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Philmont gear selection..
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Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Tents versus tarps on 07/20/2007 18:07:56 MDT Print View

I wish you wouldn't have told me this? I know of one group of people that camp in tarps exclusively and in heavy black bear territory of nothern Ontario, and I don't think they've had any problems.
But, then again, they usually travel in a party with a least 4 or more people as well. This group does mostly off-trail, bush-whack trips for the most part too.
In a way it does make sense being a little safer in a tent. If a bear comes into camp and is just sniffing around, and bumps into your tent, this may be enough to stop their curious advances?
But, if your sound asleep, and your arm is laying outside the front of your tarp, a bear could come into direct contact with you much easier this way, and might be more inclined to advance further?

Edited by mfog1 on 07/20/2007 18:09:48 MDT.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Re: Philmont/ Double H high adventure base on 07/22/2007 23:52:55 MDT Print View

While I have been reading all about Philmont since 1967(when I was a Cub Scout)and have enjoyed my limited travels in New Mexico, I have reasoned that it sounds more like an expensive and perhaps miserable place to take Scouts backpacking.

I have figured that with the Sierra Nevada so close and the weather more benign in the summer, I can take my unit on some great treks without the black bull patch for their jackets.

I have hiked all over the country and world, and yes sometimes with a rifle and a Marine Corps uniform, but I think an adventure in California, or Colorado, or even the Virginina Blue Ridge is more rewarding than waiting in a lottery or dealing with BSA's ideas about the right gear.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
More to Philmont than just hiking on 07/23/2007 08:23:51 MDT Print View

I'd agree with much of what you wrote:
It's not a cheap hike
I've heard the Philmont lottery compared to both the Powerball and Draft lotteries
The weather can be challenging
The altitude (6-9K) appeared to be a challenge for many sea level based troops
BSA is moving toward lighter gear, but they're also mindful that a lot of kids can't afford a $100 backpack or down bag

On the other hand, there is a lot more to Philmont than just hiking:
Great programs tailored to what your crew wants
Structured program with significant safety nets
A subtle classroom in teamwork
Supports treks that don't require highly experienced leaders (not every crew get's an adult who is a Marine)
Ability for the boys (and adults) to deal with changing conditions

Robert Gates, current SecDef, said of his management skills that he "learned everything he needed to know about management at Philmont".

One of the greatest days we had it was pouring down rain, our bear bag had been swiped / borrowed / ??? and our gear ended up in the mud. It was about 45 degrees and raining / hailing at dinner, but our boys figured out how to 'improvise, adapt, overcome', and had a great time.

Yep, you can certainly do it closer and cheaper, but I don't think the experience will be the same.

I appreciate your service to the country.


Edited by eaglemb on 07/23/2007 08:27:31 MDT.

Charles Bilz
(denalijoe) - F

Locale: California
RE: Philmont High Adventure Base on 07/23/2007 10:16:04 MDT Print View

I agree 100% with you that there are far more challenging and intresting hikes in the California's Sierra Nevada's and Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

I have been to Philmont twice with my troop and both times it was a very disappointing experience. The two year wait list, lottery, cost, and Philmont's idea about what the "right gear" is is just not worth the aggravation.

And Mike, your troop meetings should be teaching your boys teamwork and preparing them to deal with changing conditions. Troop meeting and outings are the best free management schools available to young men.

The only up-side to going to Philmont was getting the Black Bull. Big Deal.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
gear question on 07/30/2007 21:13:05 MDT Print View

Just got back from a High Adventure program hiking/biking/flyfishing at Camp Whitsett California/ Sequoia National Forest/Kern River Golden Trout Wilderness. It was a fabulous experience and probably more minimalist than Philmont according to our guide who had led similar treks at Philmont. Lightweight gear saved the trip but that is another thread.

One thing that I haven't found in gear lists or in discussions is hygiene. One part of the forest was open range and the number of cows and the filth from cow pies everywhere made us real nervous about this, especially with the runoff into the river. There was fine sandy dust everywhere. We filtered most of the water here and used a bit of bleach. Later on higher in the mountains away from the cattle used aquamira. We used two lightweight plastic shoe boxes(the covers served as cutting boards for the fish we caught) to wash dishes. We used large zip lock bags to keep food separate from gear and then turned them inside out to wash clothes. In looking at the many gear lists I never see items listed for this purpose. I've noticed the Sea to Summit sinks and wonder what people are using and methods of backcountry cleaning, both dishes (i.e what methods are people using--camp suds, single rinse? double rinse with bleach?) and clothing.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: gear question on 07/31/2007 00:24:53 MDT Print View


Cursory treatment of the subject, but start here, perhaps:

Backcountry Hygiene article @BPL

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Phlmont Trek on 08/15/2007 20:14:14 MDT Print View

Thanks for the excellent article.

