scouts-l Mail Archive for August of 2000: Re: Backpack Advice
Cooper Wright (CoopWright@AOL.COM
Mon Aug 07 2000 - 14:03:07 CDT
Congratulations on coming into Boy Scouting. I am sure that you and your son have some great times ahead. Regarding your question on backpacks. As an old Army guy, stay away from the ALICE packs (better known as the Army's Lousy Idea for Carrying Equipment). Just like boots need to fit your son's feet, so does a backpack need to fit his back. A good starter pack is the Camp Trails Adjustable II. You can raise the shoulder strap height as your son grows taller. You can also buy smaller waist belts so the pack weight will be carried on his hips (if he has any). Campmor sells this pack for $89.99. The medium pack fits from 4'6" to 5'7". If your son really finds that he really loves backpacking, you may by a more substantial pack with a bigger volume when he gets older and can carry more weight.
I have included a section on packs that I wrote as part of the Philmont Advisor's Guide for your use.
Unless you come from a very unusual Scout troop, this will probably be the first time that you or your crew members have ever carried personal and crew gear, food for several days, and several quarts of water in a pack at one time. Packs that made it for years on troop campouts simply don't have enough volume to handle what you and your crew will be carrying on the trail at Philmont. We find that most Philmont hikers get a new pack before their trek. As an advisor, it is difficult to recommend a type of pack to bring to Philmont. Pack selection really boils down to individual choice and the amount that you are willing to pay for the pack. External frame packs are the most common and cost significantly less than internal frame packs. They allow you to strap on additional equipment giving you greater flexibility in what you can carry. External frame packs usually come with lots of built in pockets that provide easy access for needed gear. They are also cooler to wear wh!
ich is a significant plus in the New Mexico afternoon heat. An external frame pack for a Philmont trek should be a minimum of 4000 cubic inches.
Internal frame packs are basically bags that are built around a hi-tech suspension system. They fit closer to your back and almost become a part of you while on the trail. External frame packs feel more like wearing a ladder when compared to the fit of an internal frame pack. Since sleeping bags are carried inside of an internal frame pack, minimum size for a Philmont trek should be no less than 4500 cubic inches. Both Wally and Coop began backpacking with external frame packs but have switched because we like how internal frame packs feel and carry the loads.
No matter which type of pack you have, there are four things that you must do to ensure that your crew is ready to go. First, check to see that the pack is fitted to the individual crew member. The hip belt must fit snugly around the waist to allow the full weight of the pack to be carried on the crew member's hips while at the same time providing enough padding to protect the hips. The shoulder straps should be padded and fit the width of the shoulders. When viewed from the side, shoulder straps should be level (or a little upward) from the shoulders to the pack frame. Second, check the condition of the pack. Most crew members have probably never rinsed the salt and sweat from their pack's suspension system. Dry rot of pack's stitching and fabric may already have started. Check the stitching at all stress points in the pack material. Check the grommets on the shoulder straps and hip belt to ensure that they have not pulled out of the pack material. Check the pack f!
rame welds to ensure that they are not cracked. Third, make sure that the pack is large enough to carry all the crew member's personal gear plus his share of crew gear. Make sure that each crew member brings along one or two replacement clevis pins and O-rings. JanSport packs require special nuts, bolts and wrenches that are not readily available at Philmont. Finally, we both recommend bringing a pack cover that is designed to fit your pack. A pack cover will beat a trash bag any day. However, trash bags will work. Just plan on bringing several (4-5) because they will rip and tear on the trail. If a crew member does not have a pack that you deem adequate, he can rent one at Philmont for a very reasonable cost (2000 cost was $20.00).
Good luck and happy trails!!!
Advisor, Crew 1519
Co-author of the Philmont Advisor's Guide