#1
Old 01-13-2003, 09:57 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
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Philmont Scout Ranch

I friend of mine and I are going to Philmont (hiking trek in New Mexico) this summer and being the first ones to go from our troop we don't quite know what we're in for.

Anyone who has gone or knows anyone who has gone could you please enlighten us. Anything from what to expect, what to bring, what not to bring, and personal experiences are welcome.

Thanks in advance.
#2
Old 01-13-2003, 10:13 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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Philmont is hard. Real hard. However, it's also really fun. If you're coming from Ohio, make sure to watch out for altitude sickness. Lemme think, here. Cimarron is at about 7000 feet, so you've got to be careful. Now, I think 7000 feet is nothing, but then I've lived in Albuquerque for almost all of my life, so a couple extra thousand is nothing.

Pack light. I know people who did a whole trek with only 20 pounds on their back.

You'll pick up food at various points, and don't have to carry a full trek's supply on you at first.

Of course, there is northern New Mexico wildlife. Bears will be your potentially biggest problem. Make sure you've got stuff to make bear bags.

Do a lot of prep hikes. I don't know what the mountains are like in Ohio, but if you can do several thousand feet of altitude gain in a day, that will help. Go out for a few nights.

Hope this is a good start.
#3
Old 01-13-2003, 11:05 PM
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These are the things I can recall(in no particular order):

1. Don't bother bringing deodorant. You'll just have to bear-bag it every night, and you'll all stink like hell after 2 days anyway.

2. Bring extra socks.

3. Don't fool with any other shoes besides your boots. You won't wear them, and they're just dead weight.

4. Get leather boots if you can- they don't get completely sodden quite as fast as the cloth/leather ones do. Plus they're much easier to get branded if you go through Clark's Fork or one of the other camps where they do that.

5. Bone up on your map reading and orienteering. This stuff's important out there- my crew got lost and spent most of one day trying to find out where we were exactly.

6. Run a bunch of sprints- you'll be amazed how fast you get winded at 7000-12000 feet.

7. Bring a light jacket. Nights can be kind of chilly.

8. Bring sunglasses.

9. Save some money for one of the leather belts and belt buckles.

10. Carry as many water bottles as you can. Learn to love the look and taste of cheap ass kool-aid. Or get used to drinking murky water that tastes like iodine.

11. Bring a camera and several rolls of film. DEFINITELY DO THIS!

12. Hoard one dump's worth of toilet paper.

13. 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs shorts, 2 pair underwear, 1 pair pants(uniform pants are great), and 4 sets of socks.

14. Bring plenty of extra moleskin. This is important- you'll most likely get blisters, and moleskin goes fast.

That's about all I can remember that seemed important.
#4
Old 01-13-2003, 11:23 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
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bump's #13 is good. Pack light!

I can't stress the 'good footwear' enough. We had a guy in my crew who bought inexpensive (cough WalMart brand) hiking boots (cough WalMart brand) and the soles were not sewn on but rather glued on. He had taken them on a prep hike or two but the second day on the trail the sole separated from the boot, he did the next 8 days including Waite Phillips and tooth ridge in borrowed deck shoes.

Unless you have some well worn boots start wearing your hiking boots full time a few months before your hike to get them broken in.

It can go from incredibly hot to very cold rather quickly, pack for both situations.

NP: Megadeth - Countdown to Extinction
#5
Old 01-14-2003, 12:28 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: DC
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Yep, pack light, etc. One I haven't seen mentioned is take iron pills in the months leading up to the trek. Just one a night. It will help build up the oxygen carriers in your blood and make it a little easier for you.

Don't forget to eat everything! Gotta pack it all out!
#6
Old 01-14-2003, 01:39 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,512
Expect to be hungry most of the time--and be real aggressive to get at least your share of each meal. Also, most of the staffed camps have (at least in 1990 when I was there) a box where unwanted food can be left and others can claim it--use this to supplement your meagre rations. Once or twice during your expedition, you will pass by a store where you can buy things like apples and peanut bars--but nothing with chocolate in it (maybe it attracts too many bears when it melts?)

Pack as light as possible. Even so, they do a backpack shakedown before you go on the hike and will remove everything deemed not essential. How much weight you will be allowed to carry depends on your own weight. When packing, consider that a fair portion of what you will carry will be communal things like a portion of the food, part of a tent, a cooking pot, etc.

