Hi all. I am a former scout, current scouter, and an occasional backpacker. My kit used to be ultralight until I spent a cold October night under a tarp in the mountains of West Virginia with too small a pad, too thin a bag, and too little sense to crawl into my hiking buddy's 5 pound tent. Silly me. My kit is still pretty light, and it now includes a sweet 7" loft down bag so cold nights are no longer a problem!
I really really like backpacking. I've taken scouts from my troop on 3 backpacking trips (and am trying to arrange a 4th in the near future) that were not part of the regular troop program. Me and some other area scouters were going and just issued an invitation to scouts and parents. Pretty good attendance: 6-10 scouts per trip, roughly half a regular troop outing. I wish the troop would schedule some backpacking trips; I have no intention of running a competing program but 12 plop and drops per year gets dull.
Our troop went on its first official backpacking trip a little while ago. Scouts camped locally Friday night and drove to the trailhead Saturday morning. I was unable to camp Friday night, and met the troop at the trailhead. I pulled some very heavy packs out of truck and asked the SM about it, and he assured me they had been inspected and were ok. We get a few hundred yards into the trek and one scout starts complaining about a heavy load so the SM distributes his gear to other scouts. (As an aside, that burned my buns as a youth AND as an adult. It's literally punishing trekkers who pack well and rewarding those who don't.)
When we get to the top of the mountain, I insisted that scouts with the heaviest packs open up and show their goods. No kidding, we pulled pounds and pounds of candy out of one pack. Multiple sodas, quart bags of skittles or some such stuff, taffy, etc. No kidding: when we took out the candy there was room in the pack for the sleeping bag that heretofore had been strapped to the top. This is when I find out there was no pack inspection. The SPL didn't do one, the SM didn't do one or follow up with the SPL, and most of these scouts were first time backpackers. The SM chalked it up as a learning experience for the SPL.
I understand boy leadership and learning through experience. But at some point, a 60 pound scout with a 35 pound pack on a leaf covered mountain trail turns from a learning experience into an accident waiting to happen. A handful of scouts on this trip said they never wanted to backpack again. That made me very sad.