Thursday, October 3, 2013

It Takes a Monster Pack for Philmont!

Don't be distressed by the title of this post.  That's a comment I hear over and over each season as Scouts get the word they are going to New Mexico for a week to ten days of backpacking.  Four years ago I was in the position that some fortunate Scoutmasters are in right now.  One leader recently contacted me and explain an "old timer" in his Troop declared that there was no way to do it with less than 50 pounds.  I called him back and assured him that that information was not totally accurate.

That leads us into today's post.  The crew leader for my trek and a couple of the other boys were determined to go as light as possible on their 2009 trek.  After all two of them had been shaving ounces off their pack weight for a couple of years and were determined not to carry a heavy pack again.

As with other crews we planned a number of shake down activities with the crew.  I'll never forget the first one.  One of the other adults that had three previous trips to Philmont under his belt showed up with a 49 pound pack.  I looked at it leaning against his vehicle and asked why such a big pack.  The reply was "that's what it takes to hike at Philmont".  I rolled my eyes and pulled my 18 pound pack out of the backseat of my car.  His reaction was "why did you bring that pack?'.  "Because that's what I'm taking to Philmont", was my response.
This was one of the first shake down hikes on the AT in Virginia

Over the course of our practice hikes, I spent a time showing the hows and whys of light weight backpacking.  While the boys were eager to take advantage of most all of my suggestions, I found my friend with the 49 pound pack was a little reluctant.  He did change a few items like his eating gear went metal to light plastic, he changed to a single wall tent and he finally got the concept of collecting water multiple times a day instead of starting out with three liters of water in the morning.  In the end we shaved over 15 pounds from his pack.

So what was his reaction to the lower weight?  The last night on the trail as we sat around the final campfire he had this to say.  "This is my fourth trek at Philmont Scout Ranch.  Each one is special in its own way.  This one is special because with my lighter pack it is the first trip where I didn't need a bottle of ibuprofen just to get up in the morning.  If I ever get to come back you can bet my pack will be even lighter."

The pack is still big but a lot of weight has been removed
No you don't need a monster pack for Philmont.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting the things our crew did to have light comfortable packs as we hiked through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico.