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  • Outfitting a troop for backpacking without bankrupting everyone

    The situation for our troop is we only have plop camping gear at present. Currently, the troop provides cooking gear, stoves, and a dining fly. The boys provide tents and personal gear.

    The boys are looking into a backpacking trip for next summer. Right now the length of the trip is up in the air.

    The question I have is how to outfit the troop without the troop and the boys going broke. To go to the extreme, if each boy had a unique set of equipment (stove, cookware, tent, backpack, etc.) it could easily run $500 or more.

    The main questions are:
    What equipment do they currently have that can be used, even if it's not ideal to start with? If they can get by with something, great--on the other hand if it's going to make for a miserable trip to have the wrong gear...
    When new equipment is needed, what is the appropriate amount of types of equipment needed; i.e., number of stoves per boy?

    I've collected a lot of insight from this forum about backpacking--thank you. I appreciate your comments on this summary:

    ITEMS THE TROOP WILL PROBABLY BUY

    STOVES: ($30 each for basic pocket-rocket, going up from there)

    The ratio of boys-per-stove appears to be about 4:1. AGREE/DISAGREE?
    Jetboil is limiting because of the proprietary system/fuel
    Canister fuel stoves are the cheapest and most versatile, but fuel costs are higher.
    Gas stoves have lower fuel costs and less fuel canister volume to carry, but you need to be very careful with transporting fuel
    No one has much experience with the volcano/wood-fuel type stoves. Why?

    COOKING GEAR: $$??

    Several of the stove manufacturers offer all in one/stackable systems but they are generally geared toward solo backpackers and seem to be more expensive than buying separate cookware.
    What is the minimal amount/type of cookware needed?

    WATER FILTRATION: $75-100 each

    The ratio of boys-to-filtration systems is?????
    Filtering systems vs. steripenseach have advantages and drawbacks. Steripens do not filter sediment/etc. If you were to start from scratch, what's the best choice for a group?

    TARPS/DINING FLY?

    What type, etc.

    ITEMS THE BOYS WILL PROBABLY BUY

    TENT
    Right now the boys bring their own tents. Some boys may have smaller tents that they can use but many use large family tents currently. Boys can buddy up, but which buddy bears the cost of the tent?

    BACKPACK
    No way around the cost of this one and the boys will need to buy one that is best for them.

    SLEEPING BAG
    For summer backpacking, what can the boys get by with?
    What is the practicality of using a department-store bag a boy might already have?

  • #2
    To me, Scouting is about boys being confronted by the wilderness and deciding for themselves how to deal with the challenges that produces.

    I'd start out with some easy backpacking trips so that the Scouts can learn what those challenges are and decide how to manage those. You are proposing to make those deicisons for the Scouts in advance, which I would avoid doing, myself.


    Patrols don't need specialized cook gear to start. Take regular kitchen gear -- it cooks fine.

    You don't need tents. A tarp or two per Patrol and practice setting them up will be fine.

    Sleeping bags can be purchased cheaply at thrift shops. On the other hand having everyone get along with a blanket (adults included) might be an interesting adventure.

    Backpacks are often available at thrift shops too.

    You could experiment with a "no stoves" backpack trip. You might consider carrying only one stove for all and using that only to heat water that everyone uses in common.

    Lots of options. Keep it simple to start and then let the Scouts set their own priorities for gear.

    (This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

    Comment


    • #3
      Yah, good for the lads tryin' to up their game, and good for you and da other adults tryin' to support 'em!

      First, yeh should consider da possibility of renting at least some stuff. A lot of outdoor shops and many college/outdoor clubs will allow yeh to do that relatively inexpensively; yeh can also ask another troop in your area that has such gear if yeh can rent from them. Most of da time gear just sits around, eh? Gettin' it out in da field and gettin' some extra $$ for replacement is a good deal for another troop.

