By Shirley Hickman

Backpacking is a culminating activity for older youngsters with a fair amount of outdoor experience. An ICO leader typically shepherds a small group of youngsters 14 years old or older from day hikes to overnight car camping trips, and, finally, to backpacking trips ranging in length from a few days to up to a week or more. This process may be spread over a year or over a several year period.


Backpacking trips are most successful when working with no more than 7 to15 youngsters, for instance:

  • Members of an after-school club
  • Students in a classroom who self select as they experience day hikes and car camping
  • Students attending a continuation school

Hiking and camping with young adults in the backcountry takes lots of planning. When going to a high-altitude destination, above 9,000 ft, some preparation should be made for dealing with acclimatization, such as high-altitude local day hikes.  Everyone should carry their full pack on the local hikes to determine what weight is realistic; the participants themselves can compare pack contents and determine, with guidance, what is necessary. Leaders need to make sure the students are adequately hydrated before and during the trip.


Spending a few days in the wilderness can be very challenging to youngsters, as well as to their teachers, so it is best to:

  • Work out the logistics in their own setting, e.g., at their school
  • Plan together the destination
  • Plan together the transportation
  • Plan together the menu and distribution of chores
  • Who will purchase the food?
  • Who will pack the food?
  • Who will prepare the food?
  • Who will do the clean up?
  • Insure the youngsters are adequately hydrated before and during the trip
  • Develop a list of items to bring
  • How can REI help outfit participants?
  • What will the participants need to bring?
  • What will the participants use to collect and disinfect water?
  • Discuss and decide upon wilderness protocol
  • How will we make sure that everything is packed out (even toilet paper)?
  • How will we protect our food from wildlife?

Return to:

CHECK US OUT ON: Facebook iconInstagram icon


15 + 4 =