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Leading Backpacking Trips

Hiking on Vermonts Long Trail with the Appalachian Mountain Club
Hiking on Vermont's Long Trail with the Appalachian Mountain Club

It’s official. I’m going to be co-leading backpacking trips with the NY/NJ Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club staring in late September. My first trip will be a moderate, 3 day/2 night trip in the Western Catskills, so register if you want to come along.  I’ll be assisting my old friend Christine Benton, who I’ve hiked with before in the White Mountains, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks.

You’re probably wondering, why the NY/NJ Chapter and not the Boston or the New Hampshire Chapters, which are much closer to my home?

Of all the AMC chapters I have hiked with, the NY/NJ Chapter is by far the most forward looking in terms of lightweight backpacking. A lot of the leaders there make a point to mentor new hikers on how to cut their gear weight, so I reckon I’ll fit in pretty well.  If you recall, I also co-lead a demonstration day hike on lightweight backpacking in New York last April, with this same group.

Looking back on my own group backpacking experience, I’ve also done most of my organized group hikes with leaders from this chapter. I’ve been on trips with them on the Long Trail (Vermont), the White Mountains (New Hampshire), the Taconics (Connecticut/Massachusetts), the Adirondacks (New York) and the Catskills (New York). They really get around and I wouldn’t mind backpacking in all of those locations again.

It feels like it’s the right time to start hiking with other people again, as least part of the time, and I’m looking forward to the day when I can run my own trips with this chapter as a full leader.

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  1. Dang it, Phil! Group hikes always end up on days when I have other plans. I've been saying for years that I need to get back to the Catskills, and I've never been to the western section. Maybe the next time you lead a group out there…

  2. Great I hope it works out for you! My ole Boy Scout stomping grounds was on the Long Trail when the Reservation was on Stratton Mtn. and I have hiked many cross country trip into the Adirondacks & Catskills back in the 60's & 70's and yes I have heard for years from friends about the NY Chapter…keep us posted…

  3. I haven't been to the Western Catskills myself, but it sounds like this will be a good trip for a little fishing and hanging out after the first more strenuous day. When I become a full leader, I'll probably do more trips in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, since this chapter runs a fair number of trips up there too.

  4. I'd like to hear about your experiences as a trip leader and any advice you might have for other trip leaders.

    Did you make use of Alex Kosseff's AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership or any other source?

  5. Great idea for a post. Let me think about that one a little. I don't recall reading the AMC leadership book, but that doesn't mean I haven't. I do know I've read the NOLs one though.

    Of the top of my head, here's some advice.

    1) Make sure you have/understand the extent of your organizations liability insurance.

    2) Don't plan trips that are too hard for the participants

    3) Screen applicants very carefully.

    4) Make sure you have a competent co-lead who could substitute for you in a pinch if you get hurt.

    5) Don't let anyone light a fire.

    6) Try to enjoy yourself.

  6. What I require before leaving on a trip with friends or new folks who want to "join" me on a trip.

    1. Understand how to read a Topographical Map and how to use a Compass

    2. Have some basic knowledge of 1st Aid, especially CPR, and how to stop bleeding.

    3. Recognize Poisonous plants like Poison Ivy and Sumac and Oak.

    4. Can hike more than 5 miles without needing a Respirator,in other words be in good enough shape to hike the hike.

    5. Understand the need to follow directions of the leader and not make of up your own rules along the way and expect to stay with the group…

    In additon to what Earlylite has listed.

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