Field Curriculum

All of my trips are learning-intensive, regardless of the trip length or location, or the group’s experience level or fitness. Each trip is unique, however, and we tailor the lessons accordingly.

The curriculum has two parts:

  1. Planning, detailed on the Planning Curriculum page
  2. Field, detailed below

On a shorter trip, expect to spend a lot of time learning. On a longer trip, expect to spend a lot of time learning during the first few days, and then applying and mastering your new skills during the latter part of the trip.

Note that all the subjects listed below may not be taught due to land regulations or environmental limitations. For example, there will be no fire-starting clinic in an area where open fires are banned, and  no river fording clinic in an area where there are no notable rivers. However, we can certainly still discuss these topics.

At the trailhead

  • Gear & supply check
  • Packing a backpack: load distribution & organization
  • Pack fitting

Leave No Trace

  • Durable surfaces
  • Cryptobiotic soil
  • Campfires
  • Pooping and TP


  • Layering
  • Hiking efficiency: effort and breaks
  • Trekking poles: sizing
  • Trekking poles: when (not) to use
  • Foot care: blisters and maceration

Environmental challenges

  • Talus and scree
  • Slabs and slickrock
  • Bushwhacks
  • Early-season snow
  • Creek crossings
  • Cold-and-wet conditions
  • Hazards: avalanches, lightning, floods


  • “The toolkit”: equipment, skills, and experience
  • Map reading: scale, contours, shading
  • Dead reckoning
  • Compass: orient a map, and find and transfer bearings
  • Altimeter watches
  • GPS apps
  • Relative strengths of each navigational tool
  • On-trail navigation
  • Off-trail navigation & route-finding


  • Campsite selection
  • Shelter types: pitching instructions, pros/cons
  • Bed making: layering, contouring
  • Stove operation
  • Fire-starting
  • Knot tying
  • Quick-start morning tactics


  • How much food
  • What types of food


  • Water planning
  • Finding water
  • Water purification
  • Filling techniques with different bottles
  • Water quality

Personal health & safety

  • Personal hygiene
  • Backcountry bidet
  • Women-specific concerns
  • Overuse injury prevention & care
  • Clothes washing
  • Poison ivy identification

First aid and emergency

  • First aid philosophy & supplies
  • Emergency communication
  • Gear care and repair

Gear care

  • Reset dry
  • Pot cleaning
  • Protecting air-filled sleeping pads
  • Shelter + guyline storage

Wildlife and insects

  • Coping with bugs
  • Wildlife precautions
  • Overnight food storage options
  • Preemptive food protection techniques

Naturalism and history

  • Geology
  • Glaciology
  • Watersheds
  • Plants & trees
  • Wildlife
  • Birding
  • Human history