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detailed questions regarding Scouts gear
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Elizabeth Kunkee
(ElizabethK) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
detailed questions regarding Scouts gear on 06/10/2010 05:42:28 MDT Print View

Hi All,

Somehow my enthusiasm for backpacking and camping has been picked up on by at least four of the moms in my son’s scout troop (he’s a new 11 year old scout). So now as the “expert” I need to have some answers. We are preparing for backpacks in the Los Padres NF and Mt. San Jacinto State Park in Southern California. Can someone help me out?

1. Raingear. Is it irresponsible for me to suggest bringing two 99-cent ponchos (plastic disposable 2 oz. ponchos) for southern California backpack trips in which rain is unlikely?
2. Raingear. If I do suggest frogg toggs driducks, what do I tell the moms of 70 pound boys? I bought a “small” from froggtoggs outlet and it billows on my 93 pound scout.
3. Footwear. Supposing that the scout buys into the ultralight paradigm of merino wool socks with mesh trail runner shoes with no camp shoes – what do they do in the evening? Do feet stay soggy until bedtime?
4. Long pants for cool evenings. What actually works for 11-12 year olds? Shorts during the day and then change into synthetic pants at sunset? Or are zip off pants better? How do you all like the BSA switchbacks zip off quick-dry pants? Can 11 year olds actually zip the legs on themselves (my boy can’t yet). Or are lightweight fleece elastic waist pants best for the evening? Suggested site/place to purchase?
5. Water bottles. What is the reason Boy Scout gear lists keep asking for wide mouth nalgene? Are re-used soda bottles OK? 1 quart Gatorade bottles?

Thanks for any input.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
detailed questions regarding Scouts gear on 06/10/2010 08:30:31 MDT Print View

We used big garbage bags for rain gear back when I was in Scouts; it didn't leave any scars. Same with wet feet. Make sure they have dry socks to sleep in, and keep them dry. Zip off pants are great; I like my cheap ones better than the BSA pants. I don't know what to say about you son not being able to zip his pant legs on except - if you leave him to it long enough, he'll figure it out. Or do without. Our scouts use Gatorade bottles all the time. That gear list was probably written in the 80s, which is kind of where BSA is stuck when it comes to backpacking.

Someone on here stated that they told parents that their boys might not always be comfortable, but they wouldn't be in danger. That's a good way to look at it.

The other key I've found is if you go with your son, don't tell him what to do, let another parent. This is their time to learn independence, and to do for themselves.

Edited by skinewmexico on 06/10/2010 08:31:48 MDT.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Three cheers for you! on 06/10/2010 09:25:01 MDT Print View

Three cheers for you, Elizabeth, for taking the lead on getting the kids out backpacking! Too often, scouting omits the outdoor stuff. My wife was a girl scout leader for many years, and it was shocking how little exposure some of the girls had had to any outdoor activity. E.g., some of them only wanted to drink store-bought bottled water, and refused to drink tap water. Parents also tend to generate a lot of anxiety, which can get passed on to the kids.

In the Los Padres area, you may want to check whether you're going to be in an area that was affected by the 2008 fire (map: ). I did a springtime trip in the Ventana Wilderness this year (possibly somewhat north and west of your area?). After the fire, the thick chaparral vegetation regrew and obliterated a lot of the trail system, which will only be restored over a period of many years. I don't know about the area you'll be in, but in the area I was in, there was so much brush growing over the trails that wearing shorts would have been a real invitation to suffering. I'd at least make sure that the kids bring long pants that they can change into if necessary. They'll probably resist this, so educate them a little in advance about what chaparral is, and why it's called chaparral. I'd suggest not telling them that pants with zip-off legs are required, because that's just another expensive item for the parents to buy, which the kids will rapidly outgrow. Just have them bring one pair of long pants and one pair of shorts.

