May 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm #1228843
Backpacking light with scouts is a challenge. For one thing, scouts are pretty hard on their gear. Scout age kids tend to be pretty neglectful of things like packs, tents, and clothing, so ultralight equipment and clothes don't last long when used by scouts. Anything durable enough to survive use by scouts is unlikely to be ultralight.
Also, I've found that most scouts' parents aren't all that excited about buying expensive lightweight sleeping bags, jackets, etc. for their boys.
After 2 decades of taking scouts on backpacking trips, I go for a "sort of light" approach. I weed out the criminally heavy clothing and equipment, and try to guide the boys towards lighter weight options.
Here is a copy of the gear list I give to parents ahead of our annual week-long backpacking trips in the summer.
It is not really an ultralight list, but it does help to give the parents an idea about what to bring.
Even with the list, the boys try to bring some truly useless stuff on these trips, so I have pretty rigorous pack checks ahead of time to weed out the excess gear.
As far as shelter goes, we just use regular 4 man tents (Kelty Gunnison). Split the weight 4 ways, and it's really not that bad. Colorado and Wyoming can be pretty mosquito infested, and it's good to be able to give the boys protection from bugs, even though tarps would be lighter.
I use a Coleman Peak 1 Xpedition two burner stove, and bring a couple of large pots and an aluminum griddle for cooking trout.
One thing that has really saved weight and also cut down on the task of pumping water is that we tend to use Katadyn water purification tablets for most of our water purification needs. I typically bring several big Platypus water bags, fill them in a stream and leave them to purify overnight with the tablets. Much lighter and less work than pumping water for a big group.
Here's the list I use for summer backpacking trips in the Rockies:
Necessary Equipment: Anything not on this list must be approved by me. This is a long and very strenuous trip, and only the essentials should be carried.
DO NOT BRING iPods, radios, gameboys, or other useless stuff. Also, because we will be out for so long, more than 10 miles from the trail head, all of this equipment is necessary. If there are some items you don't currently have, I can let you know where to obtain them at the lowest cost. I may also have items which may be borrowed.
Water bottles (2 quarts total) A “Camelback” or similar bladder is also ideal.
Flashlight A small flashlight such as a "mini mag light" or a small headlamp is best. Do not bring a big, heavy flashlight. If you conserve batteries, an extra set of batteries will not be necessary.
Chapstick and sunscreen
Insect Repellent. NOT a metal aerosol can. Small squeeze bottle or spray bottle. Best is Ultrathon brand.
Map (we will provide the boys with maps of the area)
Backpack Must have either an internal or external frame, and a padded hip belt which will support the weight on the scout's hips, NOT his shoulders.
Sleeping bag (NOT a big heavy bag. Should weigh no more than 3 pounds.)
Closed cell foam sleeping pad or ultralight 3/4 length self-inflating (i.e. Theramarest) (Do NOT bring a blow-up air mattress)
Plastic or aluminum bowl (Don’t bring a big army mess kit. All you need is a bowl.)
Small tube of toothpaste (get a trial size tube)
Hand Towel (A rayon towel, such as are sold for scuba divers and household cleaning is a good alternative to a regular cotton hand towel, as they absorb more water when wet, and dry quicker than cotton, and are lighter.)
Toilet paper 1/3 roll in a zip-lock bag (An even better option is a travel pack of diaper wipes.)
2 ounce bottle of liquid Soap (camp suds, or similar biodegradable soap)
Zip lock bag containing the following: 4 Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid Blister Relief pads; 12 aspirin tablets; 4 large band-aids, SMALL tube of Neosporin ointment.
Duct tape wrapped around a half a pencil.
Baseball Hat or other sun hat
Warm sweater or warm down jacket. Don’t need a huge ski coat here. NOT a cotton sweatshirt, jean jacket, etc. Wool or synthetic or down sweaters or jackets only.
Rain jacket with hood
Short-sleeved shirt(button up with collar is better than t-shirt)
Swimming suit (also to be used as shorts for hiking)
2 pair underwear
2 pair wool hiking socks NO COTTON SOCKS!
Hiking boots or running shoes.
Light-weight camp shoes (teva sandals, aqua-socks or extra running shoes) These shoes will also be used for stream crossings.
Synthetic or wool Long john top and bottoms (these will be worn for sleeping; evenings; and for cold days. NO COTTON.)
Hiking pants Nylon warm-up pants or similar are ideal, as they dry quicker than cotton. Pants should fit comfortably under pack's waist-band, so warm up pants are better than pants with belt loops. A light-weight alternative to pants is to bring a pair of shorts and wear your long underwear bottoms under them when leg protection is needed.) The very best option are pants with zip-off legs that double as shorts.
