Since 2014 I’ve asked our guided trip clients to complete a post-trip survey to gather feedback about our guides, locations, meals, and curriculum, plus their overall satisfaction. Reviewing the results is a multi-day project but entirely worthwhile: they confirm what we’re doing right, and they give me a checklist of improvements for the following year.
Naturally, we did the same for the online Planning Course in its first two years of existence. To date, we have received 184 student testimonials, so we have high confidence in the results.
The first question in the survey is the most important: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your experience?”
On a 5-star scale, our 2021 students rated it 4.54 cumulatively, with the majority citing that it paid for itself, or saved them a significant amount of money.
Our stellar instructor team got an impressive 4.61. I love to hear that! The biggest thing that sets us apart is the consistent, personal interaction and insight we offer that other online courses don’t, and we believe that makes a world of difference. Students described the instructor team as ‘prompt, knowledgeable, experienced, friendly, enthusiastic and encouraging.
Towards the end of the survey, I ask clients to provide a testimonial. I have shared all of the testimonials here, regardless of their content. I’d like to thank our clients for being so flattering and to leave no doubt with prospective students that our new online class is truly extraordinary.
Testimonials from the 2021 online course
“This course is definitely worth the time, effort and money! I learned a lot from this course and it has served as a template for all my future backpacking adventures. -Brian L.
“This is a MUST take if you are planning to seriously backpack in the backcountry and if you are going to take a guided trip. Lots of very valuable information and knowledge you can use when hiking. This makes you apply what you see on videos and say you are going to do, but do not get around to until you are on trail and find out your mistakes.” -Cassie R.
“This course was worth every penny. I feel very prepared to tackle my upcoming adventure after having gone through this course. The course was well organized and laid out, the assignments were pertinent and meaningful, and the instructors were extremely knowledgeable with timely feedback. One of the great resources of the course is the online forum which will continue well past the conclusion of the course. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is considering a longer/off-trail backpacking trip.” Ryan M.
“Andrew Skurka’s course brought me from an unqualified beginner to qualified beginner, in a matter of weeks. Exposure to all aspects of backpacking planning has helped me for my present plans but as I gain more experience, has set the framework for future hikes or expeditions.” Dennis M.
“This course is definitely worth the price the information and what you will learn are definitely worth it. These instructors are at the top of their game an awesome group of people. Highly Recommend.” -Kevin C.
“I went into the course relatively confident in my backcountry abilities. I received individual attention from expert instructors and was able to fine tune my gear list and pack for the actual conditions of my hike rather than for my fears. We worked on conditions assessments, navigation, and now I am excited to return to the backcountry and put my improved skills to the test.” -Justin B.
“I have been on 2 trips with Andrew and his team. I took this course after the trips and still learned soo much. It is a good primer if you are hesitant about signing up for his trip.” -Andy Z.
“I’ll definitely be recommending this course to any friends who want to learn how to plan extended or complex trips!” -Max M.
“If you are looking to gain more knowledge in backpacking, this course offers lessons on everything from environmental conditions to navigation. It is a great tool to help you become a better backpacker.” -Donnell B.
“Great course! You will really get to learn and practice every aspect of planning a backpacking adventure. You will earn much more compared to what you pay!” -Emad R.
“This course is great for learning how to realistically plan in a logical and organized manner. No more guesswork or packing for my fears…it helped me understand how to plan, train and pack for the conditions.” -Barb D
“I have backpacked in the past but am currently planning my first solo hike which made me want to get more information. Moreover I am from Germany where backpacking with a tent is not very common. The course answered all open questions I had and I would highly recommend it to anyone – beginner as well as somebody who has some miles under their belt. For me the virtual meetings were in the middle of the night but it was worth getting up at 2 a.m. and join in. Thumbs up for a great class and a big “Thank You” to all the instructors!” -Katrin K.
“This is a solid well run course. The curriculum is relevant and valuable for both newer and experienced backpackers. I found the information to be straightforward and well rounded; meeting the goal of being able to create a solid foundation of skills that can be used for multiple trips.” -Lyz G.
