Apr 19, 2006 at 6:41 am #1218367
After reading the new Philmont article, I have just one question…
“Philmont requires a tent; no tarps or bivies are allowed. They do not require that a tent have an integrated floor, so many lightweight options are available.”
Does that make any sense to you at all? Or is that just one of those “just go with the flow” kind of things.
Seriously, how is a Betamid not considered a Tarp?Apr 19, 2006 at 6:58 am #1355101
John S.BPL Member
My guess is because it can be entirely enclosed nearly to the ground. A flat tarp will have an open end somewhere. Maybe the better term is no flat tarps.Apr 19, 2006 at 9:36 am #1355121
Website / Diagrams (Warning site is VERY thorough)
However, most of the ‘tarp-tents’ (aka betamids) are obviously designed to be staked all the way to the ground, whereas a straight tarp it is hard to show that it is.
I suspect that John is right in his guess of how Philmont distinguishes between a tent and a tarp.
A GG Spinshelter would likely easily make the cut as well…Apr 19, 2006 at 9:48 am #1355125
I wonder why they don’t want “open” tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?
Couldn’t someone just leave the “door” open on their tent, or betamid, and be just as “un-safe”?
Switching gears a bit, I didn’t netting mentioned. Are bugs not much of an issue at Philmont?Apr 19, 2006 at 12:03 pm #1355135
@erichlfTony Burnett wrote:I wonder why they don’t want “open” tarp shelters? Is this a bear thing?
I would suspect that the reason is due more to weather. Since a flat tarp cannot be completely enclosed it is more vulnerable to weather (barely imo).Apr 19, 2006 at 7:00 pm #1355158
E. H. ClemmonsBPL Member
If you ever wonder why the BSA does things the way it does, it is because of the liability associated with other people’s kids and because a departure from the middle of the road can jeopardize the welfare of the group. Is is just hyper-conservative, and the other end of the spectrum from the BPL approach.
There is a guide to safe scouting that is a safe harbor for leaders and any substantial departure is open to criticism in court if a kid gets wet or hypothermic or otherwise unwell. I believe that “safety first” bias is behind everything in scouts that does not make sense to the non-scout: the no-gay-scoutmaster thing, the boots required thing, the no tarps thing, the no Chacos thing, the no hammocks thing, etc. All are designed for liability avoidance and the safety of a group with a comparatively low skill level compared to the BPL audience. Remember, unlike the BPL mission, we are “growing boys”, not necessarily seeing how light we can go. ( Please no sermons on this, it is just my observation.)
I am going to Philmont in two months. I will let you know how we do.Apr 20, 2006 at 6:39 pm #1355218
Douglas ProsserBPL Member
@daprosserLocale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
I think I have to agree with the earlier comment that the BSA is very conservative & most likely feel that tarp camping has more risks in bad weather and to do it safely requires a more advanced backpacker. Another perhaps side issue they were negative on attaching ropes to trees to tie up the dining flys (i.e. tarps). This maybe related to the continuous use of each camp site each & every summer & the potential to damage tree bark with all the ropes. Someone better educated would have to tell me if this is a valid concern. On some warm nights I was tempted to go sleep under the dining fly (tarp) since the is really no issue with bugs.
What I found amazing is that no one else we saw were using light weight tents. People were always amazed at our tents. Let alone light packs.
The other strange thing is to watch people lining up to leave and they weigh their packs and they are so proud when they weigh 50 or 60 or even 70+ pounds. These things are monsters to look at. I would never put one on my back otherwise I would be one of the “cripples” in my article. Our group passed about every other group on the trail because we were so light & could hike so fast (efficiently as a team). Some people on the trail with those big packs looked like they were going to have a heart attack in any minute.
I hope the article helps stimulate thinking on hiking Philmont with a light pack. Perhaps next time I’ll won’t be the only one with a G5. Enjoy.
Doug ProsserApr 21, 2006 at 11:32 am #1355254
When it comes to being a “bear thing” I do not believe there is any difference in security between a nylon tent and a nylon tarp. The bear will get in there regardless.
The “Safe Harbor” part of the “Guide to Safe Scouting” also includes allowing individual privacy. A tent without an integrated floor can still be closed and provide that level of privacy needed whereas a tarp may not. As sclemmons mentions in the post above “liability avoidance” is a big issue.
As far as tying ropes to trees, I do not know of ANY scout property that allows tying ropes to trees, roots or bushes as this is part of the Leave-No-Trace concept.
