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Backpacker Magazine – September 2009
Scoutmasters wrote the book on camping, and built an army of pack-toting teens. But do the troops truly rule when it comes to outdoor skills? We pitted three Scouts against three average readers to find out.
Game On Each team gets a tent, sleeping bag, stove, fuel, clothing, and other equipment. Everything must go into an REI Passage 65 pack; then the team must adjust the pack to fit a team member.
"No, no, no. The tent goes toward the top, not down low," Todd practically yells at the other Scouts. "Map in the top pocket!" insists Adam. Amid the arguing, tussling, and jamming of gear at close quarters, the teams resemble two rugby scrums.
Team BACKPACKER posts the faster time but loses on accuracy to Troop 43's meticulous packing strategy. By stuffing its tent and food bag toward the top, Team BACKPACKER was top-heavy; Troop 43 hit the sweet spot with the center of gravity between the shoulder blades. As for fitting, both squads succeed at extending their harnesses to sit correctly on a teammate's shoulders and hips, but the Scouts also win this contest by getting the center of gravity right (see below). Neither team deals with stove fuel correctly (seal it against leaks in a plastic bag, then tuck into a lower, exterior pocket). Readers: 2, Scouts: 2
By the Book
The Boy Scout Handbook offers tips on organizing gear in a backpack ("Arrange soft items so that they will cushion your back"), but is mum on weight distribution. Internal frame backpacks carry best when loaded with heavy items like food, water, and tent at shoulder height and close to your back. Lighter, bulky gear like cook kits and clothing go in the lower and middle of the pack. Your sleeping bag squishes into the bottom compartment.