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  • Physical Preparation for backpacking trip

    Hello everyone,

    My sons troop is talking about doing some longer backpacking trips. My son is one othe younger scouts. I believe the scouting guideline is at least 14 unless approved by the SM. My son really wants to start hiking and backpacking.

    Do you think a younger scout can handle the rigors of say 50 mile hike?

    If you think it is possible what do think he need to do get prepared?

    Any Suggestion would be appreciated.

  • #2
    The best way to get into shape for Backpacking is to do it. Start out just walking with no pack and then gradually start working towards hikes with a pack at the approximate weight he will be carrying over progressively more difficult terrain.

    Leg and back strength, the ability to lift a heavy pack and getting the feet used to it. He can start out in tennis shoes but needs to work towards doing it with the foot gear he will be using.


    • #3
      is this over a weekend? Three days a week?


      • #4
        How old is your son????

        Age has little to do with it...I routinely take 11 and 12 year olds on weekend trips.

        What does he weigh????

        Generally a person should never carry more than 20% of their body weight so a boy who is 100 pounds isn't going to be able to carry his gear.....

        Is he active in sports or a fluffy video game player?????

        Sports kids need zero prep....fluffy game players a bunch of hardening, maybe a years worth.

        the length of the hike is pretty irrelevant....What is the terrain.. mountains or flat....How about elevation....east coast mountains or rockys????? Altitude and climbs....

        I would not ask a typical 11 or 12 year old to do 50 miles over a week... they will get bored and quit.

        (This message has been edited by Basementdweller)


        • #5
          All good advice....

          Start out with small trips for the young scouts, then more challenging for the older scouts.

          When I was an older scout in Alaska, our SM would schedule a difficult trip, in the mountains, above the tree line, (snow shoes,crampons) during the Christmas school break for the older scouts who had the training and stamina for such a venture.

          I did a 50 miler in the Grand Canyon at 13, and Philmont at 14. But starting out as 11 and 12? Short overnight backpacking trips were very challenging to me. Gave me a chance to work up to something tougher.


          • #6
            I disagree with Basement 2o% guideline. People can carry a lot more than that if they are in condition to do so.

            If you are in an area with reasonable access to mountainous areas, weekend backpacking is recommended for conditioning.

            If you have hills near by, hiking up 400 feet of elevation or more on a daily basis I would recommend. If you are a "Michigan Scouter" I seem to recall that the highest point in the whole state of Michigan is about 500 feet above the surrounding terrain.

            Anyway --- the heck with your son. A motivated boy will likely soldier through such a hike.

            What are YOU going to do to get in condition??


            • #7
              My son is just starting in the troop. The trip would not happen until the summer. He does play sports. However is not the strongest or most athletic. I am not sure his weight because he went through a growth spurt recently. He is taller and thinner looking since last time.

              As a family we tend to take short hikes in local parks typically a mile to two miles. Ussually just caring water and some snack food. I have a day pack to carry first aid kit extra water and jackets ect. These hikes are ussually only hour or so. We have two smaller boys so they really can't go for longer hikes. He certainly would like to go farther however with his younger brother it is not an option

              He went to summer camp this year and really enjoyed it. They went on a 3 mile hike with day packs. He was able to handle that fine. Still had energy to cook and set up his tent.

              I know if the troop does a 50 mile hike he will want to go. I just don't want him to go on something he isn't ready for yet. I have plenty of time to get him ready. the troop is already talking about doing some short hikes to get ready.

              I will also need to make sure I am fit enough to do this type of hike.


              • #8
                All of the above, plus a cautionary tale:

                Had a 12/13 y.o. younger brother along on an early spring weekend in back-country once.
                I really started regretting it when a winter storm stalled over the Chesapeake and started pulling hurricane force winds across the mountain we were on. (We got nothing that compares to what DesertRat's had in AK, but that day we sure could have used those crampons!) If it weren't for an ASM who anchored his legs, the kid's nickname would have become "kite."

                That was one of my personal motivations for starting a venturing crew: to make a clear distinction between physical challenges.

                The boy's scars healed. At age 14, he went on a crew contingent to Philmont. He also stuck by our first group of young women who wanted to backpack -- committing to conditioning hikes while we helped them get the right gear. He returned to that infamous piece of country a couple time since. He drug us out winter hiking and camping, and I still get occasional reports of him roaming the hills on the weekends. So, it worked out -- this time. But, I'm not incline to repeat it.

                I'm not saying that you can't condition a younger scout to do that sort of thing. But it's a tremendous challenge to keep up with a patrol of older boys if they are in shape. And when things go south, everybody has to have their head in the game. I.e., be an anchor, not a kite!


                • #9
                  What you bring up is my concern. I don't want to let him go on an outing he is not really ready to complete. We may just let the older boys go this summer and just stay in summer camp.Although his troop right now has more younger scouts so we will see if it is this upcoming summer or the next.

                  We will probable do conditioning hikes anyway. See how his strength and stamina improve over the year.


                  • #10
                    If your troop has a history of doing 50 milers, I'd have this discussion with the Scouters and Scouts who lead those trips. They probably have their own standards and recommendations, and I'd give maximum consideration to those.


                    • #11
                      Seattle it isn't my guideline it is the standard recommendation from most backpacking sources.....Some will recommend as high as 30%....



                      Sooo, is a 100 pound boy carrying a 40 pound pack going to have fun????? No.


                      • #12
                        A 100 pound boy carrying a forty pound pack because he wants to be out on adventure is LIKELY to have an adventure, and very likely fun along the way, too.

                        Perhaps it will be a struggle sometimes. That's probably a good experience.


                        • #13
                          We did a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail last month and one of our younger boys had what must have been close to a 40 pound pack despite my instructions on lightweight backpacking. He was miserable, I doubt he'll ever go backpacking again.

                          Pack weight less than 20% of body weight is the goal for boys. Me, I carry about 10 to 12% but I'm old
                          Light weight sure does make hiking a lot more fun.


                          • #14
                            I agree that scouts and adults need to be in shape for long hikes and high altitude hikes. However, even though I preached to our crews to get in shape for their treks, they basically ignored me. And I never had a scout physically struggle with backpacking anymore than any other scout in the crew as long as they carried a reasonable pack weight to their body weight. Most of my struggling scout problems were mental, which is much harder to deal with. Kids today in general can handle the kind of backpacking most troops do without a lot of conditioning. Im not saying dont do any conditioning, its not as much a problem as one would think. Adults on the other hand need to get in shape.

                            And I have to agree with both Base and Seattle, I would much prefer backpackers carry a maximum of 25% of their body weight with a goal of 20% because it just makes the trip more enjoyable. But I have seen scouts carry more than 40% without complaining. It can be challenging, my son weighed 105lbs when he went to Philmont his first time. It is next to impossible to carry a pack of personal gear, crew gear and food for under 25 lbs. At least back then, light weight backpacking is a lot more popular today.

                            Im curious, does the SM now have to approve scouts under 14 to go on treks? What about whole troops that backpack?



                            • #15