Backpacking Courses Spring 2021

Not sure which backpacking course to choose this spring? Take a look at our handy guide detailing the differences between our four offerings this season.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
January 15, 2021

Although we’re still in the heart of winter, it won’t be too long before the skies begin to lighten and we’re planning our spring and summer adventures. Get a head-start on your summer plans now by signing up for one of our upcoming introduction to backpacking courses, an excellent way to develop your skills and confidence on the trails before heading out on your first over-night or multi-night trip.

With several courses to choose from out of our Seattle, Tacoma, Foothills, and Olympia branches, we’ve created this guide to help you select the right course for your goals:

Foothills: Backpacking Building Blocks Course (B3)

Registration opens: Jan 15
Course begins: March 1
Prerequisites: None

Join the “B3” course for its 9th year, providing a full season of learning, practice and support! We start with two evening lectures in a virtual format in mid-March, introducing core skills and gear. Next is an in-person, small-group, COVID-safe hands-on gear demonstration day in early April where you’ll be able to see and touch a range of options for sleep systems, backpacks, clothing, food and cookware, and more. In early May you’ll have the option to do a small-group practice “camp” with your mentor group in a local park where you’ll set up your equipment, collect and treat water, prepare a meal, and compare notes. Finally, from March onward you’ll be offered several optional virtual seminars and clinics which dive deeper into topics such as conditioning, on-trail navigation, emergency preparedness, trip planning, backpacking food prep, lightweight gear, tips and tricks for women backpackers, long-distance backpacking, and more.

Students will go through the class in small groups to build confidence and community with an experienced mentor and compatible peers, helping you every step of the way from choosing your gear, to gaining skills, to getting in shape for the trail. Your mentors will offer a range of student-only backpacking trips during the early season to help you get experience in a low-pressure, fun environment. We’ll also offer many backpacking trips of various lengths and difficulties between April and October. We encourage brand new backpackers and those returning after a long hiatus to join our community of fun and supportive people who may just become your lifelong backpacking friends! Students receive a complementary digital copy of Andrew Skurka's Ultimate Gear Guide, and graduates will receive a custom B3 T-Shirt and lots of bragging rights! No prerequisites; open to all Mountaineers branches.

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Olympia: The Essentials of Backpacking Course

Registration opens: Jan 15
Course begins: May 20
Prerequisites: Wilderness Skills, Hiking Skills, or equivalent

Learn all you need to know to be safe and efficient while backpacking on weekend or multiday trips in the Pacific Northwest. In this course we will cover appropriate gear, trip planning, food, safety, and other tips and tricks to make overnights comfortable in the wilderness. Each student will participate in our two virtual lectures, our group field trip, and one overnight backpack led by a course instructor, with several trips offered over the summer and early fall. We will also be offering backpacking trips for adults and families throughout the summer months for additional practice. These are not a required part of the course but we hope that you will participate in them. Activity dates may change due to Mountaineers COVID-19 guidance. Student will be required to have completed Wilderness Skills, Hiking Skills, or the equivalent. This course is for all adults.

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Seattle: Basic Backpacking Course

Registration opens: Jan 15
Course begins: April 14
Prerequisites: None

This course is for people with recent hiking experience who want to start doing overnight trips safely and confidently into the Northwest backcountry, and for backpackers who wish to improve their knowledge. In addition to the core subjects of clothing, food, gear, and safety, the course also covers topics that are often of interest to first-time backpackers: animals you’re likely to see and how to act around them, social expectations on extended trips, staying comfortable in camp, and staying connected with people back home. The course culminates in a student-only backpacking trip where everyone else will be new too, and it’s ok to have a few first-time hiccups. Upon completion of the course, students will have a strong foundation to enjoy the many backpacking opportunities offered by The Mountaineers.

Though it takes more than one class to become a fully accomplished backpacker, this course takes you on the first step on that journey by preparing you to go on Mountaineers backpacking trips of up to three nights.  The course begins in April and is designed to have you ready to go on Mountaineers trips in time for the peak local backpacking months of June through September. We will be offering three lectures, a “gearpalooza”, and an optional gear practice trip.

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Tacoma: Introduction to Backpacking Course

Registration opens: Jan 15
Course begins: April 6
Prerequisites: None

This course includes two virtual evening lectures and one in-person gear practice session for students to bring their loaded packs for a practice hike and gear review. Experienced course instructors will be available for questions and support throughout the course and beyond. Students will get first priority to sign up for numerous backpacking trips led by instructors. Whether you’re a new backpacker or returning to backpacking, this course is for you! It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and to learn to safely and confidently enjoy overnight trips. No prerequisites.

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Lead Image by Rafael Godoi.