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Troop 849
Manhattan Beach, CA
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Last Updated:
  March 6, 1999

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General | First Hike | Weekend Checklist | Equipment Guide | First Aid Kit | Prohibited Items | Trail Etiquette

This entire guide is also available in PDF format (161k)

Equipment Guide

Introduction | Forward | Format | To Be Worn Leaving Trailhead | Back Pack Equipment | Eating Gear | Toilet Kit | Miscellaneous | Ten Essentials | Additional Clothing in Pack | Optional | Where to Shop

Back Pack Equipment

___Pack frame, pack, belly band, with attached sleeping bag straps

The backpack should have an external pack frame. This type is cooler because of the air space between the pack and your back. They also provide more carrying capacity than internal frame packs and they cost less.
Some of the theory behind the design of the pack frames relates to getting the center of gravity of the pack over the center of gravity of the body. This accounts for the high frames that are bent forward at the top. By leaning a little forward while hiking the centers of gravity can be aligned. A belly band keeps the pack tight to the body and transfers the packs weight to the body. The belly band should be comfortable with lots of padding. All frames have an upper web that transmits no pack load, it just prevents chafing of the back by the frame. The shoulder straps are intended to keep the pack forward and should not transmit the pack weight to the shoulders. Padded shoulder straps ease chafing of the shoulders. Most manufacturers have one or two basic pack frames (in different sizes) and a selection of different bag styles to fit each frame size. Lots of zippered outside pockets help organize the pack.
Get sleeping bag straps that are long enough (at least 48") to also go around a pad and a tent. You can always cut them shorter if you decide to carry these items elsewhere. Long straps are also easier to tighten. Attach them so that they will not get lost or left behind by affixing them solidly to the frame. You can either 1) put a brass grommet in the strap, drill a small hole in the frame and screw the strap on (preferred method), 2) get a plastic tri-guide and thread the straps through it and the frame, or 3) use an overhand knot to tie them to the frame. Be sure to orient the straps so that you pull down to tighten. About $75-$140
TargetTry the pack out in the store by putting some weight in it and walking around for a while. For smaller Scouts, make sure the belly band will close enough to be tight around the waist.
TargetChoose the largest pack that can be managed as the extra room will be required for longer hikes.
DollarThe troop has a couple of backpacks for temporary loan. You can also rent them from recreational equipment stores until you determine what you want. About $10 per weekend.
UPCThe Camp Trails Adjustable II pack has been used by many Scouts. The medium size is a bit small, but can be used on week long hikes if you are clever. If your Scout is larger in stature, then a large size may be appropriate. Camp Trails packs are well made and guaranteed. About $70.
ThumbAvoid packs that use screws as they come apart at the worst times and the correct size replacement screws are not always available. The better packs come with pins and split rings. Senior Scouts and adults carry extra pins and rings so do not worry about spare parts.

___Sleeping bag in stuff sack (rated to +20 deg F)

Nighttime temperatures generally range in the 40's but occasionally it gets cold enough overnight to freeze water in a water bottle. It is better to unzip and let warmth out than to be cold. Here are some things to look for when selecting a sleeping bag:
Style:Mummy bags work well. Semi-rectangular (modified mummy) bags are more comfy but about a pound heavier.
Fill:The bag should have a comfort rating of +20 deg F and should have a synthetic (polyester) fill. Fill materials vary in cost and insulation efficiency. The more costly materials tend to provide the best performance. Currently available fill materials, in approximate cost order, are: Holofil® II, Quallofil®, Polarguard® HV, Lite Loft™, and Polarguard® 3D. Avoid down bags (see below).
Shell:The inner and outer shell should be made of nylon.
Size:Be sure to climb into the bag before you buy it. Zip it up. Be sure it is not too tight around the hips and feet. Make sure you can turn over in it. Leave growing room.
Construction:Box or slant construction (no sewn through seams that bring the inner and outer shells together).
Zipper:The zipper should zip from both the top and bottom so that you can let excess heat out. The bag should also have a zipper draft tube to help keep heat in and so that you will not touch a cold zipper.
Hood:The bag should have a hood with a draw cord. Climb in and try it. The air hole should be near your mouth.
Weight:A regular size mummy bag should have a total weight between 3 and 4 pounds.
Rather than to roll the sleeping bag, nylon stuff sacks are used with good, lightweight modern sleeping bags. (If it does not come with a stuff sack, then it probably is not the bag you want.) The stuff sack can also get used for making a pillow or for bagging food at night to keep it away from the critters. About $90-$190. Watch for a good sale.
TargetDo not buy or bring a pillow. They are not needed as you can fashion one out of a stuff sack or jacket stuffed with spare clothes. (Wrap the stuff sack with a sweater to make a softer, more comfortable pillow.)
DollarYou can rent sleeping bags at recreational equipment stores until you determine what you want. About $10 per weekend.
DollarGoose down provides superior warmth per pound but is much costlier. It looses almost all of its insulating power when wet and it dries slower than the synthetic fiber bags. Goose down also needs more care. It is therefore not recommended for young Scouts. Stick with the synthetics.