I thought your article was very well presented and can apply to all scouts (and others) doing any backpacking event. I have sent the link for it to all of the ASM’s and SM in our troop (www.troop342.com)Apr 21, 2006 at 12:55 pm #1355259
Jim ColtenBPL Member
A few weeks ago I had an email with Philmont staff about tarps …. which was lost to some aggressive archive clean out :-(
What I was told was along the lines of
* crews cook under tarps
* bears are accustomed to finding odors under tarps
* we don’t want to people sleeping under tarps because some bears might be conditioned to look under tarps
Personally, I’m with Doug Prosser concerning not fighting the system when it comes to bear issues.Apr 24, 2006 at 6:52 am #1355379
After 4 Treks our unit recommends boots with a substantial sole. We have had numerous trekkers with rock bruises from some of the trails. Makes for a very uncomfortable trip. The usual OTC pain relievers don’t do much for this condition.Apr 24, 2006 at 10:01 am #1355389
Excellent article. I went to Philmont last year and one recommendation I would make is to try to get your whole crew to buy into the lightweight philosophy. I ended up carrying more than my fair share of food because I had a lighter pack than others. In the future, I will not go unless the whole troop is willing to go lightweight. However, one luxury that many of the people on my crew carried were camp chairs. Philmont offers a great opportunity to sit around a campfire and talk with your son(s) and their friends. That is much more comfortable on a camp chair than on the ground, even if you can sit on your sleeping pad. I am still debating how to deal with this if I ever go again.Apr 24, 2006 at 10:52 am #1355393
Eric NobleBPL Member
@ericnobleLocale: Colorado Rockies
Mark, I would like to hear more about your experience. I am most curious about the weight factor, both body and pack weight. Was debris inside the footwear an issue? What footwear seemed to be problematic? Finally, do you think age or experience might be an issue?
I am a new Assistant Scout Master and am trying to get a general sense of footwear issues beyond my personal experience. Everyones feet are different. My experience may be atypical.
EDIT: Any one else who wants to reply, feel free. I directed this to Mark because he started the topic for me.Apr 24, 2006 at 10:56 am #1355394
I survived two “trek 25” trips to Philmont, and agree on the usefulness of camp chairs. If you haven’t looked at the luxurylite backpack, try http://www.luxurylite.com. The backpack frame doubles as a camp chair, and Bruce Warren has a less expensive line called neotrek. He has done a great job with customer satisfaction, at least in my case.Apr 24, 2006 at 1:58 pm #1355401
I. Michael SnyderMember
Thank you for the best advice I’ve gotten on preparation for Philmont. We’re hiking in July and I’m about to completely re-think my gear situation. Our first full pack prep hike was last month and I felt like Katz from “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Another great read for Philmont preparations. I carried a 25 lb pack for 12 miles and wished it was lighter. I also, planed to loose 13 lb of excess body weight, but have decided to go for another 5 lbs just because I can.
In 2004, we went on the Cavalcade (Horseback) and we were limited to what we can take in a single stuff sac; because of limits on whet the horses could carry. That didn’t include the tents, food and other Philmont provided gear. I got by just fine, but we had to ware jeans and cowboy boots, so we had some extra weight that didn’t count. By the way, I lost 50 lb for that adventure (over a 1 year plan) and luckily only gained back 13 lbs since.
On the tent situation, during our Cavalcade in August, we experienced two flash floods, hail, and sub-freezing temperatures. Sleeping in a tent with a dry sleeping bag is very different from being in a tarp situation with heavy rain, flooding, and wind. The reason, I’d avoid a tarp is that you need to be able to get completely out of the elements, and I don’t think a tarp will do it. The most miserable night in Philmont was following a flash flood and we lost the ability to be out of the elements. I was wet, cold, and uncomfortable. My excuse was the adults sacrificed our dry gear to be used by the scouts. Don’t underestimate the ability of Philmont to through nasty weather at you. For this reason, “Be Prepared.” Have a sleep system that protects you from the elements, make sure all your gear (sleeping bag, sleeping cloths) is protected from getting wet at all times. My gear and the gear of others was dry because they were still in plastic when the flash floods came. Most of our boys were not so lucky.
I’m still inclined to have a second set of hiking pants and shirt, because once you’re wet and it’s raining you’re going to stay wet. I also think that a third set of hiking socks makes sense; 1 to ware, 1 for a change into the hike, and 1 that’s been rinsed and is drying. I also find sock liners keep blisters down. What about extra shoes, light-weight tennis shoes? After a long morning hike, isn’t it nice to change to something else? I was also grateful we had gloves or glove liners on the cold mornings. They were also better than using a bandana to move hot pots.
On the dining fly, make sure everyone in your unit can fit underneath while it’s raining. I don’t think I’d skimp on a few feet for the weight. At our Cavalcade we spent a long time under a tarp with only half the unit there and it seemed very cramped. It might be worthwhile bringing a couple decks of cards for the unit, because there are only so many songs, skits, and stories you can share in a raging rain storm.
