Intermediate Backpacking - Seattle - 2023

Backpacking Course

Intermediate Backpacking

A pilot program for intermediate and advanced backpackers who want to go on trips that are more adventurous, more technical, and more committing than backpacking trips that are typically offered by The Mountaineers.

New for 2023, Intermediate Backpacking is being offered by Seattle Backpacking as a pilot program for intermediate and advanced backpackers who want to go on trips that are more adventurous, more technical, or more committing than backpacking trips that are typically offered by The Mountaineers.

Because this is a new program for 2023 we are also offering the following information sessions via Zoom.

    • For anyone who wants to learn more, we are offering an  Intermediate Backpacking General Information Session  on January 24.
    • For current and soon-to-be Backpack Leaders, we are offering two Intermediate Backpacking Leader Information Sessions  on January 12 and January 17.  (The two sessions are identical.)  These contain nearly the same information as the general sessions but from a leader perspective.  

See also About the 2023 Intermediate Backpacking Pilot Program at the bottom of this course description. 

About the Intermediate Backpacking Program

The Seattle Intermediate Backpacking Program is:

  1. A community of intermediate and advanced backpackers who plan and go on intermediate and advanced backpacking trips.
  2. A collection of intermediate and advanced backpacking trips.  Many trips will be planned collaboratively by Program members of the program at social/planning meetings held a few times a year.
  3. A series of optional courses, clinics, and seminars that teach the skills necessary to go on intermediate backpacking trips safely and comfortably.

Acceptance to the Seattle Intermediate Backpacking Program is via application. There are prerequisites.  See Acceptance Into The Program below.

Intermediate Backpacking Trips

Intermediate Backpacking Trips usually have one or both of the following attributes:

  • They may be more technically demanding than a typical Mountaineers backpacking trip. 
  • They may require a higher level of participant commitment than a typical Mountaineers backpacking trip. Such trips may require more planning by both leaders and participants in terms of vacation time, travel reservations, domestic preparations, etc.

Intermediate Backpacking Trips are not just for experts, but also for "beyond basic" backpackers who want to level up their backpacking game and broaden their experience.  Intermediate trips will vary over a range of durations, difficulties, and skill levels.

Though we anticipate that most Intermediate Backpacks will take place in or near Washington, trips can be anywhere in North America or Hawaii.

As with all Mountaineers trips, trip leaders may require Leader Permission or specific skills and experience for a given trip.  At the leaders discretion, trips may be open only to Intermediate Backpacking program participants, or may be open to  all Club members with priority for Intermediate Program participants.

Collaborative Trip Planning by the Community

A key feature of the Intermediate Backpacking Program is that many trips are planned collaboratively by trip leaders working with potential trips participants during social/planning events that are held occasionally throughout the year.  (For 2023 the first planning meeting will be on January 31 in preparation for applying for permits in February and March.)

Among the goals for the planning meetings are that:

  • Leaders and participants come away from the meeting with preliminary commitments to plan and execute higher-commitment backpacking trips on specific dates to specific destinations.  (“If you set up a trip to destination X on date Y, I will go.”)  This allows the leader to move forward with detailed trip planning, permit acquisition, etc. with confidence that people will register for the trip. 
  • Collaborative planning provides an opportunity to remove potential schedule conflicts across trips that may be of interest to the same members of the community.  (“I would like to go on both Stan’s Wind River trip and Julie’s Denali trip.  Could we talk about some possible alternate dates?”)

Participation in the planning meetings described above is not a requirement. Intermediate Backpacking Trips can be posted by leaders at any time.

Acceptance Into the Program

The prerequisites to join the Intermediate Backpacking Program are:

  • Have an eagerness to go into the unexplored, and an understanding that longer trips and trips along infrequently visited routes inherently comes with some uncertainty.
  • You do not need to be an expert backpacker, but you should be an enthusiastic one with a desire to learn new  skills as well as to share your knowledge with others.
  • Hold the Basic Backpacking Skills badge.  (If you are an experienced backpacker but do not yet have this badge, see Basic Backpacking Skills Equivalency.)
  • Have completed at least ten backpack trips, including six trips within the last three years.   Trips do not have to have been explicitly labelled as backpacking trips.  Other kinds of overnight trips where you carried all your gear in a backpack are relevant too, such as overnight Climbs or Scrambles.
  • The 10 trips must include at least three trips lasting three nights or more that involved staying in at least two different campsites.

The course fee of $30 is good for three years, and helps pay admin costs for the Intermediate Backpacking program including food at the planning sessions.  Intermediate-level courses may have their own separate fees.

Intermediate Backpacking Classes

In support of the Intermediate Backpacking Program, Seattle Backpacking tentatively plans to offer periodic intermediate-level backpacking classes on topics such as

  • Coastal Backpacking (offered Spring 2023)
  • Water Crossings
  • Extended Backcountry Travel
  • Shoulder Season Backpacking
  • Snow Travel for Backpackers
  • Backpacking Incident Management
  • Other topics TBD

Specific class topics and schedule for a given year will vary depending on the learning goals of the Intermediate Backpacking community.

Intermediate-level classes may have their own prerequisites and class fees, and may be open to the general Club membership but with priority given to members of the Intermediate Backpacking Program.

Characteristics Of Intermediate Backpacking Trips

Intermediate Backpacking Trips are often more technically demanding or committing, and may include the following:

  • Trips where the party is more than two days from the nearest trailhead
  • Trips whose duration is four nights or longer
  • Trips that include extended off-trail travel
  • Trips that require occasional use of hands to surmount travel obstacles
  • Shoulder-season trips  
  • Coastal trips that include significant tidal logistics
  • Trips that include fording streams and rivers
  • Trips that include snow crossings
  • Trips that include advanced route-finding: off-trail legs, forgotten trails, obscure or poorly marked trips
  • Exploratory trips along routes for which information is difficult to find or unavailable
  • Trips that include dry campsites
  • Trips that require nontrivial car shuttles

Intermediate Backpacking Trips may require a higher level of participant commitment because they can involve:

  • A significant time investment for research and planning by the leader
  • Significant up-front costs for permits, shuttle reservations, etc.
  • Small party sizes, such that the cancellation of a participant may require cancellation of the entire trip.

About the 2023 Intermediate Backpacking Pilot Program

For 2023 Intermediate Backpacking is a pilot program implemented on the Mountaineers website as course with rolling enrollment so that people can join anytime throughout the year.  Intermediate Program trip leaders are represented as instructors, and  trip participants are represented as students.  If the pilot is successful, our goal is to develop Intermediate Backpacking into a Clubwide standard with the usual complement of badges, etc.


Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment


Course Materials

There are no materials for this course.