Boy Scouts and Lightweight Backpacking

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 Boy Scouts and Lightweight Backpacking

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 22 posts - 26 through 47 (of 47 total)
  • Author
  • #1338130

    You are absolutely right.

    My sincere apologies and thanks to the poster who correctly took me to task and to the readers of this thread.

    “smart-a_ _ _ ” – true.
    immature – even truer.

    Again, please accept my apologies.

    Brian Macari
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mid-Atlantic

    I like Bill Fornshell’s idea! Lets get someone to jump out a plane with the packs hanging below them. Coup, are you ready? I think the Go-lite Gust (built from Dyneema only – no moving parts!) is up to that test!! Ryan, just in case he’s not paying attention, email this thread to Coup (at Go-lite)! I bet he antes up a test!
    [No, I don’t work at Go-lite, I just like my Gust!]

    Norman Otto


    Doug’s article results in an excellent balance of lightweight backpacking for young scouts and safety, frugality and common sense.
    For the Northeast, I have 2 words of advice on a modified list: Wet & Buggy! Therefore, I’d modify the list for New England Scouts and suggest a Synthetic Insulation Sleeping Bag that maintains warmth when wet (young Scouts can never stay dry given a wet environment) and a Mosquito Net. I’v tried 4 different nets and my favorite is the Repel Sleep Screen (altho heavy -11oz–with poles -don;t loose them & pricey-$39. @ REI). Combine these with a Poncho-tarp (Campmore extra long modified with sewn-in ridge ties is half the price of my ID poncho-tarp)& you are protected. Scouting’s Adult Volunteers need to be educated about the dangers (physical & emotional)of heavy packs on young scouts, which BSA has all but ignored.
    Yours in Scouting, Downhill Norm, (ASM)

    Paul Siegler


    We will charter a brand new troop this fall and plan to shed the traditional cast-iron-in-the-chuckbox camping model. All one has to do is shop the internet or local outdoor suppliers to realize BSA’s National Council are seriously stuck in the last century. Combine the pragmatic emphasis on “Leave No Trace” and low-impact camping with “Be Prepared” and one quickly realizes BSA National Supply has some catching up to do.

    It is just common sense for an organization like BSA to lead charge in bringing the high-impact outdoorsman of the past into a model based on conservation and care of the environment. The heavy equipment used by most troops in our area requires large facilities to store it, big trailers to haul it, and an army of scouts to load and unload it. Furthermore, the traditional scout camp can leave a huge “foot print” on the land, especially when it rains. Thankfully, these heavy-duty scouting units are largely confined to state parks and council camping areas that already get heavy use. Think of the experiences their boys are missing!

    Let’s face it, our goal as scouters is to keep our scouts interested in scouting long enough to have a positive impact on their lives. So next fall we will ask parents to buy two uniforms: 1) an official BSA Field Uniform for indoors and 2) a separate Troop Activity Uniform for outdoors. Our troop activity uniform will consist of layered clothing elements:
    – custom troop CoolMax base-layer shirt (olive),
    – custom troop fleece jackets (red) with a troop emblem,
    – custom troop boonie cap (khaki) of fast-drying poly/nylon,
    – any polypro base-layer long and short bottoms for both warm and cold weather (scout’s choice),
    – the new wicking BSA “Action Shirt” will become our functional “field shirt”,
    – nylon convertible hiking pants/shorts (khaki): also serve as swim trunks,
    – poly sock liners and boot socks,
    – a nylon web belt,
    – breathable, ventible wind/rain parka and pants (scout’s choice),
    – medium weight hiking boots,
    – knit cap, gloves/mittens for cold weather
    – no neckerchief

    Standardizing colors should prevent us from looking like a traveling circus. The customized clothes are less expensive than you might think, but require a parent to serve in a procurement position on the committee.

    We have developed a minimal gear list that follows the “rule of multiple uses.” With few exceptions, if an item has only one useful purpose, leave it at home. This turns into a thinking game for the boys. We have a recommended list of preferred sleeping bags, backpacks and boots that will be regularly updated. The troop will provide backpacking tents (basic Eurekas), cooking gear, etc.

    This strategy will be an experiment for us, but we’ve seen a few other troops adopt the model with good results. Any thoughts?


    Scouting will eventually move to the light philosophy. Scouting is a conservative organization that adopts change slowly. For example, when I went to Philmont in the early 80’s I had an internal frame backpack. The ranger tried to get me use a frame pack, because the ranger did not “believe” the internal pack would work. How many people have internal frame packs at Philmont today?

    As more and more Scouts (and Scout leaders) get educated to the virtues of going light, it will be accepted in time.

    A lot of Scout family’s have cost restraints, and light gear is ussually more expensive. What ideas do others have for going light and going inexpensive?

    Making your gear is one solution and Scouts use to love making stuff. Do Scouts still like to make stuff?