      In da long run, if yeh go this way, it is better to have your own gear. More economical, more flexible, boys get to learn quicker havin' a stable set of gear, etc. But yeh don't need to necessarily do that for everything to start.

      As to specific questions:

      ITEMS THE TROOP WILL PROBABLY BUY

      STOVES: ($30 each for basic pocket-rocket, going up from there)

      The ratio of boys-per-stove appears to be about 4:1. AGREE/DISAGREE?
      Jetboil is limiting because of the proprietary system/fuel
      Canister fuel stoves are the cheapest and most versatile, but fuel costs are higher.
      Gas stoves have lower fuel costs and less fuel canister volume to carry, but you need to be very careful with transporting fuel
      No one has much experience with the volcano/wood-fuel type stoves. Why?

      I live in da Great White North, eh? So for us, gasoline stoves are da only option because da isobutane stoves just suck when da weather gets below freezing. Transportin' fuel is honestly not a problem. Yeh have a slightly higher level of safety instruction in teachin' kids to operate white gas stoves, but it's well within da capabilities of boy scouts. If yeh live somewhere where it stays above freezin' whenever yeh plan on usin' 'em, da isobutane canister stoves are a bit easier. Keep in mind that they tend to be less stable, so yeh up da risk of scalding burns and havin' da pot of pasta end up on da ground, which is da biggest risk of kids cooking.

      COOKING GEAR: $$??

      Several of the stove manufacturers offer all in one/stackable systems but they are generally geared toward solo backpackers and seem to be more expensive than buying separate cookware.
      What is the minimal amount/type of cookware needed?

      10" Fry pan, 3 qt pot, spoon, spatula, spice kit.
      One smaller pot as an option, but not usually needed.

      WATER FILTRATION: $75-100 each

      The ratio of boys-to-filtration systems is?????
      Filtering systems vs. steripenseach have advantages and drawbacks. Steripens do not filter sediment/etc. If you were to start from scratch, what's the best choice for a group?

      Not worth it. Just get some halogen tablets/treatment. Iodine or Aqua Mira (chlorine), one bottle per cook group/patrol for da weekend at $6. If yeh need to filter sediment yeh generally need to find a better water source, or just use a bandana.

      Da filters da kids will just destroy, eh? You'll have 'em jammed up and contaminated within a day. Steripens work fine and might be a decent long-term solution as they're cheaper in da long run than tablets, but yeh have a higher training load and risk of breakage.

      TARPS/DINING FLY?

      What type, etc.

      Why bother? Yeh have tents to sleep in. It's fine to cook in da rain. On da other hand, as long as da bugs aren't too bad, yeh can sleep (and cook) under flies, as long as you're mindful of ursine issues. All kinds out there. All of 'em need some practice settin' up, but they do teach knot work.

      ITEMS THE BOYS WILL PROBABLY BUY

      TENT
      Right now the boys bring their own tents. Some boys may have smaller tents that they can use but many use large family tents currently. Boys can buddy up, but which buddy bears the cost of the tent?

      Yah, I reckon you'd want to phase this in. Da other thing is that over time as yeh have wear and tear, it's somewhat nice to have da same tents from da same model year to swap parts on. Two-person backpack tents can be somewhat pricey.

      BACKPACK
      No way around the cost of this one and the boys will need to buy one that is best for them.

      Most boys will need two durin' their life in da troop. One that is kid-sized or small woman size for their first few years, and an adult one after that. Most packs don't "grow" well with the lads. Talk to shops or direct to manufacturer about bulk/group discounts.

      Lots of parents/families tend to cheat on packs (older person's pack that doesn't fit da boy well, new pack to "grow into", etc.) and that makes boys' first experiences with backpacking absolutely miserable. You'll need to rent or provide a lot of guidance here.

      SLEEPING BAG
      For summer backpacking, what can the boys get by with?
      What is the practicality of using a department-store bag a boy might already have?

      Summer in what part of da country? Of course last summer, yeh could get by without a sleepin' bag in da entire country below 8000 feet.

