Philmont Council Contingents

Sid's Suggestions

Below are some suggestions from someone who has participated in many Philmont and other backpacking treks.  Take these as suggestions and tailor (or ignore) them to fit your personal needs and interests.


Tents -- use the Philmont tents.  They are more than adequate, you won't spend much time in them (and won't be awake very much of this anyway), and it is one less thing to deal with to and from Austin.  The only time I recommend that personal tents be taken is when there is a person who cannot share a tent because of Youth Protection guidelines.  In this case, take a one-person or small two-person tent (not a bivy sack) that is lighter than the Philmont tent.  Click on the button below for information about tents.



Take one (and be sure you know how to use it) if you are going to the Valle Vidal.  There really isn't a need for one in Philmont proper although they are fun to carry and learn to use.  In the Valle Vidal, crews will bushwhack cross-country from camp to camp -- there are no trails.  Having a GPS with pre-entered coordinates of the campsites will help insure you actually get to your destination -- possibly even in time to participate in program.  Figure out how you will carry it.  You may want to rig a pouch of some type to your shoulder strap to hold it.  Be sure the antenna is facing the correct direction for your GPS so that it will read correctly.  I suggest that you have the youth use map and compass to navigate and use the GPS as a backup.  When they find their location on the map, use the GPS to verify it.  You may want to have half the crew use the GPS with maps and the other half use map and compass.  Periodically switch -- halfway to your destination, every other day, etc.  In this way, the crew can learn both map and compass and GPS skills.  For additional information as well as coordinate files for Philmont, click on the button below.


Cell phone -- leave it at base camp!  You won't need it in the backcountry and there are a number of places where you won't get a signal anyway.  Follow the rules that will be distributed in Logistics before your trek (above) particularly those about not calling 911 in an emergency.  Be aware that you may not be able to use your cell phone this is very dependent on who your service provider is.  My digital AT&T phone seems to work relatively well at Philmont and the surrounding area.  A number of people report difficulty with Sprint and T-Mobile in northern New Mexico.  Verizon has improved service in the past year or two.  You can put your phone on the charger in the Advisor Lounge in tent city.  There are outlets on the south wall you may need to move the sofa.  If you bring a power strip (and leave it in your locker while you are on the trail), you will make many friends since there are usually more people trying to plug in than there are outlets!  You may also be able to charge it in the mail room or in Security.

Stuff sacks for:

  1. Dining fly poles (~30" x 6")
  2. Dining fly (the fly itself is provided by Philmont)
  3. Dining fly stakes
  4. "Oops" bag -- last minute, forgotten items to go on the bear cable -- this should be a distinctive pattern and/or color.
  5. Tent parts you will be carrying -- the Philmont tent comes in a stuff sack but another one for the person sharing the tent makes it faster/more convenient to split the tent parts to share the weight/volume.

Repair parts:

  1. Backpacks:
    a.  Plastic wire ties (assorted sizes)
    b.  Rings & pins
    c.  Spare waist belt buckle

  2. Eyeglass repair kit
  3. Stove repair kit (for each type stove -- this is a good reason to only take one type)
  4. Awl/Speedy Stitcher -- heavy but you can use it to repair lot's of stuff.
  5. Sewing kit -- thread, needle, repair cloth, buttons.
  6. Duct tape -- a short length wrapped around a water bottle can be helpful.  Note that this has to go in the bear bag.

Trowel (pick up a strong plastic one at a garden department -- it is lighter, cheaper, and stronger than the orange backpacking ones).  If you go into the Valle Vidal, Philmont will issue you a heavy shovel.  Take it!  It's worth the weight.

Alarm Clock -- to get you up and on the trial in the mornings.

Watch with countdown timer.  At least one crewmember should have a countdown timer.  This person becomes the timekeeper during hiking.  Set the timer to be sure you don't take too many breaks and take them for too long. 

