Lightweight gear for Scout troop

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    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    We’ve been working with the boys this year to help develop stronger backpacking skills, especially with our younger Scouts. I’d like to get some feedback on the ideas that we’ve been working with. The lists below compare what has been a “traditional” recommendation for Scouts in our area. Much like the excellent advice from Doug Prosser, we’ve developed some specific ideas to offer parents about gear to buy for new Scouts.

    I’ve even taken the approach of demonstrating the economic savings of starting with lightweight gear rather than taking the traditional route. The prices here are, admittedly, not from scouring eBay and hitting the sales. But that’s the situation faced by new parents. They don’t have the knowledge nor usually the time to become an expert shopper. So, please let me know your thoughts. I’m showing these as images since I’m not sure about posting a spreadsheet here in the forum.


    Our target hike for the troop is in the spring or fall with temps likely ranging from 40-80F. Rain and wind are always possible. The hike will be on developed trails, probably 3-5 miles one way. Insect pressure will range from low to moderate. Summer hiking here in Oklahoma is a different approach as it’s hot and the bugs are in full force.

    Ryan Faulkner



    Want to check out my 3.5lb gearlist.
    thats what this young scout uses :-)

    just kidding, I dont think anyone else my age would go this light without complaining.

    I like that you are supporting UL backpacking through the scouts. I dont see it very often.

    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    Ryan, thanks for your encouragement. This Scouter carries a lighter load too.

    You’ve made SUL a serious pursuit. You’ve got some very creative ideas. I’d love for our guys to get that excited about backpacking. Other than our Philmont crew, we have 40+ novice backpackers.

    There’s several pages of guidance for parents that go with all of this. I just want to help demonstrate that lightweight is more fun, safer for bodies, and a whole lot less expensive.

    Dane Fliedner


    Locale: Orange County, CA

    I’d like to second the encouragement. Like many here, I was initiated into backpacking via scouts (former Eagle scout) and remember all too vividly that to “Be Prepared” meant to be heavy, to crush under your load, to accept sore shoulders/legs/feet as part of backpacking life. One of my fondest scouting memories is of doing my “wilderness survival” merit badge, where we had to make a shelter using only raw materials (OK, so cutting down branches off trees isn’t exactly LNT or politically correct anymore, but this was some years ago but more akin to going UL)– despite this, my “heavy” mentality lasted for me for many years, where I wanted to most bomber (read: heavy) equipment ‘just in case’. After a hiatus from backpacking (school, marriage, etc) when I re-started, I was fortunate to get a copy of “Beyond Backpacking” and that was like a huge weight(pun intended) being taken off my shoulders– there was a better way, and the rest is history. Anyway, the reason I am stating all this is to show how habits taught to impressionable young scouts could easily last a lifetime, and that teaching them better the first time around will make them more likely to stick with it, and be good stewards of the wilds for their kids, etc… keep up the good work!

    PS– Sgt Rock has a $300 UL challenge on his blog/site. You might want to check it out. Also, have you thought about having them make gear as projects before outings? Could do double duty maybe for other merit badges, etc.

    Mike Barney


    Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!

    Ditto again.
    I’m also an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster, and remember many years ago “Being Prepared” meant carrying everything you may possible need, or someone else may need. At the time, we were “proving something” by carrying heavier packs. (still not really sure what we proved…) Unfortunately, there are still several barriers to a broader utilization of lightweight and ultra-lightweight gear:

    1) Cost: While Phil’s (comprehensive) list shows lightweight costs @ $940 about 25% lower than standard gear, most of our new scouts are spending 1/3 to 1/5 of the $1K shown for all of their gear. It is heavier, but $300 at Sports Authority, REI garage sales or Wal-Mart can supply the same equipment, albeit 30+ lbs vs. Phil’s 13 or 23.

    2) Education: I’m not sure most hikers in general know lightweight gear is available, much less Scouters who push the initiatives, aka national policy and district resources. You can “do Philmont”, (an 11 day 50 – 100 mile New Mexico summer trek) with a sub 30 lb pack, but most adult leaders I’ve talked to say their Philmont packs are 50 – 80 lbs.

    LNT was/is a big deal, but at one time was not, lightweight is currently not. We had Carol come out and give our troop a lightweight discussion (Thanks again Carol), where many didn’t realize they really could get down to 12 lbs. I think the word has to spread showing the capabilities and benefits, maybe there are opportunities we need to create to educate the professional Scouters who push the initiatives.

    3) Benefits:
    Less stress on joints, (*much* bigger deal as you get older…), faster hiking, safety, lower impact, and I’m sure there’s more.

    I expect I’ve missed a lot here, but I believe this is an opportunity for a coordinated effort, to educate Scouts, Leaders as well as others on the advantages of lightweight backpacking. Can we get poignant articles written for Boys Life and Scouting magazines, plus hitting various scouting website / message boards? The costs have to be addressed, as that is a major issue with most Scouts, but in the end, lightweight needs to have a much wider audience, and it appears a significant number of adult hikers were Scouts.

