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My experience at Philmont...
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Jeff Creamer
(jcreamer) - MLife
My experience at Philmont... on 07/13/2014 15:28:37 MDT Print View

Just got back from Philmont Friday evening. This post may ramble a little, but I wanted to share my experiences with the group in hopes this may help those traveling to Philmont in the future. I read multiple posts on this forum and the Philmont Forum that were very helpful to me and my crew. So here goes...
First, if you haven't been to Philmont, you will have a great time. It was a wonderful experience for me and my guys. We had a full crew of 8 youth and 4 adults. All the youth were 15-17 years old.
To begin, I will discuss the gear we carried. Unfortunately, the amsteel is a no-no as most of you already know. They cited concerns about fraying and the small diameter. We didn't push the envelope on this or any other subject and just took the Phil-ropes and hiked on. They are somewhat heavy and bulky, but the guys never complained. Our cooking method used jetboils. In most cases, we opened the bags and poured in the correct amount of water and applied a small piece of duct tape to the top after rolling it closed. 10+ minutes later the meal was done. This was very efficient with minimal clean up. We all took cool whip bowls to eat from. This was nice because they all stacked together and were super light weight. In addition, when we returned to camp, we placed them in the recycle bin and avoided carrying them home. We did take two four quart pots with coozies made from insultex. We cooked in these the first two nights before using the bags the meals came in. This was not because our ranger was with us and we did not try to deceive him. In fact, we were up front with him about our plans and he was ok with it. However, he was required to show us the "Philmont way" of cooking the first night (it took two hours from hot water to final clean up).
I will say that I packed roughly by the Philmont guidelines and was glad I did. We are from the southeast and it is hot right now. But, in New Mexico, we experienced temperatures that dropped to 39 degrees one night. It also rained and haled on us the previous day. I was glad to have all the cold weather gear they recommended. My most used gear was my Marmot precip rain jacket and my Melanzana hoodie. These were both excellent pieces of gear. I also had a Black Rock down hat that was very cozy at night. While a little pricey, it is a great hat that weighs nothing. I did not wear high top shoes. There were a few times I thought I may regret that as the terrain is very rocky. However, I had no problems with my ankles.
I usually use hiking poles and have questioned whether I needed them or not. Let me say that if you are over 40, you should consider taking a set of sticks with you. The ups are nice, but the downs are where they really save your knees.
I took a ULA Circuit and my son had a Catalyst. I have never had problems with volume in the circuit but I will say that for Philmont, the Circuit is a tight squeeze. I would go for the Catalyst if I had it to do again. Mainly because I overloaded the Circuit. With that said, it was still very comfortable and handled my load well. I stepped on to the trail with 42 lbs total (water, food, crew gear, etc.). That is the heaviest load I have carried in many years and had vowed to keep my weight below 35 lbs. It just didn't happen. Mainly becuase of the bulk of the crew gear and food and extra water.
My tent was shared with one other individual and was a BA Copper Spur UL3. I really liked this tent and it held up very well to heavy rain and lots of wind. Could have used a two man tent, but for the minor weight difference, the extra room was nice - not to mention the space needed due to BO.
Regarding showers, we had no shower for the first 8 days. We were ripe! Then we went into Beubein and the showers were very cold. I'm talking Titanic cold. Needless to say these southern boys danced around in the shower and knocked off the top layer. But it was less than fun! We really did not get another shower opportunity until base camp.
I took some wipes made by a company called Harninger labeled as "Action Wipes". These were really nice to use every other day or so. They contain eucalyptus and tea tree oil.
Regarding Philmont, we had a great time and the people were super nice. Try to be patient that first day as check in is a long, slow procedure even if you are prepared (as we were). Also, as many have already pointed out, your ranger is luck of the draw. We got a great guy who was very open to talking about ideas of light weight hiking. However, he was also going to do things the Philmont way. So we smiled and went along for the ride.
The programs were excellent - I especially recommend Cyphers mine and the stomp as well as Crater Lake and the campfire they have.
I hope to go again one day and look forward to hearing about your treks.
Best of luck.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: My experience at Philmont... on 07/14/2014 10:27:07 MDT Print View

Good report. We're leaving tomorrow morning so I'll post a report when we return. This is my third and likely last Philmont trip, I'm going to try to enjoy every minute.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: My experience at Philmont... on 07/14/2014 18:03:14 MDT Print View

Thanks for the update, Jeff.

We're staying up near Colorado Springs right now and will head down this Thursday. I guess Ill leave my ironwire in the car.



