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A Philmont Journal - Part 1
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trees on 07/20/2013 07:24:18 MDT Print View

Philmont does require the use of stand off sticks now for ropes. Not sure how much this helps, It will do a different form of damage, but it still will damage the tree. The same trees are being used by everyone repeatedly. When letting bags down, the tree is used for friction to control the rope let down, this is probably where a lot of damage occurs. Perhaps they should just install bear cables, or at least tie-off poles. But the truth is, the tie off trees are sacrificial .

Nothing at Philmont is LNT, its concentrated impact. Camping areas are well used, well trodden, rock furniture made by scouts, logs to sit on, fire rings, etc.

I agree Philmont is far from a showcase. It is very heavily used. The most annoying aspect to me, is the fact that horses navigate almost every trail. Almost every trail is covered with horse crap. A constant reminder you are on a ranch. They preach trail conservation, but horses are about the worst thing possible for trails. Not to mention fouling water supplies.

I observed people standing in and washing up in rivers, rivers that people downstream 200 yds were filling their nalgenes with. The inexperienced people at Philmont have little sense of backcountry etiquette. They behave the same way they do at their local campground.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/20/2013 07:44:46 MDT.

Bruce Kolkebeck
(cjcanoe) - M

Locale: Uhwarrie National Forest
Philmont Bears on 07/20/2013 07:39:55 MDT Print View

When I went to Philmont in 2000 there were a good number of bear incidents on the Ranch. I was allowed to hang out in the radio room my last night with one of our guys and listened to a few of the reports as they came in. If I remember correctly there were 5 call ins that night about bears. We passed several sumps that were dug out by bears. For some reason that year was bad. Drought, overpopulation of bears, bad mast year could have caused the problems. I don't have a clue why it was bad.

One call that night was for an attack with injuries. Apparently a kid had thrown up on himself and had some residue on his shirt. The only reason I know a little more about it is that the kid later roomed next to my kid in college. He told the story and we put the facts together to assume he was the scout in the report. The scout in question was bitten in the head which required many stiches. The adult leaders fought the bear off with trekking poles as I understand it.

Another attack was on a kid who had eaten the Gatorade out of the package like a pixie stick. The bear followed the trail of Gatorade left by the kid right to him. That's all I heard about it.

I've been to Philmont 5 times. This year I actually saw a glimpse of a bear with cubs. Otherwise I've never seen a bear at Philmont. All I'm saying is I guess incidents happen there. Maybe that's why there's so much attention given to the bear procedures.


Michael Danielson
(mcd57) - MLife

Locale: Middle TN
Philmont - not for everybody on 07/20/2013 10:18:29 MDT Print View

I have been backpacking since 1972 when I went to Philmont for the first time. Growing up in Iowa, there were not many hiking trails to hike on which allowed camping. Thus it was my first true experience "backpacking". Since then I have hiked and lived in many different places in the US and continue to backpack today.

I am greatly surprised that when thinking about laying done the cash for this kind of trip, that the person does not do their homework. Most people who do not like it like to hike individually or with only one other person. They want to get up and go. Putting 20 to 30 or more miles in per day. That is fine but that is not what Philmont is or is about. Never has been and never will be. The program is set up to introduce numerous things to the youth outside their comfort zone. Also the program is for the youth and not the adults. Period. That seems to get lost in all of this discussion. It is supposed to help build the crew into a team. To work as a team and play as a team. Simple and straight forward. No you do not have to go there to do this but that is a different discussion. Even their individual programs including R.O.C.K.S. and the Rayado program teaches leadership and team building. It is not for the individual(s) who want to do their own thing. They will usually never have a good time and sometimes ruin the trip for the whole group. Most of those people will end up leaving scouting in the long run.

If you are educated in the ultra light philosophy and your crew is well trained on this, there is usually no problem with the staff. In actuality, you do not have to use any of their gear as long as you have replacements and can explain in detail how it is used. If the crew leader does the talking, then the ranger will know that he has an experienced crew which makes it easier on them. Again education and training is the key.

The rules at that time were few during my first trek back in 1972. I have been there a total of 5 times (3 in the last 10 years which includes this year). Rules had increased by 10x. Mostly due to accidents and deaths. Some due to stupidity, some due to nature, and some due to health. So it is all about safety and now leave no trace. Also liability is a big issue which has created a lot. So the rules are the rules. If you cannot live with the rules, then do not go. Again this is mainly an adult issue.

