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Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback
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Brian Crain
(brcrain) - F

Locale: So Cal
Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback on 10/31/2013 14:37:55 MDT Print View

Hello BPL,

I've been a lurker for a while and wanted to get some feedback. I've been backpacking a while now though just recently making an effort to add (or subtract?) the LIGHT to it personally. I believe that between these forums and the numerous resources out there I've got a shot at cutting my weight in half as my "traditional" weight was 50-55# with several pieces of redundant gear. I trekked Philmont (626AA-2 trek 12) this year with another unit and can't wait to return. But, that's not why I'm here...

I am working with a Troop that has, for the most part, historically been a front-country unit. Years back they had made a trip to Philmont and there was a small group of BPers but they have aged out for the most part.

We have the trailer and all of the massive gear that goes with it and most of our Scouts very much prefer this style of camping. To compound the issue, some of our older Scouts were on a trip a BP few years back to Mt San Jacinto and weren't quite prepared/conditioned for it and have decided that they really don't care for BPing in general. Dragging these guys back is another challenge.

I have an opportunity with the newer Scouts, many of which appear to be interested in BPing, to right the ship and introduce them them to the joys of BPing and my goal is to "get it right" so that they enjoy the backcountry as much as I (we?) do.

As a Troop we have some gear that will help facilitate this: I've been able to loan out 6 external frame Scout size BPs in good shape, we have more than enough 2-man BPing tents to issue to the Scouts, we also have the 2-pot MSR cook sets and several canister stoves and I've just secured a pair of 12x12 Kelty tarps for dining flys. The troop gear seems to be covered for the most part and now it is down to individual gear.

I have provided my Scouts and parents links to Bob Shaver's articles on gear for Scouts and adults as well as Michael Ray's dissertation on Backpacking: Smart, Fun, Light.

We held a recent frontcountry camp and used BPing gear and methods to give the Scouts an opportunity to evaluate their gear, get used to packing/loading, discussed layers, etc.

We are holding a unit backpacking training in a few weeks which will really be a 5-mile "loop" starting/ending at a frontcountry site. Prior to stepping off everyone will be issued their food and crew gear, weighed, checked for pack fit/adjustment, etc. Along the route we'll break every 20-30 minutes and cover some specifics of BPing and the backcountry. When we return we'll cover specifics on site selection, the cook sets, and an evaluation of the gear that we brought (or didn't). We'll be at elevation and are expecting highs in the mid-50s and lows in the mid-30s.

I guess I'm looking for some feedback from the experts here. My goal is to help facilitate a backcountry program for these Scouts. Also, I'd like to get them started down the right/light path as opposed to 90# kids with 40# packs.

What am I missing?

Appreciate any feedback!


Edited by brcrain on 10/31/2013 14:39:19 MDT.

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Pick great places to go on 11/01/2013 19:17:39 MDT Print View

If you want to get your kids hooked, take them to really cool places. Give them something really interesting to see, especially places that are only accessible by backpacking.

Make sure you do pack checks before the trips. I have one boy whose mom took "Be Prepared" to extremes and sent him with a ton of stuff. Cleaving through the extras makes a big difference on the trail. Also, pay special attention to the lightest boys. Our newest scouts, even with a very trimmed down list, do not have the ability to carry much in the way of troop gear. So we load up the older boys and adults if necessary and make sure the smaller boys have as light a load as possible.

Sounds like you have a good start. Good luck.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback on 11/01/2013 19:42:25 MDT Print View


Joseph made excellent points and I would add a short shakedown hike with full packs and practice using their gear. Show the kids how to scrutinize their gear without their parent stuffing extra cloths, towels, etc. into their packs.

John Smith
(jcar3305) - F

Locale: East of Cascades
Another idea to get your boys excited on 11/04/2013 20:50:30 MST Print View


Great points thus far. I would add that you might consider contacting your scout office and find out what other troops are really into BPing. Then contact those troops and see if you and a couple of your more enthusiastic kids can go along on a trip to bring back that knowledge to your troop.

Once they get back with pictures of waterfalls they hiked to and the deer they saw or the racoons that snatched their gear and the stories just get bigger and bigger the other boys will be hooked. The enthusiastic ones then get to teach and they will have a great time.

Small initial trips are important to get the boys used to carrying their gear, using it, sleeping outside etc...

Finally, I recommend that you learn by heart about 10-12 constellations and point them out to your boys as the campfire dims or after lights out in fire banned areas. The boys will be amazed and listen to you even more. Small things like this carry a lot of weight to boys. As they learn them they feel like they get into a secret club.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback on 11/04/2013 21:53:45 MST Print View

Brian, I wrote 2 articles here at BPL that you can forward to all the scouts in the troop. They are titled "What a Scout/Beginner Needs for Backpacking". This will help the parents get an idea of the thing they should get for a scout (regardless if front or back country camping).

What a Scout/Beginner Needs for Backpacking: Part 1
What a Scout/Beginner Needs for Backpacking: Part 2

Also, start off with short easy hikes to fun places. Even if the group is small at first, the boys will tell the others how fun the outing was and the word will spread.

Edited by bestbuilder on 11/04/2013 21:54:30 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback on 11/04/2013 23:27:10 MST Print View

It is oft repeated that you need to keep the "outing" in "Scouting". Have a minimum of an overnight trip each month. Ideally, make it a rain-or-shine overnight, but if your troop isn't at that point yet, at least have rain-day plans (indoor bounce house, swimming pool, museum, etc). Keep those plans in reserve and pull them up as needed. Maybe even to the point of having swimming belt loop and merit badge requirements to dangle in front of them on such a trip.

