Philmont Council Contingents


This contains various general information you may find helpful in planning your Philmont trek.


Food and Dining

Refer to the Philmont Trail menu page for various tips on food and dining on the trail at Philmont.  Take spices!




Packs and Frames

A sturdy pack and frame are essential for backpacking at Philmont.  All of your personal gear, plus your share of food and crew equipment, must fit inside your pack.  Although a good pack and frame may be expensive cheap models tend to tear at the seams and crack at the welded joints.  If you already own a pack and frame, be certain that there are no cracks in the welded joints or unraveling seams on your pack.

A padded hip strap is essential for your pack.  A hip strap allows you to take the weight from your shoulders and put it on your hips-which can support more weight than your shoulders.  Either a good quality internal or external frame pack with hip strap may be used.

To keep your pack dry at night and while hiking in the rain, a nylon cover is recommended -- do not try to get by with a trash bag -- it won't work!

All items in your pack should be neatly organized and packed in plastic bags.  Additional bags may be used to carry small packages of food or to organize miscellaneous items.

When deciding what equipment to bring to Philmont, always consider each item's usefulness, durability, weight, and bulk.  Remember that you are only packing for 10 days on the trail. It has been said that "An ounce in the morning is a pound at night."

If you do not have a good pack and frame with padded hip strap, or do not expect to use them after your trek, you are encouraged to rent Kelty Tioga pack and frame at Philmont for ~$18 per trek.



Tents must be carried and used while at Philmont.  Sudden downpours and gusty winds require appropriate shelter.  Every member of your crew should know hope to pitch, strike, and fold a backpacking tent.  Philmont issues the BSA Philmont Backpacker tent.  If you bring your own tent, it must be a 2-person tent (approximate weight 5-1/2 pounds).

A 5'6" x 7'6" nylon or plastic ground cloth must be used under your tent.  Tent mates can share the ground cloth.  It is required that everyone sleep in a tent.


Using Map and Compass

Most trails on Philmont are marked at intersections, but they are not so well marked that you can put your map and compass away and forget them.  Philmont trail signs often point to geographic features such as mountains, canyons, and streams.

Learn to use a map and compass well.  This ability is a reassuring comfort.  You will be able to know where you are at all times and where you are headed.  Look at a map.  Do you know what the symbols mean?  What do the colors-black, brown, blue, green, white, and red-stand for?

Those brown contour lines are particularly significant.  Depending upon the map, each brown line represents a 20-foot or 40-foot climb; the more lines you cross on an upward route, the tougher the climb.  Steep downhill climbs are tough, too.

Can you orient a map?  Compass declination at Philmont is ~10 degrees east.  Do you know what that means?  Are you able to determine the exact direction from one point to another on a map by using your compass?  The scale of Philmont section maps is 1 to 24,000.  Do you understand the significance of a map's scale?  If you have answered no to any of these questions, read chapter 3 on backcountry navigation in the BSA Fieldbook.  

If your itinerary takes you into the Valle Vidal, you will not be using trails at all but will be navigating cross-country using your map and compass (or bring a GPS).  This is where your skills become really important!


Be Prepared for Extremes of Weather

Be prepared for extremes of weather at Philmont.  Afternoon temperatures in low valleys can be hot as blazes (100 degrees or more), and night temperatures high in the mountains may be cold enough to freeze a thin crust of ice on water.

Philmont can be dry as a desert and then a sudden downpour will soak everything.  Prolonged periods of rain lasting several days occur frequently.  Fortunately, New Mexico's low humidity allows wet clothing and gear to dry quickly after the rain stops.  Rain occurs most frequently in the afternoon and may last an hour, all night, or several days.  Small hail or sleet often accompanies rain.  Mountain weather is fickle—anything can happen and often does.  Snow is possible, even during the summer.  Weather conditions vary from one area of the ranch to another depending upon elevation, terrain and irregular weather patterns.  You should be prepared for all of the above weather conditions.



During cold periods it is especially important to stay dry since wet clothing loses much of its insulating value (90 percent or more).  Several light layers of clothing are better than one heavy layer since air trapped between layers of clothing provides a high degree of insulation.  As the atmosphere warms you can remove one layer of clothing at a time for proper body heat management.

Keep in mind that wool and Polypropylene insulate when wet.  Down and cotton lose most insulating value when wet.  Cotton layers such as sweatshirts and sweatpants drain body heat when wet and dry very slowly.

While the official BSA uniform is highly recommended for use when traveling to and from Philmont and wearing at base camp, you may choose to wear other clothing on the trail.  Long pants are recommended for cold nights and are required for horseback riding and pole climbing at logging camps.  Shorts and short-sleeved shirts will generally be sufficient during the day; however, a sweater or warm jacket is necessary for cold mornings and evenings and frequent downpours of rain or hail.

To be comfortable and dry during rain, a good quality rain suit is essential.  Inexpensive vinyl rain suits or ponchos will not hold up under extended use.

Lightweight shoes are recommended for use around camp and occasionally when hiking. These shoes will also be used when rock climbing and riding horses.



Be sure to label all of your clothing and equipment with your name and expedition number so you con readily identify what is yours and so any of your belongings lost and found can be returned.


Glass and Aerosol Containers

No glass containers or aerosol cans should be carried on the trail.  Glass breaks easily and aerosol cans are bulky and may spew forth in packs.



Campers spend an average of $100 each in Philmont trading posts.  If major items such as jackets are desired, more money will be needed.

About $20 should cover most expenses on the trail.  Money taken to the backcountry should be in small bills. These expenses may include:

  • .30-06 rifle shooting-three shots free; shotgun shooting-three shots free; additional shots must be purchased.

  • Youth 10-day fishing license, ages 13-17, cost determined by the state of New Mexico—about $1.50, applies only to Philmont property.

  • Adult fishing license; 1-day, 5-day, or annual—cost determined by the state of New Mexico — about $12.00, $24.00, $56.00 (non-resident).

  • Healthy snacks, root beer, film, replacements for damaged equipment, etc.

  • Fuel for stoves.  Bring enough fuel for the first three to four days on the trail.  Fuel may be purchased at a number of the backcountry staffed camps but you should carry extra in the event they are out when you arrive.  


Backpacking -- setting the pace

If you pack properly, backpacking will be much easier.  Practice hikes will help.  Your pace is the key to good backpacking.  It should be slow enough to allow everyone to keep together without bunching up.  Single file is the rule.  A steady, constant pace is best.  When climbing steep grades, your pace should be slower, but still consistent.  

Always keep your crew together.  A medical emergency is the only reason to separate from your crew.

Rest stops should be short and frequent.  Any member of the crew can call for a rest stop at any time.  Sixty second rests will let you catch your breath.  Learn to rest without removing your pack; if you bend over and loosen your hip strap, you can remove the weight from your shoulders.  Deep breathing works best for high altitude backpacking on Philmont.


Scout Manners

Last but certainly not least is the topic of Scout Manners.  There are almost 200 of us traveling together.  Any Scout (or adult leader) causing a serious problem will be sent home.  There will be no refunds and any additional costs of sending the Scout (or adult leader) home will be the responsibility of his family.  There will be plenty of time for fun but since we will be in areas where many other Scout groups will be traveling to Philmont, we must insist upon excellent behavior.  Be aware that we must maintain two-deep leadership at all times -- being sent home could result in your entire crew being sent home as well!  Let's have fun and behave like Scouts in the purest sense of the word.