What's in YOUR Backpack?
By Dr. Tom Richbourg
Troop 62 is a 'high adventure' troop. On backpacking outings, we live
out of our backpacks. You'll find a good list of necessities to go in
your backpack in the Scout Manual, and also in the Backpacking merit
badge pamphlet. The following is some of the Scoutmaster's list for his
long distance Appalachian Trail hikes. I'm sure I've left off
something... but I'll keep coming back and looking it over. Check those
manuals! So far, I've done a bit over a thousand miles of the AT.. so
I've had time to tweak and prune my list :)
Backpack (prefitted, comfortable, with spare clevis pins for external
Backpack cover for inclement weather
Tent or equivalent (share the load between scouts, and bring your own
personal tent pegs, the troop doesn't supply those)
Using the patrol method, it's good to take one of the troop lightweight
backpacking tarps for cooking/eating shelter.
Food and bear bag... and line to hang the bear bag ... remember the food
bag needs to be weatherproof/leakproof. Remember to keep all food crumbs
and scents out of the backpacks and tents to prevent critter damage!
Use the patrol method to plan your meals.
Cooking Utensils of choice. Stove. Fuel.. stored carefully so that it
won't leak. Liquid fuel stoves depressurized while in packs.
Small non leak bottle of biodegradable soap
Scrubbing sponge/pad - this can be used for cleaning your gear, and the
sponge is great for getting water drips out of your tent if you're very
careful not to get food scraps/scent inside.. otherwise, carry a
separate small sponge per tent for this.
Mug or cup & eating utensils - mark them with your name. Remember with
regards to weight.. take what you need, but "less is more" in terms of
the weight in your pack.
Condiments (small container of salt, pepper, etc)
Water filter (one for several scouts) checked BEFORE the trek. Same goes
for stoves, of course. (Unless you LIKE cold wet chow?)
Sleeping bag appropriate for expected weather conditions in the summer..
a 40 degree bag is fine. On a winter trek (like the recent 33 degree
outside air temperature at Santos, November hike) a 20 degree bag is
preferable. If you only buy one, get a 20 degree rated bag... and leave
it open or just use it as a cover on slightly chill summer nights. Older
scouts might like to check out the use of liners to push a 40 degree bag
down to a colder tolerance.. but be careful. Don't use vapor barriers.
They can bite you. If you don't know what these are, ask me.
Ground pad for bag... either inflatable or closed cell style...
necessary for insulation as well as comfort. Don't go on a troop trek
without a pad.
Light, with good batteries... newer diode styles with headstraps
lightweight and preferred over bulb style or heavy hand flashlights.
First aid kit ... use the patrol kits supplied by the troop, but it's
good to have a few bandaides, moleskin, etc. in a small personal kit as
Lanyard, compass, emergency whistle, and if desired, small diode (key
ring style) light. These items should all be kept on the lanyard, and
tied (not just put in loose) to the backpack. If you leave the backpack
to move around in the field, the lanyard should be around your neck.
Having a compass presupposes that you know how to use it, where north is
with regards to the campsite/trail.. this is basic 2nd class stuff. If
you're unclear, be SURE to ask for help with orientation on the next
trek! Being lost with a compass you can't use well is a sure ticket to
Field tool of choice... small pocketknife, etc. (keep the weight DOWN! 6
inch Bowie knives are foolish, and will get you in dutch with the SM, if
he sees you with it)
"Possibles" Bag. I keep small things that might rattle around in my
backpack in a small red bag with a pull closure, so I know where they
are. I keep several things I find useful in my 'possibles' bag....
Matches, and candle stub for firestarter. Make sure the matches are
protected or are waterproof. Windproof lighter.
Small amount of Duct tape.. wrapped around the match bottle. Safety
pins. Small tent repair kit (per patrol)
Water purification tabs for back up for EVERY scout. If you get
separated from the guy with the filter, you'll need these.
