Level 1: Backpacking Fundamentals

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Critical course info

Who should take this course?

You should consider yourself one of the following:

  • First-time backpacker with some day-hiking and/or car-camping experience, and interested in learning to go on multi-day overnight trips;
  • Beginner backpacker who wants to rapidly improve your know-how; or,
  • Intermediate backpacker who wants to refine your skills and/or modernize your gear.

Additionally, you should be able and willing to:

  • Hike at least 20 miles over three days, assuming¬†you were hiking entirely on-trail over rolling terrain, carrying a 20-lb pack at an oxygen-rich altitude; and,
  • Hiking off-trail for a half-day, purely in order to improve your navigation skills.

Why should you take this course?

Make backpacking fun, not work. There are two parts to every backpacking trip — hiking and camping. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to optimize one without sacrificing the other. A super light pack, for instance, makes for great hiking but uncomfortable camping; while an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach makes for great camping but miserable hiking. I’ve mastered the balance, and will teach you how to pack light enough so that you love the hiking, but not so light that you compromise your safety or comfort in camp.

Save time and money. You can learn to backpack “the hard way” through trial-and-error, which usually and unfortunately entails hundreds of dollars in regrettable purchases and many trips that were harder and less enjoyable than they should have been. Or, you can learn hard-won insights from a credible source. This course is an investment in your backpacking future — in the long run, it will save you considerable time and money, and it will greatly enhance your trips, whether they be short or long, solo or with family, friends, or Scouts.

Regional locations. Learn to backpack where you backpack most often — your favorite nearby destinations. For 2014 the Fundamentals course will be held in seven such locations, conveniently accessible for most parts of the country. This translates into minimal travel time and expense for you; there is no need to spend two entire days traveling and hundreds of dollars flying to a faraway location for a 3-day trip. However, if you don’t live near one of the locations, or if want to take the course in a different part of the country, most locations are near major airports.

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