Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go?

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Philmont Scout Ranch: How Light Can You Go?

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 19 posts - 26 through 44 (of 44 total)
  • Author
  • #1568104
    Conrad Stoll


    I couldn't agree more with the poster who mentioned that 0.5L isn't enough for most people to be carrying at a given time at Philmont. I think 2L is probably appropriate. It's still extremely valuable to gauge the itinerary for the day, because it is quite likely that one can get by with less than capacity water for trips between camps. But hydration is still the most important part of beginning your trek, so if you're going to cut weight, don't do it at the expense of water.

    Everything in the article looks great. A recommendation that I do have is that the more shakedowns a crew does prior to going to Philmont, the more successful they usually are. Use the shakedowns to help scouts and adults whittle down the unnecessary items in their pack. There are lots of easy ways to do this, without even buying more gear. Plan ahead and prepare. Shakedowns have the additional benefit of aiding as a tool for conditioning.

    As a general note, I would like to add my opinion that the focus of your trips should be the experience you have with the wilderness around you, not necessarily your interaction with the gear you brought with you. It is disappointing when I see crews carrying huge packs weighing 50 lbs, because that will detract from their experience by making them too tired to do side hikes and participate in programs. Just don't go to the opposite extreme either. If a scout really likes that pocket knife, let him take it. If an advisor wants that coffee mug, DEFINITELY let him take it. As long as everyone's pack weighs a reasonable amount, then your trip will be a success. Use your stronger and fitter members to help distribute the load better. That's part of what being a crew is all about.

    And remember to be humble. The range of experience levels of the crews that arrive at Philmont is huge. Many of the participants have never been backpacking before their shakedown hikes. Most have zero experience with ultralight backpacking. Hopefully, going to Philmont will help them learn more about it. You're all there for the same purpose; to have the same wilderness experience. Remember that principle when interacting with crews that may not have prepared in the same way that you did.

    I also have a minor correction to make to the article above. Doug Palmer is actually the Associate Director of Program for the Backcountry Camps. He is not the Head Philmont Ranger.

    Brent Browning


    Hi Doug,

    Great article, thanks for sharing your experiences. I am an experienced backpacker, Eagle Scout, and Scoutmaster and have recently shifted away from my old-school approach to a lightweight approach. I am not sub-20lbs yet but sub-30 for sure.

    I am taking a crew to Philmont for my first time this summer and doing a ton of research. I know a lot of folks use the one-pot approach for group cooking.

    You said you took one 6L pot and one 2L pot. What brand were they and where did you get them? REI has a 4L titanium pot but nothing larger.

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)

    The pot I used was from a car camp cook set I had from years ago. Unfortunately my son ran over the pot with his old Land Cruiser in our garage. :-(((

    I cam across some replacement MSR Flex 4 Pot set (~$99):

    This Flex 4 also comes as a whole bunch of stuff but you really only need the pots.

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)

    There has been a number of comments on how much water to carry, Minimal amounts, etc.

    Realize that what we carry is related to our fears. If you have fears about being cold you tend to carry more layers & heavier bag. If you have fears about being hungry then you carry more food. If your fearful about having water you tend to carry a lot of water.

    The last two main fears I have been trying to deal with is the fear of not enought water & food. Philmont is a great place to work on your fear of not having enough water. So you have to think through what you are going to do. Is some respects this is same as hiking in Sierras or along rivers, etc. There is water at KNOWN locations guarenteed. So you have to formulate plans so you carry very little water. You know the distance from your current camp to the new camp. You know how fast your crew is hiking. You know the new camp has water. So it is easy to drink a bunch of water before leaving your camp & carry the minimum that you think you will need. Is there ways to deal with thirst or dry month on trail. Our scoutmaster puts a very little stone in mouth & that generates your salivary glands to produce saliva so your mouth stays moist. I tend to bring some hard sugar free candy.

    Please understand this is aimed at people that have advanced knowledge on the enviornment & how their bodies perform in it. Philmont is great to work on carrying extra water. So try drinking a bunch (1-2 liters) of water in AM then carry a 500ml water bottle to see how much you really need. For the first few days go ahead & carry an extra liter or two but try not to use it. Once you prove to yourself you really don't need it then don't carry the extra water & see how it goes.

    Again it is all about getting over your fears.

    Enjoy the hike.

    Conrad Stoll


    Agreed, one fear that can be overcome at Philmont is worry about there not being enough. It is true that water locations are extremely predictable. You'll generally know ahead of time which intermittent streams are flowing, which springs are not, and so on. You also know that every staffed camp will have water. So you're quite right, over carrying water because you're not sure if there will be any along the trail can easily be overcome.

    I cannot stress enough however that, regardless of experience level, Philmont is not the place to push one's self to Make Do with less water. I agree with planning effectively. But it is a fine line to tread between effective planning and over exertion and under hydration.

    Heat Exhaustion can happen to anyone, and indeed Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration are the most common forms of injury at Philmont. If you're hiking in certain areas, such as Abreu to Urraca Mesa, Harlan to Deer Lake, Indian Writings to Ponil, or especially if you're hiking any of the peaks, I would advise your crews to be very conscious of the water they carry with them.

    If you ever say to yourself "no, I don't need to take a drink of water, because I need to make do with half a liter", then next time just double your estimate and take a full liter.

