- Jul 26, 2019 at 5:14 pm #3603561
I wanted to post some reactions after returning from my first trek at Philmont earlier this month. Thanks to everybody on this forum for all that I learned leading up to our trek. There is a lot of valuable information here! Anyway, some of my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours.
Favorite piece of gear: Dirty Girl gaiters, hands down! They are so light and kept my feet and socks clean the whole time. Really glad I bought them, and got several envious comments from other advisors along the way. It’s so nice to never have to get rocks out of your shoes, especially important for low-cut shoes.
Tents: We used four Philtents for the Scouts and the advisors each brought our own solo tent. Our ranger had no problem at all with that. There were no campsites that I’d consider even mildly cramped. We could have set up more tents very easily at all the camps we stayed at. Much more room than I was expecting. I used a Nemo Hornet 2 that I’ve had for a few years and would recommend it.
Stoves: We cooked with a remote canister stove (Optimus Vega) and used three 8-ounce canisters. We did buy a 4-ounce spare at Apache as insurance, but never used it. I highly recommend using a canister stove. It worked great! We only boiled about 3-4 quarts of water for each meal. If you read Camp Suds’ website, they work just as well with cold water. No need to have boiling water when washing the dishes. Unless you’re melting a ton of snow for water, there’s no need ever for a liquid stove, IMO.
Footwear: Several of us used trail runners. Definitely loved them! It seems like the guys with big hiking boots in our crew were the ones with foot issues. We stayed totally healthy except for blisters on a few guys. You definitely want Gold Bond powder to dry out feet and Leukotape-P for hot spots and holding moleskin in place. I don’t use liner socks personally, but the crew member with bad blisters did use liner socks, FWIW. Philmont had us participate in a research project about footwear. They polled us beforehand on our pack weight, shoe style, etc. and then afterwards checked to see what injuries we incurred. My guess is they are trying to test the common perception that you have to wear giant hiking boots.
Camera – Used my Google Pixel 3, which takes fantastic pictures. I used a 20,000 mAh battery that was fully charged at the Advisor lounge the morning we left for the trail. I got about 6 charges out of it and my phone had about 25% left as we rolled into base camp. Just enough! In addition to photos, I had our trek completely mapped out and downloaded to AllTrails, so I could use it in airplane mode. (There is a CalTopo map out there with all the camp locations, which you can export as a .gpx file, and then import it into AllTrails.) This was useful for keeping track of where we were, but we let the Scouts navigate. We also really enjoyed using the PeakFinder app, which you can aim at the mountains and determine all the names of the peaks. It kind of works like Google Star Maps does with constellations. I used that a ton! Make sure you download the data for the Philmont area ahead of time or it won’t work.
Water: We used Smartwater (1 liter) bottles and Nalgenes. I have been pushing Smartwaters, but some were skeptical and used Nalgenes. Even our Ranger was like “What’s with all the Smartwater bottles?” After a couple days, he noticed how many other people (including other rangers) were using Smartwaters and he said he would have to try them. People will tell you to bring something with a wider mouth for the drink mixes, but I found they worked fine with Smartwaters. By the way, I didn’t think I’d use the mixes, but was using every single Gatorade after a couple days. We each have four 1-liter bottles, along with a 2-liter collapsible bottle (most used the Evernew ones). We typically had four liters of water at the start of a hike. The 2-liter bottles were used for crew (cooking) water, and we filled them before dry camps and before the 13-mile hike over the Tooth on the last day (and really only drank maybe 4 liters that day).
<b>Eating: </b>Loved the Fozzils collapsible bowls, as you can easily lick them clean after eating. Bring some Tabasco sauce. I was skeptical, but it really hits the spot in those hot dinners.
Chair: Used a 2 ounce Thermarest Z-seat. Okay for a weekend, but I got tired of it at Philmont. Another advisor had REI’s new 16-ounce chair and loved it. I would certainly buy one of those if I had to do it again. Sometimes there are logs to sit on, but that’s not always the case.
Personal: Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes for “showering” each evening were awesome, highly recommended. Much easier than bandana showering or other methods. Showers at Sawmill and Cito were awesome, but not until well into our trek. Small camp towel is all that’s needed after a shower, so pack light here.
First aid: Surprisingly, we used quite a few throat lozenges. Glad I put those in the crew FAK. Used a ton of Leukotape-P, moleskin, some triple antibiotic/band-aids for small cuts, Ibuprofen, nail clippers (very important to have), antacid a couple times, foot powder, and that’s pretty much it.
Extra personal gear: Plan ahead so you can leave fresh clothes in the locker at base camp. You don’t want to wear gross clothes after you shower on the last day.
