Scout Backpacking

Scouts Coming into Glen Aulin in Yosemite

Boy Scout backpacking reinforces Physical Fitness, Mental Awareness, Leadership, and Outdoor Skills. Scout backpacking also provides an opportunity for life-changing experiences. Scout Backpacking fosters camaraderie and leadership – not just from the hike, but also because of all the time the boys spend together getting ready for the actual expedition.

Many Scouts, at their Eagle Court of Honor, mention a 50 mile backpacking trip as the highlight of their Scouting career and a turning point in their life. One said, “There are so many days in my life that I do not remember, but I vividly remember each and every day of every 50 miler I went on. They changed my life.”

Get A Good Pack List Before You Start
Every successful trek starts with a good list of what to bring – and what to leave at home.  Click for 50miler Backpacking Pack List

A totally complete Scout Backpacking Manual with pictures and practical information can be found by scrolling down.

Backpacking can cost a lot of money and to make things worse, you have to spend money even before you take your first hike, in other words even before you know if you like backpacking. Most experienced backpackers recommend that you buy the best equipment possible from the very beginning. Here are some blogs about buying equipment to get you started.

Buying Backpacking Equipment. You can get cheap equipment, good equipment, and equipment in a hurry – but you can only get two out the three at one time. Click here

How Much Does Scout Backpacking Cost? Unfortunately it costs a lot. The total replacement cost of your backpack and its contents is staggering. Click here

Ultralight or Backpacking Light
Ultralight Backpacking may be the biggest change to hit Scout backpacking since the development of the hip strap.  While still slightly controversial, it is increasingly accepted as a viable alternative to carrying the entire backpack and equipment list described in the Basic Backpacking Awareness course.  UltraLight Backpacking promotes the idea that a hiker can lower their pack weight by purchasing newer and lighter equipment, eliminating potentially unnecessary items, sharing equipment among the group, and using items for multiple purposes. Its not unusual for an advocate to get their weight from the standard 40-45 lbs to as low as 15 pounds by carefully weighing each item and continually seeking improvement. Their goal is to maintain the same level of comfort and safety at a significantly lower pack weight. It’s easy to see why many units are moving in this direction.

Ultralight backpacking is a continuing commitment. Packs are designed to carry minimum weight, tents are replaced by tarps, sleeping bags might be just a blanket or quilt, boots become trail runners, and clothing is limited to the bare minimum. Food is often eaten cold to save on fuel weight and many will even cut off the handle of their toothbrush to save half an ounce. (These people are called ‘ounce counters.’)

Some Scout leaders have not yet totally embraced the concept because it means that the margin for error is reduced and the risk of encountering problems might be higher. Problems are created when traditional (heavy) equipment is integrated with an Ultralight system. For example, you can’t, in an emergency, ask a hiker with an Ultralight pack to carry a heavy tent or sleeping bag that belongs to someone who is not also Ultralight. There is also an argument over footwear. Ultralight footwear is more like tennis shoes than boots, built for speed but not ankle support. Many Scout leaders think that teenage boys need the support of regular boots to protect against sprains.

There are lots of groups and web sites that cover the subject. Possibly the most comprehensive is Backpacking Light. The publish a newsletter, review products, and act as a clearing house for information. As an added bonus, the editor is an Eagle Scout. Backpacking Light

Leave No Trace
The wilderness is getting crowded. And large groups of backpacking Scouts have a special responsibility to set an example while on the trail. We have evolved 180 degrees from the days of Daniel Beard , when boys were taught how to live off the land, partly in rebellion against modern technology that was polluting urban environments.

Today, Boy Scouts of America, in conjunction with the Forestry Service, National Outdoor Leadership School, and a large number of environmental organizations are cooperating to promote “Leave No Trace” as a philosophy for everyone who ventures into the back country.

For more information about BSA’s Leave No Trace Program, click here.

So the next time you get annoyed by the strict rules at Philmont or get angry at the Ranger writing your group a ticket for having a fire without a permit, just remember that they are doing the small things they can to help preserve the wilderness experience for your grandson. The Outdoor Code and Leave No Trace are not just annoying exercises on the path to Tenderfoot – it is as important to Scouting’s future as the Oath and Law have been to Scouting’s past.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly. Pack It In and Pack It Out
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Request your own free PDF copy. “Backpacking for Boys” contains Checklists, “Trail Tips”, pictures and useful references for a fun (and safe) wilderness backpacking adventure. Topics include trail leadership, physical conditioning, planning the hike, what to pack, how to buy equipment, taking care of your feet, navigation, wilderness first aid, setting up a campsite, and ideas for fine dining at any altitude.

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14 thoughts on “Scout Backpacking”

  1. This is a great website – very helpful. I’d love a copy of the “Backpacking for Boys” PDF. Thanks.

    – Jim

  2. I’d like a copy of the “Backpacking for Boys” PDF for my scout taking his first backpacking trip. Thank you!

  3. Troop 11 in Mt Pleasant, SC will hike 50 miles this December. Would you please share a copy of “backpacking for boys” with our Troop?
    Thank you!

  4. I would like to request a copy of your backpacking for boys guide – Thanks for all the great information you have posted on your site.

    Regards from Utah
    GSLC – District 22 – Troop 351

  5. I am an Assistant Scoutmaster with our troop in North Carolina and plan to take our youngest patrol 11-12 years old on their first backpacking hike. I would like to get a copy of Backpacking for Boys, if you would share.

    Thank you.

  6. Its not unusual for a Troop in our area of Northern California to complete more than 150 miles of backpacking every summer. Maybe it’s because we are blessed with such beautiful trails and wilderness areas. Even as a boy in Southern California, backpacking was a common monthly activity for all the Troops.

    I am wondering if Units in other parts of the country spend as much time on the trail? And whether enthusiasm for backpacking is as high now as 10 years ago.

  7. Hey Scouts,
    I am presently building a trail guide depicting the main trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, including the Tahoe to Yosemite routes, the Pacific Crest Trail route, the John Muir Trail, and a whole lot of route options along the way.

    In July of 2009, I met four Boy Scout expert backpackers setting up hikes for Scouts heading up to the Wolfeboro Camp near Bear Valley. I was doing the Tahoe to Yosemite route, (on my way to Mount Whitney) about to pass through the Silver Trailhead at the East side of Lake Alpine.

    I featured a picture of these fine Scouts on the map page for that set of trails. The address is:

    This will be followed by a related entry on the backpacker’s forum, as I catch up! This is currently a trail guide in progress…If you guys have any links to promote the Boy Scouts or the Wolfeboro Treckers, let me know and I will post them with my Boy Scout encounters along the High Sierra Trails.

    I try to walk the whole route every Summer, so I run into Scouts on a regular basis. Most of you guys are squared-away backpackers.

    Alex Wierbinski

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