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Troop 849
Manhattan Beach, CA
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Last Updated:
  March 23, 2018

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This entire guide is also available in PDF format (213k)

Weekend Hikemaster's Handbook

Introduction | Locations | Permits | Equipment | Food | Travel | Cost | Checklist


Weekend outings are great opportunities for physical conditioning, skill building, advancement, and character building.

The following outlines the steps required to prepare for a Troop 849 backpack hike. Remember that it is the responsibility of the hike leader to see that all the preparations are made, but not necessarily to do them. When possible use Scouts or other adults to help in the preparation. Ask one or two of the older Scouts on the trip to plan and lead a special activity during the trip - skill or advancement. It helps them in leadership and reduces your work load.

Available Training

The High Adventure Team of the Greater Los Angeles Area Council (GLAAC-HAT) provides an excellent course titled Adult Leader's Backpack Training. It is offered every February and September and is highly recommended.

The objectives of the training are to provide a Scouter with a basic understanding of outdoor activities and to stimulate his/her participation and leadership at the Unit level. While the emphasis is on backpacking, the training, in two parts, is generally applicable to all types of outdoor activity. The first, a conference, is conducted as a series of demonstrations and discussions. The full range of outdoor topics, including leadership, preparation and conditioning, equipment, clothing, menu planning, cooking, risk and safety, orienteering, route finding and mountain travel, outdoor courtesy, and long-term planning, are covered. Clothing and equipment are exhibited and demonstrated. The many forms and permits required by the BSA and the agencies which administer outdoor locales are discussed and samples are provided. Books, maps, and other materials which are needed for planning an outing are discussed and displayed.

The second part is a weekend field trip in the local mountains. You practice the skills and use the equipment, which are discussed at the conference. This backpack is in the range of 5-7 miles, round trip.

Completion of this training earns the Scouter recognition as a Backpack Leader and the award of a special patch. As this is the introductory program to High Adventure training, there are no prerequisites to attendance.

It is assumed that the reader has taken, or will take, this very valuable training. This handbook builds on the principles taught during the course and shows how Troop 849 has applied them to it's backpacking program.


The basic rules for a safe an enjoyable hike are the same as for a long-term hike. See the Guidelines section of the Long-term Hikemaster Handbook. Keep in mind that this may be the Scout's first hike so you can't count on emotional maturity (yet).

Hikemaster Wisdom

See the Long-term Hikemaster Handbook for many pearls of hikemaster wisdom. Most of them apply to weekend hikes too. The following apply just to weekend hikes.

Make the best use of the available time by keeping these suggestions in mind.

  • Leave on Friday night when possible - it gives the Scouts an extra night of camping, which they need for Camping merit badge and Order of the Arrow candidacy.

  • If your camp location allows wood fires consider cooking over the open fire. This helps build skills and provides second class advancement. (Note this should be the standard plan for all car camping trips, i.e., the rocket hike, and rock climbing trip. Do Dutch oven cooking on car trips - cobblers.)

  • Bear bag when possible. Canisters are easy to use, but getting a chance to practice bear bagging is a good skill development. Scouts get to apply knot skills and learn how to protect food when a canister is not available.

  • Have more complex meals if time permits - boiling water does not build good cooking skills - try a stew from scratch or foil cooking, pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast. How about cooking fresh bread or biscuits?

  • Rest breaks are a great opportunity for quick skill building. Try:

    • Which way is North (or South or East or West) without using a compass?
    • Where on the topo map are we now and why?
    • What elevation are we at now?
    • When do you think we will be at camp and why?
    • What is the name of that tree or flower that you are sitting next to?
    • Quick first aid questions for younger Scouts. (i.e. burn, cuts. etc.)
  • When at camp and not climbing a peak, pull out a sharpening stone, do some compass work, use the topo for Second Class map symbols, explore the local trees/plants, or do some knots and lashing. Have the older Scouts set up a short compass course; it helps them strengthen skills and provides a learning opportunities for the younger Scouts.

During the Hike

  • Respect the ability of hikers in your group and any limitations that could prevent them from staying together. In general, people should not hike alone.

  • Once we arrive at the campsite, the Hikemaster will determine the area where we are to pitch tents and he will designate a cooking area. Tent site selection is order-by-rank.


This handbook is based on the "Troop 849 Weekend Backpack Hike Preparation" documentation that was written by Richard Hoesly in 1998. That has been supplemented with notes from Mike Vahey and my own personal observations.

Tom Thorpe, Troop 849

©2018 Boy Scout Troop 849, Manhattan Beach, CA, 90266
Original draft December 2006 by Tom Thorpe.
Second printing March 2018.

Permission to duplicate and use for Scouting purposes is hereby granted to all Boy Scout organizations.
Please give Troop 849 credit as may be due them.

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