Philmont Scout Ranch (A Wilderness Home)

 In Camp Notes

A Scouting Tradition

We’ve long taken pride in our 90-year history with the Boy Scouts of America, from manufacturing the now-vintage Yucca Pack to working closely with local Boy Scout leaders. For decades, Boy Scout camps throughout the U.S., including Camp Daniel Boone and Camp Raven Knob, have been outfitted with our famed Canvas Wall Tents. However, perhaps no Boy Scout reservation is more well-known, or more highly-anticipated, than the renowned  Philmont Scout Ranch.

Nestled into the mountains of northeastern New Mexico, Philmont is the Boy Scout’s largest National High Adventure Base. Since its first camping season in 1939, more than 1 million youths and leaders have wandered through its midst, searching for adventure, lessons in leadership, and a wilderness experience unlike any other. In addition to backpacking across the reservation’s punishing terrain, these Scouts and Venturers may encounter anything from horseback riding and burrow packing to gold panning and sport shooting during their journeys.

Greeting excited adventurers as they arrive for their expedition and weary hikers as they drag in from their trek, is Philmont’s famous Basecamp. It’s here where arriving campers (“Trailbound”) receive a gear shakedown and medical check, pick up gear from the post office or on-site outfitter, and attend the opening campfire. It’s here, too, where returning campers (“Homebound”) feast in the dining hall, take a bus to nearby Cimarron, and attend the closing campfire.

Wall Tents at Philmont Basecamp

Philmont Basecamp circa 2010. Nearly 850 canvas wall tents house thousands of Scouts each summer.

A Wilderness Home

Most importantly, it’s in Basecamp where they spend the night — getting perhaps their last restful sleep before departing on an exciting journey, or their first after returning from a grueling trip. Each summer, nearly 850 canvas wall tents act as a home away from home for thousands of youths and leaders. At Diamond Brand Gear, we’re proud to be handcrafting these canvas sanctuaries that have housed Scouts for several decades.

Our mountain-crafted Canvas Wall Tents are tested in the harshest of elements and provide substantial shelter for campers year after year. Manufactured with the highest quality materials and made of a durable yet breathable fabric, the Canvas Wall Tents are built to withstand decades of use in the New Mexican heat by thousands of rambunctious Scouts and Venturers staying at Philmont Scout Ranch. (And good news: we’re now selling our Canvas Wall Tents factory direct.)

Justin Wilson and Eric Busse of Scouts for Equality both went to Philmont Scout Ranch, though under different circumstances. Justin took five Scouts from his all-refugee troop based out of Aurora, CO, while Eric worked as the Director of Closing Campfire. Below they share their experiences at this famed Scouting utopia.

The Wall Tents at Philmont Basecamp

Philmont Basecamp circa 2010. The iconic Tooth of Time looms in the background.

DBG: Tell us a little about your experiences at Philmont. What did a typical day look like?

Justin: Our days always started with getting the food down from the bear bag and starting breakfast. While that was going, we would begin to pack up camp. Then we’d spend the morning hiking and usually have lunch on the trail. Sometimes there were program areas we’d stop by in the middle of the day. Then we’d finish up our hiking and get to the campsite for the evening. At most of those, there were programs to take part in. Through all of this, the one constant was rain. It rained nearly every day!

The programs were fun, but the highlights were really the time we spent together as a crew. You can’t help but grow closer to everyone in your crew when you’re spending so much time together on the trail, through adventures and challenges. The Scouts were all very positive and persevered through a lot of difficulties. Our crew did a great job of keeping things light, and helping to bring each other up by telling jokes and just being silly.

Eric: My relationship with Philmont started when I went on a trek my sophomore year of high school. I was so smitten with the Sangre de Cristo mountains that I decided to apply for the Rayado program, a month-long deep-dive into the Philmont backcountry for participants who’ve been on at least one other trek before. The 30 days I spent backpacking every day, exploring every corner of the Philmont property, getting intimate with the land, and bonding with the rest of my crew was one of the most formative experiences of my life.

For the 2013 season, I was hired as the Director of Closing Campfire, which was a really fun and rewarding job. Every single night, we’d celebrate with crews coming off the trail and honor everything they’d accomplished together throughout their trek. It was always amazing to hear how meaningful it was for Scouts to be able to be in a relationship with the land in such a supportive way, which I think is so rare and important for our world today.


DBG: Do you have a favorite memory or story?

J: One of the funniest parts of the trip was the “pickle challenge.” One of the camps sells spicy pickles, which are huge – maybe six inches long at least – and come in a plastic wrap with lots of pickle juice. The challenge is to see how quickly you can eat the entire pickle and drink all the juice. We had two Scouts attempt the challenge. Both finished the pickle, but about half an hour later, one of them had a rather embarrassing…incident…due to the pickle.

My favorite memories actually came after the trip, though. We faced numerous challenges on our trip, such as the Scouts not having any prior backpacking experience, lost rain gear, programs getting rained out, and so on. By the end of the trip the Scouts were all saying they were ready to leave and never come back. However, about a month after we got home they started asking when we could go back to Philmont! They said that after they got home and thought about it more, they realized it was such an awesome experience and they couldn’t wait to try it again some day.

E: As a participant, I really loved meeting other crews from all over the country at the staffed subcamps scattered all over Philmont. The programming was always great and the staff members were really fun people who were passionate about what it meant to respect the land we were privileged to be hiking in.


DBG: How did the experience help you and your Scouts grow?

J: Philmont presented our Scouts with a huge challenge, but an achievable challenge. They grew by being put in a situation where they were out of their comfort zone, where they did not think they could succeed, and then succeeding by working as a team and learning to persevere through rough weather and long days of hiking.

E: My experiences at Philmont helped me learn what it means to grow beyond familiar limits and redefine what I’m capable of, not just physically, but also in terms of leadership and ecological understanding.


DBG: Philmont is well-known within Scouting circles. What sets it apart from other Scouting experiences?

J: The program and staff is what really sets Philmont apart from other Scouting experiences. A Scout Troop can go on a backpacking trip anywhere, but they can only gain the Philmont experience by going to Philmont. It’s a great way to introduce youth to backpacking, because there’s a reward at the end of each day’s hike. It’s also a universal experience within Scouting. Once you’ve been to Philmont, it’s easy to connect with other Philmont alumni. It’s something that you will remember forever.

E: I think that is one thing that sets Philmont apart; it’s a deep dive into a breathtaking landscape that can be challenging, but the program element is also very effective at supporting participants as they overcome obstacles, learn, and grow.


Interested in reading more about our history with the Boy Scouts? Check out these posts:


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