Southwest Lightweight Backpacking

Southwest Lightweight Backpacking


  • Average pack weight will be 22-28 lbs.
  • Using a specialized curriculum we'll pare down gear and shave weight wherever possible
  • Travel in elevations between 6,000 to 10,770 feet
  • For 12 days, you'll hike between 60-90 miles
  • Evidence of prehistoric cultures will be found while hiking in the diverse terrain of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico
Leave your hiking boots and water bottles at home; trail shoes and hydration bladders are all the rage these days. We are proud to offer this cutting-edge course in the deserts of the Southwest.

Your adventure starts in the equipment room as NOLS instructors inspect and weigh your lightweight gear and pull together a specialized ration for your expedition, helping you shave ounces for the lightest possible load without compromising functionality.

Then, for the next two weeks, you will explore the Gila Wilderness, one of the Southwest's most remote ranges, in a way you may never have thought possible: with only a 22-28 pound pack. The only thing we won't go light with on this course is our core curriculum.

You'll still master the leadership and outdoor living skills that NOLS is built upon while learning the specific skills of lightweight backpacking. Expect to leave this course with the skills and background necessary to plan and execute your own future lightweight adventures.


Location NOLS Southwest
Tuition $3,655 Learn about Financial Aid
Equipment Deposit $150
Minimum Age 18
Duration 14 Days
Type Classic
Start/End Tucson, Arizona
Fly in/out Tucson, Arizona
College Credit
  • 2 Credit Hours
  • 2 Hours Skills Practicum
Learn about College Credit
High School Credit
  • 0.5 Carnegie Units
  • 0.5 CUs Physical Education
Learn about High School Credit

“I arrived at NOLS hoping to find the alternative education I had been seraching for and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was blown away by the level of professionalism exhibited by everyone at the school. The course opened up an entirely new world to me that had been barely accessible before. The skills I gained will be with me forever.”

-Rose M.

Southwest Lightweight Backpacking Grad