Scout Backpacking “Superstar”

The typical Boy Scout likes to hike in the woods and camp under the stars. Most do it a few times a year. A few boys push themselves and go on high adventure outings like 50 miler backpacking trips and snow camping outings. Many of them eventually become competent at back country skills and often they earn their Eagle Rank. Then there is little Max Magdaleno. He takes this outdoor stuff to whole new levels.

"You just have to show up and keep hiking.  Just try."

“You just have to show up and keep hiking. Just try.”

Max (trail name Maximus) has already completed 806 miles of high country backpacking with Troop 60 in Northern California. Along the way, he has been on 88 Scout outings, including weekend outings, practice hikes, day trips, patrol overnights, and five summer camps. He has slept in a tent (or the dirt) 139 times since he joined Scouting. His goal is to complete at least a thousand miles of Scout backpacking before he turns 18 – and he may very well accomplish this feat. Max is only 15 years old!

Max has already been to Philmont twice and climbed Mt. Baldy. The first visit was his favorite because everything was new. However, his trek, despite being in the same Patrol at home, didn’t get along in the beginning. After three days of arguing, annoying behavior, and constant anger, there was a showdown among the trekkers and everything finally settled down. The group become something resembling a real team by the end of the hike. In his telling, “it really strengthened the Patrol because everyone finally learned to have fun together.”

Max leading "Churro the Burro" on his first Philmont trip.

Max leading “Churro the Burro” on his first Philmont trip.

On his second Philmont trip, Max committed what he says is the stupidest thing he has ever done on the trail. It was on a stormy afternoon and the rain was heavy. Everyone was in a bad mood and most hikers were getting wet, including Max. Instead of changing into dry clothes, he tried to “man it out”. As dinner time approached, the hungry leaders were pressuring him to just get his mess kit and join the group to eat. He did just that, even though he knew he should get himself dry first and then take care of his equipment. Max shivered as he ate. That night it rained two more inches in about two hours and the temperature dropped even more. In the morning, Max was experiencing severe hypothermia and had to be helped out of his tent. He could not stand up on his own! This almost got him evacuated by the anxious adults. Eventually, of course, he warmed up as the sun came out. The lesson learned, according to Max, “is that you have to take care of yourself and your equipment – even if you are being told to do something else by the leaders. Never focus on food – focus on being dry and staying warm.”

There are many familiar pieces of equipment in his well-used Jansport backpack. In particular, Max is fond of his over-sized CRKT pocket knife. It might be a little too big for summer camp, but on a backpacking trip it really gets the job done. Max also carries a 30 foot cord wrapped around a carabiner in case he needs to hang food out of the reach of local bears, especially mini bears. His sleeping bag is a North Face Cat’s Meow that he has carried since his second 50 mile backpacking trip. Naturally, he always has his ten essentials at hand but says that the Cat’s Meow sleeping bag is more important on a cold night.

Little Max (fourth from the left) posing with fellow hikers on his first 50 miler in Yosemite.  He was 12 at the time.

Max (fourth from the left) posing with fellow hikers on his first 50 miler. He was 12 at the time.

Adventures are plentiful. On one memorable weekend trip in the High Sierras near Lake Tahoe, Max and his buddy left camp alone in the late afternoon to find another group of Scouts a mile away. They carried their packs because the plan was to join the other group for the night. Unfortunately, both Scouts walked right past the other campsite in the darkening forest! They were lost.

According to Max, there was no panic when they realized they were going to have to spend the night alone in the wilderness. They found a suitable place as soon as it was dark and just laid down to go to sleep. “It was not the first time we had slept in the woods, it was just the first time we did it with no adults around.” They had corn nuts, water, flashlights, and their sleeping bags. No problem. Both Scouts say this was the most amazing night they ever had on a backpacking trip.

It surprises Max that many younger boys are reluctant to go backpacking, considering that Max had hiked more than 150 miles before his 13th birthday. His advice, “Don’t worry that it is going to be scary. It’s just like a camping trip and you know how to do that already. The older backpackers will help you get through it. Just show up and try. It’s fun”



  1. VIkas says:

    Great Job Max, finally your perserverance has payed off. Congratulations, and good luck with the 1000 miles

  2. Atharva Upadhyay says:

    Great Job Max! Great times at Philmont! I remember that Philmont trip like it was 2 months and 17 days ago!

  3. Darren says:

    Great story! I hope he keeps it going after Scouts.

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