Snacks: Some between-meal snacks are a good idea. Bring something that won’t crush or melt or go rotten.
Fishing gear (GO LIGHT. No need to bring everything. ) 16 or older also needs license.
Lightweight liner gloves (if you have them, they can be nice on cold evenings)
2 pair synthetic liner socks (if your feet are prone to blisters, these can help)
Hiking polesMay 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm #1432467
Kai, yes, boys can be pretty rough on their gear. Adults without backpacking experience can do some interesting things too. In our troop, we also look for ways to help families buy gear that is less expensive, lighter than they would otherwise pick, and hopefully a little bit durable.
Have you seen these excellent articles from Doug Prosser? Here's some thoughts on starting backpackers — http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/boy_scout_gear_list.html
This article is specific to Philmont — http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/boy_scout_gear_list_philmont.htmlMay 9, 2008 at 8:37 pm #1432497
Brian BarnesBPL Member
Kai, Nice list. One recommendation: I would discourage the use of aspirin in children under the age of 16 years old. If used during the presence of a viral infection they could develop Reye's syndrome from the combination. Additionally, if you are treating pain secondary to a injury involving laceration or puncture your bleeding risk at the injury site with aspirin is a real concern. As an safer alternative, I would recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol).May 10, 2008 at 11:10 pm #1432653
My only disagreement with wool or poly socks for boys? I'd find out who has athletes foot. Wool socks can pull moisture/oils right out of feet and cause painful cracking in people with AF infections. Also! It can live in the socks…even when washed. (And in shoes as well!)
If they do have this issue, a small bottle of Liquid Bandaid is great for sealing open cracks on heels.
I often treat my husbands feet daily on hikes due to this. As for cotton socks, don't knock them. They can be downright comfy. My buddy Jer hiked the Wonderland Trail in 7 days with me in Walmart cheapie cotton socks – and in Walmart tennis shoes! And he had no blisters either. Unlike the rest of us.
As for bowls: you might consider using Rubbermaid, Ziploc or Glad "disposables" in a round size or sandwich size. They have a lid, take a beating and will often last a year or more. And are dirt cheap. They also don't go cold like metal ones. Personally, if I was using metal I would get a thin stainless steel – it won't interact with your food and give bad taste.May 11, 2008 at 8:29 am #1432686
Great List! I guide backpacking trips for teens as well and know the difficult of having them go light. a few duplicate items seemed to appear though – cup AND bowl, and swimming shorts AND 2 pair underwear AND zip off pants. I wear 1 pair swim/running shorts for an entire trip (might bring a second pair, maybe) that counts as underwear and shorts. then my hiking pants don't need to have the additional weight of zip-legs, if you want shorts, just take off the pants! Gatorade or 1 liter soda bottles make great ultralight waterbottles, lighter and cheaper than Nalgenes or soft-bottles, and they come full.
also, could you share lots of the hygiene stuff, such as soap, toothpaste, TP (or use natural TP), bug spray, towel (do they really need a towel? – use the bandana or fleece). Betadine works great for water purifying as well (except for the rare iodine allergy), and is really cheap too.May 11, 2008 at 9:00 am #1432691
I'd make sure you have parental permission to use it. I know I wouldn't let Ford use it. Aquamira or MicroPur, sure. They are affordable as well, work better and plain out taste better.
As for bug repellent…why even take it? Stuff is nasty, eats clothing and gear if not used right (and we are talking teen boys!). Better to get bit a few times or use something like Burts Bees natural version.
Teen boys have bad habits like packing bottles of cologne (I kid not) but while I don't wear deodorant when hiking, any time I have a teen male along I make sure they pack it. Otherwise, wow, it is room clearing from their BO.
Soap? Leave at home. Take instead hand wipes for cooking time and after going #2.May 11, 2008 at 9:27 am #1432699
Try also hand sanitizer instead of soap, and how does the medication thing work legally with scouts? with children's camps, campers need to turn in ALL meds – including OTC, vitamins, and herbals, so can they each carry their own Tylenol etc legally, or are you better off having a leader carry a group first aid kit, having all campers turn in meds to you, then dispensing Daily Meds and such as prescribed to the kids.
I would also agree with the bug spray comments – even when I was hiking in the Adirondacks a lot, I didn't use bug spray at all, just windcoat and pants, bug socks, and a headnet as necessary – under a tarp even.May 12, 2008 at 5:59 am #1432857
Kai, you have covered everything really well. For soap, have you had a patrol share a small bottle? Jeremy's suggestion for alcohol hand cleaner works well.