“The Course far exceeded my expectations. The knowledge and availability of the instructors was phenomenal. You will never find a better investment for $150.00” -Ben L.
“Very happy with the course! The materials were easily accessible and the instructors were knowledgeable. Each step of the planning process is supported by the tools and clear instructions on their use. Nothing is left out. No doubt I will be running through these materials again and again as I get ready for my summers in the Sierra…and beyond.” -Dan F.
“Fantastic course! Really helped me to understand everything that I needed to do to plan and prepare for my first backpacking trip. I will be using what I have learned here for all of my future adventures.” -Akili S.
“This course was invaluable. I had suspected I was unprepared for my backpacking trip despite watching hours of YouTube gear reviews. This class simultaneously confirmed my suspicions, revealed my ignorance, gave me tools to address those areas, and gave me confidence to head out on my trip.” -Tamara B.
“Although I have been hiking and backpacking for over 30 years, I learned some new and useful tidbits that will help me to expand my comfort range and embark on new adventures.” -Naomi M.
“Great value for the money! Awesome and knowledgeable instructors.” -Isaac N.
“This course is indispensable for a beginner to intermediate backpacker. It both reinforced things which I already knew, but also taught me a lot of new skills that ultimately have made me a better, safer backpacker. I went into the course with the goal of gaining greater confidence when planning extended backcountry trips in environments I’m not overly familiar with. This class more than delivered and helped me meet that goal.” -Josh S.
“I really do not have anything prepared to say. Excellent course and worth every dollar.” -Martha B.
“This planning course is comprehensive and concise. Being a newbie I was ignorant to the intricacies of planning backpacking trips. I am now much more knowledgeable, confident and excited to execute more challenging adventures. It’s a good course. Good deals too!!!” -Bill M.
“I’m new to backpacking. Although I’ve done a lot of my own research, I knew that getting help from experienced and knowledgable guides would save me enormous amounts of time, prevent costly (and possibly painful) mistakes, and make my trips so much more enjoyable. The planning course has dramatically increased my confidence in my ability to successfully plan and take a backpacking trip—no matter where, how long, or what type. I would not hesitate to recommend this course, even to more experienced backpackers.” -Chris K.
“This course really helped me prepare and plan for my trip such that I had all the gear and clothing I needed without carrying the extra weight of anything that was unnecessary. Subsequently, I enjoyed my time on the trail more.” -Stephen B.
“You couldn’t find a more experienced and knowledgeable crew from whom to learn backcountry skills!” -Stephen V.
“I took this course (Plan Like a Pro) expecting to sharpen up some skills in preparation for a long backpacking trip, but I was amazed at the deep bench of knowledge, wise insight, rigorous planning, and wilderness-tested tools and guides for planning and leading a trip well. I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone taking themself or others outdoors, whether for a night or a season. I’ll carry these notes and lessons with me for a long time!” -Andy C.
Testimonials from the 2020 online course
“As a casual backpacker, I took this class to plan and gain confidence for my first thru-hike. It far exceeded my expectations! I went from being unsure if I could handle the logistics to feeling excited and ready to take on a 300-mile trip, with a realistic plan of how I’ll handle unexpected problems. And although I already had most of my gear, the discounts alone are worth it for anyone who needs to upgrade multiple components. Thank you Andrew & co for getting me ready for my adventure!” -Karen Z.
“As a novice backpacker, it can be an overwhelming experience trying to plan for a trip, such as figuring out what gear to buy, what kinds of food and how much to bring, what skills I need to know, and much, much more. Andrew Skurka’s course saved me money and time and made me feel much more confident in my capacity to plan for a trip.” –Paul S.
“Incredible value! This course gives you access to world-class expert advice which a ton of perks built in; it basically pays for itself!” -Chris P.
“The ability to pick the brains of world-class wilderness athletes as well as mix it up with fellow classmates from diverse backgrounds was worth more than the course’s price tag. Whether you’re green or a seasoned pro you will walk away from this course with more tools in your belt.” -Warren B.
“The course reinforced things that I had taught myself and I learned many new things as well. The instructors were responsive and the feedback was encouraging and helpful. Planning for my goal trip is done. All that is left is getting to the trailhead.” -Scott M.
