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Philmont gear selection..
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diane shulman
(jerryspride) - F
rain gear on 06/27/2006 20:03:24 MDT Print View

my son arrived in Philmont Monday w/his boy scout troop; trek beginning wed am. I wish I"d read your article prior to his leaving, as he should have,too. He only brought a poncho--will they make him buy a rainsuit at the camp store?

drew hogg
(drewhogg) - F
Weight Concern on 07/07/2006 11:08:57 MDT Print View

I got off the trail a week from yesterday and I don't understand why you are so concerned with these tiny little things like the weight of bear bags, tarps and tents, and all of these other little things. My Ranger was very knowledgeable, probably more than you, and the bear concerns are real. My crew became extremely lazy and refused to set up camp the proper way. On the last day our bear bags were down and we were eating dinner right beside our tents when a bear came through our camp. And for the guy that said that he didn't see what the big deal was and that only grizzlies and black bears want to have anything to do with you: Philmont only has black bears, and I heard a few grizzlies. With a daily average of 6-7 miles a day what is the big deal with a couple of pounds, my whole crew was fine, even with carrying 4 days of food.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Boots @ Philmont on 07/07/2006 18:23:04 MDT Print View

I started in my Montrail GTX's on 622 this year at Philmont, until one split in the middle. I tossed them, and did the remainder (about 65 out of a total of 75 miles) in low top Merrell Light Hikers, w/ Dr. Scholls inserts.(Backup / extra dry pair of boots paid off) These worked out well for me carring a 24 - 30 lb pack, and I believe the reduction of 2 lbs on my feet made a big difference. Your feet may get a little more abuse, but practice hikes help that. Other than a couple of blisters started by the Montrails, I'd have no problem doing the whole Trek again in the Merrell light hiking boots, and will do so in the future. YMMV


Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Weight Concern on 07/07/2006 18:56:53 MDT Print View

Congratulations on finishing Philmont. I would love to do it some day. I don't want this to sound flip but do you realize where you are posting? Check the quote from the LA Times at the top of the page :) I like to think we are focused on being efficient. A great athlete has an efficiency of motion that makes the difficult look easy. I hope to develop an efficient style of backpacking.

I am sure your Ranger was very knowledgeable. I would be careful making comparisons to others whom you may not know. My guide for Tahosa was also knowledgeable, but was young and strong and unconcerned about weight. I was once that way, but can't afford to be now. As an Assistant Scout Master, I can say that there are scouts that might shy away from Philmont because they feel they can't carry that much weight, or they may go and be miserable. We need to do what we can to make the experience available and a good one.

The bear concerns are definitely real. Bears are not to be taken lightly. Search the forums here and you will find a lot of information about bears. Like other topics on this site we are trying to deal with bears as efficiently as possible. It depends upon your wisdom to determine what you are comfortable with.

I encourage you to stick with scouting. You will learn a lot about yourself. I encourage to to continue backpacking or something similar that connects you to nature. In all you do, do it the best way you can.

I'm sorry, I'm sounding more and more like an Assistant Scout Master all the time :)

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Weight Concern on 07/08/2006 11:51:14 MDT Print View

Eric, well said.

Michael Danielson
(mcd57) - MLife

Locale: Middle TN
Philmont Gear Selection on 07/08/2006 20:42:21 MDT Print View

I appreciate the article. A lot of good information. It is really easy to get caught up with the whole gear list, weights, bears, etc. As a veteran backpacker (started back in 1972), the lower the weight of the backpack, the more enjoyable it will be. Safety is the main concern when it comes to you and your troop or crew. As long as everyone is having a good time and is safe, thats all that matters. Yes you can go else where to hike, but the experience at Philmont is like no other. Please remember that everything is personnal preference and teaching the boys the right way to do things will give them years of joy of backpacking.
40+ years of scouting
Philmont 72, 74, 03

George Taylor
(gmtaylor3) - F
Hiking Boots on 11/08/2006 11:39:01 MST Print View

Over a period of years I have come to believe that athletic shoes are in most circumstances far superior to any kind of hiking boots and am especially fond of Asiics trail runners. Someone told me that Philmont requires conventional hiking boots and that trail runners or other athletic shoes are not permitted. If you want to hike in trail runners you still have to lug a pair of hiking boots around with you. The author of this article seems to use trail runners rather than hiking boots. Does anyone know whether carrying a pair of hiking boots is mandatory at Philmont?

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Re: Hiking Boots on 11/12/2006 23:07:37 MST Print View

Hiking boots are not required. I agree with you that I feel that trail runners are better than boots for most of the hiking scouts will do. The scouts and leaders need to get out and walk a lot on trails, rocks, and roads with something on their backs and you will seldom have any problems with foot bruising from a trail that is "too hard". I currently have plans to repeat another Philmont trek in july 2007 so I really get to reevaluate my gear from what I took in the article. Some of the new Tarp/tents reviewed here recently sound like an interesting start if I can get it past the wife.