On the white gas bottles, I thought I’d opt for the smaller 22 oz bottles with a spare Nalgene bottle as was provided by Philmont last time. I can spread the weight around more, and a mishap (spill) will only deplete a third of my fuel supply. Thought?
You didn’t mention a Ditty bag for going into the bear bag. We found that the boys that kept all their smellables in a ditty bag where always ready when we went to raise the bear bag. It was always a pain to have to raise and lower it one or two more times after the fact.
I’m still going to find a way to keep my pack weight down, but I’m not going to sacrifice comfort and preparedness. I guess, there may be some luck of the draw on the weather you get.Apr 24, 2006 at 3:25 pm #1355406
@david_bonnLocale: North Cascades
Can any tent survive a real flash flood situation?
When I was young and impecunious (back in the late Carter and early Reagan years) I depended on tarps for outdoor adventures. I would borrow a tent from older friends or relatives for expeditions to really heinous places or for winter trips, but mostly depended on luck, skill, and cheap plastic tarps.
The first “real” tent I bought was purchased largely for my then-girlfriend, who wasn’t at all cool about skinning out in front of a crowd and wouldn’t hear about getting freaky under a tarp.
One consequence of that relationship stayed with me for well-on twenty years, since I pretty exclusively stuck with tents even though she certainly didn’t stick around past that one summer. So when I rediscovered tarps I spent most of a season re-acquiring the “eye” for a good tarp spot.Apr 26, 2006 at 7:54 am #1355480
I. Michael SnyderMember
Our tents didn’t survive the flash flood. I don’t thing even a brick house would have survived.
My point on the tents vs. tarps is that in heavy rain a tent is going to keep you and your sleeping bag drier than a tarp, as long as its above the flood plain. In cold weather, and very chilly nights (experienced at Philmont), a tent is going to keep body heat inside and work much better at heat retention than a tarp.
My other points in being prepared are directed towards having the boys ready for any weather situation they might encounter. As a Scoutmaster my first obligation is to have the boys safe and healthy. I understand that with light-weight back packing you could get away with less cloths changes. But, boys will be boys, and as a scout leader, I’m going to recommend the extra set of dry cloths for both the boys and the leaders. We as leaders must set an example. Additionally, I’ve run into situations (discussed above) where I’ve had to sacrifice my gear to keep a boy from being wet and cold. So, if I’m not prepared with extra cloths that I can loan out, then where am I going to get the aid I need to uphold my first obligation.Apr 26, 2006 at 2:04 pm #1355505
Obviously, you can keep safe and dry under a trap. Folks do it all the time. But to do so requires proper site selection.
I suspect that at Philmont (and other regions which require assigned campsites) this becomes quite difficult. As the overuse causes depressions and otherwise hard areas. Regarding warm, your tent is not suppose to keep you warm, just protect from the elements. Your bag is suppose to keep your warm. Now you can probably bring less of a bag if you are sleeping in a tent. Again, proper tarp site selection is the key.
Regarding “extra” clothes. It sounds like the boys already required to bring extra clothes (one for sleeping and one for eating). Why bring extra extra clothes?
Safety can be accomplished with “extra” gear as well as “extra” training. The later weighs far less. But requires effort and diligence, which, I suspect, is difficult to obtain from some folks.Apr 30, 2006 at 4:17 pm #1355676
I hope I can offer a bit of insight on Philmont’s gear reasoning. I was scout at Philmont in 1985 and 1987 and a Ranger in 1990. I have since worked as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) from 2001 to 2003. The institutional requirements of the school setting heavily depend on liability and risk management. NOLS is one of the heaviest research organizations for outdoor practices and they have assembled a tremendous amount of information, both from their own courses and other sources, and two issues pop up that have shaped the course requirements in these areas.
1. Bears – Nearly 50 years of research has shown that campers out in the open or under a simple tarp are more than 3 times as likely to be attacked be grizzlies and more than twice as likely by black bears than campers in enclosed tents. Why? There’s not one standard reason, but the data clearly indicates that staying tucked away inside a tent reduces your chance of attack. (If you bring smellables into your tent, all bets are off of course)
2. Bugs. NOLS requires Mesh enclosed tents in areas where West Nile Virus has been confirmed.
Grizzlies and Bugs aren’t an issue at Philmont, but there were maulings in both 1985 and 87 that we heard about.
