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Upcoming Troop Backpack Trek
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Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Upcoming Troop Backpack Trek on 02/06/2012 09:18:42 MST Print View

Four and more years ago in the troop, backpacking was a regular part of our program. However, with older scouts aging out, a gap in middle scouts, and mostly younger scouts coming in, we developed a disconnect from our interest in backpacking. The younger scouts (along with their parents/leaders) were developing a dislike for our style of backpacking. It was during this time that I bought my weekend backpack weight down from 45+ lbs down to a baseweight of under 14 for this weekend.

I have been working toward getting the whole (especially the younger scouts) down to a more manageable weight, and with distances our less interested scouts find more reasonable. Our plan is for our "advanced" group to do a figure 8 loop: 1 mile Friday evening, 12 miles Saturday, and 5 miles out on Sunday morning. Our "intermediate" group will set up a park-by camp Friday night, hike 6 miles Saturday, and 3 miles to complete the loop on Sunday.

I have read all that everyone has written (dissertations and other reports). Our biggest challenge has been to find affordable gear for the scouts in the right weight/bulk range. Finding small/light enough sleeping bags has been the worst. We do not live in an area where there are well used backpacking trails, so there are few local outfitters, and those that are here still live in the 70s and 80s, promoting 5-7 lb backpacks, full grained leather boots, and large, heavy tents.

Here is our personal backpack list we are providing to scouts/parents. It is based on our weather/needs:

Personal Gear Desired Weight
□ Backpack and cover
□ Trash Compactor bag (to line inside of pack)
□ Sleeping bag (rated to 30° or lower)
□ Sleeping pad (foam pad)
□ Tent (may be provided by troop)
□ Compass, whistle and matches in waterproof container
□ Small Personal First aid kit
□ Headlamp with fresh batteries
□ 2 quarts of water capacity. Nalgenes are effective but heavy
Recommended to use washed Gatoraid/Power Aid 1 liter bottle
□ Eating bowl. Recommend 16 oz butter or sour cream dish
□ Drinking cup (simple plastic cup)
□ Light weight spoon/spork (not disposable)
□ Small knife or multi tool
□ Toiletries (toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, etc)

Clothing (avoid all cotton clothing)
□ Long nylon sport pants (no blue jeans!): worn, not packed
□ Nylon shirt, short and/or long sleeve as weather requires: worn, not packed
□ Hiking Socks (wool, nylon or acrylic, not cotton). 2 pair
□ Gloves and hat (as weather requires)
□ Long underwear (tops and bottoms 100% polypropylene)
□ Lightweight nylon, windbreaker type jacket
□ Single change of clothes for sleeping (lightweight, nylon)
□ Hiking boots/ hiking shoes
□ Poncho or rainsuit

Patrol Equipment (will be provided and shared)
Cooking pots
Cook stoves/fuel
Water purification or filter

Please feel free to critique this list. The original form has a list of suggested weights for "Personal Gear," but it won't format well on the post.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Lightweight Non-Bulky on 02/06/2012 09:49:00 MST Print View

I've been going through this same situation with the younger scouts in our troop. What I'm finding is that 11 years old they are still too small to wear an adult pack... even a small.

I can offer one suggestion for a sleeping bag... the Eureka Silver City 30 degree bag is 2 lbs. 2 oz. and compresses really small. Right now they are $49.98 at Campmor and I've encouraged all my parents to get their kids one of these if they can't afford or just won't buy a down bag.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Sleeping bag on 02/06/2012 10:06:30 MST Print View

Thanks Mark. I have no experience with that bag but it is on our buy list at the sale price. As a synthetic, I assumed that even at that weight it was bulky. I appreciate the feedback.

Paul Johnson
(johncooper) - F

Locale: SoCal
Boy Scout Equipment on 02/06/2012 19:32:19 MST Print View

My son and I joined a troop last year that is very active in backpacking. It comes from a small group of energetic, avid leaders that make you want to backpack. One of their primary goals is to make sure the younger scouts have a great experience on their first backpack. This is often driven by weight. On a recent beginner backpack for new scouts, we flat out limited pack weight to 20lbs. We had car access to our destination (by design), so it was easy to weigh and dump extra weight. It was a good way to get the 11yr old scouts to have fun and success on a 6-7mi hike, although it probably exacerbated my next point.