Isn't rain a pretty remote possibility in that area at this time of year? On the off chance of rain, garbage bags would be a more compact and lightweight alternative to the 99-cent ponchos. Hiking in wet cotton socks is miserable, but good wool or synthetic hiking socks are expensive, so I'd suggest not presenting them to parents as a required item. Or as a compromise, possibly tell them to bring two pairs of socks, at least one of which should be non-cotton.

Wide-mouth nalgebe bottles are lame, IMO. They're heavy, and they tend to leak. Instead of a 1-quart bottle, I'd suggest having each kid bring two half-liter water bottles, the type you buy bottled water in. Most families will have these around the house, so it will also save them money. You can alternate bottles, i.e., when you come to water, you have the option of refilling one and putting in the tablets while still being able to drink from the other. There are a lot of urban folktales about dehydration, which may cause people to carry way more weight than they need ( ,


Edited by bcrowell on 06/10/2010 09:26:10 MDT.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: detailed questions regarding Scouts gear on 06/10/2010 10:13:18 MDT Print View

Elizabeth, here are my take on your questions. I don't hike in your area but I am very familiar with hiking with scouts in a rain area (Seattle).

<1. Raingear.>
As the others have suggested you can use a garbage bag which can be a multi-use item or the 99-cent ponchos (plastic disposable 2 oz. ponchos). My boys carried the cheap poncho and got at least 2 uses out of them. It was for testing and we decided that there were better options for this area.

<2. Raingear. If I do suggest frogg toggs driducks>,
Wait until they get bigger for these or just have them get the small jacket and use it as a poncho, they don't need the pants (neither do you).

<3. Footwear. Supposing that the scout buys into the ultralight paradigm of merino wool socks with mesh trail runner shoes with no camp shoes – what do they do in the evening? Do feet stay soggy until bedtime>
You can find merino socks at goodwill or use synthetic. Or use a pair of their parents merino socks.
The boys will get their feet just as wet in the evening as during the day (if not worse) so nothing to worry about here, just have a dry pair of socks for bed. No camp shoes are necessary or even needed!

<4. Long pants for cool evenings. What actually works for 11-12 year olds?>
Some of my scouts wear long pants and some wear shorts with long johns under them, I hate zip offs (like wearing hoops on my knees) and I only hike in long pants no matter how hot the weather. You can find hiking pants at goodwill so the boys can find them in their size there (go to the stores in the wealthy areas- the gear is usually in great shape at those stores).
The BSA pants are just ok and slightly expensive for what you get- check out REI-Outlet, Goodwill, STP, etc.
Fleece pants are a lot like velcro and collect everything around the campsite, so if it is cold they are good under long pants but worn in the open they have the chance of being terminally messy.

<5. Water bottles.>
Old used water/soda bottles or Gatorade bottles are lighter less expensive then anything els out there (I use the Gatorade ones)

Good luck.

Edited by bestbuilder on 06/10/2010 10:17:08 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Scouts Gear on 06/10/2010 17:53:59 MDT Print View


I also echo all of the other comments regarding your desire to get the kids out.

1.Rain in Southern California mountains can be pretty much the same as in the Sierras; i.e., afternoon thundershowers. We have run into those in the San Gabriels in the summer plenty of times. Trash bags or the cheap ponchos will get you through those storms. I have also seen kids pack the cheap ponchos and have them in their pack for numerous outings without the need to open them up.

2. Dri Ducks for young kids is iffy because they tear so easy. If I were planning a long Sierra trip I may suggest it, but, not for an overnighter.

3. Make sure they don't take cotton socks, have a dry pair to get into when they get into camp and you will be fine.

4. Shorts with long underwear or zip offs would be my choice. Either or.

5. I like the 1 liter soda bottles that have a larger mouth. They are harder to find now. There are plenty of options out there from Gatorade, Pepsi, Aquafina, Powerade, etc. A real widemouth would be helpful if you are using a Steripen. I have a box full of Nalgenes from when we started in scouts. We have not taken one in years.

