Backpacking Building Blocks (B3) Course - Foothills - 2015

Backpacking Course

Backpacking Building Blocks (B3) Course


COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers course.

Backpacking Building Blocks is a season-long course with the objectives to:

  • Provide new and experienced backpackers with the latest knowledge, gear info and practical experience to be skilled, safe and successful on overnight or longer trips; 
  • Teach participants to pack light by balancing camp comfort with pack weight and trail comfort;
  • Providing participants with information about the latest backpacking gear and food choices; and
  • Connect you with trusted trip leaders and compatible companions, through an array of trips of varying intensity in the fabulous Northwest backcountry. 

The Backpacking Building Blocks Course will include:

  • Required “Building Blocks Basics” classes:  2 evening indoor sessions on March 18 and 25, and a  demonstration day on Saturday March 28, with all the basics plus ideas to go beyond.  WHEN YOU REGISTER FOR THE COURSE, PLEASE ALSO REGISTER FOR EACH OF THESE SESSIONS.  If you can't attend one of these sessions, email Cheryl Talbert at to work out how to make up the class.
  • Optional in-depth seminars through the spring and early summer, including lightweight gear, lightweight food planning and preparation, "Staying Found"on-trail navigation and Trail Emergency Preparedness.   All of these seminars are offered for free for B3 students and qualifying activity leaders BUT YOU MUST REGISTER FOR ONE OF THE SESSIONS IF YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE.  SPACE IS LIMITED SO REGISTER EARLY - registration opens January 17.  B3 students or backpack leaders can register in the free session listed as "B3 Students and Leaders Only".  (If you are not a B3 student or qualifying activity leader, you may still enroll in one of the sessions listed for 'General Membership'  for a small fee beginning two weeks before the class date as space permits.)  Tentative dates are as follows, with locations (on the eastside or in Seattle) to be announced later:
  •     ** Lightweight Gear (Lawrence Landauer):  April 1 and April 8  
  •     ** Lightweight BP Food Planning and Prep (Cheryl Talbert):  May 20 and June 3
  •     ** Trail Emergency Preparedness/First Aid (Barbara Folmer):   April 15 and 27
  •     ** "Staying Found" On-Trail Navigation (Dave Coate):  April 12 and May 9
  • A series of 2-5 day backpacking trips will be offered through the summer as part of the program, progressing in length and strenuousness, to help you get in shape, to expand your multi-day backpacking skills, and to introduce you to amazing remote backcountry with experienced leaders and trail companions you will come to know and trust.  

The $80 course fee gets you the required Building Blocks Basics classes, free entry into the optional seminars (other members may attend for $25 per class as space permits), and advance notice of all the B3 backpack trips through the summer.  Backpack trips sponsored through the B3 course include extra emphasis on coaching and demonstration of gear and trail/camp skills.

To graduate, students must complete the Basics classes and 3 backpack trips of which one is two nights or more.  B3 backpacks as well as other club backpack trips and even qualifying private trips can count toward your graduation.  Trips typically post on the Backpack Activity listing 6 weeks or more in advance, so bookmark this page and check it often!

To advance the goal of maintaining and growing our backpacking community in the club and spreading the skills and joy of backpacking as broadly as possible, all B3 backpacks are open to any Mountaineers member over 18 who meets the qualifications for the trip.  

We hope you will join us!!  If you love to backpack and have a passion for teaching, consider joining us as a backpack leader.  Contact and register for the leaders' orientation.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements
Course Activity Date Availability Leader
Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking Gear Seminar (optional)
Seattle Program Center
Thu, Apr 7, 2016
Registration closed Apr 5
12 participants
Mercer Island Public Library
Mon, Apr 17, 2017
Registration closed Apr 15
15 participants
Lewis Creek Park
Wed, Apr 10, 2019
Registration closed Apr 8
18 participants
0 instructors
"Staying Found" Basic Navigation for Hikers and Backpackers (optional)
Tradition Plateau Interpretive Shelter
Sat, Jun 11, 2016
Registration closed Jun 4
6 participants
0 instructors
Backpacking Building Blocks Student-Only Backpack (optional)
Shi Shi Beach
Sat, May 5, 2018 -
Sun, May 6, 2018
Registration closed May 3
9 participants
Ingalls Creek
Fri, Jun 28, 2019 -
Sun, Jun 30, 2019
Registration closed Jun 26
5 participants
0 instructors
Seattle Program Center
Thu, Mar 21, 2019
Registration closed Mar 19
4 participants
0 instructors
Lightweight Backpack Food Planning and Preparation (optional)
Gibson Hall, Issaquah Kiwanis Club
Thu, May 23, 2019
Registration closed May 21
4 participants
0 instructors
Required Equipment

No equipment required to join the course.  Significant time will be spent in the Basics classes and early-season backpack trips helping participants choose and test the right gear for them, balancing comfort at camp with comfort on the trail.

Course Materials
Information on Washington Recreation Passes and Permits

Used, Rental, Borrow and Discount Gear Options for Backpackers

Updated March 2019

The Ten Essentials

Leave No Trace Principles for Hikers and Backpackers

REI Gear Articles and Advice - Backpacking

The Mountaineers Seven Steps for Emergency Response

Arranging Your Trail Maintenance Trip

Beginner Backpacker Gear Recommendations 2020

A list of suggested examples of major gear brands and models we would recommend to you as a good value to get started backpacking. Clothing and small essentials are not included. This is not an exhaustive list, and you should try out ANY gear items before buying!

Backpacking Food Handouts

Latest Outdoor Gear Lab Gear Ratings

from - updated for 2020

Cheryl's sample Gear checklist matched to the "basic kit"

Sample backpack distance-elevation profile

Student Handout for First B3 Basics Lecture

Backpacking Gear Checklist Template - the "Basic Kit"

Use this template to work out what you need for your first trips!

Student Handout for Second B3 Basics Lecture

Easy Early Season Backpack Trips in Washington!

Updated April 2019

Andrew Skurka Gear List and Weight Template

A sample gear template created by Andrew Skurka to help backpackers assemble their gear and keep track of their backpacking base weight. See other Skurka document for the accompanying gearlist definitions document.

Skurka Gearlist -- definitions

A supplemental document to the Skurka Gear Spredsheet with category definitions.

Website listings - Lightweight Backpacking

A list of websites and Facebook pages focused on lightweight gear -- reviews, used gear purchasing, Ultralight gear manufacturer websites, etc.

Lightweight Backpacking class PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)


Instructions to Find and Register for B3 Student Only Backpack Trips and "open" Mountaineers Backpack Trips

Virtual Demo Day videos

Gear Priorities - Pros and Cons

Use this handy rubric to evaluate what gear attributes are most important to you, considering price, weight and features.

Information on Washington Recreation Passes and Permits