“Andrew and Joe’s planning course was instrumental in helping me advance my skills as a trip leader and backpacker. The course content is very helpful for backpackers of all skills. The skills I have learned will help me become a more efficient trip planner and allow me to have more successful backpacking trips. Thanks Andrew and Joe!” -Meredith D.
“I found this course to be extremely informative and well-designed. It was great to work with instructors who have a wealth of experience!” -Zach J.
“Great course. As a beginner this really helped with my confidence planning trips. Instructors were very knowledgeable and friendly.” -Iain L.
“If you want to learn how to plan and execute any trip you can imagine this guide is for you!” -Daniel Z.
“What a great course! Applying Andrew’s planning methodology greatly increased my confidence in planning backcountry trips. Between all of the content and perks, the course is more than worth it!” -Patrick M.
“The course was very effective and improved my ability to plan for a safe and enjoyable expedition. I unreservedly recommend this course to anyone who seeks greater confidence in planning solo or group backpacking trips into arduous environments.” -Anonymous
“Andrew Skurka’s backpacking planning course was more valuable (and fun) than I ever imagined. I’m an age fifty-plus hiker who has primarily done shorter 1-2 day hikes and more extended camping trips, and this course thoughtfully taught how to plan for longer hikes. The assignments require real thought and effort, but are well supported by readings and resources, and backed up by one-on-one feedback. You will walk away from this course both happier and better prepared. What I learned I will apply to every backpacking trip I take in the future.” -Jon S.
“This is a great course to learn the steps to properly plan a backpacking trip. The tools and templates provided will be used to plan all my future trips ensuring I am much better prepared.” -Anonymous
“As a lifelong weekend backpacker preparing for my first long distance hike, Andrew’s Planning Course helped me to completely rethink how I approach trip planning. I feel more prepared for this trip than I ever have before!” -Jake E.
“I really appreciated that comprehensiveness of the course; ranging from trip overviews, like route conditions, to a physical shakedown to test gear and skills. I valued the insight of the instructors and also their flexibility in letting us (the students) ask questions and answer them between ourselves. It provided an exceptional opportunity to add skills to my toolkit to make my trip planning more efficient/effective and to make my trips more successful and fulfilling.” -Will H.
“Andrew Skurka’s Planning Course is a comprehensive course that guides beginning to experienced backers through the trip planning and preparation process. The student has access to expert backpackers (Joe McConaughy, Brandon Chase, and Hunter Hall) who provide feedback and answer questions. This class is an amazing bargain for the price and like many things in life – you will get out what you put in!” -John C.
“Andrew Skurka’s courses and guided tours have opened an entirely new area of advanced backpacking and off trail skills, I wouldn’t have dared to try on my own. Having hiked hundreds of miles of the PCT and JMT and many of the major peaks in Southern California, I felt something was missing in my outdoor experience. For me, that meant going off-trail into the wilderness and remote areas available to me right by most of the trails I was already hiking. Not having the skillsets to do this advanced level of backpacking, my first solo attempts at route making and primitive camping were fraught were many mistakes and moments of extreme panic and discomfort.
Having completed a Skurka guided Adventure into the Yosemite High Route and also an online backpacking skills course, I have had many successful adventures of my own, and with close friends into the backcountry and wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas. I feel much safer and have a far more enjoyable experience as a result.” -Lucky Strike
“This course provides a pragmatic and structured framework for planning your trips, regardless of the duration. It is flexible enough for a weekend getaway and complete enough for a major thru hike. Well worth the time and money spent to learn from the world-class instructors.” -Scott H.
“As someone new to the sport, this was so valuable! I learned so much and really appreciated the expertise and of the instructors. They were all so helpful!” -Kelly F
“When you require valid, reliable, and actionable instruction for hiking and backpacking, you seek Andrew Skurka. Full stop.” -Shawn B.
“As a somewhat experienced backpacker, this course provided me with skills and tools for more detailed trip planning than I had previously practiced. This detailed planning should be considered crucial for a safe and successful trip.” -Chris P.