      If it's only summer, then any temperature ratin' will do, and there are advantages to a 40 degree bag. I'd never have a family buy somethin' like that up here, though, because we want it to be one purchase for year-round use.

      Department store bags are a mess to pack and carry, especially for da younger lads who are da ones most likely to have 'em. Again, it's part of da misery factor which turns 'em off to backpacking. Get a decent, compressible, mummy bag without a cotton liner.

      Beavah

      Comment


      • #4
        First things first, GOOD JOB! Getting a car camping troop out backpacking is an awesome step.

        As to equipment. Seattle's right that you want them to make decisions, but you should also give them some guidance. Part of the fun of a backpacking trip is all the gear! Here are my suggestions you could share with your PLC about backpacking gear. Perhaps they would like to invite some adults (or even better, older Scouts from a nearby backpacking troop!) to do some Gear Talks during upcoming Troop meetings.

        1 stove per 4 Scouts sounds about right. I think Kudu calls this a "Cook Group." The $40 pocket rockets work well. The isopro fuel costs, while higher than others, are not really that high in total, assuming the Scouts learn not to leave them on...

        Cooking gear, no need for titanium, though if you find it on sale it's great. A pair of pots, one in the 2L range and one in the 1L range, per stove should work. Should be $50 - $60 if you shop around. This $50 set http://www.amazon.com/MSR-Alpine-2-Pot-Set/dp/B0020TVDDM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351005601&sr=8-1&keywords=msr+backpacking+utensils looks good to me. Dont forget cooking utensils (MSR also makes some nice folding ones).

        Filtration - one device per patrol is probably good, though more would make water stops go faster. I have a Steripen, and it came with a prefilter that gets sediment etc. (screws onto the top of a nalgene bottle). I love it, but the pumps are good too, and have the added advantage that the Scouts should learn how to clean and service them (taking care of gear being an important part of the outdoor classroom). You could go half-and-half on these and let the Scouts take turns using different system. Either way you're looking at roughly the same price range.

        Our troop has Kelty Noah's tarps, 12' size, 1 per patrol. But if you already have dining fly's (and they aren't standalone popups) maybe they will work for now?

        Tents? Hmmm, y'know, hammocks are even better! Our troop supplies tents, and we got some 3-man ALPS - the outfitter versions with oversized zippers and what not to make them bombproof. They're 10 lbs each, but that's only about 3 lbs per scout. A bit heavy, but doable. ALPS has a very nice discount program for Scouts, so cost is managable. But our guys are gradually switching over to their own hammocks, which are lighter. It started with a couple of the adults using hammocks, and then it spread like wildfire. Sounds like you have a few months to help them figure out what they want to do.

        Backpacks and Sleeping bags: yes, they need to have ones that will work. I got my son outfitted with both for about $110 through those ALPS discounts. It's a synthetic bag and it would be nice if it compressed a little more, but it works.

        Obviously starting slow is a good idea, you mention the length is up in the air. I would encourage them to consider a short trip - even just 1 or 2 miles from the trailhead will be a much different experience for them. The only real problem is that the pack and bag are necessary for any trips, and those are a hefty per-Scout expense. But if the Scouts get to "discover" new gear each of the first few trips, it will help spark the excitement. You can't really drag big green Coleman stoves around, so getting the stoves is essential, and while Seattle is right that ordinary cooking gear can work, it has to be stuff that fits on the stoves. A 12" skillet isn't going to work.

        Comment


        • #5
          I like the idea of a small or shake-down outing.

          However, "Patrols don't need specialized cook gear to start. Take regular kitchen gear -- it cooks fine."

          We have the ubiquitous Coleman 2-burner stoves. Not sure how to adapt our regular kitchen year.

          Beavah, I am at your latitude and I've heard about the fuel issues in winter.

          JM--I'm a hanger and my setup does fascinate the boys...not sure if they're willing to take the leap. Although I did score my son a Hennessey Scout model from their clearance sale for $59, tarp included!

