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Boy Scouts and Lightweight Backpacking
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Boy Scouts and Lightweight Backpacking on 06/08/2005 04:17:40 MDT Print View

The purpose of this forum thread is to accompany today's article by Doug Prosser:

Boy Scout Gear List: New Scouts, Three Seasons

In particular, this forum should focus not only on the practical nature of the article itself, but provide a backdrop for sharing ideas and evaluating other aspects of BSA policies and educational materials about camping, backpacking, and hiking, in light of the technology and knowledge we have today about lightweight wilderness travel.

Bottom line: does the BSA need to catch up, or is "lightweight" too risky a proposition to be teaching our impressionable youth?

Brian Macari

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
New Boy Scout Gear List on 06/08/2005 06:28:08 MDT Print View

Now we're talkin! Terrific treatise on the subject. This gear list is one a new scouts parents don't have to be afraid of, yet dispels all the nonsense of heavyweight bomb-proof gear. But you forgot the best light weight back pack out there. Of course it is the Go-lite gust. It also has small and medium sizes for those smaller torsos. At 5000+ci it can still take the fluff! Best of all it can be purchased for $ 59 at both or Try to get black or green 2004 models (red is nice but is contrary to Leave No Trace color pollution guidlines!!-maybe a good topic for your next article!).Brian (critter is soaring eagle).

Ron Neumann
(rneumann) - F
BSA gear on 06/08/2005 06:38:44 MDT Print View

I agree with most of your article, but for insect-problem areas a lightweight tent gives a better night's sleep. Many diseases are rising in prevalence from insect-bite transmission. As a MD and adult Scouter I also worry a lot about sun protection. Skin cancers keep increasing in adults and many may result from early life sun exposures. So add a cap with a neck cape of blocking fabric. It works better than the wide-brim hat when your pack bumps the rear of your head and fits better in hooded rain/wind gear.

paul schnoes
Great list on 06/08/2005 07:54:49 MDT Print View

What a great artice! I hope many Scouts and adults read it. Many in Scouting seem to think that more is better and "Be Prepared" means carrying heavy packs. I also liked the light and inexpesive theme. If you carry less, there is less to buy. Now if only this light backpacking theme could be adopted by the BSA.

Ben and Anne Cowan
(anneandbenhike) - F
packs for scouts on 06/08/2005 08:18:27 MDT Print View

I definitely agree with the "weighing the pack" since many are very heavy even when empty. Please reweigh the Granite Gear pack you have definitely does not weigh 11#!!! I am guessing you meant 1#! Thanks for a great synopsis useful for all Scouting (and Venturing) newbies.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Great Article on 06/08/2005 14:55:20 MDT Print View

Thanks for this section and article. I have passed the link on to other leaders in our troop.
I would like to see this link included on our troops' website so parents of new scouts can get an idea of what is really needed from a better source than 2nd or 3rd hand through the scout.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Insect protection and wet feet? on 06/08/2005 15:20:47 MDT Print View

Obviously these two issues are not as much of a conern for those in the Sierra's but those Scouts that hike in the East will have to deal with both bug and wet feet issues 6-8 months out of a year.

So, a light "tent" and/or a bug insert (A16??) used with the tarp is a must. And for weekend trips a waterproof pair of shoes/boots is a good idea. Just make a point to have the Scouts take their shoes and socks off during breaks.

I also wouldn't be too afraid to mention the DIY stuff. Ray's quilt (or find find a simple bag pattern) project could be built by a monkey. So, I'm sure a Scout troop with a 2nd sewing machine could save quite a bit on the bottom line (quilt/bag and a bug insert are easy projects, and a pack isn't all that difficult either, tarps are a bit more difficult due to the slippery materials).

Sab .
(sabme) - F - M

Locale: SW UK
incorrect data on 06/08/2005 16:17:59 MDT Print View

Noticed the Granite Gear Virga's weight and price are wrong. Should be 1 lb 5 oz and $100 or less if you shop around.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
BSA gear on 06/09/2005 19:50:21 MDT Print View

Doug, great job. Thanks for stimulating us to bring lightweight concepts to Scouting. Your article is a fantastic tool.

What ideas have others used for lightweight shelter with Scouts? Tarps are great but we need bug protection.

Our local trips are in OK and AR. I personally use a TarpTent. We need something a little more durable for Scouts.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Bug protection w/ tarps on 06/09/2005 20:27:22 MDT Print View

I recently have been using one of the Bozeman Mountain Works Vapor Bivy Sack (Pertex Quantum)while my son has been using an A-16 Bug bivy. Froogle had the Bug Bivy cheapest $33.95 at The lightweight BMW vapor Bivy beside bug protection provides wind and splash protection. Not to bad. But the young scouts I think the A-16 bug bivy works really good.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Bug protection on 06/09/2005 20:36:59 MDT Print View

Doug, thanks again. I like the BMW Vapor Bivy Sack idea. But for younger Scouts the Adventure A-16 looks pretty interesting. I'll have to check that out.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Cheap tarps for Scouts on 06/09/2005 20:47:35 MDT Print View

A 10 foot by 100 foot roll of 4 mil plastic (black or clear) for under $20. That's $2 for each of the 10x10 tarps. Use a double sheetbend on the four corners; tie a ridgeline between two hiking sticks (BSA will not allow tying to trees on BSA property).
I have to admit this is not my idea, but one that I read from RJ's "Beyond Backpacking".
This is a cheap way to get scouts that are accustomed to tents started on the idea of tarp camping.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Virga weight correction on 06/09/2005 20:53:11 MDT Print View

Thanks for pointing out the Virga typo. It's fixed.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Qone additional Advantage to tarps on 06/10/2005 08:34:07 MDT Print View

One additional advantage to tarps with Boy Scouts is that with a glance I can see exactly where everyone is and exactly what they are doing. This is really important at this age group for me as an adult leader. Once you get a few boys in a tent and out of view, they usually start doing things I would prefer not to happen.