“This course has great value, especially for beginner and intermediate backpackers. I especially found advice and feedback on gear to helpful. Actual interactions with instructors is really helpful in weeding through the black hole that is internet gear reviews.” -Anonymous
“I found Andrew Skurka’s Trip Planning Course to a foundational piece of my excursion planning efforts. In short, it has given me the framework and confidence to take on longer solo and small group excursions.” -Guthrie P.
“I think this course offers something that almost any backpacker can benefit from from a beginner to someone with many years of experience.” -Matt M.
“Great course! This course was well worth the expense, and probably should cost more. The only negative is that it confirmed I’d like to spend more $$$ and take one of the guided trips.” -Josh R.
“This course provided valuable insight to how renowned adventurer Andrew Skurka prepared for some of his most epic journeys.” -Anonymous
“Regardless of experience level, this course will teach you something valuable.” -Stephen H.
“I highly recommend this course for anyone looking to expand their skillset to take on more ambitious, remote trips safely and comfortably. I was able to receive expert advice for a challenging trip on the other side of the world from some of the most accomplished backpackers I can think of. Above all else I now have a system that can be applied to any trip from overnight to thru-hike, Patagonia to Tasmania.” -Sam
“Andrew Skurka’s online backpacking course added value to my trip planning from the first module. His proven planning framework and tools are universal for a trip to any destination, for any duration, and for any group size. Stop guessing, stop assuming, and stop over packing. This course puts evergreen tools in your hands to plan, execute, and review your own trip. The instructors are experts and their personalized feedback on my gear was invaluable. This course is worth more than I paid.” -Mark M.
“Andrew Skurka’s Online Backpacking Course is a must for anyone looking to improve their efficiency in planning trips to the backcountry. From gear selection to navigation to food planning, this class covers it all. The amount of content in the course is astounding and the collective knowledge of the instructors is impressive. If you’re considering signing up, do it now before the next class sells out. The course pays for itself many times over.” -Jordan D.
“This course expanded my knowledge of navigation in backcountry settings to a point where I feel comfortable independently navigating in the backcountry. The instructors were readily available to answer questions and provide feedback. The gear module was worth the financial and time investment alone. Taking the time to weigh, reflect on, and rate my gear was a substantial commitment; this course required me to complete this work in a way that encouraged personal reflection on wants vs. needs and to thoroughly think about all my gear options and cost-effective ways to decrease my pack weight.” -Sarah B.
“This course was a tremendous value. The information gained was well worth the price. Add on the access to renowned experts and you’ve got quite a deal.” -Robert D.
“This course gave me the confidence to plan more elaborate trips.” -Carlos C.
“This course and the instructors are great resources for ironing out the kinks in planning and preparation for a big trip. As a somewhat avid backpacker, I took this course mostly out of curiosity to see how others prep for a long hike. I was pleased to have learned in multiple areas that I thought I had pretty dialed. Plus, it was fun to connect with other backpackers from around the country!” -Heather D.
“This course is a great value. Andrew Skurka and his team transfer a great deal of specific and up-to-date knowledge in a short period of time and provide you with the planning techniques and document templates they’ve used successfully in difficult backcountry trips.” -James L.
“I learned a lot of new information from the Online Backpacking Course, but the most valuable exercises were the assignments. I not only learned about how to find out information about weather, trail conditions, and wild animal activity: I had to find it and record it for a specific trip I was planning. I not only read about the pros and cons of different types of clothing and gear, I had to select and weigh the gear I would carry on the trip. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bothered to learn how to make beautiful layered topographical maps in CalTopo if we hadn’t been assigned to do so in the course. And the feedback from instructors on the assignments took the learning a step further. Strongly recommend this course!” -Grace A.
“I am very glad I choose to take this class. The class exceeded my expectations as a very new hiker. I learned some skills and knowledge that will make my hiking safer, more fun and enjoyable. I would recommend this class to any skill level.” -Greg R.