In months with predictably poor weather, do a cabin trip near a ski / sledding area, or an overnight to a Youth Hostel in an adjacent city with cool attractions, etc.

My preference would be something like, "Second full weekend of each month, we do a trip." and politely explain to anyone who wants you to reschedule each month because of their vacation / school break / second-cousin's wedding that consistence is worth a lot.

If you have the volunteers, you can expand to first Saturday is a day hike, second weekend is a overnight, third Sunday afternoon is a service activity followed by pizza, etc. Not every parent has to go on every trip. If a few parents can handle the day hikes, other more experienced leaders can focus on the overnights.

It is also very positive to have a big, iconic trip out there in the future. A week-long, summer backpacking trip, for instance. Don't be afraid to set limits - it is better if you do.

"You must complete 4 of: cooking, camping, first aid, emergency preparedness, pioneering, or swimming merit badges."


"You must have attended at least 8 of the previous overnights."


"you must have advanced a rank in the last year."

You want the big, iconic trip as a carrot for more active participation by the more experienced, more self-sufficient Scouts. Doing so will help you keep the older boys for longer. If a week-long backpacking trip seems like too much this year, aim for one next year and spend a week at a BSA base camp or a national park and do a bunch of day hikes in the area.

edited to add: lay out a calendar at the beginning of each year. As an attraction. For planning purposes. So the Scouts and families know this troop plans to be active.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 11/04/2013 23:29:11 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Unit is fairly new to BPing (and certainly BPing light): looking for feedback on 11/05/2013 11:24:40 MST Print View

David, your points are spot on. Especially the first four paragraphs. If you want a sucessful program this is a recipe for success. I tried it and it works!

Edited by bestbuilder on 11/05/2013 11:25:11 MST.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Great advice on 11/05/2013 12:06:32 MST Print View

Some great points. Our Troop is very active - trip a month rain or shine - probably 2/3 backpacking and 1/3 drive up of some sort (usually activity based like canoing, fishing, kayaking, beach etc...). The persistence this tends to foster is absolutely positive for keeping the outing in scouting. My son very much digs backpacking and the camping/fishing trips. It's definitely the carrot for him and most of the boys. We do pack checks for all Scouts below first class which is a good practice and insures boys aren't bringing a ton of wasted or excess gear. The Troop doesn't have a real lightweight bent however, although I'm working to change that and there are individual Scouts who have taken to lightweight approaches.

Our Troop does not necessarily do as good a job of allocating weight among older and younger scouts even among Patrols. Younger Scouts won't get saddled with group tarps typically - but will generally be expected to carry their share of the Patrol food (generally not cooking gear since the younger Scouts aren't stove approved). I've worried that this approach can lead to some boys having too large a load the first time out which is a pretty quick turn off - although some use it as motivation to lighten up so it goes both ways.

I like the suggestions about being a bit more thoughtful about making sure the youngest scouts have the lightest loads for a variety of reasons - the obvious strength and safety ones but also to make sure they have a better time early on.

I will say this - one aspect of each scout carrying their own stuff is what an older scout told my son - generally your pack will not get heavier (usually lighter as you gain experience) while you get stronger and bigger. The hardest trips are the first year...

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
NEW SCOUTS AND BACKPACKING... on 11/06/2013 12:49:58 MST Print View

I've been a SM for the last three years and although I wouldn't consider us a BPing troop, we will go out two or three times a year besides one crew to Philmont in 2012. One lesson recently learned... There's a great wilderness area in the mountains not far from here (Lost Creek Wilderness for any curious) so I thought a short trip would be a perfect intro for a group of new scouts. Everything was far better than expected except for one thing. I failed to constrain the roster and ended up with 18 boys plus 12 adults! Across the board, there were only two adults with any BPing experience. I learned my lesson.

Not to extend the diatribe but recommend leaders introducing young scouts to backpacking create food kits for the boys. Each boy got a gallon ziploc with an assortment of jerky, trail mix, nuts, fruit leather, oatmeal, etc. I did this for everyone on the trip above as a means to teach boys and parents the kinds of food to consider for backpacking. This was very popular with the parents on the trip, although the 250 linebacker dad thought it was just the morning's snack bag!

As a surprise and definitely not UL, I packed in pudding packs for everyone's Saturday night dessert. That, too, was a hit!

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
good food suggestion on 11/06/2013 20:38:38 MST Print View

That's a really good point to have fun with food. A previous scoutmaster is famous for his custom gorp, especially the gummi worms he throws in. He brings a bag for each person on our longer trips. I do a decent homemade beef jerky.

One trip an older scout surprised us all by hiking in with a full watermelon!

Edited by rushfan on 11/06/2013 20:40:39 MST.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
car camping to backpacking switch on 11/12/2013 20:43:22 MST Print View

Our troop was a purely car camping when my son joined six years ago. I started leading day hikes and backpacking trips off the regular calendar, and most of the parents of the younger scouts were in favor of that change. The older scouts and their parents were totally not interested. The next year we got some backpacks on the regular calendar, and more older scouts moved on from scouts. The third year we were a full on backpacking troop. It would not have happened without a number of parents being in favor of it and willing to lead some trips, plus the old troop leadership aging out.

What you are doing is a good thing, whether its ultra light or not. Best wishes. Our troop blog (for pictures of our trips) is

My blog with pics and gear lists for scouts and adult scouters is here:


Edited by rshaver on 11/12/2013 20:46:03 MST.