If you want to learn how to backpack but want to pick up the skills required quickly without spending a few years doing it, taking a Backpacking Fundamentals Class with Andrew Skurka is the way to go. This is a hands-on course that Andrew teaches in multiple locations each year across the United States. I don’t know of any other training course that comes close to offering the same in-depth field experience and personalized instruction.
We had ten students in last weekend’s class held in the White Mountains, with eight men and two women, ranging in age from their early thirties to their late fifties. Several had limited or no previous backpacking experience, but were physically active enough to enjoy themselves during the two nights\three days of the trip, and the 10 miles of trail and off trail hiking we did.
The past two years, we’ve held the Fundamentals Class in The Three Ponds area southeast of Mount Moosilauke, which provides excellent low elevation hiking across varied terrain, and open woods for practicing compass and off-trail navigations skills and techniques. In addition, students learn campsite selection skills, how to purify backcountry water, cook meals with a homemade alcohol stove, foot-care, first-aid fundamentals, backcountry hygiene. trekking pole technique, basic knots for pitching shelters, campfire construction and food protection techniques, leave no trace fundamentals, and more.
Andrew loans out demo gear to students including tents, tarps, bivy sacks, hammocks, quilts, and backpacks so that students can try out gear manufactured by smaller ultralight cottage companies and see whether they like it in the context of a trip, including expert instruction on how to use it. Students also receive deep discounts if they decide to purchase an item from a manufacturer, which can help offset the course fee.
The highpoint of these trips is when we teach students compass and off-trail navigation skills and practice them by hiking from one landscape feature to another without the benefit of being able to see them through the thick forest canopy. Learning how to walk off-trail and use a compass is many students’ favorite part of the class because it provides them with so much self-reliance and confidence. It’s such a great kick to be able to follow a bearing through dense vegetation and end up exactly where you want to, a mile or two away!
It’s very satisfying for Andrew and I to see the groups in these Backpacking Fundamentals courses gel together as a team over the three-day period that we spend with them and it is one of the unexpected benefits of participating in instruction of this type. We have a lot of fun on these trips and it’s a great way to meet like-minded spirits that you can continue to backpack with after the class is over.
For more information about Andrew Skurka’s Backpacking Fundamentals Class in the White Mountains or any of his more advanced guided trips in Alaska or other parts of the United States, visit Andrew’s web site.
Disclosure: Philip Werner is an assistant guide for Andrew Skurka Adventures.