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Equipment Wisdom

from Troop 2 Scoutmaster Emeritus
and Venture Crew 2 Advisor

Backpacks

Suggestions: Find a garage sale nylon pack for $20 and add a $20 hipbelt from Campmor. Then go to a $100 extemal frame pack about age 13-14. A $100 backpack from Jansport, Kelty, Camptrails, etc. will get him through Philmont. If your Scout is gung-ho he will find a way to pay for that $150 internal frame pack. If your Troop is heavily into boating adventures an internal frame pack would be a good idea early on.

Sorry Dad, but you need to lose that canvas pack, not force it onto your Scout.


Look for these features:
1. Zippers of heavy construction
2. External pockets of good size
3. Framework is sturdy
4. Shoulder straps strong and well attached
5. Hip belt sturdy and sized to fit you
6. Reinforced strap attachment points
7. Pack sized to fit your body
8. Pack material has a quality feel

External frame pack plus points
1. Less expensive
2. simpler to fit to your body size
3. easier to pack and to use in the field
4. carries more equipment using straps and carabiners
5. better for odd shaped loads
6. not as hot as intemal frame packs

Internal frame pack plus points
1. better for up and down hills and rocks
2. better in boating situations
3. easier to pack into planes and cars
4. fits body snugly in clumsy situations


Sleeping bags

Sleeping gear is a system. Start with a ground mat, then add a good bag; then add a sheet for summer and a head hood, mittens and DRY socks and sweat suit for winter. A second, larger bag will do to keep the coldest Michigan nights comfortable with the other parts of the system in place. Mummy bags??? Not all that comfortable.

Warnings: never believe the temperature guarantee, two 32 degree bags are better than one zero bag. Down fill is best but old down is flattened and wet down is a disaster. Manmade fill is nearly up to feathers and is better when damp. A ninja turtle sleeping bag is good enough for summercamp. And Mom, check the zipper before he goes camping. As with everything, money talks. A good bag is made with two overlapping and staggered layers of tubes filled with quality material and a truly good zipper (the breakpoint in bags) backed by a wind blocker.

Look for:
1. Weight, weight, weight.
2. Heavy-duty zippers
3. Extra material inside to cover zipper
4. Filler material - down versus man-made
5. Filler sewn in smaller pockets
6. Hood area with draw cord
7. Not too small, not too big
8. A sturdy stuff sack.

Final warning: no stuff sack is waterproof. Put a 13 gallon trashbag in the stuffsack, then stuff the sleeping bag in the trash bag.

Ground mats
Meijer's sells a good foam mat cheap. Use straps to attach the sleeping bag and mat to the backpack; nothing looks more ridiculous than a Scout with a loose load, like a chicken with a balloon tied to it's leg and the balloon is bumping him in the behind at every other step.

1. A good closed foam mat isn't expensive
2. A good air/foam mat is.
3. Weight, weight, weight
4. If your son is 5 feet tall, don't cut off the last foot of a foam pad, he'll need it for hip padding or to sit on at the campfire.
5. A ThermaRest air mat and backpacker's chair is a luxury you can get used to.
6. A foam mat and air mat combination will separate you from the coldest ground very nicely.
7. Ground mats aren't a luxury.

Footgear

Only you know what your budget is like but there really isn't a way around this one. I had a decent pair of boots I'd used two years and they lasted two days at Philmont. My boots looked like a duct tape commercial. We live and learn.
1. Sandals and water socks are for campsites
2. Tennis shoes are for tennis.
3. Hiking shoes/walking shoes are OK on weekend packing trips.
4. Work boots are for work
5. Hiking boots aren't $25 a pair
6. Mountain climbing boots are too much.
7. $60-100 is the range.

Tents


Suggestions: what you buy is what you need, ie. where will you use the tent. Car camping equals a wall tent, no weight consideration. Mountain winter camping equals a hoop/mountain tent, high winds and lots of snow. Three season camping equals a dome tent, ventilation and floor space. The best all around tent is the 'A' frame, good floor space, ventilation and wind protection. Remember-money almost always equals quality.

Look for these features:
1. Heavy-duty zippers
2. A separate rainfly
3. Sturdy material sewn double stitch
4. Strong poles connected with shockcord
5. Large ventilation areas
6. As few seams as possible
7. Extra heavy bottom
8. Intemal pockets for small items

Pup/tube tent plus points
1. Inexpensive
2. Easy to set up
3. Fun for Cub Scouts in the backyard


Dome tent plus points
1. Lots of floor space per pound
2. Reasonably priced
3. Good year round if it has poles (4)


Wall tent plus points
1. Room for everything
2. Inexpensive

Hoop/mountain tent plus points
1. Very sturdy in high wind
2. Lightest weight tent
3. Great for one experienced backpacker

'A' frame tent plus points
1. Best floor space per pound ratio
2. Good year round
3. Great for 2-3 adults, 2-4 Scouts


Cooking Gear and Food

1. If you are using more than a 2 liter pot and a 4 liter pot for cooking then you aren't backpacking, you are on a walk in the woods between bouts of dishwashing.
2. Cooking for a backpacking trip should consist of heating water and adding herbs and spices.
3. Fancy cooking on a campout is fun. Backpacking is not Camporee camping.

Stoves
Suggestions: Scouts will fool with white gas if you give them a chance so have an adult carry the extra fuel. The MSR Dragonfly is the best blowtorch with control knob, the MSR Shaker Stove is 2/3 the price; both are touchy. The Coleman Feather 400 is the best all around for weight, sturdiness and usability by young Scouts.

1. Weight, weight, weight.
2. If you are not going to Asia or Africa then butane or white gas stoves are right.
3. Butane cartridges MUST be carried out.
4. White gas is practical but most of the stoves are mere blowtorches.
5. The lighter the stove, the more finicky.
6. The quicker it can boil a liter of water the less fuel you must carry.
7. Always use a pot lid and wind screen.
8. Check your stove before you hike.
9. Old stoves may be OK, maybe not.


Eating gear
Suggestions: use the aluminum mess kit as a boat anchor; your eating kit should be a plastic bowl, 12-20 oz. plastic coffee mug, your Scout knife, a large lexan spoon from Raupp's($0.85) and maybe a frisbee. A wide mouth bottle is easy to fill, easy to drink from, easy to mix powdered drinks and $4.50 from Campmor.

1. Weight, weight, weight.
2. Eating gear isn't cooking gear.
3. A Sierra cup is very appealing but very hot on the lips.
4. Lose the fork, find the spoon.
5. A frisbee makes a twice useful plate
6. Butter tubs are free bowls.
7. Aluminum mess kits are the worst invention of the camping industry.
8. Own 2 wide mouth liter bottles.


Food
Suggestions: it's cheap to do a nine day high adventure if you avoid the freeze dried food catalogs. Plan to eat in four person crews and DONT take one extra fruit bar. Meal planning takes practice so go on weekend hikes before the BIG ONE. Don't take a 20 oz. jar of peanut butter just because it's a convenient package. No pancakes, No eggs.

1. Avoid frying pans like the plague
2. Pitas and tortillas last a long time
3. Lose the packaging but keep the recipes
4. Popcorn oil is has a buttery taste.
5. Find a source of 2 gallon freezer bags
6. Repackage everything
7. Meijer's one pot meals are tastier than the expensive freeze dried stuff
8. Carry extra spices in film containers.
9. Hot Tang and hot Jello are great.

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