Level 2 & 3: Backpacking Adventure

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Welcome to my backyard! When I first moved to Colorado in May 2003, I spent every weekend through August exploring the Rockies. The learning curve on my outings in May and June were steep, due to the early-season snow conditions that covered trails, flooded meadows and rivers, blocked passes, and soaked my shoes. But in retrospect, learning to backpack at this time of year was crux: it expanded my skill set, extended my backpacking season, and was fun!

Critical trip info

  • 5 days/4 nights or 7 days/6 nights
  • Max client/guide ratio: 4:1
  • Primary objectives: Learning, Adventure
  • Teaching level: Intermediate, Advanced
  • Physical intensity: Moderate or High
  • Prerequisites & Expectations: Yes
  • Trip itinerary

Who should take this trip?

You should consider yourself one of the following:

  • Very ambitious beginner backpacker with an endurance sports background
  • Intermediate backpacker
  • Advanced backpacker wanting to further refine your know-how and/or to have a “turnkey” adventure

Additionally, you should:

  • Enjoy hiking more than camping, to the point where maybe you even would consider it just a necessary 8-hour recharge between full days of hiking
  • Look forward to climbing and descending high passes and peaks, and hiking extensively off-trail
  • Be comfortable hiking 15 (moderate) or 20 (high) miles per day for consecutive days, assuming you were to hike entirely on-trail over rolling terrain, carrying a 20-lb pack at an oxygen-rich altitude.

In addition, due to the scheduling of this trip, you should expect early-season conditions. High-elevation trails will be partially or fully obscured by snow; passes may feature steep lingering snowfields and/or cornices; and rivers will be swollen with melt. This is a challenging — but very engaging — season during which to backpack.

I recognize that not everyone may not consider this type of trip “fun.” If that’s you, I’d encourage you to check out the Backpacking Fundamentals courses.

Why should you take this trip?

Master intermediate and advanced skills. The most essential item you take on a backpacking trip is not carried on your back, but instead between your ears — your brain. Once you master critical skills like navigation, campsite selection, water planning, and gear selection, you will be safer and more confident in a wider range of conditions, and you will feel comfortable planning ambitious trips of your own.

Adventure with oversight. Unfortunately for most of us, we have limited opportunities in our lives to backpack in world-class locations like the High Sierra, Southwest Canyons, and Rocky Mountains. So make these trips count by taking on a more creative and adventurous route than you would attempt on your own.

Bucket list locations. Adventure trips are offered in absolute most favorite backpacking destinations. They feature stunning scenery, remote and seldom visited terrain, and challenging conditions that will keep you on your toes.

World-class guides. I guide every trip, usually with the help of an assistant like Mike Clelland, Alan Dixon, or Brian Robinson. I do not leverage my name or my company’s name, but then outsource the guiding to someone else with a lesser resume. Your guide is the most important factor in the quality and value of your trip, and you will struggle to find a team of more credible, accomplished, and reputable backpacking guides that want to teach skills at such a high level.

Some additional perks

Free demo gear. Missing a critical piece of gear but reluctant to buy it? Considering a new purchase but want to test it out first? Hoping to experiment with a different item than you currently own? I probably can help out — I have an extensive inventory of demo shelters, bags, stoves, and backpacks that you are encouraged to borrow.

Discounts and free product. Every client receives a free copy of my book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide. You will also be given a few of my favorite products from Headsweats, Platypus, Sawyer and more; and receive discounts up to 40 percent off purchases with companies like Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, and ULA.

What will you learn?

For a full list of subjects taught during my trips, view the Planning Curriculum and Field Curriculum. Some of the most important subjects include:

  • Gear selection
  • Food planning
  • On-trail navigation
  • Off-trail navigation
  • Map-reading
  • Operation of compass and altimeter watch
  • Layering
  • Foot care
  • Nourishment
  • Hydration
  • Water quality assessment
  • Water purification
  • Campsite selection
  • Shelter setups
  • Stove operation
  • Wildlife precautions and encounters
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