    Hydration is too important. Other conditions can be more easily over come by knowledge and preparation. If you leave out that extra jacket, it's easy to not get hypothermia by wearing your rain gear, or change out of wet clothes so you warm up. You can avoid taking spare stoves by understanding stove maintenance. Just don't try to out think your body and do more with less water.

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe


    Please be aware that a 6 L pot may be too heavy for many stoves and may also be too large in diameter. The large diameter may mean the canister or fuel tank could get overheated by reflection and …


    Larry Huff


    Just thought I'd share. This summer will be my third trip to Philmont. The last time was 20 years ago and I carried a heavy pack with nary a problem, and took one of the "super strenuous" treks… But being over 50 now, I have two changes, one is to carry a much lighter pack, the other is to be comfortable. So I sacrifice some of my weight for two comfort items, but try to get the best and lightest I can find. My pack weighs 40 lbs with 2 liters of water and troop gear. One comfort item is my sleeping pad, the other is a "backpacking" chair. I love this thing, it's like sitting in an easy chair, and it's off the ground. NO, I DON'T work for the manufacturer. I just think this is a pretty neat item to have. If you're interested here's the link:

    david richardson
    BPL Member


    Locale: midwest

    here is another source for a 6 qt aluminum pot. I have one that has been to philmont 2 times now. Light, but seems to hold up.

    Ralph Lemon


    It looks like your sleeping pad is carried between your pack and your back, if that is the case how is it secured? Thanks Ralph
    ASM Troop 840 and Crew Advisor
    [email protected]

    Liked your article hope you do an update on your 2010 trip. First time going for me and trying to get unti to work on ultra light mantra.

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)

    Take a look at the video on their web site for the Mariposa Plus and you'll see how the pad is attached.

    Ralph Lemon


    Thanks, video was good but unfortunately will not work with my golite. Question, did you all bring your own bear bags and if so what kind, noted they were 8 oz each Thanks Ralph in Miami

    Chad Harston


    Doug, thanks so much for your articles about Philmont. I'm planning to go this summer and I've found your advice very helpful as I look for equipment for myself, my son and our crew. I would love to read your notes about your 2010 trek. thanks, Chad

    Ken K


    Locale: St. Louis

    I'd also like to know how the 2010 trek went, particularly with regard to using canister stoves. I've been using canister stoves the last couple years, and have absolutely no desire to go back to the classic Whisperlite.

    We have three top-mount canister stoves (weighing 4 to 7 ounces each), but I'm thinking we need to pick up a remote-mount stove to handle heavier/wider pots (my Techno Trail struggles with two liters up top). I think in an ideal situation, we'd be cooking in 4-liter pots over two remote-mount stoves (12-man crew), and take the tiniest top-mount stove for a backup.

    Your thoughts?

    Fat Boy

    terrance guidetti


    Locale: calif

    Thanks Doug for your great articles on this topic. I am going to Philmont this summer with 2 crews. None of the leaders, parents or scouts in our group have any experience with Philmont.

    I am a little confused about the sleep clothes requirement, as you are incorporating clothing that you show being worn before dinner ( I assume you do not remove those items when you eat) in your sleep system. I was under the impression that sleep clothes were only to be worn while sleeping. This interests me, because like you, I use a light bag and incorporate my insulating layers as part of my sleep system.

    Also, I have read some posts that suggest you may or may not be allowed to use the Amsteel blue for bear rope,depending on your ranger. Thanks in advance for any enlightenment that you can provide

    Ross Williams


    I plan on going to Philmont in the next few years, and I realize that the lighter my packweight, the more enjoyable the trip will be. I don't claim to be UL, however I have the correct mindset: if it isn't absolutely nessessary, it's staying home! I know that a frameless pack (I am currently considering the Golite Jam) is the lightest option when it comes to packs, and the load-carrying limitations of these ultralite packs will give me extra motivation to comb through my gear list and eliminate extra items. However, even with only lunch and a liter or so of water in a daypack, I cannot hike with the weight on my shoulders, as this causes back pain and sore shoulders. I used the daypack's hipbelt, and that transfered the weight to my hips and solved the problem.

    Doug Parker


    Locale: Gulf Coast

    Doug, I will be doing lightweight Philmont presentations to 5 different crews (in 2 sittings). You suggested that you were working on a Power Point presentation. Have you put this together, and are there any other resources I can use?

    FWIW, I am working closely with 4 scouts from our troop. They will be assisting me with the presentations, and they will also be using this experience to present lightweight backpacking to our troop.

    Thanks for all the great info. I am spreading the word as fast as I can.

    Jim Colten
    BPL Member


    Locale: MN


    I can't speak to the Jam but I do use the Jam's larger family member (Pinnacle) for high volume loads (like winter) … otherwise I use a truly frameless pack (Granite Gear Virga).

    If your goal is to transfer almost all weight to your hips, the Pinnacle does NOT do that for me and I'd not expect the Jam to do any better. But when packed "right" (full or the load well compressed by the pack) I find the Pinnacle's hip belt probably takes about half the weight. It carries 30 lbs nicely … I loaded it up to 40 lbs once and quickly decided that was beyond the pack's comfort range (for me).

    Bill Rose


    Locale: Philly suburbs

    I second the request to have a PowerPoint presentation that we can show our scouts and crew leaders at the beginning of planning a trip. We're going to Philmont in the summer of 2013 and I'm already planning and compiling the packing list to minimize weight. Having a .ppt presentation to show at a meeting would really go a long way to get everyone on-board with packing light.

Viewing 19 posts - 26 through 44 (of 44 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools