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Lessons Learned at Philmont


Hey Guys,

I’ve been meaning to send you these shots for a while now. I helped take a group of Scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch this past summer and loved my GG trekking poles. Stout and super light. I bought a MP+ before the trip but got guilted into taking my big Kelty by a leader with more Philmont treks under his belt because he said I wouldn’t have enough room for all the food. Bad decision. Iran into a crew all carrying their MP+ packs and had a bad case of the “why did I listen to him” anyway. I think that was the crew I saw on your splash page awhile back. The good news was, my conversion over the last few years into an ultralight mindset had my gear kit so trimmed that I ended up with empty space galore in the pack and my max weight on a full food and water load day was just at 35 pounds (7 of that the pack). Lesson fully learned there. We are planning our trek for 2014 now and my goal is to get the whole Troop transitioned by then into light is right and more fun to boot. My MP+ is all I have used since then and my youngest son is loving the Gorilla he got last year. Now my oldest is saving for a GG pack to complete our family conversion. Thanks for helping me to lighten my load!

Kirk Swann

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10 Responses to Lessons Learned at Philmont

  1. Trey Cure April 18, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    Scouting builds character in young men. Ultralight is about making smart thought out decisions between needs and wants, as well as, sacrifices. An Exercise in Character Building.

  2. Kirk Swann April 19, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Couldn’t agree more with your assessment regarding character development. I went to Philmont twice back in the 1970’s as a Scout and have backpacked regularly since then. I have many great memories from all of the trips but among them has always been the idea that the discomfort of a heavy pack was the required trade-off for going in the woods, especially on solo trips. What I hope to help pass along these days is great memories of trips into wild places knowing that we can all hike further and faster without sacrificing comfort or safety by making wise, lightweight decisions.

    Thanks again the folks at GG for helping be a part of that.

  3. Eddy April 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi Kirk,

    I am heading to Philmont in June 2012. Can you tell me what of the Philmont issued gear was not taken on the trail and on the personal gear what was actually carried? I am asking this because when I was at the Sea Base of the packing list (minus personal scuba gear) I only used 1/3 of what they said bring.

  4. Alan Graham April 26, 2012 at 7:13 am #


    Check out and look at the video on the Philmont Perspective as well as the pack makeover videos.

  5. Scott Bentz April 26, 2012 at 9:18 am #


    I still can’t get over the mindset at Philmont. Some treat it as if they are going on a 12 day trek where you will be so far away from civilization you have to bring everything. On our trek I told the scouts and especially the leaders to pack for a 4 day trip. Why? Because you are typically resupplied every 4 days with food. Don’t buy into the mindset that you are going on a 12 day trip. Just think of it as three 4 day trips. Our troop bought into the lightweight and no one was over 30lbs. with the average about 25 fully loaded. I used a Mairposa Plus on my trek and never came close to maxing it out space wise.


    Go to and search the Forums. There is a whole section devoted to Philmont and another to lightweight scouting. I am sure all of your questions will be answered there. If you get your troop started now you can have a lightweight crew that can really have a good time.

  6. Eddy April 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Thanks for the great info.. the youtube videos are great. I will pass this along to the troop that I am a Unit Commissioner with and other troops here in Georgia as well.

  7. Kirk Swann April 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    I agree with all the above. There is a ton of info at several sites that are real helpful. And the scoutinglighter video series is very good.

    Scott, you are right on. My base weight if I had taken the MP+ would have been about 13 plus food and water. As it was with a 7 pound pack it was right at 20. As to the Philmont list, I think for us the most over-carried items were clothing. Quite a few of our guys had several sets of everything. And then a spare or two. The only PhilGear we took were bear bags, ropes, and the “not-a-frisbee” strainer. I think a more experienced crew could streamline the meal process even more.
    In addition to the forums, check out, and subscribe to the list at Lastly, these articles are a great place to start.

    Have a great trek. They are all great treks. By the way, which itinerary are y’all on this year?

  8. Rick Bauer April 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Nice comments everyone. We’ve been showing Scouts how to UL in Troop 1128 for a few years now. In 2004, I got off the Philmont scale (fully loaded) at 45 lbs; in 2007, down to 35 lbs; in 2010, down to 25 lbs; in 2012, I’ll be at 20 lbs (can’t get lower!). Figure ~ 6 lbs each in food/fuel/water/crew gear. Everyone has much more energy carrying the light loads. Boys now compete to see who can pack the lightest. Our MP+’s and Gorilla’s carry the Philmont loads just fine. Tip: we now make toothpaste, bug juice, and sunscreen Crew Gear. Everyone doesn’t have to carry their own, and we Scouters can make sure everyone brushes/bug-juices/sun-screens at the same time.

  9. Eddy April 29, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    I am going with my brothers troop out of Florida. The boys picked trek 22 southern route 73 miles, day 7 we will be crossing over Mt. Phillips. They were nice seeing how the trek leader is 70. I went back when in was 16. I imagine that I will see the same contrasts that you mentioned on the online journal you posted. I am looking forward to spending a great time with two of my nephews and my brother. At this moment (with a borrowed jansport external frame weighing 4 pounds 12 oz)I need to get a sleeping pad but the pack base weight is sitting at 20 pounds. Also, the single person 4 season tent I have weighs in at 4 1/2 pounds. I like the Mariposa but price point of Gorilla is great.

  10. Walter Underwood May 21, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    Also read Andrew Skurka’s new book, he includes a Philmont-specific packing list. It is excellent. I did find a couple of things to add, but those are more weaknesses in the info from Philmont. Why don’t they publish how much the food weighs?

    Skurka’s book:

    My review of his Philmont list:

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