          Comment


          • #6
            Good problem to have.

            The pack and boots are most important. REI does rent packs pretty reasonably.

            as far as stoves, 4 or 5 to one is a good ratio. Weights not as big of a factor then so a Coleman propane or white gas stove is good and cheap-especially used.

            We've done several trips with the patrol using one large thin aluminum pot for everything from cooking, boiling to sterilize water and cleanup. It's big enough that a sleeping bag can slide inside it so the pot takes up virtually zero space.

            Sleeping bags will probably be an issue because department store bags simply don't compress. That's OK with an external frame of carrying system. DEMAND that the scouts use compressin bags for their sleeping bags and nylon straps to tie the bag to the pack.

            Our guys have been known to take a four man tent and just split the pieces up so no one is carrying too much weight.

            Do some shakedowns and have fun.

            You may want to meet with a backpacking merit badge counselor yourself to get some tips to pass on to the scouts.

            Comment


            • #7
              ok, so to think of it from a totally different perspective, how much you can get away with not having, and how light can you go with what you already have? A lot of that will vary based on what the boys want to do, where they are going, time of year, and how much do they really cook, and are these tiny guys who can barely carry their sleeping bag much less other gear, or do you have some strapping 6 footers who can carry a bunch of weight without any trouble?

              We are in AZ. LOTS of places we go, we just have to carry water. so the boys get used to the idea that they need to be able to carry a gallon a day each. yeah it weighs more than carrying a water filter, but it costs a lot less to bring water than to filter water. Boys buddy up for water carrying, with the 17 year old 190 lbs big guys carrying more than their fair share, and the 50 lb soaking wet new webelos crossovers barely carrying a couple liters without dying. It somehow always works out but we do avoid the desert in July. Camelbacks seem to be standard, every parent seems to think their son needs one, so the boys can easily get used to carry that much extra water, which is a start.

              So you get everyone to carry some water and buy 1 filter to try out--then once the boys see the advantage, especially regarding weight, they may decide to put water filtration higher on their list of things to buy. Last time I checked the price of a filter at the scout shop was comparable to elsewhere and there is no taxes at our scout shop which helps.

              Put out a call to other troops, rental places, neighbors friends, a notice on craigslist--you want backpaks to use for the weekend, or at least try them out at a troop meeting. Invite someone from REI type store, backpacking merit badge counselor, anyone with experience to help with teaching packing of bags ad adjusting backpacks to fit people. Fitting of your backpack to body is key. --hopefully you'll get a mix of people show up with stuff they've borrowed or rented and let everyone try on every model that shows up.

              Spend several meetings going over any gear you have and any you've found, borrowed, can rent

              We've done backpacking trips with brand new scouts that have NO gear. Sure the troop has some backpacking backpacks to loan out, but over all they are yucky.

              So first trip is hike out a mile from the vehicles and drop gear and then hike around with day packs and it's not really backpacking but it is an essential start. Everyone gets to see what they are really willing to carry. What they thought was important to have they quickly find out that it might not be worth the weight. The 2nd trip you usually have parents have bought some gear and the troop has budgeted to buy a little more from what boys and adults have decided is useful and you may be able to go out 3-5 miles and be more backpacking.

              Use whatever backpacks you have for that one mile trip. buddy up older scouts with real backpacks with younger scouts who will be making do with daypacks. the ones with real backpacks obviously end up carrying the bulk of the stuff. Plan the meals to be no-cook at first, and then buy a stove or two and encourage everyone to buy their own lightweight 1 pot and spork. Or use existing pots like mentioned with other gear stuffed inside so it doesn't take up much room. As gear is purchased encourage boys to share--buddy up those with pots with those without pots-- with my sons one takes the stove and fuel the other takes the pots and the food, depending on weight bearing.

