Backpacking and Hiking for the Prepared Boy Scout
More than perhaps any other outdoor activity, backpacking rewards the efficient packer and punishes the over-packer. After all, you will have to live with and carry every decision you make. This list is focused on a three-season, three to five day outing, but when packing always plan against the highest high and the lowest low temperatures you'll encounter. It'll protect you from spending a miserably cold night out in the woods, give you a bit more of that oh-so-precious pack space, and save your back.
It's also good to compartmentalize when packing by putting similar items in individual bags. Keeping all your food in one place will save your from leaving an errant energy bar behind when prepping your bear bag (to say nothing of preventing a bear mauling), and putting things like flashlights, matches, and your multi-tool together will help you quickly locate what you need. Also, let things do double duty. For example, a sleeping bag stuff sack or tent sack can make the perfect bear bag.
- Backpack (3,000 to 5,000 cubic inches). Some used backpacks are available at the Scout Hut.
- Sleeping bag (rated to 20 to 50F)
- Sleeping pad
- Tent or Hammock. Scouts can use Troop 306 tents, and split the tent between two or three scouts.
Food and Drink
- 2 one-liter water bottles
- Hydration pack (like Camelbak) (optional)
- Water purification (filter, iodine, or bleach)
- Stove and fuel (optional, can be shared with other scouts)
- Pot/pan with lid for boiling water
- Matches and/or lighter
- Cup or mug
- Lightweight bowl and spoon
- Multi-tool and/or knife
- Trail-Running shoes or hiking boots (broken in)
- Sandals or lightweight camp shoes
- Wool socks (short style great for summer)
- Sock liners (optional, but best in winter)
- Synthetic long-underwear bottoms and tops (colder weather)
- Synthetic shorts or convertible pants
- Synthetic/wicking t-shirt
- Poncho or rain/wind jacket and pants
- Bandana (great for many uses)
- COOL WEATHER: Wool or fleece jacket or vest
- COOL WEATHER: Wool or fleece hat
- COOL WEATHER: Wool/fleece gloves or mittens (for colder weather)
- Directions, trail map, or guidebook
- Toilet paper in Ziploc bag
- Plastic trowel (digging cat hole for on trail BM)
- Extra Ziplock style bags
- Hand sanitizer
- Toothbrush and paste
- Personal First-aid kit (bandages, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, poison ivy treatment, moleskin, tweezers)
- Pack rain cover or garbage bag (or use your poncho)
- Bear-bagging cord (rope to hang your food at night)
- Trekking poles or walking stick
- Sun/rain hat
- Lip balm
- Journal & pen
- Ground cloth
- Duct tape
- Small Strainer (for filtering food particles while cleaning dishes)
- Contact lens wearers: bring solution and back-up glasses
- Instant drink mix (sugar or sugar free). I like Tang and Gatorade packets. I repackage the Tang into my own travel containers (or in baggies premeasured for 32oz which is the size of my water bottle).
- Instant cereals like Oatmeal or Grits. The "just add boiling water" type
- Energy bars
- GORP (Good Ol' Raisins & Peanuts, a.k.a. Trail Mix)
- Beef Jerky
- Summer Sausage
- Dried fruit
- Slim Jims
- Pita Bred
- Instant soups - Chicken noodle, Cream of Chicken, Pea Soup
- Chicken or Tuna in vacuum sealed pouch
- Freeze-dried meals (Mountain House, Alpine Aire, Backpackers Pantry, ...)
