Prerequisites & Expectations

Not sure which trip is best for you? This page should help. It is important that you read and understand this information so that there are no major surprises or disappointments — for you, for the other members of your group, or for the guides.

If you have questions about the prerequisites or expectations, or about your qualifications for a trip, please contact me so that I can get you on the right trip.

1. Your desire to learn

All of my trips are learning-intensive, regardless of length, location, group abilities, etc. You are expected to be an active participant in the learning process — specifically, the Planning Curriculum, which starts about eight weeks before the trip, and the Field Curriculum, which we start and finish during the trip.

2. Your experience level

What kind of backpacker are you?

  • First-timer. You are a day-hiker and/or car-camper with no overnight backpacking experience.
  • Beginner. You have gone on several short trips, learning a lot each time; you have never received high-quality instruction.
  • Intermediate. You backpack regularly, perhaps even extensively, but almost entirely on established trails and in familiar locations; your skill set is solid but limited.
  • Expert. You are comfortable in remote areas and during unconventional seasons. You could plan and lead trips for your family or other groups.

Based on your experience level, select a trip that is appropriate for you:

Level 1: Backpacking Fundamentals

  • First-timers
  • Beginners
  • Intermediates who want to refine their skills and/or modernize their gear

Level 2: Southwest Canyons Adventure

  • Ambitious beginners
  • Intermediates
  • Experts who are looking for a “turnkey” adventure
  • Returning clients who have joined me previously on an intro-level trip

Level 3: Rocky Mountain Adventure

  • Very ambitious and fit beginners who will take the trip very seriously
  • Strong intermediates
  • Experts
  • Returning clients who have joined me previously

3. Your fitness and preferred level of physical intensity

In order to avoid having groups with vastly dissimilar physical abilities and trip objectives, I assign each trip an Intensity Level that is suggestive of the expected daily mileage and the volume of off-trail travel.

If you don’t have enough backpacking experience to know your physical intensity preference, please contact me so I can get you on the right trip.

Daily Mileage

If you were to hike for a day entirely on-trail, with a 20-lb pack, over rolling terrain, and at an oxygen-rich altitude, how many miles would you hike before settling into a camp?

  • Low. 10 miles
  • Moderate. 10-15 miles
  • High. 15-20 miles
  • Very High. 20+ miles

Off-trail travel

On your trip with me, how much and what kind of of-trail travel would you like to do?

  • Low. Some easy off-trail travel
  • Moderate. Regular but relatively easy off-trail travel
  • High and very high. Extensive off-trail travel.

What is it like to travel off-trail? Sometimes, it’s easier than hiking on trails. But usually it is not, as there are no manmade improvements (e.g. benched trails, vegetation maintenance, turnpikes, bridges, switchbacks) to minimize the effect of uneven footing, thick vegetation, river fords, soggy ground, and steep slopes on your pace and energy.

The off-trail feature that I have seen clients struggle with most is talus and scree, which is common on the mountain trips in the West and in Alaska. Imagine entire slopes littered in boulders ranging from the size of basketballs to refrigerators, or smaller rocks that slide whenever weighted. This type of terrain seems to especially effect individuals with less athletic ability, raw power, balance, and agility.

Winter Backpacking

All members of the group will need skis; snowshoes are not allowed. However, prior ski experience is not necessary — this is a learning-intensive course and we will teach you how.

Alaska Adventure

This is the most committing trip I offer, and I therefore am selective about who I accept on it. Acceptance is dependent on your backpacking experience and fitness level, which you should tell me about via the Registration Form. Priority will be given to clients with whom I already have a personal history.

Packrafts are mandatory on this trip — they will be needed for both fording and floating rivers. Previous packrafting experience is not essential; comfort in and around water is. Like all my trips, this trip will be learning-intensive and you will receive instruction. The rivers should only be Class II, maybe II+.