    Just a thought or two,


    Frank Ramos


    You ought to encourage the scouts to sew and otherwise make their own gear. Sewing and gear-making is a lot more useful than a lot of the other skills taught in scouting.

    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    Mike, thanks for your comments. Absolutely, I agree that costs can be significantly less than what I’ve listed here. I’ve started with essentially “list prices” for everything. It will be a good next step to start looking for sale price examples. Plus, a lot of gear gets handed down in the troop. We’re having a troop-wide gear exchange in a couple of weeks to promote hand-me-downs.

    I am a Scoutmaster too. This spreadsheet started with my recommendations for backkpacking gear for 11-12 year old Scouts. I’m working with some of our other Scouters in the troop to create a more up-to-date and LW list.

    There is a significant cultural bias in BSA toward heavyweight backpacking. I understand the conservatism of the folks and the tendency toward perceived safety of heavy gear. I am delighted that we have a developing interest locally in what LW backpacking can do for Boy Scouts.

    You’re right, typical Philmont crews carry heavy packs. My predcessor as SM has been one of those guys. But as he preps for a trek this year, he is seeing that a light load can be a lot less stressful on the body.

    My efforts to introduce LW backpacking to the troop are stimulated by the great article that Doug Prosser wrote for BPL. Our new Scouts typically weigh 60 and 80 pounds. They want to be successful and enjoy a weekend hike. Expecting them to carry a 30-50 pound pack is absurd.

    Part of our challenge in selling LW backpacking is that parents buy the gear. We need to demonstrate to them that carrying a LW load can be done for a much lower cost than with heavy gear. Once we have a majority of the boys practicing LW backpacking it will become a self-perpetuating standard. New boys in the troop will emulate the older guys.

    It will be a judgment call as to what kind of prices should be shown for each load in the above spreadsheet. The point is to show that in addition to being lighter, a LW kit is less expensive.

    Finally, Frank, thanks for the suggestion on sewing. We might have 1 or 2 guys that would have the interest and patience to undertake sewing. It would be a difficult undertaking for us since none of our current adult leaders have those skills. Someone has to teach if the boys are going to learn. Of course, if anyone near Tulsa, OK would like to volunteer….

    We will, however, look for those places where the guys might make their own gear. Making a wood/hobo stove is a good example. (Our younger Scouts will not be using alcohol stoves, another good MYOG project).

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    J R


    “Finally, Frank, thanks for the suggestion on sewing. We might have 1 or 2 guys that would have the interest and patience to undertake sewing. It would be a difficult undertaking for us since none of our current adult leaders have those skills. Someone has to teach if the boys are going to learn. Of course, if anyone near Tulsa, OK would like to volunteer”

    You might try contacting local fabric or craft stores about sewing classes they offer… then ask if they would be interested in donating some time to the local scout troop so that they can learn to sew.

    It might work… cant hurt to ask.

    George Gother


    Hey Phil,
    I think this would be a great list for older (17-18) / more experienced boy’s. Dealing with 11 & 12 year olds, I would consider the following:
    Pack – Kelty Yukon or Jansport Scout,
    1)more versatile, as they have adjustable frames to “grow” with the boy’s.
    2)I think it would be impossible to fit enough food and water in the Jam should they do a 5 day trip or Philmont.
    3)I think the Jam would make cold weather backpacking kind of impossible.
    Shelter – Kelty Teton 2, hassle free setup when cold, wet and tired.
    Clothing –
    1)I would have them bring the lightweight long john bottoms.
    2) I would go with a waterproof/breathable rain jacket and pants and loose yhe nylon jacket and poncho.
    Essentials – The (10-14)recommended per each 2 “buddies” minimum.

    I enjoy seeing lightweight lists from other scouters. I will be taking a crew to Philmont in 2007 and expect that we will be carrying packs of 35lbs or less by using most of our own lightweight gear and scrutinizing every item in the pack.

    I think that, eventually, lightweight backpacking will take hold in scouting. It has already started!

    Paul Cronshaw


    Locale: Southwest US


    As an assistant scoutmaster, I would like to thank you for taking the time to make a comparative list.
    I plan to share this list with my troop at our next meeting.

    Over the past 3 years, the adult leaders have been gradually transitioning to lightweigth gear. We are all getting older and want to extend our backpacking years!

    As we take the scouts on backpacking trips, they too are slowly learning to appreciate lighter equipment.

    One recommendation that I would suggest in your gear list is switching the Golite Jam for one of the ULA-Equipment Packs: Conduit, Circuit or Catalyst.

    I have the older ULA P-2 model and it has done very well on a number of 10 day high adventure Sierra trips. I like Bryan’s P-2 pack (now Catalyst) because it can store a 900 cc Wild Ideas Expedition bear cannister inside the pack.

