This list was started by Caroline Rudisill and Cliff Coan.
An evolving version of this list of tips and tricks can be found at http://bit.ly/PTC_Tips
If you’re a first-time visitor to the Philmont Training Center for the United Methodist Scouters’ Conference, you may appreciate some of the tips and tricks those of us who’ve been there before have accumulated. Caroline Rudisill and Cliff Coan started the list on what to expect and how to best prepare below.
Packing for a week at Philmont Training Center should not be expensive. You probably have most things you’ll need at home already. PTC is not “roughing it” camping. Don’t expect to be in “survival” mode. Enjoy the little luxuries.
- Even with our best efforts, it’s possible that we’ll forget something. If you DO forget something, all is not lost. Philmont’s Tooth of Time Traders (just across and down the road) stocks many of the necessities (they do, after all, have some 20,000 trekkers pass through there each summer, and about 1,000 staff members who are there all summer). Cimarron (four miles away) does have a grocery and a convenience store (but they’re small). The nearest Walmart, though, is in Raton — 40 miles away. There are many stores in Taos, but it’s about an hour away.
- Traditional summer weather consists of warm days (70s to high 80s), cool nights (30s to low 50s), and rainy afternoons.
- The tents are 10’ x 12’ canvas “wall” tents on either a wooden or concrete permanent pad. Tents have electrical power and a double outlet, in which one “hand light” (a drop light, like mechanics use) is provided.
- A power strip with multiple outlets is invaluable. Given the number of electronics and the required chargers, two power strips would not be unreasonable for two people in a tent.
Name it to Claim It
- Put your name on everything. It’s a Scout camp, so if you mislay something there is a better-than-average chance you’ll get it back. Secure storage is available for small items at the Training Center Registration Office.
- Close your tent when you’re not in it. It is a Scout Camp, but still . . . Also, it helps keep the wildlife outside. If you’re gone during the day (in class, for instance), go ahead and zip the screened windows closed. Afternoon rain showers can come up quickly. Alternatively, dust can be a problem, if it’s a dry week.
- Each tent has one “closet” — basically a four- or five-foot tall box with an open front and a clothes bar for hangers. It’s movable, so if you don’t like where it’s located, you can change its positioning in your tent. Bring hangers for your best clothes, but the space is limited.
- Do not bring food or drinks into your tent. Ever. Wildlife can be dangerous when hungry. They don’t read labels. It’s rare, but there have been bears in PTC and Basecamp. Mini-bears (chipmunks) are everywhere, as are deer.
- Remember that the tents are just a few feet apart. What happens in your tent will be heard by many other people. Ask Debbie Caraway and/or Susan Lawyer about “Die! I say DIE!”
- One word — Earplugs. Even if you don’t normally wear them, it’s worth having them available. See above about closeness of tents. Also, not everybody goes to bed at the same time, and there are sometimes people (and/or animals) moving around at odd times. And a *few* Scouters have been known to snore.
Wi-Fi and cell reception
- Both wifi and cell phone reception are available at PTC, unlike the “old days,” when Cell Phone Hill south of basecamp was your best chance. AT&T and Verizon cell towers are located near the PTC and most carriers have some signal. As far as wifi goes, it’s adequate. If you’re used to blazing speed, you might be disappointed, but you can pretty reliably do whatever you need to do online. Cell reception is usually pretty good.
- There is one folding chair per tent provided. So you probably want to bring one of your own. Make sure it is comfortable to sit in and bring a pillow to sit on anyway. Hanging out with other attendees after class is one of the best parts of Philmont.
Rugs (non-slip are safest)
- Put a bath mat or rug just inside the door of your tent to catch dirt and/or mud on your boots (sometimes both within just a few minutes).
- Put a bath mat or rug between the beds so your feet are dry and clean. Tent floors are either concrete or wooden, but both can be dusty.
- Charge your phones overnight. The classroom will not have enough outlets. Ever.