Edited by daprosser on 06/10/2005 08:34:56 MDT.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Eastcoast scouters on 06/10/2005 08:49:08 MDT Print View

If any east coast scouters would like to work on an addendum to this article that focuses on the your particular issues please contact me off-line at I grew up in Pennsylvania so I am so what familiar with hiking & camping there but not much recent experience.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
East Coast Scouters on 06/11/2005 07:07:33 MDT Print View

You are welcome to post proposed changes to the Scout gear list to make it "East Coast ready" in the forum as well. We'll add it to the Scout gear list when it's ready.

Jay Armstrong
(jrandala) - F
light weight Scouting! on 06/12/2005 09:04:25 MDT Print View

I am excited to see so much interest in this topic! I have been a active asst scoutmaster for 4 years now. Our troop is a backpacking troop- meaning for most outings EVERYTHING that is taking goes on a back & not in the back of a truck. We also practice a fairly stringent Leave no trace policy. My associates & I have commented at many camporees how many Troop camps now adays look more like a circus camp with big top tents than a campsite. One concern with lightwieght backpacking & scouting I have is COST. on average factoring in uniforms & Summer camp it cost about $900/year per Scout these days WITHOUT outfitting them! To modestly outfit a scout with proper "lightwt" gear runs about $250+ per & that is figuring on the buddy system 2/tent. To keep a comfortable load on a 10 -12yr old frame means about a 25Lb max wt(on a 100 lb boy this still equals a 50Lb pack on a 200lb MAN!) If the load includes a minimal 2 liters of water (4lbs) you have Only 21lbs for everything else! Not impossible but it takes GOOD gear! Our #1 problem is to prevent families who want thier scout to have everything from buying 50lbs of what I consider "Toy" camp gear that is totally inapropriate.
take a scout out in may when it is 65deg in the day & 35 at night with a 0deg COTTON shell sleeping bags, COTTON Pants, COTTON shirt & COTTON SOCKS in tennis shoes & after the first night you have one VERY miserable scout unlikely to get excited about going on another 10 mile weekend.
If the boy is wearing BSA uniform & gear that is pretty much what you get! I appologize for rambling but this is a sour subject for me. BSA needs to set a better example.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Lightweight Scouting on 06/12/2005 10:49:56 MDT Print View

I agree that Lightweight Scouting is somewhat an oxymoron if you look at what some of the scout camps require. Some camps say you must carry a hard ‘Nalgene’ lexan type water bottle, that an Aquafina bottle or soda-pop bottle is not rugged enough. Also look in the Boy Scout Handbook, and as the article by Doug Prosser suggests, the official catalog. As an example, here the lightest published weight is 3 lbs. 3 oz. for a Kelty Lynx 2900 backpack. They do offer an esbit style stove, but their other backpacking stoves are the Colman Exponent, and MSR Whisperlite; both white gas, not that light and cannot be transported commercially. Also, their prices can easily be beat almost anywhere.

If you use the catalog site to purchase items for outfitting their scout, I can easily see how the cost would choke any parent. As far as a $900 per scout per year for uniform and summer camp, I suspect that might be a bit high. You can run fund raisers to help curb the cost of camp.

Yes, the expensive BSA shirt, pants/shorts are all 65% polyester and 35% cotton and are not always appropriate. What we do is have the boys only wear their scout shirt during travel and at flag ceremonies the rest of the time we have troop T-shirts made of synthetic material. We do not require BSA Official pants/shorts as part of their uniform. I believe only the Youth Leadership camps, and if you are a staff member, require full ‘Official’ uniform.

Part of the problem is that the Troop Committee actually runs the troop, even though “Boy Lead; Adult Guided” is the purported philosophy. Most of the Committee members, that have the final say on expenses, come from the old school where the heavy more durable gear is more appropriate. With many young boys, if the gear is not their own, they do not have as much respect for it; therefore it is typically not cared for as it should be. With this, the Committee acknowledges that more durable, hence heavier gear is more affordable for the budget.

I am aware of some troops that have lists for their scouts of items to purchase, including packs, bags and tents. The troop gets a discount buying in bulk, and all the scouts have essentially the same gear which they own and keep when they leave scouting. This also offers the appearance of a troop as a team with all the same gear. Some of the more wealthy troops, while few and far between, have pre-purchased some of these items just to have that ability.

I am sure many can expand on and contradict these statements and ideas, but doesn’t a board like this foster brainstorming…

Sheldon Miller
(stmiller37) - M

Locale: Wasatch
Weight vs ruggedness on 06/12/2005 18:06:02 MDT Print View

My perception is that there is some correlation between weight and the ruggedness of gear. This seems particularly true with backpacks and tents. Backpacker several months tried dragging several backpacks around behind a truck to test "ruggedness" These were not lightweight packs. The point for this discussion is that in our troop it seems in our troop to take at least a couple of years to train scouts to give decent care to gear. Is this an issue with other troops.

re: Weight vs. Ruggedness on 06/13/2005 02:16:25 MDT Print View

I thought the scouts were too young to drive and drag their gear behind their pick-em-up trucks?

Or is there a merit badge for this?