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outfitting a troop for backpacking

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I received email from a local SM, a friend, that says that his recently-formed troop has no equipment yet and has decided to become a backpacking troop. In our troop, we have aging equipment and have been thinking somewhat along the same lines.


So here's my question -- for those of you that have gone that route, shunning patrol boxes and troop trailers and the like, what sorts of things have you purchased as a troop, and what sorts of things have you decided are personal purchases? Examples: stoves, cookware, tents, tarps...




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I'll let others advise ya since I haven't done backpacking in a while. But Alps Moutnaineering does give a nice discount to scouts via Scouts Direct, and CAMPMOR does have a unit discount program.


Ok one thing I like is my MSR whisperlite international. It's multifuel, so you CAN use gasoline, alcohol, kerosene, etc according to BSA rules sicne the manufacturer does specify those fuels can be used in the directions.


The other thing that you may be able to do, esp if you can get the whole unit to do so, is to talk to local outfitters or surplus stores to see if they will give an deeper discount on a group purchase. When I went to Canada, one of the local surplus stores gave us a 25% discount instead of the normal 10% scout discount for our troop. They also modified some of the equipment they sold for us free of charge.

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We turned our troop from car camping to backpacking. We purchased Coleman canister stoves (I forget the model, ~ $50), MSR water filters ($80) and a cheap 6qt aluminum pot from REI ($14). We also purchased one small First Aid kit per patrol. We chose the canister stoves because I didn't want to mess with white gas with newbies, and the aluminum pots are likely to get worn out pretty quickly and are cheap to replace. Tents/packs/bags are personal equipment in our troop.


We made sure to do a couple of car camp trips with the backpacking equipment to do a proper shake down and work on LNT things.


Prior to my tenure as SM, the troop would go camping with 8-12 boys and 4-5 truckloads of equipment. Sheesh. We looked like we were climbing Everest.


Make sure to do plenty of skillbases on all the equipment, from boots, to shirts, to layering, lots of cooking skills and recipes, fitness, field first aid, etc... Make sure the adult leaders follow the plan and set the example for the rest of the scouts... check your council also for Basic Backpacking Awareness...



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"So here's my question -- for those of you that have gone that route, shunning patrol boxes and troop trailers and the like, what sorts of things have you purchased as a troop, and what sorts of things have you decided are personal purchases? Examples: stoves, cookware, tents, tarps... "


To some degree,what is your troop providing now?

If your troop has colman stoves, then backpacking stoves makes sense.

If your troop has cookware now, then backapacking cookware makes sense.

If your troop has tents now, then backpacking tents makes sense.

If your troop has stationary tarps now, backpacking tarps makes sense.


Keep in mind that backpacking gear also works when not backpacking. The issue with backpacking gear is that sometimes parts of the whole are split up amoung multiple hikers to even out the weight. The tent goes with Scout A but the poles are with Scout B. Sometimes not all of the gear is returned.


The choice of cookware/stove can also be a concern. The Jetboil system only works with their cookware. Ok, you can use a regular fry pan but not nearly as efficiently. The Whisperlite and MSR work with any pot but their fuel system messing with liquid fuels. The Jetboil system is really a messkit and cookkit in one system so sharing food becomes an issue. One burner but individual pots solves that problem but potentially at a higher cost.


Also consider the issue of mulitple products and the learning curve. The troop can decide on a particular vendor/model/make of product. Then if individual purchases are made, everyone knows how to operate and can exchange parts if necessary. Lots of different individual vendors/models/makes ensures if there is a weak spot, at least there is vareity to overcome the failure point.


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Troop equipment includes tents, backpacks, stoves and a troop trailer. Most events revolve around hiking/packing your equipment in and out. Car campouts are seriously frowned upon although a few may be scheduled during the year to satisfy those that have issues about the constant hiking. The troop does its best to absorb a great deal of the equipment cost.


A comment was made that our unit is one of high adventure and if your thing is car campouts then another unit may suit your needs more appropriately.

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Here is an article on using lightweight equipment for regular campouts that do not involve backpacking to a remote location:




Most Boy Scout camps have "primitive" camping areas where you can spread out as much as you want. Ask the camps' rangers. One advantage of lightweight equipment is that can use these areas to experiment with separating your Patrols by Baden-Powell's minimum distance of 300 feet.


I currently work with a local adult-run Troop. As soon as we separated the ad hoc Patrols "a football field apart" on campouts limited to the mature Scouts, their natural leadership instincts emerged.


Yours at 300 feet,




Scuba Diving Merit Badge:



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I think we are also moving away from Base Camping to Back Packing.


I think a Backpacking Troop is a GREAT idea. Things like Patrol boxes really are only for base camping anyway. Some things like Dutch Ovens are used infrequently by many Troops and you can sometimes borrow one.


Now that my boys are getting into backpacking I see that things can be done a lot simpler.


I would consider looking at Tarp camping instead of Tents. There are tarps with bug mesh bottoms/sides. I would also look at Bivy Sacking as well. I would teach the boys who to make a Philmont Dining Fly. For the ambitious making Hammocks might be a good idea as well...Hammock camping is catching on at some Troop (though it can lead to site issues)


I recently got a Outdoor products external plastic frame pack at Walmart. It is a copy of the old Coleman Ram Flex. I like it a lot and it can be had for $60-80. I also made a ultralight backpack from an old mesh laundry bag and kids book bag for Ultralight camping.


My older scout wants to make his own external frame with wood/bamboo and sew a bag so there are ways to make things cheaper. I would encourage that sort of thing.


As for stoves I am interested in wood volcano stoves. Usually there is always some burnable twigs, etc. Takes longer but you do not have to haul fuel. In any case you should not need more one stove per 2-3 boys.