- Electric with battery backup, plug into above extension cord; small ones are easy to pack, just remember to bring batteries. Don’t bring noisy fans — your neighbors will thank you. The canvas tents can be stuffy, so extra air flow is nice. Especially if there is a chance that you’ll spend any time at all in the tent during the daylight hours, a small fan is almost a requirement. We’ve even seen one of the cheap “box” fans bungeed horizontally to the ridgepole to create a “ceiling fan.”
- Lots of little ones strung together: better tension across top of tent for laundry line, as a few longer ones will sag, and your hangers can attach to the hooks themselves and not slide to the middle.
- Electric Lantern (plug in, as above) or small, battery powered (easy to hang on bungee cords and not blind yourself in the process). Do not bring fuel powered lanterns. Battery or electric lanterns ONLY.
Flashlight or headlamp
- There are security lights at night, but they are (naturally) somewhat dim. An urgent trip to the bathroom can be navigated a little easier with a personal flashlight or headlamp. Personal lights also avoid having to turn on your tent lighting and disturb your tentmate.
- Clothes dry fairly quickly there, and plastic hangers get best results.
- Most of us are coming from other time zones. Adjust accordingly with a small travel clock or use your phone. Be mindful of your neighbors, though. They may not want to be awakened by some alarms. If you’re using your phone for an alarm, you might even consider setting the tone to “crickets,” or “birds chirping,” — probably not “Smoke on the Water,” or “Too Sexy (For My Shirt).” “Reveille” and “The Aggie War Hymn” are non-starters.
- Keep your options open: it gets COLD at Philmont overnight. Sometimes. We’ve had freezing temps in July and not so freezing temps in July. If you bring a sleeping bag, bring a light blanket and a set of twin sheets, too. You could roast if you’re in a sleeping bag and it’s hot at night. If you don’t bring a sleeping bag, bring a set of sheets, a couple blankets, and comforter. The mattresses are not particularly comfortable, so an egg crate foam layer isn’t a bad idea. And bring a comfortable pillow or two.
- Philmont does NOT provide bed linens, blankets, or towels, but your Tent City Manager can provide an emergency blanket if the temperature suddenly drops.
Trash Bag or Can
- Bring a couple of trash bags regardless, as you may have wet clothes to take home, or want to pack your clean clothes separately from dirty clothes. Having a trash can in your tent can be handy to corral the little pieces of paper, etc., but remember — don’t keep food (or food trash) in the tent!
Kleenex and Visine
- Philmont can be dusty. Be prepared.
Moisturizer or Vaseline
- Same as above. Humidity is very low at Philmont. Bring Chapstick, too.
- You’re going to be at altitude (the PTC is at 6,621 feet above sea level), and EVERYBODY will be more susceptible to sunburn. Just expect to wear sunscreen.
- There really aren’t many bugs at PTC. This is one thing you might be able to do without. Couldn’t hurt to bring it, though.
- If you have an infant or toddler, consider packing a portable stroller. Walking distances can be a problem for small children.
- Sidewinders and parents going on the Sidewinders overnighter need a sleeping bag.
- Tuesday is Buffalo Barbecue and Western Dance night, so don’t forget your western duds!
- If you’re planning on horse riding, closed-toe shoes are required, as are long pants.
- On Tuesday night, staffers will also be branding with the two Philmont brands (the horse brand and the cattle brand). No, you can’t get your children, your spouse, or yourself branded, but pretty much anything else can be, if you’re willing to risk it. Cliff’s seen trekkers have boots, belts, caps, hats, Nalgenes, jackets, backpacks, etc., branded. One year, his assistant advisor brought little strips of leather (roughly belt-width, and six inches long) and handed them out to all the crew so that everybody could have a keepsake branded.
- The Philmont Craft Center offers instruction and sells materials for ceramics, wearable art (clothing and accessories decoration), leathercraft, stamp art, Southwestern crafts, and home décor. It’s open all day, and provides an air conditioned (!!) place to work on your own projects or take classes. There’s also a “family crafts” night sometime during the week.
- Trailblazers, Mustangs, Broncos, and Silverados should bring a pair of long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to wear on activities such as horse rides and the COPE course.
