About Hiking & Backpacking at Alpengirl Camp
Hiking is the foundation of teen outdoor adventure travel camps. During our backpacking trips and day hiking excursions, girls learn how to be leaders, how to read a map, how to keep themselves warm and dry if the weather turns cold or rainy, how to work as a team, and how to Leave No Trace (LNT) travel and leave the wilderness better than they found it. Girls discover their inner potential, gain physical stamina, and find their place within nature as a result of traveling by foot into beautiful wilderness areas.
Backpacking in Washington Olympics
What's the difference between backpacking and day hiking?
Backpacking and day hiking are simply walking outdoors carrying what you need with you. The difference is, when you backpack, you carry what you need for a few days and when you day hike, you carry what you need for just one day.
How much time is spent backpacking or day hiking at camp?
Day hiking occurs during a part of many days during camp and girls will become very familiar with keeping their day bag (small school size backpack) packed with camera, rain gear and food for day hiking so we can set out by foot anytime to explore a lava tube, see a geyser, walk on a glacier, get to the rock climbing area or discover a tide pool. Backpacking during a typical 2-week camp happens for about 4-6 days and many times one or two of those days are spent as rest days or day hiking without moving camp.
How much camping, backpacking or outdoor experience do I need?
Many of the girls who come to camp have never been backpacking and many are new to camping and hiking in the mountains. No previous experience is needed, your Alpenguides will teach you everything you need to know. Alpengirl sessions are open to girls with little to no experience in backpacking, tent camping, outdoor living or adventure sports. Alpengirl specializes in introducing the "never-ever" Adventuress to her outdoor nature. We teach or enhance skills in outdoor cooking, tent camping, backcountry hygiene and Leave No Trace travel skills. Alpengirl is the logical next step after Girl Scouts or a Residential Camp. An annual progression through our program may lead girls to a more intense wilderness programs like NOLS or Outward Bound.
Above Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge
How fit do I need to be to attend camp?
Choose a session that is in the location you prefer with the activities you desire. All Alpengirl camp sessions can be rated Moderate. Moderate means, no experience outdoors, tent camping or in adventure sports, and average fitness requirement (jogging a mile is no big deal, and a day of hiking uphill sounds like a good challenge). Difficulty varies by trip location, elevation, itinerary, and by your physical condition, we encourage all girls and parents to call Alpengirl and consult with us to select a session that is a good fit for you. Regardless of the trip session you choose, when we hike, we walk at a pace all girls in the group can maintain (it is not a race) and we stay together as a group and take breaks every 20 minutes or so to drink water, eat food and rest. Typically, while backpacking, our girls camp groups hike about 1 mile an hour and faster downhill. So, if we have a 4-mile backpacking day, you can plan on it taking about 4 hours, and, we have the whole day to do it. While on the trail, it is common for girls and camp staff to volunteer to switch gear in packs and give smaller or less fit girls less weight. Girls groups really pull together during backpacking, it is great for making friends and learning about the great outdoors and finding your place within it. Alpengirl believes that backpacking is the BEST camp activity we offer, the most rewards with the best camp memories.
How should I prepare for camp and backpacking?
For at least a month prior to camp, plan to exercise rigorously 3-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Have your hiking boots well worn in before you arrive to camp. Prepare yourself by reading the web site (including your trip itinerary) and all information sent to you by email. Being physically and mentally prepared before camp will help bring out the real Adventuress in you! Read more about getting ready for backpacking on our blog.
What is day hiking at Alpengirl?
Day hiking involves packing and carrying your smaller "day pack" (your school backpack size on the packing list) with just a few essential items like your rain jacket, a warm layer, camera, sunscreen, water bottle, and food.
A day hike means that we have camp already set up and we leave from camp, go hiking for the day, and come back to that same camp. The locations and lengths of day hikes can vary depending on where we are and what we want to see. When we are in national parks and want to explore parts of the park, we are hiking on paths or boardwalks for short distances, maybe a mile or two. Sometimes in the middle of a backpacking trip there is a rest day, meaning we have a day in which we don’t have to move camp or get to anywhere specific, so we decide to hike around exploring the area. Sometimes this is on a trail, sometimes it is off trail, and we could be hiking to find an alpine lake, or making a peak summit attempt, or are hiking around a lake to see all angles of it. Our longest day hike is an optional peak summit attempt during the North Cascades Adventure, near the end of our backpacking trip. We'll attempt to hike from camp to the top of Desolation Peak for amazing 360˚ views and back to camp, a round trip total of about 14 miles.
Learning to Load the Backpack
What is backpacking at Alpengirl?
We are immersed in nature while on a girls camp backpacking trip - all the things we need to survive are carried with us and we travel under our own power, we are self-supported and each person in the group supports each other. When you reach your destination the feeling of accomplishment is the best reward.
To go backpacking means that you pack all of your necessary supplies into your bigger pack for overnight multi-day self-supported trips in the wilderness. Everything that is on the packing list for your camp session does not come backpacking with us. There is a separate Alpenguide backpacking packing list that leaves off a lot of the clothing and toiletry items that are on the session packing list. You’ll only bring the essentials and share group things like toothpaste, sunscreen and bug spray, making your load as light as possible. While backpacking you will carry your own pack, part of your group’s tent, personal snacks given to you, and group food. A packed backpack will weigh about 25-45 pounds, depending on your size and ability. We aim for about a third of your body weight.
We all pack our packs together, running through the slimmed down packing list and helping you get your pack packed correctly with all the weight distributed evenly throughout the pack. We'll leave all extra gear, worries and conveniences behind as we rise above our own expectations and find ease in becoming an outdoor Adventuress!
At the trailhead we will teach you how to properly put on and take off your backpack. We’ll teach you how to use all the different straps on your backpack that help adjust your pack so that it is as comfortable as possible, with most of the weight from the backpack resting on your hips not your shoulders. Your shoulders carry very little of the weight, if any.
Once on the trail, the Leader of the Day (one of the campers) leads the group. She reads the map, determines breaks, and sets a pace that allows our group to enjoy each step into the great unknown as we gain a sense of stewardship by connecting with the natural world on the road less traveled. The LOD (Leader of the Day) and camp staff are constantly check in with each girl in the group to make sure that we are hiking a good pace and to monitor and repair any foot blisters that may be developing. As with all parts of camp, games are integral in backpacking. We have many trail games and riddles to work on while we hike. Eruption in song and making up special Alpengirl cheers are also a fun way to pass the time. On average we hike about 4 miles a day, sometimes less, sometimes more and we hike at a rate of about 1 mile an hour. The first day of backpacking is usually less because we generally start hiking right after a filling lunch at the trailhead. Towards the end of backpacking trips we are usually hiking faster, feeling stronger, and loving being away from civilization.
Rainforest Backpacking Olympic National Park
What are the skills gained from backpacking at Alpengirl?
- Gain physical fitness and awareness through the physical and mental requirements of hiking with a pack.
- Develop safety skills and be informed regarding wildlife encounters, natural hazards, lost person scenarios and more.
- Ability to understand topographic maps and will demonstrate a properly packed backpack containing all essential items.
- Learn and apply proper Leave No Trace travel and camping and travel skills.