Trip Types

I offer three trip types, each designed for a specific experience level.

  1. Fundamentals, for beginners;
  2. Adventures, for intermediates; and
  3. Expeditions, for advanced backpackers.

We recognize that not every applicant or group will fall neatly into one of these categories, so we reset our teaching level for every trip and we work with clients individually to help them reach their goals.

Because backpacking experience, physical fitness, and technical ability are not necessarily correlated, we run each trip type in up to five fitness levels and three technical difficulty levels.

If you have questions about the trips or are uncertain what trip type is most suitable for you, please contact me.

At a glance: How do the trips compare?

Level 1: Fundamentals

As a first-time backpacker I think that this course was the best hands-on learning environment for which I could have asked. I was nervous beforehand, but once in the field I realized that I’d become properly prepared through the planning curriculum and group chats, where we covered gear selection, fitness, meal planning, and some core skills. I have a great base of knowledge now for going on short trips of my own.


This course is designed for beginner backpackers, and for day-hikers and car-campers who have never backpacked before. It will help you accelerate up the learning curve, so that you avoid years of trial-and-error and thousands of dollars in regrettable purchases.

During the pre-trip Planning Curriculum and the 3-day/2-night trip, you will learn critical skills including: gear selection, meal preparation, map making, on- and off-trail navigation, overnight food protection, water purification, campsite selection, human waste disposal, and more.

By the end of the trip — on which we also try to have a lot of fun — you should be able to plan and complete overnight trips of your own, and perhaps informally lead family members, friends, and Scouts.

The Fundamentals course is suitable for most applicants who are in average (or better) shape relative to their peers.

A tutorial on topographic maps, one of the most important tools in the navigator’s “tool kit,” along with a watch, compass, altimeter, and GPS device.

Level 2: Adventure

The Adventure trip was a pivotal outdoor experience for me. I had done several five- to six-day trips of my own, but I’d reached a point where I really needed help in developing more advanced skills. This trip has provided the foundation for many future adventures, starting with researching route conditions and assembling a gear list, and then navigating in the field both on-trail and off.

Keela P

An Adventure trip is best for intermediate backpackers who want to learn next-level skills and to undertake a more challenging trip than they would on their own. We also welcome beginners who are strong and ambitious, and advanced backpackers who are looking for a turnkey experience.

To create a solid foundation for adventure, early in the trip we run through our entire skills curriculum. With experienced groups, it’s more of a review and refresh; with less experienced groups, it can replicate a Fundamentals course, but with more hiking in between tutorials.

With five or seven days at our disposal, we’re able to get deep into the wilderness, where few other parties roam; and we can undertake challenging off-trail routes, including sections of the Pfiffner Traverse, Yosemite High Route, and Kings Canyon High Basin Route.

Fitness requirements are typically higher for the Adventure trips, due to the increased rigor and pack weight.

Atop Peak 12,345 near Copper Peak Pass in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Level 3: Expedition

This was great introduction to an area (Alaska) that I would find difficult or impossible to pull off myself. The trip was extremely well organized in advance and executed essentially flawlessly. We had great guides and really gelled very well as a group.

Thomas H

Our Expedition trips are the most advanced that we offer, and designed to be capstone backpacking experiences and to teach expert-level skills.

An Expedition is suitable for graduates of our Adventure trips (to whom we give priority) and for similarly capable newcomers who want some oversight when planning a trip to and exploring a wild and rugged landscape. We expect that your gear and skills are dialed, and that you will arrive in requisite fitness.

Brooks Range, Alaska

For years we have offered seven-day trips in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which is the second largest National Park and 3.5 times larger than Yellowstone. Remarkably, there’s not a manmade hiking trail in it. This is an exemplary “trip of a lifetime.” In 2023 we are also offering an 11-day option.

Groups gather in Fairbanks at 4pm the day before their trip starts to meet each other in-person, check gear, and distribute supplies. The following morning we fly on 9-passenger Cessna Caravans to Bettles, where Brooks Range Aviation is based. Weather permitting, bush planes drop us off at a remote lake inside the park. We finish our trip in Anaktuvuk Pass, a native village inside the park, where there’s an airstrip and a daily flight back to Fairbanks.

High routes

Last year we piloted two 11-day trips on the Kings Canyon High Basin Route in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. These trips were awesome, so we’re bringing them back, and adding to them. These 11-day itineraries will include one resupply.

  • April: A top-to-bottom traverse of the Escalante Canyon in southern Utah, following sections of Steve Allen’s Overland Route.
  • July: In addition to or instead of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, depending on demand, I’d like to offer a trip on the Yosemite High Route, looping out of Tuolumne Meadows. With eleven days, groups should be able to complete about half the North Loop and all of the South Loop.
  • September: A traverse of or giant loop through Olympic National Park. I’m intentionally remaining flexible on our destinations, since wilderness permits cannot be reserved until mid-March.

Technical canyoneering

For the first time in 2023 we will offer expedition canyoneering trips in southern Utah, lead by two of our most seasoned and skilled guides, Scott Christy and/or Jeff Wohl. These will be overnight 5- and 7-day backpacking trips with a canyoneering element.

The itinerary will be purposely designed to build and develop your canyoneering comfort and skills: scrambling Class 3 + 4 features, managing steep terrain safely, employing handlines and assists, and rappelling. Anchor building will be taught, but not to the level of mastery or self-sufficiency — this skill requires more repetition than time will afford.

Each client will be provided a helmet, harness, and rappel device with carabiner. You should bring a durable backpack and sticky rubber footwear, plus normal backpacking gear and supplies.

Prior climbing or rope experience is preferred, but not required. Comfort on technical terrain with and extreme exposure is an absolute must. Imagine, for example, rappelling into the Golden Cathedral.

Upper Arrigetch Creek, Brooks Range, Alaska