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2010 Backpacking in Shenandoah National Park

There was a question on the backpacking trip about the need to put sealed food packages in a bear box or bear bag. My answer is that no food packages are completely odor proof. There are special odor proof bags for camping, but they are not used by any of the meal manufacturers because it would be cost prohibitive. Plus any of the sealed food packages (like Mountain House) are produced in a factory full of food, so there would be plenty of odors on the exterior of the bags. Therefore, it all needs to go in the bear box or bear bag. 

Just this week, had a similar question for their "Ask A Bear" series. Here's the bear's answer to the question:


Q: Is it necessary to bear bag freeze-dried food if the package is not opened?—Rob, via email

A: You humans...always wanting to take the easy way out. Truth is, even if a package of freeze-dried food hasn't been opened, there are a few reasons why you'll want to store it in a bear bag or canister anyway.

The first is the pure acuteness of my nose. I smell up to seven times better than a bloodhound, and 2,300 better than you. Plain and simple, I possess one of the most powerful noses on earth, and I can detect scents through all manner of odor barriers. Packages come in variable grades, and not all are odor-proof. Plus, it's likely you stored your packaged food with snacks or other things that might leave a scent for me to investigate on the exterior.

Even if you buy and use a high-grade, 100-percent-odor-proof bag, there are some compelling reasons not to skip the canister or bear bag. My naturally curious nature means I might investigate a freeze-dried package anyway, and the situation gets worse if I'm a habituated bear with any experience or contact with humans. I might've learned that humans carry around various packages that contain tasty goodness, and I may attempt to investigate them regardless of smell. Better not to give me any chance of finding a reward—it's bad for you, and potentially catastrophic for me.

So remember: Bag it or can it. I know it can be a pain in the butt, but if you can cut a bear a break and go that extra step, I'm way appreciative. I'll reward you by keeping my distance and sticking to fish and berries—where you can hopefully see me from afar. 


Scout Dads,

In the spirit of being a ‘green troop’, please print this off for your driving purposes.
Getting to Loft Mtn Campground is easy.
1. Take 64 West until you get to the top of Afton Mountain.

2. Hop off the interstate and take Skyline Drive north 25 miles to mile post 79 (and a half)(you will be counting down from mile post 105).

(To get on the Skyline Drive, there is an entrance fee of like $15 for a day or something, or you can buy a one year card for, something like, $40.)

3. The Loft Mountain Wayside is on the left, but the campground entrance is on the right. So, go right and follow the signs for camping. You will come to the ranger station, just tell 'em you are with us and take your first left and follow that to the end and it should drop you off at our campsite, A37, A38 and A39. (On the enclosed map, our site is next to the recycling station. Oh, joy! (Refer to enclosed camp site map.))

A map of the park may be found at this link:

he RECON document may found at this link:
(Scroll ALL THE WAY down to the bottom to where you see a document named LOFT MTN RECON.pdf)



Several folks have asked Mr. Fields and I to provide a list of things to bring on the September backpacking trip.  The honest answer is that there are a lot of individual choices that go into a list like this, but we have done our best below.

Please remember- the younger scouts at base camp only need what they typically bring on a camping trip- plus a small day pack or book bag that will hold a water bottle, lunch, and rain gear!!!  Do try to “minimize” what you take on this trip to practice for future backpacking trips.

For the backpackers- what you need to take on a trip like this is, well….. what you are going to need.  This list is only provided as a guideline- please don’t take it as a shopping list.

There are a couple of general thoughts:


  • The Troop has backpacking stoves/fuel, and water filters- don’t worry about those- but feel free to bring your own.  We will distribute Troop Gear at the camp site. 
  • Backpackers should also “buddy up” and share the weight of a tent- which is one of the heaviest items you carry.
  • EVERYTHING should be in a waterproof bag- especially your sleeping bag
  • Avoid cotton if at all possible- it absorbs water, will never dry, and when wet is useless.  In cold weather “Cotton Kills”
  • On each trip try to improve on minimizing what you take.  Try to be as light and compressed as possible to increase your enjoyment.  As you replace gear, think about buying light.  When you come home, look at what is in your pack that you didn’t use and decide if it was worth it carry it.


A simple list of gear for September/October Weather.