I was suprised with how, a, "colorful", the graffiti was in the outhouses. I thought Boy Scouts were supposed to be more polite than average
#7
Old 01-14-2003, 02:10 AM
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Oh, boy...I get to talk about Philmont! First, my frame of reference: Between 1994 and 1999 I did two regular (11 day) treks, two 28-day Trail Crews (the program is now, sadly, discontinued), and two summers on backcountry staff. Also, I'm loosely in touch with some people still working there, and I'm subscribed to the two current/former staff mailing lists.

The most important Internet resource, if you haven't found it already: Selden Ball's Philmont page is the definitive set of links. The Philmont mailing list is something I haven't subscribed to in a while, but there used to be lots of new and veteran participants posting there.

Of course, you'll quickly discover (in this thread, for example) that everyone who has been to Philmont has a different opinion on gear, preparation, etc. This is to be expected, of course, since everyone has different styles of backpacking, different tolerance for cold, different sleep habits, and so on. So the best thing to do, if you're not already an experienced backpacker, is to go on several practice hikes and figure out what works best for you. Other people's advice only goes so far.

You said that you and a friend are going, implying it's not with your troop/post--are you doing a regular trek with another group or council contingent, or are you doing one of the special programs (Rayado, Mountain Trek, ROCS, OA Trail Crew)? I'm going to make comments for the former, but if it's the latter let me know and I'll say something more specific about one of those.

Philmont will (or perhaps has already) sent you copies of the current "Guidebook to Adventure," which will have some specifics about current policies on gear (e.g. sleep clothes--more on that later). Policies change, so you should take whatever Philmont says over what we tell you here on issues relating to bears, cleaning, etc.

Clothes: I've pared down my wardrobe over the years, but if I were to do a trek for the first time again I would take: 3 t-shirts (one for sleeping--more on this in a moment), 2 pairs of shorts, one pair of long pants (I wear only shorts when hiking unless it gets well below freezing, which it won't there, but long pants are mandated for certain programs and your required conservation project; some people use rain pants, but those could get torn up pretty easily in some of the programs and in cons), 2-3 pair wool or similar synthetic socks, 3-4 pair liner socks (my feet are so calloused now that I don't wear liners, but I would if I were starting fresh again), 1 wool sweater or synthetic fleece (or a light jacket, if you prefer), rain jacket or poncho.

I mention sleep clothes because Philmont has made a policy in recent years that no clothes that could have come in contact with food should be taken inside a tent (bears have been a huge issue in the last few years). Hence they want you to have a set of clothing that stays with your sleeping bag.

You may get a chance to wash clothes in the backcountry, but don't bet on it. We had showers and a wash basin at one of the camps I worked at, but the pump was solar powered, and it only takes a couple of days of overcast skies to drain the tank.

While we're on the subject of water: I recommend taking 3 1-quart/liter water bottles, plus a couple of the large inflatable plastic water bladders for the crew. The latter are helpful when you're in camp, and can be partially filled and carried by a couple strong members of your crew (or traded around) if you're going to a dry camp.

Philmont distributes drink mix packages in the lunches and breakfasts. They've sadly moved away from the genericly packaged beverage bases (the pineapple-orange was oh-so-good!) to Gatorade and the like (or maybe just Gatorade). This stuff can make overly chlorinated water (from the staffed camps; campers use Polar-Pur, which seems to me to have hardly any taste at all) taste a little better, but these days they're requiring that all water bottles that have had (at any time on the trek) drink mix in them be put up in bear bags at night. If everyone in your crew has to put up all of their water bottles, that's quite a bit of hassle (and volume), so I'd recommend designating (and clearly marking) one of your bottles as being for mixes, and keep the others with just water.

For dry camps (unstaffed camps with no water--Mt. Phillips, Comanche Peak, Thunder Ridge, Tooth Ridge, Shaeffer's Pass at times, et al.--they're listed in the materials Philmont sends you), there's a common trick for arranging the meals: Suppers require water and cooking; lunches do not. So, if you're going to a dry camp, cook that day's dinner for lunch (you can ask as you pass through a staffed camp to be assigned a temporary campsite so you have a sump to use), and eat lunch for dinner. Simple, and good, idea.