___Closed cell foam pad (blue foam or Ridge Rest)

A pad is needed for both comfort and warmth. The ground is a good conductor of heat so you need something under you just to keep warm. A 3/8" (or 1/2") thick closed cell foam pad works best and is also indestructible. Choose a length (72" is popular) that keeps your entire body off of the ground.
UPCBoth blue foam and Ridge Rest® pads work well. About $15.
UPCTherm-A-Rest® sleeping pads work well but are more costly (about $60 for the Ultra Lite II), weight more, and are not as reliable. A small pin hole can make it go flat and ruin a nights sleep. There is a 3/4 size (not recommended) that is lighter at the expense of foot warmth.
ScalesYounger Scouts should avoid Therm-A-Rest pads as they weigh more (typically over 1 pound heavier) and are not as reliable.

___50 ft. of 1/8" nylon cord

Nylon cord is used mainly to hang food in trees so squirrels, raccoons, marmots, and bears cannot get to it. Other uses include as a clothes line, making lashings, or even holding a tent up.
Parachute cord is ideal but any 1/8" nylon cord is fine. Length is not critical with 50' being the most popular length. 40' is a bit too short. The optimum length is about 60'. Even longer lengths are ok but they tend to knot up more (and weight more). About $3.
ScalesA thicker cord like Dacron weighs more, costs more, and does not provide any extra function. Occasionally a cord will get stuck in a tree and have to be abandoned. Stick with the more economical 1/8" nylon.

___Small day pack (for peak climbs)

Day packs are used for peak climbs in lieu of the normal backpack. A lightweight nylon pack is best but school book backpacks also work.
Day packs need to hold the 10 essentials, lunch and emergency clothing. Note that this is actually a lot of stuff - first aid kit, flashlight, 1 or 2 quarts of water, lunch, poncho, rain pants, jacket, wool hat, and trail snacks. Make sure that there is enough room to fit all of the above and that the pack is rugged enough to withstand the weight.
DollarIf you are handy, you can make a day pack from a stuff sack. Simply recycle pack straps from an old wornout (school style) day pack by sewing them onto a stuff sack.
TargetScotchguard™ the day pack to enhance rain repellency.
ThumbAvoid packs that you sling over one arm as they can throw you off balance when scrambling over rocks. Stick with a backpack that has two straps.

___Large plastic trash bag (for pack cover)

You need to keep your pack dry. A large 30+ gallon plastic trash bag can be put over pack at night to fend off morning dew. It is also used to keep the pack dry during a rain storm. It should be large enough to cover the entire pack including the sleeping bag at the bottom.
TargetThicker bags withstand the usage better and are worth the extra weight.
TargetIf rain is possible, bring a second smaller trash bag to put over your sleeping bag to make sure it will stay dry.

___1/2 share: tent, rain fly, poles & stakes (will be supplied)

The tent will be supplied by the troop. The troop has good 3 season tents. Each tent is shared by two people (tent buddies). Each person will be given half of the tent to carry. The tent normally lies across the top of pack under the top flap but it can also be strapped in with the sleeping bag.
TargetYou want heavier items near your back so they do not pull the pack backward. The tent on the top will put the center of gravity higher, and, since one tilts the pack forward slightly, the center of gravity will be closer to you and the pack will pull you back less.
DollarGood lightweight tents are expensive. Use the tent provided by the troop and avoid buying a tent. Take the money saved and spend it on other equipment. In fact, personal tents are not encouraged because we need to know that the tents will stand up to significant rain, wind, and hail. (If you insist on a personal tent it must be of good quality and it must be pre-approved by the Scoutmaster before it is used.)

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