    Above all, the Durable Dyneema Gridstop fabric that makes up a Golite or ULA pack is much more practical and durable for scouts than any silnylon fabric.

    You can view some of our lightweight equipment in action at:

    Click on Boy Scout Troop 33

    I hope to see a future Scout Handbook chapter on lightweight backpacking, or at least a section that teaches scouts to follow Gossamer Gear’s motto: “Go towards the light…”

    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    Paul, thanks for the thought. One of my favorite pieces of gear is a ULA P-1.

    I enjoyed your photos. It’s great to see a troop having a good time with lightweight backpacking.

    This list has resulted in some good ideas. Plus we’ve had a lot of discussion among our troop Scouters. I hope to post an updated list in the next few days.

    For our parents, we are also publishing our own gear guide for backpacking. ULA packs are a good example of gear that we will recommend for our Philmont-bound guys. But for younger guys, we’re trying to find some selections from local suppliers. Parents of a 5th or 6th grade new Scout are looking for easy, inexpensive options to get their guys started. A couple of our local outfitters are also very generous with discounts in support of Scouting. GoLite is a good brand that is locally available.

    It has been fun to work with Scouts and Scouters to try out lightweight backpacking. My goal is to help the troop approach backpacking as a fun challenge. Learning some new skills helps develop confidence and teamwork. Rather than depending on heavy gear to be successful, we are working to have our youth leaders teach LW skills. Our early work with LW backpacking in the troop has been successful. Of course, guys are having a lot more fun carrying a lighter load.

    As a Scoutmaster, there is the responsibility to plan for the health and safety of the troop. My experience thus far is that LW backpacking enhances the health and safety of our outings. Young men carrying a lighter load are less prone to injury. Our adults benefit as well.

    In the past, our troop like others, relied on heavy tents, white gas stoves, and other heavy gear to be bulletproof and thus eliminate problems. We are still early in the transition to LW backpacking. But I think that the focus on skills and teamwork helps accomplish many more of our goals in working with the boys.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Speaking of that, has the Jansport Scout external frame pack on sale for $50.

    I think other places for kids and adults to save is to look for equivalents in other sports. Many have adopted trail running shoes, which also cuts the price by 50% or better and there are very usuable models on sale often. You can find all kids of nylon windbreakers that weigh 11-12oz and will give all the service that a $100 2oz windshirt can, likewise with running pants and shorts. Ponchos are proably preferable for rain gear with kids carrying packs and the emergency backup theu can provide. Fleece garments are cheap and easy to come by and certainly serviceable for three season use. Kitchen goodies are easy to substitute– Lexan sporks are commonly under $1. The pot from a Scout mess kit is a great UL boiler and the kids could make Esbit stoves for nothing. If the Troop kicks in for shared stoves, the Coleman F1’s are $30 any day of the week. 20F sleeping bags in the 3lb range can be found for under $100.

    So, if the family can get essentials, a pack and sleeping bag and the Troop does the tents and stoves, you can get them up the trail for under $200. A lot of the clothing can do double duty for everyday stuff too– might as well, because they’ll outgrow them before they wear them out.

    What do the Troops do for tents or other shared items these days? We shared tents when I was a kid.

    David Wills


    How old are you, Im 19 and about to go between 2&3 lbs ( at 3.5 now) depending on my next paycheck (cuben vs spinnaker for things). Its cool to see another young fellow in UL pursuits.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Heheh– how old am I? Well, my oldest kid is a year younger than you are– and we started late. I’m so old that dirt asks me for advice.

    That’s why I was asking how Scout troops handle shared resources. I started in Boy Scouts around 1965 and a lot of things have changed, but the mountains are still tall :)

    Jordan Calicott


    Locale: Arkansas!

    David, could you post your gear list?

    Paul Cronshaw


    Locale: Southwest US

    In response to Dale’s question:

    “What do the Troops do for tents or other shared items these days?”

    In the Sierras and Los Padres National Forest, our Troop has used tarps and megamids for the past 18 years. Megamids can sleep 4 scouts in an emergency.

    David Olsen


    Locale: Steptoe Butte

    A plug for myself. I make pyramid shelters
    that are larger than standard (10×10′) that
    make sleeping 4 easier. Also make a huge one
    that is 11×11 and 7.5′ tall that will sleep 5-6 and
    the neat thing is that you can fit 12 or more folks
    inside seated in a circle for evening trainings and
    debriefs. In silnylon it weighs less than 3 lbs sans
    pole. I also make them in less expensive urethane
    coated nylon. (Keep in mind the fire hazard of silnylon or spinaker). Scout groups get 10% off.

    Outward Bound considers pyramids adequate for
    4 season use in the seirra nevada. Summer trips they use large tarps.