Philmont is not for everyone, but I remember the lives I have changed by taking these boys out of their comfort zones and the thanks I get years later for this type of experience. That is what makes these trips or any other backpacking trip worth it.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: Trees and Concentrated Impact on 07/20/2013 17:52:11 MDT Print View

While it is nice to hear about the stand-off sticks, it is too bad the trees are being used as belay pins to provide enough friction to control the rope when lowering down the bear bags ... yup, the tie-off trees are then definitely sacrificial.
Need either tie-off poles to concentrate the impact or start utilizing a modified PCT method, such as the Al Geist system to eliminate that type of impact.

Concentrated Impact is apart of LNT. Old school would have it listed as "Concentrate Impacts in High Use Areas", current practice lists it in "Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces", specifically when talking about high use areas such as "camp on sites that are so highly impacted that further careful use will cause no noticeable impact"

... and there are still the other 6 LNT principles to observe !

I too, unfortunately have seen your observations. With the Wilderness Pledge and LNT preached, Philmont certainly talks the talk, and it should still strive to develop into a showcase to the boys on how best practices are done ... in other words be able to walk the talk.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: "Mainly an adult issue" on 07/20/2013 18:16:37 MDT Print View

Michael D,
One line in your post troubled me. That issue raised in this thread are "mainly an adult issue". Let me respectfully suggest that issues such as LNT are not mainly an adult issue, it about role modeling for the youth and developing their sense of "stewardship" (BP's word) for the wilderness.

Also, going lightweight is not "mainly an adult issue" it is about providing comfortable, safe, physical access to the wilderness experience - being more inclusive to greater cross section of Scouts ... by including those Scouts who aren't high school athletes (those athletes are strong enough, to carry whatever they want). If backpacking is not an enjoyable experience, then the wilderness connection to those Scouts won't be made, it won't hook those boys in.

Philmont has (of course) programs at each camp which greatly helps with the making of a "wilderness" experience for the Scouts ... but the backpacking itself should not be a barrier to that because that's what the Scouts will most likely be accessing & doing when they are in the backcountry near their homes (i.e. when they are not at Philmont).

Providing access to the wilderness experience - that is an adult advisor issue; knowing how to provide Scouts access (comfortable & safe access) and program to the backcountry (= the wilderness experience, which to BP is a key part of the Scouting Experience) ... that's the challenge for an adult advisor ... and that's also about providing the access to the Scouting Experience to all their Scouts so they can develop their teaming & leadership skills, regardless if they happen to be highly athletic or Not.


Edited by tr-browsing on 09/18/2013 17:35:14 MDT.

Bruce Kolkebeck
(cjcanoe) - M

Locale: Uhwarrie National Forest
Philmont in the future on 07/21/2013 10:27:42 MDT Print View

I think that for some Philmont won't be what they were looking for. I am sorry that the gentleman had a problem with his crew and his itinerary was too "program rich". Let's face it, Philmont is just not for everybody.

What I hope for is that us folks that just got back explain to PSR that some of the things they are doing could be done better. I truly believe they listen. You folks on BPL are a resource. Help them out.

My problems this year were:

1. Suppers. The Mountain House meals of previous years worked. They tasted great, there was LESS trash, water was conserved, and lets be honest, there was less smell-ables laying around. They were light and the fuel plus pots required were lighter too. Doesn't the crew have enough to deal with besides clean up? Pasta sides are great and light. You can buy them off the shelf.

2. Itinerary re-routes due to the the fires. We get it, there was an emergency and things had to happen. Our crew had our trek cut from 85 miles to 48. We trained 56 miles of trails, some with elevation gains of 3,500 feet a day. Nobody at logistics asked what we wanted or what we were capable of. It was just assigned. Another crew we met was assigned a trek 30 miles further than they asked for and got in over their heads. There were quite a few cases of heat exhaustion and dehydration this year on crews not being prepared for it. At no time could you get a change in an itinerary even after the danger of the fires had subsided.

3. Trail meals. How much fiber can one person eat? The stuff is heavy too. Cans? Really? We wound up dumping our Gatorade at the first swap box. Each day contained one pound of Gatorade per person. I watched one Staff Camp box up the Gatorades to go back to Services to be used again.

