Scout Parents Guide to Backpacking Gear

Scout Parents Guide to Backpacking Gear

This post iswritten for Scouts and their parents who are new to Troop 100 or new to backpacking. The target audiences is the parent of a young scout who is new to backpacking.

The main point to note about buying equipment for your Scout is to not rush out and buy a lot of the wrong types of equipment. What I place as important goals in this effort is

  1. buying the right equipment, so that the parent doesn’t have to turn around and buy another piece of equipment unnecessarily.  The goal is to buy the right equipment the first time

2. buying light and compact equipment, in order to keep a young scout’s pack weight down, and so the gear fits in a small pack

3. buying only the necessary equipment, and delay buying the extra stuff

Sleeping Bag:

If there is one piece of equipment that a parent should try to get right to first time, that is the scout’s sleeping bag. When your son starts scouting he might be a small guy of 11 years old and may weight less than eighty pounds. It is incredible how these boys grow during the next four of five years.  The right sleeping bag will serve his needs throughout his scouting years and into his adult life.  The alternative is to buy several bags as he grows.  Of course the first method is way cheaper. Read more

The REI Flash 65 Backpack- a product review

The REI Flash 65 Backpack- a product review

I got an REI Flash 65 because I wanted to lighten my load, and I could save about 3 pounds over my previous pack by using the Flash 65.  My friend Kevin Anderson had said he bought one, and really liked it.  So I bought one for an 8 day backpack we did with the Boy Scouts of Troop 100 in 2009.  Kevin’s Flash 65 was new that year, and mine was brand new on that trip.  Read more

Ultralight Hiking

Ultralight Hiking

Kelly Kitchens, founder of MacLife, was the guest speaker at my college backpacking class recently, and brought us up to date with the state of the art when it comes to ultralight backpacking.  Kelly Kitchen and other proponents of ultralight backpacking get their pack down to 12 or even 8 for an overnight trip, including food.  This is in contrast to the usual backpack weighing in at more like 30 pounds.  The secret: don’t take anything you can do without.

I thought I was already practicing that rule, but too often my pack felt like my partner’s pack (pictured in the photo) when we did the Ptarmigan Traverse many years ago.

Some ways to achieve the 12 pound packweight: a 10 oz backpack, a tarp instead of a tent, a tiny MSR water treatment pen instead of a water filter, a super light sleeping pad, a pop can alcohol stove (similar to a Trangia) instead of something like a Snow Peak or an MSR stove, a tiny headlamp like the Petzl Zipka, and a super light down sleeping bag.

Places to see some real ultralight gear:

The First Internal Frame Backpack – Kelty’s Tour Pack by John Robinson

In the early 1970s the outdoor equipment industry was changing rapidly.  Kelty backpacks were the premier backpack, with others made by Jansport and Alpenlite being quality brands.  REI made a Cruiser which was a cheap imitation of the Kelty.  The packs of that era were not called external frame backpacks, because there was no internal frame backpack to require the distinction.

John Robinson and Jim Lawrence were working for Kelty designing new products, and the project headed by John Robinson was the Tour Pack, the world’s first internal frame backpack, first sold in 1973.


The Tour was blue, and appeared small and simple compared to today’s internal frame packs, but you can definitely see it is the genesis of all those that followed.   Alp Sport, Gerry and North Face had pack swith some sort of bendable aluminum stay, but they were primarily ruck-sacks with no viable hip-waist suspension system.  Shortly after the Tour Pack came out Choiunard made an Ultima Thule, and Gregory and or Rivendell soon followed with similar packs.

Kelty sent models of the Tour Pack to myself and Ned Gillett, who both gave it high marks.    John Robinson and his climbing buddy Steve McCarthy did a nine day winter transit from Mammoth Mountain to Yosemite Valley on skis using the Tour Pack. That was with winter bags, tent and lots of food, on x-country skis over interesting terrain. The packs worked perfectly.  The side pockets of the Tour served as ski holders, and you could slip your skis behind the pockets.  The bottom compartment was a zippered sleeping bag compartment.   The pack had leather patches for securing skis, crampons, and ice axe.  The top flap and rear panel had zippered pockets.