My Week at the BSA Philmont Training Center

I was “invited” to live in a tent city for a week. I was at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico for a week of leadership training. I was there to learn how to be a more effective scout leader, but I also learned some more things about tent living.

Michael at Philmont

This is my bedroom tent. It is 10’x12’. I make a distinction between a bedroom tent vs a living tent. A bedroom tent is where you go at night to sleep. Then during the day you go outside to play or work. A living tent is large enough that you could be inside for long periods of time without going crazy. When considering the size for a living tent, one must consider how much space is needed to sleep, prepare food, sit while eating and have some space to move around. It will need to be much bigger than a bedroom tent.

Philmont tent

There are two cots per tent. The tents are on a nice wood platform. There is the front door with small windows on each side. There is no opening on the back wall (bad design for ventilation). Without a flow of air each direction, lack of ventilation and the resulting heat can be a big problem. All who are looking at shelters, make sure that you have proper ventilation with screened windows and doors. Our tent had no shade, which will be the case for many when long-term camping. If your shelter is not properly ventilated or is of the wrong material, it will be a sweat box.

Temperatures were in the high 80s during the day and low 50s at night. We had electricity in each tent so we had a light and a fan. My tent mate strapped his box fan to the top pole of the tent so we have a ceiling fan (thanks tent mate).

Tent Ceiling Fan

I highly recommend fans for your tents. During the day tents can become extremely hot and uncomfortable. There are both AC and DC fans. Of course you will need a sufficient solar system to provide electricity for your fans. I purchased DC fans for my tents because AC appliances use about 15% more watts because of the loss of going through an inverter. This is the fan I purchased: I will try them out in two weeks when I go camping with my big tent and all of my camping gear.

The week at Philmont was Western Region week with key leaders from all states from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to the west. I serve as a District Commissioner of the Alpine District in the Utah National Parks Council.

I had a nice conversation with Charles Dalquist the first evening. He is a former Young Men President for the LDS Church. He is now serving as the National Commissioner for the BSA.

Charles Dalquist and Michael Robertson

He is in a position to know what the LDS church’s relationship is with the BSA. He said that there are no plans for any separation. He mentioned the number of church news articles that have recently talked about BSA and the church. I asked him about the comment made in the Church’s official statement last year after the “gay” decision. In that statement the phrase “at this time” was used. He said that that phrasing could have been made by Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay or any other church president. As long as scouting serves its purpose in the Aaronic Priesthood program it will be used. If it is no longer useful the relationship will be discontinued.

I expressed that the church has never come out with a statement as forceful and direct as that and because of it there were many donors who sat on the sidelines and didn’t participate in last year’s Friends of Scouting campaign. They felt like the church’s BSA relationship was short lived and they didn’t want to invest in something that was going away. He assured me again that that is not the case and offered to attend a meeting with potential donors, share what he knows, and encourage them to continue to support their young men and the Boy Scout program.

Philmont has great facilities. They have wonderful restrooms and showers. I took a nice warm shower each night prior to going to bed. I talked about taking a shower in my blog post “10 Tips for Great Sleep While Camping”.  I always sleep better when camping if I have a clean body at night. When camping long-term there won’t always be nice restrooms and showers available, but I will be able to take a shower in my tent with a Deluxe Tent Shower. 

I also wore earplugs, which I wear every night no matter where I am. My tent mate is not a regular earplug wearer but brought them because they were on the suggested items to bring list. He wore them part of the night then took them out part way through the night because they felt a little funny. In the morning the birds started their singing and woke him up. He hurriedly put the earplugs back in and was able to get some more, much needed sleep. I didn’t hear any birds. The first thing I heard in the morning was his alarm clock. Another item listed in the blog post which came in handy was my “night bottle”. Who wants to be traipsing around outside in the middle of the night to go to the restroom.

The last thing I will mention about my sleep is how glad I am that I brought a cot headboard. The bed has a frame about 6 inches above the mattress. I thought maybe it would hold my pillow in place. Not so. The first time I nudged my pillow it went right under the frame and onto the floor. I put my cot headboard in place and had no problem the rest of the night.