1. General-

  • Backpack with rain cover
  • Hiking poles (one is good, two is better).  Wrap a few strips of duct tape around top of poles in case you need it for repair or blisters
  • Map (we will provide) and compass (if you have one)
  • TWO 1 liter water bottles- leave camp with them full
  • Whistle

2. Sleeping Bag/Pad

  • Sleeping Bag in Waterproof bag
  • Sleeping Pad (non-inflatable is light and foolproof)

3. Shelter

  • Tent (weight split among tent buddies)- check your poles!
  • Groundcloth
  • Tent stakes

4. Clothing

  • Short sleeve wicking shirt to hike in
  • Long sleeve shirt for camp (chilly nights- wear as a layer over hiking shirt).  Depending on the forecast- this can be a lightweight fleece or a wicking top (Capilene, etc.)
  • Shorts or zip-offs to hike in (you will use your rain pants as long pants if you need a layer on your legs).
  • Underwear- synthetic if possible.  Don’t let Mom pack spares.  If you lose the argument, bring just one spare.
  • Hat- rain hat or Troop cap to keep sun out of your eyes
  • Socks (wool or wool/blend).  Wear one pair and have one spare.  We also like to wear “liner socks” but that is up to you.
  • Shoes- wear something that FITS.  The best option is lightweight. waterproof boots.  If you have other boots, wear those.  Make sure they fit to avoid blisters.   The last option is running shoes or other athletic shoes- fit is the most important thing- but boots help protect your ankles from a sprain, etc.
  • Sleeping clothes (it is a good practice to keep these in a separate dry bag.  These only go on when you go to bed, and you change back BEFORE leaving your tent.  This practice is a SAFETY ISSUE.

-          one pair of socks (these are ONLY for sleeping- never use as a spare for hiking)

-          long underwear bottoms

-          long underwear top

-          lightweight fleece cap and gloves (Mr. Fields and I carry these on EVERY trip- just in case)

  • Camp shoes (not a necessity but nice to have)- Crocs or cheap Walmart imitations work great

 5. Rain gear-

  • Jacket w/hood and pants (preferred) or poncho.  Remember- I am going-  ‘Nuff said.

6. Camp Kitchen

  • Small pot for boiling water
  • Small cup or mug
  • Insulated “coozie” for meal to go in (I have several to lend)
  • Long handled Spoon or spork (long handle helps with commercial freeze dried meals.
  • Stove, fuel and windscreen
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Water Filter
  • One-gallon zip bag for trash
  • Food and snacks
  • “Bear Bag” (nylon bag big enough to hold all your food, trash and “smellalbles”) and 50’ of lightweight rope.
  • Small carabineer to attach Bear Bag to Line
  • Bandana or camp towel (Sham-wow works great- thanks Mr. Wheeler!)
  • Camp shoes

6. Personal/Hygiene

  • Sunglasses and Sunscreen (very small bottle)
  • Insect repellant (very small spray bottle or “handi-wipe” style packets)
  • Small Pocket Knife/multi-tool
  • Parachute cord or other small cord that can be cut into pieces (maybe 10’)
  • Toilet Kit- Two small rolls of TP, small bottle of hand sanitizer, and plastic trowel
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (note- these go into bear bag at night)
  • Small first aid kit (this is really for small cuts and blisters- we will have the rest)
  • Ear Plugs
  • Headlamp (new batteries means you don’t have to take a spare)

Remember- the lighter your pack, the more fun you will have (but take enough to be safe).

Hope this helps!



Ken Holder

Troop 2960




I wanted to remind everyone of the food plan for ALL scouts and adults going on the September campout to Loft Mountain. As we discussed in the meeting- 

We aren’t bringing any food for you. 

As usual- on Friday night eat at home or bring a non-messy “bag dinner” for the ride. You need to bring meals for Saturday breakfast, Saturday Lunch, Saturday dinner, and Sunday breakfast. Please “BE PREPARED” and bring money for a fast food lunch on Sunday (the Base Campers may be home before lunch- backpackers will likely be home early afternoon- all should be prepared to stop for lunch on the way home). 

Food “Thoughts” 
  • EVERYONE should have a small nylon bag that can hold all their own food, snacks and “smellables” (like toothpaste) that could attract animals. Base campers will place these in the metal bear boxes in the camp- backpackers will hang bear bags. Backpackers should have a rope for this purpose- but we will send out a complete packing list in the next day or two. The bags will keep this process organized for the base campers. Note: There are bears in this area (we saw one two weeks ago less than a mile from the camp). There is no reason to fear the bears- but keeping food in your tent is an invitation to a bear party. We will review “Bear Rules” with everybody at the camp when we arrive. 
  • EVERYONE should have a one gallon zip-loc bag to use as a trash bag. This goes in your bear bag with your food. The base camp will have trash cans, but we want to practice backcountry techniques as much as possible. Backpackers- I am not carrying my son’s trash, and I love him more than you. 
  • You will probably want snacks on the trial- Trail Mix, etc. are a good choice. Chocolate can melt, so I would avoid that. Remember- you eat what you bring- no “Yogying”. 
  • Your trail lunch should be quick and easy- no cooking. Obviously don’t bring anything that will spoil in 24 hours and try to stay light. The only other suggestion is to avoid trash as much as possible. You bring it in, you carry it out. Work on techniques that would work for a longer trip. 
  • The “cooked” meals (2 breakfast and 1 dinner) should be simple, and require nothing more than adding boiling water. I am attaching my previous e-mail on food suggestions and will be happy to help anyone who is struggling. Backpackers (and some base campers) will use small cookstoves- we will also have a large boiling pot of water for the base campers to use. 
  • Minimize cookgear- bring only what you need to boil water. 
  • Coffee- You don’t want to be around me without a cup of coffee in the morning (ask Mr. Fields). If adults are in the same boat- suggest you bring some form of instant coffee. Starbucks Via may be the best invention since the wheel- but do whatever you like- just don’t look for a coffee pot!!! 
Feel free to contact any of the leaders if you have questions- this should be fun and not a chore! 