    David Olsen


    Locale: Steptoe Butte

    I have found that for do it yourselfers that 200
    denier coated fabric lasts quite well for pack fabric
    and is still quite light. Much more durable than
    silnylon and cheaper too.



    I am a thirty-seven year old guy who is getting back into backpacking, after a twelve year hiatus from the sport. I am absolutely amazed at how the equipment has changed so fundamentally, particularly within the last eight or nine years it seems. Within the last six months, Ive been reading all about this “ultra-light” and “light and fast” thing that seems to be taking over non BSA backpacking.

    It is VERY interesting! I like it. However, I would also like to say that no matter how light the packs get, physical conditioning still reigns supreme in the end.

    First I’d like to say that I proudly got my start with backpacking in the Scouting organisation back in the early eighties. During the eighties, from 83′ thru 87′ I was extremely heavily involved in BSA High Adventure. My BSA High Adventure resume is as follows:

    1) Formally accepted to be a Philmont Ranger for the 1991 summer season, but cancelled Phil-contract at the last moment.
    2) Philmont base camp staff-1986 (Philmont Base camp is at 6500′ altitude)
    3) Philmont Trail Crew (one month long)-1985
    4) Philmont Rayado Trek program (fifteen days)-1985

    5) Camp Daniel Boone Council High Adventure program, located in Haywood county, North Carolina. I was a camper in this program twice and a staffer/crew leader once. This program is located near Canton, NC and comprised of a 54 mile “expedition” in the Shining Rock Wilderness area of the Pisgah National Forest and canoeing on the French Broad River. Good but little known BSA high adventure program.

    6) Multiple BSA sponsored “50 mile hikes” held in the winter during Christmas vacation. Fifty miles in five days. I loved those Christmas fifty milers. While everybody else was eating Christmas leftovers and watching the boob tube, I was out backpacking fifty miles in cold weather, sleet and wet North Carolina snow with fifty to eighty crazy Scouts and Scouters. A lot of whom would drop out of the hike BTW.

    7) Numerous backpacking trips on my own, solo, including trips on the AT and down into Linville Gorge Wilderness area, NC several times.

    8) Made Eagle rank in 1987

    9) Assistant Scoutmaster in my old troop from 88-93.

    I find this string of posts very interesting, partially because I disagree strongly that the mantra in Scouting is to go heavy on backpacking treks. My experience was that it was the exact opposite in formal BSA High Adventure programs.

    When I was in Scouting back in the eighties, we always had shakedowns and the Philmont Rangers/Trail Crew Foreman were fanatics about ditching unneeded gear and equipment. Same thing in the Camp Daniel Boone High Adventure program…those shakedowns were pretty aggressive.

    “What are you gonna need this for?” was a common derisive comment during a shakedown.

    I will admit that back then it was basically impossible to get down to these ridiculously low pack weights some ultra-light guys seem to be getting to…say in the 20-25 lb range for a five day trip. But our packs were still reasonably lightweight back then, say in the thirty to forty pound range. That is not a bad weight, particularly when you are physically fit and with no serious health issues.

    Personally, I believe that much of the problem with weight stems from lack of physical fitness. If you have no major health problems and are in shape, carrying loads up to forty pounds shouldnt be a problem even into your forties, if you are motivated to do so.

    Being that the United States has become the fattest, most out of shape country in the world, I think the ultra-lightweight backpacking movement is a great thing.

    I really shouldnt say this, but some of these posts have irritated me in a way. But when I was at Philmont, I had a lot of “behind the scenes” interaction with Philmont Rangers, Conservation staff, etc. And Philmont Rangers used to complain A LOT about “all the Scouters who come to Philmont but are so out of shape its ridiculous.” Some of the Rangers talked about some of the Scouters like they needed to be shipped off to Marine Corp Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC to be whipped into decent cardiovascular shape.

    Not all Rangers were critical like that, but I heard it enough the two summers I was there. And not all the Scouters were out of shape, there were many would were in very good shape, in better shape than many of the Scouts.

    But too many were just plain physically unprepared…I am just going to call a spade a spade here. If you are physically unprepared, drink too much beer, etc. no amount of lightening your pack weight in the world will prepare you for humping it up and down mountains at high altitude at a place like Philmont. You are not going to adjust to the high altitude well. Your feet and joints are not going to be able to handle the ground pounding if you are out of shape.

    Nothing replaces prior physical conditioning. Being physically fit is part of “being prepared” and is what allows you to handle certain pack weights. Also, few who are not physically prepared will be able to handle the altitude at a place like Philmont, even if your pack weighs only fifteen pounds and your boots or trail shoes only weigh 1-2 pounds per pair.

    It is a medical fact that out of shape, overweight (even moderately overweight) people are more susceptible to developing altitude sickness.