My crew of 8 Scouts and 4 parents just completed a 70+ mike trek with some great side hikes. The recommendations on cutting down the weight of the common gear were very helpful. We had two folks on a special menu and took three Simmerlite stoves, but probably could have gotten by with one. During one hail and lightening storm I had to get out the storm matches to light the two Simmerlites under the one pot dinner (and was wishing for an isobutane stove.

Altogther, among the many postings and articles I read to prepare, this article and the wiki article on Philmont were the best. I only wish Philmont had better weather reporting. During our trek we encountered 1 to 2 inches of rain on two of our hiking days.

Wesley Witt

Locale: Northwest
Philmont Trek on 01/17/2008 23:13:39 MST Print View

Great article and very helpful. I'm a scout leader and we finally received a lottery slot for 2009. The information presented here will help us to have more successful trek.

As to the question of whether Philmont is "worth it", I cannot really judge since I have not been yet. However the program looks like it presents a very fun and exciting time for the boys. In looking at the various Philmont treks it really doesn't look nearly as challenging as many other treks I've been on -- in terms of daily mileage and altitude. I lead a group of 11 scouts to the Sierras last summer where we hiked from Onion Valley to the summit of Mt Whitney and then returned over Shepherds pass. We did an average of 10 miles per day all at 10,000 - 14,497 feet in altitude. It was very strenuous, but too much fun! Comparing this to Philmont makes Philmont look like a walk in the park. I think that there are in fact many other treks that you can do that are just as much fun and just as challenging, but I think you get something at Philmont that is unavailable anywhere else. I am curious about the difficulty. Do people claim that it is so difficult simply because they are unprepared and out of shape?


Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Pecos Wilderness as alternative to Philmont on 01/18/2008 09:14:57 MST Print View

Well I was trying to quote part of a previous post and apparently blundered into some html thing with those little arrows and lost my whole post. I will try again.

Quote from a previous post: "Philmont is a nice place, but experienced troop leaders might do better to consider the Pecos Wilderness, a few miles farther west. It has real mountains - although they are still walk-ups. You hike all the time at higher altitudes than Philmont achieves. You can get above timberline and out of the green tunnel. You can plan a hike of just about any challenge or duration. The country is spectacular. Kids never fail to be impressed. I know you don't get a Philmont shirt, so I guess patch baggers would be disappointed."

My comment, reconstructed: When doing research on Pecos Wilderness a few years ago I found this site, by the BSA council out of Las Cruces: From their site it appears to be a well-thought-out program, and includes a nice set of patches, although I suppose not iconic like Philmont.

I have no direct experience with BSA (although my husband went to Philmont as a teen in the early 1970's)--we are doing Camp Fire (because it's inclusive). I coordinate the backpacking for Balcones Council here in Austin, and we have taken groups of teens (boys and girls both) to Pecos Wilderness a number of times. It is spectacular, especially for kids from Texas, with plenty of challenge, scenery, and wildlife.

Edited by elmvine on 01/18/2008 09:47:39 MST.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Philmont Experience - Worth It on 01/18/2008 12:35:39 MST Print View

There are a few questions in this thread about whether a Philmont trek is worth it, and some comments about other places to go backpacking for the summer.

Philmont is worth it!

But, Philmont is not a wilderness backpacking experience. Philmont is Scout camp, with one of the coolest twists imaginable.

Think about normal, ordinary Scout camp, like your local Council probably runs. Lots of Scouting activities--fishing, rifle shooting, archery, hiking, leatherwork, boating, swimming, rock climbing, etc.--all clustered around a central location. At Philmont, you get lots of those activities (well, except those needing a lake), but the activity centers aren't a simple 5 or 10 minute walk away: they're 5 or 10 MILES away, and you backpack between them.

Some of the camps don't have activities: they're just for camping (for example, Mount Phillips). Most do, though.

Anyone going to Philmont expecting a week and a half of backpacking in the wilderness will be sorely disappointed. That's not to say you can't just go backpacking at Philmont, especially on some of the longer treks in the northern part of the reservation. It's just not the typical Philmont experience. I love backpacking in the wilderness. And, I want to go baaack to Philmont!

