The golden rule of backpacking is that less is more. You need to think seriously about the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" and balance your natural inclination to pack everything you own with your need to lug all that gear up and down hills for miles and miles. A better motto might be... "Plan carefully and pack only what you will need".

With Boy Scout backpacking, an important factor to consider is how you will share gear. You will want to keep your pack as light as possible so plan on sharing items like tents, stoves, fuel and water storage across the patrols to minimize the total amount of gear any one scout has to pack.

Getting ready

Here are a few “rules of thumb” to live by when preparing and packing for a trip.
  • Your total pack weight should not exceed 25% of your body weight
  • Carry at least 2 full liters of water for the start of each day. Add a 3rd more if it’s really hot out and a 4th if you weigh more that 200lbs. If you are really small, you may be able to carry less than 2 liters, but try to discover that through practice, not while on the trail.
  • 1 liter of water weighs 2.2lbs
  • Start drinking a lot of water 2-3 days before your trip
  • Food you pack should have a high calorie to weight ratio
  • 1 full day of food for 1 person, including snacks, should weigh about one pound (yes, I said said one pound!)
  • After food and water, everything you pack should have at least 2 uses
  • Anything that does not have 2 uses is either a) an emergency item or b) a luxury item. Share emergency items across the trek crew and leave most luxury items at home.

Clothing and Heat Management

Clothing is so important that it deserves its own section. What you pack really depends on what weather you expect. You should check the NOAA weather at the location of your trip regularly right up until the time you leave. Cold weather camping is difficult because you have to pack just enough and not too much. Warm weather camping is actually really easy as long are you remember this... pack light and don't bring cotton clothing no matter how cool you think you look in it!

Cold Weather

If the temperature will drop below 50 degrees, you are going to be cold. 50 degrees may not seem cold when you are walking from the house to your car, your car to school, etc but when you are outdoors after sundown with no shelter for longer than an hour, its cold! Layering is not only the best way to manage cold, it's the only way when your are backpacking.

You'll want to wear your layers when your start hiking removing them one at a time as you warm up. Keep the front pouches of your pack open to hold your layers as you take them off so they will be easily accessible later when you want to put them back on.

When you stop for the night, put your layers back on 1 by 1 BEFORE YOU COOL DOWN COMPLETELY. This is important... put your layers back on before you get cold. Your clothing layers will keep you warmer if they are initially warmed up by your bodies own heat.

Here are a few general tips about cool weather clothing and heat management:
  • When your feet are cold, put on a hat. Most of your body heat lost is thru your head. Sleep with a warm hat on cold nights
  • On very cold nights, consider eating a candy bar about a half hour before you go to bed. It will help your body generate heat while you are sleeping
  • Cotton is the enemy. Leave it at home. Wear synthetic fibers like Coolmax and Polyester/Wool blends that wick moisture away from your body and dry qucikly.
  • Put tomorrow's clothing in the sleeping bag with you at night. They will be warm when you put them on the next day.
  • Always wear sock liners with thick socks over the top. They reduce friction and wick moisture away from your skin so that your feet stay dry.
  • Change sock liners every night. Put the old ones up in your tent to dry for reuse on trips laster more than 2 days
  • Don't leave your hiking boots out at night. They will freeze if the temperature drops below 32 degrees and you will hate how they feel the next day

What to wear when you start out:
  • Base layer underwear - synthetic briefs or boxers and a polyester teeshirt (Under Armor or similar fabric)
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Lightweight Nylon Wind shell (optional depending on wind conditions)
  • Nylon or synthetic wicking quick dry pants
  • Sock liners
  • Wool Socks
  • Hiking Boots
  • Warm Hat

What to clothing pack in your backpack
  • Long Underwear - Capalene or light weight polyester/wool blend top and bottoms. You will definitely this at night and on really cold days, you will want to hike in it.
  • 1 change of base layer underwear
  • 1 change of sock liners for each 2 days you will be on the trail
  • 1 change of pants
  • 1 change of base layer T-shirt

When you arrive at camp, immediately remove wet under layers and hang them to dry out. Put on your spare under ware and t-shirt for camp time and sleeping. Remember, once your you have fresh base layers on, start layering again before you get cold to retain body heat for the night. When you wake up in the morning, change back into your base layer under ware/T-shirt from the previous day's hiking and save you nice clean sleeping base layers for sleeping. Try it this way! You will be amazed how good you feel in camp and how well you rest as a result.

Warm Weather

As the temperature goes up, scouts and scouters sweat and wet slimy stinky clothing because your primary management issue. You will want to wear clothing that wicks the moisture away from your body. There are many choices on the market of clothing that is perfect for backpacking for every budget. Whether you prefer Niki, Adidas, Under Armor or the budget favorite, Champion, all work well and MUCH better than cotton. My personal preference is Mock T's from Roadrunner Sports because they have a fabric weave that I perceive to be breath better. A good example list of what to wear in warm weather is as follows:
  • Running/Athletic shorts with in integrated liner made of either nylon or polyester
  • T-Shirt? with strong wicking properties made of polyester
  • Sock liners made of Coolmax or a knock-off flavor
  • Thick wool hiking socks
  • Liberally applied sun-screen
  • Hat or bandana
  • Sun glasses (optional)

What clothing to pack in your backpack:
  • Long Underwear - Capalene or light weight polyester/wool blend top and bottoms
  • 1 change of base layer underwear
  • 1 change of sock liners for each 2 days you will be on the trail
  • 1 change of pants
  • 1 change of base layer T-shirt

If you are actually reading this carefully, you will notice the the clothing in your summer backpack is identical to that of your winter backpack. Guess what? The rules about managing your base layers (one set for camp/sleeping and one set for hiking/sweating) are actually the same too. In case you were wondering, the reason to carry Capalene in the summer is so that you can leave your sleeping bag at home in favor of a fleece blanket or sleeping bag liner. The weight of long under ware plus a sleep bag liner is typically half of that of a sleeping bag and in less you are camping up North, you will be plenty warm.