    My extensive experiences with the BSA program…and with BSA High Adventure in particular…taught me several things:

    1) most Scouts and Scouters are not interested in backpacking to begin with. Most of the Scouts in my troop did not earn backpacking merit badge…not even hiking merit badge. I earned both…and always wondered why more werent “into” high adventure programs like I was.

    I found that the Scouts and Scouters at Philmont and similar BSA sponsored High Adventure programs were atypical to the overal Scouting program. In my experiences, most in the Scouting program were interested in stationary base camp type camping (summer camps, weekend camping, camporees, Jamborees and working on their rank).

    2) BSA High Adventure programs like Philmont ARE NOT oriented for younger Scouts in the 11-13 year old range. While I am sure it has been done, I cant imagine an 11 to 12 year old on a Philmont trek. Very few 11-13 year olds are physically or emotionally capable of completing a Philmont trek. When I was at Philmont for two summers, the program was geared towards older Scouts in the 14-21 year range. The age limit for the hardcore Rayado Trek program was 15 and the age for the Trail Crew program was 16. Basically high school thru college age.

    So discussing backpacking for really young Scouts in the 11-13 year old ranger I think is kind of silly.

    3) Despite the above observations of the BSA as a whole, there are some Scouts and Scouters (minority within the BSA) who are intensely into backpacking. These are the Scouts and Scouters I got along best with…and respected way more than a lot of the guys I made Eagle with.

    I had a Trail Crew buddy who dropped out of Scouting his Senior year and didnt make Eagle. He joined the Army and served as a infantryman paratrooper. I respected him way more than most of the guys in my hometown who made Eagle, simply because he was like me…he was a hardcore backpacker/outdoorsman and not a weenie.

    I would also like to say this (pure personal opinion). I think that completing a five day, fifty mile backpacking trek should be formally added into the mandatory requirement to make Eagle. I realize a lot of Scouters at the National level would disagree with me on that, but thats my personal opinion. But unless a Scout is physically disabled in some serious way and physically cannot walk 50 miles, I stand by my opinion. For physically disabled Scouts, the mandatory fifty miler should be waivered to so they can still make Eagle rank.

    I saw way too many Scouts make Eagle who were not good campers, much less backpackers. And were scared of the dark at age 18 when placed out in the woods, etc. Making completion of a five day fifty miler mandatory for making Eagle rank would weed out a lot of the “weenies” in the Scouting program.

    I also think this would kindle more interest in backpacking within the BSA, because for some backpacking is an acquired taste. It is an activity that is enjoyed ONLY when you are reasonably fit!

    Now that I have ranted and gotten this off my chest, I would like to say that I think the ultra-light backpacking movement is a great thing. As long as it isnt seen as a replacement for that most basic thing in backpacking…reasonable levels of physical fitness.


    Mike Barney


    Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!

    Hi Anon Eric,

    I felt compelled to respond, as I believe there are relevant facets not apparent in your post.

    BSA is a relatively conservative organization, not jumping to nouveau concepts because of fashion or timing, nor making changes without considering long-term, group and individual effects. Will lightweight backpacking come to BSA? Absolutely IMHO, and (i expect) there are discussions regarding that as we speak. Some if it is industry driven, some performance, and some safety and enjoyment. (And there is to some degree defacto lightweight / ultralight with ‘shakedowns’ at Philmont et al, or other strenuous venues.)

    The price of lightweight gear will continue to drop as ubiquity increases, followed by, as I expect, Ryan Jordan training ‘trainer classes’ @ BSA HQ in the near future. It’s coming.

    Unless you want to refocus Scouting on those who can write checks at will today, as opposed to reaching out to as many Scouts as possible, there is a temper to the savings of 1 pound of a $280 ULA Catalyst vs. a Jansport Scout $60 bag (or Kmart $25 bag).
    All meet the need, how many can truly afford the difference for an item that is often used less than 10 times per year?

    To your point regarding an Eagle requirement for a 5 day 50 miler, I would be concerned on what the effects it may have:
    On inner city Scouts who have the ability to get out on a very limited basis.
    On troops which have limited resources, time or access to support such activities.
    On Scout families with limited budgets who can’t afford hiking boots, much less a Catalyst (much less a GG Mariposa).

    Serious question Eric, should all of these be excluded from obtaining an Eagle award?
    Further, who decides on what is a physical disability, and to what degree?

    As for Scouts and Scouters who are not interested in backpacking, is there a problem there? I’m ecstatic in our troop we have a couple Scouters who are the Uber backpackers, a couple of serious hikers, a couple of other Dads and Moms that will do crowd control on ‘Park and Flops’, and others that are willing to provide general support. I don’t see the need for Uberpackers as an adult requirement, that would greatly shrink the program and support. Besides, isn’t the idea to provide a program which teaches life long skills to as broad an audience? I’m glad there is a significant outdoor component, that is used as a training vehicle, but it’s not the only way. There is a badge for Wilderness Survival that teach strategic skills that follow into later life, but realistically, starting a fire without matches in the board room isn’t going to get you a corporate raise. The strategic lessons learned there and in other badges are what carry forward.