As far as extra shoes go: I like having something to wear instead of boots at the end of the day. I carry a pair of light sport sandals when I go backpacking (and sometimes hike in them, though I don't recommend that unless your ankles are used to occasional twisting!). However, Philmont policy since '99 or so has been that only closed-toed shoes are allowed around meals being cooked (for fear of boiling water being tipped over on sandaled or bare feet, which I have seen). So I recommend the $10-a-pair K-mart sneakers--small, light, cheap, and useful for nothing but wearing around camp and giving your poor feet a break in the evenings.

It is not necessary for everyone in the crew to have their own camera. I've seen crews where only 2-3 people have cameras, and after the trek they develop a set of photos, and crew members can simply order duplicates of the ones they want. I think it's a great idea, though obviously if you're big into photography it's not the thing for you to do.

Carry extra toilet paper. And keep your toilet paper inside a zip-lock bag (it's not very useful when it's fused into a single mass after a thorough soaking!), and make sure that at least a couple members of your crew have it readily accessible on their packs for those trail-side emergencies.

Rangers: Some of them are very knowledgable, caring people. Some of them are lazy college kids with superiority complexes. When it comes to matters of Philmont policy, you should listen to them (and other staff). When it comes to things like gear, listen to them, but if you like your own way better, feel free. For example, many espouse the concept of sharing certain things like pocketknives and flashlights between tentmates. I think this is crazy. You can decide for yourself--you don't have to obey what they say at the shakedown on most matters.

On the subject of flashlights/headlamps: Change the batteries before you go, and bring extras!

Speaking of extras, bring a few extra tent stakes.

In the 1994 (outdated) "Guidebook to Adventure" that I'm looking at, they recommend bringing shampoo and soap. Certainly you don't need the former, and I think that CampSuds (the soap they issue you for doing dishes and laundry) does just fine for the latter (a little goes a looooong way!).

Food: It got better even over the time I spent there. There will be some you don't like. Eat it anyway; you need the energy. Some people find that they don't get enough, some think there's plenty. If your crew finds that you're having problems getting enough, raid the swap boxes at commissaries and (where available--and feel free to ask if one's not in sight, they may have it inside to keep things neater and avoid bear problems) staffed camps and see if you can find stuff to supplement your meals (heck, one time I found four packages of Oreos in a swap box!).

Commissaries often (or at least used to) have some types of extra food--fresh fruit, canned peaches--available on demand. You should ask, but policies may well have changed.

Bears: Philmont takes them seriously, and so should you. The rules aren't there to make your lives difficult; they're there to protect you and the bears. If you see another crew doing something stupid (leaving trash sitting around camp, for example) report it to staff. You're not ratting them out--you're potentially saving a bear's life. You don't have to try to scare your crew members, but some friendly peer pressure can help keep that one guy from thinking he can keep a Snickers in his tent for a snack. We had persistent bear problems at one of the camps I worked at, including one minor attack; believe me, it's not something Philmont makes up.

Weather: It gets hot (90+), it gets cold (rarely below freezing, but can be, especially early in the season at higher elevations), it rains, it hails, it occasionally snows. You'll see people on mailing lists claim that the weather is of one particular type or another; don't believe them. Some treks have less than five minutes of rain the whole time (my first trek); some have rain every single day (my first Trail Crew). It is not only dependent on the time of the summer, either, as some will try to tell you. So: Plan for it to be hot, plan for it to be cold, plan for it to rain, whenever you're going.

And one last note to wrap up this way-too-long post: The backcountry staff don't just work there, they live there. So be courteous; if they ask you not to bother them before 7:30 AM, please respect that (and don't leave your trash on their porch! That is a bear hazard!). At the same time, you shouldn't have to take any crap from them. You'll get the occasional staffer on a power trip who is a pain about scheduling/doing program, giving you food at a commissary, or whatever. Definitely ask to talk to the supervisor (or Camp Director, and sometimes Assistant Camp Director, as they're known) if you think you're being treated unfairly. If all else fails, report it on your end-of-trek evaluation (the crew leader and lead advisor fill these out); I can assure you that those do get read by Ranch higher-ups.

Whew! Again--most gear decisions are personal preference. Work them out for yourself in advance as much as possible, and don't listen to people like me.
#8
Old 01-14-2003, 06:58 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Place with no darkness.
Posts: 113
Thanks Everyone

Thanks everyone for posting. We knew we'd have to do a lot of preliminary hikes, work on the altitude, and prepare to be hungry but not like you guys described. About how much money are you guys talking about for belts and such?

PhilBuck, I haven't been sent anything yet but it should be coming shortly. I'm going with my OA council at the end of July/early August.
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