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > And for weekend trips a waterproof pair of shoes/boots is a good idea.

    We walk IN the creeks and rivers at times, for the whole day. Wet feet have never done any harm at all. But good thick socks and comfortable footwear – ah, that’s essential.


    Rob Bungarden


    Cost is a big issue and we talk to scout parents a lot about shopping for deals on quality equipment. If you haven’t checked it out, look at the Coleman non-profit website. Some of the prices can’t be beat and it includes some good backpacking gear.

    Michael Sagehorn


    I like the list Doug put together. It's a mirror image of what I've done for my troop.

    The bigger challenge with being a Scouter today, particularly a Scouter whose own Scouting experience was in the backpacking-mad 1970's, is the rigor in getting boys off their butts to do physically difficult adventures. We've always had a good core group of 10-15 backpacker Scouts at all age levels of our unit with 40-50 boys, but even with multiple trip dates a good share of them are plain panty-waists.

    I couldn't quite intellectually explain what I was thinking over the past 15 years of service as a Scouter but Richard Louv's book put it all together. His book-"Lost Child in the Woods," is now my mantra for parents.

    If lightening the load makes a positive effort in getting more kids out I think Doug has done a great job. I would add a caveat….do not take boys of any age near water without a full set of dry clothes(lightweight if needed) wrapped up in a sealed plastic bag. Boys will find inumerable ways to get wet at the worst of times.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    So can we re-print this, and hand it out to parents?

    And I also think cost is the major hurdle to most parents. Maybe I live in the wrong part of the world, but most of our parents balk at spending $200 on a pack and sleeping bag, for an 11 year old who may just play baseball instead. But I am going to steer all the guys toward UL, as much as I can, within cost restraints.

    BPL Member


    Locale: NorCal - South Bay

    I went on my first 'mini' backpacking trip as an ASM this weekend. We went to Angel Island out in the San Francisco bay and hiked to our campsight and then went on to do a service project. The boys hiked no more than 5 total miles with packs (we were only there overnight).

    Several of the boys were under 12. I helped my son with his pack and got him down to 11.7 pounds. Which is what I wanted because he dislikes hiking. He had a better time than on any day hike with this trip. I think because his pack weight was so low. He was skipping down the hill on the way out the next morning.

    Now, I really (really, really) love light backpacking. So, what I saw on this trip scared me and I hope we are going to work to correct some of what I saw for our trip next month.

    Weight distribution… Some kids had packs that were sticking out two feet behind them because they were carrying old Coleman style rectangle bags. Tents were also hanging off the back with no way to lash them closer to the body.

    The Problem (1 of many)… Some parents bought packs based on the size of their child that were less than 2000 Ideal, maybe, but not that practical.

    We did a gear weigh in before the trip that helped us out. But when the boys actually loaded the packs… WOW. What a mess. But, at least they were all smiling.

    I did alot of selling of Golite's Pinnacle Pack which lists as 1 pound 9 ounces (I've used the Jam also at 1 pound 6 ounces). I wrote a review of it if you want to take a look in reader reviews under framless back packs. You get the 72 liters volume or about 4500 cubic inches and the pack shrinks to a load capacity of about 1500 cubic inches. It will also take a hydration bladder.

    The reason I bring this up is the cost of the pack retails at $130 and I picked mine up for $110 on sale with free shipping and no sales tax since I bought it from a reatiler in Florida on-line. Golite has the links to who carries their packs on their web site.

    One of the best threads I saw today was suggesting the use of Tarp Tents. Most of the two men are under 2 pounds with a bug screen. Or you can go with just the tarp and be as lite as 8 ounces.

    I think we need to concider these. Especially during the summer months.

    I agree cost is a major fator. But if we teach the kids to be more adaptable and open minded to different ways of living in the wilderness during our weekend outings I think they will be better off for it.

    What do you guys think?

    Brett .


    Locale: CA

    This is a great article for anyone transitioning to lightweight backpacking; I sure wish it was available a couple years ago when I started that changeover. It summarizes the rationale for gear choices then details a list you can literally print out and follow. I am going to point new hikers to this article first and foremost as a brief and clear intro to the gear choices. Great job!

    I have never been a Scout, so for the non-scouting version of this article, I might suggest the following things.
    – No trash bags as clothing; suffocation/condensation problems. carry at least a poncho.
    – No Frogg Toggs, weight and cost are tempting, but they tear like tissue paper. Again, poncho.
    – Using sneakers? OK, but replace the breakable cotton laces with 2mm accessory cord.

    Larry Tullis
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wasatch Mountains

    Great article but many scouts have parents unable to spend $300 on ultralight gear for a scout that may or may not use the gear more than once or twice. I did my first scouting 50 miler hike with a $12 budget (for all gear and food) and admittedly made mistakes that I learned from, but any scout should be able to outfit themselves for under $100 these days.