    If you want start a “Super Scout” Explorer Post for older boys with an intense Backpacking Only regime, go for it. Some exist, and are quite explicit about their goals and membership. I hope you’ll find many interested. But that’s not the 11-18+ yr. old program that BSA and the majority of local volunteers put into the mainline program.

    Finally, and with all due respect, I appear to have more BSA years of experience than you’ve indicated, and I hardly consider my experience extensive. If you like, I can put you in contact with several lifelong Scouters, each having over 1/2 century of experience in Scouting, both of whom I believe would take significant exceptions with many if not most of the comments made in your post.


    Mike Storesund


    I think there is something out of whack with Phil’s’ lists. I do not believe they represent a true comparison. In the “Typical Boy Scout Backpacking Gear” list under the section of “Clothes carried” there is a 24 ounce fleece jacket AND a 24 ounce North Face Parka listed. However the same category under the “Lightweight Backpacking Gear” list only has an 8 ounce nylon sports jacket. Here is about a $330 difference in cost and I would believe one is for summer while the other is for much cooler weather.

    As a scouter, I really like the idea and encourage scouts to learn how to use their gray matter and make good decisions when selecting items and packing their backpack. We like to show how multiple use gear is a better choice. Use a Platypus bladder for water and a pillow; a poncho can be used as pack cover and shelter also; a large trash bag can be a vapor barrier or emergency poncho.

    Our troop often has demonstrations of the “UL” backpacker, the “traditional” backpacker, and the “Kitchen Sink” backpacker. Where the UL carries tooth powder, the traditional carries trial/travel size toothpaste and the Kitchen Sink carries the full size tube of toothpaste. The UL carries a mini-mag Solitaire (1xAAA) and maybe a Photon as backup, the traditional carries a Mini-mag (2xAA) and the Kitchen Sink carries the 4xD-Cell Mag ‘Club’. These are just a few of the common examples where actually showing the differences will help them learn to make better decisions. Hopefully these are skills they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

    IMHO, I believe teaching the scouts how to select proper clothing for creating layers that compliment each other saves a lot of weight. While there is a budget concern, as not all families can afford the latest or lightest gear, it is not necessary to do so either. Good gear can be found for good prices. Scouters being introduced to backpacking probably are a long way from thru-hiking the AT, the PCT or even the JMT, but a 50 mile trek is not far fetched. They do not need to buy a McHale pack (no offense, they are good, but pricey) when a Kelty Moraine at 1/4th the cost will work. They do not need to buy SUL packs that will not last through 4 seasons with heavy bushwhacking or just typical teenage wear and tear when a slightly heavier pack for the same amount will work.

    When it comes to ‘Troop Supplied Gear’ (stoves, tents, tarps, cook sets, etc.) that is where the troop committee needs to be educated so they can spend the troop money wisely. You get what you pay for. If you buy a K-Mart “special” dome tent for $59, don’t expect to take it on a “Klondike Derby” with any success. Not going into that deep here.

    As far as a comment someone made about inner-city kids not being able to get out there to do it; we have a young man that just received his Eagle Award. He completed his “Eagle Required” Hiking merit badge and did a ‘50 miler’ all confined to a wheelchair with Spina Bifida carrying his own gear. I believe if one really wants to get out there and do it, they will find a way.


    >Hi Anon Eric,

    >I felt compelled to respond, as I >believe there are relevant facets not >apparent in your post.

    Hi Mike…

    You are welcome to disagree with me.

    >BSA is a relatively conservative >organization, not jumping to nouveau >concepts because of fashion or timing, >nor making changes without considering >long-term, group and individual >effects.

    Totally agreed with you there. And Scouting SHOULD be a conservative organisation. Scouting was set up to teach leadership skills, character values and once in a rare while, how to actually take care of yourself in the outdoors. And even enjoy doing it.

    Will lightweight backpacking >come to BSA? Absolutely IMHO, and (i >expect) there are discussions regarding >that as we speak. Some if it is >industry driven, some performance, and >some safety and enjoyment. (And there >is to some degree defacto lightweight / >ultralight with ‘shakedowns’ at >Philmont et al, or other strenuous >venues.)

    Mike, lightweight backpacking has been a part of BSA High Adventure programs for a long time. At least since the eighties. I would argue that Ryan Jordan didnt “invent” lightweight backpacking, I would argue it was invented by various individuals at Philmont Scout Ranch back in the eighties. Like I mentioned in several other posts, I was doing lightweight backpacking in BSA High Adventure programs as far back as 1985, long before I ever heard of Ryan Jordan and this ultra-light backpacking thing.