Camp shoes: I debated a lot whether to bring any at all. Ended up going with Crocs Swiftwaters. Unfortunately, they do let in small pebbles and sticks in the holes on the sides. However, I’m really glad I had them for stream crossings to keep my trail runners dry. I would have brought my Tevas, but was trying to set a good example and bring something close toed. I ended up letting my son toss them over the entrance gateway on the last day!
Deet: We had two small bottles and weren’t expecting to need it at all. Wrong! So many mosquitoes in a couple spots. However, I found that I’d rather put on my rain jacket and tough it out than cover myself in deet.
Summit pack: Almost didn’t bring one, which would have been a huge mistake. You will want to carry around your coffee cup, extra waters to fill, rain jacket, etc. to advisor coffee, conservation, and lots of other places. Make it lightweight, but don’t skip it.
Cold weather gear: Just my experience, but I didn’t need it. I easily might have, but with the weather we had, I could have gotten by without my puffy. Didn’t wear my light gloves at all. Used my knit hat a couple times, but would have been fine without it as I had a Buff. Loved the Buff, another favorite piece of gear. Used base layer once on a cold night, but had other clothes I could have used instead. I can’t recommend leaving any of this at home because you could get a really cold night or two.
Trowel: REI snow stake, worked fine. I think we maybe needed it 2 or 3 times. Most times we used the latrines or Red Roofs.
Ground cloth: Polycryo window kit. Each kit can be cut into two ground cloths that perfectly fit the Philtents (with a little extra on one side that you can throw away). We had one inexplicably rip in half, but the Scouts didn’t notice it was torn until too late. Our Ranger flat out told us that we didn’t need a groundcloth at all because the bottoms of the Philtents are waterproof.
Philmont Supplied Gear:
- The Philtents were great. A little heavy, but we didn’t put 10 nights of wear or have to transport our own crew tents. They stayed dry amid heavy rain a couple times.
- Cooking pots – we used two 8 quart pots. They would not give us the 6 quart since we had 11 in the crew. Big and heavy, but not a huge deal.
- Micropur tabs: We used them exactly once, at Wild Horse trail camp. Other than that, we had access to potable water from a spigot. An advisor coming off the trail the day we arrived gave us a Sawyer Squeeze and told us to bring it because some of the spigot water is sulfur-y. That proved true. The Squeeze will thread onto the spigot, not perfectly, but good enough. That helped with the bad taste a couple times. The worst was the water at Clarks Fork – totally cloudy and nasty. The Squeeze cleaned it right up. This isn’t essential and we had not brought a filter, but it was worthwhile and I’ll bring my Squeeze next time.
- Toilet paper: You can get it at any staff camp and I recommend carrying more than you think you’ll need. Better safe than sorry!
- Dining fly: At first I thought it was totally useless, but it completely saved our butts when we had to set up camp in a driving rain. Holding it by the four corners allowed us to set up tents one at a time and not have everything get soaked. I think most times you don’t need to set it up, but if you do, by all means take it down before the end of the night. It saves one thing to have to do in the morning. If somebody has trekking poles, use those with the fly and don’t bring the Philpoles.
What did everybody else learn from their treks?Jul 27, 2019 at 12:04 am #3603634AT GrimaldiBPL Member
@atgrimaldiLocale: East Bay
One of the best PSR posts yet. We leave for Denver sat at 0400. Could you post the link where you found the gpx for all the camps? Great jobJul 27, 2019 at 2:13 am #3603653
Here is the excellent CalTopo map (not made by me) with all the camps: https://caltopo.com/m/PP96
I exported a .GPX file and unselected everything except the camps we’d be going through, just to reduce clutter. Then I imported it into a new AllTrails map and drew a path for our entire itinerary. It was the first time I’ve done that and pretty easy. Then I downloaded the map onto my phone, but that does require you have an AllTrails subscription. It’s $30 and well worth it if you do a lot of hiking.
We absolutely loved being able to see where we were and if we were on the right track. Not to tell the Scouts, but for our own sanity and entertainment.Jul 27, 2019 at 6:41 am #3603673
Could you not have used a paper topo map? And taught the Scouts how to use it as well?
CheersJul 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm #3603705
Scouts used the sectional topo maps. I liked having AllTrails so the adults could see where we were but not be tempted to bother the Scouts while they were discussing where to go.
