Gear Selection

Your Ranger will cover a gear shakedown with you in Base Camp before you depart for the backcountry. The purpose of the gear shakedown is to ensure everyone has the appropriate gear and clothing before leaving for the wilderness and to make sure unnecessary items are stored in Base Camp to save weight and bulk. Here is a list of the items most commonly asked about while preparing for a trek:

  • Backpacks – Internal frame packs are highly functional and most commonly used. The pack needs to have a padded hip belt. Anything between a 65-80 liter carrying capacity will fit personal gear, crew gear, food, and water. To properly pack an internal frame backpack, place the heavy gear along the spine and close to the hiker’s back to keep the center of gravity forward and low. Lighter gear should be packed at the top of the backpack and on the outer edges of the main compartment. Sleeping bags usually fit at the bottom of the pack. Avoid having loose/dangling gear, as it is more likely to get caught in vegetation and requires you to exert more energy to offset its swaying motion. Backpacks with pack covers are available for rent from Outfitting Services in Base Camp for .

  • Boots – Mid- to high-top boots are highly recommended for ankle support on rocky, uneven trails. Boots should be well broken in before a Philmont trek. Waterproof boots are recommended: keeping your feet dry is one of the biggest keys to a successful backpacking trek.
  • TentsPhilmont requires closed-walled tents to prevent rodents, snakes, scorpions, and spiders from entering your sleeping facility. Two-person tents are highly recommended, as it is often difficult to find a spot to set up a larger tent in forested campsites. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) partnered with Philmont in 2012 and developed the Thunder Ridge tent specifically for use at Philmont. The MSR Thunder Ridge is a two-person, three-season tent and is available for crews to use free of charge while on their Philmont trek.
  • Sleeping Bags - Philmont recommends a 20oF temperature rating on sleeping bags. Synthetic bags are easier to care for than down bags but a synthetic bag will not compress as small and will weigh more than a down equivalent. If a down bag is selected for use at Philmont, it is recommended that the person using it is very experienced in its care since down loses all insulation value when wet.
  • Stoves - White gas stoves are most commonly used at Philmont. Models such as the MSR WhisperLite, MSR DragonFly, and the Optimus Nova are great stoves for a Philmont backpacking trek. White gas stoves are preferred by most crews because they are more efficient at higher elevations and colder temperatures and the fuel bottles are refillable, making them more environmentally friendly than canister stoves. Canister stoves such as the MSR WhisperLite Universal and Optimus Vega are acceptable stoves for a Philmont trek due to their design of separating the canister from the stove, making it much more stable and safer than a typical canister stove that screws on directly above the fuel canister. Although they should not be used for cooking meals, canister stoves such as the MSR PocketRocket, Optimus Crux, and Jetboils work great for small items like boiling water for coffee. (It is important to never use a windscreen with one of these stoves due to the fact that the heat source and fuel are both in the same enclosed space, making it highly combustible.) Backcountry commissary camps can refill white gas and have canister fuel available for purchase. It is recommended that a crew has approximately 6 oz. of white gas carrying capacity per person. Open flame stoves without a shutoff valve like BioLite stoves or alcohol stoves are not allowed at Philmont for safety reasons and wildfire risk.

  • Pots – Philmont requires all crews to have at least two pots. One must be at least eight quarts in size and the other must be at least four quarts in size. The purpose of having a second pot is for the dishwashing process which requires one pot for washing and one pot for rinsing. All utensils will be sanitized in the early stages of the following meal’s preparation process. The full dishwashing process (wash, rinse, and sanitize) is very important in the backcountry in order to prevent sickness on the trail. Pots are available for crews to use from Outfitting Services in Base Camp free of charge. Sizes and options available are as follows: eight-quart aluminum pot with lid, six-quart stainless steel pot with lid, four-quart aluminum pot with lid, and two-quart aluminum pot with lid (for boiling water for coffee); See image below:
  • Patrol Cooking Method – As mentioned above, crews are required to use two pots in the backcountry. The eight-quart pot is used for boiling water and re-hydrating food while the second pot is for dishwashing. Turkey bags or other bags used as a barrier between the cooking pot and the food are not allowed at Philmont due to the amount of extra trash created, which in turn requires extra use of gasoline for backcountry trash pickups. The purpose of the patrol cooking method is to give Scouts the opportunity to lead the cooking and cleaning processes during a meal in the backcountry by practicing servant leadership. By utilizing the crew duty roster, a Scout will be the assistant cook/dishwasher one night then the lead cook/dishwasher the following night.
  • Bear Ropes and Bear Bags – Philmont requires crews to use two nylon bear ropes measuring 100’ in length and ¼” in diameter to hang all smellables (A smellable is anything that might attract a bear. For a more detailed list, see the “Setting Up Camp” section). Bear ropes and bear bags are available for crews to check out from Outfitting Services in Base Camp free of charge. Crews are allowed to bring their own bear ropes and bags but the ropes must be the same dimensions as Philmont’s (100’ x ¼”) and the bags must be able to be tied or clipped to the rope. Pulley systems are not allowed for use at Philmont due to their tendency to get jammed, their weight, and their lack of having two tie-off points. Two tie-off points are required so that if a bear cuts one line, the bags will still be suspended by the second line.
  • Water Purification – It is recommended that every crew has at least one water filter. Crews are issued Katadyn Micropur tablets from Outfitting Services in Base Camp but a filter is still good to have on hand just in case your only water source is a murky pond.


About Philmont Scout Ranch

Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America's premier High Adventure™ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country.