Camera Lucas Foglia

Learn more about backpacking

On a backpacking expedition, you’ll learn to travel the wilderness with all of your gear on your back. You’ll learn skills like packing and carrying a backpack, navigating on and off trail in a small team, and how to make your way through different types of terrain. Depending on your course, you might encounter challenges from river crossings and snowfields to deserts and thick forests.

NOLS backpacking courses

Watch and learn about NOLS backpacking skills

Backpacking with NOLS

The 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, organizing camp, then preparing and enjoying 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.

Backpacking Media from students and instructors

Backpacking Tips



Pack packing isn’t something you often think about as a skill until you’re actually packing up for the first time. And it isn’t just a practical need to get everything inside your pack: The way you pack your backpack can make the actual weight you’re carrying seem lighter, or can make you feel like you have an elephant hanging off of each shoulder.

  Read More on the NOLS Blog

Student demonstrating great pack packing skills in a vast Patagonia mountain range

Start your journey backpacking with NOLS


If you have questions about financial aid / scholarships, contact us here:


Credit: Ella de Bruijn