    >The price of lightweight gear will >continue to drop as ubiquity increases, >followed by, as I expect, Ryan Jordan >training ‘trainer classes’ @ BSA HQ in >the near future. It’s coming.

    Agreed with you here.

    >Unless you want to refocus Scouting on >those who can write checks at will >today, as opposed to reaching out to as >many Scouts as possible, there is a >temper to the savings of 1 pound of a >$280 ULA Catalyst vs. a Jansport Scout >$60 bag (or Kmart $25 bag).
    >All meet the need, how many can truly >afford the difference for an item that >is often used less than 10 times per >year?

    It depends on what your priorities in life are, Mike. If your priority is on stationary car camping, OA activities and sitting around on your butt getting fat, then I agree it doesnt matter. If on the other hand, you want to go to Philmont real bad and actually do well there, maybe get on Philmont staff or other High Adventure staff and be a fit, active individual that Scouting preaches about (at least in the manuals), then spending a little money on some good gear isnt that unrealistic. Even for many cash strapped parents and teens.

    When I was growing up, I had a part time job and a summer job when I wasnt taking part in sports or BSA activities. Since I was interested in High Adventure activities like backpacking, I invested some of my money on good gear, even at the mere age of 15 or 16. When I was younger, say age 11-14, my gear was inexpensive. But even with that inexpensive gear and clothing before my Philmont days, I still completed two local BSA High Adventure treks at age 14, each one covering at least fifty miles in five days. I remember I did my first 50 miler with a cheap K-mart single wall nylon tent and a dirt cheap Sterno stove. In wintertime.

    It all depends on your priorities, Mike. Where there is a will, there is a way.

    >To your point regarding an Eagle >requirement for a 5 day 50 miler, I >would be concerned on what the effects >it may have:

    First of all, I said this proposed requirement was my personal opinion. I figured posting it would lead to controversy here. And indeed it is obvious I touched a nerve with you on this subject.

    >On inner city Scouts who have the >ability to get out on a very limited >basis.

    I say no excuse. Inner city Scouts should still get out camping at least once every two months, preferably once a month like in my old troop. Inner city Scouts shouldnt use their inner city status as an excuse to avoid the wilderness.

    There are many, many wilderness areas right outside of major metro areas like New York City. The AT passes within about an hour of NYC, in fact.

    No excuse if its a requirement and the Scout is motivated to make Eagle rank.

    >On troops which have limited resources, >time or access to support such >activities.

    Mike, all I am talking about is a mere five day 50 miler here. I am not saying I believe a kid should be required to complete a Philmont trek to get Eagle. You can complete a five day fifty miler with cheap gear…it can be done.

    A five day, fifty miler can be done using BSA issued gear.

    >On Scout families with limited budgets >who can’t afford hiking boots, much >less a Catalyst (much less a GG >Mariposa).

    A five day fifty miler can be completed using cheap, K-Mart work boots. I completed my first fifty miler at age 14 in inexpensive Army surplus “panama sole” jungle boots, in winter. Most of the gear I used in the beginning stages of my backpacking was inexpensive gear. My folks were going thru hard times and didnt have a lot of cash to give me…but I was motivated and found ways.

    >Serious question Eric, should all of >these be excluded from obtaining an >Eagle award?

    It is my personal opinion that the BSA could benefit from creating a new mandatory requirement for Eagle rank that includes either:

    1) completion of a five consecutive days and four consecutive night, 50 miler backpacking trek, in any terrain and any weather. Without food resupply…only water resupply and emergency support.


    2) Completion of a ten day Philmont trek or other similar, formal BSA High Adventure program that involves the successful hiking of at least fifty miles, whilst carrying a backpack.

    That isnt that hard Mike. And doesnt require a lot of fancy, expensive gear.

    >Further, who decides on what is a >physical disability, and to what >degree?

    How about a Medical Doctor? Arent Medical Doctors trained to decide such things? BSA National Headquarters, in concert with a committee of accomplished Medical Doctors and Sports Medicine specialists, could develop a list of disqualifying medical conditions. If a Scout is so afflicted with such a medical condition, such as a congenital heart condition, diabetes, is wheelchair bound, has a nervous system disease that prevents extensive walking and hiking, etc. then a Medical Doctor could fill out a form and the fifty miler requirement could be waivered.

    But if the Scout has no significant medical issues, I PERSONALLY see no reason not to create a new requirement that would expose the young man to the wonderful world of backpacking in order to attain the rank of Eagle.

    No big deal…

    >As for Scouts and Scouters who are not >interested in backpacking, is there a >problem there? I’m ecstatic in our >troop we have a couple Scouters who are >the Uber backpackers, a couple of >serious hikers, a couple of other Dads >and Moms that will do crowd control on >‘Park and Flops’, and others that are >willing to provide general support. I >don’t see the need for Uberpackers as >an adult requirement, that would >greatly shrink the program and support. >Besides, isn’t the idea to provide a >program which teaches life long skills >to as broad an audience? I’m glad there >is a significant outdoor component, >that is used as a training vehicle, but >it’s not the only way.

