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Packing Light for Northern Tier
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bill berklich

Locale: Northern Mid-West
Packing Light for Northern Tier on 09/03/2013 10:43:31 MDT Print View

Have squeezed BPL for light weight gear and insights on Philmont last year (I stepped off wit 5 days of Phil-Food, 4L water, Crew and personal gear at 38lbs thanks to BPL)I'm hoping to find similiar help for Northern Tier.

I know it's not a "light weight" experience but I'm looking for guidiance on what to bring, what NTier provided gear is like, and what "glad I took that" and "wish I had that" items.

NTier July '15

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Packing Light for Northern Tier on 09/03/2013 11:31:11 MDT Print View

I went in 2001 (it sure doesn't seem that long ago...) so things may have changed. When I went we were issued Eureka Timberline tents. Obviously there are much lighter shelters though I'm sure the Scouts have their own requirements so you may still be limited. I would definitely bring something with full bug netting, the mosquitoes were out in force after dark. We also had a heavy dining fly which was great on the day it didn't stop raining on us. A couple of 8x10 silnylon tarps would be much lighter.
We had some pretty heavy Coleman dual fuel camp stoves. We also used the food they issued which was heavy and bulky as well (MRE lunches, large group-sized dinners) and the food was packed into a giant plastic box before being putting into the pack. I think the plastic box was to keep everything from getting crushed but the food pack was so heavy the first few days that I couldn't carry it on portages (I was a scrawny 14 year old at the time). I'd say if they let you bring your own canister stoves and pots you could probably save some weight. And if you can pack your own food I'm sure you'll be much better off. I hated tuna at the time and guess what we were given for lunch :)
As far as clothing, expect to be wet most of the time. They recommended jungle boots when I went because they had drainage ports and ankle support. A couple of the portages were pretty rocky so the ankle support was nice and the drainage was a must-have when beaching and launching the canoes. I'd pick something more comfortable than jungle boots if I did it again. I wore swimming trunks pretty much the whole time. In the canoes you'll have two people paddling and one sitting in the middle on the floor. Where all the water you picked up launching the canoe will be. I think I rotated three pairs of swimming trunks during the week, I would probably have been fine with two. Sun protection is important too. We wore full-brimmed hats and used lots of sunscreen (and bug spray). I'd consider wearing a long-sleeve fishing shirt next time over applying sunscreen a couple of times a day. Again, I'd probably bring two and rotate them. It got chilly in the evenings, I brought a cheap 30 degree bag and wore light base layer tops and bottoms to bed. I'd store these with your sleeping bag and only wear them in the tent to keep them from getting wet. We got quite a bit of rain when I went so good rain gear was a must, however when my brother went a few years later they were in a drought and had wildfires to worry about.
I think one thing to note is that when I went, everything was shared by everyone. Obviously you have your personal gear like clothing and sleeping bag but it will likely end up in one big bag with two or three other people's gear. IIRC each canoe carried three people and two big bags. On the portages one person would carry the canoe and the other two would each carry a bag. The bag could have camp gear, food, or other group gear. Since you aren't just carrying your own gear one person keeping their weight low won't make a huge difference in the overall scheme. It would be more beneficial if you can convince your whole crew to get on board with the lightweight philosophy. Since you're a few years out that may very well be doable. When I went, it was just my father and me from our troop on a crew of boys and dads from two or three other troops so a coordinated approach to gear wasn't a viable option. If you're going with the same crew you went to Philmont with you are probably in a very good position to "trim the fat" from the group's gear.


Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Former interpreter on 09/03/2013 18:52:12 MDT Print View

Hi Bill, got your PM and thought I'd reply here. I'm not sure exactly what has changed since I worked there (last in 2009).

As stated above, getting your crew on board with lightweight approach makes a big difference in lowering the weight of your personal gear. Yes, the three people in each canoe will pack their personal gear and a tent into one plastic bag-lined"gray whale" portage pack, which is a large Granite Gear. An adult can fit completely inside one, yet many crews barely fit everything in there. Making sure you share gear like toothpaste, sunscreen, fishing tackle, etc. goes a long way here. Also having compact sleeping bags (I haven't seen it lower than 35 degrees at night, more commonly in the 50s) and minimal "extra" clothes helps. Don't skip the sacred dry socks and dry camp shoes...most scouts depend on these to prevent painful fungus.

Clothing I wore/carried:
Athletic t-shirt
Long underwear top
Baseball cap
Stocking cap
Running/hiking/thrift store dress socks (wet)
Thick warm socks (sacred/dry)
Wet boots/shoes
Moccasins or old sneakers (dry)
Running shorts
Wind pants
Rain jacket

If projected lows below 50 or lots of rain, may add thermal bottoms
If projected lows below 40, add light fleece or thermal jacket

*I usually didn't pack a sleeping bag. I slept in a silk liner bag 90% of the time--which I don't recommend for clients--so that may tell you that I'm a bit of a warmer person. I was never cold with the above, but keep in mind that scouts are tired and wet at least on their lower body much of the time from portaging. Doing it again I would probably wear a button-down sun shirt instead of t-shirt.

Finally, don't allow every person to bring "extra" hydration packs, daypacks, fishing kits clipped to their Nalgenes, etc. You will have to hand-carry paddles and bottles anyway, so at most have one tiny daypack pack per boat for sunscreen, camera, rain gear, etc. (but this can easily be nixed). Whoever carries this will ALSO have to carry one of the other two packs or a canoe.

For group gear, it's up to you what you want to bring your own or use from the base. Figure out what tent configuration works for your crew: I have seen crews carry their own tents but if each adult brings his own two-person mass-market tent, it won't save much. Northern Tier will provide two-person and four-person tents, so in a crew of two advisors and six youth it usually works best (within the regulations on youth/adult cohabitation) to get two 2-person tents and one 4-person model.

One could bring group pots, stoves, etc...but I have very rarely seen this done. This is because the style of food and cooking is fuel-intensive and heavy by nature. I simply recommend asking your interpreter if there are any pots or pieces of group gear that you could get away without, and then thanking him or her for removing one cursory pot out of the 4-6 you carry. If you get a talented dessert gourmand or fish-fryer for an interpreter, you may not mind.

I'll try to keep an eye on the thread; let me know if you have any further questions.

Edited by RWSlack on 09/05/2013 21:32:22 MDT.

Jeff Creamer
(jcreamer) - MLife
NT tips on 10/15/2013 19:29:32 MDT Print View

First let me reiterate what a great time you are going to have at NT. First and foremost, pay the extra fee for the Kevlar canoes. Don't question it or waste time doing research. Just call them and request the Kevlar. You will carry that boat for many miles depending on the route you choose. The difference between 45 lbs and 70 lbs is even greater by the end of the week.
Overall, you just don't need much stuff. Day clothes and sleeping clothes and that's it. I wore a lightweight short sleeve top with a long sleeve shirt over it that I could wear for sun/bug protection. Bottoms I had zip off pants/shorts that stayed long most of the time. Camp shoes are important because your boots will be wet. Invest in good socks (wool) with liners (to keep the sand and grit out). Also invest in good boots. I wore OTB self draining boots and they were worth every penny. A good wide brimmed hat is also nice (I took a Tilley airflow and it was great foe sun and rain).
Finally, the only gear supplied by NT that I would try to replace was the tents. They were heavy and three have to be fit into one portage pack carried by a single individual (called the gray whale in NT slang).
Have a gret time and let us know about your trip. NT was my favorite of all the high adventure scout camps.

PS. Bear trap loop is very challenging. It was great and very scenic, but I wouldn't do it again.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Northern Tier on 10/16/2013 07:42:42 MDT Print View

Northern Tier can be really fun. One of the nice things about it is that you can custom tailor your trek to your liking.

Our group had no desire to do portages. We found a route that had only one short portage. That enabled our boys to do the things they wanted to do and reduced the importance of the weight of our gear.

That being said, my son and I still packed light. My favorite piece of gear was my Hennessy hammock. Reasonably light, super comfortable for sleeping and many more options for places to set up.

My son participated in a lot of scouting events and always said NT was his favorite.

Have fun and be sure to post a trip report when you get back.

Todd Kunze

Locale: North Coast
NT hammock camping question on 12/21/2013 05:36:50 MST Print View

What size tarp did you use with your HH? Was it a regular diamond shaped one? Did it provide enough rain protection?