Bug repellant is an important idea. There are many parts of the country with ticks. RMSF and other tick borne disease is a much greater threat than a bit of DEET. Mosquitos carry disease too.
I like your emphasis on weeding out unnecessary gear. We've had boys show up for a hike with an army surplus shovel, an hourly change of clothes, a case of soda, enough food for a month, and so many other interesting items.
I think a separate cup and bowl work very well. It makes sharing group meals easier. Hot chocolate or other hot drinks help with keeping Scouts warm.
You also help by addressing the list to the buyers – parents. Parents need specific help to understand what a good choice is for all the gear.May 12, 2008 at 7:50 am #1432869
Btw, you might suggest parents get headlamps at Walmart for a good buy. You can get decent "AAA" powered LED ones for $4-10 there. Much easier to use than normal flashlights for everyone and they preserve batteries as well.
I know not everyone loves Walmart but if you are trying to outfit kids from every income level you might go do a perusal of the local stores and see what they carry – then make notes on the parents list: you can get these items at "x", etc. That way the parents are not turned off by lists of pricey name brand gear. As well I'd add brand names on what to look for (for instance – Rayovac LED headlamp, $6).
I do have one question though..in the original post it talks about carrying 4 man tents and how the weight can be distributed four ways. How would you do that? one kid has the body, 2cnd kid has the fly, 3rd kid has the poles. Does the 4th kid just get the stakes???? Doesn't seem very fair.May 12, 2008 at 9:11 am #1432878
William De WittMember
We usually use 2 man tents for two boys (one with poles and rain fly, other with the tent body), but for our bigger boys we use 4 man tents for 2 or 3 people. When we have 4 smaller scouts in there, we allow the smallest/weakest to not carry any part of the tent, and instead carry more food for the first day. The other thing we will do is rotate who is carrying what parts, so there is an equal load across the entire trip, even if each day's section is not equal.
Also, Walmart is a great place to get items. The biggest issue I have with my Troop is cost. Many, many parents will buy the cheapest thing that meets the needs of the outing, for the simple reason of 1) the boy will out grow it, or 2) the boy will lose interest. I can't really disagree either, it does not make sense to blow even 200 dollars on trail shoes/boots, sleeping bag and backpack for an 11 year old who will grow a foot in the next two years.
How do we manage that? We share our smaller equipment sizes among the newest boys (but make boys who have been in for over a year buy their own equipment, that provides a sense of ownership), and the Troop owns the stoves, tents, water filters, and any other communal equipment.May 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm #1433506
Bugs must be different "in the shadow of Mt. Rainier" than they are in the NorthEast or Colorado. Summer in the Daks or Wind Rivers without bug repellent can be pretty seriously mosquito infested. You won't get bit a few times, you'll become a giant puffed-up mosquito snack. I've experimented with a number of natural mosquito repellents. I haven't found any that are effective. The best I found was a neem based product that lasted for about 10 minutes and then stopped working. So, I encourage use of encapsulated deet such as in ultrathon.
I've had boys try to bring cologne. I tell them not to bring deoderant. Yes, they stink, but I'm not sharing a tent with them so I don't care.
Soap is used both for personal hygiene and dish duty.May 16, 2008 at 7:04 am #1433539
I've spent many summers in the Daks in major bug country, and rarely ever used bug repellent. I just used windcoat, windpants, and headnet when necessary, and sucked it up the rest of the time. I've also read that darker bluer colors attract them more than lighter less blue colors. Not sure how much it makes a difference.May 27, 2008 at 10:40 am #1435143
@mergensLocale: New England
At Philmont,I carried a small lanyard in my shorts pocket with a Princeton Tec Pulsar light, Victorinox "Classic" pocket knife and a Scout Hot Spark(ferrocerium rod and hacksaw blade). The Pulsar is small, provided plenty of light in lieu of a flashlight or headlight. The Classic is small, has a scissors, tweezers and knife for openning all those food bags. We left the matches at home and used the hot spark for lighting the stoves and camp fires.Works everytime, even when wet!
Does anyone else use a pair of short gaiters? Also very handy on the rocky trails at Philmont.