4. Sticks on the trees to protect from bear ropes. Wouldn't it be easier to just drive a few permanent stakes? I mean you've already drilled a hole through two trees.

5. Ultra lite. Frankly I don't know how you guys did it. I started out with a base weight of 16 pounds and put on another 20 with food and 4 liters of water. My go lite jam was way over its max weight and killed me. Next time I'm going to bring a pack with more support just because of the stuff they require. I'll dump their tarp and use a lighter one. I'll only bring one pot and a lighter stove but I'll still get stuck with some of the other stuff. I guess its back to my Kelty Redcloud? Argh!!

I love the place for what it does for the kids. I will also bring another crew back. But please if you have been there and feel the same way let them know. You guys know more than most of how to make it better. They really do listen.


BK 618Kilo2

philmont on 07/21/2013 20:23:06 MDT Print View

We were told that Mountain House was too expensive. Apparently they will re-bid contracts periodically, if not every year, as one might expect. Philmont is something like the 2nd or 3rd largest user of freeze dried food in the world I think I read, behind the US army. I expect MH will come back with a better bid next time.

Fire reroutes were often a joke. We saw itineraries as short as 35 miles. We complained loudly and were given opportunity to change ours in Logistics, so I think if anyone else really complained, they could have too. It was clear little thought went into it however, we were sent to camp, and spent time hiking around in places that hadnt been used for years, for a good reason. After the Ponil fire some years ago, there wasnt a lick of shade for miles. When I say we spent one afternoon with everyone huddling under a single scraggly bush, Im not exxagerating. One campsite we were in did not have a water source on the water board, we found water finally about a mile away up a dry creekbed.

Gatorade is part of your daily calories, about 400 calories of your daily calories if you get two packs, some days only get one. Mostly our boys just took them if we didnt want them.

Yeah, if they are worried about the trees, they need a different solution. Most sites have limited trees worth tieing off too, that ensures they will get overused and damaged.

My gear wt was 8lbs, I carried 4lbs of crew gear (more than my share) for 12lb base. Our heaviest food was 4.5 (~10 lbs per person) days food because we had 3 trail camps in a row. Even with 6L water for a couple of dry camps I only pushed 30 lbs. Most of the time I was in the low 20s, except for one day when I carried the "extra" food bag that had ballooned to about 10lbs. I probably went just over 30 lbs that day. My Circuit worked fine.

If I had to say where most people carry too much weight, its clothing. You simply dont need anything but the clothes on your back, and the lightest sleep clothes possible. Not 3pr underwear, 3shirts, 3shorts, 3socks, etc. Rinse them out when you get chance, and they are dry in 20 min.

I would agree an essentially frameless pack like the Jam is unsuitable for Philmont in dry conditions that requires hauling more than 2-3L water, especially with a baseweight of 16 lbs. Problem is, caution is heavy and they get everyone very paranoid about dehydration. Most are carrying too much water most of the time because of this. A couple of members of our crew would carry 5-6L when they probably only needed 1-2. If they had the containers, they filled them. One carried 8L into a dry camp, about 3L too much. This is where experience makes a big difference. Then they wonder why they are struggling to keep up with everyone else.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/21/2013 20:42:26 MDT.

Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
PSR and Ultralite on 07/22/2013 16:11:38 MDT Print View

I'm not sure if going truly UL is really feasible for Philmont. I tried to do it as much as I could for myself and my crew, but didn't come anywhere near true UL. What we did end up doing helped and the fact we weren't all sub 20lbs didn't in any way make for a less fun trip. My base weight was about 17lbs and I was carrying too much. Part of it was making sure I stuck to the gear list we all were using and part of it was uncertainty about the temps. I wasn't sure if my 40* EE Rev would be enough so I packed some 150 wt wool layers with my other sleep gear. A 40* bag was more than enough. I was even hot on some nights.

Can UL at PSR be done? Sure, but you would need several factors in your favor.

1) Cost - We all know losing lbs is cheap. Losing ounces is not. There are some UL items that are cheap, but others like a down quilt or CF backpack are not. Unless you have a crew (parents and scout) starting out with the goal of dropping a lot of weight, this likely won't happen.

