Just got back from my first Philmont experience. I was the lead advisor. We did the 10-12 (depending on how you count) day trek, itinerary 13, “61” miles. We were crew 703G this year.
So, some quick tips while I’m thinking of them:
- I used an MSR Hubba-Hubba NX 2-person tent. My colleagues in 1-person tents regretted having no place to put their packs. My tent has two vestibules and plenty of room for me to spread out with all my crap dry inside. The Philmont tent that one advisor borrowed was roomier, but also had no vestibule. The room and the vestibules of my tent are worth the extra weight IMO.
- Compactor trash bags. Use them within your pack to keep things dry, and to organize your stuff. Take a couple of extras and they can be used as mini tarps, either in front of your tent or to place stuff on while you’re working/organizing during the trek. I had one for the sleeping stuff I kept on the bottom of my pack and one for the top of my pack, plus two extra.
- For water, I had a three liter bladder in my pack, a Philmont nalgene bought at ToT, a one liter collapsible bottle and two platypus two liter collapsible bottles. I only used the big Platypus bottles a few times, but they were very useful, particularly when approaching dry or non-potable camps. When not in use, they are very light weight. I also brought as crew gear a 3.75 liter water cube. We used that in camp a few times and it was handy. At Baldy Skyline where we were surprised that the water was non-potable, I put a dozen micro-pure pills in it and everyone used that to fill up in the morning.
- My MSR Reactor 1L stove was relatively heavy, but I could have my coffee or water for a Next Mile Meal ready in less than 60 seconds. I could have gone the whole trip with a single 220g canister if our ranger hadn’t used it to cook apple pie empanadas on the 4th of July. It was also a good safety margin to have a backup for the crew MSR Whisperlight.
- I bought a GoalZero Nomad 5 solar panel the day before leaving. It was great. Have some small bungee cords to attach it to your pack brain while hiking. Also have a small battery to charge with the panel so you don’t have to have your phone attached to it all the time. This system kept my iphone and a colleague’s iphone charged. We used our phones for cameras the whole trek.
- Coach your scouts that when navigating they need to build a plan for the day. Ask these questions: 1) what’s the intended route? 2) where is it likely that we could miss a turn? 3) how long should we expect to hike on each leg, and who will keep time? 3) which direction should we be going on each leg? 4) what back-stops have you identified? An example of a backstop is a stream crossing or a road intersection that isn’t on your intended route. That’ll be a signal that you’ve gone wrong.
- My wife printed the philmont itinerary description, including the map and altitude distance chart, two sided on half a sheet of paper, laminated it, and gave one to each of the trek participants. Several scouts and advisors used this for reference throughout the trek.
- The food that Philmont provides, aside from the standard rotation of 11 different freeze-dried dinners, is literally what you see on the racks of any 7/11, from the beef jerky and cheese to the oatmeal cookies, peanuts, pop tarts, etc… Huge amounts of carbs, almost no healthy fat, not much protein. Fine for scouts on a trek, tiresome and potentially unhealthy for adults. I used my pre-diabetic diagnosis that caused me to go ketogenic three years ago as an excuse to bring my own food, which consisted of Next Mile Meals, almonds and macadamia nuts, and packets of tuna in olive oil. When you check in with logistics on arrival, you’ll give them your labeled bags of food (dinner 1, lunch 2, etc…). My son has a nut allergy, so he was substituting food anyway.
- One of my wilderness first aid teachers was Liza Howard, an ultramarathoner. She taught us how to treat hot spots and blisters, and I emphasized to the scouts throughout our prep hikes how important it was to stop and treat hot spots before they became blisters. I had hypafix tape and tincture of benzoin on hand in a blister kit along with alcohol prep pads, I used it per Liza’s teaching, and it worked great. KT tape was faster but didn’t stick as well.
- Dean Skyline is a spectacular place.
- We were caught in a 10 hour rain storm at altitude near Baldy. I found that my rain jacket, a North Face that I had bought just a few summers prior, was not waterproof. I found myself wet, cold and miserable. I would have been in trouble if the rain had gone on for a few day, as happens.
- I went with a lightweight 30 degree sleeping bag plus liner. On an incredibly comfortable sea-to-summit air mattress and air pillow I was cold every night. Had to drape my down jacket over my torso to be warm enough to sleep. It was either the bag or the air mattress/ pillow, or both.
If it’s allowed, advise your scouts to have a campfire every evening. It literally pulls everyone together and gives them a chance to close the day. We did our roses, thorns, buds and gardners around the fire every evening and it was always a highlight. Use magic Boy Scout water if necessary.