Meet our stellar instructor team, who guide students through our online backpacking course and pre-guided trip curriculum. Our instructors are fastidious planners, have great attention to detail and impressive backpacking resumes.

Our team:

Andrew Skurka

  • Boulder, CO
  • 41 years-old
  • Married to Amanda and servant to Esmerelda, our black feline fur child
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • he/him/his

Since founding this program in 2011, I’ve led 91 trips and have spent 413 days in the field with clients. As the program got larger, I became unable to guide every (or even most) trips, which is a shame because it’s the most fun and most rewarding part.

My goal on each trip is to empower clients with outdoor skills and knowledge so that they can be self-sufficient, lead the group, and confidently undertake future trips of their own. It’s an extra perk if I can make new friends, learn from them, and explore a new area or one of my favorite areas.

As a twenty-something I was a prolific long-distance thru-hiker. My most notable trips were the:

  • Alaska-Yukon Expedition (6 months, 4,700 miles),
  • Great Western Loop (7 months, 6,875 miles), and the
  • Sea-to-Sea Route (11 months, 7,775 miles).

In my thirties, I focused on high routes and long-distance running. I pioneered and wrote guidebooks for four off-trail backpacking routes in the High Sierra, Wind River Range, and Colorado Rockies. I finished a marathon in 2:28:24 (5:39 pace), completed six 100-mile races, and set a fastest known time on the Pfiffner Traverse.

My definitive book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Tips to Hit the Trail, was published by National Geographic and has sold over 120,000 copies. 

Read my full bio.

My favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “His enthusiasm and curiously about the outdoors is absolutely infectious.”
  • “Based on his experience, I expected Andrew to have exceptional skills & knowledge of the terrain, which he did. But I was surprised at how well and how sincerely he engaged with everyone on the trip. He came across as curious, humble, and very interested to learn as much from us as we might learn from him, which added a lot of warmth to our trip’s social dynamics.”
  • “He conveyed a deep emotional vulnerability early on. Beyond demonstrating his character as a guide and person, it opened the door for a driven, all-male group to be comfortable expressing discomfort and uncertainty.”
  • “He was never reluctant to go over some of the navigation basics, even though he must have done it a thousand times before.”
In Gates of the Arctic National Park

Rebecca Bastian (“Bec”)

  • Bend, OR
  • 32 years-old
  • she/her

I spend much of my free time wandering up ancient alpine volcanoes and through dry desert climates of the Great Basin. I grew up learning about backcountry navigation by hunting elk and birds in the rugged high desert landscapes of Idaho. This will be my second season working with Andrew and the rest of the crew and I am ecstatic to continue on with this incredible team. In addition to guiding, I’m co-directing the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program.

I am a masters level educator and I have taught at all ages in public and private sectors. I have most loved my time teaching in developing nations over the years. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I began volunteering with the state to pack trout fry to hundreds of Washington’s alpine lakes. From there I completed the Pacific Crest trail, the Appalachian Trail in 78 days, and Continental Divide Trail. I have extended off-trail travel experience in the WA Cascades and Olympics. I traveled a 500 mile exploratory route through the desert of Nevada, California and Southern Oregon. Notable high route traverses I have wandered have been in Yosemite, the Wind River Range, Elkhorn, and Steen Mountains. I have climbed and skied most of the Pacific NW volcanoes including Mt. Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Broken Top, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North/Middle/South Sisters, Lassen, and Jefferson and plan to finish the rest this winter season. I love circumnavigating volcanoes and have also done base loops of most of the Cascade volcanoes, the most challenging being a 2.5 day circumnavigation of Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland trail. This summer I completed my own version of the L2H route beginning in Badwater basin and ending on Mt. Williamson in the Sierra. I guide because I am passionate about passing my knowledge on to people who love the outdoors as much as I do. I also just like to hang with people who love what I love. 

Outside of backpacking I am an alpinist who regularly rock climbs at Smith Rock to sharpen my knot tying skills for mountaineering and glaciated backcountry skiing. I have been delving into technical ice climbing and finding it to be amazingly fun. I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and dip into my side hustles as an artist, a professional sewer, a writer, and a substitute teacher in my down time.

My favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “Bec has a positive energy that is contagious. She was eternally energetic and truly cared that each of us was getting what we needed out of the week. She excelled in ensuring we all stayed healthy – from helping with blisters to leading daily yoga classes to ensure everyone was stretched.”
  • “Easy going and knowledgeable.”
  • “What a bright light of energy! As a woman, it is comforting to have a woman as one of the guides. She was very curious about the group members and engaged with each of us individually.”
  • “Extremely competent, professional and personal guide who went above and beyond. I lost my footing on the side of a rise in a clump of manzanitas from which she managed to extricate me. At the same time, my spouse realized she lost her Rx glasses on the trail. Bec RETRACED our route, recovered them and returned them to Suzanne. It was EPIC!”
  • “Instilled confidence in maps and navigation as well as general capabilities. Was relatable, which brought comfort and trust in stating any discomfort.”
Bec at the top of Mt. Williamson.