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Off to another trek at Philmont on 08/02/2008 00:26:10 MDT Print View

I'm off tomorrow AM for another Philmont trek. When I canme off trail last year my pack was 16 lbs. My pack this time without food & fuel is 7.5 lbs. Our crew is using extremely light group gear so I hope my pack weight leave basecamp will be less than 15 lbs. The group that I enrolled with (Trekking 1 couse Desert Southwest) have helped me lower my packweight even lower than I thought. I share an update when we return after 8/18.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont on 08/02/2008 19:43:59 MDT Print View

Have a great time--I thought I was doing well at 35# fully loaded with food and 4 L of water, and 2 1/2 # of fly fishing gear. Did you give all the crew gear to the kids? Looking forward to your gear list. We were there June 9-22 and had a wonderful time.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
pack weight vs. $ on 08/04/2008 06:35:21 MDT Print View


You did fine IMO. I was right there, #33 with 4 liters of water and 4 days food starting out from base camp. I had a one pound stool that was my saving grace, and never empty when I wasn't sitting in it. Our boys and parents didn't want to buy all new stuff for Philmont, and weren't planning on being backpackers in the future. So they mostly went with what they had accumulated over the years. Mr. Prosser has a lot of new gear and a lot more money to spend then our group. Or at least that is what he wants to spend money on, lol. Our scouts were right around 35-40# with full start out loads as noted above. Best I could do to encourage light weight was get them to invest in down bags and lighter weight rain gear. That saved space and weight. Everyone was fine with the hike, (we did #29) which had some serious hikes in it. Practicing a few times right before leaving helped. Only boy who had to give up some weight was our smallest guy, #95, whose pack weighed #42 when leaving. He would melt on the big ups the first couple days, and we took about 7-10 pounds off him twice. After that, he was fine, and we only ever had two days of food to carry.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
pack weight on 08/04/2008 21:25:40 MDT Print View

my gear included: Gossamer gear mariposa pack, Big Agnes Horse Thief with Air Core pad, REI Down pillow, Dri Ducks rain suit (used it once for 30 minutes) Big Agnes Cyclone SL (6 oz) chair (used a couple of times but maybe next time a folding chair), one pair zip off pants, Mountain Hardware jacket, smartwool long underwear top and pants (we were there in early June and it got down to 36 many of the mornings and I hate being cold), one pair lined running shorts, one short sleeve underarmor T shirt, one long sleeve underarmor heavy turtleneck, one long sleeve hiking shirt, two pair underarmor boxers, three pairs of socks and liners (I like changing socks and washing them frequently--no blisters the whole time), wool cap, gloves. Used hiking poles but didn't add them as pack weight. Crew gear that I carried: tent and stove repair kit, tarp tent Rainbow (split poles and Tyvek with partner) spice kit, first aid kit (1 1/2 #) with all the meds, plus share of the food.
It did cost $ to get lighter but it was worth every penny. I would sure like to know where you can cut it further.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 17:53:16 MDT Print View

One way is to take your own ropes, tents, stoves, packs, etc. The Philmont issued equip. is real durable but real heavy. I think where we saved our weight was in our base layer, i.e., Packs (GG Mariposa Plus, Go-Lite Jam & Pinnacle, GG G-4, etc.), Sleeping bags (WM Summerlite, MB SS #5, etc.), Tents (GG The One, Tarptent Contrail & Dbl. Rainbow, etc., Groundcloth (GG polycro or Tyvek). Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue), Pots 4 qt not 8 qt. Don't cook in the pot! We used their bear bags and frisbee sump since they wouldn't let us use our paint strainers.

That's all stuff you have to carry no matter what. If you can get that weight down it's a good start. Take as few clothes as possible. It's easy to wash at Philmont. Take just enough canisters since you can buy them in the comisaries. Take smaller pots and cook in turkey bags or just do what we did; cook in you own cups. Very little clean up. Very little to sump.

We all went out fully loaded with water and food from 22.5 lbs to 30 lbs. I know that does not seem lightweight, but at Philmont it really is! It can be done for less but for a group of 12 I was glad that all were in a respectable zone and no one was way over. The norm at Philmont is easily 43 lbs.

I carried a few items I wish I hadn't. Zip off pants not needed. Just use Dry Duck pants. Too many undergarments. Can wash often. I also carried a 4 qt. pot that we only used once and really didn't need. I would take a 4 qt. and 6 qt. pot. All in all, we were an extremely lightweight crew. I went out with 22.5 lbs. with all my food and water on first day. Heavier than normal but I was just fine.


Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 18:16:44 MDT Print View

>>>>Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue)

I thought I read you can't take your own bear rope? Did the rules change? Or is it just hit-or-miss depending on who inspects your gear.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont gear on 08/11/2008 19:17:04 MDT Print View

We ended up using the Philmont bear bags and rope not knowing how much stuff you needed to hang. With all the food plus all the smellables and trash we were regularly hanging six bags initally after food pickups. I'm not sure they would let you use your own with their way of doing things. The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
gear on 08/13/2008 08:05:06 MDT Print View

We got back in mid July. Cleveland OH contingent. Regarding bear ropes, IMO, hit or miss, depending on ranger. The stated policy is use Philmont rope. We had a new ranger, 5th trip out. She wasn't going to bend, and luckily for me, on a pre trip shake down meeting organized by our council, I met the son of our organizer, who is a 2nd year ranger there. He said if you buy good rope, it is OK. And by better luck, he is at base camp, getting ready to go out the day our crew was. I had to get him to intervene with our ranger to get the rope allowed. It is the Amsteel rope, and it was perfect. He did and we used it, but I don't know what would have happened if he wasn't there. If you buy alternative rope, I would suggest printing out the specs of it vs. the philmont rope and bring with you to prove its' strength. This I think, validly, that is what they are worried about. 4 days food with person smellables is a large load to hoist. We used the Philmont way, and it worked fine, as far as getting the bags onto the rope. We had a 150' length on the main rope, and 100' on the oops bag, which was overkill, length wise. We used a pulley on the oops bag, but a biner would be also fine. The rope was very tough and no wear issue.

Alan Moore
(Alan_In_AZ) - F

Locale: Sunny Southwest
More on gear on 09/22/2008 22:30:11 MDT Print View

I agree with others - Philmont is a lot different than a true wilderness experience - its the activities, staffed camps, music, basecamp & traditions that make it special. Many of the treks are not that hard - though the altitude can affect some. We climbed Mt. Baldy which added some challenge.

If you train well for fitness, crew spirit and gear evaluation/familiarity its not such a big deal. We trained hiking mountains (800'-1500') prety much weekly for 6 months and did 3 campouts - an overnight a 2 day and a 4 day. Nobody attended everything but overall it was a good balance. We worked mostly on bringing up the guys who needed the most help - everyone was fit for the trip and we had good team spirit before we even started.

We used 3 jetboil PCS's for a crew of 12 - we used them 2 ways - individually boiling water in the jetboil pots and combining and also with the GCS potstands to heat water in one of the big Philmont pots. It worked really well - however our ranger said he'd never seen it before! Of course the jetboils were fast & great for tea & coffee too. The higher elevation makes them work better - it wasn't ever cold enough to be a problem.

We contemplated a lightwight dining fly but didn't get one - next time I'd do this too - its probably twice as heavy/bulky as it needs to be.

We used one Philmont rope for bear bagging but it was also very bulky - may try different next time. We did also use paracord and a biner/pulley combination just for the Oops bag which was actually mostly individually ditty bags - much more convenient and easier for one to operate.

We did bring mostly ultralight tents - 1 pair had a Philmont tent & the weight was about 2x and bulk maybe heading towards to 2x.

After talking to several crews who had been before I ended up taking 3 different seats... (of sorts). A trail stool <1Lb 7oz, a Thermarest lite seat (3.5oz) which I also use as a sleeping pillow/lumbar support/footrest and a thermarest trekker chair 10.5oz which I use with my thermarest prolite-4 sleeping pad. While it seems like overkill - I always had a taker for any empty chair and was always comfortable for <2.5lbs. No regrets on that one!

In our gear checkout our ranger spent over 50 minutes checking our gear - and asked lots of questions - but ultimately did not object to anything.

My total weight with water, group gear and 4 days food was about 40lbs - quite comfortable for me.


Edited by Alan_In_AZ on 09/23/2008 21:14:02 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Amsteel Rope on 09/25/2008 18:56:45 MDT Print View

Some one said: "The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?"

Amsteel rope is what we used. It worked perfectly. It's a lot lighter and a lot less bulky than the Philmont issue. The Ranger had no problem with it. When I got home I took the knots out of the rope to put away for storage. I did not see any signs of wear whatsoever on the rope. It's quite bullet proof.

The one problem with the rope is that the 7/64 is quite thin so it's a bit hard on the hands with heavy loads. Use a stick wrapped around the rope to help avoid rope burns.