Have a great trip. Make sure you get trail reports and especially water reports.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "detailed questions regarding Scouts on 06/14/2010 02:52:59 MDT Print View

1. Raingear.
I suggest two things to complete a good kit that will handle weather, wind and rain. The Sierra Designs Microlight Jacket will work pretty good as a rain jacket and really well as a wind jacket. It costs all of $42.00 retail though I have had several over the years and never paid more than $35. In combination (in Southern California or wherever) with a cheap poncho or garbage bag it is an ideal multi use jacket. REI has these and you can order them in black womens in XS and SM for the younger kids. They will last for years and you can pass them down.
2. I agree with you in the dry duck sizing. Though I loved the other comment about using the top as a poncho and leaving out the pants.
3. Socks - SPEND THE MONEY ON THE MERINO WOOL X2 Pair.... So simple. I went on the Wilderness Treking Course for Scout Leaders recently and I was scoffing on buying different socks other than my Thorlos... Last minute I decided to go look at the socks at REI and they now carry a Merino Wool line of socks at reasonable pricing. at $9-12 a pair they were amazing. I walked right through two streams during the trip as recommended and my feet were 95% dry by night fall wearing those socks and a $50 pair of New Balance trail shoes. I would take off the socks I wore that day at bed time. Put on my 'sleeping socks' and then put my other socks on over those to dry them the rest of the way out. We had snow one night and it got down in the 20s. I was toasty warm. These socks worked great. I think it is worth it to spend the money on the socks.
4. Long pants for cool evenings. ***The boys need synthetic or wool long underwear. Combine these with the scout pants you mentioned above (I don't believe in zip offs and don't care for the new Scout pants) or any lightweight nylon pant, yes even nylon gym pants, and you have a great way for the boys to dend off the wind and cold.

SHORTS - shorts increase the chance for abrasions, cuts from bushes on the trail, and a decrease in fun. I carry a pair of running shorts or soccer shorts if I think I might swim or want to wear them. But I always wear pants for the most part.

5. Water bottles. - I am a fan of the gatorade bottles. The kids can start their trip with something tasty that, in most cases, will get them very hydrated if you send them with two each. Then you can fill them with water as needed. You will have hydrated boys at the start of the trip. I always think that is a smart thing to have. You never know if they really hydrate ahead anyway. this insures it. Provide them with a packet in the morning and one at night to keep them hydrated. They can make it homemade also for the rest of the weekend. Their are recipes on this sight.

YIS - Jason Cuzzetto

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
cost on 06/14/2010 11:40:44 MDT Print View

Jason, I don't think you're being realistic about costs. These kids are 11-12 years old. They are not gearing up for a PCT through-hike. Unless this is the Beverly Hills troop, their parents are probably not even going to consider paying $40 for a jacket that the kid will use once before outgrowing it, or $10 for a pair of socks. The main thing is to get the kids out in the backcountry and let them have the experience. If it's portrayed to their parents as an expensive hobby for rich people, a lot of the parents simply won't have their kid go on the trip. I hiked for 35 years in cotton socks. It didn't kill me.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE:Cost on 06/17/2010 22:45:14 MDT Print View

Look, these are suggestions and it isn't unrealistic to suggest items that work well in worse conditions that you will see in the south.

If people take their time to look for these or improve kits over time they can get them for $12 to $15 each. I have equiped my entire family of 6 for that. Plus handed down to other scouts the ones they grew out of. I buy from good will in the wealthier neiborhoods because I can by a really nice jacket for next to nothing and dress Merino wool sweaters for $7-10.

The other is to buy for the entire troop all at once. Most companys will give troops up to 40% discounts when purchased in bulk.

I know times are hard for some. And to be honest you don't need any of this stuff. The garbage sack works, cotton socks if changed several times or anytime wet and dried out the best you can on your backpack is fine.

Heck, a blanket, plastic sheeting, any water container, and any food will do if you don't worry about fire.

These are just suggestions, and good ones.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
everybody has an opinion on 06/29/2010 13:54:03 MDT Print View

I applaud your desire to get the troop backpacking, and it is doable with some help from other parents. I did more or less the same thing with our troop, moving from a car camping mode to backpacking. We are having 4 50 milers this summer, and easy backpacks for the 11 year olds to get started. As mentioned above, the budget of families will determine the gear, but I would keep in mind that trips to the Sierra should be on the menu as they get experience. They change so much from 11 to 14, its incredible.

