Backpacking and Wilderness Skills


This weekend course is designed for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts who have little or no overnight camping experience in a mountain or wilderness environment.  By the end of the weekend, students will have acquired the skills to plan and carry out an enjoyable multi-day backpacking trip using established trails and campsites, and will have a foundation upon which to build more advanced wilderness and mountaineering skills.

Skills covered in this course will include:

  • Equipment selection and packing
  • The first morning of the course is dedicated to equipment selection; rentals and purchases are available at AAI's Equipment Shop.
  • Fundamentals of land navigation, map, and compass
  • Meal planning and open air cooking
  • We provide detailed food shopping lists in advance (including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options) and discuss principles of nutrition for backpacking and wilderness trips.
  • Water treatment and approaches to hydration
  • We discuss the pros and cons of iodine, chlorine compounds, filters, and boiling.  We also address how to balance adequate hydration with optimum pack weight.
  • Selection and safe operation of backpacking stoves
  • We teach the use of both liquid-fuel and canister-fuel stoves, discuss their pros and cons, and assist students in preparing their own meals.
  • Knots and hitches for securing tents and food bags
  • Food storage and caching strategies
  • Basic ice-axe use and self-arrest
  • Early- to mid-season backpacking in the North Cascades can include crossing short snowfields where an ice-axe is a useful safety tool. We teach participants to execute self-arrest, self-belay, and other maneuvers that allow a hiker to confidently cross snow.
  • Leave No Trace principles
  • On all AAI courses, we present the seven principles of Leave No Trace to help participants protect the fragile alpine environment for future lovers of the mountains.
  • Construction of a comfortable, low-impact campsite
  • How to go to the bathroom in the outdoors
  • And many, many other backcountry skills


This course runs as a public, group outing every other weekend in the summer months. It can also be taught as a private program for you, your family, or a group of friends, with custom dates and length appropriate to your needs. Call us with any questions at (360) 671-1505.


Backpacking and Wilderness Skills


  • Apr 25 - Apr 26, 2020 
  • May 21 - May 22, 2020
  • May 23 - May 24, 2020
  • Jun 06 - Jun 07, 2020
  • Jun 18 - Jun 19, 2020 
  • Jun 20 - Jun 21, 2020
  • Jul 02 - Jul 03, 2020
  • Jul 04 - Jul 05, 2020
  • Jul 18 - Jul 19, 2020
  • Jul 30 - Jul 31, 2020
  • Aug 01 - Aug 02, 2020 
  • Aug 15 - Aug 16, 2020 
  • Aug 27 - Aug 28, 2020 
  • Aug 29 - Aug 30, 2020
  • Sep 03 - Sep 04, 2020
  • Sep 12 - Sep 13, 2020 


Backpacking and Wilderness Skills

Course Packages

You can register for this course together with one of our flagship introductory mountaineering courses and get a discount on the tuition for the backpacking course. (Courses must be registered and paid for together, to be taken during the same season.)

Follow up courses include:


Sample Package Schedules

2-day Backpacking Course  +  6-day Intro to Mountaineering

Price:  $1650

8 days total – Saturday through Saturday

  • 2 days of backpacking instruction
  • Return to Bellingham for 1 night (lodging not included).
  • 1 day of rock climbing at Mt. Erie
  • 5 days of glacier skills instruction & climbing
  • Mt. Baker summit climb included


2-day Backpacking Course  +  3-day Mt. Baker Climb & Glacier Skills Clinic

Price:  $1120

One 2-day weekend + one 3-day weekend

  • 2 days of backpacking instruction
  • Schedule your 3-day Mt. Baker climb any subsequent weekend during the same season.
  • 3 days of glacier skills instruction & climbing


Backpacking and Wilderness Skills

Course Details

Max Ratio - 5:1 or 10:2 (Students:Guides)

Capacity - 10



  • Day hiking experience in the mountains
  • Good general physical fitness


Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Tuition for the program includes the guides' fee and all group equipment. Personal equipment is not included in the program cost, but it can be rented from our equipment shop. A complete list of recommended and required equipment will be sent to you upon registration. Course participants will carpool to the trailhead, which is approximately 1 hour from our shop location in Bellingham.

You are responsible for providing your own food for this course. If you are unsure about what to bring, you will be given a meal planning guide to aid you in your food preparations once your registration is processed and your place on the course is confirmed.

Backpacking and Wilderness Skills

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