PaulMay 27, 2008 at 11:40 am #1435158
great pocket kit! have you tried leaving behind the hacksaw blade for the firesteel and just using the knife? I took the nail file on my Wenger Esquire and using a metal grinding wheel, sharpened the inside edge and put some rounded bumps on it for a striker, so that it wouldn't dull the blade. Then I put a short piece of cord on the knife and duct taped on the firesteel rod with some narrow wraps of duct tape. Have you tried the Photon Freedom Microlight? I've found it much more water resistant to use than the Princetontec lights, it never comes on accidentally (like the Pulsar with the switch does) and it has different light levels.
I always have a Fox 40 whistle and a Photon Freedom microlight around my neck.Jul 3, 2008 at 11:37 am #1441363
Walter UnderwoodBPL Member
@wunderLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Hand sanitizer does not replace soap. The CDC recommends that you use sanitizer after you wash the dirt off your hands: http://www.cdc.gov/cleanhands/
Here is the conclusion from a University of Florida page, "Hand sanitizers should primarily be used only as an optional follow-up to traditional hand washing with soap and water, except in situations where soap and water are not available. In those instances, use of an alcohol gel is certainly better than nothing at all." (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FY732).
Hand sanitizer does make a good fire starter. The effective stuff is at least 62% alcohol and burns quite well.Jul 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm #1441371
Walter, that's a good point. Hand sanitizer won't solve the challenge of filth and grime. We are having the guys in our crew wash their bowl and spoon at least once a day. Our method is to do the washing in the bowl using hot soapy water. It forces the boys to have clean hands at least once a day. At the very least alcohol gel is better than no washing at all.Jul 16, 2008 at 8:58 pm #1443272
I've never worried about filth and grime or hand washing.
It's never seemed to be a problem.Jul 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm #1443373
i've been involved with scouting in some form or fashion since i was seven years old. i'm an eagle scout, my father's an eagle scout, and i've been camping since i was two years old.
i was a camp councilor for seven years, and a assistant scoutmaster for two (after high school… i'd like to get back involved once my life calms down a little bit.) backpacking is the love of my life. this list is a typical scouting list, and the kind of backpacking i prescribe to. light, yet functional loads. enough to allow some comfort, without suffering if things turn for the worse.
i get scoffs from ultralite-heads on the trail, that i still carry an external frame pack, i set up camp with a tent, and i wear leather boots and wool socks. yet, without fail, they're cold, shivering, and blistering, while i'm comfortably enjoying my camp moccasins, trying to figure out the harmonica. i guess what i'm getting at, is i'm glad there's another believer still out there.
happy trails.Aug 14, 2008 at 9:03 am #1447081
Hey guys, can you teach those kids to travel in smaller groups and not light fires everywhere? Where I am a ranger, it's often scout groups and church groups that are having illegal and damaging campfires and killing their own solitude factor by going in large groups.
Fire restrictions are in place for a reason. Be aware that in low humidity and windy conditions it is very dangerous to have a fire. Many of our pretty lakes have chopped trees next to them.
Learn about LNT practices specific to the area you are visiting. That might mean packing out your TP, having pan fires or a candle lantern, or camping far enough from the water so when people pee close to the tent we are not drinking it. In some areas, peeing on rocks rather than trees. Logs should not be put in a fire – all firewood should be hand-breakable twigs and sticks that are completely consumed to ash rather than leaving ugly burnt logs and charcoal piles. One might think that the healing power of nature will rejuvenate an area, absorb charcoal, decompose nut shells and fruit peels, etc. but it takes time. And often someone will be there the next hour or day.
I often hear people say that "I've been coming back here for 30 years and we always do this." My usual response is, "Well, you may have noticed: there has been some changes in the world over the last 30 years." but what I am really thinking is, 'Great, so you've been doing it wrong for 30 years'.
Keep a tidy camp – does it look like a yard sale?
Do not dig a trench around your tent.
Do not use spray-on anything, deet or sunscreen.
I guess my underlying criticism of scouting is that nature travel should help dissolve, rather than build, ego. Both for the kids and the adults. Zen merit badge sounds pretty oxymoronic, no?Aug 14, 2008 at 9:27 am #1447087
No! Do not use diaper wipes unless packing them out. They do not decompose and usually have smell that attracts animals.
If you MUST use TP rather than rocks, sticks, leaves, and snow, bury it or pack it out in most places, rather than burning it. The TP they use for RV's is supposed to break down especially fast, never tried it though.
Dig your p00p holes ahead of time, as part of setting up camp. Less stressful and leads to a better result. Make sure nobody is using the trowel to move or touch p00p. I guess "po op" is profanity on this site!?