2) Water - I'm happy to say that it appears the drought at PSR is on its way out. We got there and even the staffers had a hard time convincing everyone there was a drought when it was raining 2-3 times a day an hour at a time. Our last night it rained for 16 hours straight with 1.5-2" of rain. For us, water availability was a non issue. The only dry camp we had was at Schaeffer's Pass. Uraca Creek was full and fast flowing (best tasting water there). We ate dinner for lunch. We ended up hauling close to 20L and used every bit of it for the Tooth hike the next day. Carrying water wasn't a big deal for us as we spread it out over every crew member and no one was carrying it in their hands (saw several people do this). Lots of little Platys was easier to handle than one or two big jugs. The scouts all had their Nalgenes (heavy I know) and Smartwater bottles, but most of the time, we only had to fill one at a time because the water sources were there. I can't stand Micropur'd water (tastes like pool water). I used a 2L GravityWorks and it did a great job for our 11 man crew.

3) Cooking - Pick a method your crew likes but be prepared to use the Philmont Way in case your ranger nixes your plans. If you can show your lighter way saves on trash or water usage and your ranger knows the spirit of the rules vs the letter of the rules, you can drop some weight here.

4) Rain gear - FroggToggs - Cheap and effective. Work great at being a wind breaker too.

5) Temperatures - I have to think the 20* recommendation PSR gives you is based on the inability of some manufactures to produce an accurately rated bag. Our highest camp never got below 45*. Most of our crew went with 40-50* bags and were fine. I brought a pair of merino cycling arm warmers and used them once. As heavy as lightweight socks and can be taken on/off without taking your pack off.

6) Shelter - We had a 4 and 3 man tent for the boys. This worked great in a few areas. They were MH Drifters. This setup allowed us to have only 4 tents which meant fewer items to carry. Each person carried about ~1.5-2 lbs of shelter (per MH's weight). It also meant each tent was a little warmer due to there being more bodies inside. That allowed the guys with 50+ degree bags to be fine the whole trip. Bring your own dining fly. We used my older Kelty Noah 9 and it was perfect. A sil 8x10 would be better. Use trekking poles for support. You will need the fly.

7) Food - Take the time to repackage every meal. It's worth the few extra minutes of lost hiking time. Lose the corn nuts and cajun spice trail mix. No one needs roasted peanuts with every meal. The Gatorade is a take it or leave it thing. I was fine with just water. We always had too many leftovers after dinner. Go with one less than you are given. Still plenty of food. Don't have anyone bring "extra" food. They won't use it.

8) Clothing - You only need 2 pr of underwear and lightweight socks. I could have done fine with one shirt too. Leave the extra baselayers at home.

Edited by heycorb on 07/24/2013 16:11:29 MDT.

Liz Fallin
(fallin) - M
Give it a rest on 07/24/2013 11:12:55 MDT Print View

As was mentioned previously, a Philmont trek is not the same as a standard issue backpacking trip. It is designed to push the kids (boys and girls, BTW) out of their comfort zones. So a shorter trek with more program may be appropriate for those who cannot or did not train well. Or it might be appropriate for a crew who really wants a lot of program because they can backpack anytime at home. And maybe a crew who is very fit, or who doesn't care about program, can take advantage of the hundred mile treks. But whatever it is, hiking is not a full-time endeavor. Our crew will do 6-7 full days of hiking over about 80 miles, and thus will have time to do a high ropes course, shoot a .58 blackpowder rifle, and a lot more, over the course of our eleven day trek.

Rules? Things are done differently in a small group with proven skills. But at Philmont, you can't assume that each of the 20K participants has mad skilz in LNT, UL, etc. So the rules are designed to be easy to follow and enforce. That's okay with me, even though I spend my summers backpacking in the Cascades.

Gear? A lot like rules. Sturdy and easy to assemble for any skill level.

Scouting-specific things, like the hymn, grace before meals, etc.? A sense of tradition. Does that mean "the way things have always been done" applies to everything at Philmont? Not a chance. But a sense of heritage is part of the experience. And we, as experienced backpackers, need to respect that.

BTW, I'll be pretending to hike again, in two weeks. I like playing make-believe :-)

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Scouts on 07/24/2013 14:19:34 MDT Print View

I've asked before, but really all that matters is how the Scouts enjoy the experience?

We adults can hash out about the Philmont way, but seems like most Scouts enjoy the experience.

And if it gives the Scout a love for the outdoors, isn't that what is important?