JC Root
(evilroot) - F

Locale: Central Oregon
Son is on Trek #35 just hit the trail this afternoon. on 07/15/2014 17:13:18 MDT Print View

My son is on Trek #35 as I speak they hit the trail at noon today. They are using a SPOT so I can track there pace each day. Glad I had him pack his Frog Tog and down jacket looks like rain most days.

william cheney
My experience at Philmont on 07/16/2014 06:26:40 MDT Print View

Excellent post. I especially agree about the trekking poles. I would not that frog tog rain gear while "heavy" did provide some warmth and protection from hail.

We were crew 611-T-01 early this summer.

Roy Amaral
philmont on 07/26/2014 13:56:38 MDT Print View

I just got back yesterday.

From a New Engander's perspective the weather was quite warm. The rain never lasted long. We did get one hailstorm. Everybody hid under the fly or in tents until it passed.

I only used my rainpants for the conservation project.

The JRB sierra sniveler was too warm most nights and I only slept in a pair of running shorts.

I think my flece pullover was probably unnecessary. I wore it a couple of mornings but my dryducks rain jacket would have been enough. It did make a nice pillowcase though.

I would recommend a foam sleeping pad over the inflatable I brought. It was impossible to find a level spot to sleep at some camps and the inflatable pad had me sliding into the end of my tent.

Cimmaroncito had awesome hot showers.

Most of the backcountry water tastes pretty bad so think twice before swapboxing the drink mixes.

Dishes that stack would have made life easier for the cooks.

The trip was lots of fun and the scenery was unbelievable.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Back for almost 24 hrs & already miss it. on 07/30/2014 16:11:32 MDT Print View

Just got back yesterday evening after a day’s worth of driving to Denver and flying back to Maryland.

So beautiful. I can still hear myself humming the hymn under my breath.

Although we were on itinerary 10, I was pretty surprised how strenuous a few of the days were, having gone twice before on much higher numbered itineraries. One day in particular had us ascend up 2260 feet and down another 1760 feet over just a handful of miles. Pretty intense for a band of not-so-experienced 14 to 17 year old’s, two of which only weighed 186 pounds combined. We spent pretty much the first half the trek up in the Valle, bushwhacking most of the time (great for the kids to hone their map/compass skills), and staying at all LNT sites. Our fist camp back in Philmont was at Baldy Town, where the general store, shower, PtB's, and Red Roof Inn's awaited us in all their glory.

Fortunately, the boys did marvelously well, and all were ready and able to hike up Baldy on day 9. Rain-wise, we were very lucky. Had an hour’s worth of a storm on day 2, and steady rain on our last day on the trail. We finally got hammered with a big storm in Base Camp on our last evening. However, on a daily basis, we did witness pretty intense storms which were clearly dumping on other crews in different parts of the Ranch. Temp-wise, the hottest was when we were crossing through the Beatty Lakes area in the Valle with 100+ degree temps. Since I always hike with pants & long sleeved shirts, this was ok. Some of the kids were too exposed for this, however. As Irony would have it, our coldest morning was earlier that same day, waking up in 40 degree temps at Whiteman Vega.

Here are my thoughts on my primary clothing/gear decisions:

