Philmont Crew Gear and Personal Gear List Innovations

I was the adult advisor for the 2009 Philmont expedition number 628-T1. We took Trek 8 at Philmont Scout ranch in Cimmeron New Mexico. In preparing for this two week backpacking adventure, I designed tested, and built a number of new techniques. These ideas reduce impact on Philmont resources and improve crew safety. I also include some ideas about cloths washing and camp towels that I have pieced together from other sources. By describing them in more detail in the documents below, the next person will not have to reinvent the wheel. (click on any picture to see a larger version)

All these innovations were run past our Ranger, the head Ranger, and Philmont upper management. Everything was approved for our use except the new bear bag system. Philmont liked the idea, but they wanted to try out the idea themselves during the off-season before allowing crews to use it. They did allow our use of the lightweight Amsteel Blue ropes. One 150' piece for the main bear bags and a second 150' piece for the oops bags. We had trained the boys in the standard "Philmont Way" for bear bags and used that. We did come up with a couple innovations when using the Amsteel ropes the Philmont Way. These are described in the article below our Bear bag system article.

I'll post more pictures when I get our crew pictures from Philmont. I have notes on how I built all these innovative Philmont gear list items, if you are interested in building your own send me email.

If you get a chance drop me an email and let me know what you think of these ideas.

July 2010. Bob Powledge of Crew 627-B-13 reports:

Just returned from Philmont this past weekend, and used your Bear Bag Rope system, or a variation of it, during the whole trek. On the whole, yours is a great system. We replaced the inexpensive "Harbor Freight" pulleys with smaller and higher-quality sailboat tackle, but used your hook design and am-steel rope exactly as shown. We did a couple of things to ease our Ranger's acceptance of the system and to cover our bases:

  1. We took an additional am-steel line and carabiner so that we could do the Philmont method if required to do so
  2. We took a copy of your .pdf file on the system and showed it to the Ranger early (before declining the Phil ropes at gear checkout)
  3. We made sure that our guys were well-practiced so that our initial performance with the system was a good one

Like your crew, we found the mechanical advantage of the four pulleys allowed us do away with the "Oops Bag" entirely, as the largest loads (even on food pick-up days) could be easily hoisted by two youth crew members

We did have minor problems in two areas:

All-in-all, it is a great system. The trade-off in weight, and particularly in ease of raising heavy loads, was well worth the effort. I would definitely use the system again!

Bob P
Crew 627-B-13

On July 2011 Larry Welling reports on his use of the ideas at Philmont

Hi Al,
Just a followup on Philmont. Aside from a bad knee on the descent, we had a great trip. Itinerary 11.

Of all your tricks and tips, the one that worked the best was the "tin foil tent", probably the best tent we had. We used only one Phil tent, the others were a random assortment of backpacking tents. Built it from the stretchable space blankets rather than mylar. Had a few punctures but easily fixed with the duct tape on the treking poles. While there was indeed condensation in the tent, it dried out much faster than the fabric tents.

On the bear bagging system, I found that drilling the "eyelet hole" 45deg from perpendicular, and angling the hole with small files allowed the hook to go over the cable easiest. Made from 1/2in aluminum rod. I also ran a 12 in length of amsteel thru the eyelet to avoid wear problems on the cable, and attached that with a double sheet bend to the throw twine. Our ranger, a 1st year, insisted we bring the Phil ropes as a backup. Our first chance to demonstrate the system was on a steep slope at Zastrow, which was difficult at best. We used a braided twine as a throw rope, which kinked horribly. The scouts had difficulty pulling the amsteel rope under full load, even with a stick. We decided we needed an ascender or a locking top pulley. The other major problem was twisting of the load under the pulleys, and tangling of the pulley ropes with the throw twine, which made it next to impossible to use. My scouts got so frustrated with the tangling twisting problems, and rope burn, that they opted for the Phil system. I was able to use the pulley system successfully, by myself, but it did take patience. If you have any suggestions for the twisting problem, that would help.

I built a Chair-e-it. Other than a broken shoulder strap, it worked "OK". I played with some ways to bring the shoulder strap (from a thrift store kids backpack) attachment point a little closer together, for comfort. I ran a small strap and buckle from the upper end of the shoulder straps across the front of the back rest, and just released the buckle when deploying the chair. I used a 3 L camelback, and attached a commercial camelback cover to my commercial tactical belt using ALICE type clips. The camelback fit in the space between the chair seat and the frame in the small of my back. The belt attached to the bottom frame with 3 velcro strips. My sleeping bag compression sack was strapped to the bottom of the chair, making the whole thing a little wobbly in the pack line. On shakedown hikes I put my big agnes bag in a "space bag" vacuum bag, folded flat against my back in the large dry sack, which was very comfortable and light. But the way the V brace held the bag on the frame, I knew there would not be enough room in the dry sack for the food plus the sleeping bag. I clipped a silnylon daypack (for raingear, etc) to the top frame, clipped the shoulder straps of that to the upper corners of the frame with small carabiners, and tied the bottom straps of the daypack to the V brace. It fit all my gear, and with a full load of food, water, tin foil tent, first aid kit, noah tarp, and assorted crew gear was 45lbs. The comfort factor was tolerable, no blisters, but I will get better straps next time. Biggest problem was the time and effort to pack ,unpack, and deploy the chair and repack. The chair was handy to have, but we seemed to be so busy I didn't spend as much time in it as I had hoped for. Will have to tweak that a little.

Our crew practiced the bag cooking system several times, but when we got to Phil, the bags were not suitable for boiling water. Our ranger made us take the 8qt pot, a 2qt pot for dishwater, and we left all the foam cozies in base camp. I suppose we could have reconstituted individual servings in our tupperware, but by then the kids got used to the pot and it all worked out fine.

I also built a solar charger for my droid using the "mighty minty boost" on We used the droid for GPS, camera, and scriptures. I really appreciated the articles you wrote, and shared them with my crew chiefs and advisors. I've spent most of my free time the last 6 months building and tweaking stuff for Philmont. Now that it's over, my wife thinks I'll need a 2nd job or a new hobby to keep busy. Thanks again for helping out a bunch of newbies.

Last modified April 14, 2015 by Al Geist (