Ken Holder 
Troop 2860


Greetings backpackers and hikers!

Our annual troop backpacking trip is just around the corner.  While it is called the backpacking trip, we realize that not everyone will be backpacking.  So we try to keep to the spirit of the event.  This means that most of the third year and older scouts will be backpacking and the younger scouts will be day hiking with a light pack.

The recommended carry weight for backpacking is not to exceed 20% of body weight.  We've found that getting a pack under 20 pounds for a scout is very difficult, so a scout needs to weigh at least 100 pounds to realistically be able to backpack.  We also can't expect the newest scouts to have all the necessary equipment or training.  For these reasons the 1st and 2nd year scouts will be staying in base camp and day hiking on Saturday.  

Tonight in room 207 at the Hampton Park campus there will be a Backpacking 101 session for adult backpackers to cover gear, food, procedures, and any questions.  It starts at 7:00PM.

The troop web site has several good documents covering food, clothing, and gear under the "References" menu.  As always, Mr. Holder and I are available for any backpacking questions that you have.
 Lee Fields -
 Ken Holder -

Scouts, you need to start thinking about lightening your pack.  Find a tent buddy so each of you only carries half of the tent.  This alone will save you 2-3 pounds.

We will need to have a headcount of all the backpackers by the 9/15 troop meeting.  The National Parks limit our crew sizes to 10 people, and our policy is to have 2 adults per crew.  We must know in advance to plan how many adults are needed to support all the scouts who want to backpack.


Lee Fields


First- allow me to introduce myself to some of the new families that I may not have met. My name is Ken Holder (or DripDry to some). I have been a leader with the Troop for 10 years, and was the Scoutmaster for 4 ½ years before the illustrious Mr. Wheeler took over. I am an avid (or rabid) backpacker, and Mr. Fields and I have been the primary leaders of the Troop’s backpacking trips over the years. We have also just completed a fairly significant section hike of the Appalachian Trial, which is why we have been absent for a few months since March of this year.

Now- why the e-mail? I know most of the scouts are at Summer Camp, but I wanted to send this out to give them something to think about when they return.

In September the Troop has a “backpacking” trip scheduled for Shenandoah National Park. Before anyone gets concerned, let me emphasize that the first year scouts will NOT be backpacking and you don’t need to buy any gear- what you have today will work! The younger scouts will have a “modified” experience that will allow them to get a feel for the difference between backpacking and our normal campouts. They will participate in a day hike, and will only need some form of daypack, bookbag, etc. to carry a few essentials (rain coat, water bottle, lunch, etc.). They will return to the base camp and use their normal camping gear. A few of our older scouts will stay with the first year Scouts, and the remainder will leave camp on Saturday morning and camp in the “backcountry” Saturday night on a backpacking trip. More details will be provided as we get closer to September.

One of the things we want to do with the younger scouts is to give them the experience of preparing their own “backpacking” meals. When we discussed this with the Committee last week, the suggestion was made that we send out information as soon as possible so parents and scouts can have time to think about what they might want to try, and have a chance to practice while they are home for the summer. One of the things you can do is to encourage your scout to get experience cooking simple meals at home. That will help them have confidence on outings.

We will be presenting more information on backcountry cooking in the Troop meetings after Summer Camp, but thought I would pass along the following which Lee Fields and I prepared last year. This is the same food and techniques Lee and I used on our long distance hike, and neither of us starved (or ever had to clean a pot!):

Ken “DripDry” Holder
Troop 2860
Aj Mezynski,
Sep 17, 2010, 6:20 AM
Aj Mezynski,
Oct 4, 2010, 8:21 PM
Aj Mezynski,
Sep 17, 2010, 6:20 AM
Aj Mezynski,
Sep 26, 2010, 7:04 PM
Aj Mezynski,
Sep 22, 2010, 9:14 PM