“I thought the class was wonderful and fairly priced. All the advice and classwork are extremely practical and I can’t wait to use it in the field! I have yet to find people in my age group that are as interested in backpacking as I am, so I have accepted that I may be going solo and this course has helped give me the knowledge and confidence I need to head outdoors by myself.” -Seattle
“The course was exceptional, it provided me a solid framework to evaluate how to design a hiking route and reduce gear weight. It also gave a framework to ensure people know where we were going and when we were supposed to get there in case of emergencies.” -Tim P.
“The Skurka online Backpacking Planning Course helped to provide a structure and clear guide to clean up and organize my oftentimes haphazard trip planning. I thought I had a decent method of planning for trips but the modules, guides and spreadsheets offered during the course showed that I lacked a reliable and methodical process. I tested my new-found skills during the course w/ a 5 day shakedown hike in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico. I had to make some adjustments during the trip but the planning and preparation allowed me to do so with confidence.” -Tim F.
“I found Andrew Skurka’s Planning Course a valuable tool to corral all the logistics of long and short backpacking trips. Utilizing planning lists, templates, reading assignments, videos and personal feedback, Skurka Skool is an invaluable asset and a bargain. Knowledge is ultra-light.” -Peter B.
“I enjoyed taking the Backpacking Planning Course. The information was well thought out and presented in an organized fashion which kept me on track with completing the course material. The concept of a goal trip facilitated keeping the material in context on a personal level. Five stars.” -John C.
“This is an excellent course on backpacking. Better preparation, better navigation skills, and better planning are major skills that are obtained by taking this course.” -Suzie L.
“Skurka’s Online Backpacking Course is the lab work that complements his book “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide”. From the two sources I gained the confidence to go out and backpack in the wilderness.” -Dale P.
“The course is a great way to take advantage of the tremendous experience of Andrew Skurka and the talented guides he works with to improve your backpacking skills and knowledge. Self paced but with structure to keep you moving through the material. You can take your abilities to another level from the comfort of your home (especially while we are all stuck here!)” -Bill F.
“This course took my ability to research trails and gear for any upcoming trip to another level!” -Keith S.
“As soon as the backpacking planning course started, I knew I was getting far more value than the course cost. The in-depth route planning, GPS instruction and weather forecasting alone paid for this course. I found myself consistently engaged by the professional instructors, and challenged. Thoroughly impressed with class structure and a big thanks to Joe, Brandon and Hunter. Thank you!” -Joel K.
“Andrew Skurka and his team of instructors have put together a fantastic 8 week course. They are incredibly knowledgeable and provide you with the tools you need to master your backcountry experience!” -Amy O.
“What an incredibly helpful course! I did have some but really minimal miles on the trail when it came to actual backpacking. This course covered many things I had not thought of or had minimal knowledge about. The instructors were very knowledgeable and provided great feedback on classwork. Thanks to the modules on trip planning, food and navigation, a gear shakedown and how to physically prepare for a trip, I feel more confident that I am ready to plan my own adventure on the trail. Looking forward to creating new memories on the trail!” -Sherry J.
“I’ve been backpacking for over 35 years and would categorize my planning as “packing my fears”. I signed up for this course in the hopes that the process would be systematized. The course does a great job of breaking out each of the components of backpacking. You get detailed spreadsheets to guide you and the coaches give thoughtful feedback on each assignment. Very pleased and highly recommend the course!” -John G.
“I have been actively backpackers since the early 1970’s. I took Andrew Skurka’s Backing Course to review the basics and get a better handle on navigation and map-making. This course was taught by experienced and helpful instructors. I found that it exceeded my expectation in several areas and was well worth the investment of both time and money.” -Christopher L.
“Great course and will help you feel more comfortable and confident when getting out in the woods” -Chuck M. & Dena N.
“Andrew Skurka’s backpacking course was very thorough and beneficial. I already had used his book in my backpacking and this just gave me a more in-depth experience.” -Wendy B.
“Doing a long backpacking trip will change your life. My review of this course is that definitively what you are doing here is not a business; it’s a service to all of us who wish to live these adventures.
