006 16:25:48 MDT Print View

Can any tent survive a real flash flood situation?

When I was young and impecunious (back in the late Carter and early Reagan years) I depended on tarps for outdoor adventures. I would borrow a tent from older friends or relatives for expeditions to really heinous places or for winter trips, but mostly depended on luck, skill, and cheap plastic tarps.

The first "real" tent I bought was purchased largely for my then-girlfriend, who wasn't at all cool about skinning out in front of a crowd and wouldn't hear about getting freaky under a tarp.

One consequence of that relationship stayed with me for well-on twenty years, since I pretty exclusively stuck with tents even though she certainly didn't stick around past that one summer. So when I rediscovered tarps I spent most of a season re-acquiring the "eye" for a good tarp spot.

I. Michael Snyder
(imsnyder) - F
Re: Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/26/2006 08:54:45 MDT Print View

Our tents didn't survive the flash flood. I don’t thing even a brick house would have survived.

My point on the tents vs. tarps is that in heavy rain a tent is going to keep you and your sleeping bag drier than a tarp, as long as its above the flood plain. In cold weather, and very chilly nights (experienced at Philmont), a tent is going to keep body heat inside and work much better at heat retention than a tarp.

My other points in being prepared are directed towards having the boys ready for any weather situation they might encounter. As a Scoutmaster my first obligation is to have the boys safe and healthy. I understand that with light-weight back packing you could get away with less cloths changes. But, boys will be boys, and as a scout leader, I’m going to recommend the extra set of dry cloths for both the boys and the leaders. We as leaders must set an example. Additionally, I’ve run into situations (discussed above) where I’ve had to sacrifice my gear to keep a boy from being wet and cold. So, if I’m not prepared with extra cloths that I can loan out, then where am I going to get the aid I need to uphold my first obligation.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Tents not Tarps and Other Concerns on 04/26/2006 15:04:37 MDT Print View

Obviously, you can keep safe and dry under a trap. Folks do it all the time. But to do so requires proper site selection.

I suspect that at Philmont (and other regions which require assigned campsites) this becomes quite difficult. As the overuse causes depressions and otherwise hard areas. Regarding warm, your tent is not suppose to keep you warm, just protect from the elements. Your bag is suppose to keep your warm. Now you can probably bring less of a bag if you are sleeping in a tent. Again, proper tarp site selection is the key.

Regarding "extra" clothes. It sounds like the boys already required to bring extra clothes (one for sleeping and one for eating). Why bring extra extra clothes?

Safety can be accomplished with "extra" gear as well as "extra" training. The later weighs far less. But requires effort and diligence, which, I suspect, is difficult to obtain from some folks.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Tents versus tarps on 04/30/2006 17:17:18 MDT Print View

I hope I can offer a bit of insight on Philmont's gear reasoning. I was scout at Philmont in 1985 and 1987 and a Ranger in 1990. I have since worked as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) from 2001 to 2003. The institutional requirements of the school setting heavily depend on liability and risk management. NOLS is one of the heaviest research organizations for outdoor practices and they have assembled a tremendous amount of information, both from their own courses and other sources, and two issues pop up that have shaped the course requirements in these areas.

1. Bears - Nearly 50 years of research has shown that campers out in the open or under a simple tarp are more than 3 times as likely to be attacked be grizzlies and more than twice as likely by black bears than campers in enclosed tents. Why? There's not one standard reason, but the data clearly indicates that staying tucked away inside a tent reduces your chance of attack. (If you bring smellables into your tent, all bets are off of course)

2. Bugs. NOLS requires Mesh enclosed tents in areas where West Nile Virus has been confirmed.

Grizzlies and Bugs aren't an issue at Philmont, but there were maulings in both 1985 and 87 that we heard about.

Personally, I like tarps and I think the Philmont gear requirements make packs much heavier than they need to be. My personal pack weight for an environment like Philmont would weigh no more than about 18 pounds minus food and water. BUT, I understand many of the reasons listed, particularly in terms of bear camping. Add to it the tendency for a 14-year-old boy to shred lutralight equipment, and some of the heavier gear requirement make more sense.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bears on 04/30/2006 18:11:42 MDT Print View

PEOPLE am I missing something? Bears vs. tarps and tents is gotta be one of the most ridiculous conversations that I have ever read. Common folks, when does a bear go poking his head in your tent or tarp to sniff out food. In all of my years backpacking in the Sierra's I have yet to hear of a bear doing that or have it happen to me. Get over it. Bears (not including a Grizzly but a Black Bear) want nothing to do with us. And this is coming from someone who has camped in VERY HIGH bear activity areas. Geeeesh!!!!!!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bears on 04/30/2006 18:12:43 MDT Print View

and by the way, how is a tarp or a tent going to protect you anyways? Lol