Cot no headboardCot with Head Board

I walked over to the trading post to buy an engraved leather belt and a Philmont belt buckle. On the way we passed the LDS chapel. There are LDS, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chapels on the ranch. Here is a pic of the LDS chapel and a stained glass window inside. Notice the BSA fleur de lis at the bottom of the window.

Michael at LDS Philmont ChapelStained Glass Window Philmont LDS Chapel

I also saw some different tents that have an elevated fly. This type of fly not only helps with moisture, but creates an insulating air barrier that helps with the heat inside the tent. It basically shades the tent.

Tent fly

One evening we had a special presentation from some Indian dancers from Amarillo, TX. They perform all over the world. Here are a few princesses with an old, bald brave.

Michael with Indian Dancers

On day 4 we had a morning of leadership training. I appreciate that the week at Philmont is not just scouting talk, but also how to become a better individual, leader, husband and father. As I learn things, I often think about how this would apply to and be helpful for our soon to come tent city living experience. A concept shared was how we react to a new situation, confrontation, surprise, etc. Most of us first have an emotional response. That emotional response could be fight, flight, wilt, etc. The emotional response lasts typically about 30 seconds until a different part of our brain kicks in and reason can crowd out emotion. I think we all agree that we usually want to make decisions based upon reason rather than emotion. I find that if I use reason, I make better decisions, treat people with more kindness and have less to repent of because the emotional me did or said something stupid, rude, unkind, etc.

So the lesson I learned, that can apply to all of us, is to be slow to respond and let reason kick in and replace the emotion. It was recommended to one participant that he take a number of deep breaths and wait about 30 seconds before he responds to a potentially stressful situation.

My wife and I talked about this last night. She, my daughter in law and I recently went through one of our trailers to review what we had packed several years ago to see it the items still had relevance to what we currently think we will need in the camp. My daugher in law and I were very logical about the process but my DW was very emotional. Her reaction was, we did this several years ago so why do we need to do this again. It was a frustrating experience for all three of us. When my wife and I talked last night about what had happened, we realized that her response was all emotional while ours was logical. If my DW could have realized what was going on and taken off her emotional hat and put on her logical hat, things would have gone more smoothly. Actually what happened is my wife told us to just go ahead and do it. She didn’t want to participate.

I use my dear wife as an example of reacting emotionally, but it is something we all have done and all need to improve on. When we are in a camp, we will be out of our comfort zones, will be stressed and will need to really work hard on being long-suffering and slow to anger.

If you look again at the earlier picture of the pillow and cot headboard, you will see my Wiggy’s sleeping bag. This is the outer bag of their two bag system. It is a lighter weight that can be used alone in warmer weather but is used with their cold weather bags in cold weather. For two nights I slept fine, but my legs got cold the third night. They were right by the window. I should have zipped up the window, but instead I curled up tight to try and stay warm. After that I zipped up the window and did fine. 

My tent mate brought a sheet and a blanket and enjoyed that better than a sleeping bag. I share this to help all understand that a sleeping bag on a cot is not the only option. With proper padding, one could use sheets and a blanket and have a sleep environment more like home. I describe the sleeping system that works for my DW and me in the blog post, “10 Tips on How to Sleep Great While Camping”

A question was asked, “How do they attach the tent to the wood platform at Philmont?” Here a few pics. BTW, notice the frames on each side of the tents to which the tents are attached. By having these vertical frames, it greatly reduces the space needed between tents. That allows many more tents in a smaller area.

Tent supporttent supportTent platform

And here is a picture of the east tent city showing some of the many, many tents.

Philmont tents

I recommend the Philmont experience to any that have the opportunity to attend. They have excellent activity tracks for wives and children so they have fun things to do while you are in class most of the day. I also recommend that you practice camping when ever you can. The more one practices, the better prepared they are for when they camp for a long, long time.



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