What clothing to leave waiting in the car

  • 1 complete change of comfortable clothes. Anyone riding home with your will appreciate your reduced fragrance.
  • Towel and soap - most scout backpack outings will end at a campground that has showers. This will be the best shower you ever took! Ditto fragrance comment above.
  • Comfortable shoes or sandals (you will be tired of hiking boots and camp shoes)
  • Food - Yes, I know Food is not clothing, but this is a good time to point out that if you pack correctly, you will be completely out of food by the time you reach your exit point. Why carry the extra weight for something you can leave waiting at the car?


Essential Items for individual Scouts to Pack

  • Backpack - backpack capacity is measured in cubic inches. Chose a pack that fits you and will hold what you need to carry.
    • 2500 to 3000 cubic inches - good as large day packs or overnight packs in warm weather
    • 3000 to 4500 cubic inches - good for 2-3 day trips in the spring, summer and fall
    • 4500 to 6000 cubic inches - the majority of standard backpacks are this size. There are good for trips of several days or more
  • Sleeping Bag - a 3 season bag is the best to own although its usually too hot in the summer. Consider bringing a sleeping bag liner or just a blanket for summer trips. Use your 3 season backpacking for trips between Sept and May (but always check the weather beforehand.
  • Ground Pad - A ground pad is NOT JUST about making the ground softer to sleep on. It's about insulating you from the cold that seeps up from the ground. If the temperature drops below 45 degrees you will be very cold without a ground pad no matter how warm your sleeping bag is. Also keep in mind that when you are backpacking, those big inflatable ground pads you you love so much for flop and drop camping just won't do. 10 minutes into the hike you will regret the extra weight.
  • Flashlight or head lamp - 99.99% of the time it gets dark at night. Enough said.
  • Mess kit - you will cook in patrols, but you'll need something to eat out of. A bowl, cup, and spoon is the minimum and may be best for space & weight.
  • Water Bottle(s) or Personal Water System water weighs 8lbs per gallon. It's always heavy, but is a bit easier to carry when your backpack supports a personal Water System (e.g. Camel Back water bladder). A Nalgene water bottle is an essential addition as well, especially if you will be filtering water along the hike.
  • Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste and a travel pack sized roll of Toilet paper. We are back country camping so assume there are no bathrooms.
  • Rain Gear - keep it minimal (e.g. poncho and pack cover) don't forget or you will regret

Optional Items for individual Scouts to Pack

  • Lip Balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray

Items to distribute evenly across the patrol

  • Tents - lightweight 2-man tents are best, especially when patrol camping. 1 scout carries the tent, the other carries the poles
  • Tarp - not essential but if you are traveling in a patrol, a good backpacking tarp can be a real life saver in inclement weather
  • Stove(s) and fuel - backpacking style only. There just isn't room for that 3 burner Coleman stove. 2 stoves per each patrol of 6 is recommended
  • Cook Pots - light weight aluminum or titanium is preferred. Stainless steel is too heavy
  • Water Purification - water filters and iodine tablets to make local water safe to drink and help you reduce pack weight by allowing you to carry less water
  • First Aid Kit - at least one complete first aid kit should be packed. Everyone should know which person/boat is responsible for it. Choose a packable style.
  • Clorox Wipes - used to clean up mess kits, pots and pans after meals
  • Pocket Knife please note that a patrol only need 1 knife. If scouts want to argue, let them schlep the extra. Whenever I need a knife will backpacking, I always seem to find as many to borrow as there are scouts
  • Compass and maps - never hike a trail you do not know well without a trail map. Ideally, every trek crew will have 2 sets of map/compass. One for the trek leader and one for the "sweeper" (last in line)
  • Matches and Firestarters - double pack in zip lock baggies
  • Deck of cards - never camp w/o them!

Ultralight Backpacking

Remember the rule "Everything you pack should have 2 purposes"? That is the cornerstone of ultralight backpacking. There are many ideas on how to drop pack weight and some of them really depend on the individual. For example, many AT hikers have switched to wearing Kilts. Kilts function as clothing during the day and a blanket at night. Sorry, but that's just not me! On the other hand, I've managed to get my summer pack for a 30 mile trip below 25 pounds. Here's what you will find in my pack between May 1 and Sept 30:

  • Ultralight Pack - Osprey
  • Pack cover
  • Hennessy Ultralight Hammock, tarp, straps, snakeskins and “beeners”
  • Sleeping Bag liner
  • Capalene Long Underwear
  • 2 1-liter water bottles
  • Katadyn Ultra-light Water filter
  • 1 lbs food per day
  • Spoon
  • Ultra-light Jetboil stove w/small can of Isobutane fuel
  • $.99 Emergency Rain poncho
  • Headlamp (with fresh batteries)
  • Sanuks (camp shoes) LUXURY ITEM
  • One spare sock liners for each 2 hiking days
  • 1 spare socks
  • 1 pair shorts for camp
  • 1 spare tee shirt for camp
  • Kleenex wipes LUXURY ITEM
  • Toilet Paper
  • Travel size deodorant LUXURY ITEM
  • Travel size toothpaste/brush LUXURY ITEM
  • One Starbucks VIA coffee single per day LUXURY ITEM
  • 7x4 ft Tyvek wrap sheet for sitting on at rest stops or cooking under in rain

Created by Tom Waldrop. Last Modification: Wednesday 03 of October, 2012 08:21:03 CDT by System Administrator.

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