Q. How are the camping backpacks at Philmont made so lightweight?
— Peter Packer, Rochester, N.Y.
A. The internal-frame backpacks used at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., are special “program packs” built by Osprey Packs, one of the top backpack manufacturers in the world. Philmont uses the La Plata (weight approximately 4 lbs. 5 oz.) and the Escalante (5 lbs. 4 oz.). You can’t buy those in any stores, but they are based on Osprey’s popular and lightweight Aether backpacks. The most similar model available to consumers is the Osprey Aether 85 ($289; ospreypacks.com), which weighs in at 5 lbs. 1 oz. and uses lightweight yet durable nylon fabric and superlight aluminum rods to stabilize and transfer the pack load.
The external frame backpacks used at Philmont are the classic (yet recently redesigned) Kelty Tioga (5lbs. 14 oz.) with a lightweight aluminum frame. But it’s no longer manufactured, so you can’t buy it either. If you want this pack, you’ll have to find a used one for sale somewhere.