Philmont Sage Advice: Deal With It

Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 21:17:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: John LeBlanc
Subject: [Philmont]: Sage Advice

The reason the mosquito problem was so bad at Mt Phillips is because there were mosquitoes there. Enough said on that. Deal with it.


Why do conductors have "railroad watches"? So they will know how late the train is. Some things change and some things don't. The first train that ran on tracks was late. Trains on the tracks at this moment are late. Trains are late. Deal with it.


Yep, bring to a boil and add glue powder, I mean food powder, stir and eat beats simmer for 45 minutes any day on the trail. Deal with it.

Stove fuel:

It takes 3-4 cannisters of Coleman X Pert fuel per stove for a PhilTrek. Deal with it.

Making water potable.

Filters filter out silt, PolarPure doesn't. Deal with it.

PolarPure doesn't get stopped up with use. Filters do. Deal with it.


GPS units use electricity. Electricity on the trail comes from batteries. Deal with it.

Rechargeable batteries with sufficient batteries to rotate are a good trail choice IF the sun shines. If not, you are out of luck, I mean out of electricity. Deal with it.

I'm not trying to be a butt here, but the one thing the kids learn above all else on the PhilTrail is dealing with it.

I'll give you and example. I lease a ranch for recreational purposes year round in sunny Crockett County in West Texas. It's a 10 hour drive from home. Three weeks ago my 16 year old daughter (Phil Trek July 2002) and I went out to the ranch for a week.

Got there at 11PM. Turned on the water only to watch a stream trickle out of the faucet.

Not wanting to climb the 1-1/2 mile trail up to the windmill and climb the towr in the dark to see what was the matter, we waited until morning.

Her comment:

"Hey dad, there is a LOT more water coming from that faucet than the spring at Toothache Springs last summer at Philmont last summer and we did fine there, we'll just deal with it".

And we did.

She got out a granite pot, trickled it full of water which took about an hour, heated it on the stove, took the pot into the shower stall and took a hot bath. She dealt with it.

We dealt with it for three days. Then on the fourth day she turned on the faucet, water shot out, she jumped back declaring"I wasn't expecting that!" and we lived the rest of the week in luxury.

So you see, "deal with it" is not my advice, it's the advice of a PhilTrail veteran based on experience at makign do with what you have available.

The quality of life is not how we handle the good parts or the successes, but how we handle the bad parts, the adversity and the failures.

We dealt with the low water situation and had a great time, one trickle after another.

Learning how to "make water" is a preciously needed skill in life which can be learned on the PhilTrail.

GPS lagniappe:

Today's modern units all get about 8-10 hours of moderate use on two AA batteries. Punch the buttons a lot more and they use a lot more electricity and thus battery life is shorter.

Which unit to use?

First off a GPS and a compass are two separate instruments made for two separate purposes. I am amazed that people confuse the purposes of each. Usually the people who admonish GPS users are simply ignorant of the purpose of a GPS unit.

Personal opinion is that we owe it to our Scouts to afford them the experience of navigating with a GPS. It is not a "just push the button" situation. GPS is here to stay adn will definately be a part of their lives from now on.

A compass only tells you one direction, North. You must calculate all the other 364 degrees of direction gained from it.

A GPS unit only tells you one thing. Where you are on the surface of the earth. Using various commands (i.e. push buttons) you must calculate or rather have the GPS on board calculator calculate all the other spatial parameters.

Use the GPS as a tool with your Scouts. Teach them.

My advice is to not get one with all the bells and whistles, that is built in maps and plug in cards.

Most GPS units are "water resistant" even though labeled "water proof". They all have vents to keep them from exploding as they are carried to higher altitudes and thus when nice and warm and plunged into a cold stream or lake will suck water through the vent and kill them dead as a hammer, waterproof or not. Been there, done that.

A setup where you upload/download waypoints into a computer program for management is a desirable feature. All but the very cheapest will do that.

I maintain a master list and five separate lists of waypoints and depending on where I am going, I download the proper one. One list is labeled "Philmont". I can accomplish this in a matter of seconds what would take many hours manually.

And no GPS manufactured will store the several thousand waypoints I have collected over the years.

Purchase advice:

Avoid the lower priced units as they usually only track a limited number of satellites on a rotational basis. I'm thinking specifically of the first Magellan unit that was sold for under $100.00. I have friends who bought them and gave up using GPS because of the slowness of the unit.

Avoid the high priced "can upload the world" units that sell for $400+ .

A good Garmin or Magellan unit for around $ 200-250 just can't be beat. Select the one that appeals to your needs or your perceived needs and learn how to use it and teach you Scouts how to use it.

I posses a very accurate map of the ranch we lease that my 16 year old daughter and I made with the GPS and then downloaded to our computer, overlaid and printed out.

The knowledge of how to do that is in her kit bag for life along with many other skills garnered on the PhilTrail.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.

John LeBlanc
Bridge City, Texas

See also:

The content of this Web page was provided by John LeBlanc. Please contact him for more information.

This Web page is maintained by Selden Ball at Wilson Lab.
Please send any comments or corrections to