Amazon | REI | Walmart
- Rice (precooked and vacuum sealed kind)
- Instant Mash Potatoes (pre mix with instant milk at home, don't take milk)
- Instant Ramen Noodles
- MRE (Army rations called "Meal Ready Eat") (Amazon)
- Refried Beans
- Mac -N-Cheese
- Use ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise packets for on the trail
- If you need to cook with oil, mayonnaise (from a packet) will melt in a pan like oil and can be used for cooking pancakes, eggs, or whatever needs oil
- Fresh fruit for the first lunch can be good, but will be heavy
- Peanut butter in a baggie is always yummy and a good protein bump
- Peppermint hard candy can be a little energy bust and keep your mouth fresh
- You can play it safe and buy freeze dried meals at Walmart, Dicks, and Gander Mountain. Walmart has the cheaper price, but only a few selections (in the camping not grocery section). Gander Mountain in Castleton has the widest selection I.ve seen. Online offers MANY selection (of course).
- Be creative. try making your own. The Weekend Adventurer on YouTube has some good points (the link will redirect you to YouTube). Check out all of his videos on YouTube under the name "WeekendAdventurer" (there is a link in the Additional Resources below).
Safe drinking water is vital, but boiling water for every drink is not feasible. Here are the most common methods to purify water on the trail. The CDC (if you trust them) has an excellent Water Treatment While Kiking, Camping, and Traveling PDF that compares the various methods to purify water.
These are ranked from my top to least choice.
- Sawyer Mini Filter is my FAVORITE method. It's cheap (about $20), light, small and filters up to 1,000 gallons. These will work with other popular backpacking items and comes with everything a backpacking person needs to start out. I replace every few trips, even if I don't get to 1,000 galons.
- Runner up is the LifeStraw, much like the Sawyer but larger and sometimes cheaper; however, you many times need to use other items to add to it.
- Bleach - Just a few drops per quart or liter of water, I have used this on numerious trips where I know the water will be fairly clear. The EPA have a great Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water page outlining the use of bleach. DO NOT use bleach with
Volume of Water Amount of 6% Bleach to Add* Amount of 8.25% Bleach to Add* 1 quart/liter 2 drops 2 drops 1 gallon 8 drops 6 drops 2 gallons 16 drops (1/4 tsp) 12 drops (1/8 teaspoon) 4 gallons 1/3 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon 8 gallons 2/3 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon
*Bleach may contain 6 or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.
Water disinfection tablets - Like "Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets" are OK, but the time having to carry enough tablets makes this my last pick
Iodine - I have not used this, but seems like a good idea in some settings. I don't have much to share since I have not investigated this further... but it is an option.
Suggestion: Search for backpacking, but compare what several people say. In general there is great content, but I'd favor those that go on the trail and do it, over those that are just showcasing "stuff" in their showroom or office. The following links are people that live what they talk about.
Search things like: ultralight backpacking, backpacking food, youth backpack
- Shug - Showcases how he uses his hammocks and backpacks in cold weather. Great channel for hammock work and cold camping mess kit!
- Coalcracker Bushcraft - Not just backpacking, but great general outdoor skills and bushcrafting.
- Far North Bushcraft And Survival - Lonnie is an Alaskan that shows how to survive and make many gadgets useful when backpacking
General (not scout specific) Websites
- Boy Scout Gear List: New Scouts, Three-Season - When a boy first joins the Boy Scouts, one of the first questions that comes up for his parents is what backpacking gear to outfit their son with. Naturally, the parents really want to get their kid the "right" gear. But there are differing opinions on what it right.
- Homemade Backpacking Gear - I've used this site for many DIY gear, including the "G4 by GVP Gear" backpack that I made.
- Gossamer Gear G4 DIY Backpack - Make your own backpack. The instructions are free, and the material will cost about $35. My son and I both made a G4 and used them on the Appalachian Trail in 2009. We only had one repair that needed to be done on the six day hike.
- Backpack Gear Tests - Check out what other outdoor enthusiast think of gear you have, or are thinking about purchasing. BackpackGearTest.org is a site where backpackers evaluate new gear in the field over a six month testing period.
- Adenture Alan's Ultralight Backpacking - I found this site VERY helpful in finding ways to reduce weight, while still keeping safe and enjoyable.
- Zens Stoves for BIY Stoves - The ultimate resource for every and any kind of backpacking stove... that you can make.