              Experiment with how much backpacking dehydrated foods and other types of foods the boys really are goin to want to cook on backpacking trips. You'll find some patrols or indiv scouts just want to pack non-cooked food if you are mostly doing a short good weather backpacking trip. Some HATE dehydrated food, so they'll always favor "real food" even if the weight is more. but when you have to carry water, the difference between open and eat and rehydrate and heat may make the difference between how many stoves and cook stuff you need to buy.

              Also think outside the box for gear. Ive seen thin gatorade 1 liters instead of nalgenes, cool whip or rubbermaid bowls instead of backpacking bowls, kfc sporks instead of purchased ones. My boys have a miniature non-stick frying pan that they bought at the grocery store for like $4 it is tiny, but makes great eggs--and they hate dehydrated eggs so they have experimented with putting eggs in a water bottle, and freezing them partly so they can have cold/fresh eggs for breakfast. oh and they take almost every time a ziplock bag of cereal with powdered milk and add water for a bag of cereal for breakfast. So food can also be a lot less expensive using just what you have in the kitchen. spend some patrol meetings practicing and weighing foods, and then have a troop backpacking trip with cooking contest--who can make the best food that weighs the least, uses the least amount of resources/cost.

              backpacking sleeping bags can be a pretty penny if you want to get super light weight. summertime backpacking mine often take a small sleeping bag liner or a small blanket. I don't know ANY boy in our troop that has a backpacking tent, they sleep under the stars, or take tarps--or even more lightweight is thick black or grey plastic that comes on a roll at home depot, cut to the size you want and fold/roll it up, add a bit of rope and experiment with making shelters.

              dont' make this into a big huge deal. buy a few high quality items for the troop to provide, encourage parents to buy a few items for their scouts (birthday and christmas list items!), and until your boys get out there and try it, you won't know exactly what will work best for your situation based on temps, location, age and size and interests of boys in your troop.

              Comment


              • #8
                A little confused on the stoves...we have the classic 2-burner green Colemans. Are y'all saying to carry a few of those along?

                Comment


                • #9
                  One backpacking stove per patrol with a small pot from the patrol cook kit. You just need to boil water, no frying pans.

                  The Jet Boil doesn't use proprietary fuel, just standard isobutane canisters, same as the MSR Packet Rocket. (I'd recommend the Rocket or Snowpeak Gigapower.)

                  Aquamira drops or tablets for water treatment. (AM is not chlorine, it is an oxidant). Tablets are better for youth, no measuring.

                  My troop makes tarps of sheet plastic. Bought a roll and they made their own.

                  Dinning fly; for my Philmont crew I bought a 10'x12' silnylon one from Campmor ($120) but a sheet of plastic and some 1/8" line would work for a weekend. Mandatory for Philmont but not really needed for a weekend trip.









                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ...we have the classic 2-burner green Colemans. Are y'all saying to carry a few of those along?

                    I would leave the green Colemans home and take backpacking stoves instead. Your first backpacking trips will probalby be in the summer, or at least not in the winter, so the isopro pocket rockets would work as a cheap starter step. They're good to have around anyway.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One of the problems we all have with going from car camping to backpacking is thinking the two are synonymous. So if you are well versed in car camping, you will need to either think outside the box or contact someone with a ton of backpacking experience and pick their brain.

                      Stoves: - Why? There's a wide variety of food that doesn't require cooking. The weight of the stove and fuel can be replaced with foods, even a bit heavier foods that aren't freeze dried. Otherwise bring only foods that require water for prep. Heat up the water on one small one-burner stove. Scoop out a cup of H20, and make your oatmeal in the cup, etc.

                      Tents: - again why? use lightweight drop-cloths, ponchos, small tarps and sleep as individuals. Or go with the old button top pup tents and split between two boys. When you meadow crash on nice nights, use them as ground cloths. If it starts to rain in the middle of the night, grab and edge and roll over. Done it many times, it works.

