There’s nothing quite like seeing the remote wilderness on your own two feet, carrying all your own gear on your back while gaining the tools necessary to become a great leader in the backcountry and at home.
Backpacking courses often hike three out of every four days. You’ll travel in small hiking groups so you have more opportunities to lead, make decisions, and map read as you move through beautiful wilderness. Hiking days begin early when you light your stove, cook and enjoy breakfast, and then organize and pack your pack.
You’re usually hiking by mid-morning. Lunch on the trail might be bread you baked the day before, or a trail mix of nuts and dried fruits. You may stop for a short class on natural history, or to learn how to cross a river, travel through boulders or snow, or move over a high pass. When you arrive at your new camp location, you'll first spend time choosing a Leave No Trace site and organizing camp, then you’ll prepare a well-deserved dinner. If the day was long, a short evening meeting may wrap up the day. If the hike was short, there may be a class or discussion.
Outfitted with 25- to 30-pound packs (10--15 pounds without food and fuel), you and your coursemates will be off to enjoy the wilderness as you never thought imaginable, without the burden of a heavy load.
Plan to learn innovative lightweight techniques like cooking one-pot meals and staying warm and dry with minimal gear while honing traditional backpacking skills like navigation and Leave No Trace.
Primarily 30 days in length, these courses focus on technical traditional climbing skills in addition to camping and travel skills. You'll learn knots and rope handling, belaying, rappelling, protection placement and hazard evaluation while working on improving your movement over rock and potentially lead climbing.
Welcome to the American Southwest: A horizon studded with saguaro cactus, hidden nooks lush with watercress, granite strongholds glowing orange in the setting sun, the call of a Gambel’s quail, the smell of mesquite washed in a pounding desert rain.
Now put yourself in the picture. You could be climbing, hiking, or canoeing in terrain as varied as those skills. From our facility on the outskirts of Tucson, Ariz., we explore the amazing diversity of this desert region, a land of mountain lion, javelina, and white-tailed deer.
Birds such as the elegant trogon and white-eared hummingbird fly the same skies as red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. It’s a land that famed naturalist Aldo Leopold called “near to being the cream of creation.”
Courses pass through areas also rich in human history, areas originally inhabited by ancient cultures and areas with a more recent Spanish influence. With easy access, amazing contrasts, and challenging technical skills, a course at NOLS Southwest is hard to beat.