    Peruse thrift stores for synthetic clothing and gear like backpacks, hiking sticks/tarp poles (old ski poles) etc.. Make a synthetic quilt that tacks to a sleeping pad or keep an eye on the sales at discount outdoor stores. Teach them to cook at home with an esbit stove and a single aluminum pot before they go camping. An 8×10 blue tarp makes a fine tarp shelter for 1-6 scouts…but also have the boy practice in the back yard pitching it and sleeping in it before a trip. I started with a plastic tube tent for $1. I closed off one end and quickly learned about condensation. Scouts is about learning, not about parading lots of fancy, expensive gear.

    Charles Bilz


    Locale: California

    Larry, as a ASM, I agree completly with your comments about serarching out clothing and gear at thrift shops. But I would add never buy "official" BSA Gear. It is to expensive and heavy. BSA has yet to embrace lite weight camping. The best experience a boy can have is an outdoor weekend with his troop. Scouts learn by doing.

    Patrick Tobin


    Locale: Mid-South

    Hi guys, (and Gals)
    I am trying to put together a curriculum for a "University of Scouting" event next spring and I am looking for suggestions. I think much of it will be MYOG type of equipment. But I would really like to cut it to the bare bones as far as cost. I certainly hope this will help get more kids out into nature, without overloading them with an heavy pack.

    Douglas Prosser
    BPL Member


    Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)

    What is the University of Scouting???

    Doug Prosser
    [email protected]

    Mike Barney


    Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
    Robb Simer
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas Gulf Coast

    You are all correct about the weight of a boy's hiking and camping gear being very important for the novice scout camper. Comfort is also very important. You might want to consider that most of the nation's parents of these boys have no idea that ultralight gear manufactures exist. They are going to go down to the local Walmart or Academy or Bass Pro Shop (or other store of that ilk) to get there son's gear. The best that can be hoped for is to educate these parents, scouts and Scout Masters about getting the lightest gear available to them. The retailers are doing better at carrying lighter gear, but improvements will only occur with input from these parents, scouts and Scout Masters. Price is also a large factor. Hence, the parents shopping at Walmart or Academy, etc. A "dress" uniform for their son will definitely be bought, the the Scouting Store and catalogue prices are almost prohibitive. This has been a long note but having had three son's in the Scouting program and now looking at having four grandsons involved, I've been there and can testify that done right, Scouting is really woth all the "hassels". Robb

    BPL Member


    Locale: NorCal - South Bay

    Last year I held a training session for the new boys and their parents and introduced them to my lightweight pack and showed them alternatives. I provided a list of my gear (I am cheap), what I paid and what retail was. I introduced them to a two bag system (I am in California) that includes a cold weather bag and a lightweight bag. I noted what was at a minimum necessary and what kind of trips these items would be needed for.

    The example seems to have helped many of the boys and parents understand what to look for. I would love to turn it in to a whole weekend class someday or teach it at our local University of Scouting.

    Unknown abc


    Finally someone in the Boy Scouts other than me is catching onto the lightweight revolution! I am a First Class Scout in Troop 93 in Idaho.Ever since my first backpacking trip, I decided to look for a better way and when I found "Lightweight Backpacking and Camping" by Ryan Jordan and "The Ultralight Backpacker" by Ryel Kestenbaun in my local library, I was a self proclaimed 'Lightweight Backpacker'
    making all my buddies look like pack mules laden with all their traditional gear and ideas on the next trip.

    Thanks, I will send this link to parents in my Troop since my friends all think I am nuts.

    Curtis Ware
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    As I was looking at boxes of scout stuff I came across my 1976 reprint of the Boy's Life Litepac Camping Equipment.

    As I looked it over, I wonder how light the stuff could be made using the material that was not available in the early seventies. My patrol made the Hickory tent out of plastic and used it many times.

    I was going to scan it, but a quick google showed that it has already been scanned. Check it out.

    *Fixed pub date

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there


    Thomas Rayl
    BPL Member


    Locale: SE Tx

    Unless you're on a Yukon expedition or equivalent, consider a down quilt instead of a sleeping bag. They're lighter weight and compress REALLY well. And, if you get one with a closable head-hole like those by, they also serve as a really warm poncho-type wrap (under a poncho for rain protection, if necessary!) in early morning / cool evening / emergency. Another dual-use = lighter-weight example. You already mentioned (in the gear list) that a rain poncho can also be the ground cloth — another dual-use.

    Quarters: Cost is a very real concern, expecially in some areas and economies. Check with your local scouting organization and try running some find-raising projects with the scouts doing a significant part of the effort. (And check about gear sponsorships!) The boys will value gear more if they've actually worked to get it. (NOTE: It may require that the gear technically be considered "troop equipment".) This can also be valuable in generating a "can-do" attitude in young scouts.

    Good Luck!

Viewing 22 posts - 26 through 47 (of 47 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!