Packing for a Hike

For a multi-day hike:


You will be carrying 35-50 lbs of equipment. Your backpack should fit well and have been tested before the trip.

Internal frame backpacks are compact, but can become unwieldy when overloaded. External frame packs can be loaded up with all kinds of tied/strapped-on gear. Neither is superior in all situations; personal preference should determine which type you use.

Your backpack should have a capacity of between 4000 and 5500 cubic inches. Sleeping bags should be rated between 25 and 35 degrees F. It can get very cold at night in Philmont (down to the low 20's).

Bring compression stuff sacks, and use them to make your sleeping bag and other compressibles as small as possible.

Self-inflating sleeping pads (e.g. Thermarest) are good, but can leak, and if they do, they lose most of their insulating properties. If you bring one, make sure that you have a patch kit as well. The folding foam type of sleeping pad (e.g. the Thermarest Z-Lite) maintains its insulating qualities under all circumstances.


Boots. Never hike with new boots! You will not have a good time. Boots must be well broken-in before a multi-day hike. Our preference is for full leather boots. Any boot must have good ankle support. Trail-runner shoes are not acceptable.

Temperatures can swing widely throughout the day, from the low 20's to the high 80's. You need to be prepared when a storm front moves in and the temperature suddenly drops to winter conditions.

Cotton kills. Do not bring any cotton, except maybe for briefs or boxer-brief type underwear. All skin-contact clothing should be polypropylene ("polypro") or polyester, which dries quickly when wet and wicks sweat away. T-shirts should be of this wicking type, and definitely not of cotton. Likewise shorts and long pants. No cotton, no jeans. Don't carry too many clothes.

You will need a separate set of clothes for sleeping in, because you will get food on your regular clothes, and food attracts bears. Since anything that gets near food is kept strictly away from the sleeping area at each camp, a separate T-shirt and shorts (and whatever else you like to sleep in) must be brought.

Dress in layers:

  • Layer A: Wool or merino wool hiking socks. Synthetic liner socks. Underwear (boxer briefs, briefs, wicking-type underwear). Shorts (not cotton). T-shirts (should be wicking, not cotton). A hat with a brim to keep the sun off your face. Separate sleeping clothes.
  • Layer B: Long pants/convertible pants. One pair of convertible pants (legs unzip to make them shorts) counts towards your pairs of shorts -- less to carry. No jeans or cotton. "Insulated" underwear. Sweater or jacket (fleece or wool). Skull cap/watch cap. Basically something warm that covers the whole top of the head. Gloves.
  • Layer C: Rain suit. Goretex or other breathable top, hip-length; pants are useful too.


Bring a deep bowl and a spoon. That's it. The bowl should be hard plastic (like lexan) or metal, and the spoon should durable. Since you will be literally licking the bowl clean before you wash it, it shouldn't be so deep that you can't get your face into it. Don't bring a plate, fork, knife or cup. One of your nalgene bottles will serve as a cup. For water, bring 2 1-liter hard plastic Nalgene bottles (one for water, one for gatorade). Also bring a 2-liter collapsible container (Platypus is good). You should be able to carry at least 4 liters of water at a time without any crew containers, and you may be asked to carry 6 liters to a dry camp.


  • Pocket knives.
  • Flashlight / headlamp.
  • Compass. Again, bring a few for the whole group.
  • Maps. Just the navigator and one or two others need to have.
  • Bandana(s). Very useful.
  • Money. Don't bring much, if any. You won't need it.
  • Lip balm with SPF factor. Protect your lips from sun and wind. Don't apply after 5pm, or the bears will smell you out.
  • Sunscreen. Bring a crew supply, not individual. Again, not to be applied after 5pm, or the scent could attract unwanted bears at the campsite.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Ditty bag: tooth brush, toothpaste, toilet paper.
  • Deodorant. Do not bring! Only serves to attract bears.


Bring troop tents. Bring 2 or 3 man tents, with pegs and footprints or groundcloths.

Crew Communal Gear

  • Compasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Sewing kit.
  • Tent stakes
  • First aid kit
  • Stove and fuel - Bring white gas stoves (one primary, one spare); LP and isobutane gas stoves are strongly discouraged
  • Duct tape
  • Lighter
  • Nylon cord
  • Maps
  • Water filters
  • Bug spray
  • Pot holder / utility tool.
  • Latrine trowel (orange shovel).
  • Cell phones (optional)
  • Micropur water purification tablets
  • Cooking gear
  • Sump gear
  • Bear bag lines
  • Bear bags
  • Food