1) Pack: Z-packs Arc Blast 60. Although smaller than “required”, I absolutely loved using it. I had more than enough room for crew rope/food/first aid kit and even wore a 6 quart pot on top of the pack. Much to my chagrin, I was still carrying in the high 30’s low 40’s, due-in-part to my much needed ability to carry crew gear. Regardless, the pack could easily handle the weight the entire time. I was still carrying a good 10/15 lbs. less than the other advisers.
2) Tent: Tarptent Rainshadow II. Worked great for me & another adviser. I accidentally forgot the rear pole, however, so I rigged a pair of extra trekking poles to prop up the end of the tent. Worked pretty well, imho (and saved a few ounces along the way!)
3) Sleeping: Contrary to the general recommendations, I used a 50 degree EE Enigma quilt. I also had a Cap 4 Hoodie and a Luke’s UL down vest/sleeves to supplement my sleeping system as-needed. I was extremely happy with this system, both for it’s lightness and it’s versatility. I wore the Cap 4 on 4-5 nights, used the vest with it twice and the sleeves/vest combo once. I had a dedicated sleeping t-shirt & pj’s, as “required”. Between the down vest & Cap4, I chose not to bring a fleece. I’d do it again this same way.
4) Pad: I used a Neo-Rest combined with an 1/8” Lawson InsuLite pad for extra firmness & versatility (I used it over top of the Neo). At Baldy town, we were sleeping on such a slope, I folded part of the foam pad under the top portion of the Neo, to keep it all from sliding to the bottom of the tent. It worked pretty well.
5) Other clothing: Two pairs of long sleeved shirts & long pants, underpants & socks. All mornings/evenings I wore a Squamish Hoody windshirt. I love that thing. Only needed my real rain jacket three times. Taking a chance, I brought along Montbell Dynamo wind pants as my “required” rain pants, and needed to wear them only once. Had a small beanie I threw on my head as-needed.
6) Trekking poles: I always use them, but often ended up letting the boys use them who really needed them more than me.
7) Boots/shoes, wore my re-soled Asolo 555’s. Heavier than what’s out there nowadays, but are very durable and I adore them. No blisters and I used single sock liners the whole time. I would always slip into some light slipper/shoes as soon as I could, though.
8) Misc:I brought along a T-rest chair kit. Used it twice – too cumbersome to work with. I think a dedicated chair would have been better, albeit heavier. I brought a pair of light binoculars & was really happy to whip them out once in a while. There’s a lot to look at out there. I had a large pack towel. I always have it along with my Tarptent, to wipe off as much rain/condensation as I can before packing. The towel has all day to dry out, dangling from my pack.
9) Phone/GPS: Brought an iPhone, a battery case, and a Go Zero solar charger. It all worked very well. (On At&t’s network), I got 4g at base camp, spotty cell reception at Sioux, Seally Canyon, spotty 3g at Whiteman Vega, good 3g on the peak behind Iris Park, Baldy Town, and 4g on top of Baldy. The wife wept with joy when me & our son FaceTimed her on Baldy’s summit). Both Gaia GPS and “Topo Maps” were pretty invaluable, especially considering all the bushwhacking the kids had to do in the Valle. Prior to the trip, I used “MapWarper” to bring in the actual Philmont map sections into Gaia, and use them an an overlay. Topo Maps is a great app for crisp maps and great bearing data. Fwiw, I had heard that a crew just a week earlier had been lost for THREE days up near Seally Canyon, even having cell reception.

Anyway, that’s my brain dump for now. Hope it helps.



John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
We're back too on 08/03/2014 14:36:01 MDT Print View

We've been back about a week. My thoughts on my 3rd trek as an advisor:

Fantastic trip. We were on itinerary 12 which was a good mix of hiking and activities in the south country. Small crew of 7 with 2 advisors and 5 boys (2 with experience and 3 first timers). The thing that struck me most was the advantage of a small crew is the boys formed a single, tight knit group and got along fantastically. I remarked several times that the ratio of laughter to complaints was remarkably high. That really helped make the trip enjoyable.

Personal Gear:
My base weight was 10 1/2 pounds including a Slinglight chair and umbrella (my 2 luxury items). I still left base camp with 30 pounds including crew gear, 4 days of food and extra water since our first camp was a dry camp. That was the lowest pack weight I saw of anyone weighing packs at the departure point.

ZPack Hexamid Duo tent, Exo backpack, down bag, NeoAir Xlite pad, Montbell Extremely Light down jacket, DriDucks raingear, minimal extra clothing. Inov8 Rocklite 295 trail runners with green superfeet. I used thin black nylon low cut socks instead of thick hiking socks. Oh, and a pair of Injini socks. I love those things. I had no foot issues whatsoever.

I used every piece of gear that I took. I thought long and hard about the chair, but decided to take it. I do like that chair, and have taken it on all my previous Philmont treks. But if I ever go back, I won't take it again. I will take a sit pad though.

Crew Gear:
I took my big Jacks R Better silnylon tarp for a dining fly, a 4 quart Open Country pot with MYOG top and bottom insulation, 2 MSR Windpro stoves, 10 2 litre Platypus containers for dry camps. I'm glad we took the big tarp. I took a smaller cuben tarp last trip and we never had a drop of rain. I was going to take that one again until I experienced the rains we got in base camp on arrival day.

Hygene: I take two small, light rectangular Tupperware type bowls as a wash system. I fill both with water, squirt a few drops of campsuds into the wash bowl and wash my face, armpits, legs and especially feet before going to bed each night. I also used a cuben dry bag as a clothes washing bag which doubles as a dirty clothes bag. That worked well also.

Torrential rains the first day in base camp. Ironically that came at the exact moment our ranger was explaining Philmont was in the middle of a long term drought. More torrential rain that night while we were still in the base camp tents. That experience helped shape some of the crew gear choices we made the next morning.

We had rain every day including a good downpour with hail day 1 on the trail while we were climbing up to Window Rock. I use a GoLite mylar umbrella and it was fantastic. I still get grief from the crew about it, but I'm hiking dry while they are getting pelted with hail. :)

I also used the umbrella as shade during a long, hot road hike on Uracca Mesa. BYOS.

Philmont isn't for everyone, but I certainly enjoy it and the boys had a fantastic time. This is likely my last trip there so I tried to soak up every moment.

David Barnes
Trek 705 Mini AAR on 08/04/2014 10:06:29 MDT Print View

Here are my thoughts on my primary clothing/gear decisions:

1) Pack: Deuter Air Lite 75-10. A bit bigger than “required”, I absolutely loved using it. I had more than enough room for crew gear/food/first aid kit etc... Much to my chagrin, I was still carrying in the high 30’s low 40’s, due-in-part to my much needed ability to carry crew gear and the weight of food/water. Regardless, the pack could easily handle the weight the entire time. I was still carrying a good 5-10 pounds less than the other advisers.
2) Tent: Tarptent Rainshadow II with MSR Ground Hog Stakes. Worked great for me & another adviser. Kept us dry in a 5 inch rain storm. Nearly always the first tent up and down. Used some Polycro weather sheeting as our foorprint.
3) Sleeping: Contrary to the general recommendations, I used a 30 degree Enlightened Equipment Rev X quilt. I also had some Capilene 3 longies and a fleece beenie to supplement my sleeping system as-needed. I was extremely happy with this system, both for its lightness and potential versatility. I never needed to wear the Cap 3s and wore the beanie once. I had a dedicated sleeping t-shirt, socks and shorts, as “required”.
4) Pad: I used a Thermarest Prolite (77 x 25). Heavier than my Thermarest Z-Lite, lighter than a BA Insulated Air Core. I wanted more comfort but I also wanted some padding in case it sprang a leak. The Prolite worked great.
5) Other clothing: I wore an Outdoor Research LS ½ zip top (5 oz. max) and some nylon convertible pants the whole time on the trail along with a Lowe Alpine Polartec Fleece top as needed. I wore a Marmot Precip on a near daily basis for the afternoon rains and a Costco 850 Fill Puffy on one 40 degree morning at Comanche peak (it was otherwise my pillow). I also wore a Foreign Legion inspired Columbia Cap with tails such that I needed no sunscreen at all.
6) Trekking poles: I always used them, very helpful on descents and functioned as my tent poles.
7) Boots/shoes, wore Moab Ventilators-Mids. One simply does not need a full on boot to hike Philmont. 1 lb. on foot = 5 lb. – 7 lb. on back, save the weight, both actual and virtual. No blisters using Costco Merino wool socks. I also worn some OP brand slippers from Walmart as a camp shoe because they weighed about 8 oz. total and were a nice change of pace.
8) Misc.: I brought along a Grand Trunk, 10 oz. folding stool. It was certainly worth the weight to sit off the ground. I think a dedicated chair would have been even better, albeit heavier.
9) Phone/GPS: Brought 2 iPhones (work and personal) and a battery case. It all worked ok. Both phones (T-Mobile and Verizon), had pretty spotty cell reception outside of Base Camp. Frankly, they were of more use as a camera. Indeed, I would bring just a point and shoot if I had to do it again.

10) UltraLight Efforts.

WORKED: 4 “Aquafina” and 1 “Gatorade” bottles for hydration instead of 5 Nalgenes or the 2 Nalgene/ 3 liter bladder combo. Polycro footprints as mentioned above. Brought a lighter 8 liter pot from home (thrift store find) , Tier One gear re tent and sleeping quilt along with packing light re personal gear. Duece of Spades Cathole Trowel 0.6 oz. total. Super light and great digging power.
DID NOT WORK: Paint strainers instead of the Frisbee as I brought 4 and should have brought one for every day or just used the Frisbee as a used one is simply gross. Polymer Slotted Spoon-constant exposure to truly boiling water made it a bit soft. The issued metal one would have been better. Amsteel Ropes. While our Ranger would have let us take them, he expressed valid concerns re throwing them over the high bear lines and general ease of hauling up. We followed his lead and used the issued ropes and the 2-3 pound weight penalty associated with them.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Oh, and on the subject of bear ropes on 08/04/2014 15:42:17 MDT Print View

Our crew ended up using the Philmont bear ropes to climb out of a steep ravine.

I'm not going into the details here, but we were very thankful to have those ropes. I can't imagine trying to grip the Amsteel ropes trying to do what we had to do. :)

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Oh, and on the subject of bear ropes on 08/06/2014 08:55:14 MDT Print View

fwiw, we used Ironwire for our oops rope, and standard Philmont rope for everything else.

a good compromise. Our Ranger didn't care one way or another.