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:
IT'S ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE FOR THE KIDS!!!
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.