Philmont Council Contingents

Philmont Trek Hints

The list of hints below is from Roger Knapp of of Troop 508 in Irving, Texas.  These are obviously his personal observations and suggestions but I agree with them and feel he makes a very good checklist for crews going to Philmont.

                   Sid Covington


  1. Get Sectional maps at the Philmont store.  They are more accurate than the overall map.

  2. June is a better time for a track.  Less rain and the staff is fresh and more enthusiastic.

  3. Register for a minimal number of boys and add on more boys later before trek.  You cannot get your money back but you can add on more.

  4. Label everything.  Drinking bottles, socks underwear, sleeping pads hats.  Many members have the same brand of items.  Clothes get confused during washing or on the clothes lines.  Bring a sharpie marker to label things as you go through the trek.

  5. When there are thunder storms coming in, set up your tent at home in the yard, and put dry newspaper in it.  Look in it after a heavy rain storm and see if it is dry.  Consider putting seam sealer on the sewed seams in order to be absolutely sure it does not leak.

  6. Use different colored water bottles or put duct tape around one, to make a distinction between the two.  You will then know which one had juice in it or which one had been treated with iodine or not.

  7. Put fresh batteries in your camera.  Many a person has had the battery in the camera for 6 months and the battery goes dead on the trek.  Especially if it is an odd battery.

  8. Take enough film for 150 pictures.  Even if you are not a picture taker, you will want to take more than you think.  The better camera takes better pictures than the disposable ones.  You can put hundreds of pictures on digital cameras with out allot of film roles.

  9. If the camera or flashlight needs AA batteries, find the photo e AA titanium batteries that lasts 5 times longer.  It really does last 5 times longer and you have to carry less batteries.  Keep your camera with you at all times and available in your pocket.  Picture opportunities came up fast and you do not have time to get into your backpack.

  10. Bring 2 different spices and salt and pepper.  I like "Cajun mix" and "magic chef".  Put all these things in containers with a sprinkle top with holes and a screw on lid to keep dry.  I prefer used Adolf Meat Tenderizer jars.  They are light and water proof.  One of each kind will be enough for the whole crew for the whole trek.  The salt and pepper you get from Philmont does not have a lid and they leak everywhere.

  11. Gators are cheaper  ($10) in the commissary in the back country.  More expensive in the base camp store.  But they may be out in the back country.  I like gators and use them allot.  In light rain I use the top of my rain suit with gators for my legs and ankles.

  12. Bring two whisper lite stoves.  Bring two small bottles of gas if you do not heat water for drinks every morning.  If you are going to heat water for every morning and evening, then bring three small bottles or two large bottles of gas.  Do not light the stove until you have the water ready and you will not waste as much fuel.

  13. Take the whisper lite stove repair kit that has a wrench and wire to clean the jet.  Put them in a small hard plastic bottle with some cotton to cushion them.  You will need to clean the jets sometimes.  Teach a boy and adult on each crew how to disassemble the stove and clean it.

  14. Use a light weight plastic spoon and a light weight plastic bowl or Frisbee.  They sell a light small blue colored bowl at Philmont that is very good.  And take a light plastic cup which is half the weight as the metal sierra cups.  Actually I only take a plastic double wall 8 oz glass and one spoon.  I eat out of the cup and clean it by drinking liquids out of it after the food.  You do not really need a handle and sure don't need to hang it on your belt.

  15. Bring a light plastic handle, single blade, lock back knife.  You do not need the heavy metal multi-use knifes that have 14 tools.  If you want you can bring one small light backpackers pliers per crew but you probably won't need it.

  16. Bring 3 compasses for the whole crew.  Everyone does not need to bring one.

  17. Also bring a 1 small can opener for cans of fruit that you can get at the commissaries.

  18. I recommend 3 sets of socks (inner liner and outer wool) and 3 underwear.  These are in areas of more sweat and more friction.  You actually could get by with only 1 or 2 T-shirts although I recommend 2.

  19. You only need two or three 1-liter Nalgene bottles for water.  Do not use other more breakable bottles.  The Platypus water containers with the tube are fine if you prefer.  You will also need to carry water for your dry camp.  Bring two 6 liter Platypus containers.  They are light, fold up flat, and stand up when full.  Take turns carrying them by rotating who carries them every so many steps or time.

  20. Consider carrying a stool with a back to sit on.  The "seat" where you sit on the ground with a back is still not good for your back..  You will have to sit at every campsite and many programs.  Get the light aluminum tubing fold up stools with a back that you get at K-mart and such.  The heavy ones from the camping stores are two heavy.  You should find one that weights about 1 lb.

  21. Bring more ziplocks than you think you will need.  I recommend ten small, 20 one gallon, and 8 two gallon for a minimum.  They are light and do not take much room.  Also bring a few large black trash bags.

  22. Decide to use a rain suit or gators and ponchos.  Also you can use gators with a rain coat that comes down to cover your shorts, plus long rain pants when wearing long pants.  Get your crew together when there is a heavy rain storm.  Walk around for 30 minutes and then go inside and check to see if clothes and backpack are dry.

  23. Double bag your sleeping bag if the bag will be on the outside of your pack.  Put the sleeping bag in the stuff bag and then put the second bag over it facing the opposite direction.  That way water cannot get into your sleeping bag.

  24. Bring 2 fifty foot nylon cords for the crew.  There are many uses like clothes lines, holding up tents, etc.

  25. You will need at least 8 extra tent stakes other than for your tents.  The dining fly that Philmont gives you does not come with stakes.  You will need a minimum of 6 for it.  If the ground is too rocky to put the stake in all the way, put the stake into the ground as far as possible and then put a large rock on the string up against the stake.  That will hold it.

