Philmont Hiking Gear

As far as boots go...

Gore-tex is not necessary. (Although is does work) If your boys or girls are still growing I wouldn't invest a whole lot of money into a boot. My advice is to buy a sturdy, good-fitting boot from a respected name. In other words, if you can afford it, buy a brand name boot instead of a wal-mart boot.

Why? I bought a pair of vasque boots that had no gore-tex but were sturdy nonetheless for a trek I took in 94. I had them branded, part of them melted b/c of a little foolishness near a campfire, and I had approx. 150 miles on these boots. They probably cost me $60. A seam began to come loose one day, I took the boots back to the store, they gave me a brand new pair. I can't promise similar results, but I can say that buying from a respected name, even if you don't buy at the high-end, has its advantages. The less expensive boots can be "upgraded" to a degree by applying some type of agent such as a silicone spray to the fabric/suede.

If mom or dad (who's feet have stopped growing) is planning on doing a good bit of hiking/backpacking) and he wants to spend a little more, then go ahead. And more doesn't necessarily mean gore-tex. Solid leather (not split suede) boots from a respected name will shed water, usually give better support, and (with good care, a few resoleings and a little boot oil) will probably last ten to twenty years.

So, bottom line. It is not necessary to spend a lot, AND I wouldn't spend a lot on growing feet. I've seen guys have the time of there life at Philmont wearing all kinds of boots from all kinds of price ranges. That goes for all gear. Buy gear that will meet your needs and that will be dependable. Know how to use your gear, know its limits. And most importantly, don't let gear make OR break your Philmont experience.

As far as packs go...

Again, I've seen ALL kinds. And I've talked to old-timers who did this stuff with packboards and wicker baskets, so fancy and expensive isn't necessary.

First of all, if you don't plan on doing a lot of backpacking, the rental packs at Philmont are a very good deal. THe ones we had in '98 were for the most part brand new Kelty packs with good hip belts and a good amount of room. The only problem with renting a pack is that you can't try it out at home. You can't hike in it, you can't adjust it before Philmont, etc. But they are still good packs at good prices.

Internal vs. External - the debate continues. My advice, try it out and see what you like. End of Story. If you buy a pack, buy a good one, from a respected name. Buy one that you've tried on, buy one that will fit. And especially for those still growing, buy one that has a good bit of adjustment left in it.

Another option to buying folks! Especially for growing people. Borrow! Borrowing may well be the best of both worlds. You pay nothing. You get a pack. You are able to try out the pack. You are able to hike with the pack and adjust said pack. So, if you know a friend who's not making the trek this year, you might consider borrowing.

As far as hiking sticks go...

I've seen advisers swear by them. I've seen youth use them. I've seen money spent on them. Again, it's up to you. I used one in '94, didn't use one in '97. There were times I wish I had one. A few per crew are handy when crossing swollen streams. I've seen people take two of those fancy collapsible sticks and use them as poles for the dining fly. It worked, I thought it was neat. Again, this stuff isn't cheap. So try it out first if you can. And the stick that I used was just that - a stick. And hey, as long as it wasn't my great-great-grandpa's stick, I could have tossed it along the trail if I didn't need it. (please don't encourage everyone to do this. I don't want to be responsible for 20,000+ extra sticks accumulated at Philmont next year.) Bottom line, not necessary to spend money on them, but a lot of folks like to have them.

As far as deals go...

Closeouts and irregulars, etc. can offer good bargains. Search these catalogs for deals, but see/try on the merchandise in a store, etc. before buying. There are second hand and consignment shops out there. (Those of you in the Central TX area - there is a store in Austin called Second Season that sells a lot of good stuff at good prices.) Also check pawn shops and classified ads for deals on packs, etc. As long as you buy a respected brand you should get good service.

Last remarks...

I know that this is long but I'll wrap it up. Believe it or not there are very few things that I would rate as extremely important to consider when backpacking. All the rest is kind of secondary. And don't think that I'm saying - don't spend money! I'm just saying that you should be thrifty. And, if the scout (who should be the one practising thriftyness) helps to pay for things, they might mean a lot more to him or her. Here's the short list.

Alan's (who obviously knows all there is to know and should be the first, last, and only one consulted. did you catch the irony?) list of important stuff:

And for the love of god remember these two axioms:

ROADS are bad! very bad! are to be avoided! You could have stayed home and hiked dirt roads!

DRINK WATER


Alan Burdette
Troop/Post 308
Waco, TX


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This Web page is maintained by Selden Ball at Wilson Lab.
Please send any comments or corrections to seb@lns62.lns.cornell.edu