For water bottles 1 liter plastic soda/water bottles are cheap as heck. Plastic bowls instead of mess kits.


I am not too familiar with water filters as in Florida we often have to hike in a lot of potable water anyway.


I think Campmor is pretty good as a vendor.


As we have an affluent Troop I like to push "a Scout is Thrifty" and get the boys to not just rush out and get the latest and greatest (expensive) gear. Unfortunately Boys Life seems to have become a shill for the gearhead manufacturers. You hardly ever see any articles anymore for "Stove made from a Coffee can" sort of thing.




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the problem with homemade stoves is the G2SS now forbids them and limits the fuels that can be used...... the verbage for the fuel is not recommended for acholol stoves.



Approved chemical-fueled equipmentCommercially manufactured equipment, including stoves, grills, burners, heaters, and lanterns that are designed to be used with chemical fuels.


Prohibited chemical-fueled equipmentEquipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturers stated design limitations or use. Examples include alcohol-burning can stoves, smudge pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners with their regulators removed.

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This troop does both backpacking and easier camping.

We go with:

- The scout purchases the things that need to fit - boots, pack, mess kit, clothes

- The patrol has things they often use - tents, stove, fuel bottles, cookware, water containers, utensils, dutch oven, rainfly

- The troop has things used less often or that are not needed by every patrol - water filters, first aid kit, toilet kit

- The trek participants purchase consumables on backpacking outings - fuel, food, bug spray, sunscreen, zip-locs, garbage bags, maps

- Patrols purchase their consumables as they need for weekend campouts.



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You are correct about the Soda Can stoves and we do not use them (now). Though I have seen several cartridge stove accidents by boys --I guess BSA figures they have shifted the liability. Is your interpretation that a boy could not make a small wood burning stove (say a mailbox stove)? I would think wood is not a chemical fuel.

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the biggest problem with backpacking troops is it transfers cost to the families. The boys I serve simply don't have $100 to sink into a Backpack and a a better sleeping bag.


Plus all of those little cans of iso butane are pretty expensive especially if you take 10 boys out 2 per stove that means 5 cans.......at 6 bucks a piece.


I have taken the boys backpacking, we slept under plastic sheeting we used for tarps, used wally world backpacks, we only went 4 miles in and set up camp.


I see this as what Venturing is for......

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Someone mentioned that backpacking gear can be expensive. I have a few ideas to cut costs.


1) Look at discount programs like Campmor's Unit Discoutn program and Alps Mountaineering's Scouts Direct program. i have not used them personally, but the prices are good and others on this board got me hooked.


2) Military surplus gear is AWESOME! I still have my ALICE pack and other gear from back when I was a poor college student and was upgrading gear when I could. Plus some surplus stores will give discounts on individual purchases and/or group purchases. Again that's how I got my ALICE pack, form a group discount.


3) I do not know about other states, but in NC scout units qualify as educational organizations and can buy federal surplus from the state. Youmay be able to get surplus gear there even cheaper.


4) Encourage an equipment exchange within your unit.


5) Ebay and Craigslist are your friends.


Good luck.

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With backpacking it's all about weight.


Two things about good backpacking gear, its expensive and it's not Scout proof. Scouts can expect to spend serious money on a good quality down bag and lightweight tent. Deals can be found through Campmor and REI. Consider tents; you can buy a 7 lb tent like a Eureka Timberline or a 3 lb REI Hubba tent. Guarantee the Hubba will not last near as long, it's lighter because it made from thinner material and uses smaller zippers. They will tear and zippers will break with Scout use.


So how do you get a troop started with backpacking? First if your troop is in MA you get some cold weather, cold weather gear is heavier and more expensive. Consider backpacking only during the warmer months like May through October.That gives you a half of year for backpacking. Now your looking at more reasonably priced gear. A cheaper 20 degree bag that's really only good to 40 like the Campmor Down 20 for $110. For tents you can use tarps, there relatively light and inexpensive, plus the boys have to tie knots to pitch them! If you want tents I would recommend each boy buy his own 1 man tent.


Packs are an individual thing that needs to be fitted, send the boys to a good outfitter like REI. If you catch a sale you can get a nice house brand pack for under $100.


Stoves, consider the MSR Whisperlight. It uses white gas and the bottle can be filled as needed. Like any other stove the boys need to learn how to use it safely. Lots of discussion on stoves hear and on my favorite non-scout forum Whiteblaze.net. Do a search.


Rain Gear, I recommend Frogg Toggs for about $35, durable and light weight.


Much of the other gear can be made, borrowed from home or is common items already in a troops gear shed.


For more info review some of the articles at Backpackinglight.com found here:


Ryan Jordan, the site owner is a Scouter.


Hope this helps.





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Thanks for the replies, everyone...it never fails that one of these threads will pop up a few places to research online.


I was mostly interested this in terms of thinking ahead. The friend's troop has no equipment, and has chosen to be a backpacking-style troop.


In our case, we're not a backpacking troop (although we're quite fond of our annual canoe trips), and the last three major purchases of the troop have been a large carport, a trailer and a 3-burner propane stove...can you detect a hint of adult-led troop method here? :-)


So we've got patrol boxes that weigh a ton, old beat up propane stoves, a pile of mildewed tents and torn tarps, and trail chef kits missing pieces. We'll eventually be replacing equipment, so why not try to move towards a backpacking-style troop? I think that if I make reasonable proposals to the troop committee, then everyone will be receptive to the idea.


An example -- the SM has talked about getting some Jet Boils. But based on the recommendation above, it is probably not the best choice for group cooking.


Eagle92 -- thanks for the vendor recommendations...I've bought many things from Campmor and Alps Mountaineering. My favorite online source is the REI Outlet, which tends to have great prices on closeouts (and free shipping, to a local REI store, if you have one nearby).


Thanks again --



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