Philmont Redux: A Returning Scouter’s Report

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Philmont Redux: A Returning Scouter’s Report

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    Addie Bedford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana
    Tim Cheek
    BPL Member



    Thanks for this article. It was 36 and 35 years ago for me, but it brought back many memories. I had two girls, so I feel cheated!

    George Geist
    BPL Member


    Locale: Smoky Mountains

    Nice article Tom. I think it will be quite useful to other crews contemplating their Philmont gear lists.

    >Interestingly, Philmont will not let Scouts sleep under
    > this or any other tarp. A tent is required.
    > I don’t know whether this requirement is related
    > to bear safety or privacy issues

    It is a bear safety issue. Since the tarp is used to cook under in poor weather, the smell of food and possible spilled food will be under it. Even if your crew never used the tarp to cook under, bears will learn from other crews who were not so neat that food may exist under the tarp and come investigate. For this safety reason, Philmont has the rule that sleeping under a tarp (dining or personal) is not allowed. A tent is required.

    Hope that helps answer your question.

    Kathy A Handyside
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Michigan

    Beautiful photography to accompany a beautiful article! Some of the photos remind me so much of my Outward Bound trip.

    If they had had something like this for girl scouts when I was young, I would have joined. But all that the girl scout troops in my area did was learn to sew, decorate cakes, and sell cookies, with an occasional very very tame overnight camping trip thrown in. Boring! I wanted to join the boy scouts when I was young because they did what I loved to do: get out in the woods, hike and go on adventures.

    Fortunately, when I was in my late 20s, I was able to take a month-long Outward Bound trip which fulfilled my quest for adventure (and turned me into a life-long backpacker).

    thomas baskin


    Thanks for the clarification Al. As I mentioned in the piece, your Philmont article informed our plans for Philmont. Crew 613-K is most grateful for your insights.

    tom baskin

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    Wow, I hadn't thought about the "Tetrox trots" since 1973. Pretty funny.

    All Philmont needs now is for Ted Turner to donate Vermejo Park to the Scouts. Yeah, like that will happen.

    Dan Durston
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies


    Jim Cowdery
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Florida

    Thanks for the article. My son and I did the trip about six years ago. This was before I knew about ultra light backpacking. At that time my mantra was keep it light. We were a group of 8 boys and 4 leaders. All of the boys weighed in at less than 30 lbs fully loaded with 2 L of water and three days of food. Two adults were in the 35 lb range and two were in the mid 40 lb range. The two 40 + lb leaders complained several times during the trip. Between them they carried an 8 LB bibler tent along with other “luxury” items. Their experience would have been much better had they kept their weight down.

    While we didn’t suffer any but-pees we did have a lot of fun with the minibears. Our boys fashioned several versions of “deadfall” traps and became quite successful in trapping and releasing.

    Most young men aren’t very religious. Philmont has a voluntary program crews can participate in that only takes a few minutes a night. Our crew reluctantly decided to try it. By the time our trek was over they had fully embraced the program and felt it enhanced their experience. In conjunction with the “roses buds and thorns” talk every night this program helped forge strong bonds between the members of our crew.

    We had a leader that was extremely compulsive about the rules and regs almost to the point where it was tainting our preparation. I think his compulsion actually softened the impact of these rules when we started our trek. Just "go with the flow" and you will have a reat time.

    The Philmont trip helped cement my passion for hiking. I hope at some distant time my son can take his son on a Philmont trip just as you have done. If you are a scout don’t pass up on this opportunity. If you are a leader get in shape and go. It is a trip that will stay with you forever.

    Marilyn Horahan


    Kathy: Well that would have made Juliette Lowe flip in her grave since she thought it was very important that her Girl Scouts be "wilderness wise". Mercifully, we have come a long way. My 13 year old daughter went on a Girl Scout Destination last summer and spent two weeks doing a combination canoe tripping and backpacking trip in Northern Michigan. Our local Girl Scout Council is planning an extended council trip in the Smoky's. Every girl's experience will vary because some leaders don't want to camp,hike, or backpack and therefore won't take the girls. Fortunately, there are opportunities through councils and GSUSA for them to do it individually.

    Great article! I've already jotted down a couple of ideas for our upcoming group backpacking trip.

