I just got back from Philmont. Frankly, I was very impressed with the program they have. They do some things that make pack weights go up, but many of them are driven by concerns about bears, hypothermia and keeping a bunch of finicky teenagers from bonking on the trail from lack of food. I carried about a 45 pound pack out of base camp that included a 21 pound base weight (including a large crew first aid kit) and 24 pounds of food (8 two-person meals), water and a 33 oz. bottle of white gas.
The crew gear for our crew consisted of a four-pound, Philmont issue tarp, 8 plastic burlap sacks to use as bear bags, two ropes for the bear bags (one pound each), two large aluminum pots (8-quart), and one pot lid. The total was no more than 10 pounds, or about one extra pound for each member of our crew. I don't think the crew gear is the source of the weight problem. Here are a couple of observations:
1. The large tarp they issue to each crew serves primarily as a central location to keep packs at night away from the tents. It is pitched with trekking poles, making it virtually useless to cook under if it is raining. They do not allow you to use trees to hold up the tarp to avoid damaging the trees. I thought it was a lot of weight for not much function. If I go again, I would probably leave it behind, or bring some taller poles (Philmont has them) to make it more functional. Others have suggested bringing a siltarp, which is also a good idea but a little pricey. Because the tarp seems to function as part of Philmont's bear protection program, they may insist upon you having one with you if you are not going to use there tarp.
2. I am very ambivalent about the clothing recommendations. On the one hand, I think Philmont recommends way too much clothing. On the on other hand, it gets very cold in some of the camps, especially when it rains, and the typical Philmont camper is not as experienced as the people reading this website. I carried only the clothes I hiked in (long pants from Cloudveil and Railriders long-sleeve shirt), one additional set of clothes (nylon shorts and a short-sleeved shirt), a silponcho, a windshirt and a fleece top. If I go again, I will bring some silnylon rainpants for camp, consider bringing a Marmot Precip, a Packa or other rain jacket (instead of the poncho), and also consider bringing some lightweight long underwear. Frankly, I don't know how people like Ryan Jordan make it in the northern Rockies with the lightweight gear they carry.
2. We did not use the Philmont issue tents. I slept in a floorless tarpent and an Oware Epic bivy. My only problem was that we slept in some meadows where there were lots of bugs in the grass. My two sons and one other boy slept in a Sierra Designs Clip 3.
3. I think the big area where we could have saved weight was the food. They give you way to much of it. You resupply every three or four days. Often, we would eat only about two-thirds of the food they would issue. While the food is heavy, I understand why they do what they do: Many of the kids on the trail are on their first multi-day backpacking trip, and Philmont wants to make sure they will have something they will eat. Hence, you get a lot of variety. If I go again, I will be much more aggressive about getting rid of food before I leave the resupply point.
4. I was traveling as the guest of another unit and did not have much say in what others brought. One key to going light is to very strictly look at what everyone is bringing. Otherwise, when you plan to go light, you just end up with more food or crew gear. With good planning, there is no reason why you cannot keep total pack weights under 35 pounds per person, including food and water.