With that said, we definitely have a go heavy issue within the troop. Parents and kids buy their initial equipment with a big heavy synthetic bag, heavy pack to hold all the volume and weight, etc.... I came from and Adventure Racing background, so I was well aware of going light, but I still bought a bunch of heavy gear, since it seemed to follow the guidelines. Nobody said going light is the right way and here are the options. Of course once you buy gear, it is hard to convince a parent to re-buy. In addition, we do a number of shorter backpacks during the year and weight really isn't an issue. We do a mid term (4-5days) and long term (7-10days) in the summer. It is hard to justify gear that is just for these one or two trips.

To avoid the issue I had above I recommend you make specific recommendations. For example, we need ~30-35 degree bags in my area. Similar to your troop, we recommended a 30 degree or lower bag. One of the kids showed up proudly at the next backpack with his 15 degree synthetic bag at 4-5lbs.

My current big three recommendation for $$$ and weight is: GoLite Peak pack 1 lb 10 oz ($59)(Jam if you carry bear canisters), Kelty Cosmic Down 20 degree short 2 lb 3 oz bag ($75 online)and Equinox UltraSil 8x10 tarp ($86) depending on how much rain you have (we have little). I would list these as the recommended gear and use these weights as the maximum guidance.

Note, we all know Bear canisters are a pain and especially so for Boy Scouts. I submit they add 3.5-4lbs to the weight due to the can and the extra pack size/framing required. I'm doing an experiment this summer with my 11yr old son. We will be in the Sierras for four days, but on less traveled trails with significant (4-5k) elevation to crest into the lake regions. The upside is this is outside of the populated bear canister required areas. We will take REI Flash18 packs, with a few mods that get us up to ~25l each. My son should have ~8lb pack and I will start with ~14.5 with about 1/2 being food.

Edited by johncooper on 02/06/2012 21:54:34 MST.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Eureka Silver City 30 on 02/06/2012 20:40:33 MST Print View

Have you actually used that bag, Mark? I wouldn't count on it being more than a 40 F bag given only 16 oz of fill. Kelty Cosmic 35 has 19 oz of fill and Light Year XP 40 has 18 oz, for example.

However, you could easily use a 40 F bag in most 3 season conditions if you wear your other clothing.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Eureka Silver City on 02/06/2012 20:48:07 MST Print View

I haven't used the Silver City bag, but my son has a lot of time in the Eureka Casper bag which is one step heavier.

I have 3 scouts and two adult leaders who just got Silver City bags and will be using them on our February campout later this month. At that time I'll have some feedback on how warm they are.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Upcoming Troop Backpack Trek on 02/07/2012 00:03:39 MST Print View

I think your list looks good. But I also think you might do better tobe more item specific.
Having worked in outdoor stores and sold gear to a lot of parents coming in with lists form scoutmasters or other outdoor program leaders, my experience was that the parents who do not have experience themselves will almost always go for heavier gear than they need. They are concerned first and foremost for the kid's safety, and they think that the warmer sleeping bag is "better" because it's warmer - thus the heaviest bag is the best. Same will go for any piece of gear. It's not easy to convince them that the lightest piece of gear that does the job is the best. So I would suggest that you do as much research as you can and find the specific items that you feel are the best balance of lightweight performance and value (which probably will not be available to you locally from what you have said) and put together a list of these items. and even better is to have a meeting with as many parents as you can get together and go over the list, affirming that these are the best choices for their kids. Hearing it directly from you can make a big difference, especially when you can explain that you have made a real effort to find gear that will do the job without overloading the kids and is still affordable.

Campmor is a great online resource for less expensive gear. Also Sierra Trading Post, they often have discontinued items at big discounts - especially clothing.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
That was just the packing list on 02/07/2012 15:15:51 MST Print View

That is just the checklist. Tonight at the meeting, we will be "shaking down" the new scout's backpacks. Using the list, we will verify what the scout has and what he needs to buy/replace by the weekend. Our weather is looking excellent, so that helps with a good first time experience. (I dread first time backpack outings with rain!)