I did briefly take over and get us back on track when we got lost during a severe thunderstorm.Jul 27, 2019 at 4:21 pm #3603709Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
@ James A
Very nice Philmont trip debrief report. Well done!Jul 28, 2019 at 10:50 pm #3603868Stephen EversonBPL Member
My favorite chair is https://www.crazycreek.com/hex-2-0-original-chair/ great to take to opening/closing ceremonies, advisor’s coffee and around the campfire.
Agree on Dirty Girl gaiters – best for keeping stuff out of your boots.
Agree on canister stoves – we use the MSR Reactor stoves – with 2.7 liter pots – big enough to sterilize our rubbermaid bowls. The 8 quart pot was our carrying/storage for our bowls and spoons.Aug 5, 2019 at 5:13 pm #3604890GeorgeBPL Member
@nps-hiker, thanks for the great trip report. You mentioned that Philmont “would not give us the 6 quart since we had 11 in the Crew.” Do you happen to know what Crew size gets a 6 quart for a dishwashing pot instead of a second 8 quart pot?Aug 5, 2019 at 7:44 pm #3604913
In past years we were allowed to check-out and use the 6-quart SS cook sets for our crews of 12. They are sufficiently large for sanitizing dishes and cooking for 12. Since then we have purchased our own Chinook 6-quart SS sets (from Amazon) for training, and we carry them to Philmont. Its best to train with what you will be using on the trail.Aug 5, 2019 at 8:06 pm #3604918GeorgeBPL Member
@moonshine, is this the set you mentioned?
If so, do you happen to know the dimensions and weights of the 6 qt. pot and the frying pan lid? Thanks!Aug 7, 2019 at 4:35 am #3605068
George, that’s it, Chinook Ridgeline 6-piece SS cook set
11” dia. by 6” tall with lid on
1 lb. 15 oz. with lid
We drilled a hole in the center of the fry pan lid and put a knob on it for convenience. Its not like we’ll ever fry anything. LOL
“Philmont should be enjoyed, not endured.” MoonshineAug 13, 2019 at 2:16 pm #3605884
We were told that Philmont doesn’t have many of the 6 quart pots and wanted to save them for smaller crews.
We had already spent 6 days in the Great Smoky Mountains carrying two 8-quart pots, so the guys were used to them and it didn’t seem to be a big deal at all.Aug 20, 2019 at 1:58 pm #3606862Tim PBPL Member
We used one of these $7 Walmart pots. and a Whirley Pop base. The Walmart pot fits inside the Whirley Pop base. We just carried one lid. We wrapped the Whirley Pop base with a homemade coozy. We cut the coozy and lid insulating cover out of a car window shade I picked up at Walmart for $1. The two together weighed in at 2 lbs, 4 oz. We had roughly two 8-quart pots as recommended by Philmont, but the weight was less than the Philmont pots. The people in our crew seemed to like having the second pot for rinse water. Towards the end, we noticed that we had a lot of white gas left over, so we started using warmer rinse water. The crew liked that, even though it was unnecessary. We took two bottles of white gas for the 12-day trek and had gas left over.
I personally wish we would have had the same setup, but in a six-quart size. I didn’t find that before we left, so we just went with the 8-quart version. It was a bit heavy, but not too bad.
I wish I would have taken a chair or a full Z-pad. I did not take a camp chair, but just took a Z-seat. Our ranger had a chair and it was luxurious. If I had taken a full Z-pad, I could have folded over the Z-pad for a thicker seat or laid it out for an afternoon nap. It could have been luxurious to have a double pad too.
We used the Philmont section maps. The boys were nervous without electronic devices, but they did great. I turned my phone on three times to check the location versus the map I had downloaded on my phone. On two occasions, the boys were right on track. On the third occasion, the phone did not pick up the GPS signal, so we just went with the boys’ location.
We used lots of Micropur tabs because we went to several non-staffed camps and went up to the Valle Vidal where they were out of water at one camp when we went through. We went through maybe 140 tablets. We used a Sawyer Sqeeze filter at Upper Greenwood when we filtered water out of the nasty little pond and at Anastazi when the water was really silty. Back-flushing the filter every once in a while was the key.
We used the deuce of spades a lot. Again, we were in the Valle Vidal. We did not need cold weather gear. I used my fleece a few times. I never used my knit hat or base layer bottoms. I wish I had left them home.
The Philmont tents were heavy but solid. If you are going to send kids into the backcountry and want to nearly guarantee that they will be dry and warm, these are the tents. We often pulled the sides of the rain fly up to the top, giving it a Mohawk look. That let it breath, but kept the rain fly handy in case of rain. We found the Philmont tents to be very warm, really too warm on most nights. We had one wet night up at Copper Creek when I woke up because I was a little cool. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Our crew took a Tarptent Double Rainbow because we had an odd number. It is half the weight of the Philmont tents and a little smaller, so we used it as a single tent. The boys broke a pole section on it and found it colder than the Philmont tents with two people (go figure).