    The outdoor component should never be thrown away or Scouting will lose its soul. I have heard this argument before and it usually comes from Scouters who are old, unfit, drink too much beer, have health issues which precludes them from participating, etc.

    There is a badge >for Wilderness Survival that teach >strategic skills that follow into later >life, but realistically, starting a >fire without matches in the board room >isn’t going to get you a corporate >raise. The strategic lessons learned >there and in other badges are what >carry forward.

    Yes, I am well aware of the wilderness survival merit badge. I earned that badge at BSA summer camp at a young age of around 12 or 13. Unfortunately, the qualify of the “survival” training was extremely poor, leaving me as a young Scout kind of disenchanted and let down. I really wanted to learn that stuff when I was a young ball of fire, unfortunately, the vigorous outdoor training program that mainstream Scouting advertised itself on didnt exist. At least not at the council level. It wasnt until I got to places like Philmont that I experienced the intensive High Adventure experiences I wanted as a youth.

    I always thought that the claim of “this camping stuff is going to prepare you for adult life” was a bit of a stretch. Camping is…camping. What I think prepares you for a good job and “getting that corporate raise” is doing well in school, going to college, etc. Having Eagle on your resume and having played high school football doesnt hurt either. Having excellent leadership skills is fundamental, as I am sure you are well aware. But I disagree with you that things like wilderness survival merit badge training (or ROPES courses), teach real “leadership skills” that prepares you for that boardroom in the future.

    Some young guys really do want to learn how to camp, hike, backpack, canoe, orienteer in the Scouting program. These are actual sporting activites. Sporting activities that have a strong carryover value to adult life if learned well when young. These are sports that can keep you fit, but arent fitness fads.

    In fact, a fit adult backpacker who learned his sport in Scouts as a teen might have a better chance at that boardroom than some others. Why? Because its oftentimes easy to continue hiking and backpacking into adulthood, which goes a long way towards keeping you lean and fit. And being lean and fit has a big impact on your personal appearance (a hallmark of being a good leader). A good personal appearance improves your chances of getting promotions, job offers, etc.

    I hope you can see my point.

    The way I remember it, lack of a real outdoor program (can you say BORING!) was probably the second most common reason a lot of the guys in my old troop dropped out around Star or Life rank and never made Eagle. The first reason was THEY GOT THEIR DRIVERS LICENSE!

    LOL Im sure you know all about that.

    >If you want start a “Super Scout” >Explorer Post for older boys with an >intense Backpacking Only regime, go for >it. Some exist, and are quite explicit >about their goals and membership. I >hope you’ll find many interested. But >that’s not the 11-18+ yr. old program >that BSA and the majority of local >volunteers put into the mainline >program.

    I agree with you that a “super backpacking” program is not mainstream BSA and I dont think it should be either. I am not a fan of either the Exploring or Venturing programs…I believe in the basics…good old fashioned Boy Scouting.

    But I also believe mainstream Boy Scouting could use a shot in the arm as far as pumping up its outdoor program. Again, I think creating a mandatory five consecutive day fifty miler requirement to attain Eagle would go a long way towards accomplishing this goal, without going overboard.

    >Finally, and with all due respect, I >appear to have more BSA years of >experience than you’ve indicated, and I >hardly consider my experience >extensive.

    I was in Scouting from 1980 at the age of 10 (starting in Weblos) thru 1993 or 94. I did everything you can do in Scouting, made Eagle, did way more backpacking, hiking, canoeing, camping than most and yes, I am proud of that fact.

    >If you like, I can put you >in contact with several lifelong >Scouters, each having over 1/2 century >of experience in Scouting, both of whom >I believe would take significant >exceptions with many if not most of the >comments made in your post.

    I am not interested in competing with you or any others in seeing who has the most years logged in Scouting. My old Scoutmaster, who I have huge respect for, is one of those guys you are talking about, has been in Scouting almost his entire life. Ive known many old Scouters like that and they are the backbone of the Scouting program IMO. I had a very ethical “old school” Scoutmaster who pushed a back to the basics outdoor program, along with a lot of leadership training. He also was a huge believer in making Eagle.

    He was very proud of my Philmont and other High Adventure accomplishments and frequently bragged about my BSA High Adventure accomplishments to his adult Scouter friends, most of whom were sedentary individuals with beer guts.

    I just think its a shame that so many Scouts cannot camp, hike, orienteer or backpack much better than my grandmother could.

    This is all just rhetoric anyway, we know the BSA isnt going to change. If anything, in reality I expect the BSA to move further and further away from its outdoor roots as time goes by. I was mainly just spouting off some of my personal beliefs and complaints…cynical rhetoric.



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