One question I received lately was how I taught the scouts about lightweight backpacking. I have tried videos and lectures without great results. (Adults got more out of the lectures) The best way is to take them out for a number of weekend backpacks and review their gear choices with them and teach them to use lighter options. The first time new scouts try to set up a tarp may take up to 2 hours. But after a few weekends they can have it up in minutes. Our last meeting mostly consisted of patrols setting up various tarps and tents. It takes constant work and nudging to get them to change. The best thing is to go out with the lightweight gear and live the life. So often I hear from scouts and other leaders that my pack is a lot lighter than theirs AND I have a lot more "stuff".

Enjoy it.

George Taylor
(gmtaylor3) - F
Backpacks on 01/04/2007 20:51:38 MST Print View

I am gradually committing myself to lightweight backpacking and the first item to go will be my MountainSmith backpack (5 pounds, 4500 cu inches). Do any of you have an opinion about how many cubic inches a pack should have to do Philmont? My top choice is the North Face Scarab 55, which weighs in at 3 pounds but has only 3800 cubic inches.

Peter McDonough
(crazypete) - F

Locale: Above the Divided Line
Re: Backpacks on 01/04/2007 21:01:21 MST Print View

Philmont requires a pack with 3000 cubic inches.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Backpacks on 01/05/2007 13:00:43 MST Print View

>I am gradually committing myself to lightweight backpacking and the first item to go will be my MountainSmith backpack.

Just a suggestion (originally from Karen Berger): you might want to make your pack and your shoes the last two items you replace. By the time you've worked out all of your other equipment, you might find that your pack requirements are different than you anticipated. I was going to replace my 8-pound pack with a 3-pound pack because I was anticipating carrying about 30 pounds and thought I needed an internal frame, but after I dropped another five pounds of base weight I now use a 2-pound frameless pack (GossamerGear Mariposa Plus) to carry 25 pounds in perfect comfort.

Edited by Otter on 01/05/2007 13:01:28 MST.

Alan Foster
(Zekesboots) - F
Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 19:30:49 MST Print View

Wow. A lot has changed since the late 80's. I did not know about all the rules now. I also read a few months ago that there is a waiting list a mile long just to get in Philmont. Any truth to that?
We only saw one brown bear and it was moving the other way fast!
When I went to Philmont they issued us the green Eureka tents. I guess they don't do that anymore!
Oh. Hi too, I just signed on.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Philmont and Changing on 01/05/2007 19:43:22 MST Print View

Alan, yes a few things have changed.
> I also read a few months ago that there is a waiting list a mile long just to get in Philmont. Any truth to that?

We just received notification in December that our troop will be going in 2008. That's the first time our troop has received a lottery slot in 4 years. The system does allow that you get an almost guaranteed chance to go if you haven't been in 5 years. The waiting list each year is over 1,000 units.

> When I went to Philmont they issued us the green Eureka tents. I guess they don't do that anymore!

Well, you can use their gear. But you don't have to. Doug Prosser's article gives some great guidance on what's acceptable.

Edited by flyfast on 01/05/2007 19:45:11 MST.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 23:08:29 MST Print View

I am a Varsity Team Coach to a group of older boys (>14 years of age) in Scouts. I have yet to get a group that will boy-run themselves to Philmont but I see a lot of parents that fully expect me to have a plan worked out to get their son there. I am consistently disappointed that the parent's don't understand that I am not a babysitter or tour guide and that it's not my team... it's the boys. Anyway, I would love to get a group to go to Philmont, especially since I didn't get to go as a scout myself, but given the nature of the program I am in it won't happen.

Here is a question that might spark some debate. "Bang for your buck" (where buck could = time) is Philmont REALLY worth it or can you have a much better time/experience elsewhere? Sacrilege, I know, but I think it's fair to ask... especially since I never got to go as a Scout.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Re: Philmont and changing on 01/05/2007 23:23:27 MST Print View

Fair question James. I think Philmont is an excellent opportunity for the boys and adults(that are interested in backpacking). You end up in many different situations where the boys have to make time critical decisions.

From what you've indicated, it sounds like the real issue is getting the boys motivated to want to go themselves, and getting the support of the parents.

You shouldn't be a babysitter, and you should have parents supporting the program. Further, it sounds like the boys need to be leading the effort with your guidance.
Why not start out with an open ended approach: Sit them all down and ask them what do they need to do to go to Philmont? OK, who can take care of that? What else? Who will volunteer to take care of that...... and so on.

If you're doing all the work, they're missing out on a big part of the experience.

I hope that helps. It is an excellent experience, and as Robert Gates, current DefSec said, "everything I needed to learn about management I learned at Philmont". A sharp crew leader has that chance.


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 10:43:22 MST Print View


Is Philmont worth it? I might know at the end of July when I get back from my first trek but folks I respect (and who are also not died in the wool, everything about scouting is great types) say it is, so I'm Philmont bound after passing up a few opportunities.

On the topic of "youth led troop" ... take the following with lots of salt, especially since I know nothing about your particular BSA unit, but ...

After a couple decades of scouting I still have more than a few struggles with and a few observations about the "youth led troop". I've started to write a summary of my thoughts on the subject but it's no where near draft status even. Here are some bullet points:

* One in every several hundred (few thousand??) scouts arrives out of the box as a highly competent, self assured leader.
* The rest require varying degrees of development, in many (most?) cases a lot of development
* Because of the above, "youth led troop" most definitely does not mean "scouts doing what comes naturally"
* If the above were not true we could use the $$ spent on scouting for any number of better uses.
* as scouts develop, they tend to emulate what they see in older scouts and do the activities they see the other scouts do, success breeds success and less success breeds less success
* building and maintaining success comes from us coaching the scouts
* sometimes, getting that initial level of success can involve adult leaders temporarily acting in youth leadership roles while coaching the youth replacement

Wishing you good luck, success and enjoyment in your scouting endeavors

Edited by jcolten on 01/07/2007 10:46:34 MST.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 10:58:32 MST Print View

Jim, I really appreciate your post. Many of your thoughts echo my own. I like the concept of "boy run" and have tried to adopt some of these themes for my group. However, I have found that the most significant resource that is squandered is... my time. I just get weary of spending my time coaxing the boys to run their troop. What is the point of volunteering if the people you are volunteering for don't really seem to value your efforts? That is actually unfair of me to say this since the boys get me a Christmas gift every year and say things sometimes that almost bring tears to my eyes (those "special moments" that keep you going even though it sometimes seems pointless). I think I made my point, however harsh I was on conveying it.

I have been to numerous leader training events and I like the analogy of the pendulum... boy led at one extreme and adult led at the other. A troop swings from one to the other with different levels of involvement as it moves back and forth over time. The trick, and I have not gotten to where I am good at this, is to know where you are at in the cycle based on the many parameters that make a team go.

I am told, by a Scout Master I greatly respect, that I am young and need more time in the role of Varsity Coach. I guess there is no substitute for experience. :)

Edited by jjpitts on 01/07/2007 10:59:33 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Philmont and changing on 01/07/2007 13:52:13 MST Print View

What is the point of volunteering if the people you are volunteering for don't really seem to value your efforts?

I hear ya on that. I keep reminding myself to appreciate the kids I reach ... it's a St. Francis prayer thing.

Jan Skoropinski
(jskoropinski) - F
Philmont on 01/22/2007 11:15:43 MST Print View

Having been to Philmont in 97 and 99 and having walked for 3 hours in a down pour; I would caution against recommending any gear that might not make it through the trip. If you look at the Philmont website you will see the enterance with the boots and shoes that failed. While keeping your pack as light as possible is a given. I believe that training and conditioning is the reason for adult/scout failure at Philmont. Training should be done with more weight than you expect to pack at Philmont. You should be able to carry a relative heavy pack up 4000 ft in four miles and back down again, and still be ready to go. There is a lot of information like "Training to climb Mt. Rainier or other high peaks". If you have been inactive you will need to start training at least two years prior to going to Philmont, and you will need to dedicate 3 days a week to conditioning. Remember as adults you are taking some one elses boy, you cannot fail. You cannot substitute light gear for conditioning. Just think if you can easly carry that heavy pack; then you will have no problem carring the light one.

Edited by jskoropinski on 01/22/2007 11:20:33 MST.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Tarps on 02/02/2007 08:37:02 MST Print View

It is interesting that Philmont states that you cannot use tarps. In 1994, I think, I did Philmont Trail Crew. In this program we built new trail for 14 days and then hiked for 10. During the 10 hike out group of 10-12 boys and two Philmont leaders used tarps, one boy hiked with Tevas for several days after getting bad blisters. Maybe this was allowed because we were apart of the Trail Crew and had Philmont staff with us the entire trip, I don't know.

We never saw a bear the entire 24 days is the backcountry. We did get mildly hypothermic one day after a cold rain storm, but we were fine.

Philmont is a magical place I have been trying to get back to for years. I hope to have a son so I can go sometime in the future. For those that have not been or know what Philmont is, think of it as backcounty Disneyland.