I climbed Mt. Lafayette in blue jeans, Texas Steer workboots and cotton long johns.

Everything quite contrary to what what I do today. :)

But that trip ignited a passion for the outdoors I am thankful for.

Edited by PaulMags on 07/24/2013 18:35:35 MDT.

Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
It is about the kids on 07/24/2013 16:28:24 MDT Print View

None of our guys had a bad time. All they could talk about was going back sometime. PSR has the opportunity to teach a lot of kids methods that they can carry on to other treks but for whatever reason does not in some areas and is inconsistent in others. They are getting better about LNT, but they could do better to practice what they preach. It seems there is an "old school" resistance to adopting and encouraging lower impact strategies because that's not the way it was done 30 years ago. Simply cutting down on the food packaging and places to drop off trash will be big improvements in waste reduction, vehicle traffic and pack weight.

Bruce Kolkebeck
(cjcanoe) - M

Locale: Uhwarrie National Forest
Philmont on 07/26/2013 06:09:45 MDT Print View

One of my guys is going back for Rayado and two have expressed interest in ROCS. My guys had a great time despite the rules, food and pack weight. Good luck Elizabeth and have fun.


Denny Otillio
Philmont on 07/29/2013 15:17:25 MDT Print View

Lord have mercy! You guys need to take chill!

My wife and I have taken 3 crews to Philmont. We did not always agree with the PSR way of doing things. We did not always abide by their procedures or use their equipment...the 8 qt pot never left base camp.

We always had a great time! In my humble opinion, Philmont (or any Scout camp) is not meant to be a "true wilderness experience". Scout camps are meant to expose Scouts and adults to areas and situations that will teach certain skills and spawn interest in further learning. Again, in my opinion, Philmont accomplishes this.

Maybe I did not hear it, but no one told me the Philmont way of doing things is the best or "one and only" way of accomplishing tasks. With 20,000++ people on the reservation each year, there must be a standard to be taught and maintained. I always felt that is what was being conveyed to attendees. Being a veteran of leading many hikes on the AT and elsewhere, I did not always adhere to the PSR way, but I did listen to their instructions and made the decision as to how it best suited our crews...or did not.

Of the thirty Scouts (male & female) that accompaniied us to Philmont, none have expressed regret or ended their trek on a bad note. All (without exception) still thank us for the experience. They my never hike another trail or rehydrate another meal, but they are all proud of what they did for those 11 days on their trek at Philmont.


Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
PSR on 07/29/2013 15:41:01 MDT Print View

I didn't hear directly that the Philmont Way was the only way. There are some rangers that go out of their way to make sure their crew does it by the book so to speak and will have nothing to do with with anything that varies from that way. One of our other crews had one of these guys and he didn't know anything but the absolute extreme of doing it one way (as in showers and clean laundry = angry bear attracting smell even after 2 months). Needless to say they didn't really like him that much. I think the whole reason people aren't chilling is PSR has the opportunity to be a model for many but doesn't fully embrace it. They can and should do more to make LNT easier to follow. Preaching LNT then giving scouts a gigantic pile of trash producing food, far in excess of what they need is making it harder to actually practice LNT. They have a beautiful ranch and anything that can be done to keep it that way with less work should be done. Kids are going to have fun out there regardless, but they are more likely to apply what they learn elsewhere when it allows them to do/get what they need done more easily.

Jim Ledvinka
(ledvinka) - MLife
Re: Philmont - not for everybody on 08/07/2013 14:05:47 MDT Print View

Amen is all I can say

Kevin Gurney
(kwgurney) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: philmont on 08/07/2013 15:27:11 MDT Print View

livingontheroad wrote about frustration with slow/inefficient crew members:

"For instance, the second day hiking, a couple of our adults and kids were making us taking 20 min pack off breaks every 30 min on easy trail. In addition to 5 min water breaks in between. We spent more time resting than hiking in the first 3 hrs. It was absurd to anyone that had done much hiking before.

This wasnt because it was needed, it was because the inexperienced had the wrong expectations of what hiking would be like. They didnt expect to breathe hard for long periods of time, they wanted an easy stroll."