    Christopher Knaus


    Locale: Northern California

    In preparing for our 2008 Philmont trek, I corresponded with the Philmont authorities about the single occupancy tent issue. The word came back that they were adamant about doubling-up the Scouts for reasons both of safety/buddy system and socilaizing – ensuring one kid doesn't inadvertently become the odd man out. They were OK with the adults going solo as you note. I brought a Mountain Hardware Skypoint 1 and learned first hand about condensation in single wall tents during the Aguust monsoon – but that is another story! We also used a lightweight Silnylon tarp (Equinox 10 ft; x 12 ft; with trekking poles) rather than the Philmont issue for the community tarp and it worked like a charm druing the numerous thunderstorms and one particularly nasty hailstorm. I wish I had thought about your cooking/rehydration system. Our Al pots were better and less clunky than the Philmont issued pots, but heavy nevertheless.

    As to the Philmont way and associated rules, your advice to "go with the flow"; is good. Some of the rules initially seemed picky or excessive to some of our trek members – all of whom had experienced 50 mile treks in the Sierra. However, once we considered the management perspective of keeping literally thousands of Scouts and adults of all experience levels from all over the country and around world healthy and SAFE while preserving the resource and landscape, everything fell nicely into place. I've noticed that several Philmont-learned practices have crept into my normal routine. Old dog, new tricks!

    Bottom line – slightly misquoting Sgt. Pepper – "A splendid time was had by all"

    Walter Underwood
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Rather than lashing the poles, though that is a time-honored Scout skill, use a Black Diamond Pole Link Converter. Easy to use, stable, $5, and 35g.

    James Lantz
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Georgia

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane that you provided for us old Philmont veterans. The pictures of Mt. Phillips, Cimmaroncito, & the Tooth of Time brought back fond memories of Itenerary #11 July 1975, Crew 727-D, Savannah, GA. It was the first time I had ever seen a nylon tent or backpack instead of canvas! Are the mule deer still over running the place?

    Gregg Martell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mid Atlantic

    I was supprised to see the tent configuration in the 4th picture. Even in non-staffed camps we had rangers come through and tell us to move tents if they didn't like the configuration. A closed circle was a big no no, because a bear might thinks it's trapped and charge through a tent to get out

    Jacob D
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Bay

    Great write up Tom.

    I'm sure when your son is a little older he'll look back in appreciation and with many good memories much like you have. I hope to make this trip with my son some day when he is old enough.

    Daniel Green
    BPL Member


    No need to feel cheated. Your daughters can join a Venturing crew and attend Philmont. Venturing is a stand-alone program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women ages 14 to 20. Philmont is not just for boys.

    Walter Underwood
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Hmm, Itinerary 4? Your route sure sounds a lot like ours. We were expedition 624-X, so we left the day you returned to base camp. The lovely weather continued for our trek.

    Itinerary 4 was very nicely laid out for adjusting to the altitude. Short days and under 1000 feet gain for the first few days, then a layover at Apache Springs (9400 feet) before the big push up Mt. Phillips (11,700).

    We weren't quite as light as your crew, but I was proud of how serious our guys were about packing. I like the idea of the award for the lightest pack.

    In these photos, you can see we had a Betamid and an MLD Speedmid among the tents:



    I really enjoyed your article – I love hiking in northern New Mexico.

    I have a question about the Photon Micro-Light. You stated the clip attachment was very useful "Especially useful was the clip attachment for the brim of my hat"

    I was looking on line "" and I don't see how you could clip the lite to your brim. Did you use the clip that came with the lite or something else.



    Link .
    BPL Member


    If you go to you will see the clip that comes with some of their lights or you can buy them seperately if you look under accessories.If you already own a micro light I or II and do not want to buy the Freedom in order to just get the clip and lanyard you can buy it seperately and it fits all three lights.

    Kathleen B


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Lance – the photon microlight REI sells does not come with a clip, nor does the light stay on unless you squeeze it constantly. When I searched for one with a clip, I found it had to be the Photon Freedom light. BPL sells it, and so does George Carr at

    John L Collins
    BPL Member


    Locale: Not too far off the Tuscarora Trail

    Thanks for a very detailed and interesting write up. Your article as much as Doug's and Al's have intensified my desire to get out to Philmont. Since I'm in the process of reviving a long-dormant Troop all of the articles on BPL have given me some good ideas about what we need to equip with. Our first camping trip is in a couple of weeks behind our meeting place and will give me a good idea of what each boy has to work with and where we need to focus our efforts.

    It will be a few years yet before my son is old enough to go to Philmont which is good as that gives me time to lighten myself up as well as my gear.

    Thanks again for an inspiring article and awesome pictures.