Personal Comfort items:

  1. Stool/chair (lightweight aluminum ones)  -- one with a back is wonderful!  Chairs from sleeping pads don't get you off the ground and, if you spill food on them, can turn your sleeping pad into a "smellable" that has to go into the bear bag.  Not good!

  2. Solar Shower -- heat water on your stove and use to take shower before bed.  It's great and amazing how clean you can get on a very little water.  Some staffed camps have showers but they can be few and far between.  In 2002, most were turned off due to the drought conditions.  This was not an issue with the 2003 or 2004 contingents although it became one later in the summer.

  3. Pillow -- at least take a stuff sack you can put a fleece jacket/vest into to make a pillow.

  4. Headlamp -- good for preparing food, reading, and working with your hands at night.  Horrible for walking around -- use a regular flashlight instead.

First-Aid kit (in addition to what is listed in the Philmont crew equipment list):

  1. Spyroflex (blister dressing)  -- use like you would use moleskin.  It lasts longer and protects better without being bulky.

  2. Imodium -- take this or some other form of chewable diarrhea medicine.  The Philmont backcountry isn't a fun place for diarrhea and can lead to severe dehydration.

  3. Maalox -- even though the food is excellent(?), you can probably use an anti-acid to settle the stomach.  Probably completely inadequate if you actually ate one of the Pemmican Bars they used to distribute -- they've never made an anti-acid that strong!

  4. Antihistamine -- there is a lot of dust and you will be around a lot of pollen (and animal dander if you take burros or go horseback riding.)

Camera -- this is very important.  I carry a Nikon pocket digital camera that I can slip into the cargo pocket on my shorts.  This allows me to get to it quickly.  It has a built-in cover over the lens to keep dust out.

  1. Put new batteries in your camera before going on the trail.  Be sure to carry an extra set.

  2. Plan on one 30-36 exposure roll of film per day.  If you take a digital camera, take enough spare batteries and media to last for approximately this number of photographs at a minimum.

  3. Camera should have a lens cover to protect from dust and moisture.  You may want to carry it in a zip-lock bag.

  4. Take a "Ultra-pod" or other similar tripod that you can Velcro to a hiking pole to take group pictures.

  5. Disposable cameras are heavier than a non-disposable camera with "n" rolls of film and take more space in your pack.  You may want to take one panoramic disposable camera if your regular camera doesn't have panoramic capability.

Water Bags -- collapsible that you can use to carry water to a dry camp.  Even better is to not have any dry camps!  If you do, consider cooking your evening meal at noon when you are near water and eating a dry meal at dinner instead of carrying water.

Polar Pure/MicroPur -- take a bottle or two of Polar Pure or extra MicroPur tablets of your own depending on the size of your crew.  Philmont will distribute MicroPur tablets to the crew but it is helpful to have your own water purification.  Keep it in its own zip lock bag.

Water Filters -- these really aren't necessary at Philmont.  Philmont will require that you use MicroPur to purify water, even if you filter it.  If you encounter murky, muddy water, let it settle or filter through a paper coffee filter or bandana before treating with Polar Pure.

Coffee -- if you are a coffee drinker, bring your own!  There is no coffee in any of the food you will pick up at the commissary's.  You can pick up individual packets of instant coffee in the Advisor Lodge at base camp before your departure or bring your own.  Remember that you will have to carry your used grounds with you and they may or may not accept them as trash at staffed camps.  Because of this, instant (even though it isn't as good) is preferable.  Remember to plan for extra fuel -- most breakfasts are dry so the only water heated in the morning will be your coffee.  There is an adult leader coffee every night at staffed camps.  They do have forms of coffee but it can be interesting!

Biner's -- a couple of carabineers can be helpful.  Use as "pulley's" for hanging bear bags, clipping things to your pack, etc.

Pitcher -- a lightweight plastic pitcher is useful.  You can use it to mix the Gatorade and other drink mixes.  This has two benefits, 1) it keeps you from having one of your water bottles forever taste like drink mix and 2) your crew will drink more of the mix with their meals.  This promotes hydration and provides calories and non-bland tasting drinks with meals.