1. Raingear. it'd go with at least a nylon poncho, more likley to stand up to that tough manzanita in the desert mountains. I think they are $12 or so. In a pinch, the plastic garbage bags also work. For those parents who will pay a bit more, coated nylon rain coats are $40. That kind of investment has not been a problem in our troop, but for some parents it might be.

3. Footwear. Good wool socks are great, and my crazy 14 yo son hikes in nothing but Keen sandals. They are pretty sturdy, and he can live with getting rocks out of them. Otherwise, I'd have them get the lightest shoes or boots available. They weigh 70 pounds, so don't need the same foot gear that adults do.

4. We use zip off nylon pants for hiking, using either the shorts or long version depending on the weather.

5. Water bottles. Any used light liquid container, like Gatoraid for instance.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "detailed questions regarding Scouts gear" on 06/30/2010 14:53:10 MDT Print View

In general, I think many underestimate the interest, willingness, and ability of the 11-13 year old scout regarding backpacking trips.

I just returned from a backcountry trip I led in Southwestern Colorado that encompassed 35 miles of backpacking, 8000 feet of elevation gain, a traverse of a 12,600' mountain pass, and the summit of a 14,083 foot mountain (class 2 scramble). All were geared appropriately and for more than 50% of the participants, this was their first backcountry experience. My main point is don't underestimate them...

I suggest that you create a pack list that includes only essential items, provide examples of cheap alternatives to each item, conduct several pre-trip training hikes (including a few overnights), and have pack inspections along the way. We used each training hike to inspect a specific area (first aid, clothing, sleep systems, etc) and then the adult leaders had a final pack inspection to make sure all the necessary gear was provided and nothing unnecessary was brought along.

A few photos of the Mountain Goat Crew:

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "detailed questions regarding Scouts gear" on 07/01/2010 02:39:11 MDT Print View

Since this forum is important to me and I think the original poster was dead on in her questions I saw a post on here a few days about Tyvec suits on, THe cost was from 3-6 dollars depending on what kind of suit you were looking at. Worth investigating and trying a few out. Definately modifiable and I think a great value. Type keyword tyvec and decide for yourself. But if these work they are probably perfect for 3 seasons in California. Especially since they may never get used down south.

Thanks - Jason

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Answers regarding Scouts gear on 07/14/2010 15:39:13 MDT Print View

1. Raingear.

Ponchos are fine as emergency raingear. Eventually, they'll want something better. Oversized Frogg Toggs are fine, they'll fill out with a fleece jacket and the Scouts will grow. The DriDucks version are probably too fragile for most Scouts.

3. Footwear. Trail runners and wet feet.

Bring dry socks. In fact, always change into dry socks before bed. Your bed socks can be cotton, you won't be getting them wet.

4. Long pants for cool evenings.

The BSA Switchbacks are fine. I don't really like zipoffs, but I've nearly worn mine out over the past few years. If they can't zip them, have their patrol leader help.

5. Water bottles.

Nalgenes, geez. Calistoga bottles are great, tougher than Gatorade bottles, not a smellable for bears, light, and cheap. A Scout is Thrifty.

I'm the Venture ASM for our troop, and I just returned from Philmont. My Switchback pants, Calistoga bottle, and spare socks went with me.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Los padres rain on 08/23/2010 14:20:04 MDT Print View

I live in the Los Padres area and hike here often. You can be pretty well certain that if the forecast doesn't call for rain you won't get any. Cheap ponchos or trashbags would be fine. I've hiked for years back there without any rain gear at all.

It also seemed to me that the trails in Ventura county were in much better shape than the ones in Santa Barbara county. If you are going to Santa Barbara county in the San Rafael Wilderness, the Manzana/Sisquoc area is in good condition. Almost everything else is not.