Small sewing kit for repair
Handkerchief (picking up pots, wiping brow, signaling, padding for a hot
tendon.. etc., etc., etc.)
small light weight mirror for getting things out of eye, or signaling
toothbrush, toothpaste (sealed and stored in bearbag while in camp)
small backpacking towel
sponge for drying tent
moderate length or parachute cord for repairs, clothes line, etc...
separate from bear bag cord
one or two trash sacks per patrol (leave no trace!!)
small weather radio for long hikes (one per trek sufficient)
communications gear... cell phone, gps unit... one per trek sufficient
Trip plan, with the trek, and filed with someone back at home. Emergency
Clothing ... appropriate for the season. Use the layering approach, and
use synthetic, not cotton garments... the synthetics will dry much
quicker when they get wet (and they will.) Good underwear, shorts,
wickable Tee shirts as a base... with thin over layers to be worn,
several as needed if cold, followed by a breathable rainsuit. The full
rainsuit is not an option... it's the top protection layer when it's
wet, and it's also one of the heat conservation layers, and well as the
windbreaker layer. If the colder seasons, heavier gear, gloves, and
watch caps should be added. Good heavy socks to prevent blistering if
I'm wearing boots.. and I usually am.
Good footgear is NOT an option. You need to take care of your feet. You
should use footgear that gives adequate ankle support if you're carrying
much weight.. and that usually means boots. If you're wearing boots,
they should be well broken in. Remember, if you cripple yourself with
blisters with new, stiff boots, your whole patrol will pay the price.
You will NOT be popular if you ruin a trek with this mistake.
Light weight camp shoes that protect the environment are good for around
camp... and they should have closed toes, not open sandal construction.
Nothing worse than jamming a stick between your toes when it's dark and
you're moving around camp... the light only helps where you shine it,
and most of us look several feet ahead, not right at our feet. Take my
word for it (painful experience, here) this stick between the toes can
ruin your whole next several days.
Stuff Bags. I keep my clothes in a stuff bag, my food in another, my
possibles in another... and can sort through my gear quickly. The pack
is low impact color, but the stuff bags are red, orange, or yellow by
choice... easy to find, and useful for emergency signaling, if needed.
Toilet paper and personal plastic light weight shovel for cat holes.
Insect repellant. Sunscreen. Sunglasses.
Water containers. I use Nalgenes.. they're heavier, but they don't leak,
and rarely break. (I have, after weeks of abuse, managed to crack one.)
Some of the hydration bladders can leak water over the course of a hike,
and I don't trust them for my main supply. I plan on at least 2 or 3
single liter bottles... depending on how available water is on any given
hike... and when I get down to one full one, I look for a water source,
treat and filter as needed. Ground water should be chemically treated as
well as filtered if there is a risk of viruses. Any standing water
probably meets this definition. A clear spring in the mountains probably
just needs filtering. If you want to check out the nasties available in
insufficiently treated water.. do a web search on "giardia."
Maps. (Did I mention this already? Waterproof maps. Every trekker needs
one... if you're separated from your buddies, and most lost folks
usually are... it won't do any good to know that the other guy has the
Guidebooks as needed. Maybe a little reading material if I want the
weight in my pack.
Hiking poles. In the mountains, I consider these essential.
If I keep adding to this list, it's luxuries.. things like disposable or
lightweight digital cameras, etc... nice to have, but remember you'll
have to carry the weight. Plan on no more than 25% of your body weight
in your pack if you're in good hiking shape.... less would be highly
preferable. Split up the loads using the buddy system. Too much weight
will turn a good trip into a bad one not only for you, but for your
partners. One guy has the tent, the other the cook gear... one the
stove, the other the water filter.... etc., etc.
For the unit, out for the weekend, the lightweight troop and national
colors for the campsite and the lines to put them up need to be carried.
For Sunday morning, the scout and scouter leaders should make sure than
one of the scouts is carrying material for a brief 'scouts own' morning
religious service. We observe the Lord's day. It's easy to let this
slip. Don't. A scout is reverent.
Well, as the leaders think of more, I'm sure we'll revise this. If you
see something left off, scouts... let us know.
Scout Led! Troop 62 keeps on trekkin'!!!
Yours in Scouting,
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