Sunday, October 6, 2013

Personal Gear for Philmont Scout Ranch

I know exactly what you are saying.  It’s not my gear that’s so heavy, it’s all that crew gear that Philmont makes us take.  Well there is a lot of truth in that statement but it’s not the whole truth.  Philmont’s gear is heavy out of necessity. With hundreds of boys using it week in and week out, it wouldn’t hold up unless it was built bombproof.  We’ll talk about that later but let’s take a look at your personal gear.

Pack: It is a known fact that larger, heavier packs carry a large load more comfortably.  It is also true that if there is room in the pack, a few (or more) extras will find their way into that empty space.  Philmont suggests a 4800 cubic inch pack I assure you a pack that is about 4200 cubic inches or even smaller will do the job.  The pack I carried in 2009 was 3200 cubic inches.  It had no frame and held everything I needed on the trek.  It did attract a lot of attention from other Scoutmasters that where tired of lugging around expedition packs.  Whatever you carry just make sure it is in good condition before the trip.

Pack Cover:  Many hikers like a pack cover.  With the older heavy canvas type packs every drop of water makes the pack that much heavier.  If you have a cover and like it by all means use it.  If you are using one of the new lightweight packs made of dyneema or nylon then you might want to use a pack-liner as an option.  Get a heavyweight plastic bag big enough to hold your sleeping bag and clothes.  When packing, you simply stuff your bag and clothes into the plastic bag and twist the top and stuff it down the side of your pack. This is all I ever use anymore and my sleeping gear and clothes stay dry even in all day down pours.  If you can find unscented compactor bags, they will work just fine.  If not Gossamer Gear carries pack liner bags on their website.  Don’t waste your money on a silnylon liner, they are not totally waterproof.

Another advantage is that when it starts to rain you don’t have to stop and cover your pack.  At night you will put the packs under a tarp to keep them dry.

Sleeping Bag: I quit carrying a sleeping bag a long time ago.  They felt too restrictive and I never had the correct one for the overnight low.  I now carry a sleeping quilt.  It simply drapes around me and allows me to add insulation without disturbing the blanket’s loft.  A quilt or bag rated for the mid 30’s should work just fine during the summer at Philmont.  I also carried a torso length pad.  Yes my feet hang off but I don’t find this to be a problem.
Sleeping Clothes: Philmont is very careful when it comes to their bears.  They prefer that the bears do not feast of young Scouts that have spilt food on them-selves during the day.  So, sleeping clothes are required.  I carried a set of polypropylene long underwear but if you are carrying a 20-30 degree bag, gym shorts and a t-shirt will be fine.

Hiking Boots/Shoes:  The first time I went to Philmont I wore a pair of full leather boots.  If you had told me on the next trip I would wear lightweight trail runner I would have laughed at you.  Well, I laughed up and down ever trail we hiked because my feet felt so much better.  With a pack under 25#, heavy boots just are not needed.  Okay, you have weak ankles and don’t want to risk turning them over.  The truth of the matter is with boots unless you lace them very, very tight, you can still roll your ankle.  With loose trail runners I have found on a misstep, the shoe rolls and my ankle is not forced over.  Now for the big plus, in trail runners (non gortex) my feet breathe better and as a result stay drier.  Drier feet equal fewer and most of the time NO BLISTERS.  Consider it.

As with boots, trail runners need to be fitted properly.  Buy them a size larger than normal.  As you hike, your feet will swell.  This increases the friction between your feet and the shoes causing blisters.  Whatever you are going to wear, start wearing them now to make sure they are going to be comfortable on the trail.

 Sneakers: These are to wear at some of the program areas.  They will be more comfortable than boots.  But if you are wearing trail runners then you are all set and don’t have to carry them.

Socks: Bring 3 good pair of hiking socks (wear 1, carry 2).  Medium-weight in boots and light -weight in trail runners should be fine.  I wear Wright Socks Merino Wool (made in Burlington, NC.).  If you wear liners, that’s fine.  Just be sure that when you purchase your boots you get fitted with the liners on.  Remember as you hike your feet will swell.  If there is not room for the expansion, you will blister.

Underwear: How can I put this?  I don’t when I hike.  I wear hiking shorts with a liner (like swimming trunks).  If you wear underwear, it should be synthetic.  A compression type will prevent chaffing.  Just bring/wear one pair.  You will several opportunities to wash clothes on the trail.

Shorts: Nylon woven shorts or gym shorts will work fine.  Do not bring cotton.  You will get wet and cotton will take forever to dry.  I know your Mom just said to carry extra pairs so you can change if you get wet.  That’s fine but will Mom be carrying the wet clothes in your pack?  If you are wearing them they will dry much quicker.  I like Nike running shorts. 

Hiking Shirt:  Philmont says a short sleeve shirt.  I disagree.  I recommend wearing a lightweight long sleeve shirt.  This will give protection from the sun as well as any annoying bugs without having to rub on all sorts of protection.  Remember the temperatures will be much like here.  The difference is the humidity will be about 17%.  No matter what you choose make sure it is a wicking material.  I find the Columbia Omni-Wick works great.  Again one should be enough.

Hat:  You will need sun protection so bring a hat with a brim.  A baseball style cap will do just fine.  I have started wearing Head-Sweats.  They make their caps out of CoolMax.

Long Pants: In the evening it gets cool quickly at Philmont.  The days may jump to 100+ plus but the nights can dip to the low 40’s or below.  Bring a pair of pants to wear around camp plus you will need them at some of the program areas.  DO NOT BRING JEANS!!!  A pair of lightweight woven nylon pants will well.

Jacket: A fleece or puffy insulation jacket will work.  It only needs to be a lightweight jacket.  After hiking and participating in program all day you will not be up late.  If you do get cool you can always layer with your rain jacket.

Toboggan Cap: I carry a fleece cap but I’ll leave this as an optional item.  It does make the evenings a little more comfortable.

Gloves: Yes it is summer.  However a lightweight pair of glove liners feels real good as the temperature drop in the evenings.  Mine weigh on 1.5 ounces so I don’t mind carrying them.  Polypro is best but a cheap pair of wool gloves will work just fine.

Rain Gear: Bring a lightweight rain jacket and pants.  You may want to consider a set of Dri-Ducks.  Your rain gear can also act as extra layers if you get cold.  It’s also something to wear when you wash clothes.

Eating Gear: A bowl and a spoon is all you need to carry.  An insulated plastic food container and a lexan spoon are ideal.  I’ve made them out of quart and pint containers and the boys in my crew liked the pints the best.

Water Bottle: Camel Backs and the like are fine but I have found that I can never keep up with how much water I have left.  Water is important but it also the heaviest thing in your pack.  A one liter and a two liter platypus style container should be sufficient.  Fill the one liter when there is plenty of water on your route and add the other two liters when the route is dry.  If you work it right, you will use all your water just before your next source.  If not you are carting too much.  One of the jobs the navigator will have on your trip is to identify how far it will be to the next water source. 
Other Personal Equipment: A small flashlight (powered by 1 AA battery) or a headlamp.  One or two cotton bandannas (this should be you only cotton).  A small tube of chap stick will come in handy.  A toothbrush and a sample size tube of toothpaste.  If you want, some crew members might carry sunglasses.  A whistle (in case you get separated from the group, but that better not happen).  Hiking poles are useful but not essential.  A camera for taking pictures and a small stuff sack to store your small items.

Okay, that pretty much sums up the personal gear my crew took to Philmont.  The base weight of the pack came to 7 pounds and 3 ounces.  I’ll be adding in the crew gear over the next couple of days.