I used trail shoes and did not regret the decision. Everyone else used boots and almost all of them got blisters or had issues with wet feet. If you train with shoes and make sure your ankles are strong, you should go with shoes.Aug 21, 2019 at 4:17 pm #3607043
Thanks for the comprehensive report.
After all the talk on here about using canister stoves I’m glad to see someone else is using white gas stoves. What size fuel bottles did you carry? We carry three 11 oz. MSR fuel bottles just to spread the weight around more evenly and generally have to re-fill one (44 oz. total) for a crew of 12 and always have nearly a full bottle left over.
I, and most of our adults, carry a Therm-O-Rest sleep pad and their Trekker Chair Kit (10 oz.) that the sleep pad slips into to make a very comfortable chair with back support.
It sits on the ground, so your feet are level with your but, like putting up your feet. After just a few days on the trail you get tired of sitting on hard logs, rocks or the ground. And it so good to put your feet up so blood can drain out of them.
Map and compass navigation is an important skill all Scouts need to know, there may be a time when batteries die or GPS is nonexistent.
All Philmont’s issued gear tends to be heavy because it must be durable and nearly Scout proof to hold up to the constant use for a full season or two. That’s why we have and train with our own crew gear and tents and carry them at Philmont. Our gear is lighter than Philmont’s and because our Scouts train with and own this gear they take better care of it than others might with gear they don’t own, like many going to Philmont.
Everyone should hike at Philmont in the footwear they trained in as well as everything else they trained with. They know how it works and how to use it so there is no learning curve on gear. There will be enough learning curve for just being at Philmont.
“Philmont should be enjoyed, not endured.” MoonshineAug 22, 2019 at 3:52 pm #3607159Tim PBPL Member
We used two, 20-ounce white gas bottles. We did not refill and had fuel left over. We only had 7 in our crew. We used extra fuel to warm the wash and rinse water, so we certainly could have gotten by with less. Keeping the wind screen close to the pot made a big difference. One of our leaders had a Whisperlite International which could have taken canisters, but our backup stove was white gas, so we just stuck to all white gas.
As advisors we didn’t go through gear hard enough with our boys. They took extra clothing and toiletries that they didn’t need to take. That pushed crew gear around to others and everyone’s packs were heavier than they needed to be. We also should have gotten the boys together more regarding sharing gear and other items. I was pretty happy with our crew first aid kit. We saw a crew that had a great kit that weighed in at 8 lbs was probably 2/3 the volume of the Tarptent. They were prepared, but it might have been overkill.
The tents were the largest contributors to the overall gear weight for our crew. If you take your own, you can reduce the total load by a pound or more per person. The patio window film worked great for groundcloths. We bought them at the end of the season from Lowes for $3 each. We should have cut them in half before we went. We cut them at Philmont and the cuts were a bit rough.
I wish we had been more proactive going through the food at each pickup point and dumping food we were not going to eat, rather than returning uneaten food. One way we would not have carried extra and the other way we were guaranteed to carry extra food.
We had a great time. It has been tough adjusting to life back in the real world. It sucks to be in air conditioning, back at work and not walking 5-11 miles a day. I go to bed at night wishing I were in a tent, wishing I could wake up for a hike tomorrow, but I wake up to reality of a commute, a desk and a computer screen.Aug 22, 2019 at 4:54 pm #3607171
Glad you had a good time, Tim. Don’t kick yourself too much. I’m quite certain there were many crews who were overpacked. I had 1 scout with 3 containers of Gold Bond. :)
We had white gas stoves a couple of years ago. They’re still in our shed, but canisters are simpler and safer. Every argument made to me about canister stoves has proven false or simply not an issue. I had one guy on Reddit claim our trek would be ruined because of canister stoves. Ha! The only issue we almost had was Philmont running out of canister fuel.
Obviously both types work. Go with the one you like.Aug 22, 2019 at 10:24 pm #3607196
So, you “Want to go back to Philmont”. That’s great!
We come to these sites to learn how to make our trek easier but there is no substitute for experience. Having now been there you will be better prepared for your next trek and to help those that follow you.
Going to Philmont is not just 10 times longer than a weekend backpacking trip. Anybody can get by for a weekend with crappy gear and live on Twinkies. Not so much at Philmont. Day after day blisters don’t have time to heal, tents start to leak, stuff breaks, dehydration, restless sleep, fatigue builds up.
We conduct pack shakedowns before every backpacking trip, we do about 4 per year. We have every Scout and adult pair up with their tentmate and empty their packs completely. We call out each essential item checking it for suitability and have them place it in their pack. We make sure everyone has the essentials to live comfortably in the wilderness. Then we scrutinize their gear left on the floor as to whether it is needed or too much or unnecessary gear, clothes or items. By the time our Scouts are old enough (and our ASMs) to go to Philmont they have good gear and pack smart.
“Philmont should be enjoyed, not endured.” MoonshineAug 22, 2019 at 10:36 pm #3607199
At the Welcome Center there is a large scale to weigh packs. While waiting for our bus to take us to our trail head we watch as crews come up and weigh their packs. It is socking how much some of these packs weigh, many 50 pounds or more. Most need help getting their packs on and off or up on the scale. And their crew members cheer at how heavy they are.
You know they are going to enjoy humping those monsters up and down steep mountains.Aug 23, 2019 at 1:28 am #3607237
They apparently used to have a lot more of those scales. We didn’t see them until after we got back.
Our previous scoutmaster apparently hit the trail with a 70+ pound pack according to one of our scouts who went on that trek.
I spent a lot of time sending out lightweight options and every time I saw a great deal on something, I’d email it out to the group. Some used it, some ignored it. I kept telling them to get a warm, light puffy coat and sent them the Uniqlo and My Trail sales. Some took advantage and others kept putting it off.
My son had the lightest pack in the crew and every piece of gear he had was bought on sale.
The Smartwater bottles were basically crew gear as I bought them and told them to leave the heavy, bulky nalgenes at home. They eventually saw how nice it was to fit 2 Smartwater bottles in those side pockets. Other crews commented that it was a good idea.
It amazing how many packs make it difficult to strap stuff on the outside. We struggled finding ways to add straps for the closed cell foam pads and tent pieces that didn’t fit in the pack.
Overall, though, I think I did convince them not to overpack anywhere close to how badly our troop apparently did the last time.
I can thank this site, Reddit, Dixie and others.Aug 23, 2019 at 4:37 am #3607255
It amazing how many packs make it difficult to strap stuff on the outside.
But good practice is to not have things tied to the outside of your pack. It may not matter on wide open trails, but try going off-trail through scrub – and see how much you lose.
We found a sleeping bag once …
CheersAug 23, 2019 at 10:59 am #3607265
But good practice is to not have things tied to the outside of your pack.
The problem is, there was no way to fit CCF pads inside a pack with all the bulky Philfood. Even without overpacking, it would not fit. We needed to strap those and half of a Philtent on the outside for most of the crew.Aug 23, 2019 at 11:03 am #3607266
Theory meets real world.
CheersAug 23, 2019 at 5:18 pm #3607323
What size packs did you have? Philmont recommends a 75 L (4600 cubic in.) internal frame pack because in addition to all your personal gear you normally carry, everyone will have to pack some crew gear and lots of food.
You may try putting your CCF sleep pad in your pack first. Loosely roll it and put in your empty pack, let it unroll and expand to the size of your pack like an empty shell, then load everything into the center of the expanded sleep pad.
“Theory meets real world.”
Right, there is no prefect backpacking gear. Everything has trade-offs, so you make choices, weight over comfort, convenience, whatever.
“But good practice is to not have things tied to the outside of your pack.”
We insist all our crew members have everything inside their packs, it’s just good practice as mentioned.
“Philmont should be enjoyed, not endured.” MoonshineAug 23, 2019 at 5:36 pm #3607327
They were 65 – 75 liter packs. Although my son had a 55 liter REI pack. However, he had more compact gear thanks to his dad shopping for deals. :)
Several, including my son, had the Nemo Switchbacks that I suggested to them. Arguably the best CCF pad. It doesn’t roll so well. It really is meant to be on the outside.
They also were not good using their little hands to mash their mashable gear. I gave assistance to a couple of them, particularly one of the crew stuck with the big pot.
There’s nothing wrong with have a CCF tightly strapped to the outside or even half a tent tightly strapped. The problem is when you look like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck with a bunch of stuff dangling off the pack.Aug 23, 2019 at 6:55 pm #3607336
I’m amazed they had trouble getting everything into their 65 – 75 liter packs.
“The problem is when you look like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck with a bunch of stuff dangling off the pack.”
I like that one, I used to use the comparison of the prospector’s burroin old movies with all the shovels, picks, pots and skillet clanging and banging . But the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck may be more relevant to today’s generation.
“Philmont should be enjoyed, not endured.”
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