Towels and Clothes Pins
- Towels can be hung over the bungee cords and will dry quickly during the day. If you’re a night shower person, your towels are less likely to dry overnight if the temps drop and could then smell musty by the next night. Hang those damp night towels on the bungee cord line with clothes pins from one end of the towel (not doubled over the cords) for better results. BTW — you need to bring your own towels and washcloths.
Laundry Soap and Dryer Sheets
- There is a coin-op laundry on site, but if you are allergic or sensitive to certain brands of detergent, bring some of your own. Laundry soap can be packed into toiletry bottles, and dryer sheets in your suitcase with your clothes. Caroline says she’ll have a big bottle of Gain or Arm&Hammer laundry soap and box of Gain dryer sheets, so if you forget to bring some, she says she’ll share.
- PTC showers are private ones housed in large buildings. There are 4 main shower houses, 2 in each Tent City. Each Tent City also has larger Family showers to help those with small children. Each shower has its own toilet, shower, sink, mirror, etc., and they’re fairly recently remodeled, so they’re really nice. However, you have to walk at least a little ways (several yards, say), so you’ll appreciate having something like a little backpack to carry your dopp kit, cosmetics, soap, towels and washcloths, hair dryer, etc, back and forth. Some type of slip-on shower shoes is also a good idea.
- Another thing about showers — there will be a bunch of people using them at the peak times of early morning and late evening. A little planning can go a long way. Also, it should go without saying, please leave it in good condition for the next person.
Really Helpful But Not Easy To Fly With
- Plastic bins. You can pack your items in those instead of a suitcase if you’re driving to Philmont, and use the stacked bins as a table in your tent. Philmont has carts to carry our stuff to our tents, so bins are easy to take. When traveling with her son to Philmont, all of his and Caroline’s bedding went in two bins and their clothes went in suitcases. She took both bins and a suitcase to Summit for the first training conference there, and used the two bins as a table while playing cards. Foot lockers work, too.
- Cards, board games, etc. Philmont has some at each campsite, but if you have a favorite to play (like UNO, cribbage, or others) bring them along. There are picnic tables at each site where people can gather.
- Musical instruments are welcome, but please be aware of “quiet times” and respectful of others’ tastes.
- Philmont provides a full medical staff at Philmont’s licensed infirmary in the north section of the Camping Headquarters area. The infirmary has doctors, nurses, and medics on duty around the clock for emergencies. Should you or your family need assistance, you can go directly to the infirmary or contact the Training Center office.
- Keep in mind that people coming from lower altitudes may experience some discomfort at first. Humidity is low, so visitors should drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. People who are overweight, out of shape, or who have health concerns should consult a physician before coming to Philmont. While the conferences and family programs are not strenuous, some walking and physical activity is necessary.
We encourage you to wear a complete BSA uniform to most Philmont activities. In addition, youth who are involved in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, or Girl Scouts are encouraged to wear their Scout uniforms on Monday morning and to flag ceremonies and meals. That said, Class As and Class Bs (or, if you prefer, Field Uniforms and Activity Uniforms) are both perfectly acceptable for most activities, as is the Methodist Shirt.
The Philmont Training Center Guidebook provides the following information and packing list.
What Should We Bring?
The following is a basic equipment list for each member of your family:
- Towel and washcloth
- Daypack*/School backpack – Camera*
- Insect repellent*
- Rain jacket or poncho*
- Extra batteries* for cameras and flashlights*
- Sleeping bag*, and/or sheets, blankets
- Walking/hiking shoes or boots*
- Warm sleeping garments
- Scout uniforms (for Scouting members)*
- Clothing for warm days and cool evenings – Hat or cap*
- Two or three, one-quart plastic water bottles* or canteens (except Nursery/Small Fry)
- Health Forms
Mustangs and Trailblazers need the following equipment for an overnight campout in Philmont’s backcountry (in addition to the list above):
- Backpack* or duffel bag for overnight gear
- Warm jacket*
- Sleeping bag*
- Long pants* (blue-jeans)
- Heavy wool socks*, for hiking – Flashlight*
- Hiking boots (broken-in)*
*These items can be purchased at the Tooth of Time Traders.
Mountain Trek participants need an extensive amount of gear for their trek. A detailed equipment list is included in the Mountain Trek Application form.