Personally, I like tarps and I think the Philmont gear requirements make packs much heavier than they need to be. My personal pack weight for an environment like Philmont would weigh no more than about 18 pounds minus food and water. BUT, I understand many of the reasons listed, particularly in terms of bear camping. Add to it the tendency for a 14-year-old boy to shred lutralight equipment, and some of the heavier gear requirement make more sense.Apr 30, 2006 at 5:11 pm #1355677
Ken HelwigBPL Member
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
PEOPLE am I missing something? Bears vs. tarps and tents is gotta be one of the most ridiculous conversations that I have ever read. Common folks, when does a bear go poking his head in your tent or tarp to sniff out food. In all of my years backpacking in the Sierra’s I have yet to hear of a bear doing that or have it happen to me. Get over it. Bears (not including a Grizzly but a Black Bear) want nothing to do with us. And this is coming from someone who has camped in VERY HIGH bear activity areas. Geeeesh!!!!!!Apr 30, 2006 at 5:12 pm #1355678
Ken HelwigBPL Member
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
and by the way, how is a tarp or a tent going to protect you anyways? LolApr 30, 2006 at 5:46 pm #1355679
Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
You stated that:
Nearly 50 years of research has shown that campers out in the open or under a simple tarp are more than 3 times as likely to be attacked be grizzlies and more than twice as likely by black bears than campers in enclosed tents.
I have heard simular sorts of statements, but whenever I have asked for more details I get a “well.. I didn’t see the research, but John’s friend Sam did. I have never been able to find someone who has actually seen this research. Reminded me a bit of a number of myths I have come across at one time or another.
Can you point me to any good, hard for core research papers which have both the data and a description of the research methodology? I have looked for this sort of information before, but couldn’t find it in the places I would expect like http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/igbst-home.htm
–markApr 30, 2006 at 6:46 pm #1355681
You could make a request directly to the National Outdoor Leadership School at Nols.edu. This is my source of information through which I was then told you WILL camp in tents in the backcountry in the Absarokas. You could also do what the school has done – sit down with information from bear research organizations which have compiled the info for years. Bear attacks get reported – they tend to be very high profile. So there is a great deal of information available in most cases, at least if the victim was part of a group or was a solo hiker who survived to tell what happened. There ARE certain lessons learned: Groups of 4 tend to be attacked much less frequently than smaller groups or solo hikers; campers in tents are much less likely to be attacked than campers in the open; black bears tend to eat those they kill while grizzlies do not. There’s not a great deal of “why’s” given, but the tendencies are notable. It doesn’t stop me from hiking solo in grizzlie country or always using a tent in black bear country (I usually use a tarp in the Smokies), but it’s decent info to base institutional risk management decisions on. I DO agree with the earlier poster who said bear attack on sleepers is not a big deal in most areas, but historically MANY of the bear attacks at Philmont HAVE occurred at night, usually with scouts who did something foolish like wear deodorant to bed or brought snacks into their tent. As I said in the original post, all bets are off if you’re being a chowderhead.Apr 30, 2006 at 7:40 pm #1355682
@vickrhinesLocale: Central Texas
Does this remind us of the argument that a tent will keep snakes form crawling into the sleeping bag with you?Apr 30, 2006 at 10:53 pm #1355684
@cbertLocale: N. California
maybe the tent is for the bear like a convertible jeep is for lions
in africa, as long as people are sitting in the jeep, lions never attack and pretty much ignore you – step on foot on the ground though and they suddenly start looking
maybe being “the man behind the curtain” in a tent is similar for bears?May 1, 2006 at 5:40 am #1355692
I don’t know the “why” of how this phenomenon works. I just know that it is born out by a lot of empirical data. I’ve only had three encounters with Grizzlie bears, but I’ve had run-ins with black bears on more like 3 dozen occasions. Only four of those situations were in camp and 3 of those four were in tents (one was at Philmont while I was a ranger by the way) – none of those resulted in any injury except to a pack which a scout had left a koolaid-filled water bottle in a side pocket. I don’t think it’s likely that bear is going to seek out a person in the open or in a tent if they are careful with their smellables. This is why I’m willing to tarp in bear country. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for an institution which is responsible for thousands of young people to make a policy saying “Use a tent instead of a tarp.” NOLS does it in many of its branches due to bears. So does Philmont. I agree that ultimately it’s a matter of liability more than absolute danger. But that doesn’t make it a bad idea when bear attacks have occurred at Philmont in the past.
One side note on a bear attack that happened 3 years ago on a NOLS course. On a river course in Utah, a student who kept his hair in salty dreadlocks was bitten on the head while sleeping out in the open. When the press contacted him and NOLS about the incident, they wanted to have him on the air until they found out this was a small black bear in the Utah desert weighing maybe 100 pounds. I guess a 100-pound bear biting a 200-pound make on the scalp wasn’t dramatic enough. Would the bear have been deterred by a tent wall? I don’t know. If you bring food smells into your tent, you just never know.
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