explorers club of pittsburgh

Log in


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 comfortable planning their own trips yet.

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!

No photos
Updated on: 09/26/2019


Classes will cover a variety of topics.  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. 

All classroom sessions will be held at the Wilkins Community Center.

Classes will run from 7:00PM to approximately 9:30PM.

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 ecp.bpschool.directors@gmail.com


  • 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. The annual club membership cost is $20 for an individual membership or $25 for a family membership. If you need to join or renew 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.

If you have questions, email ecp.bpschool.directors@gmail.com.


The 2021 schedule is now available.

Mandatory student class dates for School Year 2021

2021 Backpacking School Schedule





Intro Party

(Optional but highly recommended)



7PM - 9:30PM

An ECP Member's Home

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

Come meet your fellow students and instructors!

Class 1

Tuesday, 08/17/21

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins Community Center 

7604 Charleston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Day Hike / Gear Test


Saturday, 08/21/21


Based on student interest, go on a day hike to test your gear, adjust fit, ask questions.

Class 2

Tuesday, 08/24/21

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins Community Center

Outing 1

Saturday, 08/28/21- Sunday, 08/29/21

TBD in class

2 days and 1 night

Class 3

Tuesday, 08/31/21

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins Community Center

Outing 2

Saturday, 09/11/21- Sunday, 09/12/21

TBD in class

2 days and 1 night

Class 4

Tuesday, 09/14/21

7PM - 9:30PM

Wilkins Community Center

Outing 3

Saturday, 09/25/21- Sunday, 09/26/21


Optional 3 day outing including Friday or Monday

TBD in class

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.

The two-day trip is often to Black Moshannon State Park and the three-day trip is often to Shenandoah National Park but students with another destination in mind are welcome to make a suggestion!  


The 2021 Backpacking School application is now open!  Apply here!

First, check the schedule to make sure that you can attend every classroom session and outing. There are no make-up sessions!

Then, complete the 2021 Backpacking School Online Application and submit payment.  Applications are considered on a first-come, first-serve basis and class size is limited so apply early.  The 2021 school fee is $45.

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 to 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 $45 Backpacking School fee 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: ecp.bpschool.directors@gmail.com.

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.

Join us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram:

Get the Members Mobile App for IOS and Android (by Wild Apricot)

Membership inquiries: membership@pittecp.org

General questions: info@pittecp.org

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

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software