Do not wash dishes closer than 200 feet from water. After food has been removed and you are on the grease rinse, fling the water rather than dumping in a single spot. Food remains should be buried 8 inches deep in good organic soil (under the trees)
I am not a fan of soap. Clay, sand and loam are very good cleansers. Just rinse an extra time. I use a Cozy Shack container with a lid. They are non-stick, hot water resistant, and cheeeeap. After eating food, add hot water and optionally hot cocoa or tea, put on the lid and shake to clean. Drink. Done. If you need to sanitize beyond that, the sun works very well.
Mosquitoes may have west nile but mostly infants and the infirm seem to die from it. Like terrorism vs driving a car, we exaggerate threats over which we feel powerless. Don't cop to it.Aug 14, 2008 at 12:06 pm #1447107
Scott BentzBPL Member
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
I am especially sensitive to your comments because I do pack a lot with scout groups. I prefer to go out with 2 or 3, however, when working with scouts we are usually working with bigger groups (8-15 people). I feel for some people when they see us file into a camp. We try and camp away as much as possible to lessen the impact.
We teach and stress LNT principles. This is a big trend in scouting. One leader said that he remembers way back in the 60's when the scouts would arrive at a camp. It was as if a pack of wild animals had been through the place; big fires, cutting live limbs, trash, etc. I know we have come a long way in that regards. Before stressing LNT we always practiced "Pack it in pack it out."
Scouts by default are kids. They do things like kids even though they may have been taught correctly. It take awhile for things to sink in. Nonetheless, they are being exposed to the backcountry and learning important skills. Hopefully, as we all better our LNT skills it will carry on. If we don't teach them then who will? We always take a trash bag with us on our hikes to clean messes along the trail. You can't believe the amount of trash we take out on our hikes.
As a ranger I can't even imagine the things you must see.
Philmont was a good experience. Some of their methods will carry over to my hikes in the Sierras. I learn new things each time I go.
ScottAug 14, 2008 at 4:24 pm #1447139
@vickrhinesLocale: Central Texas
Here is one thing you might try for getting scouts engaged with LNT. It may be a little militaristic but it has worked for me: If you have two or more patrols, separate them and make a game or competition out of each patrol trying to find where the other camped after everyone has packed up and gathered in a central location before setting out again. If patrols are forced by terrain or other conditions to camp near each other, make a game out of each patrol trying to find anything that indicates that the other patrol(s) camped there. Arrange with the senior patrol leader to do a final check to see if *he* can find any clue. Drop some catch phrases on the senior patrol leader; they will work down to the scouts. "Would an enemy patrol find you?" "Camp like an outlaw on the run." "Camp like you are in enemy territory." Things like that catch kids' imaginations.Aug 15, 2008 at 7:45 am #1447192
Wesley WittBPL Member
LNT is a must for scouts camping in the back country. As a scout leader I require all scouts to have LNT certification for participation in the high adventure program in our troop. Every year we hold a 7 week LNT training program for the boys so that they are prepared for the LNT testing. We make it a fun event and the boys always do well. When I took the boys on a 50 mile canoe trip the ranger quizzed the boys on their LNT knowledge and told us that they we very well prepared. As Scott said this doesn't mean that boys won't be boys, but the training is always good — even for the adults.Aug 15, 2008 at 7:46 am #1447193
Andy BaileyBPL Member
@andybaileyLocale: The Great Plains
Vick, that sounds like an awesome idea! Scouts love that kind of challenge.Aug 19, 2008 at 12:35 am #1447636
Scott, thanks for the comments. Sorry to rant. I know most of the group leaders on this board must be pretty good about LNT.
Heh, my pet peeve is drink-straw covers. Or think bending over for miles of sticky broken skittles and m&ms as people walk by and grind them in more. I love it so, oddly enough.
Vick, was considering something like that too. It is a compelling scenario. Beyond camp eval, tracking a moving group could be a fun activity. Start a day apart and see if you can follow the first group. Could call it a SAR scenario for less militarism.
I had an interesting 2-group experience when we were kids. Our group was going to go 10 miles a day for 10 days. Pack weight was 50-55 lb. We did it, but we were overtaken by a group that did it in 6 days. Less food weight enabled that.
I remember thinking why the hell didn't they let us do it that way – we could have seen so much more! That was just the mindset of our camp councilors, they wanted to live out on the trail, not make time. Behind their backs we buried about 30 lb of extra food. Our idea of LNT at the time was put it in a 4-foot deep hole. Yes, we had shovels. Crrrazy.
Hey Ladies !! If on a day hike with females that use TP 4 PP, make sure they have an extra bag with their TP to pack it out. A common oversight.
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