I am 51 years old, and have being a boy scout of the Troop 1167 in Puerto Rico since I was 12 years old. In 2018, I planned and executed with my 16 year old son a 6 day 62 miles trip in the John Muir Trial, without any previous training in that altitude or conditions. In order to do that, I spent almost 1.5 year studying, searching the internet and taking decisions by myself.
Without any doubt your backpacking course is the most comprehensive and organized, ALL IN ONE PLACE training. It saves countless amount of time in investigating and learning how to prepare to do these trips. Your course includes ALL THE TOOLS necessary to execute these adventures. It will save me time for my next trip, but make no mistake, as very well indicated by you, a lot of time and practice needs to be invested. This effort is completely necessary and is part of the fun. I feel secure that the information received is the best. For sure the coupons received for buying gear will save me many times the cost of the course.
As learned, we will hike our own hikes. Thank you for taking the time to make the best suggestions according with my future trip plan. I learned things that you do not wish to learn, as an example, not to carry water shoes; how to deal with wet feet (I hate to walk with my feet wet) and how recover during the night. Also, I learned why the art of map and compass is so necessary. I cannot thank you enough for the time you have invested here. . The best path to prepare and do a long backpacking trip starts definitively by taking your course.
I feel honored to have been part of this opportunity. This course has been fascinating. Thank you for the passion shared with us. I feel privileged to be part of your work, for receiving your candor and your professionalism. I wish you all many many miles of fun (Type 1 and 2) and good health to do them.” -Juan C. M.
“Great value, excellent educators who raised to the challenge of the online medium, excellent content. Highly recommended.” -Balazs M.
“Money. It’s world class content. Period.” -Ben M.
“This training class is the best tool for learning for people new to distance hiking and those looking to master their planning processes.” -Tony S.
“An invaluable resource in learning to plan a trip, improve your skills, and expand the scope of your backpacking.” -Douglas B.
“Thanks guys, thoroughly enjoyed being able to tap into the great deal of expertise being offered and gain some useful insights for the future.” -Greg D.
“Thank you for helping make me a more organized backpacker. It certainly helped out on the JMT this summer!” -Renata Z.
“This course was absolutely worth every minute spent on it, very good structure and great articles just to the point of the things!” -Adrianna
“I am not very good at testimonials. I’d like to think about it and send something separately if that works.” -Pete H.
“I am an experienced back packer and still learned so many new things. This course will allow me to prepare trips with more confidence and safety. I feel I can plan trips anywhere in the US.” -Anonymous
“The self-guided backpacking planning course provided me with new resources and concepts that will absolutely make my future trips more enjoyable. Learning how to plan for specific conditions and gaining familiarity with CalTopo has made me more confident in my own abilities and will pay dividends over time.” -H.Herron
“The course provided valuable information that I have already put into practice on my backpacking trips. Would highly recommend it to other people. Would be happy to take another course in the future with this group of knowledgeable and friendly instructors.” -George M.
“This class has outstanding value. The wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas that are available in this class are incredible. Well worth the low cost to be guided through every aspect of a backpacking trip. Instructors are honest, fair and willing to give helpful feedback and commentary from their own experience. Great job on this class, would absolutely recommend!” -Chris E.
“Want to learn how to “dial in your gear” ? It all starts with proper trip planning your trip. Where are you going and what are you doing are fundamental questions that you need to know how to answer before you can decide what to bring. Andrew’s class taught me how to look at all elements of a trip before picking the perfect trail to ensure there were no bad surprises while out on the trail. Recommend this class to anyone who hasn’t planned trip before or those looking for a more detailed “system” to approach planning trips in areas that they have never been to before.” -Liv A.
“This course was extremely helpful in giving me the knowledge and confidence to plan and then execute a multi-day backpacking trip. Through the well thought out modules, I now know how to obtain necessary information on conditions and challenges likely to be encountered during the trip and how to plan for those conditions by compiling an appropriate gear list. I also learned valuable information about menu planning and training. The instructors are very knowledgeable. Their shakedown of our gear lists was an especially useful aspect of the course.” -Amy D.
“This course helped me solidify my trip planning process and has given me the skills and accelerators needed to successfully tackle any future trip I plan to take.” -Ryan F.