Which leads me to ask, how much preparation did your crew do? How many practice trips (at elevation) did your crew go on? Were people dropped from the crew if they missed too many mandatory outings? You can't just give folks a gear list to pack and show up at Philmont (or any multi-day, mid-to-high mileage trek) and expect it to all go swimmingly. I'm sure you know this, but it really sounds like you had no idea that you had inexperienced backpackers in your midst. Why not? Did your crew leader know that? If not, why not?

A big onus for making sure your crew is "efficient" (whatever you need that to mean) rests of the troop/crew getting themselves equipped, trained and ready to tackle the trek. And I would suggest that part of getting ready is having some open-heart discussions about what each member hopes to get out of the trip. Wouldn't it be better for you to have found out AT HOME that many of your crew weren't interested in hitting the trail before sunup? If you had known that (or seen that from practice outings) then you could have planned to do something else (journaling, photography, zen meditation :)) while the slow pokes were still getting up.

It sounds like you had a very frustrating time in large part because you were traveling with strangers. Am I wrong? Sorry if I am reading too much into your post's tone, but as a "hyper-efficient" type myself, I've been in these situations and it's always better for me to know ahead of time that things are going to be "sloppy"; gives me time to reset the bar lower and find opportunities to help out if possible.

Bruce Kolkebeck
(cjcanoe) - M

Locale: Uhwarrie National Forest
Your article on 08/09/2013 08:28:04 MDT Print View

I found this article very helpful. I wish I had access to it before we left in June this year. Lots of great ways to adapt within the system.

Thanks again,
BK 618Kil02 2013

Brian Macari

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
The Philmont way on 08/09/2013 14:27:03 MDT Print View

Well, this is an interesting discussion. I also just returned from Philmont late last night. While it is a wonderful outdoor experience, and probably the closest thing to high adventure as 98% of the folks hiking will ever get, those things aren't the "most" important aspect of the trek. Learning to sacrifice one's own priorities for the benefit of the group, and this in a transformative way, is the real goal of the program. That is one of the overall goals of the BSA programs in general, in fact. Through First Class it is learning to finish what you start (the scout inculcates that life habit into himself by repeating the edge learning process for all the requirements). For Star, Life and Eagle, it is learning sacrificial leadership. In other words, putting your wishes and needs second to those of the group. There is great satisfaction in that, and great need in organizations of every sort, and society at large. Hiking and the outdoors is simply the means to achieve the aims of scouting. Simply attending the BSA Scoutmaster Leader Specific trainings (and Wood Badge to drive it home) would have been very helpful and illuminating for those posting negative comments about Philmont. Mark Anderson is doing his job, and yes, he has a stern personality - which is needed to hold the line in light of the broad spectrum of individuals who visit the ranch and have differing opinions and skill levels. Lets not forget the litigious nature of the society we live in either. So, to protect the individuals who simply do not have the depth of experience and to protect the BSA from legal issues these rigorous rules and regs are necessary.
In case anyone cares, we had an excellent trek, the youth (co-ed crew) all grew and had fun while at it. This was my sixth trek at Philmont (I have also been to the other BSA high adventure bases) and each crew's experience level has been different. Each crews expectations of their individual trek has been different. All grew in some way and overall enjoyed their experience at Philmont. Yes there are some frustrations, I like freezer bag cooking with cozies, or individual bowl re-hydrating, but the youth managed with the one pot method also. No big deal. As leaders the methods should not be that important, the journey for our youth is.

Daniel Watts
why do I need a title for my comment on 08/11/2013 13:05:53 MDT Print View

I just stumbled onto this discussion after finally clicking on the link in the emails. Myself, I am a three-summer Philmont staffer on the conservation staff (the experience most crews hate to do!) and ultralight backpacker. I am entertained to see the thoughts of the one-trip experts. My first thoughts on reading these comments is that they are full of criticisms from adults without consideration of the most important aspect of the trip:


For most staffers, this was the largest criticism we had about the experience. Adults do most of the complaining, griping, stalling, moaning, etc. Most of the kids just bounce along, revel in the activities, have a great time. Some love it and use the experience for further adventures. Others never touch a backpack again. Many kids are not concerned with the particulars of ultralight or food issues, but may become picky adults like the rest of us. Not every child has the honor of a minimalist parent (mine will, that's for sure). Of course, we adults have plenty to say, but we often forget that we should filter our ideas for the kid's experience. The Philmont journal emphasizes this point.

