Trip Types

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

  • Level 1: Fundamentals, for beginners;
  • Level 2: Adventures, for intermediates; and
  • Level 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 primarily designed for beginner backpackers, and for day-hikers and car-campers who have never backpacked before. Less often, we have individuals who need a refresh after taking an extended break from backpacking (e.g. pre-kids or pre-career). This course will help you accelerate up the learning curve, so that you avoid years of trial-and-error and big-ticket expenses on gear and travel that that didn’t live up to your expectations.

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, this will be more of a review and refresh; with less experienced groups, it can replicate a Fundamentals course.

We utilize the additional days to:

  • Teach more advanced skills and to apply what we’ve learned. Your navigation skills, in particular, will benefit, as you will have more opportunities to lead your group in safe, constructive, and supportive environment.
  • Get deeper into the wilderness, where few other parties roam. This may include sections of challenging off-trail routes like the Kings Canyon High Basin Route or Yosemite High Route.

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

Atop Peak 12,345 near Copper Mine Pass in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, on the Kings Canyon High Basin Route

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.

Due to the risky and committing nature of these trips, we expect that you will arrive in requisite fitness and with dialed-in gear and skills.

In 2024 we are offering Expedition-level trips in multiple locations. For more specific itineraries, go here; below are short descriptions:

  • Utah: 11-day backpacking trip roughly following the Escalante River, from Escalante City to to Lake Powell
  • Alaska: 7- and 11-day backpacking trips, entirely off-trail in the Brooks Range
  • California: 11-day Yosemite High Route and/or Kings Canyon High Basin Route
  • Washington: 11-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park during which we will either traverse the park and/or complete the Bailey Traverse, pending group fitness and technical comfort
  • Greater Yellowstone: 11-day backpacking trip
Having lunch in the Brooks Range

Level 3: Technical Canyoneering

We piloted technical canyoneering trips in 2023, and we’re expanding the program in 2024 based on client and guide feedback. These 5- and 7-day trips are led by three of our most seasoned guides — Scott Christy, Jeff Wohl, and Sarah Stratton — and are accurately described as backpacking trips with technical canyoneering elements. We don’t complete the canyons on day-hikes or from a base camp; instead, they’re part of a larger backpacking route. This “expeditionary canyoneering” approach is at the further edge of US canyoneering and gives us access to canyons (or sections of them) that are not practical done-in-a-day objectives.

The itineraries are purposely designed to methodically build and develop your canyoneering comfort and skills. The curriculum includes:

  • Terrain types
  • Canyoneering movement
  • Scrambling on Class 3 + 4 features
  • Managing steep terrain
  • Helmet use
  • Harness use
  • Rappelling 
  • Fireman belaying
  • Rappelling practice
  • Belaying practice
  • Rope coiling/bagging
  • Clipping into anchors
  • Types of rope and uses
  • Rappelling with a backpack

Anchor building will be taught, but not to the level of mastery or self-sufficiency. This skill requires more repetition than time will afford.

We take clients on canyoneering descents with a canyoneering difficulty up to the 3BIII range. This designation means:

  • Intermediate-level rappels, technical climbing and/or downclimbing
  • Water with no or little current. Swimming expected.
  • Canyons that can take most of a day

Before applying for these trips, please consider that challenges that make it inappropriate for some:

  • Significant exposure, including Class 3-4 scrambles (not always assistable) and overhanging rappels
  • Extended time in cold conditions, including immersion in cold pools and slow movement through dark and deep canyons
  • Passage through narrow slot canyons, sometimes requiring removal of your backpack and/or walking sideways

For a discussion of required and preferred gear for these courses, go here.