    Jim Colten
    BPL Member


    Locale: MN

    Ditto all the thanks for Tom's nice article.

    I'm in the process of reviving a long-dormant Troop …

    Good for you! Thank you for your efforts on that.

    It will be a few years yet before my son is old enough to go to Philmont

    But it's not too soon to start talking like Philmont (or other suitably challenging trip) is the inevitable goal of any healthy troop. Our troop did not have that tradition while my son was a scout … took me about a dozen years to get another leader to buy into the idea of an annual short backpacking trip. That grew into a strong expectation that we'd enter the Philmont lottery every year except the year following one where we got a slot.


    Thanks to Anna and Kathleen for the info on Photonlight and available clips. Lance

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)

    Great article & pictures Tom. I'm so happy we are finally getting some others to write about scouting activities. You painted a very good picture of hiking Philmont. Even thou I was there in August I'm ready to go again after reading this.

    Thanks Again.

    John Myers
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Texas

    Excellent article and photos. It's hard to believe it's been 3 1/2 years since I went with my oldest son. I'm fortunate to be able to go back this coming summer with my youngest son. I had a reasonably light base weight last time (17 lbs before food & water) but hope to improve on that for the next trip.

    Thanks to all of you who take the time to report on your experiences and what works (and what doesn't). We are taking a lot of your ideas to the troop to try to ensure the boys have the best possible experience that they can have.

    I don't have a problem with the Philmont rules, but I sure wish they allowed the advisors to use hammocks. I sleep so much better in a hammock. :)
    Well, maybe someday.


    Brian Sims


    Thank you for the wonderful article. As others have stated, and you lived, this was a trip down memory lane for many of us. I visited Philmont in August 1993, and was 16 I think. I did not do Philmont with my troop (Troop 660, Cypress CA) and my troop never did Philmont while I was active or before even though we were a big backpacking/high adventure troop. My father heard about the Philmon Trail Crew Program while taking his backpacking training course through the Boy Scouts. Another boy from my troop and I signed up for the trail crew program and went on our own. The two of us flew to Albuquerque then took a Greyhound to Cimmeron.

    For those unfamiliar with the Trail Crew Program, it is a 26 day outing where for 14 days you perform trail maintenance for the ranch and then trek for 10 (the additional days are for ramp up/down and transition). The best part about it, it's free. All you have to do is get yourself there.

    They broke the group of boys in the program, who were from all over the county, into two groups; sending the boy from my troop into the other group. Here I was a long way from home and I didn't know anyone. Our group was tasked with the continued building of a new trail in Bear Canyon, just north of Highway 64 and east of Ute Park. We hauled in by hand large metal bear cans to set up a dry camp about a mile off the road. Every day we had to hike in large Gatorade containers of water every day. Our food was real, very real like pork and chicken store in unrefrigerated boxes. As for trail building we basically built a quarter miles of brand new trail on a virgin mountain side. We did everything from rough cut using two person cross saws, to tread building, to creating rock walls. It was an amazingly rewarding experience! We visited in August and monsoon season was in full effect. The thunderstorms were intense to say the least. One day we go chased off the work site with lightning going off all around us. We ran down the mountain side at breakneck speed – a Boy Scouts dream.

    After our 14 days of work we had a rest day at the village and worked with our two Philmont leaders to develop our own custom itinerary. We designed a route that crisscrossed the Ranch; I forget the distance but it was very close or just over 100 miles.

    I loved the comment about the Crooked Creek homesteading camp. I vividly remember our visit to that camp (and that was 18.5 years ago). We arrived late in the afternoon and the weather was starting to turn. The camp was staffed by two ladies and one guy (all 20 somethings). At 16 we knew that was one of the luckiest dudes at the ranch. :) Many of the boys were honing their lady skills while we chatted. We ended up leaving just as the rain started and most of us were near hypothermic by the morning.

    So many great memories and stories were developed at Philmont. I would hope that any parent involved in the Boy or Girl Scouts will be motivated to get their troop into planning a Philmont trip after reading this great article. I know for myself I departed for Philmont a boy and returned a young man. One week after returning from Philmont I left for a week long backpacking trip with my troop in Yosemite (a trip I planned from scratch). I could tell a marked difference between the boys in my troop and the two of us who went to Philmont. They actually seemed like kids to us. I went on to make Eagle within a year of returning and had a real sense of focus in my life from that experience. I very much hope to return to Philmont one day with my son(s) and/or daughter(s).

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