                      Sleeping bags: Usually in the summer one wool blanket will suffice. Tends to be a bit heavy, but will do well if the night temps drop off at high altitudes. Change clothes and sleep in next day's clothes for extra warmth. Do not sleep in the damp clothes you hiked in all day.

                      Water filters: Depends on the area you will be hiking in. If the area is naturally pristine (no farm fields nearby, etc.) the water source can be boiled (see stove above). Otherwise fresh iodine tablets work just fine. Powdered Gaterade kills the taste problems. For chemical impurities, water can be run through charcoal to handle that problem.

                      Put your $$ into good hiking boots and packs. Those are a one-time purchase that can be used for many future adventures.

                      I have been known to survive a 4-day national reenactment carrying gear used by the soldiers of 1861-5. The modern amenities are kept far from the reenactment site and I have had to walk up to 2-3 miles to get to camp. I normally carry all my gear in the last battle on Sunday so all I have to do is walk off the field, go to the car and be the first out so as to miss the traffic jam caused by 15,000 reenactors all wanting to leave at the same time. Sure, there are fires, but I don't want to spend all my time looking for a spot at a company fire, so I carry only non-heat foods. So far I haven't starved to death and yet enjoyed myself greatly in all kinds of weather. Keep it in mind that 10#-20# of the equipment doesn't deal with camp life. The gun weighs 11# alone.

                      Before I go on any trip, I mentally begin planning at least a week in advance and by Friday I have talked myself out of any and all non-essentials I would be tempted to take.

                      I find that true backpack hikes are luxury for me. Modern equipment carries a lot better than canvas and heavy metal. Car camping? Holiday Inn can't beat the non-essentials I can pack into my full-sized van!

                      Backpacking is a thinking-man's game supplemented by experience. More than once, I have sat in the middle of my camp thinking to myself: "Why in the world did I drag that along?" When I get back to base camp, I make a mental note: "Never bring that stupid thing along ever again." It works.

                      These tips also apply when you move from canoe camping (car camping) to kayak camping (backpacking).

                      Stosh

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I wouldn't suggest boys spend a dime on "good hiking boots".
                        Boys can hike in trail runners and wear them to school and gym on Monday.

                        (This message has been edited by Eagle732)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Backpacking is a thinking-man's game supplemented by experience. More than once, I have sat in the middle of my camp thinking to myself: "Why in the world did I drag that along?" When I get back to base camp, I make a mental note: "Never bring that stupid thing along ever again." It works.

                          This is excellent advice, and the best outcome of course is for the Scouts to do this thinking, not have the adults do it for them! They'll need to gain some of that experience to do it, and that's a tremendous bit of maturity for them. I think this is one of the main advanages of backpacking for Scouting - the Scouts have to edit their gear, think about what they're bringing, learn how to make a limited amount of gear function, etc.

                          In light of that, your first trip doesn't need to - shouldn't really - have the perfect set of gear. Start with stuff that functions and is relatively cheap, and let the Scouts dial it in from there as they get experience. It was hauling heavy tents that convinced the first set of guys to switch to hammocks. The water filters were big hits.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            How big is your troop and could you ease into the purchase of backpacking by making these patrol hikes? Just a thought.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Do not carry along the two-burner Coleman stoves. You need some type of backpacking stove if you are going to cook. I personally think cooking is a big part of the experience, but you could indeed get by without it.

                              You don't need special backpacking cookware (pots and pans). Pots and pans that you already have should work fine.

                              We generally don't bring a dining fly. Maybe if we knew it was going to rain all weekend.

                              If the boys have backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags, the rest is pretty cheap. A couple of backpacking stoves. There are very cheap water filtration methods. You can start with one of those and people can upgrade if they want. We find that there are usually a couple of Scouts (or dads) who want upgraded things in general. In fact, our troop hasn't had to buy a water purification system since enough people had them.

                              Things don't have to be super-light. People were backpacking in the 1970's when none of this stuff existed. You can still have a great time.

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