How To Become a Backpack Leader

How to become a Backpack Leader for the Seattle Branch

IMG_1701.jpgThank you for your interest in becoming a Backpack Leader! The demand for backpacking trips always exceeds the supply, so we are always looking for new trip leaders. 

Because we are trusting you to safely and enjoyably lead groups of people on multi-day trips deep into the Northwest backcountry, the requirements to become a Backpack Leader are high.  We need to trust your personal outdoor skills, your leadership skills, your judgment, and that you are a fun person to be stuck with for a few days.  If you are here reading about how to become a Backpack Leader, then we assume you already know how to plan and execute your own backpacking trips.  

What It Takes

Being a Backpack leader for the Seattle Mountaineers requires proficiency in the five areas listed below.  Don't worry if you aren't familiar with all of them at first.  We offer training for most of them.

  • Proficiency in basic backpacking equivalent to those required for the Basic Backpacking Skills  badge. or obtained in a backpacking course. 
  • Proficiency in planning backpacking trips equivalent to those required for the  Advanced Backpacking Skills badge.
  • Proficiency in trip organizational skills as well as the interpersonal and leadership skills required for effective outdoor trip leadership.
  • Familiarity with the culture of The Mountaineers overall and the Seattle backpacking program in particular, as you are serving as our representative. 
  • Proficiency in leading Mountaineers trips in general (regardless of activity).  This includes a working knowledge of details around posting a trip on the website, managing the roster, closing the trip, etc. 

How To get There

The steps below describe the "standard process" for becoming a Backpack Leader assuming you have backpacking experience but no previous experience as a Mountaineers trip leader.  If you are already a trip leader for another activity, some of these steps will not apply to you, especially if you already lead overnight trips for another activity (such as Scrambling, Climbing, or Winter Camping).

The first four steps can be done concurrently.  First Aid and Navigation are both large courses that often having waitlists, so it's a good idea to plan ahead for them even if you feel you're not yet ready in some of the other areas.

  1. Complete the backpack leader application online.  Please specify the Seattle branch and your interest in backpacking.  
  2. Complete or have completed a First Aid Course  within the past six years: either Wilderness First Aid (WFA), Wilderness First Responder (WFR), or MOFA.  If you've taken WFA or WFR elsewhere, you may provide a copy of your certificate.  Some branches offer a less rigorous alternative course, "Trail Emergency Preparedness"; Seattle Backpacking requires one of the full backcountry first aid courses listed above. 
  3. Complete or have completed a Mountaineers Wilderness  Navigation course within the past six years, or get the badge via equivalency.  Some branches offer a less rigorous alternative course, "Staying Found"; Seattle Backpacking requires the full Wilderness Navigation course.
  4. Successfully complete at least three Mountaineers hiking or backpacking trips, preferably within the past three years, two of which should be backpack trips.  You will eventually need to do a mentored backpacking trip with an experienced Mountaineers backpacking leader, so these trips can be used as an opportunity to get to know some of the leaders and find one with whom you would like to do your mentored trip.
  5. Attend a New Backpack Leader Seminar.  This is a 2.5 hour evening seminar that goes over policies, processes, and scenarios associated with group dynamics on backpack trips.
  6. Complete a mentored backpacking trip.  A mentored trip is one that you plan, organize, and lead yourself with the supervision and support of an experienced Mountaineers leader.  A list of possible mentors and expectations of mentors and mentees will be provided. 
  7. Receive approval from the Backpacking Committee.

Note: If you are an experienced Mountaineers trip leader (eg. scrambling, climbing, winter camping), especially with a background in leading overnight trips, and your navigation and first aid have been completed within the past six years, you would need to attend the New Backpack Leader Seminar, and then successfully complete your mentored backpack trip.  

Note: If you are an established backpack leader in good standing from another branch, and wish to lead trips with the Seattle branch, you would only need to ensure that your navigation and first aid as described above in steps 2 and 3 have been completed within the past six years.