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Backpacking School

The purpose of this school is to give students the skills and knowledge to plan 3-season backpacking trips. The course is for people who love camping or hiking outdoors, but are not yet comfortable planning their own trips.

The ECP Backpacking School is an all volunteer program, taught by ECP members with a wide range of backgrounds.  Many of us are former backpacking school students.  Some instructors are accomplished mountaineers while others just like to take an overnight hike in the woods.  We're looking to introduce more people to backpacking and show you how accessible it can be!

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Updated on: 09/26/2019


This school is comprised of classroom sessions and overnight backpacking outings. Classes will cover a variety of topics which are then put into practice on the outings.  Clothing and gear selection, travel, and trip planning will all be covered in depth by experienced instructors.   By the end of the class you should have all the tools that you will need to plan a safe, fun, and memorable backpacking trip. 

  • Classes will run from 7:00PM to approximately 9:30PM. Please be on time so we can make the most of time together!

  • Class meets once a week for 5 weeks. 

  • There are 3 weekend outings.

  • 1 required textbook: The Backpacker's Field Manual, Revised and Updated: a Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills by Rick Curtis.

  • Course fee is $50 (book is not included - purchase and begin reading before first class).

  • A refundable gear deposit of $30 is required.

  • Membership in the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh is required ($25).

  • Directions to the weekend outings will be discussed in class.

  • If you need more specific information, please feel free to contact the backpacking school directors at


  • Appropriate Gear and Clothing for Backpacking

  • How to use your backpack

  • The Ten Essentials

  • Preparing for weather conditions

  • Map and Compass Skills

  • Basic First Aid

  • Leave No Trace Principles

  • Camp Setup and firebuilding

  • Water Purification

  • Food and Nutrition

  • Anything else you want to ask about


  • You must be 18 years of age to apply.

  • You must be a member of the ECP to participate. If you need to join or reinstate your membership, click here.  You can apply for ECP membership and Backpacking School at the same time, just be sure to follow both application processes.

  • Only backpacking school students and instructors are allowed to attend classes and outings.

  • The School fee is $80. ($50 class fee + $30 refundable gear deposit) 


The 2024 schedule is now available!

Attendance at all events is strongly encouraged.

2024 Backpacking School Schedule





Intro Party

(Optional but highly recommended)

Tuesday, 08/20/24


Location, TBD

Directions will be e-mailed to you, please bring a dish to share.

Come meet your fellow students and instructors!

Class 1

Tuesday, 08/27/24

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins School Community Center

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Day Hike / Gear Test


Saturday, 08/31/24



Class 2

Tuesday, 09/03/24

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins School Community Center

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Outing 1

Saturday, 09/07/24- Sunday, 09/08/24


Location TBD

2 days and 1 night

Class 3

Tuesday, 09/10/24

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins School Community Center

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Outing 2

 Saturday, 09/14/24 - Sunday 09/15/24 TBD 

Location TBD

2 days and 1 night

Class 4

Tuesday, 09/17/24


Wilkins School Community Center

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Class 5

Tuesday, 09/24/24

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins School Community Center

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Outing 3-

Graduation Trip

10/04 - 10/07/24

Friday - Sunday OR Saturday - Monday


Based on your progress in the course and your availability you may attend either a two-day or three-day backpacking trip for the graduation outing.

Students will use the skills they've learned in the course to take the lead in planning graduation trips.

Past trips have gone to Black Moshannon State Park, Shenandoah National Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, and Laurel Highlands. 


 The 2024 Backpacking School Applications are now being accepted! 

Please complete the application here!

Please, check the schedule to make sure that you can attend every classroom session and outing. There are no make-up sessions! Attendance at all events is strongly encouraged! 

Payment of the school fee is required in addition to submitting an application. Fees can be paid via PayPal, directly to the ECP Backpacking School Account: PayPal requires a name, so you will see Joshua Selling, member and backpacker extraordinaire! The 2024 school fee is $80 ($50 + $30 refundable gear deposit) and we would appreciate you keeping this between friends to avoid excess fees.

If you are not already a member of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh, you must apply to become a member of the ECP in order for your application to be considered.  Please see this link for information on applying to become a member of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh.  You can apply for both the ECP and the Backpacking School at the same time.

In the event that you are waitlisted for the Backpacking School and space is not available, your Backpacking School fee and gear deposit will be fully refunded.  However, ECP membership fees will not be refunded if you are not admitted to the Backpacking School.

For further information, contact the Backpacking School directors:

Thanks and see you on the trail!

Adopting the motto "Research, Education, and Adventure" in 1947, for three generations the ECP has provided the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new friends who share a willingness to accept the physical and mental challenges of outdoor exploration and adventure.

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Mailing Address:
5715 Beacon Street, No. 516
Pittsburgh, PA   15217

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