  26. Bring more money than you think for the commissary in the back country.  They sell a lot of stuff at the commissaries, especially fuel.

  27. A day pack like the school packs for a side hike is suggested.  They tend to hurt your back especially if you carry water in it.  You might think of using one of the kids backpacks and empty it out in the tent for side hikes.  Put the boys' gear in it and take turns carrying the backpack.  If your backpack is not big enough to carry the full amount of gear and food, you can hang the day pack off the back of your backpack and put more gear into it.

  28. Take the 5 bear bags that Philmont gives you.  They are light weight and you can use spare ones to put dishes on it to dry after washing.

  29. Take 1 role of toilet paper per 2 crew members.  They will give you as many as you want.  It is light weight and you have spares if some get wet.

  30. If there are some crew members that use walking sticks, use two of them for dining fly poles and you will not have to carry poles for fly that Philmont gives you.

  31. You will need 3 pots with two having lids for cooking.  Philmont will tell you 2 pots but some food does not mix (especially mashed potatoes and meat sauce).  Use the two largest pots they give you and a third smaller pot that they have or one of your own that fits inside theirs.  Cook the food separate and not all in the same pot like they will tell you.  It will taste better.

  32. You only need 3 of the iodine bottles.  If you have 3 bottles which will last you the whole trek, you will need to treat some canteens the night before and some the morning you leave.  Less weight with fewer bottles.

  33. Take the extra bear rope they will give you.  It has many other uses.  You can use it for a clothes line, hoist a smaller boy up to untangle the rope on the bear cable, and to hang food up at the commissary.  If you pick up your food and then go for  a conservation project, you can hang that food up and then retrieve it afterward.

  34. Ask for fresh fruit at the commissaries.  They have fresh apples or oranges only if you ask.

  35. Eat the heavier meals first.

  36. Decide which meal you will be eating for lunch.  That way the person carrying it will know who has it and they can be prepared to get it out for lunch.  The boy who carries the lunch should carry slightly more weight because he will carry less weight after eating.  He should also carry the trash from lunch after compacting it.

  37. Always put covers on back packs when leaving because rain can come up even when clear in the morning.

  38. If most are leaving the campsite and having one person stay in camp to guard it,  you are smart to hang the food since that person may fall asleep and let the minibears (squirrels) get into the food.

  39. When the crew arrives at a camp site, the sequence of jobs must be done every time: (a). Put up dining fly (b). Put crew gear under dining fly.  (c). Put up tents.

  40. Crew chief should keep a small pad of paper and pen to make notes at check in and at staff camps.

  41. During rainy season, consider doing the program the next morning and hiking to your next destination in the afternoon, especially if there is no program at the next camp.

  42. To setup and take down tents in the rain, have 4 boys hold the dining fly up over the boys that are working with the tent.

  43. When there are stuff bags on the outside of the backpack that have a cord dangling, stuff the cord inside the edge of the bag so it will not get caught on a limb while hiking.

  44. If running low on fuel, clean dishes in cold water and soap, and when boiling water for the next meal, dip the dishes into the hot water to sterilize them.

  45. Before the evening of a dry camp, consider cooking the dinner with water at noon and then hiking to the dry camp with water.  Then eat the dry lunch that night at the dry camp.  That way you do not have to carry as much water.  When you get to the next dry camp, you can get out the lunch and eat it very quickly so it does not matter if you arrive there late.  There is usually no program at the dry camps.

  46. Do not believe the rangers and staff on how long it takes to hike somewhere.  They are in good shape and can hike fast with one or two people.

  47. Do not believe the signs at the trail junctions because you need to practice making trail decisions with map and compass and also the signs could have been turned.

  48. Take turns among the boys as to who is leader with map and compass each day.

  49. When checking directions of the hike by map and compass, the sequence of who make decisions should be this.  (a) The day’s map and compass leader should make a decision as to the direction to go with out interference.  (b) Then the crew leader verifies and makes a decision as to where to go.  (c ) Then an adult verifies the direction.  That way each person can get experience reading the map at each level of expertise.

  50. I think two of the  toughest  hikes are from French Henry up to Copper Park and from Clear Creak Camp up to Mount Phillips with a pack on.

  51. Hot showers are at Cimarroncito, Phillips Junction, and Ponil.  Cold shower at Beaubien.

  52. If you go to Trail Peak to see the airplane, go past the tree with the plaque to the other side of the mountain to a clearing.  Fantastic view toward the Tooth.

  53. Keep an adult in the back to prevent stragglers.  Always stay together.  Be a team and keep everyone together, even if some can hike faster.  Put the slower one in front.

  54. Keep 4 feet between you and the next hiker so that you can glance up and see the scenery you came to see.  If you are 1 foot behind the next one, you will only see your feet and if he stops you will bang into him.

  55. When crossing a creek, you should yell clear when over so the next can cross.  The front boys should move ahead so that all have room to cross and stop and wait on everyone.  The last person should yell something different like "tally-ho" so that the front person knows all are across and they can continue hiking again.

  56. Have one person each morning put all the crew gear and food in equal piles by weight (not volume).  You could put less weight in 1 or 2 piles if there are 1 or 2 very small framed boys.  Picking the piles by the members of the crew could be done in several ways.  (a) mad rush (b) rotate alphabetically and begin with a different letter each day (c) reward the boys who did better jobs or volunteered for extra duty or helped their fellow scouts when needed.  (d) or any other fair system you can devise that could make it fun.

  57. When home, have all members of the trek make double prints of their pictures.  Each member keeps one copy and gives the other to one designated person.  He scans all the pictures and gives a CD of them to each person.  He then puts the pictures into an album for the troop.

R. Knapp
Going for the fifth time in 2002!