We have a briefing for the parents several weeks in advance of the outing with lists , including a page each dedicated to specific backpacks, sleeping bags/quilts, and pads. It is a current list of availble products on line with the best sales prices and weights; it is put together the week before the meeting and updated/verified the morning of the meeting. I did not post it as it is over 2 weeks out of date, and I did not want to take the time to verify the availablitly and prices of all the products.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: That was just the packing list on 02/07/2012 15:41:26 MST Print View

Doug, it sounds like you are doing a great job. These kids are lucky to have you to lead them into the outdoors.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Early weigh in last night on 02/08/2012 07:16:34 MST Print View

We did a gear shake down last night. With a few small items missing, we had pack weights ranging from 13 lbs 8 oz to 20 lbs 11 oz, most begin at or under 15 lbs. I am concerned about the one scout over 20, as he is small, but I guess that is not so bad, as it is lighter than the average of what most scouts carried last trek.

I do need some advice. I opened my mouth and offered a prize for the lowest total pack weight (after packing water and food on Friday when we leave). But I do not know what to award. Any ideas?

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Scout Reward on 02/08/2012 07:25:40 MST Print View

For sure you should give the winner a knife. Boy Scouts love knives.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Prizes for Scouts on 02/08/2012 09:19:59 MST Print View

Our crew did a "Be the Biggest Loser" competition before Philmont. It worked wonders for their base weight. As knives and fire are between the most beloved things for scouts we offered a nanoStriker from Exotac and a Leatherman Squirt as prizes. The results were amazing ...

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Awards on 02/08/2012 11:11:58 MST Print View

For our Philmont group, we are offering a $50 BSA gift certificate to be spent at Tooth of Time Traders.

I do like the idea of a knife (scouts love knives!), but I wanted to keep it in the area of lighweight gear, as a way for them to reach even higher (lower). I though about a set of titanium tent stakes, but not all scouts have their own tent. Any other thoughts?

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Light Award - Freezer Bag Cozy on 02/08/2012 12:32:45 MST Print View

If you are going to teach your scouts the Freezer Bag method of cooking, how about making the prize a freezer bag cozy? Cozy Cozy

or maybe an extra long titanium spoon to eat out of the freezer bags:

Sea to Summit Spoon

Jay Lash
(jjlash) - F

Locale: Eastern Iowa
Biggest Loser prize on 02/08/2012 12:43:10 MST Print View

Ive also issued a Biggest Loser challenge to my crew that is preparing for PSR. I ordered a canister stove for under $20 to be used as the prize. The one I got is no longer available on Amazon, but this one is very similar:
stove link

Edited by jjlash on 02/08/2012 12:44:11 MST.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Prize on 02/08/2012 14:41:45 MST Print View

I do like the idea of an Alpha light spoon. My son and I have those, and I think that would be really good. As for Freezer Bag Cozies, interested scouts are meeting tonight to make them. Several patrols are doing Freezer Bag Cooking.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
Update on 02/13/2012 07:27:34 MST Print View

I thought I would post a little of what happened for the weekend. Before we left the scout hut, we weighted packs. We had two groups of hikers, but for the sake of the "Biggest Looser," there was only one contest. In an attempt to "equalize" weights, we weighted with food but without water. The lightest pack was that of a first year scout with a weight of 15 lbs 7 oz. All but one of the intermediate group had weights under 20 lbs. The advanced scouts (mostly Philmont crew) had weights from 17 lbs 4 oz to 25 lbs. Prize was a titanium fork/spoon set.

The intermediate group did a single loop, hiking 5.3 miles the first day and 3.2 the second. No complaints or problems.

The advanced group did both loops, with 11 miles the first day and 6.3 the second. They kept a great pace and had a bumper trek. Overall, it was the best backpack outing the troop has had in 5 years.

Thanks for all your advice and guidance. It was a tremendous help in getting everything organized and executed. Following the success of this trek, the scouts may be planning some more backpacking in the near future.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
way to go! on 02/13/2012 09:36:34 MST Print View

Sounds like a great trip. After a kid has gone backpacking, it seems like there would be no reason to go car camping, but there is always a strong urge some people (scouts and scouters) have to camp near the car. I hope you have some great country in your area to get the kids hooked on outdoor stuff, and specifically backpacking. How did all the new scouts get light sleeping bags and packs that fit? That has always seemed like a problem in our troop.

We usually start the year with a super easy hike to a tempting destination, like a backcountry waterfall, or a wilderness hot spring.

They are 3 miles one way, and 2 miles one way. After that trip proves to be easy, the younger scouts are not intimidated about a 4 or 5 mile hike, then in July I try to have a 20-25 mile backpack, 4 day trip. I'm not going for mileage, I'm going for scenery, fishing, great camp sites, stuff so that they have fun.