Next month (November) will be the annual Philmont registration lottery when many thousands of units will sign up for a few thousand 2016 treks. Best of luck to you all!
If your troop or crew is already accepted for a trek next summer in 2015, then you won't be participating in that lottery, but you should be participating in lots of pre-Philmont preparation this winter. Philmont supplies you with lots of literature and preparation advice. Their planning calendar page is a good overview.
There are a few areas that are easy to overlook, put off, or skimp on - resulting in a less-than-wonderful trek, or no trek at all. Over the next seven months, make sure your crew considers and completes everything required by Philmont, plus items that will just make your trek a better experience.
- Training - This past spring, I presented Red Cross Wilderness First Aid training to a crew just two days before they left for Sea Base. They had overlooked the fact that no one had current certification and the BSA is adamant about having at least TWO members of each high adventure crew currently certified in Wilderness First Aid and two currently certified in CPR. This crew was lucky that I was available on short notice. Wilderness First Aid training is often difficult to find, so get your two people going now, not next spring.
Youth Protection Training and Hazardous Weather training are also required. You may need other training, depending on what activities you plan to do.
And, you may not know it, but every adult participant must be a registered BSA member so get those adults signed up.
- Tour Plan - Depending on your council, it may take a month or more to approve your tour plan after you finally get it correctly entered into MyScouting.org The process of gathering all the required information from various families can take many days. This information includes vehicle data, insurance, leader training, and travel itinerary. If it's not complete enough, and within the BSA parameters, your tour plan will be rejected and you can try again. and again. and again.
- Physical Conditioning - Of the hundreds of Scouters I've asked, by far the main thing they wish they would have done differently for Philmont was more backpacking practice before the trek. We are so busy that setting aside an hour a day and two hours on a weekend day just doesn't fit in many schedules. Without that conditioning of feet, legs, heart, lungs, and back, you are destined to a grueling 10 days on the trail. Many scouts are already active with athletics, marching band, and other extra-curricular activities, but those that are sedentary will drag down the entire crew.
At least three months before the trek date, regular hiking and other aerobic activities should be set up and tracked for the crew. The crews I participated on had three hikes every week and crew members had a minimum expected number of miles they were to cover before the trek. That worked well for us.
- Equipment Use - Purchasing new water filters, stoves, and tents just before your trek is not wise. Hitting the trail with new gear that is unfamiliar to the crew is a recipe for expensive mistakes and a terrible time. Acquire gear well before the trek and ensure everyone knows how to use, and has practiced with it, and has demonstrated their skill with it. This practice can be done at troop meetings or special trek crew gatherings.
- Teamwork - Being a trek crew leader is a great opportunity for one scout to lead. He will have a distinct role at Philmont and staff members will address him directly rather than the adults in the crew. I just loved this on my Philmont treks! It really helps if you can get him used to that role of leading this small group of peers and adults before the trek begins. Actually, getting this group to work together as a team is just as important. Defining, and communicating, what is expected of the adults is a critical pre-trek activity, too.
Planning, and requiring participation in, some practice camp-outs using the gear for the trek works great. Have the scouts determine a location, route, and schedule for a couple 2-day or 3-day backpacking trips in the months before Philmont.
Each crew will have a couple other specific roles to be filled. The Chaplain's Aide promotes daily devotions and the "Duty to God" patch. The Wilderness Guia promotes the Leave No Trace principles and Philmont Wilderness Pledge within the crew and helps the crew follow them.
I feel it's also a good idea to ensure every scout realizes he will be expected to perform all tasks at some point in the trek, including navigating, cooking, and cleaning.
- Merit Badges - Philmont recommends scouts have completed Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Cooking, First Aid, Orienteering, Hiking, Nature, and Wilderness Survival before their trek so they are skilled in the tasks they will face. Philmont isn't really a place to learn the skills, but is an opportunity to use them. A fun 60-mile trek can become a frustrating 80-mile trek with poor navigation skills. The preparatory backpacking trips can be great for these, but if some scouts have not completed them, Philmont provides many miles and days to fulfill the requirements. Doing merit badges on a trek can be difficult with most of the day full of hiking and program, but Astronomy, Weather, and Wood Carving could be considered.
Seasoned Philmont Folks - Do you have other advice to pass on to Philmont first-timers?
Posted: 15:36 10-08-2014 1121
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