Brandon Chase

  • Millinocket, ME
  • 34 years-old
  • Married
  • Instagram
  • he/him/his

I have been involved with Andrew’s program since 2020 in multiple capacities including logistical support, program design, and instruction for the Plan Like a Pro course. In a previous life, I was a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State and had the opportunity to explore over 60 countries while serving at U.S. Embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan. 

As a Registered Maine Guide for Whitewater and Recreation, I lead rafting trips, wildlife canoe tours, and guided hikes in the Pine Tree State. I enjoy sharing my passion for the outdoors and helping others surpass perceived limitations to show that valuable, positive, and memorable backcountry experiences are achievable by anyone, anywhere with the proper skills and mindset.

Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I have summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand, South Africa, and the U.S. While abroad, I picked up an affection for endurance athletics and regularly compete in ultramarathons at 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile distances around the globe. I write about hiking, trail running, and fastpacking on publications such as Fit For MilesTheTrek, and I am also the Regional Editor for New England at

My favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “Brandon’s comments were very supportive and built up confidence that what I was learning and doing was going the right direction”  
  • “Brandon was great and helpful for me when thinking through my shoes and my bag set up” 
  • “Brandon was very invested in the gear list back-and-forth, which was needed for what felt like the most critical assignment”
  • “Brandon was really responsive and helpful”
Brandon getting weighed in at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Hunter Hall

This will be my fourth year working as an instructor for the guided trips and Plan Like a Pro online course. I also provide back-office support and logistics when trips are in the field. I love helping people gain the confidence to go on their own adventures without having to make all the same mistakes I did.

I spend most of my time backpacking in the Sierra, Southern California, and Utah where I put together my own routes that integrate parts of known trail systems with off-trail high routes. I’ve been snowboarding for 20 years, and I do quite a bit of winter backpacking too. This year, I’m forcing myself to learn how to ski so Andrew quits making fun of me for snowshoeing.

In a parallel life, I work as a consultant, government contractor, and lobbyist. I’m a certified HR professional and have led teams in one way or another for the past 15 years in multiple capacities. I also represent over 165 CA businesses as a liaison to local government, and I was partly responsible for the rapid adoption of Al Fresco dining in Los Angeles when Covid hit. I have produced & presented dozens of seminars, panels, and workshops and also did a bit of public speaking prior to Covid.

I have a newfound interest in cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and holistic health. Fun fact: I grew up in the theater and will tap-dance if you get me tipsy.

Favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “Hunter brings a wonderful, sharp levity to everything which I enjoyed. He’s a fantastic storyteller, great communicator, and I could tell he cared deeply about the program.”
  • “Hunter was great at giving detailed feedback on the shakedown and answering follow-up questions. Gear can be a real rabbit hole, and he was a fox.”
  • “I learned a lot. Hunter was full of great gear advice and the links to products and articles are appreciated.” 
  • “I want to recognize Hunter for getting on a call with me one evening to speed process my list of 20 or so idiosyncratic questions. The instructor’s role was critical to get as much as possible out of the trip preparation (curriculum). I got what I wanted/needed…and then some more, and that speaks to the good job they did.”
  • And my personal favorite: “Hunter is so fast to respond to things it’s borderline creepy.”
Hunter enjoying himself in the Brooks Range.

Joe McConaughy

  • Seattle, WA
  • 30 years-old
  • Married to Katie and Australian Shepherd, Crash Bandipooch
  • Instagram
  • Website
  • he/him/his

This is my fourth season guiding with Andrew and my third season as his Program Manager. I’ve guided in West Virginia, California and Utah. I’m excited to be showing off the Olympics in the PNW this September. I guide because of the wide range of passionate outdoors people I get to meet, and because of the creative routes we draw up in interesting places.

Growing up an Eagle Scout and runner helped cultivate a lifelong interest in the outdoors and my physical limits. I’ve backpacked a handful of long trails in the US, including the PCT, AT, JMT, LT and AZT. I love ultralight backpacking and moving quickly through nature. I’m also a sponsored ultramarathon runner with Brooks and like to combine the disciplines of backpacking and trail running. The mountains and forests are the places I like to visit to be introspective. It’s my place of zen, and I love sharing that with other people.

My favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “Displayed patience, knowledge and an air confidence. He is easy to get along with, worked well with Christy Rosander, and pushed when we needed to be pushed.”
  • “Ton’s of credibility. Very engaging, upbeat and fun. An adventurer. Patient and supportive”
  • “Is there anything Joe doesn’t know? Is there any joke he won’t laugh at? Joe is an exceptional leader and backcountry expert who made it clear that he was with us as a member of a high-functioning team first, and as a guide second.”
  • “Joe’s enthusiasm for the trip is absolutely infectious”
Joe takes a selfie on the PCT

Katie Gerber

  • Salida, CO
  • 36 years-old
  • Live with my partner and our 15 year-old tabby, Mo
  • Website
  • Instagram
  • she/her

This is my second year with Andrew’s team, where I serve in multiple capacities, including as a guide, and an instructor for the Plan Like a Pro course. On each guided trip, my goals are to support clients to safely challenge themselves, to help them learn more about their own resiliency, to empower them with the skills and knowledge to feel more confident, and to have fun! Extended time in nature has been one of the most powerful experiences in my own life and I love helping others reconnect with the natural world.

I run my own business as a nutrition coach where I have the immense pleasure of empowering clients to optimize their health and physically prepare for their backcountry adventures. I’m also the creator of the Backpacker Academy family of online courses, and the author of Adventure Ready: A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training, and Resiliency (June 2021). At the core, the intention of my work is to help remove obstacles to exploring the outdoors.

Some of the notable hikes I’ve completed include the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Oregon Desert Trail, the Colorado Trail, and the Great Basin Trail. I enjoy high routes and have summited 50 of Colorado’s 14ers. I also volunteer on trail work crews.

My favorite testimonials from 2021

  • “Katie is a natural and gifted teacher as well as a total mountain badass. She was endlessly patient with our navigation questions, never hesitating to encourage us to stop to get out the map and answer them for ourselves. Katie is really fun to be with, calm, confident, and super knowledgeable. I also enjoyed talking to her about nutrition and backcountry recipes. She’s a great addition to your team.”
  • “She is kind, pleasant, smart and a fantastic teacher and guide. Out of the two trips, she is by far the best teacher of map and compass that I have had. She knows her stuff, and her method is very clear and straightforward.”
  • “Katie was great all around. But she particularly excelled at teaching off trail navigation. She was patient and willing to stop hiking to spend the time to work on navigation. I feel that I learned tons from her.”
  • “She is experienced, supportive, knowledgeable, and kind. We all loved her!”
  • “Katie is pretty awesome. She is a great listener, a solid teacher and an obviously skilled backpacker. Great companion on the trip as well.”
Katie in the San Juans.

Matt Huddleston

  • Golden, CO
  • 30 years-old
  • Getting married this year to Natalie, my adventure partner for 10 years.
  • he/him

I’ve been behind the scenes preparing food and organizing gear for the program for three seasons now and 2022 will be my second year guiding. I spend a lot of time running, backpacking, mountain biking, and anything else that allows me to get out and explore the world. While adventuring, I encourage an appreciation of the small splendors of the natural world and of the ability our bodies have to carry us to these amazing places. In addition to teaching backpacking skills and the planning tools necessary to get us into the backcountry, the ability to foster and share these rich experiences amongst a great group of people is what draws me to guiding and instructing.

My lifelong love for adventure has led me on many hiking and running journeys on both coasts of the United States and abroad. I’ve hiked the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail along with routes in the Tetons, the Canadian Rockies, the White Mountains, the Peruvian Andes, the Swiss and French Alps, Yosemite, Shenandoah, Colorado and Utah. As a runner, I’ve covered over 7,000 trail and road miles in the past 5 years including many races, a fast pack of the Wonderland Trail and countless big days in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Between adventures, I work as an engineer and climate resiliency consultant.

Matt enjoying time at camp in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado.

Ella Nuttleman

  • Boulder, CO
  • 36 years old
  • Married to Charlie and mother to Logan (1-year-old)
  • Instagram
  • she/her

I began working with Andrew in the summer of 2022 as the Operations Assistant.  My guiding history began in my early 20’s at a YMCA camp, where I took youth into the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington.  From 2012-2021 I led backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing trips for Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center throughout western Colorado and southern Utah.  

I believe outdoor recreation is an essential human need and is intrinsically therapeutic.  Being active in the outdoors through human-powered travel is something that makes me tick, and I want to share that with others.  I strive to teach outdoor skills and instill confidence in backcountry travel and hope that the lessons and experiences gained through backpacking can be taken back to benefit one’s everyday life.

I grew up backpacking with my family in the Wind Rivers. With family as my #1 priority, you’ll often find me with Logan on my back exploring the trails these days. Finding time to escape to the trails has always been a priority, with adventure and fitness motivating my actions.  Recent highlights include:

  • Trail ran the Rockwall Traverse and the Lake O’Hara Circuit in the Canadian Rockies
  • Climbed the East Ridge of Edith Cavell
  • Traversed from Glacier Bay to Yakutat, AK
  • Section hiked the Grand Canyon, AZ
  • Cathedral Traverse, WY
  • Trail ran the Gore Range Trail and climbed Mount Whitney, training for the Squamish 50
  • Fastpacked the Wonderland Trail, WA
  • Gannett Peak Project, WY
  • Climbed the Kautz Route (2x) on Mount Rainier

New for the 2023 season

Ella hiking in the Grand Canyon