Most of the staff are college kids working a summer job. They receive a few days of training and get thrown into the fire. They are not experts. Some have not been on treks or extended backpacking themselves. Most probably are not ultralighters themselves, because that seems to be a habit us adults pick up when our bodies get creaky and our preferences more picky.

I think part of the reason they are not flexible is the seasonality of the staff. They also are there to have a good time for the summer and spend some time in the mountains. it is a little much to expect them to be aware of all these alternative ideas that groups present. Also, the Boy Scouts, can be a rigid "take orders first, ask questions later culture." Not exactly the progressive movement on much of anything. And rules are there for safety, previous incidents, liability, like anything else.

The food issue is pretty sorry, though. The Ranch could really benefit from bulk packages to reduce packaging, among many of the other suggestions that I have seen here.

For a beginning backpacker, Philmont is a solid introduction to the habit. Many of us midwesterners and east coasters do not have access to such mountains as youth, we have parents or Scout troops that may not be very adventurous, and the Boy Scouts offer a great opportunity. Of course, many of the principles are not the lowest impact and ultralight, but the long, thoughtful, polite response from a BSA staff member posted here should be appreciated.

Philmont is a certain type of experience that can serve as a gateway for other things. Leadership, working as a team, creating a good experience. As a staff member, i learned those things better a Philmont than almost anywhere else. It should not be considered the premier wilderness experience by any means. If you, your kids, or troop wish to do something different, go ahead and plan a more remote, lower impact, and cheaper trip. Just do not expect to find historical reenactments and live music when you are there.

As for the folks that have the long list of complaints about very minor details, I encourage you to stop and enjoy the moment a little more rather than list out every little thing that could be improved. Obsession over details is part of being a light weight backpacker. But the point of being out of the city is to simplify life for a few days. If your lingering experience of Philmont is a concern over not being able to use turkey bags, you are focusing on the wrong things. Remember the big picture and the experience the kids had.

Also, Philmont has much more difficult programs for kids that would like a different experience for Scouts that want more than a typical trek. You can do long treks that average over 10 miles/day, go into the Valle Vidal, Rayado, ROCS trek. The specialty treks do not have adults, either.

philmont on 08/11/2013 16:34:39 MDT Print View

@ Kevin

Our crew trained with 11 mile days, with packs as heavy, or heavier, as we would carry at philmont, loaded with water weight, in hills. We really had no serious conditioning problems. Our crew was the lightest crew we saw there, in fact, it was the only light crew we saw.

I would say all of the kids besides my son, had a great time. My son was probably the only one really aggravated. Thats if you discount the fact that the rest of the kids, and a few adults, wanted to strangle one boy that kept singing ridiculous songs while we hiked, at the top of his lungs. Even after being asked to be quiet a few times.

My main points were:

1) its not always fun for experienced hikers to hike with inexperienced, or good shape with lesser shape. Despite what some think, its not easy to walk slower than your natural gait because someone is lagging, its annoying. Every crew member has a responsibility to get in shape, and a year to do it. Practice hikes do nothing to accomplish this, they need cardio. Philmont also scares many people into thinking they need to carry more water than is needed for 8 miles. I know from experiences, I can do 10 miles without taking a sip in the right conditions.

2) I think many of the programs are quite superficial, as you would expect in 1.5 hrs or so. They could be more intensive, and longer, and really impart knowledge on a topic. They are however, token programs , and are intended for processing as many people thru as possible, quality be damned. Programs, is not a good enough reason to consider going to Philmont.

3) The hiking isnt all that great either, unless you like walking on horse crap. Its also very crowded. They should avoid having to have crews walk on roads, in fact, thats almost unnacceptable in my book. (I also knew that going in as well)

4) I dont have any real complaints about trail food, it is what it is. Cafeteria food was pretty poor, but they had options, salad bar, peanut butter and jelly, etc.
But I will say the Chuck Wagon dinner, and especially the attempt at cobbler...was absolutely horrible. We would have rather had more trail food.

It misses the mark of what it COULD be by a wide margin. Sacrifices have been made to pump the maximum # of people thru per day, and it really shows.

I didnt go there as a kid, Im not nostalgic, I see it for what it actually is.

As I said, I cut them a lot of slack because they do give an enormous # of inexperienced people, their one and only semi-back country experience they will ever have, at least until they come back with their own kids.

Edited by livingontheroad on 08/11/2013 17:20:40 MDT.